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Monday, November 26, 2018

7 Ways to Foster Gratitude in Children That Will Last a Lifetime

Photo by Cindi Albright (Flickr)

One of our family's Thanksgiving traditions includes taking turns sharing things we're thankful for from the past year. I enjoy the tradition, but I also want my girls to show gratitude all year. For this reason, I decided to be intentional about cultivating gratitude in my children. In seven ways, we parents, teachers, and caregivers can foster gratitude in our kids that they will practice for the rest of their lives.

Model Gratitude

Our kids watch us for cues about how they should act. That's why I make sure to say "thank you" to others as often as possible and encourage my girls to do the same. When gratitude is part of everyday life at home, in the classroom, and as we interact with others in the community, our kids embrace the habit.

Practice While Playing

Since our kids spend so much time playing, it makes sense to use this time to practice gratitude. During tea parties with stuffed animals or dolls, when sharing crayons, and while taking turns using the swing, our kids can practice saying "thank you" as they become more grateful.

Expose Kids to Social Justice

One of my daughters walks dogs at an animal shelter because she wants to end animal cruelty. She chose this cause after we heard news stories about several cruelty cases in our state last year. While I'm careful to keep my girls' emotional development in mind, I also know it's important to be honest with them about social justice issues. They're part of humankind and can develop compassion for causes that matter. Exposure to social justice also helps our kids become grateful for their blessings and give back to society.

Volunteer Together

As a family, we help our elderly neighbor care for her property throughout the year. My girls also regularly donate clothing and toys they outgrow, and they each participate in volunteer activities at school. I want my girls to exercise generosity, cooperation, and helpfulness for the rest of their lives, and volunteering is a good way to reinforce these values.

Reduce Consumerism

I'm a big fan of minimalism, but this philosophy goes against the grain of consumerism, a concept I'm trying to teach my girls about. To reduce consumerism and entitlement, we sometimes intentionally go window shopping and leave my wallet locked in the car. I also encourage my girls to ask for non-material holiday and birthday gifts like museum tickets, art lessons, and coupons for trips to our local ice cream parlor. With less stuff and clutter, their gratitude grows.

Be Mindful Together

A few years ago, our family started a gratitude journal. During dinner, we share what we're thankful for, and I write it in our book. The practice has prompted us to be more mindful of our blessings and look for the good in every situation. We've also become more compassionate to and grateful for each other as we discuss our day.

Write Thank You Notes

There's something special about receiving a thoughtful handwritten thank you note. These notes are also effective tools that foster gratitude in our kids. My girls know that they will have to write a note to everyone who gives them a holiday or birthday gift. They also write notes to thank teachers, coaches, and other adult influencers as they demonstrate their gratitude.

As parents, caregivers, and teachers, we can foster an attitude of gratitude in our children in these seven ways. Our efforts can help our kids become more grateful now and into the future. How do you teach your kids to be thankful?

Find more about the author: Kim Hart

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

It's Game and Puzzle Week! Here are 7 Benefits of Playing Board Games for Kids

Photo by Daniel Giovanni (Flickr)

Playing board games with my siblings on cold, snowy days is one of my favorite childhood memories. I learned so many skills as we played, and my siblings and I still play games when we get together. I want my girls to make similar memories with each other. That's why we filled one of our playroom cabinets with games in preparation for a game night with our friends in celebration of Game and Puzzle Week, observed the third week of November. I invite you to join us as you teach your kids important skills and have fun.

Bond as a Family

With our busy schedules, my girls and I sometimes feel very disconnected from each other. That's why we schedule a weekly game night. It's intentional time we set aside to connect with each other and bond.

Cultivate Social Skills

Most of our favorite board games require at least two people to play, but we parents, caregivers, and teachers all know that conflict can happen when kids play together. I see board games as an opportunity to help kids cultivate social skills. My girls have learned to take turns, share, and stay in their own personal space thanks to board games.

Improve Focus and Attention

As toddlers, my girls could only sit still for a few minutes as we played games. I knew, though, that their attention span would increase with practice, so we kept playing fun, exciting, and engaging games. Now they like to challenge me to marathon sessions of Monopoly and other games, and they can focus and pay attention as they read books, take tests, and complete chores.

Develop Strategy and the Ability to Think Ahead

My grandfather taught me to play chess. It took me a long time to learn how to strategize and think through my moves, and I never did beat him, but I'm grateful for those lessons. I've introduced my girls to chess and other complex games, too, so they can learn to develop strategy and work on thinking ahead. With these skills, our kids can think beyond the current moment, plan ahead, follow multi-step directions, and become leaders in school and life.

Learn Better Communication Skills

One day, I watched my girls play a board game and realized that they communicate a lot as they play. They started by discussing which game to play. Then, they decided who would go first, showed compassion and empathy when they sent each other back to home, and read nonverbal cues. In a safe environment as they play, our kids learn how to communicate better with others.

Become a Good Sport

It's natural for kids to want to win all the time, and they may even cheat or trash-talk their opponent. I support adapting a game's rules so it's not too hard for young kids, but we must also teach our kids to have fun, play by the rules, and be kind whether they win or lose. We can use board games to achieve these goals and help our kids become good sports.

Prepare for School

Playing board games taught my toddlers dozens of skills they needed to know for success in school. To name a few, they learned letters, numbers, grouping, counting, visual perception, color recognition, hand-eye coordination, and manual dexterity. Even now, we reinforce important concepts my girls use in school every day when we play games, and we have fun as we learn.

It's Game and Puzzle Week, and my girls and I plan to celebrate with game night. We'll have fun together and gain these seven benefits. How do your family's favorite board games benefit your kids?

Find more about the author: Kim Hart

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

10 Unique and Fun Writing Prompts for Kids to Celebrate NaNoWriMo!

Photo by David Kessler (Flickr)

Started in 1999, National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) gives writers the encouragement to pen 50,000 words during the month of November. I admire the novelists who participate in NaNoWriMo, and this year, I decided to get my girls involved. Here are ten unique and fun writing prompts we can use to help our kids celebrate NaNoWriMo, whether or not they're up for the challenge of trying to write a full novel.

A talking cat and dog visit a farm. What do they see, think, experience, and say?

My girls often imagine what animals would say if they could talk. Now, they can put their imaginative thoughts onto paper with a prompt that also encourages them to consider animal behavior and develop empathy.

What would your day be like if you were a snowflake?

Our kids can tap into their creativity and explore science, geography, and weather as they complete this adventurous and fun writing prompt.

Write a story, poem, or song about three random objects you see in the room right now.

It's easy to connect related items like pizza, a plate, and cheese, but our kids get to think outside of the box when they connect random objects like paper, shoes, and a trumpet. In addition to creativity, this prompt helps kids explore different types of writing styles, since they can write a story, poem, or song about their chosen objects.

What would you do if you could become invisible whenever you wanted?

Our kids can explore their interests, values, and imagination as they reply to this writing prompt. As a twist, we could challenge kids to write about how other people would respond to their ability to become invisible.

If you could do anything you wanted for an entire day, what would you do and why?

Sometimes, when my girls feel discouraged, sad, or upset, I ask them to think about their dream day. They have fun thinking about all of their favorite things, and in no time, they feel better. This prompt also helps my girls examine the interests that make them unique.

Write an ad for your favorite food, book, or game.

When writing an ad, our kids practice summarizing and persuading. Writing ads also helps our kids recognize the elements of sales pitches and become more discerning shoppers.

Pretend you're the king or queen of an underwater world and write about your day.

Our kids can research ocean life and learn more about the animals and plants that live in the water when they plan their day as an underwater ruler. As a bonus, we can use this prompt to help our kids discern what kind of leader they would want to be and what values they appreciate in the teachers, parents, coaches, and leaders in their life.

Rewrite the ending of your favorite movie. What would you change and why?

My girls each have a favorite movie they can recite by heart. I like this prompt because it challenges them to rethink the ending and choose a different path for their favorite characters as they tell a story. It also invites "what/if" conversations that help them think through consequences of actions, an important life skill.

What would you think, feel, and experience if you looked up and saw ice pops raining from the sky?

In addition to creativity, our kids can express their imaginations and think about their feelings when they face unexpected circumstances. This exercise also expands their writing talents and their emotional expression.

Write a letter to your future self to read in ten years.

Despite their biological age, my girls often show wisdom beyond their years. Writing a letter to their future selves gives our kids an opportunity to express their thoughts, feelings, and dreams, and it's good letter-writing practice.

Our kids need to know how to write. Let's encourage them to develop this skill with these ten writing prompts. As a bonus, they can celebrate NaNoWriMo and gather a greater appreciation for writing. What other prompts would you suggest?

Find more about the author: Kim Hart

Friday, November 2, 2018

10 Tips for Preparing Your Child to Hike Their First Mountain!

Photo by Vasile Cotovanu (Flickr)

After months of prep, my girls and I are finally ready for a big adventure. We're planning our first mountain hike! We're all excited about reaching this milestone, but we've had to work really hard. I used these ten tips to prepare my girls to reach their first mountain summit successfully and happily.

Build Your Endurance

I know we can't just wake up one day and easily walk to the top of a mountain. Instead, we have to build endurance. We did that by walking every day until we successfully completed several day hikes. I now know that my girls are ready to persevere during our mountain hike.

Choose an Entertaining Trail

My girls typically get more enjoyment from hikes that feature lots of scenery. They want to enjoy the journey and see waterfalls, streams, and wildlife on the way to their destination. For this reason, I let them research possible mountain trails and choose the one that will be the most entertaining.

Dress in Layers

Temperatures can drop quickly as we reach higher altitudes, so we plan to dress in layers. With non-cotton layers close to our skin and water-resistant outer layers, we'll stay dry and warm. I also insist that my girls try on all of their hiking clothes before our adventure to make sure everything fits and feels comfortable.

Break in Your Hiking Shoes

We know that our hiking boots can make or break our mountain adventure. That's why we picked out shoes that feature sturdy soles and ankle support. Also, we wore them hiking several times to prevent blisters and other discomforts when we hit the mountain.

Pack Healthy, Nutritious Snacks

Hiking is hard work! To keep up our energy, we will pack trail mix, dried fruit, and granola. As a bonus, these snacks are easy to carry.

Carry Enough Water

Our bodies need about one liter of water for every two hours of hiking. My girls and I already use hydration packs, and we'll each carry flexible water bottles so we can stay hydrated throughout our adventure.

Take the Right Pack

During our day hikes, I make my girls carry a pack that's the right size for their body height. They only carry 10 percent of their body weight, and we evenly distribute those items so all of the weight's not at the top, bottom, or one of the sides. I also ensure that my girls each have food and protective gear in their bags in case we get separated.

Protect Yourself in Any Weather

Even though I check the weather forecast multiple times before each hike, I pack enough protection for any weather. It's especially common for the weather to change rapidly on a mountain, so my girls know that we'll pack water-repellent clothing, sunscreen, a wide-brimmed hat, gloves, and a lightweight jacket for protection.

Stay Motivated

Hiking a mountain can be very different and harder than hiking a flat trail. My girls have built up their endurance, but I'll also bring several games and activities so my girls stay motivated to push through hard hills or rough terrain. We might look for different colors, identify bird calls, or practice walking like animals as we reach the summit and have fun.

Prepare for Anything

An unexpected storm, wrong turn, or medical event can affect the outcome of any hike, but it's especially important to be prepared while climbing a mountain. We picked out safety gear like a compass, map, whistle, and first aid kit, and I taught my girls how to use each item just in case.

Before my girls and I tackle our first mountain hike, we want to make sure we're prepared. So far, we've implemented these tips to ensure we remain happy as we succeed on our first mountain hiking adventure. What other training or preparation ideas do you suggest?

Find more about the author: Kim Hart