parenting articles

Volunteer- Getting Your Family Involved

In the wake of the devastation in Houston and now the Caribbean, parts of Florida, and southern US, there is a demand and a need for volunteers that want to help. It is in times of disaster and loss that a helping hand can truly make a difference, though it is important to be charitable whether there is a current disaster making headlines or not. Regardless, it can be extremely beneficial for families to reach out and do what they can to help those in need after Hurricane Harvey and Irma, and it can be a great way to introduce a lifelong charitable quality in children, too.

Volunteer work can be a great family activity, exposing kids to the good in the world while reminding them to always be mindful of others and to look after them. There are many ways in which parents and guardians can get their kids involved with volunteer and charity work, and it can also help bring your own family together as well.

Hurricane Relief

Since there are a lot of drives going on right now, a simple way to introduce your kids to giving back and helping out is gathering needed supplies and bringing them along for the drop-off. This may sound simple, and it may feel a lot like going shopping on any other day, but with the idea of helping others in mind, children may have a new outlook on life and learn to realize how lucky they are. Look for things around the house that you can donate such as canned goods and extra home items like blankets, clothing, toiletries and more. For kids, you can turn this bit into a scavenger hunt and have them check items off a list as they find them.

Local Events and Drives

Many community establishments host food and clothing drives on a regular basis, especially before the new school year starts or when it begins to get cold in the winter. Instead of just donating, going out to these events can allow kids and other members of your family see the good in others who are helping as well as provide them with an opportunity to meet those they are helping out. Look for drives and other events at local libraries, churches, and schools.

Marathons and Fundraisers

Make sure to look out for any locally hosted walks and benefits where proceeds go towards finding cures and funding medical research. Chances are, many families know someone with cancer, Alzheimer’s, or other special needs that rely on the donations and the support of others in order to continue looking for a cure and to care for individuals with these conditions. Taking part in things like Relay for Life or other events can also help kids stay active while also getting involved and getting to know their community.

Animal Shelters

Many kids love animals or have pets of their own, so a good way to help encourage an interest in volunteer work is to have the family help out at your local animal shelter or foster program. Many places struggle to find homes for abandoned or stray animals, and sometimes simply coming in several times a week to play with the dogs and cats at the shelter can do wonders for their health and wellbeing. This is also a great way to introduce kids to the idea of caring for a pet if you are looking to adopt – plus, you may just help an animal find their forever home!

There are so many things that kids and parents can do to help others. Parents Magazine has a helpful resource guide for families looking to volunteer with their kids here and many community centers have programs or at least post flyers for upcoming events, drives, and other opportunities to volunteer.

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Big Kid Milestones to Celebrate

When it comes to milestones for children, many parents focus on things like first steps or first words. These are great accomplishments and are certainly worth celebrating, but there are other milestones that are also worth a huzzah. As children get older, they become more complex and independent individuals. Recognizing the steps they take towards becoming their own people are just as worthy of celebration as their first day of school. Not everything needs cake and a party, but letting your kids know that their growth is acknowledged in a special way can be incredibly beneficial to their personal growth.

Joining a Club or Sport

When your child engages in an activity, they are not only building a skill but they are also flexing their teamwork muscles, too. Whether they have joined a soccer league, the girl scouts, decided to participate in an after-school program for art and crafts or even decided to enter the science fair, it is a sign that your child is interested in learning more about their own interests, and exploring what opportunities for growth and friendship these activities might give them. Kids may not realize the weight of what they are doing, but even deciding to take up a sport or hobby simply because it looks fun is a big step towards making their own decisions and being their own person.

Stepping Up to the Self-Care Plate

When kids are younger, they need help getting dressed, brushing their teeth or getting a glass of water. There are many of these micro-activities that kids need guidance with when they are younger, but it should be noticed when they begin to do these things all by themselves. It not only shows initiative but it also shows that they are growing into their responsibilities as a person, too. These activities can become more meaningful as your kids age, and to them it may not seem like a big deal but many parents would jump for joy if they saw their child pour their own milk and cereal for breakfast or take it upon themselves to clean their room.

Reading A Chapter Book

Reading can be difficult, and depending on where your child fits on the reading spectrum different milestones may come with different feats. Kids who have difficulty reading or are slow learners, reading a chapter book on their own is a big deal. Plus, the confidence boost that comes with this milestone may help encourage them to practice and keep reading.

For kids who are natural readers and enjoy the activity, reading full chapter books may not be all that unusual, but trying something above their skill level or out of their comfort zone should be applauded, too.

Riding a Bike

This is a classic, but it is a tradition that every parent should celebrate with their child. Whether your child is testing out their first training wheels or finally ready to take theirs off, learning to ride a bike is a big deal and it helps encourage kids to stay active.

Showing Some Sympathy

Sometimes parents need to coax their children into looking at situations a certain way and guide their behaviors to a certain degree. For instance, if you have multiple kids and they get into a fight, it may be your job as parent to be the mediator. But if you see your child apologizing, offering sympathy, or simply being nice to their sibling or someone else without needing any prompt to do so, it should certainly be celebrated. This is an expression of emotional growth that should be encouraged and can help kids grow into more understanding and empathetic people.

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Great Brain Games for Children

Brain-training games have grown in popularity, especially with the rise of smartphones where thousands of apps and other games are made available on the go. Many games, especially those featured on sites like Facebook, are aimed towards Baby Boomers, claiming to reverse aging and prevent things like Alzheimer’s. While these sorts of claims are more difficult to prove, brain-training games have worked wonders for kids who are still actively learning, growing and developing, especially kids with learning and language disorders. Brain games can help kids build essential skills that help them process things like problem solving or help boost their memory.

Language Games

Language games may involve building essential skills for English but there are also fun, free apps out there that can help children learn to speak other languages, too.

For parents looking for native language boosting games in English, PBS.org has plenty of vocabulary games that can help children master the alphabet, learn new words, and practice their spelling. PBS also has plenty of reading games that focus more on word association, reading comprehension and writing aspects of language.

Language games can help kids develop key communication skills, reading comprehension skills, and it can boost their vocabulary (reading and speaking) significantly, too.

Math Games

Sites like mathplayground.com and coolmath-games.com feature traditional puzzle-solving games like Sudoku, chess, and more but they also have plenty of games that focus on specific areas of math like addition and subtraction, geometry, ratios and percent’s, and much more. Mathplayground.com has a grade-level feature so kids can play games that are appropriate to their age, grade, and skill-level and divide games into categories to make finding specific types of activities much easier. This is a great way to help kids struggling with a particular topic at school and can make studying much more

Memory Games

Parents may be familiar with apps like Lumosity, but this app actually gets a significant amount of revenue from kids as well as adults. Memory boosting games can be both challenging and fun, encouraging kids to develop skills that are useful in everyday situations as well as a myriad of different school subjects, too.

Puzzle Games

Parents may be more familiar with games like Tetris and Bejeweled Blitz (as well as other games like it) but these are great games to introduce to kids, too. Spatial reasoning is an often-overlooked skill and it can be applied to many situations and circumstances. These games encourage problem solving within a timeframe, which can be anxiety-inducing for some kids, but can also help children make better, more informed decisions on the fly, making moves based on educated guesses without overthinking.

There are many sites with plenty of resources, links and information on games for kids. Brain boosting games can be an essential tool for kids with learning disorders or children who may not benefit as much from a traditional school setting. Trying a different format for learning can be incredibly life changing, and fun, too.

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