parenting tips

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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Brain and Body: Engaging Indoor Activities for Kids

 

As the weather prepares to switch gears, playing outside will become less and less of an option for kids when it comes to playtime. Keeping kids entertained indoors can be difficult, especially when they are more likely to reach for a mobile device to play a game or ask to watch TV or a movie. Parents can encourage kids to read, write, or be creative, but many of these activities are sedentary. While they may be enriching in other ways, kids still need to find ways to be active even when the weather doesn’t allow it. Here are some engaging indoor activities that get kids moving and keep them entertained.

Mastering Math and the Obstacle Course

Obstacle courses are always fun. They’re mainstays at themed birthday venues and they’re every kids favorite unit in gym class. You can create your own at-home obstacle course using string and household furniture. But to make it more engaging, you can also use – playing cards! Using playing cards or index cards with numbers or functions like plus signs and subtraction signs, will challenge kids to complete certain equations or create a path through the obstacle course that allow them to collect the cards they need to solve the problem. Kids can pretend they are super spies or secret hackers looking for the right code to unlock the secret at the end of the course, or at least earn themselves a snack.

Going Wild

Animal books are great gateways to learning and reading. Animals are diverse and many children like looking at the pictures or learning about where animals live, what they eat etc. You can learn all about animals, whether it be via a book or the internet, but you can also incorporate some stretching into the mix – challenge kids to mimic the animals they’re learning about. Stretching can help muscles but getting into these animal poses can also require some creativity and brain power as well. According to Integrated Learning Strategies Learning Corner, animal poses like a horse trot, worm crawl, or the crab walk, can be great for executive functioning within the brain, regulating emotions, and practicing gross and fine motor skills. Plus, they’re just fun to do!

 

Balloon Ping Pong

Ping-pong indoors can be dangerous, but not if you change up your game equipment. Swap out a ping-pong for a balloon and your ping-pong paddle for a paper plate attached to a popsicle stick. There are plenty of other games that can be made indoor-safe as long as you trade in the traditional tools, especially hard balls that could potentially break household items or hurt others, for soft, plush things instead like pillows, poufs, balloons and other materials. These may be simple, but sports-related activities get kids up and moving but they also help them hone their hand-eye coordination skills, build better interpersonal relationships, and encourage good sportsmanship.

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Kids, Parents and Social Media

Social media can be a touchy topic these days, but it is also inescapable. Many people use social media primarily for keeping in touch. Platforms like Facebook and Instagram can allow friends and families, especially those that live over great distances, stay in close communication despite living in different parts of the country or the world. Being able to share family photos or more immediate, everyday moments can make it feel like you are a part of your loved ones’ lives despite whatever physical distances separate you, but there are plenty of downsides to social media as well.

Social media can be an addiction for many people, and it can also cause depression and feelings of low self-esteem and self-worth. Many posts on social media are curated to a degree and only highlight positive parts of a person’s life. False ideas about the quality of others’ lives has proven to be detrimental to people of all ages, but young teens most of all.

While parents of children who are younger and may not be old enough to have social media accounts of their own yet, it is still important that parents are aware of their own activities on social media. Parents often share photos and funny stories about their children and others in their family, but it is vital that parents are mindful of what they post. While certain topics or themes may simply be inappropriate for social platforms, it is also important that parents are aware of the impact that their own posts on social media may have on their children when they are older.

Before making a post, think about how it will impact your child in the present and in the future. Some issues may be simple and involve asking yourself a quick question such as “Will this funny photo be worth posting in the long run? Will the likes and laughs outweigh my child’s potential embarrassment that this exists on the internet?” to more serious concerns about sharing too much information regarding not only your children but your friends and family that could be used by people looking to harm them.

It helps to be well-versed in general internet safety. Never overshare. Never reveal personal information or contact info. Be aware of what information these social media sites may share with others and how accessible your profiles are. It helps to comb through your social media accounts and review your security settings. Consider setting your profile to private, sharing information only with those you know and trust. Cut back on social media usage and screen every post or picture you consider putting up on the internet. There are many guidelines available regarding internet safety and knowhow, and for parents with older kids and teens who have their own social media accounts, it helps to share this information with them as well.

Parents need to be just as mindful as their kids when it comes to social media. Stay informed and learn about the security ins and outs of the platforms you use. Being self-aware, mindful, and considerate can help make your experience on the internet much safer and fulfilling while also protecting your children.

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