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Welcome to the July 2012
“News for Parents”
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IN THIS ISSUE
- WHAT’S NEW?
- COMING ATTRACTIONS
- “Pounding” from Pupils
- Back to School ONLINE
- Encouraging Creativity, Part II
I. WHAT’S NEW?
Day-by-Day in July
Whether you’re home with your children this summer, or putting together suggested activities for them and their babysitter or nanny, we’ve got ideas to make every day special. Some of these activities will introduce important life skills or scientific concepts; others are just plain fun.
Create with crayons—or create them. Buy a box of Crayolas for scribbling, or gather up all the broken crayons in the house for crayon creation! With careful supervision by an adult or older teenager, old wax crayons can be melted down and molded into new shapes. (Crafters warn that some inexpensive imported crayons are not made with wax and will not melt.)
One mother suggests using empty glue stick holders for your molds; others use ice cube trays in star and heart shapes. If the older helper is melting crayons on a stove either indoors or out, make sure the crayons are in disposal metal containers.
Some parents recommend discarded 12-ounce pop cans with the tops removed (flexible enough that you can shape a spout at the rim) that you’ve stood in water in a sauce pan for a makeshift double boiler. For a lower-risk project, old crayons can be broken into bits, poured into garage-sale muffin tins and heated in the oven at 350 degrees until they melt together; kids can check progress through the oven door glass window.
When kids are sharpening the points on crayons, they can save the shavings for projects like these:
Stained glass” art: arrange shavings on wax paper in a swirl, heart or star shape (perhaps with the help of a stencil) and then carefully cover the shavings with a second sheet of wax paper and an old towel. An adult or older teenager can melt the shavings onto the paper with an iron set on low heat. Be sure your work surface is protected with a stack of old newspapers or a smooth rag. The shape can be cut out and hung in a window with a thread or piece of fishline.
Encaustic” art: if you have an electric food warming tray, protect its surface with a layer of foil, turn it to low heat and then put down a sheet of inexpensive copy or printer paper. As an adult or older teenager supervises, kids can sprinkle shavings on the warm paper and watch them melt. Cotton swabs can be used to swirl the colors together. Kids can also use wax crayons to draw on the warm paper (slowly, so the wax has a chance to melt).
Write a thank you note. You don’t have to call it that—maybe it’s a handmade card to Aunt Jeannie after an overnight, with your child writing (or dictating) what she especially enjoyed, like wishing on a star at bedtime or eating Mickey Mouse-shaped pancakes for breakfast. Maybe it’s learning to say thank you for time rather than things—an e-mail to a grandparent, expressing appreciation for telling the stories behind the photos in an old album. Maybe it’s saying “I thought of you”—a postcard to a friend saying “Remembered how much fun we had when we were together at Priest Lake.”
Make a cardboard loom. All you need is a piece of heavy cardboard, scissors to slit the ends of it, and yarn or string. For the weft, older kids can use a rug needle; for younger children, taping the end of yarn can make it easier to weave. A loom of about 5 x 7 inches is good for a first project, and it’s the right size for taking in the car or on the bus.
The how-to’s we found in a 2001 issue of Handwoven magazine suggest a quarter-inch slit on one narrow end, at least a quarter inch in from the right edge. This is for anchoring the start of your warp thread. On the opposite narrow edge, cut 1/8th slits every quarter inch. To keep all your warp “thread”—the yarn or string you use—on the front of the cardboard, start the thread behind the first slit and then bring it out on the front. Go down the front side of the loom, around the bottom slit and then back up the front side to another slit. When the warp is done and the thread is anchored, the same or a different yarn can be used for the actual weaving.
Print with food. Apples, lemons and green peppers make terrific and easy prints. Imagine the possibilities: red, green and yellow apple images around the bottom of a skirt, or a lemon print on the sail of a bright yellow boat! Slice fruits in half (keep the apple stem), sponge on paint, and then press straight down on paper, cloth or wood.
For paper prints, you can use ordinary tempera paint; for cloth, use fabric paint, and for wood, use acrylic or house paint. With some fruits and vegetables, changing the paint color requires nothing more than slicing off the discolored portion. (That won’t work with an apple if you want to keep the stem; if the stem’s not important to you, consider cutting the apple into a completely different shape freehand or with a sharp star or heart cookie cutter.)
Learn a few words in another language. It’s easy to get started with two Parenting Press card decks. With the Feeling Elf poster, you all can learn the Spanish and Japanese for such emotions as “sad,” “scared” and “proud.” The Self-Calming Cards show phrases like “Watch funny videos,” “Make silly faces” and “Get a hug” in Spanish.
Contraptions for creativity
Encourage kids to think outside the box—the boxed kits, that is—by tinkering. Step 1: a “treasure” hunt throughout the house, garden and garage for odds, ends and stuff that doesn’t work. To get the hunt started, give each family member a bucket for gathering potential treasures as you all clean drawers, cupboards, and under beds. In a spring article about an 8-year-old boy and his 10-year-old brother who have an “invention box,” the Wall Street Journal suggests watching for:
Old electronics and broken cameras
Old toys and toy parts, especially from vehicles
Worn-out stuffed animals
Odd game pieces, especially from chess, checkers, Scrabble and Monopoly
Rope, string, twine
Rubber bands and bungee cords
Springs, even those as small as those in ballpoint pens
Broken alarm clocks and other noise-making devices
Recyclables like jars, plastic bottles and lids
Old flashlights and other lighting devices
Keys without locks
Leftovers from building repairs and projects
Kids will also need glue sticks and masking tape; older kids (or those who are well supervised) can use hot-glue guns. Kindergarten-age kids can start with simple “scrounge art” projects like a house or car for Beanie Baby-size toys and forts built of appliance boxes. Older tinkerers can explore rubber-band guns, pulleys for hoisting stuff between bunk beds or to a tree house, a remote-control vehicle or vessel, or doll-size amusement-park rides. “Found-object” artists can glue flower pots into fountains, print rag-bag fabrics with bubble wrap patterns, and use checkers for eyes and Scrabble tiles or marbles for lips on a paint-bucket head.
Illustration by Jenny Williams for Is This a Phase? copyright Parenting Press 2007
Got a dress-up box? Supplement the kids’ collection of boas, boots, wigs, capes, junk jewelry and old prom dresses with masks made with cheesecloth, liquid starch and balloons. Cheesecloth is the loosely woven fabric you may see in the laundry aisle of large supermarkets; it’s often used as a pressing cloth. Soak it in liquid starch and then drape it over round or oval balloons to make fanciful masks. Get out the tape measure before the kids start blowing up the balloons, so they can get the balloons as large as their heads. As it’s spread over a balloon, the cheesecloth can be separated to make eyeholes, or an adult can cut holes later, once the starch has dried and the cloth is rigid.
An option: drape lightweight muslin over a child’s head, mark where the eyes are, remove the fabric and then cut holes before saturating this fabric with starch and arranging it over a balloon. Add cheesecloth or chunky yarn for hair or beard—or both—and maybe some paint or glitter.
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Helping Kids Make Friends
If you have a child who needs help with interpersonal skills, Making Friends Is an Art, new from BoysTown Press, offers important tips on getting to know other kids and how to be a friend. Now, when kids have the opportunity to interact with others at camp and in summer programs, is an excellent time to practice such skills before school starts.
Making Friends Is an Art is a simple story about a pencil that has to be told why he’s unpopular: he never laughs, he puts others down, he disagrees with them, and he complains. The illustrations are very basic in contrast to the vocabulary and concepts (for example, empathy, trustworthy, and respect). However, the page of advice for adults has value for use with kids of any age: even preschoolers can role-play greeting new playmates and older elementary students and middle-schoolers may especially need help managing conflict.
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Soothing the Crying Baby
Summer and fall are the seasons with high birth rates, so it’s likely that your family or circle of friends includes (or will soon include) a new baby. There’s nothing that troubles parents more than a crying baby, especially when there’s no obvious cause for the howls.
Despite all the advertising for “colic pills” and the articles about a nursing mother’s diet or the baby’s diet, recent research shows that neither is likely to affect how persistently a baby cries. What can help? Here’s what Ian St. James-Roberts, author of “The Origins, Prevention and Treatment of Infant Crying and Sleeping Problems,” points out:
Understand the crying is short-term. Usually crying declines by almost half by the time the baby is 12 weeks old.
Pacifiers. Pacifiers are shown to reduce crying and routine use of them by sleeping babies can cut the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) by more than 50 percent. Some experts do recommend that a pacifier be introduced only after nursing is well-established, usually at about a month in age.
Swaddling. Wrapping an infant tightly has also been shown to be effective in comforting a baby. Interestingly, the research St. James-Roberts presents notes that pacifiers are often more effective than swaddling.
Holding. Holding a baby close to you, whether sitting, walking or rocking, is another helpful practice.
Although there’s lots of talk among parents about when babies start to “sleep through the night,” the author explains that most Western babies need help getting back to sleep until they’re at least three months old. After that, most continue to waken several times in the night, but as many as two-thirds of these babies can soothe themselves and return to sleep. At least a third continue to cry when they wake, some into the second half of the first year.
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Encouraging Creativity, Part I
Even before children are old enough for crayons and scissors, you and older kids can help them develop creativity by using puppets to act out stories or experiences, and by taking turns acting out different feelings.
In Is This a Phase? Child Development & Parent Strategies, Birth to 6 Years, Helen F. Neville also suggests:
- Cardboard boxes large enough to crawl inside
- Lightweight paper and cardboard boxes like milk cartons for stacking blocks
- Toy telephones that you and toddlers can talk with
- Farm and zoo animal toys
- Trucks, cars, bulldozers and garbage trucks, and a cardboard or plastic “town” with roads to drive the vehicles on
- Plastic dishes, either toys or child-size, for tea parties with each other or with stuffed toys
Starting about age 2, add sidewalk chalk, finger paints and bathtub crayons as well as:
- Plastic containers with lids to drum on
- Jingle bells attached to elastic for bracelets
- An xylophone
- Singing with your child
- Large brushes for painting with water on the sidewalk or fence
Preschoolers can be taken to construction sites, bus stops, waterfront, zoo, farms, firehouses, and on nature walks, and when they return, Neville continues, they can dictate stories about what they did and saw, and then illustrate the stories with drawings or pictures cut from magazines and catalogs. They can also:
- Experiment with flashlights, magnets and a magnifying glass
- Make sand castles and mud pieces
- Float toy boats in mud puddles, at the beach or in a wading pool
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ADHD Co-author on the Air
“Top Tips for Parents” will be the topic Aug. 4 on “Parent Talk” for Helen F. Neville, author of several Parenting Press titles including Is This a Phase? Child Development & Parent Strategies, Birth to 6 Years and co-author of the new ADHD/ADD Medications: What Are They? . . . How Do I Decide Whether or Not to Use Them with My Child?
Hosted by Linda O’Connor, “Parent Talk” airs between 8 and 9 a.m. Eastern time on Buffalo station AM1230 and at breezebuffalo.com.
Neville is a long-time pediatric advice nurse, temperament specialist and parent educator in Oakland CA.
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Tips for the month
Each Saturday, Parenting Press posts a new
parenting tip and the previous week’s tip is moved to the archive.
This month’s tips provide help anticipating and managing interpersonal issues, and avoiding meltdowns when traveling. Remember you can always access the current tips (and the hundreds of others that are archived) at parentingpress.com/weeklytips.html. If you’d like the tips e-mailed to you each week, just let us know with a message to email@example.com. Make sure you put “Weekly tips” in your subject line and include the e-mail to which the tips should be sent.
July 7 — Helping Kids Resolve a Squabble
July 14 — Fostering Problem Solving Skills Through Family Games
July 21 — Coping With a Cranky Toddler in the Car
July 28 — Car Games for Bored Children
Family Fun Ideas — Traveling with Books
Heading off to the beach someday soon? The mountains? Across the state to visit relatives? Give your kids a preview of where you’re going with at least a few books about your destination, or what you’ll see en route. And while you’re traveling, let the kids’ books determine at least part of your route, or what you do.
You may not be heading to Paris, as one family recently did with young children and a copy of Madeline by Ludwig Bemelmans as its tour guide, but your library is sure to have picture books, both fiction and nonfiction, about camping, boating, Revolutionary War and Civil War battlefields, the Oregon Trail, landmarks and other typical vacation destinations. The National Park Service gift stores also usually have paperbacks or coloring books that show popular sites and common wildlife in each park. Our own A Horse’s Tale highlights several areas of Washington state, and similar sites can be found in many other states, especially in the west:
- Wheat farms
- The locations of Indian boarding schools
- Coal-mining towns and their museums
- Forest history tours
- Dams built to generate hydroelectric power as Works Progress Administration projects during the Great Depression
- Sites of World War II Japanese internment camps
- World’s Fair sites like Seattle’s Space Needle and New York’s Flushing Meadows Park
- Exhibits about such volcanic eruptions as Mount St. Helens in Washington and the Volcanoes National Park in Hawaii
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Community Service — Back to the School (Grounds)
Our goal with this column is to suggest ways that you can model the concept of sharing and giving back to your community. There are practical advantages to community service, too. Kids can use these projects to meet school or youth group requirements for community service and to start building resumes that they’ll use when applying for first jobs or college.
School starts in August in some communities, which means this is an appropriate time to plan a spruce-up of your schoolyard. Children may need your help in contacting PTA officers or school administration about a grounds beautification project, although almost everyone can pull weeds, rake leaves and plant flowers on the day of the clean-up. At least a couple of students and an adult can staff a beverage station and, when it’s time for a break, put out cookies that kids have made.
For more community service projects appropriate for kids and families, see Teaching Your Kids to Give Back.
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Special of the month — Avoiding Abuse and Exploitation
This special has expired.
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