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Welcome to the June 2012
“News for Parents”
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IN THIS ISSUE
- WHAT’S NEW?
- COMING ATTRACTIONS
- Dozens of Ways to Enjoy July
- Soothing the Crying Baby
- Helping Kids Make Friends
I. WHAT’S NEW?
Day-by-Day in June: 30-Some Family Activities
Whether you’re home with your children this summer, or suggesting activities for them and their babysitter or nanny, we’ve got ideas to make every day special. Some of these introduce important life skills or scientific concepts; others are just plain fun.
Entertain and Educate in the Kitchen
Even 3-year-olds can mix ingredients for a cake, mash bananas for a fruit bread or crack eggs, and they’ll enjoy working with you in the kitchen, too. PCC Natural Markets, among the country’s largest food cooperatives, is based near the Parenting Press offices, and one of its nutrition educators recently pointed out how much kids can learn when cooking. When they’re learning to count, line up chocolate chips so they can see how many 10 is. If their lumps of dough don’t bake as well as your carefully rolled cookies, turn disappointment into a teaching moment by pointing out how heat didn’t get to the center of the lump. You’ll want to watch carefully when children are near the stove or using sharp tools, but the PCC crew says that 3–5-year-olds should be able to stir, measure, pour, mash, mix and crack eggs. Between 6 and 12, kids can learn to cook pasta and rice, begin cutting vegetables and fruit, and separate egg yolks and whites.
“Kitchen” Chemistry for Fun and Science
Your kids can have fun and learn some chemistry basics with kitchen staples, candy and other goodies. One warning: these projects tend to be messy, so make sure they’re done outside the kitchen—in fact, outside the house!
What happens when you mix baking soda and vinegar? If your kids haven’t already made “volcanoes” as school science projects, this is a wonderful outdoor project for a summer day. Even little kids can enjoy it with the tips at Science for Preschoolers which start simply with vinegar being added to water and baking soda with an eye dropper. Eventually your kids will probably want to use bread-dough clay to mold a “mountain” around an empty plastic bottle. For the how-to’s on turning this into a volcano, check the library or the Internet for science fair project instructions.
For a similar project, pick up some Mentos candy and a bottle of diet soda. As New Scientist reports: “When mint or fruit Mentos are dropped into a fresh bottle of Diet Coke, a jet of Coke whooshes out of the bottle’s mouth and can reach a height of 10 meters.” What causes this? Why Mentos brand candy? Why diet soda? The results of an Appalachian State University physics student project provide the answers, which can also be found in New Scientist. (Of course, this project requires careful supervision by adults or teenagers.)
For a project with no eruptions, let the kids dye yarn with ordinary food coloring or the powdered beverage Kool-Aid. Dyeyouryarn.com has zillions of tips, including lots of photos showing the spectrum of colors available by mixing food colors or Kool-Aid flavors. If you use Kool-Aid, you’ll need a microwave to set the color, so part of the project may have to come indoors. All of the Dyeyouryarn.com projects use 100 percent wool yarn, preferably white or cream, so start with a thrift store visit to find discarded skeins of yarn or sweaters that can be unraveled.
Yarn colored with food dyes offers the potential for another project: studying colorfastness. Scraps from the kids’ projects can be laid out in a window with half of each piece shielded from light. If all of the yarn has been dyed the same color, the kids can remove one sample each day, and later compare the samples for amount of color lost per day.
Got loose ends of wool yarn? Criss-cross them until you’ve got a lump, and then wet it with the warmest water kids can handle. Squirt on a little liquid dish soap and after working it into the wool, roll the lump into a ball and continue to roll it around in your hands, dipping it in hot water occasionally. Because felting is a result of heat, moisture and pressure, make sure you’re using steady, firm pressure. Roll the ball on a dry, lint-free rag or towel to remove excess water; if you squeeze the wool too hard before every strand has felted to others, you may destroy the shape. When the ball feels very firm and it’s impossible to get it to shrink anymore, you’re done! Rinse it thoroughly in cold water, let it drip on a pad of rags and then set it somewhere sunny and warm to dry. This can become the head of a little figure or a Christmas tree ornament, or you can use a sharp needle with a large eye to string the ball on perle cotton or a narrow cord for a pendant. (Make several for a felt bead necklace.)
Got a small ball of yarn or string? Try finger knitting. As the web site “Knitty: little purls of wisdom” describes it, “This is the ultimate on-the-go, take-it-anywhere, super-simple knitting project.” With a few yards of yarn tucked into a tote bag or even a pocket, kids can entertain themselves in the car, on an airplane or when waiting somewhere. The illustrated how-to’s are at knitty.com.
Got a bigger ball of yarn? With a wooden spool and four nails, or the knitting looms sold at fabric and yarn shops, kids can create yards of cord that can be tacked together for place mats, pet blankets or wigs for the dress-up box. Larger, multi-peg looms mean larger products, including stocking hats for dolls and babies. Few of the looms require much space, so this is another ideal project for on-the-go.
Another on-the-go game for older preschoolers and up is cat’s cradle, which requires only a yard of string and two players. We found instructions for a variety of moves, both beginning and advanced, and lots of detailed photos at How to Do Cat’s Cradle.
You can entertain kids of almost any age with almost anything smushy and paper. Fold the paper in half, unfold it, and drip paint, shaving cream, catsup—whatever—on one half. Re-fold the paper and smoosh (or press) and then open the paper to see what kind of an image has been created. Move the high chair outside and let toddlers use chocolate pudding and jam with their paper (and plan for a dunk in the wading pool or bathtub as soon as they’re done). Older kids can dribble paint or ink in a pattern on one kind of paper before pressing down with textured paper or even stiff fabric like canvas scraps.
Introduce older elementary and teenage students to such financial safety issues as checking credit records to ensure no one is using their social security numbers by accident or fraud. Sometimes numbers get transposed, other misuse can be deliberate—but result can be the same: bad credit history for an 8 or 10 year old. Each of us, regardless of age, can obtain at no charge a credit report each year from Equifax, Experian and TransUnion, the three major credit bureaus. For how-to’s, see the Federal Trade Commission web site or each bureau’s web site.
Make sure kids know to never give out their Social Security numbers—or full name and date of birth, no matter what download they’re trying to get or what free gift they’re promised. If you haven’t checked before, check the kids’ records when they’re about to apply for a first job, college admission or scholarship.
The Federal Trade Commission has an informative web site that these older kids can review along with you: “Protecting your child’s personal information at school.” Also of value: “Fact Sheet 120: Identity theft and children,” at the Identity Theft Resource Center.
It’s fun—and important—to occasionally type each family member’s name into an Internet search engine to see what’s online about you (or people with the same name). What’s fun is seeing what all those others with your name do, and where they live, and how common your name is. A Social Security web site, Popular Baby Names, shows what names were popular when. The editor of News for Parents is named Linda, for example, and this web site shows that it was one of the most popular names for a 22-year-period starting during World War II. “Joshua” was one of the most popular boys’ names between 1984 and 2008 and “Michael” has been one of the most popular names every year since 1950!
What’s most important about searching your family’s names is to determine if there’s any inaccurate information about any of you that could be damaging. It’s also important to check for photos that could be embarrassing—whether they are of you, or of someone with the same name. You’ll also want to make sure that nothing is online that could allow someone to stalk a family member: you can have your address and home telephone numbers removed from online directories, and it’s best to not use your children’s full names in blog posts or with photos that are online in any place.
Speaking of blog posts, perhaps this is the summer to create a family blog. An excellent way to keep kids’ writing skills improving during school vacations, the blog can be a place for them to keep an online diary. When it’s set up, you can specify that it is to be visible only to those friends and family that you approve. You can also block the blog from being indexed by search engines by using the blog host’s preferences.
Summer’s a good time to develop—or revisit—your emergency plans. Besides such basics as each of you having contact information for every family member and for someone outside your home and someone else outside your region, here are some of the disasters that you need to be prepared for.
Your library will have lots of picture books about fire, fire prevention, and what kids should do in case of a fire, especially one in the house. Your kids could coordinate a family fire drill, with a different one of them blowing the whistle each time you practice.
More regions than ever have experienced earthquakes this past year, so it may be time to introduce “Drop, Cover and Hold On” to your family. Detailed information on how to protect yourself during earthquakes is provided by a Federal Emergency Management Agency web page, During an Earthquake. How to make your home more secure if you are at risk of earthquakes is also explained on a companion page.
Wherever you live, you’re at risk of having your house flooded by something as simple as a broken water pipe, leaking hot water tank or failing sprinkler system. Discussing the signs of such a problem with your children is important, so they can alert you as soon as they see water on the floor or ceiling. Older children can also be taught how to turn off faucets and the entire house’s water supply.
The causes of other floods—unusual rainfall or snowmelt, the failure of a dam or levee, and the release of water by an ice jam—are explained at FEMA’s Floods page. With this site’s information, your kids could make up questions to quiz you with. For example:
* Should you touch electric appliances?
* Is walking in water safe?
* Can you drive in a flooded area?
Everyone should know where flashlights are kept, and you may want to have battery-powered night lights. Remind everyone that cordless land-line phones will not work during an outage, so you’ll have to contact each other and your electric utility with a “corded” land line or cell phone. Even if you have wireless service for your computers, you won’t be able to connect for e-mail or web browsing because the router will be disabled during an outage—and possibly even during a power surge. For tips on power outages and electrical safety, see When the power goes out, a Seattle City Light web page.
Grilling in the park? Got the camp store out in the backyard? Heading out to campgrounds with fire pits? Campfire Cuisine: Gourmet Recipes for the Great Outdoors (Quirk Books) provides lots of how-to’s, including a very helpful “Is It Done Yet?” guide to cooking time. Besides recipes, it offers sample meal plans, examples of seasonings and tips on how long food stays safe in a 40-degree cooler.
And recipes! Besides dozens and dozens of meals for the discerning palate (curried chicken salad, grilled goat cheese sandwiches, and tofu steaks, anyone?) there are recipes for such kid-friendly meals as from-scratch gingerbread or peanut butter pancakes, Skillet Skones, chicken and dumplings, baked chocolate bananas and Mexican hot chocolate. Even better, each recipe has a “Make It at Home” variation for kitchen cooking.
Tack a couple of buttons on an old sock, and presto, there’s a puppet! If you need a project for a group of kids—maybe a rainy day at a family reunion—pack up some tube socks, scraps of felt and yarn and the button box. Add glue, scissors, needles, thread and a little supervision by a teenager or adult, and you’ll have sock puppets making their debut within an hour or so!
Most larger cities offer bus, boat or walking tours—of the local sights, the waterfront, architectural landmarks. Stadiums, dams and even sewage processing plants also schedule “behind the scenes” tours. Summer’s when many organizations often sponsor one-day tours—of gardens, custom-built chicken coops, or vintage fire stations. Your family can create its own tours with the help of tourist brochures outlining self-guided tours, local guidebooks and the listings in your newspaper and local web sites. In Seattle, for example, there are more than a hundred public stairways that substitute for streets on steep hills, and dozens of “street-end” parks, tiny respites where streets run into the waterfront. Your neighborhood businesses may welcome youth groups for private tours—of the railroad roundhouse, bakery, dry cleaners, glass blowing studio or library.
Library and bookstore children’s events
Many bookstores host story “hours” and libraries often have similar children’s events as well as craft demonstrations and animal events—origami lessons and reptile visits, for example.
Got a reader? Take a trip to your favorite used book store, to browse or to make a special purchase. Birthday celebrations for the kids of the News for Parents editor included a 30-minute shopping spree at the closest “bargain books” store.
Farmers’ markets are another wonderful place to entertain kids of almost any age. Even tots in backpacks will enjoy the colors of the flowers and vegetables and the sounds of the street musicians; older ones may appreciate the tastes of apple butter, lavender honey and artisan bread.
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First Aid, Even for 4-Year-Olds
Almost everyone is old enough to call 911, says Maribeth Boelts, author of Kids to the Rescue! First Aid Techniques for Kids. Even toddlers too young to say much can be taught to push the button that direct dials your emergency center and then say, “Help.” Make sure they understand they must keep the phone on until help arrives.
Kids to the Rescue describes other emergency actions kids can take—pressing on a bleeding wound, helping someone who is choking, handling a snake or dog bite—and explains such risks as touching someone experiencing an electrical shock.
To make learning about first aid entertaining, you can use Kids to the Rescue: First Aid—Even for First Graders: Teaching Tips for the Classroom, available as a complimentary download at our teacher activities page. Among the ideas that works well at home or with a group of kids are the skits or short videos that show children acting out the first aid techniques. Just imagine how much fun someone will have being the fainting victim or the ferocious dog!
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What We’ve Got to Know about Drowning
You’ve probably taught your kids basic water safety, like “never swim alone,” “avoid currents and tides,” and “walk, don’t run, near water.” Dunking or grabbing others, or pushing someone off an inner tube or air mattress, even as a joke, should be strictly forbidden: avoid teasing your kids this way, and don’t let them do it to others.
Most of us adults keep our eyes on our kids whenever they’re near the water, whether or not they’re wearing life jackets. What most of us misunderstand, however, is what a drowning person looks like, and how little time we have to help that person.
Recently Linda Quan, a pediatric emergency physician at Seattle Children’s Hospital, pointed out common misperceptions about drowning. If you think there are such obvious signs as splashing, screaming and thrashing about, you’re wrong, she says:
A person who is drowning cannot call for help. Most drowning victims inhale water very early and are unable to make a sound.
People seldom flail about. “All their effort goes toward keeping the nose and mouth above water, which means they can’t move or propel themselves out of danger,” Quan points out. Most people are also scared, and this fear can be paralyzing.
What she asks us to watch for:
What to do:
Act fast. You have 30 to 60 seconds to rescue someone in distress.
Shout for help, especially for a trained lifeguard.
Get someone to call 911.
Protect yourself if you’re trying to help the struggling person; too often a would-be rescuer also drowns when dragged down by the victim. Instead of going to the drowning person in the water:
* Extend a long pole for the victim to grab, so you can pull him to safety
* Throw the person something that floats: a life jacket, life preserver, even a beach ball or Styrofoam cooler
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Where to Find Child Care
If you don’t know where to start when you’re looking for child care, contact your nearest referral agency. Formerly known as Child Care Resource & Referral Agencies, most are now following the lead of the national association, which has changed its name to Child Care Aware of America. So your state’s organization may now have a title like Child Care Aware of Kansas and your regional affiliate may be switching its name to something like Child Care Aware of King County. For more information, visit the Child Care Aware’s web site.
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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.
Play IS important for kids, and this month our parenting tips reflect that, with some background on what verbal, social, small and large motor, and brainstorming skills can be developed through play.
June 2 — Outdoor Play — The Happiest Place for Exercising
June 9 — Outside Play Develops Social and Physical Skills
June 16 — Music for Minors
June 23 — The Importance of Old-Fashioned Play
June 30 — The Importance of Freestyle Group Play
Family Fun Ideas — Beachcombing and Wilderness Walks
Got sand? There are few things easier and more fun than a trip to the beach. Whether you’re walking the shore of a river, lake, bay or ocean, your family can watch for jumping fish, ducks, gulls, dragon flies, and pretty rocks. Especially at the ocean, you can balance on driftwood, search for crabs and other crawly critters. If you’re far from water, take a walk in the woods; on a warm day, you’ll smell the pine trees and wild flowers. If a fallen tree has been cut so it no longer blocks the trail, try to count its rings. Search decaying logs for ant colonies, and use a crayon and paper for rubbings of different kinds of bark.
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Community Service — Flag Day
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. This month in the U.S. we observe Flag Day, an opportunity for children to learn flag etiquette and the history of Old Glory. Your kids might also create a display of different American flags for the library, community center or an assisted living facility or volunteer to participate with the color guard in neighborhood parades.
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Special of the month — Complimentary Qwik Sheet
This special has expired.
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