Browsing Tag


Encouraging Your Child to Read More

FAM, kids By November 1, 2011 Tags: , , , No Comments

I remember when I was a little girl, my grandparents would bring me books every week. My grandmother was a teacher, and I lived with them for long periods of time. During the summers, Nanny would bring home piles of books, and I would work my way through them. I remember sitting outside under the redbud tree and reading all afternoon, and I had such a rich and vivid internal life. I still played with other kids and got into trouble, but books were my first love. It helped make me who and what I am: a very literate person who knows a lot of stuff. I also think that by reading so many types of literature that I gained a lot of perspective, and didn’t develop so many of the ignorant prejudices that dog our kids.

If you want a child who has a great imagination, whose intelligence is stimulated, who has a real perspective on the world, encourage them to read! Studies show that a child that reads more does better in school, and they tend to succeed more in life. How do you encourage a child to read? It’s simpler than you may think.

  • Be an example. Your kids won’t read if you they don’t see you reading. Make sure they know you enjoy reading; keep books around the house, and talk about them with your partner, or with them.
  • Before you see a movie made from a book, read the book to or with them. They’ll see HOW much better the book always is, compared to the movie.
  • Read WITH them, not always to them, once they get older. I have read all the Harry Potter, Eragon, Chronicles of Narnia, Percy Jackson and the Olympians, and others with my daughter. At first, I read, but now that she’s older, we take turns reading pages or entire chapters. This really encourages reading and other skills, such as public speaking (even though it’s just you) and how to read dramatically.
  • Start early. I read to my kids before they were born, and then I had a steady supply of good books from my childhood ready for them (Dr. Seuss, Where the Wild Things Are, Richard Scarry’s books, etc.). Once they’re older, let them pick them out. Make a trip to the bookstore or library a fun trip.
  • Get involved with reading in your community: book clubs, storytime at the library or local bookstore, etc. Volunteer at the library or bookmobile.
  • Start encouraging them to think about what they’re reading by asking questions about the books. Ask them to explain the plot, or what they like/dislike about the main character. How would they have done things differently? What was their favorite part? Little kids can draw pictures. Older kids can be encouraged to write their own “fan fiction”, which can continue the story in their own words, or cover things they don’t think the author covered sufficiently. You might end up with your own little author!
  • Treat books well. Make sure they have their own shelf, that they don’t get thrown around and abused. If kids treat books with respect, they’ll respect reading more.
  • Be diverse. Just because your daughter is a girl, it doesn’t mean she only needs to read romances! Encourage all kids to read fantasy, sci-fi, biographies, etc. Also, encourage the classics that they may not get at school, and explain the things they don’t understand.
  • It may sound like a bummer, but during summer months and holidays, try out a reading quota. Make sure they can pick some of the books, but you get to pick the others. There is a reason schools used to assign summer reading lists: it keeps the brain from turning to mush between sessions! It doesn’t have to be a chore.
  • If your kid gets carsick when they read, let them listen to audiobooks. Otherwise, get them an e-reader, or an e-reader app for their mobile. You’re never going to get rid of this form of reading, it’s here to stay, so you might as well go with the flow. Reading on an e-reader is better than no reading at all, right?



Getting Kids to Do Their Homework

FAM, kids By September 15, 2011 Tags: , , , , , No Comments

Ah, school is back in session…and the homework should be getting into full swing. It’s the bane of every student’s existence, as well as every mom’s…The battle to get the kids to do their homework is an eternal one. You know they need to do it as early as possible, because the more tired a child is, the harder it is for them to think properly. They want to put it off as long as possible, because, well, because homework sucks. What’s the compromise? Here are some tips to winning the homework battle.


How to Handle a Temper Tantrum

FAM, kids By August 11, 2011 Tags: , , , , 2 Comments

Temper tantrums are not exclusively the province of small children; adults have them all the time. Sometimes throwing yourself on the ground and kicking and screaming is highly therapeutic. However, it is something that should be kept to a minimum, because it’s embarrassing in public, and it’s disheartening at home. Here is how to handle a temper tantrum.

1. Prevent the Tantrum. The absolute best way to handle a temper tantrum? Not letting it happen in the first place. You know your child pretty well, you know his or her “triggers”. Often, tantrums happen when a child is over-tired, over-stimulated, hungry, bored or confused/scared. When possible, try not to let a kid get stressed out like that, especially when you’re in public. Going on a trip? Plan ahead–schedule traveling when the child is sleeping if that’s an option for a road trip, but for flying try to stick to the morning, when they’re not fatigued. Limit their exposure to new stuff and other stressful situations as much as you can; introduce new people, places and things in small bite-sized chunks, to minimize overkill.

2. Short-Circuit the Tantrum. Although kids love going out and spending time with you, after a while they get grumpy, bored and tired. If you’re planning a shopping trip or know you’ll be out for a long time, leave them home when you can. If not, bring some small diversions: load kid-friendly apps onto your phone or iPad, bring coloring supplies, etc. You see Junior getting grouchy and restless? Give him something to do. Or, start talking, playing or singing with him directly, making the experience more fun. Distract them from their boredom, and give them something positive to do rather than grouch.

3. Don’t Fan the Flames. OK, so, little Jane is getting wound up. She’s whiny, restless, irritable. What do you do? Well, it’s more about what NOT to do. Don’t encourage it by paying attention to (and therefore reinforcing) the bad behavior. Don’t give in an gripe back, or get impatient with them, or speak angrily–it makes everything worse. It turns into a vicious cycle that no one benefits from. Again, try distracting and redirecting. Be lighthearted and try to ignore the behavior. Offer hugs. Look your child in the eye and tell them, calmly and lovingly, that they need to calm down, or there will be consequences, like loss of privilege or something. Don’t threaten (“Wait till we get home!!”) or be negative (“I can’t believe you’re being so bad!”). Say something like, “Sweetie, I know you’re upset/angry/frustrated right now. But crying and yelling won’t make it better. Stop kicking the shopping cart/gnawing on the chair/throwing rocks right now, or you’ll lose the Xbox.”

4. Get YOURSELF Under Control. Now you’ve got a full-blown wail and kick session going on? Or crying and yelling? Perhaps he or she has started hitting things? Feels like the eyes of the world are on you, and it sucks. Try to take a deep breath and count backward from ten. Close your eyes for a moment and attempt to get yourself under control, because you accomplish nothing by getting your OWN tantrum going. Remember: you’re not a failure because your kid is a little out of control…ok, maybe a lot out of control. You’re not a bad parent. You don’t have a bad child. You just have a situation, and it will end eventually. Just get through it.

5. Change the Venue. Sometimes, when it’s gotten bad and you’re running out of option, the only thing to do is to remove the kid from the situation. Yeah, it seems like you’re giving up and giving in, but a change of scenery will often disrupt the tantrum. Are you in the grocery store in the middle of the line? Ignore the reproachful eyes of snotty and judgmental people (there are probably a lot more sympathetic moms and dads than judgmental jerks, though it may not feel like it at the time), ask the clerk to let you put your cart aside for when you come back (often they know exactly what you’re dealing with), and take your child out of the place.

6. Let it Run its Course. There will be times when nothing, absolutely nothing, that you can or want to do will change the tantrum. If you’ve removed the child from the situation, try to find a place to let them go to town. A grassy area. The backseat of the car. Somewhere they can have a meltdown and not hurt themselves or others. If you’re at home, make sure there’s nothing breakable or valuable nearby, and let them shriek it out in their room. Close the door and walk away (stay within earshot), indicating you don’t approve. Trying to hold them down, yelling at them, or physically punishing them only makes things worse. Usually a tantrum only lasts a few minutes, although it feels like an eternity to you and the child. And if they don’t have an audience, it often ends quickly.

7. Be Irreverent. I confess, I have been lucky with my kids, I have only had a few tantrums to report. My strategy? I’m silly. When a kid starts being a grouchy butt, make them laugh if you can. Are they on the floor kicking and screaming? If you can (I only suggest this at home), get down on the ground with them and do it, too! 99% of the time the kid will stop what they’re doing to watch you in bewilderment, which will quickly turn into amazement and then hilarity. For real, ladies. It works. AND it feels good to let loose a little, too. Or, an alternative technique (for home) is to start doing something else silly, such as tossing stuffed animals or pillows their way. Start singing a funny song, or do a goofy dance (I recommend the Funky Chicken, they can’t resist it). Stop taking it so seriously. Your anger and negativity is like gasoline on a fire when it comes to a tantrum: it makes it all worse for both of you. Vicious cycle, remember.

8. …Bribery. I confess, some tantrums have been short-circuited by a well-placed, small-yet-effective bribe. I’m not talking about buying them a go-kart or a a pony or a new game console. Maybe a tiny toy, or a little piece of candy. Don’t do this once they’ve progressed into a full tantrum, because that validates their bad behavior, saying they’ll get a reward for being bad. But it can circumvent the progression from grouchiness to tantrum…just don’t do it all the time, or you’re setting another negative pattern.

Don’t beat yourself up if your kid flies off the handle every now and then, especially if you have a special needs child or you have multiple kids stressing you and each other out. Things happen. Relax, breathe deeply, and don’t take everything so seriously. The tantrum, like all things, will pass.


Moving a Toddler from a Crib to a Bed

grow, LIVE By May 10, 2011 Tags: , , No Comments

When you move your baby from a crib to a bed it’s official: they’re not a “baby” anymore. When a child gets tall enough that they can actually reach over the crib bars it is time to move them into a bed, or else you risk dangerous accidents. But here comes the fun part: that child is no longer confined to a cage…er, crib, anymore. They can, and will, get up and move around, wander about, and come and find you. Frequently. How do you make the transition easier and faster?

Teaching kids to dress themselves

Teaching Kids to Dress Themselves

FAM, kids By March 20, 2011 Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , No Comments

Teaching Kids to Dress Themselves will always be challenging.  But we bet you can make it fun too! “Don’t you love Katie’s outfit?” my girlfriend asked, “She dressed herself today.” At three, her daughter had proudly chosen a red shirt, blue pants, and to “match” them, one red sock and one blue one. Genius, I thought – both Katie’s choice and the fact that her mom chose not to “correct” her “out-of-the-box” approach. But what do we do with the child who resists dressing themselves, or for that matter the one who has trouble expressing themselves? Here are a few tips on how to allow your kids a little delight when it comes to self-adornment.

1) Don’t micro-manage. It doesn’t really matter whether we like their outfit as long as it does the job. If what they choose is inappropriate in some way, offer sensible guidance. It can feel overwhelming for a child to navigate their way through a series of decisions. Simplify their choices for them – okay, blue socks or green ones? Ramones shirt or Star Wars? After you guide them through the process a few times, they’ll know what to start with and how to put together an outfit. Limit their options. Offer one to three ensembles and have them mix and match. Start with velcro and snaps; move gradually to laces and zippers. Let them wear their shirt backwards or their sock inside out. Compliment them! A toddler with a sense of pride? Totally cute.

2) Make their clothing accessible. Hanging a row of hooks along a wall at about four feet up will be an easy way for kids to hang up and retrieve frequently used pants, skirts, sweaters, pyjamas and tees. Shoes and slippers can go underneath. Set up easy-to-reach cubbies with durable storage bins in them for other clothing and footwear. A bench is especially helpful to those who get wobbly while lifting a leg into pants, socks and such. Give each child their own hamper if you can. In a shared closet, a locker room look will be practical and encourage them to respect it as a communal space. Whatever works in your home for your kids!

3) If, like my almost four year-old, your little one CAN dress themselves but prefer not to, try to engage them in other ways. By asking my son to put on his own socks and then his little brother’s, he is given an opportunity to feel helpful, which for him is a motivator. Being the older child, he misses the attention his brother still gets when dressing; I often get down on the floor and have him sit with me while I lead him through the process. He feels supported but is still accomplishing the task himself. If resistance is an issue, figure out the source of it. Is your child afraid of something, or worried about making a “wrong” decision? Did they have a bad experience? Are they frustrated that they don’t know how to use a zipper? Be patient and allow them lots of time – rushing them will likely add to their stress.

4) Play dress-up! Keep a tickle trunk full of hats, tops and bottoms, costumes, socks, accessories and footwear. They can layer things as they like. Character play is loads of fun; each child can invent a personality, dress to develop them and then engage in a pretend tea party, pirate ship invasion or fire rescue mission. Go to the thrift store on a rainy day and have everyone choose a few things for the dress-up collection. Fun!

5) Lead by example. Set up your closet like a personal boutique. Keep the things you love on display or hang whole outfits up as visual cues. Let your kids hang out while you get ready for date night with your partner, but also try to have fun when you’re just heading out to the market. Allow yourself to be enchanted by…yourself. Yes, it’s kind of corny. Do it anyway. Let your kids see it! Encourage and offer ideas for creative expression. Even a simple flower stuck in a barrette or a pair of coloured shoelaces can make a kid feel like a rock star. Remember, too: you are the role model. Grown-ups really shouldn’t wear crotch-grazing skirts, lingerie as clothing or spandex outside of the gym. Equally true: five year-olds never look good in thigh-high boots, heavy makeup or painted-on jeans! There are so many ways to have fun with what we wear…don’t wreck it for your kids by giving clueless council! If you’re not sure about your fashion sense, find an episode or two of TLC’s “What Not To Wear” and pay close attention! Gotta love Stacy & Clinton…

Now, go play dress-up with your kids. Preschoolers with pinache? Heck yeah.

– Samantha Agar has two little boys who love to dress up as dinosaurs.

Waldorf schooling for your child

Waldorf Schooling for your Child

grow, LIVE By January 31, 2011 Tags: , , , 4 Comments

Waldorf schooling for your child emphasizes the role of the imagination in learning, developing thinking that includes a creative as well as an analytic component. Studies of the education describe its overarching goal as providing young people the basis on which to develop into free, moral and integrated individuals, and to help every child fulfill his or her unique destiny


Google for Kids

apps, GEAR By September 13, 2010 Tags: , , No Comments

Do your kids beg to use the computer and you rack your brain trying to find educational opportunities instead of games?  With a few tips from Google you can keep your kids busy and stimulated. Check out the following list of online activities kids can do using free web tools to explore the world, travel through time, and use their imaginations.


Montessori Method of Schooling

FAM, kids By July 8, 2008 Tags: , , , , , 10 Comments

The Montessori method is an educational method for children, based on theories of child development originated by Italian educator Maria Montessori in the late 19th and early 20th century. It is applied primarily in preschool and elementary school settings, though some Montessori high schools exist.


Top Ten Parenting Tips

FAM, kids By August 20, 2007 Tags: , , , , No Comments

Raising children can be the most rewarding experience on earth. However, at times, it may also seem like the most frustrating. There are no secrets to being a good parent but these ten tips should get you on the right path.

Set ground rules

No matter what age your child is you must first establish what is and isn’t acceptable. Once they have a framework of behavior they know when they have crossed the line and the consequences of their action.

Be a strong role model

Don’t let your kids catch you behaving in a way they have been scolded for previously. Remember your children look up to you for guidance. If they see you get frustrated or angry they will copy this behavior in the future.

Make the punishment fit the crime

If your child misbehaves by not putting their toys away when asked on the first occasion it does not mean they should sent to bed without dinner. Again consistency is important. Decide what the appropriate level of punishment for the behavior is, and stick to it.

Be consistent

Which behavior is worse: A tantrum in a grocery store with strangers watching or the same tantrum in the privacy of your own home? Just because there are other people watching does not mean the level of behavior is worse. Nor does it imply that the punishment should be more severe. Ensure that you are consistent when using punishment to discipline your child.

Praise your children for good behavior

Instead of only focusing on what they do wrong, remember to praise them when they are being well behaved. This reinforces their behavior that led to the praise and makes it more likely to continue on the future.


There will be times when your child just plain refuses to do what they are told. They are old enough to realize they can say NO. This is a sign that your child is becoming more independent but they do not fully understand the situation. Explain to your child the reason why they must do as they are told. Discuss the situation with them and in a manner that you would like to be spoken too.


Working Together as Parents

FAM, kids By August 30, 2006 Tags: , , , , , 1 Comment

Remember when mom took care of the house and dad went off to work? If you were like me, that was the context in which growing up occurred. My mom was amazing. She baked fresh bread every week and for dinner we always had a homemade dessert. She kept her house clean and her children safe and held her marriage together with patience, persistence, tolerance and love. Dad was amazing too. Every day he would go to work long hours in his construction trade and was home to eat dinner with the family. On weekends he would take us fishing or hiking or we would build things in his workshop.