Winter ABC Game

Posted 05-7-2015 at 06:09 PM by Ellen

Learning the letters of the alphabet is an important skill for young children. Rather than drilling them with flash cards or having them learn their ABCs by rote, make learning the alphabet fun while teaching social skills like learning how to take turns. This ABC game incorporates learning about forest animals and a craft with letter recognition, so it will help keep your child interested. If you keep the activities fun, your child will continue to learn ABCs and other skills with greater enthusiasm.

This ABC game refers to a bear that lives in a cave. To introduce the activity to your children, you may want to start by reading a book about bears and their natural habitat. One example is, “We’re Going on a Bear Hunt,” by Michael Rosen. Your local public library will have other titles available. Read the book a few times so that you and your children are familiar with the story and that bears like to eat fish. (This will be important later on in the ABC game.)

Make a cave craft

Materials Needed:
• Small boxes (about the size of tea boxes)
• Brown construction paper
• Glue
• Plastic bear figure (Gummy bears are an option)

Instead of having the kids cut strips of brown construction paper to cover the boxes to make a bear cave, give them some practice for their fine motor skills by having them tear strips of the paper instead. Once they have enough paper to cover their boxes, they can glue them on.

It’s not necessary for the cave to look wrapped up neatly like a Christmas gift. It’s a cave, after all, and there are no perfect corners in nature. If you have a child who is a perfectionist, reassure him or her that the idea is to cover the box with the strips, but not to make it look “too” neat.

Once the bear cave has been completed, you can use it for the Winter ABC Game.

Winter ABC Game

Materials Needed:
• Blue construction paper
• ABC fish (magnetic letters) – you can also draw letters on paper or cut them out of magazines for the game

This game is for two players. Each child takes a turn being the bear. At everyone’s turn, the bear growls as loud as he or she can and says, “I’m hungry for a J (or any letter that is displayed on the table) fish”. The other player finds it and gives it to the bear, which is then placed in his or her cave.

• Next, the second player has a turn and gets to be the bear. He or she has the chance to growl and ask for a letter that is in the “water”. Players may need encouragement to wait patiently while the other person looks for the letter that has been requested and not to “help” or interrupt.

• This activity can be varied by using numbers instead of letters. Small figures of animals or people could be used to teach vocabulary about wild animals, farm animals or different professions. You can also use colored stones, pompoms or other small items to mix up the game and make it more challenging for your children. Write some simple words on cards to practice sight recognition once your children are old enough to learn to read.

• This ABC game is simple, yet can be used in a number of ways, using most any animal. Young children will likely have a lot of fun being the bear and being able to “roar” when it’s their turn – something normally not encouraged to do at home.

You can even expand the game to talk about what types of animals the bear would and wouldn’t be likely to see when he emerges from his cave in the spring. This simple game can be the foundation for a lot of learning for your children, starting with their ABCs.

Diaper Swapers

There’s a New Baby in Town… How to Cope with a Jealous Toddler

Posted 05-7-2015 at 06:08 PM by Ellen

Congratulations on the new addition to the family! Having a baby is exciting, even though it can be challenging when you have a toddler who has become used to being the “baby” in the family and doesn’t quite know what his or her place is now. There are ways to cope with the situation in a positive way so that your toddler can develop a good relationship with the new baby.

Children between the ages of 18 months and three years will likely have the most difficult time with the transition to having a younger sibling. They are still quite dependent on their mothers and younger children likely won’t be able to express their feelings about the new baby or remember a little brother or sister coming into the home. Children older than three will have other interests other than the baby to keep them occupied, so the arrival of the baby will be less of a major event in their lives.

Your Toddler’s Feelings are Normal
Keep in mind that your toddler’s feelings about the new baby coming into your home are normal. Up until you became pregnant, he or she was the baby and your household ran in a particular way. Your child knew and understood how things worked.

Even if you explained that a baby was coming – even pointing to your tummy as your pregnancy advanced, there is a limit to what your child could understand about what would become a permanent situation. He or she could not possibly understand that there would be times when you would be distracted or have to deal with the baby’s needs first. For a toddler, that not the easiest situation to deal with.

Rather than telling your child that his or her feelings are bad or wrong, a better approach is to be prepared for them and try to redirect them in a more positive direction. You can start even before the baby arrives.

Give your toddler advance notice
Let your other child or children know about the new baby at the same time as you tell your family members and friends that you are expecting.

• Explain that all babies start very small and then grow big enough to live outside of their mother’s tummies. Your toddler did the exact same thing. Find a book you can read together about a new baby arriving.

• Encourage your toddler to feel the baby kicking and let him or her talk to the baby as your pregnancy progresses.

• Talk to your toddler about what will happen when the baby is born. If you will be going to the hospital for a few days, then let him or her know about alternate care arrangements. Let your toddler come visit you and your newborn in the hospital.

Let your toddler “help” with the baby
Take your cue from your toddler and if he or she seems interested in helping with caring for the baby, find some small jobs that he or she can help with. Let your child hand you a diaper or a wipe or help you choose between two different colored outfits.

Make time for your toddler
Despite your best efforts and preparations, your toddler may feel a bit left out after your new baby comes home. This is entirely normal, so make sure to spend some “special” time with big brother or sister.

• Set aside time when you are feeding the baby to read a story to your toddler. You can watch a video together during these times as well.

• Plan to spend some time with your toddler when the baby is asleep by doing something together. Draw or color a picture, play a game of your child’s choice, or build something with blocks.

• Ask your partner to look after the baby every now and then so that you can have some time alone with your toddler. This will drive home the message that he or she is important and deserving of your undivided attention.

• Even the best-behaved toddlers may have times when they may lash out at a younger sibling. If something happens, encourage your child to share his or her feelings but reinforce that the behavior is not acceptable. Try not to leave a toddler alone with a baby to minimize the likelihood of one of these incidents.

No matter what, it will take time for your toddler to become used to this major change in the status quo. Be present, be patient and love your older child unconditionally – your toddler will pass it on to his little brother or sister.

The Pole Bean Mystery

Posted 05-7-2015 at 06:07 PM by Ellen

Dried beans are trendy again – and with good reason. Where else can you find a solid source of protein that makes vegetarians happy, while costing a fraction of other protein sources? Beans are a healthy, fat free ingredient that can be the star in lots of family-friendly meals, from Southwest chili to New England baked beans. Most people are familiar with the more common dried beans, including black beans, pinto beans, kidney beans and lima beans, but there are dozens of different bean varieties you can try.

Growing your own dried beans is very simple. The dried beans you harvest might be very different, but most of the vines themselves will be very similar. The leaves may differ in size and some of the vines are taller, but most bean plants look pretty much the same – especially to your kids. Knowing this gives you the perfect opportunity to teach your children about plants passing on their traits through their seeds.

Getting started
Share in some garden fun along with learning all summer long by helping your kids to grow a row of bean plants. Beans are simple to grow and mostly maintenance-free, so even the smallest preschooler can help enough to feel like he or she is growing a garden.

Plant four or five of the same type of seed, adding differing varieties until you’ve planted an entire row. As the plants grow, the plot will look like a uniform wall of vines. When you harvest the bean pods at the end of the growing season your kids will be able to see the variety of beans you’ve grown.

The ultimate seed source
If you’ve looked through seed catalogs, you might think this little garden plot will cost a small fortune because you’ll be planting about a dozen different bean types. On top of that, most of the seeds will probably never even get planted. Think of the waste! But, if you take advantage of a little known packaging fact, your entire mixed seed collection will only cost you a dollar or two.

• When beans are picked for packaging that’s aimed at the grocery store, they aren’t allowed to have any pesticides or other chemicals sprayed on them before being bagged. What you have is simply a large bag filled with dried bean seeds.

• Check your grocery store dried bean section. Almost every store stocks bags of 12-bean soup mix, 15-bean soup mix or some other variety of bean seeds. They may make a tasty meal, but you can also separate out a handful of each bean and save them before using the rest of the package.

• The dried soup beans will last a year or more. Most multi-bean soup bags include such beans as pinto, kidney, lima, black, red, and about a dozen others, with possibly some split peas and other seeds. Choose smooth, whole seeds, and place half a dozen of each into an envelope, saving them aside until the spring thaw.

Planting with the kids
There probably isn’t a kid alive who doesn’t love an excuse to dig a hole. Imagine their delight when you let them dig an entire trench along the fence in the back yard. Show them how to dig about six inches from a chain link fence or other sturdy support, in a trench about six inches wide. Once the soil is prepared, have them plant groups of each seed, placing the seeds about two inches apart until the trench is filled.

Growing seasons vary
Watch the moisture levels in your bean garden. If you live in an arid area or if you don’t get rain for a week or so, give the bean patch about an inch of water from the hose. It’s healthier to let the kids soak the row once or twice a week rather than giving them a short sprinkle every day. Watch the growing vines with your kids and mention any differences you might notice in the color or size differences in the vines and leaves.

When the vines begin to die back and the bean pods are showing signs of becoming dry and brittle, it’s time to harvest your crops.

• Pull them all at the same time and drop them into a grocery bag.
• Once you’ve got them all together, compare how the pods look next to each other and talk about what kind of seed they think might be inside.
• Crack open the pods to solve the mystery, putting the contents of each type of pod into a different bowl or storage container.

There are benefits far beyond the simple act of planting and caring for a garden for children. If they plant and grow something, chances are they will eat it. And the simple act of getting outdoors and working with the earth will grow an appreciation of nature within them.

Snow Salt Tray Sensory Play

Posted 05-7-2015 at 06:06 PM by Ellen

Are you looking for a way that your children can play in snow without the hassle of getting them dressed in snowsuits, boots, hats and mittens? It’s easy – just make your own snow salt tray for sensory play. This activity can be used in a number of ways to keep it interesting and it’s something that your children will find soothing.

Why sensory play is important to children
Sensory play is not simply about touching items. Through these types of activities, children learn how to examine objects, categorize them and ultimately make sense of the world around them. This is where they learn about different textures, scents and tastes.

Your child will no doubt spend some of his or her time developing gross motor skills by walking, running and jumping, but developing fine motor skills is also important. These skills allow us to perform activities like writing, doing up buttons and laces, using a keyboard and other skills.

Sensory play helps children develop these skills by allowing them to practice their fine motor skills. Through their play, they are opening and closing their hand to pick up objects, pinching things between a thumb and forefinger, pouring, manipulating sand or “snow” in this case by allowing it to run through their fingers. All of these motions are controlled, which takes practice if a child wants to be able to move an object or the snow where he or she wants it to go.

Kids are completely focused on what they want to do during the activity, rather than the actual skills involved in making their hands perform it. If they need more time or they have to repeat something to get the results they want, there is no particular pressure on them. They just try again. These activities allow them to keep on practicing these important skills without realizing they may need to work on them. Learning while having fun is one of the best ways to develop any skill.

Making a snow salt tray
Materials Needed:
• Epsom or table salt
• Small animal and bird figures, cars and trucks, buildings, people, shapes, trees, etc.
• Colored blue glass gems or marbles/construction paper (to make water)
• Scissors or markers/pencil crayons
• Container at least two inches deep

You’ll need a container so that the “snow” doesn’t make a mess in your home. Anything that you have on hand can be used – a mixing bowls, flat cereal bowls, a deep platter or baking dish, a divided serving tray, etc. Simply pour about an inch of salt into the bottom of the container – indoor snow!

If you want to add a water feature with your snow, use colored blue glass gems or marbles and place them in a separate container or section of your container. You could also have your children color or cut up a piece of blue construction paper to represent water.

Playing with a snow salt tray
There are many ways children can play with the snow salt tray, so let your little one get busy!

• They can tell a story or create an adventure by making hills and valleys out of the salt. The animals and birds might enjoy walking or jumping in the snow or taking a dip in the “water”.

• During play, your child is touching the Epsom salt, feeling what it’s like to have it run through his or her fingers. These textures are important and many children enjoy this type of activity.

• You can also use the snow salt in a different way by hiding some small objects in a large bowl of salt and inviting your child to find them using their hands in a type of snowy treasure hunt. Can they identify a shape or a small toy only by touch? Try it and have some fun with it.

• With the variety of figures and objects that can be incorporated into the “snow”, this activity can be changed in a number of ways. If you are reading books about snow or life in the Arctic or Antarctic, you may want to incorporate similar figures to the snow salt tray to bring the book characters to life. Your child will find it easier to relate to the idea of animals and people who live closer to the North and South Poles by connecting such stories to creative play.

Paper Bead Necklace

Posted 05-7-2015 at 06:05 PM by Ellen

If you’re looking for a fun, green craft to do with your kids, consider rolling up a paper bead necklace. The beads can be made from any type of paper – from vintage wallpaper to catalogs to old magazines – the more colorful, the better. Of course, plain old paper beads will take on a whole new personality by adding a little paint and glitter. The possibilities for creating wearable art out of recycled materials are endless and limited only by your imagination.

Supplies
• You’ll need paper, of course. A dozen sheets of printer-sized paper is more than enough for a single, child-sized necklace.
• Scissors are also a must – you’ll need them to shape the paper. If your child is old enough, a pair of safety scissors will come in handy with some of the cutting work.
• A pencil or other rounded implement, such as a wooden spoon or knitting needle, is necessary for winding the paper beads (the wider the diameter of the implement, the wider the hole in the bead). Some art beads have miniscule holes, but for the purposes of crafting with your child, a pencil-sized hole should do just fine.
• Plain white crafting glue works well, although little fingers may do better with glue sticks. If you want the project to last long after the crafting is done, consider using a medium such as Mod Podge to coat the finished beads.
• String, yarn or twine is necessary for stringing the finished beads into a necklace.

Cut it out
The basic shape of a paper bead is an isosceles triangle. If it’s been a while since you’ve taken basic mathematics, an isosceles triangle has two equal sides. Cut each piece of paper into one or more long, skinny triangles with one shorter side.

It doesn’t matter how you do this, but using a ruler and pencil to draw out the triangles beforehand can maximize how many beads you get out of a sheet. You can also cut as you please, choosing the most appealing patterns from each sheet of paper.

Beadmaking
• Wrap a triangle around your pencil, starting with the widest end. The longer, tapered ends will form visible layers as the paper is rolled.
• Add a dot or dab of glue to the tapered point of the triangle and hold it there until it dries. Yes, you’re literally waiting for glue to dry. Repeat this process for each bead.
• If you want to give your finished beads a glossy finish and a longer lifespan, now is the time to break out the Mod Podge. Coat each bead entirely and set them aside to dry.

Making the necklace
Cut a length of yarn approximately 24 inches long – this will you enough length to easily string your beads, tie a secure knot and still have a pretty long necklace. Tie a large knot at one end of the yarn to stop the beads from sliding off as you string them and string your paper beads onto the yarn in whatever pattern is most pleasing. When your necklace is complete, tie both free ends in a secure knot.

If your child enjoys the stringing process, more than the finished product, simply leave the necklace untied so your child can have hours of fun just stringing and re-stringing the beads. In fact, it can become an activity set rather than a one-time jewelry piece. Let your and your child’s combined creativity guide you.

My First Pet: Choosing the Right First Pet for your Child

Posted 05-7-2015 at 06:04 PM by Ellen

At some point, most children ask to have a pet of their own. Before you make a decision, you’ll have to decide whether the pet is going to be a family pet (where everyone will be involved in caring for it), or if caring for the animal will be mainly your child’s responsibility.

If the idea is for your child to have a pet of his or her own, keep in mind that young children are probably not mature enough to take on the responsibility of caring for a dog or a cat independently. You are probably better off starting with a smaller animal first.

What to consider in choosing a pet
Your child may say that he or she wants to adopt a certain type of animal without thinking about either the responsibilities involved or whether it’s a good fit for your household. The best approach to take when looking at bringing a pet into your home is to look at your lifestyle and figure out what type of pet would most easily fit into it.

Since you know your child best, you’ll also want to take his or her personality into consideration. Some pets require more care and attention than others and you’ll want to make sure that you choose one that your child will be able to get along with.

Here are some questions to ask yourself to help you get an idea of what type of pet would be best for your child:

• How much time per day/per week does your child realistically have to spend taking care of a pet?
• Will your child be able to follow a feeding/watering schedule for a pet? Would you need to remind him or her about it or step in to look after it?
• Will your child be able to clean out a cage, a fish bowl or an aquarium (with some assistance) regularly?
• Where will the pet be housed in your home?
• Will your child expect to handle his or her pet? How will your child get instruction about proper handling of his or her pet, if appropriate? Will you be available to supervise interaction between your child and the new pet?
• How much are you prepared to spend on a new pet per month or per year on food, accommodation, toys, veterinary expenses, etc.?
• Does your child have any allergies or sensitivities that need to be accommodated when choosing a pet?

First pet options
Small animals are considered good first pets for children and there are several options available. Here are some examples:

Guinea Pigs
Guinea pigs are rather timid and easy to handle. These animals are happiest living in pairs. They very rarely bite, which makes them a good choice for young children. Because Guinea pigs are quite active, they do need a reasonable amount of space and they require fresh fruits and vegetables, with a Vitamin C supplement to be part of their diet.

Hamsters
Hamsters come in a variety of sizes and actually prefer living the single life. You can place them in a smaller cage than a Guinea pig and they will be quite content. Keep in mind that hamsters are nocturnal and – unfortunately – have very short life spans compared to other pets (about 3 years). If you decide on a hamster, prepare yourself for an inevitable discussion about life and death with your child in the not-too-distant future.

Leopard Geckos
These colorful geckos make excellent first pets for older children, as they’re very docile and easy to care for. Choose an older gecko, if possible – they’re far more tolerant of being handled than a younger one. If you haven’t had the life and death discussion with your child, do it before choosing a gecko, as they eat live crickets and worms. Also, If your child is looking for a pet he or she can cuddle or roughhouse with, this is not the way to go.

Birds
Smaller birds – such as parakeets – make good pets. They’re intelligent, attractive and social enough to learn how to vocalize when in regular contact with your child. They do require daily care and attention and cannot tolerate rough handling, so you’ll have to decide whether your child would suit this type of delicate pet.

Fish
Fish are also good choices for first pets. They can be relatively inexpensive and small tanks don’t require a lot of space. While the relationship between owner and pet is decidedly one-sided, a fish or two will give your child an idea of what caring for another living creature is like.

Managing Dog/Child Interactions for Success

Posted 05-7-2015 at 06:03 PM by Ellen

People often think young children and pets — especially dogs — don’t mix. This is not necessarily true, but for the pairing to be harmonious, parents have to teach their children how to handle and treat the family dog with respect.

For the most part, how a child treats an animal is similar to the “do unto others” rule our mothers taught us as children. The fact that the “others” happens to have four legs and a tail shouldn’t matter in the least – they still deserve our respect. Below are some tips as to how you can establish and maintain harmony between your kids and your pets.

Choosing your dog
Finding a kid-friendly dog breed is the first step in establishing harmonious pet ownership, as some dogs are more patient and enjoy roughhousing more than others. If you plan to have kids and dogs in the same home, it is best to choose a dog that is more apt to handle inadvertent ear and tail tugs, as well as being treated occasionally as a fashion model.

Breeds such as Golden Retrievers, Newfoundlands, Greyhounds and larger terriers are historically patient and good-natured, especially with children. If you get a younger dog, teach your child that a puppy is a baby dog and that the puppy needs to be treated gently.

For older dogs, it is a good idea to learn as much about their history as possible before bringing the dog home. Plan a play date at the shelter or foster home so your child and the dog can get to know each other in a neutral environment.

Training your human
Once you bring your new family member home, it’s time to lay down the law on behavior.

• Never allow your child to mistreat or purposely antagonize the dog. Even the most laid-back dog will only deal with constant tail tugs and ear pulls for so long. Children should learn at a young age that these things are not nice and are painful for the dog. This prevents kids from developing bad habits that could cause serious consequences. While Fido might not seem to care about his tail being pulled, someone else’s dog might not like it and could show his displeasure in a very negative manner.

• Teach your kids about a dog’s body language. Most people know when a dog is happy and when he’s angry, but many don’t recognize other emotions such as fear. Fear is what leads a dog to bite or attack, so knowing what a scared dog looks like can help prevent an unfortunate encounter. Also, knowing what might cause fear in a dog can help improve kid and dog relations. You and your children should learn why a dogs pins his ears back, tucks her tail between her legs or whines. All of these types of body language are clues as to how the dog is feeling.

• Don’t encourage bad behavior in your younger kids. Yes, it is cute when your toddler wants to ride the doggie, but it is still a bad idea. Smiling, laughing and taking pictures for your social media page just reinforces to your child that this kind of behavior is acceptable.

• As hard as it might be, you have to stifle your natural urge to laugh and explain why doggie should not be ridden. Older kids should know better – but if they don’t, admonish them accordingly for participating in such behavior. It will decrease the chance of something bad happening later.

Teaching your kids that dogs are beings that deserve respect and gentle treatment helps keep harmony in your home. Your pet should get some training too. A good obedience class will help your dog learn how to handle stressful situations.

If you have older children, have them accompany you and the dog to obedience classes. The dog learns how to behave, your kid knows what is acceptable and what is not; it’s a win-win situation that helps create a happy kid and pet-friendly home.

Gardening with Kids – Making Pots and Starting Seeds

Posted 05-7-2015 at 06:03 PM by Ellen

Every mom has food problems with her kids. Some won’t eat soup, others can’t stand foods to touch each other and a surprising amount of little ones refuse to eat vegetables. Other than pulling your hair out or trying the old “Just one bite!” routine, how can you get your kids to eat a balanced diet if the only green food they’ll try is lime yogurt?

Smart moms over the years have realized that kids will go along with almost anything as long as you make a game or a project out of it, especially if they think they’re doing something only grownups usually do. Think about it, how many parents “let” their kids wash the car every weekend? The same goes for getting kids to eat a variety of vegetables. Give them their own garden plot, let them put in a variety of seeds and you’ll have youngsters eager to try green beans and carrots all summer long.

There’s something about doing it themselves that make even the smallest kids proud and happy – especially when growing food for the family dinner table. Planting tomatoes and peppers is simple enough for even preschool children to do with a little help and learning about growing food is a great way for kids to appreciate living a greener lifestyle.

Planning a garden
Very few vegetables are complicated to grow, but the reliable basics are best for teaching kids how to garden, just to help guarantee good results. Among the best for children to grow are:

• Tomatoes
• Peppers
• Broccoli
• Marigolds (for natural bug repellant)

Look through seed catalogs with your kids and let them help you choose interesting varieties of foods, such as yellow tomatoes or purple broccoli. Weird veggies are cool and much more fun for kids to grow.

Making seedling pots
Instead of using plastic containers that just end up in the landfill, why not have kids make their own biodegradable seedling pots? They’ll hold up on a sunny windowsill while the seedlings are starting and they’ll help condition your garden soil when they break down later in the season. All you’ll need are some old newspapers, an empty soup can or similar sized container and some masking tape.

• Have your children tear the newspaper sheets into individual full-sized pages, then fold each page in half vertically or lengthwise.
• Lay an empty soup can at the top of the folded strip with the bottom of the can about 2 inches in from the cut edge of the paper. The folded edge of the newspaper should extend beyond the open end of the can.
• Roll the can down the length of the paper to wrap the can.
• When you get to the end of the strip, pick up the paper-wrapped can and fold the loose edges of the paper over the bottom of the can to enclose it. Keep these folds in place with a piece of masking tape.
• Hold the paper firmly and slip the can from the inside of the paper pot.
• Fold the open edge of the pot inside about half an inch all the way around the pot. This will stabilize the rim area.
• Fill the pot with potting soil and have your child plant garden seeds inside. Line up pots in a row on a tray or cookie sheet and water each pot to keep the seeds moist.
• Keep the tray in a warm spot out of direct sunlight until most of the seeds have sprouted, then move the tray to a sunny location.

Planting your garden
Once the seedlings have developed two sets of true leaves, which are the larger, firmer leaves that form after the first seedling leaves have fallen off, it’s time to transplant into the garden.

• Choose a sunny spot where the plants will have room to grow and prepare the soil by digging and loosening the ground.
• Plant the seedlings inside the paper pots, making sure the entire pot is buried. Leaving some of the paper sticking above ground will allow moisture to wick away into the air, causing the roots to dry out. A completely buried pot will break down, helping to add nutrients to the soil as your vegetables grow.

Spend the spring and summer teaching your kids about how plants flower and produce foods and allow them to harvest their own plants when they’re ripe and ready to eat. A quick swish under the hose before letting them take that first bite will be all the preparation they need for the ultimate gardener’s reward: food as fresh and tasty as can be.

Knitting with Kids

Posted 05-7-2015 at 05:58 PM by Ellen

Knitting and kids – two things that you don’t usually think to put together. But knitting is actually the perfect activity for kids – in fact, children as young as 3 years old have been learning the art for centuries.

More recently, Scandinavian schools and Waldorf Schools have been teaching knitting to elementary-school aged children as a basic life skill. Knitting works on fine motor skills, cognitive abilities, reasoning skills and basic math skills. Knitting also allows children to tap into their creativity, play with colors and focus on a task for an extended period.

A sense of accomplishment comes from completing a knitting project at a young age – even if the stitches are slightly uneven or one or two are dropped; it’s something created by his or her own two hands. Here are a few tips on getting your child started with knitting.

Forming the stitches
As a parent, you may need to cast on for a child. This is something even adult beginners struggle with – websites such as knittinghelp.com offer video tutorials to help you get started. Older children might be able to comprehend the movements and want to try themselves, so encourage it!

Forming the basic knit stitch is really the meat and bones of teaching a child to knit. An old nursery rhyme encourages the basic movement memory of forming a knit stitch:

“In through the front door,
around the back,
Out through the window,
And off jumps Jack!”

• “In through the front door” represents putting the knitting needle in through the front of the stitch.
• “Around the back” reminds children to wrap the yarn around the working needle from back to front.
• “Out through the window” represents taking the working needle under the non-working needle.
• “Off jumps Jack!” is telling the knitter to let the old stitch fall from the non-working needle, completing a fully-formed new stitch.

Knitting tools
Experienced knitters know there are a variety of needle sizes from the ultra-tiny 000 to the ultra-large size 75. For a beginning child knitter, choose a medium sized needle – sizes 9 or 10 work well in small hands.

Let the child pick their own yarn. Some knitters advocate for natural fibers like wool – partially because they don’t slip, but there really is something to be said for manmade fibers like acrylic. They come in bright colors and are machine washable and dryable, ensuring that any project your child makes will withstand hours of wear or playtime. Plus, acrylic yarn is cheaper, especially in comparison to wool. If your kid doesn’t like knitting or abandons the project for a while, the monetary investment is minimal.

Choosing a first project
Choosing a good first project depends on knowing your child.

• Are they in it for the long haul?
• Do they want a certain item of clothing?
• Do they just want to learn the basics?
• If you’re looking for an instant gratification project, a swatch that can become a doll blanket, rug, or piece of a larger child-sized blanket later on can’t be beaten.
• Work in simple garter stitch (knit every stitch of every row), or teach more adventurous children the purl stitch and let them work in stockinette stitch (knit one row, purl one row).
• For kids working in garter stitch, letting them change color at the end of every row or whenever the mood strikes them can really keep their attention.

Remember, the first project your child makes might not be aesthetically beautiful or technically perfect, but it will be unique and lovely because THEY made it.

Indoor Snowball Toss

Posted 05-7-2015 at 05:58 PM by Ellen

Winter means snow, sledding, making snowmen and snowball fights. But there are some days during winter that mean snow days from school – days when it is too cold or too snowy to head outside. On those days finding things for the kids to do can be a challenge.

Housebound, stir-crazy kids can keep parents from finishing what they need to accomplish, so having a few indoor activities that conjure up the outside is always a great idea. The indoor snowball toss allows your kids to throw snowballs indoors without getting everything wet. Who doesn’t love that?

What you need:
• 10 Styrofoam cups
• Markers
• Six large pom poms

Assembly:
Let your kids decorate the cups with the markers. Older kids can make snowmen, add animal faces or create a decorative pattern on the cups. Younger kids may just scribble, but that’s okay. It’s an enjoyable activity for all the kids that keeps them happily occupied.

Setting up the cups
Once the kids have completed coloring the cups, place them on the floor in a pyramid pattern with the point facing toward you. The cups will look like how bowling pins are set up at a bowling alley:

• Four cups in the fourth (back) row
• Three cups in the third row
• Two cups in the second row
• One cup in the front
• Make sure the kid’s artwork is facing forward.

Playing the game
• The object of the game is to toss the pom poms into the cups, scoring one point for each pom that lands in a cup.
• Before the game starts, players decide how many rounds each game lasts, usually between three and five rounds.
• Each child takes a turn tossing the poms into the cups, with older kids standing further away from the cup than younger kids. The kid with the most points at the end of the game wins.

From a child development standpoint, the game helps your child work on his hand-eye coordination, as well as group play etiquette. The game can be played by a lot of kids at once, so not only does it work for an indoor activity because of the weather, it can be a game played at birthday parties or other gatherings with a large group of kids.