Posts Tagged 'family time'

Learning while we laugh

child jumping in puddle

Sometimes in this fast-paced world, we parents get caught up in making sure our children have all the skills they need to succeed—to the point where we over-schedule and stress our children and ourselves. From organized sports to lessons in language, art or music, not to mention school and educational apps or games, it can become overwhelming!

Here’s some great news: Good old-fashioned play has a multitude of benefits and involves lots of learning as well. Through play, kids model what they see, work out conflicts, build physical mastery of their environment, generate new ideas, and problem solve.

Sometimes unstructured play is thought of as not being as useful as lessons and classes, but it is actually essential to creativity and building perseverance and tolerance of boredom. When we are bored, we get creative and explore our environment, searching for something of interest. Educational television shows, websites or applications are fine in moderation, especially if you watch together and talk about what you see and learn. However, free-flowing, unstructured time is a must for both parents and kids.

There are lots of ways to make learning fun that don’t necessarily require set-aside time. Beyond the more obvious learning aspects of a toy or game, you can teach your kids to be curious and explore dramatic play or unexpected/silly play. Be creative and see what fits your family.

  • Take a walk together and explore a local park or even your neighborhood. It can be an open-ended exploration or set up like a scavenger hunt or I Spy. Really look around and see what you notice. Interesting flowers, scampering squirrels, crunchy leaves underfoot, piles of snow to climb, puddles to stomp in—all year round, there are things to appreciate and learn about, right outside your door.
  • Cook or bake something together and talk about all the ingredients (their different tastes, smells and textures) and how they combine to make the meal taste good. Practice using different units of measurement. You can even make cleanup fun with lots of bubbles, fun music, and good-smelling soap. Kids love to help and will have a sense of mastery and enjoyment over doing something we may take for granted. As they get older, they can help more and more, and can even cook (and clean up) the whole meal when they are old enough. Now that is a joyful moment!
  • Use sidewalk chalk and draw outlines of each family member on the pavement. Measure heights as well as hand and foot sizes. You can even make silly pictures out of the outlines.
  • Have races and use a stopwatch or timer to see how fast everyone can hop on one foot, run, walk, crab walk, crawl, walk backwards. Chart the times on a graph to teach graphing and comparison skills.
  • In the store, play I Spy for items you need. Have your children help find items in reach. Have them guess how much something costs and see who is closest to the actual price. Let them check items off your list. At the grocery store, have them help you pick one new healthy food to bring home and try; pretend you are curious scientists learning about the new food, and sampling its taste.

– Lori Warner, Ph.D., LP, BCBA-D, Director, Center for Human Development and Ted Lindsay Foundation HOPE Center at Beaumont Children’s

Kindness counts

"be kind" in chalk

Sunday marked the beginning of “Random Acts of Kindness” week. Knowing it was coming up, I decided to run a two-week experiment in our household; I’ve heard it takes two weeks to make something a habit.

Our family dinners always include a report of the day by each family member. My husband and I ask our kids to share a banana split (something good about their day) and a banana peel (something hard). A few weeks ago, my husband decided to also ask the kids, “What was something kind you did for someone today?” In theory, this was a great idea! Unfortunately, we sometimes got side tracked by our banana splits/banana peels and forgot to follow up with the kindness question.

For the past two weeks, my husband and I recommitted ourselves to asking our kids every evening at dinner, “How were you kind today?”

Here are some highlights:

  • By the third night, the kids were reporting their kind act without being prompted by the adults.
  • The gestures progressed into more authentic acts of kindness as the two weeks progressed. For example, “I held the door open for my teacher” became “I asked John to sit with me at lunch because he looked unsure about where to sit.”
  • One act of kindness became several acts of kindness throughout the day.
  • By participating ourselves, we modeled a variety of kind acts and that encouraged our kids to show kindness in different ways (to a friend, to a stranger, to themselves, to a pet, etc.).
  • The kind acts began — and I use that term lightly 🙂 — to filter into the kids’ relationships with each other.

In our house, kindness counts. It’s a family value and now it’s become something we all practice daily.

– Andree Palmgren is a licensed professional counselor with a private practice in Westport, CT. She is also a mom to a 15, 13, 10 and 5-year-old.

Love scavenger hunt

scavenger hunt clue

Valentine’s Day used to mean I looked forward to flowers and candy from my hubby (And I still do like those things if you’re reading honey,) but besides my husband’s modeling this for my two young boys, I questioned how do I explain this holiday to them?

Anyone could look up the history behind St. Valentine and end the discussion there. However, I’ve been on a mindfulness journey recently and taking an extra minute to really think about the decisions I make for my family. Do I want to show my children that this holiday is another event for candy? (There are just too many of those already!) Along this journey, I’m also paying extra attention to the lessons and traditions that I start for my family. After all, this will shape their lives and eventually how they celebrate this “holiday” in their own adult lives—maybe even one day carry on the traditions with their own children.

Instead of candy, giant teddy bears, or a love explosion concentrated in one day, I started the tradition of a Love Scavenger Hunt.

I created little rhymes and riddles that lead my oldest son, who is almost five, on an adventure throughout our house to highlight the everyday kind of love we have in our family. Once my youngest is old enough, he will get his own set of clues to play detective and join in on the fun.

My husband will tell you that I’m not the best at rhyming, as evidenced by my constant questions of “What rhymes with …..” in bed while writing the clues, but I’m the best at being grateful for everyday moments with my kids. I’m a big fan of gentle tickling my little ones wake them up, bedtime stories, card games at the kitchen table, and movie cuddles. So why not highlight these ordinary moments of love to show my boys that my love isn’t overflowing for them on Valentine’s Day? My love for those two rambunctious boys overflows for them every day.

I will disclose that at the end of the scavenger hunt my 5-year-old boy gets a big prize of dinner and movie (both his choice) with mommy or daddy. I feel this prize is fitting because it highlights that the importance of Valentine’s Day isn’t on the present or candy, but with the people who you love.

– Stephanie Babcock is an IFS coordinator with the Parenting Program. She’s a proud mom of two.

Fall into autumn books

child reading book on blankets

Cropped image. Image credit: babyccinokids.

Autumn is the time of year that tickles our senses, and it’s the perfect season to enjoy with your baby. The once-green leaves come alive with rich and vivid color. The red, orange, yellow, and purple leaves hanging in the trees, fly past us in the fresh air and crunch under our feet as we walk. The brisk and chilly air makes it a perfect time to spend outdoors gathering leaves. Cider, cinnamon doughnuts, pumpkin pie, and crisp, red and green apples tantalize our taste buds like no other time of year. Bright orange pumpkins dot the fields begging to be chosen by the right child; a pumpkin’s bumps and crevices are fun for children to run their hands over. Celebrate the colors of fall, the time for gathering and giving thanks.

Of course, whether reading under a tree bursting with color or under your favorite quilt next to the fireplace, there’s nothing better than cozying up with books and reading with your child. Here are some recommended books for sharing with your baby during this special time of year.

– Lori A Irwin, M.Ed., is a Parenting Program volunteer.

Do “North”

view on Mackinac Island

I’ve lived in Michigan for over four decades; my wife was an Air Force brat growing up around the world, but her roots were always in the mitten state. Together we ate in New Buffalo, swam in Lake Superior, and tailgated at our alma mater numerous times. So it’s amazing that neither of us ever hopped on the ferry to Mackinac Island. That changed in a recent family road trip “Up North.”

First off, let’s talk “Up North.” Where does it start for you? Past Midland? West Branch? Gaylord or crossing the mighty Mac? For our family, we consider “Up North” anything past the 45th parallel is north. We even make sure that everyone lifts their feet so no one trips over the imaginary latitude line that crosses over the highway.

We’re lucky enough to have family all over “Up North” which is great because it helps keep costs down, but more importantly gives us a little more time to reconnect with those we don’t get to see enough. And truthfully, it gives our girls the time to meet family for the first time and create a bond that can be built on for years to come.

One evening, my wife and I went to her class reunion (the reason for the trip) and had to leave our girls with family they don’t know very well and the plan was to go to a BBQ at another family member’s house they never met.

Our girls are OK at meeting new folks, but they have separation anxiety when we leave them for a longer period of time. But guess what? When we returned, our girls were running around like they’ve been there for years. They met cousins they never knew they had and a neighbor girl who showed them the ropes on the trampoline. The next day there was talk about coming to visit for a week next summer — without us!

Our trip ended on the mainland in the shadow of the Mackinac Bridge. Beautiful part of the state; the mix of tacky shops and history is perfect. Nowhere else can you buy a Mackinaw Strong camo hoodie and learn about how soldiers lived watching out for redcoats. It sets the stage for a whole different world on the island.

The four of us didn’t know what to expect when we got on the ferry to Mackinac Island. We knew we were all going to experience something new as a family. We sat on the second deck of the boat to see the sights. We saw the bridge, buoys up close and personal, and the island itself.

I won’t give you every twist and turn of our Island adventure, but I can say it lives up to the hype. You are transported to a simpler time (if that simpler time had 24 different types of fudge). Our girls learned a lot about the history that is around every turn and they seemed to soak it in.

The point of all of this is that we all experienced something for the first time that we’ll remember for a lifetime. Our state is built for lifelong memories, you just have to go find them and make them.

– Jim Pesta is a Parenting Program participant and father of two girls.

Our summer bucket list

boy and his little brother in a stroller

Hitting our local splash pad was one of our summer bucket list items.

Summer is my favorite season and for good reason: There’s warm weather and extra sunlight, which brings outdoor activities and longer hours in the day to do them. Plus, my child behaves so differently in the summer because he can run, climb, swim, jump and play to his heart’s desire.

My family loves a good summer and this year we decided to make a summer bucket list. To me, summer feels like a fleeting moment that I’m desperately trying to extend. The anticipation of summer seems to last forever whereas the actual moments of sunshine tend to fly by. Our summer to-do list highlights all the major activities we have been anxiously awaiting. It’s also a great launching point when my child complains of being bored; I can point to our list and ask which one of the activities he wants to do. Mondays aren’t so bad when you decide to cover the sidewalk in chalk or pull out the slip and slide!

To create our summer bucket list, we pulled out white paper and my son’s crayons then started brainstorming. No idea was too silly or small. See a movie outdoors? Sure. Eat something from our home garden? You bet. Have a camp out in the backyard? My son had so much fun! We tried to create a comprehensive list of all the things we wanted to do. The end game was not to simply “check off” items on our list, but instead just to put on paper the fun ideas we each had and then do things as a family.

Incorporating my 4-year-old taught me that his idea of a fun summer is different than mine. While I was focused on including big-ticket items such as family vacations, camping trips and get togethers, my child had amazingly simple ideas to include items like “have a staring contest” and “catch fireflies” on our list. What is better than catching fireflies on a summer night to a 4-year-old? The Babcock Summer Bucket List has been a huge success and I will definitely continue this tradition in the future!

boys with bucket list

My boys with the official bucket list.

Here are the items that got included our 2017 summer bucket list:

  • Go swimming at Nana and Papa’s pool
  • Play on the slip and slide
  • Take a trip up north to the cabin
  • Lay on a hammock
  • Have a water balloon fight
  • Take a trip to the zoo
  • Get our faces painted
  • Go visit our local splash pad
  • Catch a frog
  • Camp in the backyard in the tent
  • Have a staring contest
  • Go horseback riding
  • Cover the sidewalk in chalk art
  • Take a family bike ride
  • Have a bonfire and s’mores
  • Catch fireflies
  • Climb a tree
  • See fireworks
  • Have a sleepover with the cousins
  • See an outdoor movie (at the drive-in or at the park)
  • Jump on a trampoline
  • Go for a hike
  • Visit Michigan Adventure waterpark
  • Go fishing
  • Get covered in temporary tattoos
  • Have a hot dog
  • Eat something from our home garden
  • Go fruit picking
  • Visit Belle Isle Aquarium

Stephanie Babcock is an IFS coordinator with the Parenting Program. She’s a proud mom of two boys.

More summer fun in metro Detroit

boy at splash pad

Cropped image. Matt Molinari, Flickr. CC license.

Earlier this week I shared some fun activities to do with your family, offering tips for families with kids who have special needs. That post featured new-to-the area ideas as well as some suggestions for a “Day in the D.”

Today, I’m focusing on other great options for a memorable summer in the metro Detroit area.

Quick reminder: If you have someone in your family with special needs, I suggest calling ahead to discuss your child’s needs and asking what accommodations, if any, can be made. If crowds are a problem, ask about the best times to come.

U-Pick farms

What’s the best way to get a kid to eat his fruit or veggies? Probably by picking them. Next time you’re at a strawberry field, look around, and most likely a number of the pint-size pickers will have berry stains on their hands and faces.

U-pick schedules in southeastern Michigan are generally as follows:

  • Strawberries: Mid-June to mid-July
  • Blueberries: Mid-July to mid-September
  • Cherries: Mid-June to mid-August
  • Raspberries: July and September
  • Apples: Mid-August to October

Read here for a list of local u-pick farms.

Take me out to the ballgame

  • Nothing says summer like a night at the baseball park. Creating memories at Comerica Park has to include an obligatory photo in front of the giant tiger statue in front of the stadium and a ride on the carousel and Ferris wheel. But the Detroit Tigers aren’t the only game in town.
  • If a Major League Baseball stadium is too overwhelming, there are other smaller and equally exciting baseball venues. Last year marked the inaugural season for the United Shore Professional Baseball League at Jimmy John’s Field in Utica. Each of the four teams is composed of top-level college athletes from around the country. Ticket prices start at $6 for lawn seats and go as high as $35 for front-row club seats.
  • Located a stone’s throw from the Michigan Capitol Building sits Cooley Law School Stadium, home to the Lansing Lugnuts. The stadium seats over 10,000 fans and is considered one of the most handicapped accessible stadiums in the country. The Lugnuts, a Class-A minor league team affiliated with the Toronto Blue Jays, have their own team song “Go Nuts” and a team mascot, Big Lug. Ticket prices start at $8 for lawn seats and go as high as $35.
  • Of course we can’t forget about the Toledo Mud Hens, a minor league team affiliated with the Tigers. Tickets prices start at $15.

Beat the heat

Tired of visiting the same splash pads each summer? If you’re willing to drive a little, there is no shortage of places to get wet.

  • KLR Splashpad
    • 2795 Seymour Lake Rd., Oxford Township
    • Non-resident fee $4
    • This is an inclusive park for kids of all abilities. Aqua wheelchairs are available.

Festivals

Festivals and summer are synonymous. Michigan weekends are packed with events centered around art, food, music and outdoor activities. Here is a comprehensive listing.

What are some of your favorite summertime activities?

– Jen Lovy, Beaumont Parenting Program volunteer


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