4 Rainy Day Activities that Every Age Child Can Do

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When weather interferes with big plans to get some whole family exercise and entertainment, the default is often lying around watching movies and eating carbohydrate-rich snacks. And while everyone loves that, it can take a toll on the household mood and make it harder to get back out and get active. So to chase away the rainy day blues, we put together some fun alternates that all ages can enjoy.

  1. Bowling! Taking a trip to the lanes is a low-prep excursion with high entertainment value. It’s a classic tradition that let’s everyone join in. Kids love the two-tone shoes and the perfect roundness of the bowling balls. And the kinetic factor of the lane sweeper and the conveyor are always big hits with the kids. Some bowling alleys offer special family discounts on certain days, so it’s worth it to do a little research.
  2. Aquarium! Most big cities these days have an indoor aquarium when there kids can learn about marine life. The Travel Channel has a list of the best-rated aquariums in the country here:http://www.travelchannel.com/interests/family/photos/best-aquariums-in-the-us For a very unique and enchanting experience, these places are like indoor oceans: kids can get up close to some fascinating fauna and flora.
  3. Museum! One of the wonderful things about living in this era is that effort and intelligence that goes into learning museums for children. Parenting Magazine has a list of the most highly rated kids museums in the country: http://www.parents.com/fun/vacation/us-destinations/the-10-best-childrens-museums/
  4. Music Class! Not surprisingly, kids music classes are all over the place, and they can really get their sillies out by singing and dancing. Music Together is a national organization that teaches kids basic music fundamentals and some locations also throw regular live concerts. Classes are designed from in utero (that’s right, music class for pregnant ladies) all the way up to age 7. Check out their website to find a location near you: https://www.musictogether.com/

And if you’d rather not go out in the rain at all, here are three stay-at-home things to do that involve a lot of action:

  1. Puppet Show! String a bed sheet between two chairs and use stuffed animals as puppets. You can turn off the lights and use flashlights as spotlights. Hint: the more interesting you get with the story, the more fired up the kids get.
  2. Balloon Volleyball! Move those chairs a little father apart and, voila! Volleyball net. Do a quick check to make sure Great Aunt Betsy’s antique vase isn’t vulnerable and it’s game on! If you have a chalk or white board, let the older kids keep score.
  3. Sock Ice-skates! This is a total twofer where mom and dad get a clean kitchen floor and kids get to play like they are at the ice rink. Get some old socks (this is a great use for the ones without a mate) and a shallow, flat-bottomed bowl or container with soapy water. The kids can step into it and then slide around on the floor to their hearts’ content. When they are done, grab some used towels and let them slide the towels around with their feet, then you can go over any places they missed to dry off the floor.

It just takes a little creativity to get the blood flowing and humor everyone while the weather is less than inviting. Trying something new almost always pays off and another thing: on days like this, offering a few options and letting your children decide gives them a sense of control and they are more likely to engage with their own activity choices. Rainy days give the family a chance to work as a group, share, take turns and have healthy quality time.

Growing Kids, Growing Garden: The Wonders in Your Own Back Yard

Invite a little more life in by planting something green with your kids’ help.

It’s the perfect time of year to get out into the yard and beautify, why not enlist your little helpers? Gardening and yard work are fun, healthy and satisfying.

Its worth mentioning that April 15th is Earth Day, and this is a golden opportunity to instill some sensible and sustainable values in our children.

To get a little motivation, visit http://www.kidsgardening.org/ which is a fantastic resource through the National Gardening Association. This site is loaded with tips on how to engage kids in the back yard. “Gardening grows environmental stewardship. Participating in school gardening helps young people learn to value, protect, and conserve our environment and all the creatures we share it with.” On point!

Think about where you want to plant and how much shade, sun and drainage those plants will get. Do a little research to figure out what wants to thrive in your neck of the woods. Take into consideration your water usage and go for heartier varieties and desert plants that can tolerate less water and temperature fluctuations.

Take a trip to the nursery where your children can pick out some special flowers or their favorite veggies.

Letting them be part of the preparation and decision making builds anticipation for the project. And remember: keep it simple; don’t level your whole yard with the idea that you are going to re-landscape. Pots and window boxes do the trick too, especially if you live in a condo or apartment.

Kids love to rake leaves, dig up weeds, learn how to use the shovel and move the dirt around. Popsicle sticks and a marker will do the trick so you can remember what you have planted.

One of the other lessons in the garden project is maintenance. Put it on the calendar which days the plants need water, plant food or pest spray (use the organic kind, its essentially soap that wards off critters.)

When those baby shoots start to come up, the flowers bloom and the first sweet peas and strawberries arrive, your little one will have a proud moment knowing that their hard work made it happen. Its our job to make sure, in a world where devices and distractions abound, that the next generation knows how to nurture their own little piece of the planet.

For more information on the benefits of gardening for children (and grown ups!) check out the children and nature network: http://www.childrenandnature.org/news/detail/fact_sheet_summarizes_benefits_of_gardening_for_children/

A Collection of Valuable Ideas for the Child Collector

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As adults, many of us have had an inner-collector emerge at some point in our lives. For some of us, it may be sentimental holiday ornaments. For others, it could be a particular type of figurine. Some may have even started a (valuable) baseball card collection as a child that continues well into adulthood.

A lasting interest in such a collection starts a good conversation. While some parents may view a child’s room as simply being overtaken by a herd of plastic animals, jars of seashells from the beach, or a growing number of American Girl® dolls, this isn’t necessarily just clutter at all. Collecting is an exciting exercise in creating a world that’s all his or her own. It can help them bond with friends, start conversations, socialize better, gain responsibility, become an expert in something, and learn about money.[1]

This leads to the question, what is a good collection for your child to start? Which options can really make the most of the mentioned benefits? Let’s take a look at some of the following suggestions for a new collection.

1. Vintage Toys and Books

This is a fun one because it also involves you as the parent and your own childhood! Tell your little one all about the toys you used to play with, and books you used to read. Even have them ask their grandparents about the toys they used to play with…and let the search begin! You may still have some of your own in storage, but also try yard sales, eBay, Amazon, etc. This type of collection is educational, and can also truly be a family affair.

2. State Quarters

The state quarters are a great segue into the coin collection realm, which can be a lifelong interest. It’s also a way for your children to learn about the 50 states. Consider getting a display folder or book to organize the coins, or even the collector’s map, which is a big seller on Amazon. In addition, there are helpful online resources and books that thoroughly cover the history and development of the state quarters series.

3. Pins

Whether it’s a souvenir from a trip to Disneyland, showing support for a local team, or a way to celebrate an upcoming holiday, gathering various pins can become a wearable, useful collection. If the options seem a little overwhelming, consider narrowing it down to a certain category; for example, your child may be interested in just collecting Disney character pins.

4. Rocks

This one may sound a little basic, but think about it. It’s an inexpensive way to keep mementos from different places your family has been (camping, hiking, etc.), and you can even use a Sharpie® to mark where each rock came from, along with the date. It’s also educational in an archeological sort of way, driving interest in a new area for your child.

5. Stamps

Lastly, there’s a reason stamp collecting has stuck (pun intended) around for so long. Stamps are printed in endless designs that may interest kids, and many stamps depict historically or culturally significant people, places, or events. There are many ways to arrange a collection, and new stamps are always as close by as the local post office. Misprinted stamps or stamps that are from a batch with few left in existence are considered rare. While rare stamps can be pricey, they are also exciting for children to find. Kids can decide to start a specific type of stamp collection that includes only stamps of famous people, animals, places, or events.

No matter which type of collection best suits your child’s situation and individual interests, he or she will benefit from a meaningful and useful activity that can span the course of years. And with a little luck, you just never know; an item that was added at some point in time could end up being that Honus Wagner baseball card gem. Well, maybe that’s a bit far-fetched, but the important thing to remember is that a collection can always offer value far beyond dollar signs.

[1] http://www.parents.com/kids/development/intellectual/starting-a-collection/

Sisters Are Doing it For Themselves: Surprising Facts about Female Entrepreneurs

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It’s easy to see that women are making constant strides in business, but the facts behind the advancements may startle you.

Let’s get some rather grim statistics out of the way before we look at the good news. Despite all our efforts on a grass roots social level to empower women as business leaders, the numbers are actually discouraging.

According to the Center for American Progress in 2014, women compose roughly 50.8% of the population in the United States, they earn 60% of both graduate and master’s degrees, and 44% of master’s degrees in business and management. However, “they are only 14.6 percent of executive officers, 8.1 percent of top earners, and 4.6 percent of Fortune 500 CEOs.”[1]

These numbers are staggeringly disproportionate and indicate a bias toward men when it comes to climbing the ladder inside big companies. However, women are great at finding a work-around to the good old boys’ club: they go into business for themselves.

Converse to these woefully imbalanced numbers of women in positions of power, women are surging ahead when it comes to forging their own companies. Check out these figures:

 

  • Women are starting their own companies at 1.5 times the average rate across the country [2].
  • The U.S. ranks number one among 31 countries in supporting female entrepreneurship, according to a study conducted by Dell.[2]
  • Women-owned businesses generate $1.7 trillion, a 79% increase since 1997.
  • “Businesses with a woman on the executive team are more likely to have significantly higher valuations at Series A–as in, 64 percent higher.”[2]
  • “46% percent of the privately held companies in the U.S. are now at least half owned by women.”[2]
  • Growth rates for revenue and employment among women-owned companies continue to outshine their male counterparts over the last two decades.2 Between 2007-2015, male owned companies shed 1.5 million jobs, where companies with women in charge created 340,000 jobs in the same period.[3]

What are we to extrapolate from this? The obvious conclusion is that more women are having success across the board with regard to job satisfaction, profit, job creation, and competition when they strike out on their own. They receive significantly less venture capital than men in their same field, yet their businesses achieve more long-term success[1.]

Even more promising are the facts when it comes to ethnic background: in 1997 non-Caucasian women represented one million female-owned firms, where today that number is at a staggering 3.1 million, outstripping non-minority women business owners several fold[3.] So credit where credit is due: women of color are major contributors to the health of our national economy and they are often operating with less capital, mentorship, and resources. Food for thought.

If we look at the essential principles of liberty and free enterprise that our nation was based on, we can see that women are carrying that torch with more determination and success than ever. It is important that we continue to push the envelope when it comes to the corporate world, but if you are on the fence about starting your own business, consider the prosperity your fellow sisters have created for themselves, and how you can join that circle.

References:

1. https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/women/report/2014/03/07/85457/fact-sheet-the-womens-leadership-gap/

2. http://www.inc.com/lisa-calhoun/30-surprising-facts-about-female-founders.html

3. http://www.womenable.com/66/the-state-of-women-owned-businesses-in-the-u.s.:-2015

Eat Your Way Around the World: Italy

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Busy families rely on spaghetti as a default, kid friendly food, and there’s nothing wrong about that, but consider this: Italian style eating is a really easy, surefire way to get some nutrition onto the plate and into kids’ mouths.

There is perhaps no culture on the planet more passionate, more dedicated to the quality and care of food than the Italians. Their processes and their pride in their work go back centuries. Conceptually, eating in Italy is a fascinating study of human nature, not to mention, completely delicious.

If your kids are finicky, making Italian food is a twofer: a chance to create something beautiful and a chance to talk about the idea of really enjoying the art of making and eating everyday, like the Italians. Here are some simple dishes to try with your kids, and some tidbits of culture to boot.

Caprese Salad. Basil, Cacio (or Mozzarella) Cheese, some summer tomatoes, and a drizzle of olive oil, and boom, you have an edible work of art. Originating from the Island of Capri, this simple salad is so fun for kids to arrange on the plate. You can also use baby mozzarella for the little ones and they love the bite size chunks. http://www.swide.com/food-travel/caprese-salad-history-and-traditional-recipe/2014/07/11

Orzo Salad. This light, pasta dish is great, again simple to prepare, but filled with yummy ingredients and its fun to riff on this and throw in other seasonal flavors like sweet corn or beans.http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/orzo-salad-with-feta-olives-and-bell-peppers-4562

Cherries with Ricotta and Almonds. This desert is so delicious – and it only has three ingredients! It also welcomes a swirl of honey or a dash of cocoa powder. And you know how kids love to garnish. Ricotta originated in Sicily, but the processes of creating the cur go even further back to the ancient Greeks.
http://www.eatingwell.com/recipes/cherries_with_ricotta_toasted_almonds.html

References: http://www.cliffordawright.com/caw/food/entries/display.php/topic_id/12/id/87/

Eat Your Way Round the World: Thailand

With its bright colors and wide variety of flavors, Thai food is a delicious vehicle for getting your kids their daily dose of nutrition, plus it’s really fun to make. Try these really simple but winning combinations that get kids fired up about dinnertime.

Chicken Satay with Peanut Sauce. Kids love this assembly, and the yogurt, curry, peanut combo is a slam dunk with all ages. We recommend dialing back or eliminating the chili sauce.http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/tyler-florence/chicken-satay-with-peanut-sauce-recipe.html

Look Chin (Sweet and Sour Meatballs) These Thai meatballs are street food grilled and served on their own, or in a red curry broth with noodles. Red doesn’t necessarily mean spicy, in fact this dish has been described as Thai Spaghetti. http://www.amiexpat.com/recipes/thai-dishes/thai-meatball-soup/

Mango Sticky Rice. Sweet and smooth, this yummy healthy desert goes over well with even babies, and for kids you can throw a little saffron in there to make it more exotic:http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/sticky-rice-with-mango-12066

Thailand abounds with wonderful and unusual scents and tastes, the kind that kids really love to explore, too. Maybe starting with some simpler ingredients like whole raw coconut (really wow them by drilling a hole and drinking right out of the hull!) or baby corn can give them an idea of some possibilities.

Eat Your Way Around the World: France

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In helping to broaden our kids’ minds, international cuisine is a great place to start. And while unfamiliar foods can put kids off, getting them involved in the preparation makes them much more likely to try new things.

All over the globe, France is recognized as an innovator in cooking. When it comes to cultivating the freshest ingredients and melding flavors and health, it’s really difficult to top France. Here are a couple really fun and intriguing dishes to try out on your kids, and while you are at it, you can impart a little technique and culture too.

Fondue. It’s totally delicious, simple and a great way to get kids to eat their veggies. Plus, it’s really fun activity in and of itself to use the long forks and dip things in the melted cheese. It does require some specific equipment, but a fondue set is pretty easy to come by. Plus, you can do the chocolate/fruit version around holidays and kids simply go nuts for it.

Crespéou. This is basically a fancy, three-layered omelet that comes together very easily and provides lots of opportunity to substitute in favorite flavors you know your kids will eat. The younger ones can grate and crumble the cheese while the older kids chop veggies and crack eggs. Here’s a great recipe from Sophie Dahl, granddaughter of Roald Dahl: http://www.healthygreenkitchen.com/very-fond-of-crespeou.html

Chaussons aux Pommes (Apple Turnovers). The French really mastered the art of baking, and part of the reason is that their butter is such high quality. Folding the pastry is entertaining for children, and they don’t take very long to bake. You can also riff a little by throwing some spices into the filling.http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/french-apple-turnovers-em-chaussons-aux-pommes-em-350419
To make it fun, have everyone pick an ingredient and look up the French word, so as your making these delicious dishes you can practice that tricky French accent. Your family will enjoy the lesson, and the food. Bon Appetit!

Bonding with the Grandparents: Tips for Kids and Parents

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Our parents can provide our children with some unique life lessons.

Intergenerational learning is a lost art. It used to be that we picked up all our life skills by watching our parents or grandparents, but in this era, our children’s primary source of information is school. As a result, we have lost valuable lessons about everything from cooking to mechanics.

The good news is that we as parents can enrich our children’s lives by encouraging them to access one of the most valuable resources at their disposal: their grandparents. Here are a few easy ways to think about enhancing the lives of both our parents and our children.

Take the time. Every week, if not more, the kids should make a call, write a letter or visit. Parents can facilitate this as a matter of course for families that live close together by keeping communication with both kids and grandparents on what activity they would like to do and planning accordingly.

Special Skills. Does grandpa hunt or fish? Does grandma bake or sew? Maybe the both do all these things, and can impart needlework or flyfishing. Sometimes, we as their children don’t even know about some of our parents’ secret skills. And what a gift to give the next generation.

Cut Costs. There are ways in which our older children can help tend to the yard, take out the trash, help repaint or do other odd jobs that may save the grandparents time and money. Conversely, grandparents can watch the kids and they are usually happy to do it instead of a babysitter.

Make a Family Tree. This is a project that the whole family can get into, by going through the photo albums and whipping out the art supplies. It is a great life lesson for kids to see a bit of their ancestry and a nice opportunity for the grandparents to tell some stories and take a walk down memory lane.

The more we include our parents in the family conversation, meet them half way, and explore ways for our kids to broaden their relationship to their grandparents, the stronger the family as a whole becomes. It sets us up for more joy and more ability to take life’s tough obstacles. And it helps our children be more compassionate, well-rounded people.

Resources:

http://www.familytime.co.uk/parenting/why_grandparents_are_good_for_your_kids

http://kidshealth.org/parent/positive/family/grandparents.html

Supporting Girls In STEM Academics: The Latest Progress

susie almaneih

In the wake of International Women’s Day, we look at the progress we are making and where we need to go next.

As a nation, the U.S. has fallen behind on the global scale of young people entering the sciences, and the shortfall is significant[1]. In order to continue our strong streak in technology and to address some of the pressing problems we face as a nation, it is imperative that we look to young girls and women to fill these positions in the immediate future.

It is a very promising sign that other developing nations are changing their laws to allow women the right to education and professions[2] that were not accessible previously, and we should do everything in our power as professional women to assure our young women get the chance to make a difference that they deserve.

So what is happening out there in the world to support girls in STEM? Let’s take a look at the real work taking place in the name of female empowerment.

The Research:

An extensive series of studies supported by the AAUW, American Association of University Women, illustrates the tilted numbers in terms of hiring rates, raises, and paths to advancement in the workforce that favor men[3]. The project set out to determine if the percentages could be influenced with prescribed points of action.

The Solution:

The study used Harvey Mudd College as a test run to boost their female science graduates with a three-point plan. The results were staggering: in 2009, female

science graduates composed around 12% of the entire graduating class and by 2011, that number shot up to 40% while the national average remained static at

18%4.

The Research:

The Cascading Influences project examined informal STEM programs and their impact on moving young women into science and math. The idea was to look at everyday experiences that might influence girls positively. While a multitude of programs had been instituted to evaluate girls in STEM, that evaluation process ended when funding for the program ended, so there was no ongoing examination of how this affected girls into adulthood. From the ages of 10 to 14, interest in the sciences drops off sharply among boys and girls4. This overarching study attempted to see how early experiences with STEM based projects influenced higher education.

The Solution:

Overwhelmingly, girls who participated in the numerous programs evaluated were more likely to remain interested and pursue careers in math, natural sciences, and engineering[4]. These women reported lasting positive experiences that shaped their professional identities and outcomes.

The Research:

Despite the fact that girls represent 56% of Advanced Placement test takers in all subjects, they only comprise 19% in AP computer sciences[5]. This gap is particularly troubling because IT is one of the fastest growing industries in the world and reflects significant opportunity for high-paying positions after college.

The Solution:

The National Center for Women & Information Technology supplies this report targeting educators, curriculum developers, administrators, educational

policymakers, school counselors, and parents to raise awareness and implement methodologies and criteria for inclusion, including breaking down social

stereotypes, providing role models, and addressing self esteem issues. You can view the report in its entirety here:

https://www.ncwit.org/sites/default/files/resources/girlsinit_thefacts_fullreport2012.pdf.

The Research:

Women comprise 51% of the population in the U.S., yet they only make up 18-19% of computer sciences professions. Even more alarming is that this number has plummeted from 37% in the 1980s. It is estimated that by 2020, there will be another 1.5 million jobs in this field, yet with the current rate of graduates, we will only be able to fill 32% of those jobs6. Young women can be the key to solving this shortfall.

The Solution:

Google partnered with the Center for American Progress to help address the need for women to enter IT-related industries. Google has invested $23.5 million in K-12 education to tackle the gender gap, estimating that it will aid five million young women in advanced computer study.

The Research:

All around the globe, women are underrepresented in the work force, and so countries are recognizing that if they want to remain competitive, the workforce itself need to change to support the untapped potential of removing gender barriers.

The Solution:

The online publication Mashable put together a list of countries and organizations who are making remarkable strides in shattering the glass ceiling. Brazil for

example, ranks first in STEM gender equality by instituting progressive social policies, state-funded tuition, and education abroad programs2. View the Mashable article for more inspiring examples of success worldwide:

http://mashable.com/2016/01/22/women-in-stem-global/#alz98VbHNZqD.

While it can appear on an anecdotal level that women have achieved equality, there are still institutionalized attitudes that prevent women from entering these crucial industries, or from advancing in their careers. Not surprisingly, women have contributed significant innovations in the world of science and technology, helping to broaden our understanding and improve the human project.

It is clear that with guidance and resources, our young women are unstoppable in these arenas and if we continue to aid their progress, we are contributing to the future of humanity itself. For more on these exciting strides and how you can make your own contribution to these important projects, check out the National Girls Collaborative Project here: https://ngcproject.org/get-involved.

References:

1. https://www.independent.org/pdf/tir/tir_11_02_06_cohen.pdf

2. http://mashable.com/2016/01/22/women-in-stem-global/#alz98VbHNZqD

3. http://www.aauw.org/research/solving-the-equation/

4. https://www.fi.edu/sites/default/files/cascading-influences.pdf

5. https://www.ncwit.org/resources/girls-it-facts

6.https://www.americanprogress.org/events/2016/01/25/129763/the-future-of-innovation-inspiring-the-next-generation-of-computer-scientists/

Eating Your Way Round the World: Germany

susie almaneih

In introducing our children to other cultures, one of the most immediate and effective approaches is food. Cooking and preparing a meal is a tactile activity that can involve the whole family and provide a window into other country’s traditions by way of ingredients and techniques.

Germany is a rich and prolific culture that has a fascinating array of kid-friendly, tasty treats. We selected some delicious and easy to make recipes that don’t require obscure ingredients. And for fun, we’ve included some interesting facts and history around each dish.

Meatless Balls in Tomato Sauce – Roggenkloesschen in Tomatensosse. If your kids like spaghetti and meatballs, your family will love this. Because Germany’s geography has a short growing season, hardy grains like rye make up a sizeable portion of the diet. This wonderful vegetarian spin on meatballs will be a big hit with the kids, in part because rolling the cooked rye into balls is really fun.
http://germanfood.about.com/od/vegetarianrecipes/r/roggenkloesschn.htm

Cucumber Salad. Germans are big on dill; it’s often incorporated into pickling recipes for added flavor. This easy recipe is slightly sweet and very cooling, a great side for any hot dishes.
http://allrecipes.com/Recipe/Cucumber-Slices-With-Dill/Detail.aspx?evt19=1&referringHubId=2444

Cream Roll. Known for their tempting baked goods, German confections go back a long way. A German delicacy that is lightly sweet and fruity, this Cream Roll is a traditional German favorite: simple, minimum prep and delicious.
http://www.quick-german-recipes.com/cream-roll-recipe.html

It’s not all sauerkraut and sausage! There is so much to discover and love about Germany by way of its rich culinary customs. Give your family a little taste of the history, while sitting down together for an incredible meal.