Zoodles Blog Learn and Play Every Day

August 24, 2010

Maintaining a Connection With Your Child’s Teacher


Image Courtesy of Teaching Resource Center

When I was in about third grade, I was surprised to discover that my teacher did not, in fact, live in the classroom – she actually had a house and family, and she went home every day.

A teacher is your partner in the education of your child. It’s also important to remember that your child’s teacher is a person first, and would appreciate a consistent connection with you throughout the school year!

Get Some Face Time

I have a friend who takes her kids to school each morning so that she can connect with her kids’ teachers. While I think this is great, I can barely drag myself from my bed to watch my kids at the bus stop, so this plan wouldn’t work for me.

This is fine, because I know teachers are busy people and there are other ways to get face time with your child’s teacher. Before the school year starts, take a field trip to the school with your kids and arrange to meet. This will help everyone involved feel more comfortable on the first day of school. Also, if dropping your kids off at school doesn’t work for you, what about popping in a couple of times a week to pick them up, checking in with the teacher while you’re there?

Although they don’t involve face to face interaction, here are more ways to connect with your child’s teacher on a regular basis:

  • Exchange email addresses – email is easier and faster than a phone call.
  • If you call, leave a detailed message.
  • Volunteer in the classroom on a regular basis.
  • Schedule an appointment if there’s an important issue you’d like to discuss.

Give the Best Information

Teaching is a highly demanding and stressful job, and teachers can use all the help they can get.

Sometimes the best help you can give a teacher is information. Be up front about behavioral or medical conditions, like asthma, allergies, ADHD, OCD, and Autism Spectrum disorder to name a few, along with any pertinent medications that your child must take while at school. Keep the teacher informed of family changes, like adoption, divorce or remarriage – this helps teachers watch out for any behavior changes.

Giving this information to your child’s teacher may feel uncomfortable, but it helps him/her give your child the attention he/she needs from the beginning of the school year. Teachers are also required to keep this information confidential.

Stay Involved

As a former elementary school teacher, I would give one piece of advice to parents – simply, do what you say you’re going to do. This doesn’t mean that you have to do a lot, or that you have to actually be inside the classroom to volunteer.

Here are a few ways to stay involved:

  • Complete volunteer tasks at home, like correcting spelling tests or cutting out shapes for a lesson.
  • Go to all-school or family-centered events, like Back to School night, conferences, Open House, harvest parties or carnivals.
  • Chaperone class fieldtrips.
  • Donate classroom supplies or prizes.

Show Appreciation

To teachers working on the front line, a thank you goes a long way, and there are several easy ways to show your appreciation!

  • Write a quick email once a week to share a joke, a funny story about your child, or to say thank you.
  • Give teachers and students a smile in the hallway.
  • Bring coffee – most teachers drink it and love free coffee drinks.
  • Acknowledge his/her birthday with a card from your family.
  • Observe Christmas and Teacher Appreciation Week with cards small gifts, or gift certificates to a restaurant or a book store. Have your child fill out the card.

Consistent connections with your child’s teachers will benefit them, you and your child!

Author Byline

Kelly Wilson

Kelly Wilson

Kelly Wilson is an editor with Teaching Resource Center, a Teacher Store providing teachers and classrooms with low-cost, high-quality Teacher Supplies.

August 23, 2010

A Parent’s Guide to Children’s Eyeglasses

Filed under: Parenting Tips — Tags: , , — Erin @ 6:00 am

Guest blog by Jocelyn Gibbons

kids glasses

Does your child need glasses?

Though vision is an important tool for children, it is also the most overlooked health concern. More than 80 percent of a child’s learning relies on vision, from reading a book and seeing the blackboard, to watching a movie in class. While many parents want to believe that their child’s eyesight is perfectly fine, it’s important to consider if your child may need glasses.

Read the Signs of Poor Eyesight

Don’t wait for a teacher’s note to cue you into your child’s poor eyesight. Signs that your child may need glasses include:

  • Squinting
  • Sitting too close to the television
  • Rubbing eyes excessively
  • Trouble focusing or following an object with their eyes
  • Tilting head while looking at objects
  • Losing place often while reading
  • Frequent headaches and/or dizziness
  • Trouble seeing objects far away
  • Sensitivity to light

Ease Children’s Eye Doctor Fears

glasses2If you have noticed one or more of these symptoms, congratulations! You have taken the first step in helping your child. Now comes the hard part—the trip to the eye doctor.

Eye doctor visits may be a bit frightening for a child, especially with the large, weird looking eye exam machines and the doctors poking and prodding eyeballs. Help ease your child’s fears ahead of time. Check online and at your local library for websites and books dedicated to helping children feel comfortable going to the eye doctor.

Nick Jr. even has a site stocked with pro-glasses games, coloring pages, pretend eye charts, stickers, eye exam flash cards, and more. Think of the effect the positive peer pressure can do for your child, from Dora the Explorer loving to wear glasses to the Backyardigans feeling better seeing with their glasses on during their crazy adventures.

Ways to Save Money On Glasses

Before you buy glasses at your doctor’s office, consider this: by simply being prepared and knowing where to look, you can save big—typically up to 80%—off the same pair of glasses.

Be Prepared

It’s not hard to buy glasses outside of your doctor’s office if you have the right information. All you need is your child’s frame size, their prescription (yes, you may have to ask for them to give you this, but they are required by law to do so!), and their pupillary distance (or the distance between the pupils of both their eyes).

For your child’s first pair of glasses, the best way to figure out frame size is by trying on pairs and writing down the sizes that fit well. Simply look inside the temple of the glasses for three measurements—this is the glasses’ lens width, bridge size, and temple length.

Buy Glasses Online
Via: Just Eyewear

Know Where to Look

Once you have the info you need, you are free to shop around. Let’s be realistic: your child’s glasses will probably be broken at some point (hopefully not too soon!). So you might as well save money investing in a pair that do the job for half the price. In fact, with your savings, you could buy two pair—just in case the inevitable happens to pair number one.

Discount Stores —Discount and warehouse stores often have glasses for sale for much cheaper than what you can buy at your local doctor’s office.

Pros: Savings; convenience of being able to buy glasses as you shop for other items.
Cons: Sometimes quality is lacking; frames may take a while to be ready for pickup.

Warehouse Clubs —A step further than discount stores are warehouse clubs, where your membership entitles you to even greater savings on usually better-quality glasses.

Pros: Savings even greater than discount stores; convenience again of buying glasses during a normal warehouse run; quality comparable to the frames at your doctor’s office.
Cons: Frames may take a while; requires another step in an already grueling process.

Online Retailers Buy glasses online and save up to 80% over buying at the doctor’s office—for the same quality frames.

Pros: Savings the greatest of all options; fast ordering can be done from home; glasses often come money-back guarantees; glasses are shipped right to your door.
Cons: You can’t try on the frames in person.

Choose Frames Your Child Will Love

When you’re choosing eyeglasses, let your child pick the pair they like and will subsequently actually wear. Let’s face it—it was hard enough going to the eye doctor getting them to sit still and focus during the exam. Now you want to shove something new on their face and expect them to keep it there? Good luck.

Believe me: let them choose a pair, within reason (do you really want them going to school looking like Mr. Magoo?). Your child will likely care more about the actual color than the style of the glasses anyway. As the parent, you can figure out what glasses frames will look best on your child and steer them toward those frame shapes—then step back. Just be prepared to say no to the neon orange or zebra stripes unless you are one for originality.

Get to It!

Now is the important part—actually using this information to help your child! Look for symptoms that your child needs glasses. If you find the signs—follow them and get to the eye doctor. Your child will (eventually) thank you for it.

Author Byline

Jocelyn Gibbons

Jocelyn Gibbons

Jocelyn Gibbons has a background in both creative and technical writing. She is currently the creative marketing director for Just Eyewear, an online prescription eyeglasses retailer.

August 17, 2010

4 Tips for Keeping Your Kids Safe

Filed under: Child Safety,Parenting Tips — Tags: , , — Erin @ 6:00 am
lost child

Lost Child

Guest Blog by Tara Shaw

As a parent, you will quickly realize that you can’t protect your kids everywhere they go. This can be quite scary, especially as young children may find themselves in a dangerous situation without even realizing it. Kids and even teens are often oblivious to the risks, such as the potential of being assaulted, bullied, kidnapped, robbed, or otherwise harmed. How do you prepare them to escape such situations without causing them to fear for their safety every single day?

Today, more and more parents are asking this question. Here are a few techniques for you to use to keep your kids safe:

Teach them basic safety information

From a young age, children should know their own phone number and home address. If they are ever separated from you, this information can lead to a quick reunion. Your kids should also know how to reach you at all times, especially when you are at work. For emergencies, teach them how and when to call 911, and to seek out a trustworthy adult if they need help in a public place. These basics will allow your children to get help from adults during emergency situations.

Work on your child’s recognition of potential dangers

Most children are fairly trusting and naive. They may not realize that a stranger is trying to lure them away from their parents, only that the stranger has a puppy or a bag of candy. Teach them how to recognize that someone may not have the best intentions at heart. Of course, children must also know about appropriate touching from a young age. Kids of all ages should be taught when it’s okay not to follow an adult’s directions, even if that adult is an authority figure.

Children should know who to trust

If you’re like many parents, you caution your kids to avoid interacting with strangers, yet instruct them to find a trustworthy adult if they feel they are in danger. When is it okay for a stranger to talk to them? As a parent, you must walk a fine line when teaching your kids what kind of adult to seek out if they are in trouble. You may want to instruct them to look for police officers or security guards in uniforms, mothers with children, or store clerks.

Provide your child with the tools to fight back

While running away from potential dangers is often the best strategy for children, what should they do if it’s too late to run away? Instruct your kids to yell as loud as they can to get the attention of nearby adults. Your kids should also have personal alarms to help them summon help. Look for child alarms shaped like panda bears and other animals. Your teens may be responsible enough to carry a canister of pepper spray, a nonlethal self defense device that gives them several minutes to escape a dangerous situation.

Self defense methods and strategies must always take into account your child’s age and responsibility level.

As a parent it is your duty to prepare your children to protect themselves. Children do not always recognize when they are heading into a potentially dangerous situation, which can make your job tricky as a parent. All children must know that there are dangerous people out there in the world, even though you probably want to protect your kids from this fact for as long as possible. Despite this wish, it is important to provide your child the tools and knowledge necessary to keep them out of harm’s way.

Author Byline


Tara Shaw

Tara was born in England and moved to USA in 1998. Together with her husband James she started the Resist Attack website in 2009 to make available a wide variety of personal safety products and to educate families on how to stay safe. So far they have published over 250 articles on the subject.

August 16, 2010

Setting Up Fun Play Dates for Kids

Guest blog by Kelly Wilson

It’s time to head Back to School, which means new friends and play date opportunities for kids at any age.

New Buddies = Requests for Play Dates

New Buddies = Requests for Play Dates

Setting up play dates is part of the natural progression of your kids growing up, allowing them to practice social skills and have some fun doing it. Your kids will likely find children to play with from their new classrooms, along with kids from your neighborhood or other community groups.

Setting Them Up

The easiest way to begin setting up play dates is to talk with your own circle of friends or friendly neighbors. Decide if you’d rather have play dates with a larger group of kids. The advantage to this is that parents usually hang out while their kids play and you get some conversational time with other adults. This also builds community for all of the families involved.

Kids Play Date

Fun Play Date

If larger groups don’t appeal to you, choose one or two of your child’s friends to start with, decide on a day, and invite them over. Your child will probably be able to help you out by securing the necessary phone numbers during the school day. Don’t be surprised if parents hang out for a bit during the first play date – this helps their child feel more comfortable. Once families start reciprocating play dates, you may want to do the same!

The Ground Rules

Once kids come over, I like to review the house rules, where the bathroom is located, and when snack will be available. I go over with the kids where they’re allowed to play and if there are any spaces or things off limits, like my husband’s very expensive musical instruments downstairs (he’s a professional musician).

We also talk about making good choices, sharing, and talking nicely with one another. I warn all of the kids that if there are problems, there will be time outs issued and the sad final conclusion could be a friend going home. Although I’ve never had problems, it’s a good reminder to everyone involved to make good choices during the play date.

Snack is always served, and I check with the parents to make sure there are no food allergies. Try to keep snack foods healthy and fun, like grapes and Goldfish crackers or peanut butter and bananas. The kids always appreciate being fed!

Suggested Activities

If you prefer to provide structure during play dates, an easy way to think of activities is to go with the seasons. In winter months, provide a Christmas ornament or snowman craft. In the spring, paint small birdhouses or make an Easter craft. In the summer, water toys are fun in the backyard. Finding something seasonal to do can be very easy and require almost no preparation if kids use materials lying around your house.

However, there’s no hard and fast rule that says you need to provide any structured activities. One of the advantages to inviting your child’s friends over to play is that they get to play. Together, children develop social and cognitive skills through pretending, compromising and having the time and space to be creative.

Keeping Them Routine

Once you establish that you’re interested in play dates and host a few of your own, they’ll become part of your routine. Our neighborhood has had a play group once a week for a few years now, and it’s become an event that all of the neighborhood kids look forward to.

Important factors to consider when making play dates a fun family habit include:

* specific days and times that would work for play dates
* gathering email addresses of other parents interested in play dates
* putting play dates on the calendar
* scheduling play dates a week in advance

A couple of days before the scheduled play date, email or call the parents of the children invited as a reminder, and get ready to play!

Author byline

Kelly Wilson

Kelly Wilson, Editor, Teaching Resource Center

Kelly Wilson is an editor for Teaching Resource Center, a Teacher Store providing high-quality, low-cost Teaching Materials for over twenty-five years.

August 14, 2010

Public vs. Private School


Private School Uniform

Guest blog by Alan Murray

So does sending your kids to private school give them that extra advantage or is it all a waste of money? Do state schools provide the same quality of education? 90% of all American children attend public. Private schools in the US are exempt from most educational regulations however most follow the spirit of them.

So how much would a private school cost? The National Association of Independent Schools puts their average price at $20,000 per year but this varies across the county with many schools charging $30,000 per year. These fees are not the end of the financial burden, check to see what else you will be required to pay, for example, school books, trips and other misc fees that you may not be liable for at a state school.
What factors should parents look at when considering the benefits of the two types of schools?

Class sizes

What are the ratios of children to teacher between public and private? Normally smaller class sizes produce better education for children. This of course is not the only factor but it is an important one.


This varies from school to school and applies to both private and state schools. State schools rely on funding from one resource and these funds can vary depending on tax revenues. Private schools don’t just rely on their annual fees there are development activities and grants from organizations,

Safety at school

This can be an issue with state schools. Many private schools screen students and have much better records with regards to the health and safety of your child.


Normally private schools are going to come out on top but this may not be the case 100% of the time.  Parents should take the time to look at the facilities on offer in the private of public schools because they vary. Don’t expect private to always to have better facilities because this often is not the case. You should also be looking for facilities that suit your child.


Public school teachers are on average paid more than private school teachers – does that make them better? Benefits for public school teachers are also general higher than private schools but that can vary due to location and individual resources of that school.


Personally I think you should send your kids to state school. That is my personnel opinion and parents need to make up their own minds based upon the facts. This situation may change upon the quality of state school that my kids were going to. If the reputation of the school is low then I would advise parents to investigate the school further and then if not suitable to consider private schooling.

I think both private and state schools have individual advantages over each other. I would advise parents to look beyond just hearsay about schools and get to the facts to make their judgment on whether to go private or state school.

Author Byline

alanAlan Murray is a dad of two and writes for a baby names site. This site has more than just baby names with Pregnancy, breastfeeding, and baby health.

August 13, 2010

5 Best Picture Books for the Last Days of Summer

Filed under: Family Activities — Tags: , — Erin @ 6:00 am

Guest blog by Kathryn Jones

Summer is almost over, and with it, those last lazy days of book reading. I don’t know about you, but the idea of sitting in the children’s book department inside any store and reading a Mom and Son Readinggood book is almost as fantastic as going on vacation. Just today I went on a journey through the children’s section of my local bookstore.  The experience was glorious. I almost forgot I was a grown-up. The words, the colors, the rhyming text and thoughtful stories transported me to another place—where I was five again.
Allow me to share with you a few of the books I stumbled upon and fell in love with.  In the process of sharing, I hope you’ll fall in love, too, and maybe go on a mini trip of your own.  Take your little ones with you for added fun.

The first picture book, “But I wanted a Baby Brother,” is written by Kate Feiffer and Diane baby broGoode. Oliver Keaton doesn’t want a baby sister, he is a boy after all, and boys want brothers. Oliver has the support of his dog, Chaplin, who agrees that a boy brother would be best. Oliver tries and fails to convince his parents that a boy would be the better sibling. He tries and fails to find a “used” baby brother from amongst his friends to make a trade, but all the boys seem to have more problems than his sister does. Does Oliver decide to keep his sister after all? “But I Wanted a Baby Brother,” published by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers is $16.00; $21.99 in Canada and is written for ages 4-8.

Book two is entitled, “Chalk” and is illustrated by Bill Thomson. The story is about 3 children who discover a bag of chalk in an inanimate dinosaur’s chalkopen jaws, decide to draw on the sidewalk with the chalk, and are enlisted on a nature adventure throughout the park. Told in pictures only, the story of “Chalk” begins on a rainy day that quickly turns sunny because of the magic of the chalk. But what happens when the dinosaur is drawn out of his frozen stupor? You won’t believe your eyes!

“Chalk” is published by Marshall Cavendish Children and is $15.99; $20.95 in Canada. Perhaps a bit too frightening for the youngest of children, older children will enjoy the suspense and happy resolution of this beautifully illustrated book.

What if you hate books and some librarian is trying to get you to love them? In this story, “Miss Brooks Loves Books,” by Barbara Bottner, the main character is determined not to love books, even if Miss Brooks keeps trying to change her mind. The problem only gets worse when the main character gets an assignment to pick out a book for school to read during Book Week. Now what will she do? (Especially since she has to wear a costume too?) What book does the girl who hates books, pick? “Miss Brooks Loves Books,” is published by Alfred A. Knopf and is $17.99; $22.99 in Canada.

roly polyRoly Poly Pangolin” by Anna Dewdney, is book four on my list. Roly Poly Pangolin is afraid of all the new adventures life brings—that is, until he meets a new friend and discovers he’s not alone. “Roly Poly Pangolin” is a simple rhyming story for ages 2 and up and is $16.99; $21.00 in Canada. The book is published by Viking. Pangolins are furry animals that live in Africa, India, China and Southeast Asia. They have no teeth and protect themselves by rolling into a ball. For more information on Pangolin’s visit the author’s website at: www.annadwedney.com .

Book five is “A Mother’s Song,” by Janet Lawler. A mother takes her daughter on a journey throughout the neighborhood. What do they see? What do they feel? What do they touch? Come and take a walk through the seasons with this delightful rhyming text. “A Mother’s Song” is $14.95; $19.50 in Canada and is published by Sterling.

Reading with your children is one of those things you can’t replace even with the most expensive trip. There is something about the cuddle time, something about reading and laughing together that transports you in only the way reading can.

Author Byline

Kathryn Jones is a freelance writer. She is currently a resident writer for Online Schools, which researches areas of higher learning, how to pick an online school, and education. In her spare time, Kathryn enjoys reading books to her four grandchildren. Learn more about Kathryn at her website: www.ariverofstones.com.

August 12, 2010

Physical and Mental Benefits of Childhood Fitness

diabGuest Blog by Amanda T.

Kids health news is dismal these days; growing children are currently at risk for falling victim to one of the largest health epidemics this country has seen in many decades. Childhood obesity has tripled in the last thirty years, and the number of adults with serious health issues has increased significantly as a result.

Children who are obese during important developmental stages are more susceptible to lifelong issues such as heart disease, arthritis, asthma, Type 2 diabetes, and more. Rather than allowing your children to snack on processed foods and empty calories, try introducing more fruits and vegetables into their diets. Avoid defrosting frozen meals for dinner, and attempt making one healthy meal a week.

fruitPreservatives, artificial hormones, and processed foods have the ability to alter a child’s tastes, as well as their metabolism. Do your best to eliminate sugary snacks and unnatural sweeteners and replace them with raw carrots and broccoli (or whatever vegetable you can get your child to eat). You will be surprised how your children’s taste buds can change! Eventually they may be happy to eat raw broccoli, or they may lose the taste for sugary cereals and sodas altogether.

The social implications of childhood obesity have the ability to cause severe psychological distress and trauma in kids and adolescents. Not only can children feel different than other kids, but they will also have trouble keeping up on the playground, they may not participate in PE programs and games, they may not feel confident enough to join sports teams, and they can often be chosen last for teams during kids PE games or recess.

These issues have the ability to create antisocial tendencies, low self-esteem, and feelings of self-worthlessness. In some children, this can cause lifelong psychological trauma and confidence issues. As they get older, they may begin to develop health problems, which will only increase the likelihood of depressive tendencies. The body and mind are very closely linked, and mental well-being can be greatly affected by physical health.

A great way to encourage mental well-being in children, despite weight issues, is to consistently encourage physical activity. Limit your kids’ sedentary time in front of the television, computer, or video games. Make exercising more about fun rather than about health or appearance. Implement exercise in daily tasks such as walking around the neighborhood after dinner, or if you live close enough, try to walk your kids to school, to the park, and to their friends’ houses. Simple steps such as these can make a huge difference in your child’s health.

The health and mental risks of obesity among children are very real, and very serious. Take action now to help your child develop into a strong and healthy adult with positive habits, and high self-esteem. There are more than enough obstacles for them to face without considering their weight, so do your part in ensuring their health at a young age!

Author Byline

Amanda is a writer and blogger living in San Diego, CA. She writes on behalf of SPARK PE which strives to foster environmental and behavioral change by providing Physical Education, After School, Early Childhood, and Coordinated School Health programs to teachers and recreation leaders serving Pre-K through 12th grade students.

August 10, 2010

What Every Parent Should Know About Video Gaming

Guest Blog by Susan Long

Child playing video game

Child playing video game

Way back in that other life, the one before kids, I’d spend long evenings building Roman cities or searching for treasure while my husband shot zombies and eluded the police. We were dedicated gamers and with no kids, we had plenty of time to indulge our hobby. Now that we have kids, we’re constantly surprised about how little quality information is available for parents. Like drugs and sex, parents are being told that the only safe way is to tell them “no way”. It’s true that there are risks you may not have considered but if you are armed with accurate information and educate yourself and your child, there are some definite benefits too!

Gaming – It’s Not All Bad….

Gaming can actually assist children with developmental stages. Depending on the game, children develop problem solving techniques, analytical thought and logic skills as well as developing better hand-eye coordination.  It’s a relatively safe, fun activity that allows awkward teens to “fit in” without exposing themselves to risky behavior. It’s also a fairly affordable source of entertainment for long school vacation periods.

The Real Hidden Danger…. Literally!

Most parents are unaware of “Easter Eggs”, “Cheat Codes” and “User Generated Expansions”. These are the real dangers to look out for and there is surprisingly little information out there for parents. Games that seem perfectly acceptable on the surface can contain unseen dangers!

Easter Eggs

Like the chocolate treat, gaming Easter Eggs are something the child must hunt for, it is hidden from sight and often missed by a parent testing out the game. In G and PG rated games, it may be something like a familiar cartoon character that goes unnoticed until the game has been played many times or a little feature that can only be seen after clicking certain background objects.

As the ratings move into M, R and AO, the Easter Eggs can get a little more adult. The most famous example of this is in the AO rated Grand Theft Auto modification where a series of codes unlocks graphic sex scenes.

Arguably, the first ever software Easter Egg may have been in a less exciting program. In an early version of Microsoft Word, spell checking the phrase “I’d like” came back with the suggestion “I’d like to see Bill Gate’s head on a plate” proving that it’s not just the cool game programmers that like to express themselves!


A cheat code is a command that kids can type into the game to “unlock” advantages. Perhaps typing a line of code will give them unlimited money or allow them to skip to the next level. Usually these are pretty harmless but it’s worth investigating them before choosing a game for your child.

A good example is the EA Games best seller “The Sims”. Although it carries an M rating, it’s about raising families, buying nice clothes and pets, getting good grades at school and building a lucrative career. It can make game play feel like you are “virtually” playing dolls, and it is a favorite with 8-15 year old girls. Most parents are happy enough to allow their girls to play The Sims even though there are “implied” sex scenes. However, the built in game cheat “Censor Grid” allows the player to see the characters in a “mock” nude state and to kill the characters in strange and bizarre ways.

User Generated Expansions

Online Sims fan sites allow kids to download expansions for the game – letting them perform tasks or buy objects that are not condoned by EA Games. Unfortunately, some of this user generated content contains sexually explicit scenes and objects and anatomically correct skins. In other games, children can commit especially violent acts and engage in other activities with adult themes attached. This is especially common for PC games (it’s much harder for console games) so it is vital that parents thoroughly search fan sites, forums and any other game related site that their child visits. It may be possible also to block downloads from these sites using some parental lock software packages.

Physical Safety

Most parents are now aware of the physical downside to gaming. The rising childhood obesity rate is partly blamed on “screen time” and more and more kids are suffering back pain from sitting still at a desk or in a lounge chair for long periods. Like anyone sitting at a PC, it is important to make sure that the desk is ergonomically correct for your child. If they are playing on your computer, you may wish to purchase an adjustable desk and chair.

While the Wii Console is a bit of a revolution in gaming, it appears to be the main offender for gaming related injuries. Before you think about putting the Wii up on Ebay, you might want to re-assess how you think about it. If your children are playing active games on their Wii, treat it as a low level sport. Make sure they warm up a little first, that they don’t overdo it, that the playing area is free from dangerous obstacles, ensure they take plenty of breaks and that overall, it plays a healthy role in their lives (don’t let school results or social interactions be dictated by it). If your child starts to show signs of RSI, see your doctor immediately.

Although the experts don’t yet agree on how hard, too much screen time is definitely hard on little eyes. If your child shows any symptoms of eye strain, speak to your doctor or optometrist.

Online Gaming

With any online activity, children are at a small risk of being approached by inappropriate people. The same rules apply to online gaming as any other online activity:

  • Mom must approve all new friends
  • Mom must have all passwords
  • Mom must monitor any conversations with people the child doesn’t know
  • The child may not friend any adults, even ones they know well
  • Mom must be able to monitor any “chats”

Most parents have the “stranger danger” talk with their children at quite a young age. As kids become interested in online activities, it’s time to have that talk again.

As with any game your child wishes to play, you should thoroughly investigate the online game to ensure it is age appropriate and that it does not allow user generated content. Popular online games like Second Life are not appropriate for young children for this reason.

On the flip side, online gaming is an especially good outlet for shy children and children who struggle to connect with friends. Children participating in multi-player online role playing games work with other kids to achieve quests and goals. This can be a wonderful exercise in building self esteem and social skills through feeling accepted.

This social aspect is however, one of the main reasons that online gaming is also the major growth area for “video game addiction”.

Video Game Addiction

It’s a controversial new topic but more and more, the experts are agreeing that video gaming can become an addiction. It is now listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders so is at least technically, an official mental illness. Kids get the same release of endorphins as they would gambling or taking drugs and any parent of a serious gamer will tell you that it can impact on their social, family and academic lives.

However, the addicted behavior is far less risky than more extreme examples like drug taking so it is probably more similar to the notion of television addiction than heroin addiction. The word “addict” has a tendency to create panic and over reaction in parents.

With any activity, it is vital to set boundaries and teach proper behavior early. Allowing children to explore gaming from a young age also allows parents to educate them about dangers and risks so that they can make informed decisions through to those especially difficult teen years.

If you feel that your child has a serious gaming problem, and talking, negotiating and setting boundaries have all failed, there are now support groups and psychological help available.

Video games are not all evil! Electronic entertainment is a phenomenon so great that it is definitely here to stay so, like anything in life, the best you can do is provide guidance and protection while they explore the big cyber world out there!

Author Byline

Susan Long is a mother of two mad gamers and one gamer of the future, when she finally has access to her computer, she writes about happy family holidays and Car Rental.

August 9, 2010

7 Ways to Help Your Child’s Teacher

Guest Blog by Sarah Combs

back to school

Back to School Image Courtesy Pane, amore e creativita

Back-to-school is in full swing! School supply lists and school uniforms are everywhere you turn; it’s time for the lazy days of summer to come to an end and the routine of school days to begin.  Whether you’re a parent of a preschooler or a third grader, this means turning over your little ones to the capable hands of a teacher. But this doesn’t mean that you should sit back and relax! Teachers are always in need of help, and now more than ever. In almost all districts, our teachers are being asked to do more and more with less and less – budgets are tight, class size is swelling and assistants have been cut from many programs. Parents can participate in the classroom by helping with parties, recess, fundraisers, or even just everyday activities; the options are endless. Being a part of your child’s education lets them know that you’re truly interested in their success at school, and provides you with a priceless experience. Help your child’s teacher help your child! Here are seven ways that parents can actively participate at school:

  1. Basket of classroom supplies. Find out what supplies might be missing in the classroom. Ask each family to donate one or two small items: pencils, markers, glue, stickers, tissue, hand sanitizer, table wipes, etc. Ask for gift card donations from office supply and craft stores to help with classroom supplies. Parents who can’t afford to donate can participate by cutting coupons for frequented retailers.
  2. Organize a reading circle and classroom helpers. Use VolunteerSpot to coordinate volunteers -‐ each parent signs up to help once a month in the classroom — reading, helping with science experiments, and tutoring kids needing extra help.
  3. Share your special skills and traditions. Compile a list of special skills, hobbies, or family traditions that parents can share with the class throughout the year. Help organize and execute parties and class projects that highlight different aspects of each child’s culture, and introduce them to new traditions.
  4. Wish Notebook. Put together a wish notebook with teacher surveys and share it with parents. The surveys should ask teachers to list ways in which parents can help them either inside or outside of the classroom. Parents can help in the areas they feel most comfortable.
  5. Paperwork Parents. Take turns making copies, grading papers, or preparing classroom supplies after hours. Use VolunteerSpot’s online scheduling tool to coordinate the effort. If parents can help once or twice a week, that’s a tremendous time savings and welcome break for your teacher.
  6. A personal note from students. Ask each child to write a letter or note  expressing what they are looking forward to this year and why they like their teacher. Then, throughout the first semester, present the notes, one at a time.
  7. Before and After. Take a photo of 4-5 children at a time at the start of the school year. Hold on to these and take pictures of the same groupings towards the end of the year. Prepare a before-and-after flip book to share with the teacher, along with notes and remembrances from the class.

Parent participation is crucial throughout the year, make sure that classroom volunteering isn’t only a back-to-school activity, get involved and stay involved in your child’s education. For more about Room Moms and Room Dads, check out VolunteerSpot’s free eBook, Room Mom’s Survival Guide. It gives tips for class parents, and provides fun class party ideas for the school year.

Author Byline

Room Mom


Guest post by Sarah Combs of VolunteerSpot, DOING GOOD just got easier! VolunteerSpot makes back-to-school planning a snap for parents and teachers with simple online sign up sheets – quickly organize classroom volunteers, school fundraisers, tournaments, carnivals, parent-teacher conferences, soccer snacks, Scout campouts and more!  Register on VolunteerSpot before October 1,2010 with promo code ‘TeachersSave’ for a chance to win $100 in classroom supplies for your favorite teacher from ClassWish.

August 8, 2010

Create a Happier and More Harmonious Home, the DIY Way

Kids Playroom

Organized Kids Playroom

Guest Blog by Victoria Crowdell

A happy and harmonious home isn’t something that is just going to fall out of the sky and into your lap: it’s something you have to strive for and accomplish through hard work and clever planning.  While learning how to handle inter-family relationships is an ongoing process and a rather abstract one at that, there are specific things that you and your family can do to improve the home and make living in it that much more enjoyable.  Various DIY home improvement jobs can be concocted and executed that will provide the various members of a family new ways to interact with each other and new things to do at home.  Let’s take a look at a handful of such ideas and see how they can contribute to making your home the place everyone would like it to be:

  • The playroom: This project is a major winner and is guaranteed to be a smashing hit with the kids.  Many homes have certain spaces that just don’t get used much or don’t get used properly, and converting such areas into play spaces is going to make a big difference.  The extent of the project will depend on the condition of the room at present and how much of a budget you want to put into, though even a bit of money can go a long way here.  Most basements and cellars can be converted without hiring any labor, as it’s not that difficult to prep the room on your own; however, if there are serious water filtration problems then a DIY project here may be a bit more risky.
  • The garden: Landscaping is a DIY home improvement project par excellence, and it is an activity where the whole family can come together and participate.  If you’re lucky enough to have a home with a yard/garden area then you should make the best of it, always mindful of the psychological benefits of being surrounded by greenness.  It’s not necessarily about having the most beautiful flower bed or the most sculpted hedges on the block; it could just be a project of increasing the grassy (usable) area for the kids to play, putting in a jungle-gym, building a dog house, or creating a vegetable garden.
  • Shared spaces: Any home with many people in it and with a decent bit of space (specifically shared space) is likely to have a lot of clutter, and that clutter can begin to have negative effects.  For communal spaces like the kitchen, the living room and the TV room it is important to have efficient storage solutions to make sure this clutter doesn’t get out of hand.  You can overcome this problem by installing more cabinets or shelves, by rearranging the furniture, or even through donating unused/unwanted possessions to charity!
  • The green route: Finally, it’s worth thinking about implementing some green solutions in your home.  Teaching your children (and yourself for that matter) about environmental issues and fostering a sustainable lifestyle among all members of the family will offer more rewards than you can imagine.  DIY projects that can get you going in this direction include setting up your own solar panels or parabolic solar oven, or putting in a tank to gather rain water for gardening purposes.  The options are many, and your imagination is really the only limit.
  • Author byline

    VictoriaVictoria Crowdell works for Construction Chemicals UK Ltd, who are experts in their field – from basement conversions for the serious renovator to DIY timber treatment products for protecting your home from insects and mold. With depots around the UK and an in-house chemistry specialist, they are the ideal partners for anyone wishing to undertake a renovation project, amateur or professional. When Victoria isn’t working full-time helping people to transform their homes, she uses her experience to create articles which can be found around the Internet and also teaches little scamps to sing like angels – quite a transformation!

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