Monsters, Zombies, and Ghosts, Oh My!: Help Children Who have Fears about Halloween Feel Safe and Have Fun

With the costumes, candy, games, and parties Halloween brings, it can be an exciting time for many children! For some children, however, it can also bring about fears and concerns, especially with graphic costumes, haunted houses, and talk of various monsters. Here are some tips to help your child who is scared feel safe and have fun on Halloween.

Tips To Help Your Child Not be Scared On Halloween:

1. Listen to your child’s fears and provide validation.
-Halloween involves a variety of activities, some that will feel exciting and others that may spark fears in young children. Talk to your child to see what aspects of Halloween she is looking forward to and what components concern her. This can help your child feel comfortable talking about Halloween so that she can scared boy on halloweenopen up to you about fears as she has them.
-Children may not know what they are afraid of until they come face to face with it-on TV when there is a commercial for a haunted house, at the store when they see a monster mask, or at school when other children talk about frightening costumes. Be mindful of these instances to understand what scares your child.  
-When children express fears or concerns, acknowledge your child’s feelings to empathize. In an effort to reassure their children, some parents may inadvertently minimize their children’s fears (Ex. “Don’t be scared. It’s just a mask.”). Instead, show your child that it is okay to feel scared and ask questions to understand her specific fears (Ex. “I bet it was scary when the kids were talking about bloody costumes at school. Are you afraid that they will wear those costumes to your school party?”)   
2. Help your child feel safe by explaining that Halloween costumes are “pretend.”

-After listening attentively and validating your child’s concerns, reassure your child by explaining the concept of “pretend.” (Ex. “Those monster masks are scary, but it’s not a real monster. On Halloween, people wear masks and costumes that are pretend. That means it isn’t real-it’s just dress-up time for one day.”) 

3. Make adjustments to help your child feel safe.
-Schools generally have a non-violent costume policy. Confirm this rule with the school and reassure your child that scary costumes are not allowed. 
-Steer your child away from Halloween aisles at grocery stores. Some masks and costumes may be too gory, graphic, and age inappropriate for your child to see.
-Talk to your older children about their siblings’ fears so that they can be sensitive about what to talk about in front of their brother or sister. Older children can also provide validation and support to their younger siblings (Ex. “Your brother used to be scared of those masks too but not anymore. Paul, can you tell Jane what helped you to not feel scared anymore?”)
4. Choose child-friendly activities that can make Halloween fun!
-Churches, universities, and community centers offer activity-filled days for the entire family to enjoy. Project Pumpkin at Northwestern University in Evanston, IL, for example, invites children and families from the Chicagoland area to enjoy a safe day of trick-or-treating and carnival games!   
-Help your child choose a lighthearted costume so that she can focus on her own chance to dress up! Here is a great website with Halloween costumes for children with easy-to-follow instructions to make at home!
-Keep the focus on aspects of Halloween that are silly, fun, and interactive. Carve friendly faces into pumpkins, make Halloween-inspired snacks, or play Halloween-themed games!
What helps your children to feel safe on Halloween? What fun activities do you do with your children on Halloween?

10 Ways to Practice Speech & Language at the Grocery Store

You’ve got errands to run and groceries to buy. The weekly to-do’s are piling up, and there’s little time left over for educational activities and focusing on your child’s development. But did you know the grocery store has endless opportunities to practice Mom at SuperMarket with Kidspeech and language skills? Here are a few fun tips to keep your child learning while still finding time for errands.

10 Ways To Promote Speech At The SuperMarket:

1. Turn your grocery list into a scavenger hunt.

Choose items on your grocery list, and give your child clues as to where it might be. Encourage your child to cross items off the list as they put them in the cart (e.g. “We’re looking for a vegetable. Where do you think we might find it?”).

Target skills: listening, problem solving, categories

2. Play a category game.

Encourage your child to find objects based on the color, food group, texture, or temperature. For example, you might encourage your child to find “3 red things”, “2 cold things” or “1 dairy product”.

Target skills: listening, categories

3. Play “I spy”.

Give your child 3 clues about a secret item, and encourage your child to guess what the item is. For example, you might say “I’m thinking of something that is cold, it goes in the freezer, and you eat it on a cone!”

Target skills: listening, categories

4. Play the “Alphabet Game”.

Go through the alphabet, and search for items that begin with each letter of the alphabet. For example, you might encourage your child “What begins with A?… apple begins with A! Can you think of something that begins with B?”

Target skills: alphabet, letter-sound recognition

5. Plan a fun snack together.

Help your child make a list of items needed for their snack. Write down each step needed to prepare the snack (e.g. “First I will wash the celery. Next, I will put peanut butter on the celery. Last, I will put raisons on top!”). Encourage your child to share their snack with family and friends, and describe how they made it.

Target skills: executive function, sequencing, expressive language, social communication

6. Give your child special roles.

Encourage your child to listen to your directions, and find items that you ask for. For example, ask your child to “put 3 apples in the bag” or “put 1 box of crackers at the bottom of the cart.”

Target skills: following directions, location concepts, listening

7. Have a speech-sound contest.

Find items that begin with specific speech sounds. For example, if your child is learning to say “s”, have a contest to see who can find the most “s-words”. Say each s-word as you find it (e.g. “syrup starts with S!”)

Target skill: articulation

8. Practice greeting others.

When you get to the check-out line, encourage your child to greet the cashier. If your child is older, let them help with the transaction. (e.g. “How much did the groceries cost? What should we give the cashier?”). Encourage your child to say goodbye as you leave.

Target skills: social communication, problem solving

9. Let your child “be the teacher”.

Encourage your child to give you directions, and tell you where to put items. Make silly errors, and encourage your child to use their language to correct you. For example, you might put an apple on your head and ask “is this where it goes?… No! Where does the apple go?”

Target skills: expressive language, location concepts

10. Finally, have fun together!

Enjoy spending time with your child. Describe what is happening and what you see. Ask your child questions, and encourage them to talk about what they see.

Target skills: listening, expressive language, social communication

How to Survive a Day with a Child at Six Flags Great America

Six FlagsWe all have memories of the amazing days as children when we took a trip to the amusement park. Growing up in Chicago, my park was Six Flags Great America. It was so easy for my parents: Plan the day, get some hats and suntan lotion and go! If your child has special needs it can be a little trickier, but there are a few things you can do to make your six flags experience even more enjoyable!

Tips to Prepare Your Child With Special Needs For A Day At Six Flags Great America

1)   Talk to your child about the trip several days in advance.

2)   Show him pictures. If necessary, make a social story about the trip.

3)   Make a list of rules at the park with your child. Create a reward chart or any other visuals ahead of time so they are ready to bring with you for a more successful day.

4)   Create a visual schedule for the day so your child knows exactly what to expect while at the park.

5)   Make sure your child is really ready to enjoy the trip, and if not get a babysitter instead.

6)   Contact guest relations before you go and check to see if there are accommodations for children with special needs.

7)   Make sure to get permission to bring the food and drinks you need for any dietary restrictions before you go. They are very strict with their rules on bringing any food or drinks into the park. According to Six Flags:

May I bring my own food and beverages into Six Flags Great America? No outside food, beverages or coolers are allowed to be brought into Six Flags Great America. However, exceptions are made for Guests with special dietary needs to include food allergies and baby food/formula. Guest should contact Park Security or Guest Relations when they arrive at the Park for approval to bring in special dietary foods. The special dietary food containers will be marked and dated to clearly show that they have been approved for entry into the park.

8)   Enjoy Your Day!

 

 

5 Fun And Easy Activities to Promote Speech And Language Development During Summer

Three Happy Children Coloring On Construction PaperSchool’s out, which means you have extra time to spend with your child. As you plan activities to fill the day, you might find yourself needing a few “tricks” to tie in learning with fun. Here’s a list of my top five activities to encourage speech and language development while still having a good time.

1. Create a summer scrapbook.

Take digital pictures or save ticket stubs and brochures from special summer outings, and glue them in a construction paper book after special events throughout the summer. Help your child write a sentence about each page. Where did you go? Who was there? What did you see there? Afterwards, encourage your child to share their book with family and friends.

2. Have fun with sidewalk chalk!

Winter is finally behind us and the sidewalks are snow-free, so enjoy being outdoors with sidewalk chalk. Draw pictures of summer words or different shapes. Play a listening game by encouraging your child to step on the pictures as you name them: “Hop to the sunglasses”, “Bear crawl to the sun!” or “Skip to the beach ball!” Read more

Five Tips For Flying With Kids On Southwest Airlines

Air travel with children is always tough. With children along, you need more prep time, you must be extra alert at the airport to not lose track of them, parents and children are a bit nervous, ear pain may ensue, and you may deal with other perSouthwest Airlpane In Flighthaps loud, rude, or inappropriate fellow passengers.

Enjoy the flight the way Southwest Wants You To

Here are my top five tips for making your flying experience as pleasant as Southwest Airlines claims it will be.

1) Set flying rules with your children ahead of time and stick to them.

These should include rules for behavior from the time you load up the car until the time you arrive at your destination. Outline behavior expectations for packing the car to the airport, in the car, at the airport, and in flight. Have a behavior chart with you with stickers or tokens and designated prizes for every large part of the trip. Read more

Handwriting Over the Summer: Practice Makes Perfect

Children worked so hard on writing at school, and they should continue writing over the summer to prevent losing all of the progress they made. Practice makes perfect! Repetition will decrease anxiety and keep them at or above the expectations for the following year. Here are some fun writing exercises you can try over the summer:

Handwriting Excerses:

• Write a story with your child. Each day, set aside time for her to write a few sentences or paragraphs (depending on her age) for a special story. By the end of the summer, you will both have written a special story together. This approach will keep your child interested, as she will enjoy reading her contributions each day.

• Have her practice the formation of specific letters by writing large capital letters with sidewalk chalk on the driveway. Next, have her use a hose with a nozzle to spray a stream of water and erase the chalk lines. This will help increase fine motor control and strength.

• While you are in the car, or sitting on the beach, use “air writing” to send each other messages. You can also have her write messages to you in the sand on the beach, in the water at the pool, or in the shaving cream while dad is shaving.

Just have fun with it. You can also set aside some serious writing time where you purchase handwriting books at the local bookstore or toy store, or print worksheets from the Internet for practice. Repetition, repetition, repetition!

Quick Tips For A Smoother Transition Into A Summer Schedule

Fun Family SummerMany children perform best when they follow a schedule and have a consistent routine. School is coming to an end and summer is approaching, which also translates to a less structured schedule and, potentially, a less productive day. Here are a few suggestions to make the most out of your summer routine:

Visual Schedules:

• At school, many children follow a picture schedule that lets them know what activities they will be participating in that day. Summer is a great time to let kids be kids and allow them to learn through play and gain independence while choosing what toys and activities they want to do on a daily basis. If your child craves predictability and struggles with transitions, try making a summer picture book. Take pictures of your child’s toys, games, books, and places they enjoy playing (backyard, park, pool, etc.) and allow them to create their own plan for the day.

Play Dates:

• Play dates with peers are a great summertime activity. Be sure to swap information with the parents of your child’s friends at school before the end of the year. Children learn a lot through playing together, including skills such as negotiating, compromise, taking turns, communication and imaginative play. Read more

Successfully Surviving Spring Break at Home with Your Kids

It’s spring break and you are home with your kids: kids drawing at home

What does that mean? It means that kids are completely ecstatic and simply can’t wait for this vacation from school! For them, it means: no homework, no alarm clocks (aka sleeping in), and no racing to the bus before the sun has truly risen for the day. Some parents are thrilled with these benefits and add the many benefits spring break allows for the parents: no packing lunches, no driving from school to school trying to pick up carpools and race to after school activities, and getting to spend some quality time with your kids. Yet, for many parents, spring break evokes a feeling of sheer panic:

WHAT WILL WE DO ALL WEEK WITH ALL THE KIDS HOME TOGETHER, AT THE SAME TIME, WITH NO SCHEDULE, AND NOTHING TO DO?!!!

As a parent myself with 3 school-age children, I can see both sides of the spring break debate. Yet, I’m here to tell you that you can survive staying home during spring break with your kids. Even as I write that, I’m still stricken with the panic myself. But, as I take some deep breaths, I will walk you through some survival tips for the next 7 days.

Spring Break Survival Tips:

1) Have a plan: The worst words a parent can hear from children over break is, “I’m bored!” Ok…that, and the fighting words between siblings. But, the bored part is within our control, at least for a little while. The fighting words between siblings will most likely be addressed in another blog, not to worry. Anyway, back to “have a plan”. If you have never had a family meeting in your household, here’s a great place to start (and a great topic). Call to order a family meeting to discuss possible activities that can be done during the week off from school. Everyone should have a chance to give input.

2) Engage your kids in the plan: Kids like to feel that they have choices and that their opinions count. And, what better time to allow them to have those choices than spring break when the week is full of possibilities? Write down all the ideas the kids have for activities, places they’d like to visit, friends they’d like to see, etc. Even if one of your kids wants to play Wii and relax, there will be time for that and it’s good for the kids to have some downtime. Perhaps that can be the “family game night” activity one night this week.

3) Make a calendar of possible activities: This will allow you (and the kids) to see what the plan is for each day. Whether it’s playdates or a trip to the museum, the kids can see what is planned. It allows them to see that their ideas are put into action and also teaches them the art of negotiation. For example, “Yes, we are doing the activity that Jake chose tomorrow morning, but we are doing your activity on Tuesday when your friend Emily and her mom are free to join us.” Of course, the calendar can be changed, if need be.

4) Be careful not to over-schedule: You’ve heard of not over-scheduling kids’ activities, playdates, etc during the school year, but the same is true for vacations. Be sure to give breaks throughout the day, so the activity chosen is still enjoyable for the kids (and for you). This is especially true for children who have difficulty with transitions. For example, if you’re going bowling in the morning, maybe some game time or an art activity with just the family is good for an afternoon activity, rather than another outing or high-energy excursion. And, it’s ok to have some “screen time” (as we call tv, computer, and video games in our house) to give tired moms and dads a break too.

5) Schedule a grown-up night out: Yes, I did say “schedule”. As parents, it’s easy for us to forget about adult time and especially time for ourselves. So, before you get caught up in the calendar of all the kids’ activities from morning until night, make sure to add a “grown up night” to that calendar. Phone an in-law, a parent, or a sibling and see if they would be willing to watch the darlings for a couple of hours so you can have some grown-up time with your spouse or significant other. Or, see if a friend would be willing to sit for your kids one night and you can sit for theirs another night. Or, if finances allow, hire a sitter! I promise this will be a great addition to your spring break plans. If your spouse travels or you can’t go out together one night during this week, make it a grown-up night with some friends.

Some ideas for spring break kid-friendly activities that won’t cost a fortune:

• local libraries often have free passes or discounts to local museums and attractions-check that out! Or, just spend some time at the library.

• parks (if the weather permits). Try one that you’ve never seen before- maybe in another town and have the kids make a comparison list: what they like best at each park.

• take a train ride

• visit an animal shelter and bring newspapers. They always need newspaper for training

• volunteer at a local nursing home or get a group of kids together to do a talent show of sorts

• rent a movie about something the kids learned about in school-making popcorn helps them forget they’re learning while they watch

• take pictures when you go on activities and even make a scrapbook at the end of the week

Arts and Craft Ideas To Improve Fine and Gross Motor Skills

toddler coloringToddlers learn about their world by using their senses, manipulating objects and experimenting.  Toddlerhood is marked by an explosion of development in all areas, including fine motor skills, or “hand skills”.  One fun way to promote fine motor skills every day (and on Valentine’s Day in particular) is through crafts!

Here is a short, craft-friendly guide to fine motor milestones:

  • Scribbling and making horizontal or vertical lines – 2 years old
  • Squeezing out glue – 2 years old (though squeezing out an appropriate amount of glue is a skill that will not develop until much later!)
  • Snipping with scissors – 2 ½ years old (with constant supervision!)
  • Drawing circles and a rough cross – 3 years old
  • Stringing large beads – 3 years old
  • Cutting on a line – 3 ½ years old

Unless you are hoping for updated living room walls, your toddler will need constant supervision, direction and demonstration throughout all of these projects.  When these tasks are completed, everyone’s heart will be warmed when you see your child beaming with pride at what has been created.

A few fun and simple craft projects to try with your toddler this Valentine’s Day:

  • Make a valentine for family members, classmates, or neighbors.  Young toddlers will be satisfied with simple tools such as finger paints or crayons.  Older children may want to add glitter, stamps, or stickers. Read more

Snow Day Do’s and Don’ts

When school is cancelled and you can’t make it to work, you have to come up with creative things to do with your children so you don’t all get cabin fever! Here are some ideas:

Children in the snow

Snow-Day Do’s:

  • Do start the day off writing a schedule of “Fun” things to do with your child.
  • Do give each child a chance to pick something they want to add to the schedule so they each feel like they have a say in the day and are excited for their choice!
  • Do play a board game.
  • Do go outside and make snowmen and snow angels.
  • Do bake some cookies that the kids can decorate!
  • Do an arts and crafts project using things around the house.
  • Do Have a dance party or play Dance Dance Revolution on you Wii.
  • Do For children ages 3-10, make a book: staple paper together and have your child dictate the story to you (or write it themselves depending on age). Then let them illustrate it!
  • Do make a picnic instead of your typical lunch. Set up a blanket on your playroom floor and pretend you are outside!
  • Do Use this day to have quality time with your children!

Snow-Day Don’ts:

  • Don’t plop yourself or your kids in front of the t.v. all day.
  • Don’t allow any nagging! Only smiles and fun suggestions!
  • Don’t try to work on your day off.
  • Don’t waste the day eating junk food and supplying it to your children.

…and one more  DO – Do leave a comment with your best ideas for when you are snowed in!