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Archive for August, 2012

10 Tips for Teaching a Child How to Ride a Bicycle

Monday, August 27th, 2012

Bicycles have never gone out of style and it isn’t likely that they ever will. It is the first ‘grownup’ transportation that a kid learns to operate on their own. Every child is excited when they receive their first bike. However, learning to ride a two-wheeler can take some time, more for some than others. Here’s some tips for teaching your child how to ride their first bicycle.

  1. Provide Protective Gear – A small child on a bike with training wheels isn’t likely to fall and hurt themselves too much, but they’ll still be excited to receive and wear their first bike helmet. Don’t but it off until later. It is better to get them used to wearing a helmet every time they get on a bike from the beginning than to try and add the habit later.
  2. Correct Sizing of the Bike – Many parents make the mistake of starting their kids out on a bike that is oversized for their child. The reasoning is, of course, to save the money of having to upgrade to a bigger bike when the smaller one is out grown. Unfortunately, a bike that is oversized for a child makes it more difficult for the child to maneuver, which makes it more hazardous for the child and could take them longer to learn how to ride.
  3. Start with Training Wheels – Some kids can learn to ride quickly without training wheels, but the majority of them need that extra help balancing to get started. The training wheels are not meant to be sitting level on the ground, but a little above the ground, so that they only touch the ground when the bike leans. Positioning them properly will help your child learn to balance.
  4. Smooth Surface – Gravel is not a good surface for learning to ride a bike. Find a smooth hard surface with plenty of room, like a paved parking lot, to begin your child’s bicycle instruction and then gradually move to narrower surfaces like the sidewalk or driveway.
  5. Help Them Learn Balance – The training wheels are the beginning of learning about balancing a bicycle, but eventually those training wheels need to come off. When that time comes, you may want to walk alongside the bike holding on to it as they get used to the new feeling of maintaining balance without the help of their training wheels.
  6. Help Them Gain Confidence – Some kids will be able to take off quickly with only a little guidance after the training wheels come off, others lack the confidence in themselves or take a couple of falls and get fearful of falling. Stick with them, holding onto the bike and walking alongside as long as it takes for them to gain that confidence to try it on their own.
  7. Gradual Free-wheeling – As you’re doing the walk-along, gradually begin letting go for a few seconds at a time and then taking hold again. Each time, let go for a little longer amount of time, until they are able keep it up on their own.
  8. Positive Attitude and Words – Criticism or belittling are never the approach to take when trying to a child something new. Speak positive and encouraging words to them. Let the child know that you believe they can conquer this task.
  9. Falls Will Happen – Part of the process of learning to ride a bike inevitably will result in falls. Some knee pads, elbow pads, a helmet and protective shoes will help keep your child for skins and bruises, but their ego and confidence may still get bruised. Encourage them to try again, once they recover from a fall.
  10. Don’t Rush Them– If your child is hesitant and fearful about riding their bike without their training wheels, don’t push them to fast or hard to make the change. Eventually, they’ll become confident enough to give it a try with your help.

Learning to ride a bike is a right of passage, a step towards adulthood and independence. Make sure to make the process a positive one.

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How to Make 5 Simple Entrees that Don’t Require the Oven

Thursday, August 23rd, 2012

The temperatures this summer have been so hot this year that the last thing you probably want to do is turn on the oven to fix dinner.  To avoid heating up the house, try these simple entrees that don’t require you to turn the oven on.

  1. Tropical chicken salad wrap.  These wraps can be eaten at home or wrapped up and taken to the lake for a picnic.  Mix the following together: 2 cups of cooked and shredded chicken, 1 can of mandarin oranges (drained), ½ cup of shredded coconut (toasted), ½ cup of cashews, 1 bunch of scallions chopped, juice of 1 lime, ¼ teaspoon of salt, ¼ teaspoon of pepper, and 1/3 cup of mayonnaise.  Place a couple of lettuce leaves on your large tortilla, add chicken salad and wrap it all up.
  2. Butter bean, tuna, and celery salad.  In a small bowl mix up the dressing for the salad by combining 2 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice and 2 teaspoons of Dijon mustard, and then slowly whisk in ¼ cup of extra virgin olive oil.  Add ¼ cup of chopped chives and salt and pepper.  In a large bowl add 7 cans of Italian tuna packed in olive oil (drained), 3 stalks of celery sliced on the bias, 2 cans of butter beans (drained and rinsed), and 1 ½ tablespoons of capers (drained).  Toss the dressing and salad together and enjoy.
  3. Cold cucumber soup with some French bread.  In a food processor add 3 seedless cucumbers that have been peeled and chopped, ¾ cup of chopped green onions, 1 tablespoon of fresh lemon juice, 1 teaspoon of lemon zest, 1 teaspoon of sea salt, ½ teaspoon of pepper and 1 ½ cups of vegetable broth.  Puree.  Stir in ½ cup of sour cream and chill for about an hour.  Garnish with additional chopped cucumbers, green onions and lemon zest if you like.
  4. Meat and potatoes.  This menu requires the grill, which is a good alternative when you need to cook food but don’t want to do so in the oven.  Salt and pepper your favorite cut of steak and put it on the grill.  Slice potatoes and par boil them on the stove top before bringing them to the grill.  Sprinkle the par cooked potato slices with a little steak seasoning and lay them on the grill.  Watch these closely as it won’t take long for them to pick up some grill marks.  Flip them over and continue to grill on the other side until cooked and heated through.    Allow the steak to rest for 5 minutes before slicing.  Chop up some lettuce and lay the sliced steak on top of the lettuce, then arrange the potatoes around the salad and your meal is complete.
  5. Baked potato bar.  Nope, you’re not going to cook the baked potatoes in the oven or in the microwave.  Wash the number of potatoes that you need for your family.  Wrap the potatoes up individually in foil and place on the bottom of your slow cooker in a single layer.  Turn the slow cooker on high for potatoes in about 4 hours or low to have baked potatoes in about 8 hours.  The potatoes will stay in the cooker so as family members get home they can eat when they are ready.  Have a selection of toppings ready, including cheese, sour cream, pre-cooked bacon bits, chopped ham, and butter.  Anything your family likes on their baked potatoes can be used here.

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How to Teach Your Child to Tie Their Shoes Without Bunny Ears

Monday, August 20th, 2012

Tying your shoes is something that most people do almost every day, often without even thinking about it, but with the invention of Velcro shoes some parents are putting off teaching their children how to tie their shoes.  However tying shoes is a necessary lesson that can be taught when a child is young.  If your child can handle a pair of scissors and successfully cut paper then she has the dexterity to tie her own shoes.  Kids should have the ability to tie their shoes between the ages of 3 and 6.

The easiest way to start teaching your child to tie her shoes is to get a couple of adult shoes out to practice on, one for you and one for her.  On her shoe it might make the teaching process easier if you re-lace her shoe with a white lace in which you have taken a marker and colored half of the lace.  That way you can refer to the white lace and to the colored lace instead of trying to explain right and left to her.

If your child’s dominant hand is the same as yours, sit side by side with her to teach her.  If your child has the opposite dominant hand, then sit across from her.  This will ensure that you are not teaching her backwards.

Step 1: Cross the laces and tuck one lace underneath the other lace and pull both laces tight to the shoe.

Step 2: Make a loop out of one of the laces.  While holding that loop tightly in one hand, use the other hand to wrap the straight lace around the loop.  Show her how to tuck the straight lace through the hole beneath the loop that she is holding.  Let go of the loop.

Step 3: Take a loop in each hand and pull tight.  Adjust the loops until they are about the same.

Step 4: Take a loop in each hand and cross them, just like she did at the beginning with the laces.  She will tuck one loop under the other and pull tight.  Now she has double tied her shoes and they shouldn’t come untied.

Step 5: Practice, practice, practice!

Allow your child to practice with you and patiently help her perfect her skills.  This lesson could take as little as 45 minutes or it could take several days, depending on how quickly your child picks up on the technique.  Make the process fun and your child will want to keep practicing.  If you get upset with her then she won’t want to continue practicing because it will no longer be fun.

Once she has mastered tying the big shoe let her practice on her own little shoe.  This will be harder because the laces will be much shorter.  After she has gotten good at tying her shoe with it off her foot, show her how to loosen the laces and put her shoe on and then tighten up the laces and tie her shoe.  She can sit and practice this skill on her own at this point.  Make sure that you lavish her with praise every step of the way.  Soon you will be able to have her put her own shoes on and tie them herself.  This is a huge accomplishment for her and one she should be proud of.

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10 Safety Tips for Parents with Guns

Friday, August 10th, 2012

Every parent wants to do anything necessary to keep their child safe. Many parents forget a vital fact, children and guns do not mix. There are ways to be a gun owner without risking harm to your child. Here are ten good safety tips for parents with guns.

  1. Never Leave Your Guns Loaded – By leaving your gun loaded, you are taking an unnecessary risk. Children tend to be very curious, and they may wonder what the black shiny thing is.  They may not understand the fully that the gun can hurt them and others.
  2. Store Ammo and Guns Separately – By storing you ammunition in a different place than your gun, even if your child discovers one or the other, they will not have access to both at the same time. Unloaded guns without any ammunition are fairly harmless.
  3. Invest in Trigger Locks – While there are a lot of people who argue the necessity of investing in trigger locks, it is a great investment for all parents with guns. Trigger locks will make it impossible to shoot the gun. This protects kids of all ages from accidental misfiring of the firearm. Of course, trigger locks only work if they are installed properly on all of your guns.
  4. Teach Respect for Firearms- The best way to protect your children when it pertains to guns is to educate them. You want to teach them that guns and other firearms are not toys, they can hurt people. Also that they should respect all guns, whether it is a hunting rifle or a pistol. All guns deserve respect and proper handling.
  5. Never Point Guns at People- If you want to teach your child how to be safe with guns, one of the first things to teach them is to never point guns at people. Of course, you need to follow the rule, too. Do not tell your child not to aim a gun at people if you joke around and aim one at people yourself.  Children learn best by example.
  6. Never Assume a Gun is Empty- Assuming a gun is empty is just how many shooting accidents happen. If you always treat your gun as if it was loaded, even when you think it is not, you will keep it pointed in safe directions and be careful not to place your finger on the trigger.
  7. B-B Guns Aren’t Toys- One of the most common misconceptions is that B-B guns cannot hurt anyone, they are just a toy. Sadly to say, they are a real weapon. They may not kill someone but they still can cause real damage, and they can hurt someone. Children need to follow gun safety rules with B-B guns, just the same way that they follow them with all other firearms.
  8. Never Leave a Gun Unattended- Whether you are going to bed or to the local store or even just into another room, you should never leave your gun unattended. Unattended guns are asking for trouble. Children appear and disappear quickly; don’t take the chance.
  9. Clean Guns Safely- When you are cleaning your gun, remember to have it facing toward the floor. This stops people from accidentally discharging the weapon in the direction of themselves or another individual. Also teach your child the importance of making double sure that there are no bullets left in the barrel or chamber prior to cleaning.
  10. Gun Safes- The most important investment a gun-owning parent can make is to purchase a gun safe. This allows the parent the ability of hiding all the firearms under lock and key. Keep your guns safe from innocent children and any other unwanted person. Gun safes can be purchased small enough to hold one handgun and big enough to hold an arsenal.

No matter what safety tips you follow to protect your children from the dangers of guns, remember that you have to arm your children with the right knowledge of how to best respond to holding, operating, or maintaining firearms. Arming you children with the proper knowledge is the best way to protect them from the dangers of firearms.

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5 Popular Playdough Recipes

Wednesday, August 8th, 2012

Playdough is a hallmark of childhood, largley because it’s so fun for kids to mush and squish around.  The possibilities of what you can create with Playdough are endless, and kids have a blast rolling it around, squishing it up, and imprinting different toys into it. However it can also be tempting for little kids to eat due to its squishy consistency, which can make parents wary of buying it for their children. When you make your own Playdough, however, you know what is in it and the ingredients it’s comprised of and can rest assured that it won’t poison your child if they happen to put some in their mouth.  There are many different recipes for Playdough, and each makes a different type of dough.  Check out these 5 popular Playdough recipes and have hours of fun with your kids.

  1. Make dough with a more rubbery feel.  Mix together 2 cups of baking soda, 1 cup of corn starch, and 1 ½ cups of water with a fork in a saucepan.  Boil this mixture over medium heat until the mixture thickens.  Dump the mixture onto some wax paper or a plate and allow it to cool until you can handle it.  Next, press and knead the dough until you like the texture.  At this stage you can add a fragrance if you’d like, but keep in mind that if it smells good enough to eat it might entice your little ones to do just that.  To color the dough add some food coloring and knead it until you are happy with the color.
  2. Make all natural Playdough using plant juice for coloring.  Take 1 cup of flour, ½ cup of salt, 1 cup of water, 2 tablespoons of oil, and 2 tablespoons of cream of tartar and add it to a saucepan.  Make sure that you add the water slowly while mixing.  Cook the mixture over medium heat until you reach your desired consistency.  Dump out the dough mixture onto some waxed paper and allow it to cool until you can touch it.  Now knead the dough until the texture is smooth.  Divide the dough into 3 equal parts.  Add a few drops of beet juice for pink dough, a few drops of carrot juice for orange dough, and a few drops of spinach juice for green dough.
  3. Make nutty dough for those that love peanuts.  No need to cook this dough.  Just mix together 1 cup of peanut butter, 1 cup of powdered milk, 1 cup of honey and 1 cup of oatmeal.  Press the dough together with your hands.  The kids can help mix up this one because it won’t be hot.  Be careful not to allow kids younger than 12 months old to play with this dough, as it does contain honey.  This dough is edible.  
  4. Make brightly colored, fruity dough.  This recipe contains alum which most people may not have at home.  Plan on making several batches of this Playdough in different flavors.  Start by boiling 2 cups of water, and then add 1 packet of flavored drink mix to the boiling water.  In the bowl of a stand mixer add 2 ½ cups of all-purpose flour, 3 tablespoons of corn oil, ½ cup of salt, and 1 tablespoon of alum.  Add the flavored hot water to the bowl and with the dough hook on, knead the dough until you get a smooth dough-like consistency.  Depending on the humidity you may have to add up to an additional cup of flour to get the right consistency.  If it seems sticky start adding flour a spoonful at a time and allow it to mix thoroughly before adding the next spoonful.  This recipe makes really soft Playdough that will keep for a long time in a zippered storage bag.
  5. Make Playdough in a bag with the kids.  Start by giving the child a gallon-sized zippered storage bag.  In it place 4 tablespoons of oil and food coloring.  Gently mix those two ingredients.  Next, add 4 cups of flour, 1 cup of salt, and 1 cup of water.  Zip up the bag and smash the bag around until the dough is combined.  If the dough seems too sticky add some more flour a ¼ cup at a time.  If the dough seems too dry add a little bit more water.  Once the dough has been thoroughly mixed the kids can pull it out of the bag and mix and match it with their friends.  The dough will stay pliable for several weeks if kept in an air tight container.

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Why Siblings Don’t Make Good Babysitters

Thursday, August 2nd, 2012

When parents are forced to leave the home for work purposes or social engagements it’s not uncommon for them to leave an eldest child in charge of both the household and their younger siblings for a brief period of time. This family-based approach to childcare raises few eyebrows; however, there are several reasons why it may not always be the best idea. Before leaving your children in the care of an older sibling, there are a few factors that you might want to consider.

The Arrangement Can Affect Sibling Relationships and the Family Dynamic

Younger children may have a difficult time accepting an older sibling as an authority figure, especially if they’re not accustomed to being left in their care. Faced with a willfully disobedient, stubborn younger sibling, older kids can become disillusioned with the idea of helping to care for them; the strain that such behavior places on sibling relationships can easily extend to the dynamic of your family as a whole; this tension and the damage it causes can be difficult to avoid or repair. Often, an unrelated babysitter, even one of comparable age and childcare experience level, can maintain order and establish themselves as an authority figure with less difficulty and better results than a sibling.

Arguments Can Quickly Spiral Out of Control

Most often, when siblings argue, there is a parent or authority figure on hand to intervene before the situation gets out of control. Left to their own devices, however, kids who have a tendency to argue or an established history of not getting along are likely to have disagreements that lead to serious altercations, up to and including physical violence. This is especially true when a younger sibling resents the authority that a parent has bestowed on a brother or sister that they view as an equal, rather than a caregiver.

Kids Can Become “Partners in Crime”

Parents of several children are well acquainted with the crowd mentality, which can cause children that are normally well-behaved to descend into anarchy the moment they have a willing accomplice. Siblings that get along well may not have dangerous disputes or suffer from mutual resentment as a result of a sibling-as-caregiver arrangement; they may, however, find themselves breaking the rules and behaving in a way that they know isn’t acceptable simply because there are no adults to stop them. Rather than supervising younger brothers and sisters, older siblings often become inadvertent ringleaders, which can sometimes lead to disastrous results.

Possible Legal Ramifications

Depending upon the laws in your area, leaving an older child in charge of his siblings could be considered unlawful neglect. The National Child Care Information Center states that only Illinois and Maryland currently have laws mandating a specific minimum age for leaving a child at home alone, and even those states consider additional factors when determining neglect. Should a situation arise in which emergency assistance is required in the absence of an adult, parents may find themselves in a precarious legal position.

Resentment Can Lead to Dangerous Conditions

In most cases, the oldest child in a family is eager to accept responsibility for their younger siblings on occasion, both as a means of exerting their independence from their parents and to establish a pattern or responsibility that extends to the earning of privileges or other compensation. Still, there are teenagers that view such responsibilities as a burden, especially when frequent babysitting duties interfere with their own budding social lives or the pursuit of favorite hobbies. When older kids resent their parents and younger siblings for this interference, they can become so angry that they provide less-than-adequate care for the youngest members of the family; in the supervision vacuum left by a resentful sibling caregiver, kids can very easily find themselves in dangerous situations.

When older children are forced to look after their siblings as a result of a significant change in the family, such as a divorce, extended illness, or even sudden financial difficulties that require a second parent to enter the workforce, the stress of coping with those changes is compounded by the added responsibility of looking after younger brothers and sisters. During these complicated and often traumatic times in the lives of your children, it may be better for everyone involved if an outside caregiver or an older member of the extended family is called in to meet childcare needs. Teenagers that are struggling with some degree of upheaval or change in family dynamics are not the ideal choice to shoulder the serious responsibility or the burden of becoming a primary caregiver, especially if they’ve shown signs of resentment or lashing out as a result of such arrangements.

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