Thursday, October 31, 2013

5 Ways to Keep Kids Safe on Halloween

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Happy Halloween!  So many of us are gearing up for a night of trick-or-treating.  It's a fun and magical time for children.  But it can also be dangerous if proper precautions aren't taken.  Here are 5 easy tips to keep kids safe on Halloween...
 
 
 

Light it Up
Trick-or-treating doesn't officially start around here until it's dark outside.  And with the cold, Midwest weather, it's common for people to drive their children from street to street.  So it's important for parents to do all that they can to make sure their children are fully visible to cars.  That means costumes are never all black.  Kiddos should also wear glow sticks attached to their fronts and backs so they can be seen coming and going.  (You could also use reflective tape.)
 
Give Them Your Number
Write your first name and cell phone number on a piece of paper for your child's pocket or write it on your child's arm before you head out.  That way if they get lost, there is a way for someone to contact you if your little one can't/doesn't remember your phone number.
 

Hold Hands
Keeping little ones close during the trick-or-treating hullabaloo can be tough, but with all the people out driving around, we have to try our best to keep them within arm's reach.  It can be tough for kiddos to wait to cross the street, but it's important that we impress on them the importance of safety and hand-holding when crossing the street- especially at night.

Know Who You're Getting Candy From
It came as a surprise several years ago when a man living 2 doors down from us was arrested for having thousands of horrible and illegal images of kiddos on his laptop.  And even though I stay  vigilant year round, every Halloween season when we begin mapping out our path, I make sure I go onto Family Watchdog and pull the sex offenders report for my neighborhood.  And then we avoid their houses.  When we pass their houses, I check to see if they are handing out candy.  In our state, sex offenders don't have extra restrictions on Halloween, but you better bet if I see them handing out candy, I'm calling law enforcement so they can keep a close eye on them.  To find a list of offenders in your neighborhood, visit the Family Watchdog site, and enter your address.  A map similar to the one below will pop up.  The red, blue and green boxes represent the residence of different types of offenders.  You can click on the squares to open up their info to include specific address, name, picture, and what they were convicted of.  It's a great tool to use to learn exactly who is in your neighborhood. 
 
 
Check and Double Check
Before you set out, make sure that you've instated the family rule that no candy is eaten during trick-or-treating.  Not only will this keep little ones from getting hyped up on all that sugary goodness before bed, it gives you time to check the packaging on all treats back at the house before they're consumed.  We have a firm rule about how treat wrappers should look... They shouldn't appear to be opened and resealed, no chemically smells, and no homemade treats.  My reasoning is that I just don't know everyone, so I'm not going to implicitly trust them. And as a parent of a child with nut allergies, we cannot chance anything.
 
 
Be safe out there, friends!!  
 






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Monday, October 21, 2013

Carving Pumpkins with Kids

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I don't honestly remember when the last time I carved a pumpkin was.  Last year we painted them, and the year before that... I have no clue.  I think someone carved one for us?  Going through this backtrack in our Halloween traditions sort of makes me feel like I've let my kids down thus far.  So when we got the chance to try out several pumpkin carving kits from Pumpkin Masters, I figured it was a great chance to start a pumpkin carving tradition.

 
The kits were two-part and contained the tools and paper templates.  When he saw the cat, Bear immediately knew that was the one he wanted to do.  After we got the pumpkin scooped out, he punched the holes in the template for me to cut along.  As you can see below, he had a real-life kitty helper to work on the pumpkin with. 

 
I wish I could've gotten his reaction after he inserted the plastic eyes into the finished pumpkin on film.  He was so excited! Jumping up and down! You can see the results of the kitty pumpkin complete with strobe light here

Bear's favorite part was the plastic eyes that came with the kids kit.  He wanted to use them to decorate a little pumpkin of his own design.  Using the template crayon that came in the kit, Bear drew a mouth and nose on his pumpkin for me to cut out.  He experimented on the sides of his pumpkin with the hole punchers and surface carvers from the other kits.  I'm usually very protective over the types of sharp items that I allow him to use, but the tools in the kits were much safer to use than a kitchen knife, so I let him have a go at it.  I love how his little pumpkin turned out!
 

Here's a little video we made while creating a Cyclops pumpkin. 

 
Have you carved your pumpkins yet?  When do you usually do it? 




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I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls Collective and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

hearing safety for kids

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Toy vehicles that screech sirens and motor sounds.  iPads with earphones.  Movies and live concerts.  All of these things provide noises at levels that are above the safe levels for children. 
 
Hearing safety. it's not one of those jump-out safety topics that's on the headlines frequently.  I'd actually venture to say that it's more of a forgotten safety issue for many parents.  But it's honestly an easy one to forget... Not like putting on sunscreen to prevent sunburns or looking both ways before crossing the street.  Hearing loss is invisible, intangible, and most importantly, irreversible.   

There are a ton of facts out there on hearing loss.  I briefly contemplated sharing some of them with you, but didn't want to come of all ranty and holier-than-thou.  So here are two bits that I learned that I was unaware of...
  • 17/1000 children under 18 have lost some or all of their hearing (source) 
  • A normal conversation happens at about 60 decibels.  Hearing loss can occur at anything above 85 decibels within 15 minutes of exposure in smaller dB cases. 

Here are some ways you can protect your child's hearing:

Use hearing protection
When your family goes to concerts, live shows, and yes, even movies, ear protection is the safest and most assured way of protecting your children's hearing.  Most of these events boast environments with noise levels loud enough to cause hearing damage after 15 minutes of exposure. 

Turn down the earphones
A good rule of thumb: if you can hear the sound coming out of the earbuds in your child's ears, it's probably too loud.  Right now with Bear {5}, this isn't too much of an issue as he rarely will use them.  But with Pip {17}, it's something that we can monitor because she's older and uses them.

Muffle the toys
Before buying toys that make noise, activate them and put them up to your ears.  Though we can't actually measure the decibels ourselves, we can certainly tell how loud is too loud.  If a toy's volume makes you grimace or makes your ears ring, it's too loud.  In many cases, these baby toys and child toys, when placed directly to the ear, are deafening.... literally.  We have had several toys over the years that have "run out" of batteries and never been brought back to life with new ones because they are noises that I just. can't. stand. 

But then there are the toys that I don't mind the noises, it's just their volume that's disconcerting.  This is how I fix them so that they aren't so loud.  (Please note: if you use my method, the glue makes it a permanent fix that is not reversible.)
 
1. Supplies: scissors, strong super glue, craft foam, tape
2. Cut a square of foam to fit in the space over the speaker and the area surrounding it.
3.  Glue down the craft foam and use tape to hold it until glue is dry.
Arm your kids with knowledge
The website It's a Noisy Planet has a great interactive sound ruler that lets you explore differnent decibel levels and their effects with kids.  By helping kids learn the dangers of hearing loss and how to prevent it, they can be their own hearing safety advocates as they grow.

Know the signs of hearing loss
Most of our children received hearing screens when they were born and get them annually at their exams.  But in between those times, watch for:
  • Persistent ear-ringing or pain
  • Asking "what" or for you to repeat yourself frequently
  • Consistently turns up the volume on the tv because they can't hear it well

You can find more signs of hearing loss in children here.  If you have any questions or concerns about your child's hearing health or safety, contact your child's physician.
 
 
 
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Check out Why Does My Teen?, which is an informational site for the parents teens.

Disclaimer: The information contained in this post is not meant to provide or replace medical advice.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

firefighter sensory bin

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Bear {5} is and has been obsessed with firetrucks and emergency vehicles for several years now.  i'm not sure why we haven't done a firefighter sensory bin yet.  i actually haven't put a new one together in a while as other activities have taken up our time. 
 
when Bear saw the new bin, he was ecstatic.  for an invitation to play, i set up the bin to be visually appealing.  i didn't, however, expect it to stay that way.  i wanted him to have free reign for what his imagination could come up with.
 

the materials i used were:
you can see below how i set it up.  the black gems and glitter pom poms represent a fire.  the extra large safety cone and hat were not necessarily part of the sensory bin, but something for him to use for himself during play.



Fire Chief Bear was so excited, he dove right into play rescuing people and putting out fires.
 
 
for more amazing sensory bins you can go to my recent post with lots of sensory bin ideas or Sensory Bin Pinterest Board.
 
 
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Monday, October 14, 2013

a house shaped like anything: kids spell it out

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welcome to the Kids Spell It Out series! every monday will be a post filled with funny and adorable answers that kidlets give to questions. this week's question is:
 
If you could live in a house shaped like anything, what would it be?

I'd live in a house shaped like a fan, because that would be cool! {bursts into laughter}
Bear {4.5} Crayon Freckles
 
A triangle.
Big Brother {4} Frogs and Snails and Puppy Dog Tails {FSPDT}
 
Shaped like my "Minecraft" guy.
Henry {7} PlayDrMom

Shaped like a fire station, with a fireman's pole.
Nico {4}

A heart shaped castle because it's always beautiful!
Elizabeth {7} Enchanted Homeschooling

A house with a swimming pool.
Lily {4} MamaSmiles

Shaped like Mickey Mouse Clubhouse.
Honor {4} PlayDrMom

A creeper. (from Minecraft)
Baloo {7} Royal Baloo
 
A house.
Tristan {5}

A house.
Johnny {5} MamaSmiles

A star because it's my favorite shape.

A triangle, because I would like to climb up the ladder against one side and then slide down.
Emma {7} MamaSmiles

Mater.  Not Lightning McQueen.  Just Mater.
Royal {3} Royal Baloo
 
 
if you'd like to participate in this series, leave a comment below and i'll get in touch!
 
 
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Check out Why Does My Teen?, which is an informational site for the parents teens.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Jeremiah and the Potter {Bible Activities for Kids}

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the story
God spoke to Jeremiah and told him that he was chosen to talk to the Israelites about how they were straying from God.  God told Jeremiah to go to a potter's house, where he saw a potter working on a misshapen clay pot.  As the pot was not turning out right, the potter started over using the same lump of clay.  God told Jeremiah that His people were able to be changed just like the clay was. 
 
the activity
The kids painted their own terra cotta pots.  As they painted, we talked on the following conversation points:
  • What is something that you've messed up?
  • Were you able to go back and do it the right way?
  • What are ways that we can allow God to shape us like clay?
For older children, instead of simply painting pots, you could provide the material to make pinch pots or coil dough pots
 
taking the lesson home
When they left, each child got a small tub of playdough.  On the outside of the container, I taped small slips of paper that read, God is the potter and I am His clay, which is based on Jeremiah 18:6-8.  This was a great way to share with parents what our lesson topic for the day way and provide a hands-on activity for them to do at home to further explore the story of Jeremiah.

 
 
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Check out Why Does My Teen?, which is an informational site for the parents teens.

 

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Helping Kids Handle Deployment

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I didn't share much while it was happening for personal reasons, but at this time last year, we were preparing for my husband to go on a 6 month deployment.  Helping my kids handle their dad's deployment was something that was tough.  But what we did worked well for our family, so I thought I'd share with you how we made it work....
 
Be Honest
A conversation such as this is guaranteed to elicit questions from little ones.  My best and greatest piece of advice is to be honest.  Bear was 4 yrs old, so the info we gave him was limited.  But for Pip, who was 16, it was a different story.  We told her where Daddy was going, what the political climate was like, and what the risks were.  I think that for older children, it's better to give them some information because then there are less unknowns that they have to be afraid of.
 
Keep in Touch
We were blessed to be able to Skype or talk on the phone virtually every day that my husband was gone.  If your family isn't able to do this, do whatever works best for you.  Time differences can be problematic, especially if your kiddos are in school.  So if "face time" isn't always possible, there are other fun ways to communicate.  You can handwrite letters or small notes, send emails, or make silly videos.  Snapchat and Instagram are both great apps for making short videos to share with people.
 
Swap a Special Something
Before he left, my husband gave Pip one of his tshirts and Bear a very special blanket .  These were special items that were theirs to hang onto, snuggle with, or just go to for comfort while their daddy was gone.  The blanket was from the amazing organization called Project Linus, an organization that donates blankets to children who are going through crisis or rough times.  Our local chapter hands them out to the children of deployed soldiers.   
 
Send a Piece of Home Overseas
One of the toughest part of the hubs' deployment was that he was gone during almost everyone's birthdays, thanksgiving, and Christmas. I think that Christmas was probably the hardest on all of us.  To help create a more festive environment in his room, we sent him a teeny, tiny tree with a set of plug in lights.  Aside from that, we sent monthly care packages filled with snacks, notes, and little things we found.  Bear loved helping to pack the boxes up and take them to the post office.  If you're shipping overseas, I recommend the flat rate priority boxes.  You can fill them as full as possible (weight doesn't matter) for a fixed price.
 
Create Their Presence at Home
To make sure we kept a piece of Daddy around the house, we made a paper doll with his face on it.  "Flat Daddy" went with us when we went to do special things, out to dinner, or even just when we read books before bedtime.   
 
Build a Support Network
It's important to keep family and friends in the loop about the changes happening in your family.  Though we didn't broadcast the news too far on Facebook for my home security reasons, I did make sure that I talked with Bear's teachers and our youth leaders at church to let them know where my husband was so that they could handle any related conversations or comments that might come up in regards to it.  We also have a few close friends that checked in on us often either through text, Facebook, or by just showing up. 
 
Learn How to Handle Worries and Fears
This started with me.  I tried to address all of my worries and concerns as quietly as I could, because I didn't want them to pick up on things and make their emotions worse.  Plus!  If they were doing fine, I didn't want Momma to bring them down..  Kids will surprise you, that's for sure.  I was amazed at the resilience and adaptations the kids made after my husband left.  It's not that they didn't miss him or want him home, but I think that a lot of it had to do with how I composed myself and how we addressed it as a family through our faith. 
 
Make a Countdown
Six months can be a long time to countdown.  So to make it simple on ourselves, we counted down by week.  I got two packs of those plastic shower curtain rings and linked them together to form a long chain. Every Monday, the kids and I would take Flat Daddy out to dinner for Chinese.  And when we came home, we'd take down a ring off of chain. 
 
Don't Promise
As hard as it is, I wouldn't suggest promising that Daddy/Mommy/whoever will be safe, or will come home.  There are those heartbreaking situations where a return just doesn't happen, or the service member returns with injuries.  And all to often, deployments are lengthened, and return dates are changed.  I guess, the bottom line was, that I didn't promise the kids these things because I knew that I honestly couldn't ensure that they'd happen.  Instead, I told the kids that we'd pray that God would bring Daddy home safe. 



So that's how we helped our kids deal with deployment.  I know that our ways may not be the best ways for all families, but they are what worked for us to make the time easier.  If you've written a post on helping children deal with deployment, please leave your link in the comments and I'll add it to the bottom of this post for readers to check out.
 



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Monday, October 7, 2013

what's in outer space: kids spell it out

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welcome to the Kids Spell It Out series! every monday will be a post filled with funny and adorable answers that kidlets give to questions. this week's question is:
 
What's is in outer space?

Moons!
Big Brother {4} Frogs and Snails and Puppy Dog Tails {FSPDT}
 
The planet we live on, the moon, the planet Mars.
Nico {4} Glittering Muffins

The Space Buddies!
Elizabeth {7} Enchanted Homeschooling

The moon.
Lily {4} MamaSmiles

The moon and earth.
Johnny {5} MamaSmiles

I don't know..... space?
Tristan {5}

The sun, planets, and lots of stars!  You might also see some astronauts and the Milky Way, too!
 
The moon and stars.
Emma {7} MamaSmiles
 
 
if you'd like to participate in this series, leave a comment below and i'll get in touch!
 
 
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Check out Why Does My Teen?, which is an informational site for the parents teens.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

10 Ways to Promote Language Development in Children

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We drive around town quite frequently as we run errands or pick up Pip and her friends from school.  This can sometimes make for boredom for Bear in the backseat.  Something that we often do is backseat storytelling.  I start a story based on what I see and  Bear finishes my sentence and adds anything to it he feels necessary. 

Me: "That car is driving fast.  he is going to ________.  "
Bear: "He's going to the store to buy some cheesecake." 
Me: "He's going to take the cheesecake to the fire station so ___"
Bear: "So the firefighters get dessert for eating all of their dinner."

You get the idea.... 

One of the greatest influences on how much and in what ways children talk is through the interactions they have with people in their environment.  Here are some other ways to support your child's developing language skills

For Infants/Toddlers:
  • Say the name or describe what is seen in the surroundings.  Examples: "look at the red ball" or "ooh... a soft puppy"
  • Talk to your child normally.  Avoid baby talk.
  • Don't be afraid to use baby sign.  Using simple signs such as "milk", "please" and "more" can provide nonverbal infants/toddlers with the ability to communicate, which lessens frustrations.  After the sign is made, supply words to go along with it.  "You want more crackers?  Here you go."
  • Read books to your child. Provide books for them to explore. Babies will likely chew on board books, toddlers will likely tear pages. That's par for the course.
     

     For Preschoolers:
  • Use simple, direct language.  Remember that some analogies (it's raining cats and dogs) can be confusing to children.
  • Restate the child's statement. don't correct or criticize.  If kiddo says, "I just kicked-did the ball!"  You needn't point out their error, just restate correctly.  "Yes, I saw you kicked the ball."
  • Support early reading/writing attempts.  Scribbles on a piece of paper may not mean anything to you, but to your preschooler they represent the idea that the lines and curves on paper are words
  • Books, books, books.  Read them to your child. Let them look through them on their own.  You can even look through them together and allow your child to narrate the story based on the pictures. 
  • Don't question.  After seeing the above mentioned scribbles, a first response shouldn't be "what is it?"  Instead, ask the child to tell you about what they wrote.  This will validate their effort
  • If you don't mind them scattered around your home or classroom, you can label items such as chairs, doors, windows, etc with index cards or sticky notes. 


If nothing else, remember these these 3 tips:
  • Each child is different... don't compare them to others. 
  • Be supportive of any communication attempts.
  • Remember that you are your child's greatest teacher.

 
 
Keep in touch with Crayon Freckles on Facebook to get daily post previews and hear about other great activities! You can also follow Crayon Freckles on Pinterest and Twitter.
Check out Why Does My Teen?, which is an informational site for the parents teens.
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