Get your Kid’s involved in a Sustainable Future {Guest Post}

If you’ve decided to build a new home, there are a number of energy efficient solutions that you should consider. Not only are sustainable practices great for your power bills, but they will also help to create a more liveable environment for your children and grandchildren. While it is important that you do all that you can to create a green home environment, educating your kids and involving them in environmentally friendly activities around the house can further assist in creating a sustainable future. Whether you’re building a new house or have decided to implement some environmentally friendly practices into your home, check out these ideas for getting your kids involved and educated.

Composting

Introducing your kids to the idea of composting can help them to understand that even leftover foods have their place in the environment. When building your new home, consider the floor plans and layout of your backyard to determine an area for your composting bin. A composting bin can be bought from various hardware stores and is relatively inexpensive. Composting will not only help your children to understand that waste products can be reused, but will also teach them appreciation for the environment.

Planting

When deciding to build, you often have the luxury of creating your dream garden. Spending days filled with sunshine in your backyard is the perfect way to relax, while still getting your family involved too. Most children love to plant and participate in gardening, particularly when they get to pick their very first strawberry or tomato from the garden. Creating a garden that allows you to harvest your own produce and give your children understanding about the value of nature, is a lifelong lesson that they’ll always remember.

Recycling

Getting kids to understand recycling at a young age is an invaluable lesson. Parents can make recycling fun, by creating a colorful system in the kitchen and also by showing kids how to reuse products. After Christmas, for instance, parents can create fun activities to reuse greeting cards by cutting and pasting pictures to make fun new creations.

Fun Education

If you’re building a new home, a number of house and land packages now come with energy efficient inclusions, such as solar panels, water tanks, energy efficient lighting and water saving fixtures. Teaching your kids about how your house works and how you are helping to create a sustainable future can encourage them to become more involved. Create fun, educational activities about how the solar panels on your roof allow you to watch our favorite television shows. The possibilities are endless, so start your kids on a greener path today.

Instilling good values in your children from a young age will help them to understand the value and importance of creating a sustainable future. While you’re educating your kids, you’ll also have the opportunity to create fun family memories of days spent together in the sunshine.

{Disclosure: This is a guest post. All opinions and thoughts are the writer’s. I have been compensated for posting this.}

Breakfast: Thinking Inside And Outside The Box

The following excerpt is taken from the new edition of Food Fights: Winning the Nutritional Challenges of Parenthood Armed With Insight, Humor and a Bottle of Ketchup (American Academy of Pediatrics, March 2012) by Laura A. Jana, MD, FAAP and Jennifer Shu, MD, FAAP. For more information about Food Fights, please visit www.HealthyChildren.org, the official American Academy of Pediatrics web site for parents.

It’s easy to see how breakfast has come to qualify as one of the nutritional challenges of parenthood. Whether it’s your own parental time constraints or your child’s busy schedule, getting the whole family ready to set off to child care and/or school in the morning, play dates, or any of a whole host of other common early-in-the-day commitments, breakfast is often neglected. If the words “slow” and “leisurely” don’t exactly describe your morning routine, we’d like to suggest that you commit a little extra time and effort to protecting the nutritional integrity of your child’s morning meal. Whether you opt for a simple breakfast or a more elaborate one, any effort to make it nutritious is better than no breakfast at all. Whether that means a glass of low-fat milk and a piece of wheat toast or an all-out feast, the following breakfast-made-easier tips will hopefully help you rise to the occasion and overcome some of the most common barriers to a healthy breakfast.

Schedule Accordingly. While we’d like to remind you that sitting down and sharing family meals is beneficial, we’re willing to bet that sitting down to a leisurely breakfast with your kids each morning simply isn’t realistic for most of you (or us, for that matter). What is realistic, however, is making sure you carve out enough time to allow your child to eat without pressure. Especially for infants and toddlers, this includes factoring in enough time in the morning’s schedule to allow for both assisted- and self-feeding.

Fix Breakfast Before Bedtime.In other words, plan ahead. As with just about all other aspects of feeding your child, a little advance planning can go a long way toward having a wider range of healthy foodson hand. Simple examples such as hard-boiling eggs ahead of time orhaving your child’s favorite cold cereal dished out the night before to pair with some presliced fresh fruit can mean the difference between time for a balanced breakfast and running out the door without it (or, as is often the case, with some commercially packaged and far less nutritious alternative in hand).

Grab-and-Go Breakfasts. If the reality of your schedule is such that you and your kids routinely run out the door with no time to spare in the morning, then try stocking up on a variety of nutritious foods that you can pre-prepare and prepackage for healthier grab-and-go convenience. In addition to hard-boiled eggs, consider other fast favorites like sliced apples, homemade muffins, or a bagel with low-fat cream cheese.

Make Sure Sleep Is on the Menu. Applying the age-old adage, make sure your child is early enough to bed that she rises early enough to allow time for breakfast. No matter what their age, tired kids tend to be cranky, and cranky kids are far less likely to sit down for a well-balanced breakfast. Not only that, but sleep has proven itself to be a crucial ingredient in children’s overall health.


Broaden Your Horizons. You’ll certainly want to keep safety in mind when figuring out what’s age-appropriate to offer your child for breakfast, but don’t let yourself be constrained by artificially imposed labels to determine what is good to serve for a morning meal. Think protein, think fruits and vegetables, and think outside the box when it comes to expanding your breakfast horizons beyond just breakfast cereals and milk.

Look for Child Care and School Support. Be sure to check out what breakfast options your child’s school or child care provider offers. With much-deserved attention now being paid to the food our children eat in out-of-home settings, you’re more likely to find balanced breakfast options on the menu, and your child may well be more receptive to eating them if all of his friends are eating alongside him.

(Disclosure: I was compensated for this post. This is a guest post and all thoughts and opinions belong to the author.)

7 Ways To Help Other Women

Today, March 8 is International Women’s Day when thousands of events are held to honor the achievements of women around the world. Cindy Breilh, Women of Vision national director, offers seven easy ways for women to provide for daughters, sisters and mothers — women around the world, right in our own neighborhoods and here at home.

1. Save a woman’s life in child birth:
Did you know that in countries like Afghanistan, Sierra Leone, and Bolivia, having a baby is one of the most dangerous things a woman can do? By helping train local midwives in remote communities, you could save a life. Visit StrongWomenStrongWorld.org to learn more.

2. Mentor a girl close to home:
A growing poverty rate, poor-performing schools, and teen violence make it tough to be a girl growing up here in our own country. Reach out and influence the life of a young girl in your own community by volunteering as a tutor or mentor. Get connected at BBBS.org.

3. Use your voice to stop trafficking:
Human trafficking and sexual exploitation affects girls and women in horrific ways all around the world, but the Trafficking Victims Protection Act in the US Senate can help end the practice. Contact your Senators and ask them to renew this bill to protect women and girls, both here in the US and around the world.

4. Invest in a small business owner:
Websites like WorldVisionMicro.org or Kiva.org connect you to hardworking women entrepreneurs, waiting to realize their dream of a dressmaking business, chicken farm, or food stall that will help them provide for their family. Even better, when the loan is paid off, your donated funds are loaned out again and again to make a bigger impact.

5. Provide the ticket to education—clean water:
One of the most common reasons girls in poor communities miss schooling is the lack of clean water in their village. Millions of girls and women spend several hours each day fetching water—often dirty and dangerous to their health—instead of attending school. Give the gift of clean water, and open the door to education for a young girl.

6. Band together with like-minded women:
Whatever your passion for helping other women, you’ll do it better—and have more fun doing it—with other women excited about the same cause. National movements like Women of Vision can connect you to a network of resources while allowing you to grow your own local group of women who want to make the world better for girls and their mothers.

7. Tell the women in your life that you care:
Empowering women starts right in our families, workplaces, and neighborhoods. Celebrate this International Women’s Day by writing a note of thanks to that teacher who encouraged you years ago, picking up coffee for that new mom in your office who’s struggling to balance it all, or telling your own sister, daughter, or mother how much you appreciate them.

(Disclosure: I was not compensated for this post.)

Saving For College {It’s Never Too Early To Start}

This post is part of Women’s Money Week 2012. For more posts about Saving & Investing see Saving and Investing Roundup. This is a guest post written by my dad, Bill, who does this for a living so he really knows what he is talking about!
 

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the tuition component of the Consumer Price Index (CPI) increased by 8% per year, on average, from 1979 to 2001. This means that children born today will face college costs that are 3 to 4 times current prices by the time they matriculate.

Parents should expect to pay at least half to two-thirds of their children’s college costs through a combination of savings, current income, and loans. Gift aid from the government, the colleges and universities, and private scholarships accounts for only about a third of total college costs.

Accordingly, it is very important that parents start saving for their children’s education as soon as possible, even as early as the day the child is born. Time is one of your most valuable assets. The sooner you start saving for college, the more time your money will have to grow.

If you start saving early enough, even a modest weekly or monthly investment can grow to a significant college fund by the time the child matriculates. For example, saving $50 a month from birth would yield about $20,000 by the time the child turns 17, assuming a 7% return on investment. Saving $200 a month would yield almost $80,000.

It is less expensive to save for college than to borrow. Either way, you’re setting aside a portion of your income to pay for college. But when you save, the money earns interest, while when you borrow, you’re paying the interest. Paying for college before your child matriculates definitely costs much less than paying for college afterward. Saving $200 a month for ten years at 7% interest would yield $34,818.89. Borrowing the same amount at 6.8% interest with a ten year term would require payments of $400.70 a month. At 8.5% interest the payments increase to $431.70 a month. (If your return on investment is 4% instead of 7%, you’d accumulate $29,548.13. Borrowing this amount at 6.8% interest would entail monthly payments of $340.04; at 8.5% interest the monthly payments would be $366.35. If your return on investment is 10%, you’d accumulate $41,310.40, corresponding to monthly payments of $475.40 at 6.8% and $512.19 at 8.5%.) So if you elect to borrow instead of saving, you will be paying 1.7 to 2.6 times as much per month.

Even if college is just a year or two away, it is never too late to start saving. There are tax benefits to saving in a college savings plan or prepaid tuition plan, and every dollar you save is a dollar less you’ll need to borrow. For additional information visit my website.

Guest Post: Financial Planning For College

The following is a guest post written by my father. This is not a compensated post but I am letting him share here because he is so passionate about sharing this message with everyone. To find out more about this, or any other insurance product, you can call or email him (contact information below). It’s free to find out more information and get your questions answered and he’s really knowledgeable- and I’m not just saying that because he’s my dad! :)

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IT’S IMPORTANT TO SEND YOUR CHILDREN TO COLLEGE.

YOU DON’T HAVE TO BE WEALTHY IN ORDER TO DO IT!

YOU JUST NEED A PLAN.

FREEDOMFLEX ® is the plan that can make this a reality.

Our college planning services were designed for families such as yours, who desire a college education for their children. When coupled with Freedomflex, it provides death protection on the lives of the parent(s) in the event of premature death, while providing a tax deferred environment in which cash values accumulate. These cash values can be used as an emergency source of funds, to help repay college loans, or to help supplement your retirement benefits. The lender is approved under the Title IV provisions of the Higher Education Act, and has loaned millions of dollars to families for educational expenses. Members and their students have access to college/career profiles, scholarship searches, financial aid form reviews, counseling and advice on college related matters, and many other services. Overall, these services provide you with a systematic method of preparing for your children’s education.

FREEDOMFLEX® offers an exceptionally valuable service. The education services coupled with, the life insurance policy provides the following:

A cash accumulation account with competitive guaranteed and current interest rates with no minimums and no surrender charges. This account will allow you to shelter certain assets to qualify for the maximum amount in government grants and subsidized orunsubsidized loans. This account also provides a way to accumulate transition money for students to use after graduation for such things as clothing for job interviews or deposits for living expenses when they are on their own.

An option to redirect your non-insurance premium to an alternative cash accumulation vehicle that can experience a higher growth rate.

A death benefit to pay for college, or to pay off student loans used for college expenses, or to supplement family income in order to allow the student to stay in college if the parent dies.

A disability benefit to self complete the plan for both life insurance and savings features.

The plan provides continuous service long after high school graduation, throughout the entire college experience. In addition, the lender is approved under the Title IV provisions of theHigher Education Act and makes a commitment to you to lend you all the money you need to complete your student financial aid requirements. In the changing environment of today’s student financial aid arena, it is a valuable thing, knowing that your loans will be there. You have flexibility in your service, flexibility in your options, and the flexibility to determine what is best for you, with your plan.

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For additional information, or to set up a FreedomFlex® plan with access to the college planning services, please contact Bill toll free at: 866-763-2196 or email: wpeiffer@ismamerica.com.

Insure that the money for college is there when it’s time, even if you aren’t…

Super Bowl XLV: The Ultimate Man Date (Guest Post)

The following is a guest post by Beth Feldman:

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Ask any football loving fan what their dream date would be and nine times out of 10 he’ll say tickets to the Super Bowl. As my father-in-law always says, “you can’t put a price on a good time,” so if you’re considering biting the bullet and treating your significant other to the ultimate “Man Date,” follow this game plan and you’ll come up a winner:

Super Bowl Tickets – You can reserve seats for the big game on StubHub – Ticket prices start at $2200 all the way up to nearly $400,000 for a coveted spot in the Hall of Fame Suite. If you’ve just won Powerball, then the Super Bowl Hall of Fame option is definitely for you. The best thing about Stub Hub is that fans are constantly buying and selling tickets on the site so you should keep checking back to see what’s available or hedge your bets, and lock in right now!

Flights – While you can always hit the websites for your favorite airlines, my suggestion is to head over to Trip Advisor where you can select whether you’d like to take a non-stop or connecting flight and they arrange everything by price. Plus, there are ratings by customers on which flights they prefer.

Hotel Reservations – Head on over to the Arlington, Texas website which has detailed information on hotels in the area. You can aim for the Ritz Carlton, Hilton or a motel (if you’ve blown all your cash on the Super Bowl tix.)

Rental Car – If you’re flying into Dallas/Ft. Worth airport, then head on over to RentalCars.com for a breakdown of all the rental car facilities near the airport. That way, you can choose from a diverse array of options and price points.

Things to Do While in Arlington – If you’re in town for the weekend, visit the NFL Super Bowl website for details about some great charity events taking place throughout the weekend that feature appearances by NFL players. Plus, the City of Arlington’s official website also offers suggestions for attractions and dining options in the area.

So there you have it – treat your significant other to the ultimate “Man Date” and by the time Valentine’s Day hits, you should be on the receiving end of something big and sparkly.

(Disclosure: The post was sponsored by the Role Mommy Writer’s Network.)

Guest Post: Easing Separation

The following is a guest post by Jessica of I’m Not Your Everyday Average Mom!

I have recently started working out again. I figured after 18 months I can no longer say that I “just had” a baby and am carrying around baby weight. My husband wanted to get back into shape too from his “baby weight” and we decided that the best choice for our family was to join the local YMCA. They have a great work out facility, exercise classes for me, and a large adult pool plus a kiddy pool that is 10 degrees warmer than the adult pool. The kid’s pool stars off at 0 feet and slowly goes deeper so both of my kids can enjoy it without us holding them the whole time! Our kids’ favorite part of the YMCA is the gigantic water slide that we are allowed to take them down on. MY favorite part of the YMCA is the FREE childcare that is offered! They have an outdoor play area, an inside classroom area, and then a climber inside for kids to play on.

My son gets excited to go and play, but my daughter on the other hand develops superman like strength and clings onto me with a death grip. She then shakes her head back and forth and says “no, no, no, no!” I hate having to pry her off of me and hand her to the gal that works there, but I know in 5 minutes she will be laughing and running around with her brother and all of the other kids! It is just so heart wrenching to see her cry and get upset because I am leaving her there. It has gotten much better over the past 3 weeks and I feel like she is doing well because of a few things that I am doing.

I have had to remember what I learned in school about child development (I am a certified teacher birth-8th grade), and how to make transitions smoother for children.

Here are a few tips and things that I have been trying, and I find that they are working well!

  • Don’t sneak out…I know that it is hard not to, because you won’t have to see the melt down, but tell your child goodbye and that you will be back to pick them up soon! That way you are not disappearing, but telling your child what is going on.
  • Know the person’s name that is going to be looking after you child. I have been saying to my daughter “Look, it’s Amy! Remember her? She is going to play with you while mommy is in the gym!”
  • Let your child bring their blanket, stuffed animal, or other comfort item with them. I have been letting my daughter bring in her blanket. She usually ditches it within the first 10 min, but it helps her to have something of comfort when I leave.
  • Give them some extra cuddle and love time when you get back!

I know that things will get easier and she will soon LOVE to go and play! It is just going to take time!

What tips and tricks do you use when dropping off your child at a day care, or when leaving them with a sitter to make things easier?

To read more from Jessica visit her blog!
Create your own banner at mybannermaker.com!

New Ways To Handle 6 Typical Baby and Toddler Scenarios

The following is a guest post from Dr. Jenn Berman, author of SuperBaby:

The way we communicate with our children is profound. Simple word choices completely change our children’s perception. As parents, we are constantly met with limit testing and resistance. The following are some effective methods for handling some typically tough situations using respectful communication. These easy-to-use scripts can be used over and over again in all kinds of situations that typically arise in the first three years.

Situation: Your baby cries as you are changing her diaper.
Instead of saying: “You’re okay.”
Try this: Narrate what you see. “I hear you crying. You sound really upset. I get the feeling you don’t want me to change your diaper. I will try to change it as fast as I can so you are not uncomfortable for long.”
Why: In that moment your child isn’t okay. If you were upset and your friend told you “You’re okay,” you would not feel heard. Narrating the experience your child is having allows her to know that you hear and respect her feelings. You are still holding the boundary (i.e., she is still having her diaper changed), but you are doing it with compassion. By reflecting her feelings, you also teach her how to be empathic, which helps in the development of emotional intelligence.

Situation: Your child drops a toy on the ground and has a meltdown.
Instead of saying: “Get over it! It’s just a toy!”
Try this: “I see you dropped your toy. You seem really upset! You look like you weren’t done playing with it.”
Why: Sure, to you or me, it is just a toy that fell on the ground, but to your child, this is genuinely upsetting. Demonstrating empathy is far more likely to help her calm down and to feel heard. By responding to her in this way, you become a safe and understanding source of comfort to her.

Situation: Your toddler does not want to climb into her booster chair.
Instead of saying: “Get in your chair, now!”
Try this: “Do you want to climb in or do you want Mom to put you in?”
Why: This gives the power back to your child while still setting the limit. Now there is less reason for her to resist. If she still refuses to get in the booster chair, you might say, “It looks like you are not hungry. Maybe you are too tired to eat. Your choices are chair or crib. You choose.”

Situation: Your son does a great job cleaning up after playtime.
Instead of saying: “What a good boy!”
Try this: You can say, “You put all your toys away! You even put all your books in the basket where they belong!”
Why: The implication is that he is a “good” boy for putting away his toys, so if he doesn’t, he must be a “bad” boy. The words “good” and “bad” connote moral judgment. Children are not “bad” because they don’t do what we ask. A child who is labeled “good” can feel as if he duped his parents when he does something not so “good.” He may also avoid taking a risk, like putting a toy away if he isn’t sure where it goes, because he doesn’t want to lose the title of “good boy.” You are better off describing what you see. This makes your child feel seen and valued.

Situation: At a playdate, your child hits another kid over the head with a toy, resulting in tears.
Instead of saying: “Say you’re sorry!”
Try this: “You hit Carley over the head with that toy. She looks really upset. What can you do to help her feel better? Let’s ask her what we can do to help her.”
Why: Forcing a child to say “I’m sorry” does not magically make her feel sorry. Making children say they are sorry when they don’t really feel sorry teaches them to be insincere. Encouraging your child to help the injured party teaches him about making amends and helping others.

Situation: Your child throws her food on the floor.
Instead of saying: “Stop it!”
Try this: “When you throw food on the floor, it makes me think that you are done eating. It you do it again, the meal will be over.”
Why: When children first get to sit in a high chair, they are curious to see what happens when they drop food. By following the recommended script, you let your child know the consequences of the action, you set up a rule, and you put the power back in her court. She can choose to end the meal by throwing food on the floor, but it is her choice. If she has a meltdown after you remove her from the high chair, your job is to hold your ground, but reflect her feelings (“I know you weren’t done and you wanted to stay in your chair. We can try again at lunch”). If you follow through with the stated consequence, the odds are that the situation won’t happen again for quite some time.

6 Tips To Encourage Language Development

The following is a guest post by Dr. Jenn Berman, author of SuperBaby:

It has been shown that the sheer number of words spoken to a child is directly proportionate to the size of her vocabulary. However, this applies only to direct conversations you have with your child. The words she overhears from television, videos, radio, or other conversations do not count.

While the techniques recommended below were developed for children who are having trouble learning language, they are beneficial for any child. When using any of these methods, avoid seeming to correct your child’s language which can discourage language use.

Technique: Modeling
Description: Model the correct word your child is trying to say without correcting her.
Example: Child says, “Baba!” while pointing to bottle. Dad then says, “Would you like your bottle?”

Technique: Self-talk
Description: Describe what you are doing, thinking, feeling, seeing, or hearing.
Example: “Now I am putting your dirty clothes into the hamper. I want to make sure they are clean for the next time you want to wear them.”

Technique: Parallel talk
Description: Describe what your child is doing.
Example: “Shayla is putting away her toys.”

Technique: Expansion
Description: Develop a child’s utterance into a complete sentence, expanding on it without changing the order of the words or intended meaning.
Example: Child says, “Mommy eat.” Mom then says, “Yes, Mommy is eating lunch with Ashley.”

Technique: Recasting
Description: Create a statement or question based upon the child’s statement while also adding new information or sharing correct pronunciation.
Example: Child says, “You shirt is lellow!” and then dad replies, “Yes, my shirt is yellow!”

Technique: Extension
Description: Add information to a topic your child has initiated without necessarily modeling a complete sentence.
Example: Child says, “Airplane!” then Mom says, “Big airplane high in the sky!”

Guest Post: Price Matching 101

*The following is a guest post from Shelly at Coupon Teacher.  She loves to save time and money.*

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First, let me preface my post by saying that I am not endorsing Walmart in this post.  As a matter of fact, I avoid going to Walmart like the plague.  But for busy moms, stores that price match, including Walmart, can be an easy solution to saving money.

What is Price Matching?

Several grocery stores, electronics stores, and office supply stores offer what is called price matching.  In other words, they will give you the advertised price on an EXACT item that you planned to purchase at another store.  Let’s say I really need Kraft cheese, Dannon Yogurt, and Cheerios at the store.   Those items probably aren’t all on sale at the same store at the same time.  Pricing matching means, I would look through my ads for those items, circle the prices, and take the ads with me to the store that is willing to price match.

Here is the Price Matching policy from Walmart (most other price matching stores have similar policies):

  • We do not honor advertisements that require a purchase in order to receive the advertised price or free product.
  • We do not honor “Buy One / Get One Free” advertisements.
  • We do not honor double or triple coupons or percent off advertisements.
  • We do not honor other retailers’ “Misprinted” advertised prices.
  • We do not honor Internet Pricing.
  • We do not honor competitor advertisements from outside of the store’s or Club’s local trade territory.

How does it save you time?

Well, if you are like me and trying to save money for your family, you go to more than one store each week for groceries.  I go to each store in my area and buy what is on sale.  This can get to be pretty time consuming and use a lot of gas (my stores are all within a mile of each other and closer than my Walmart).  There are only two ways that price matching takes up your time.  It takes a few minutes to look through the ads, and it will take longer at the checkout than a regular transaction.  Assuming your checker has the register under control; it should still save you a ton of time over running around to different stores.

How does it save you money?

You will get the sale price for the item, which would usually be lower than the store’s regular price.  At Walmart and some other price matching stores, you can still use coupons on the items you price match.  It will also save you money on gas, because you aren’t running to different stores all week.

I am definitely not saying that Price Matching is for everyone, but it can be a valuable tool for saving money.

What about you, do you price match items?

Shelly is a full-time fourth grade teacher and blogs at Coupon Teacher. She wants you to share and celebrate your successes with her, and she may give you a few tips along the way!  Right now, she is offering a free savvy shopping course.  She would love for you to join her!

Guest Post: Avoiding The Summer Reading Slump

4708541783_73def324fa.jpegGuest contributor and MobiStories.com producer Wendy Toone, offers great tips on how your kids can avoid brain drain when they’re out of school. Take a look…

It’s Summertime! Catching fireflies, eating dinner on the deck, swimming, no school!!!

What have your kids been doing? Waking up late, lazing around in front of the TV? It’s nice to decompress after the school year. For a few days. But now what?? Camps, classes, playdates can fill up the days and keep the kids active and occupied. But my fear is always that their brains will turn to mush by mid-July, leaving them (and in turn, me) frustrated and floundering come mid-September when they’re back in school with flabby grey matter that hasn’t been exercised in way too long.

According to Kent State Graduate School of Education’s Dr. Timothy Rasinski, professor of literacy education, students can lose as much as 3 month’s worth of reading level over the summer. Research shows that younger elementary school students rarely make up deficits in reading once they fall behind. Conversely, students who read during the summer could end up 3 months ahead, too.

So, why not be even just a little pro-active in keeping your kids reading. That doesn’t mean they need to plow through “War and Peace” by August 24th. Here are just a few FUN ways reading can become part of your family’s summer fun activities:

Don’t fight TV: Kids insist on watching TV? Try letting them… with the sound off and the closed caption on (sneakyyyyy)

Act it out: Get the whole family in the act and tackle one of the classics as a play. How fun is “Charlotte’s Web” when every family member plays a different character and reads aloud…don’t forget to speak in accents and voices, use arm motions, whatever to have FUN.

Campfire stories: The art of storytelling is the original ‘reading’ before the printed page…. Everything sounds good around a fire – family memories, ghost stories, or fairy tales can captivate kids. Try a “make-it-up” story where everyone adds just one line at a time.”

Discover the classics : Treasuries of classic literature is available for even younger readers that may not be ready for the “real” version. Advanced readers can expand their world with the likes of Jules Verne and Mark Twain in addition to Stephenie Meyer and JK Rowling!

Log reading hours in a Read-A-Thon : Several non-profit groups such as Reading Is Fundamental and PBS Kids have read-a-thons that can be found on the web. Great goal-setting activity for the summer as well!

Use Your Local Library!! So many summer programs are available for all ages/reading levels. Story/song time for toddlers, book clubs for tweens and teens…And they’re FREE!

Organize a Book Swap: Get together with friends and neighbors to exchange previously read books. This allows the kids to read the latest titles (not always available at the library) while you save $$.

Get your kids excited about reading this summer by getting them excited about stories in new ways to keep them from suffering the “Summer Reading Slump.”

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Wendy Toone is a child expert, having owned and operated a leading children’s fitness center and now produces MobiStories, Digital Books for KidsTM. She is a cableAce-award winning television producer and has worked on hundreds of television commercials as a Production Manager after spending a decade onstage as a professional dancer. Wendy’s two children have been inspirational in the creation of MobiStories.

To download a free digital book for your PC visit MobiStories.com, click on Summer (in the Ages 2 – 4 category) add it to the cart and Michelle Obama then enter the code SUM0710 in the Coupon Code Box. Here’s a How To video for reference as well.

To purchase more stories, visit Mobistories on iTunes.

(Disclosure: I am being compensated for posting this guest post. I do, however, believe that reading to children and keeping their literacy skills sharp during the summer are very important and I think that MobiStories.com is a great resource for families.)

Don’t Turn Away

Below is a guest post from Kristi Stephens about the upcoming series on her blog.

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I have an odd defense mechanism with things that make me uncomfortable – I go to sleep!

When on long car trips through the mountains with no exits in sight, or stuck in a traffic jam in a tunnel, and we start to run low on gas, I lean my seat back and sleep (when NP is driving, of course!) I figure that if we are going to run out of gas, it will happen whether I am awake and anxious or asleep and blissfully unaware – most likely we’ll be fine, so I might as well avoid the stress and sleep!

There are a lot of horrifying and evil things in this world that I would rather not think about. I find myself metaphorically sleeping in my seat to avoid anxiety.

Human trafficking is one of those issues I would rather not think about.

Chew on these stats – read them out loud if it will help them sink in.

  • 100,000 girls, ages 9-19, are trafficked in commercial sexual exploitation in the U.S.
  • 3,000 children are forced into commercial sexual exploitation at any given time, just in San Francisco.

  • 1.2 million children are trafficked internationally each year
  • As many as 4 million women and girls are bought and sold worldwide every year.

Horrifying.

I’m guessing most of us are like me – we’d rather close our eyes, stay blissfully unaware. We figure it’s going to happen whether we know about it or not, so we might as well ignore it.

It’s time to wake up, friends. There are things we can do.

The more I learn about human trafficking, the more it vividly illustrates for me my state as a former slave, redeemed from the bondage of sin. Christ paid the price with His own blood to redeem my life from the pit – the least I can do in return is to tell others about the freedom available through my Savior. And as a former slave, redeemed by a God who loves justice and mercy, I feel compelled to do all I can to secure freedom for the millions of physical slaves in this sin-marred world.

I humbly ask you to join me on this journey. For the next two weeks- the weeks before we commemorate the blood-price paid for our freedom – it is my honor to host Gillian Ferdwerda from Women at Risk, International here on KristiStephens.com. Gillian will be sharing amazing stories, horrifying statistics… and hope. Women at Risk, also known as WAR, is on the front lines – helping to find, rescue, love women and children who have been sold, abused, betrayed, forgotten. There are so many ways we can help.

So please be sure to read this amazing series. Visit Women at Risk, International’s website. Learn all you can about trafficking. Tell your friends. Post links on facebook, twitter, or your blog. Please help spread the word – wake us from our slumber.

If you are a blogger and would like to help, please grab this button for your blog – the more who hear, the better.

BWS tips button

Code: <a href=”http://www.krististephens.com/redeemed”><img src=”http://www.krististephens.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/03/WAR-page.jpg&#8221; alt=”BWS tips button” width=”150″ height=”125″></a>

Let’s proclaim freedom for the captives in the name of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.