Being generous this holiday season

Teaching generosity comes easy to the Smith family of Charlotte, North Carolina. This holiday season, the family of five is working together to make another family’s Christmas more Merry.  The family has created their own charity, “Seed Bead Santa.”

Seed bead bracelet

“We are making safety pin, seed bead bracelets and donating all of the proceeds to a family in need,” said mom, Jen Smith.

Making the safety pin, bead bracelets is a family affair.  Dad, Kyle, and 8-year-old Kate enjoy putting the beads on the pins. Olivia, 6-years-old, likes to lace the safety pins on elastic.  Jen takes the orders and ships the packages.  Elowen, 3-years-old, even has her role.

“She likes to play with the beads,” Jen said, with a laugh.

Jen and Kyle are using the charity to teach their children about giving back.  Both explained how this concept is reinforced through Seed Bead Santa.

“Generosity is part of our Smith Family Mission Statement,” Kyle said.  He continued to explain that the family Mission Statement was created when he was tired of simply asking his daughters, “What did you do today?” at dinner.  Thus, he wrote down values that were important to him and ran it by his wife.  They agreed it would become the Family Mission Statement.

The Mission Statement includes values of “We believe in craftsmanship and quality,” “We value joyfulness”, and “We do things properly.”  Perhaps, most fitting, the Smith Family Mission Statement declares, “We give of our time to those less fortunate.”

Kyle said you can teach kids to give part of their allowance or you can teach to give of their time.

“We wanted to show our children that giving of your time is as important, sometimes more important, than giving of your money,” Kyle said.

Jen agreed, “We live in an instant gratification society.  We thought it was important to teach the kids that giving is more important than receiving.”

The Smith family has sold enough bracelets this season to provide a family in need with gifts.  The Smiths have chosen a family of an honorably discharged veteran who has 4 sons and a wife.  So far, the family has sold enough bracelets to give each child one gift.  If more bracelets are sold, the Smiths can provide more gifts to the family in need.

The bracelets sell for $8.95 plus $2.95 for shipping.  Customers can choose the bead colors, buy a predetermined design or have a bracelet custom made.  If you are unsure what you want, Kate has a suggestion.

“For a girl, I would make a bracelet with light purple, light pink and light blue beads,” she said.  “For a boy, I would use black beads, dark pink, because some boys like dark pink, and dark blue beads.“

The lesson of giving back seems to ringing true with Kate.

“I am very excited to pick out gifts for the other kids,” she said.

The family plans to continue Seed Bead Santa next year and will sell bracelets throughout the year to raise more funds.  For more information, to make a purchase or to nominate a family in need, please contact Jen here.

As an added bonus, if you make a purchase, you are likely to get a customized thank you note from Kate or Olivia.

“They really seem to embrace the lesson of giving back,” Jen said.

© Let’s Talk Kids, 2014

Teaching your children about numbers

Learning about numbers lays a foundation for good math skills.  Numbers are to math like letters are to literacy.  In order for children to be good at a skill, they need to understand the components that make up the problem.   More specifically, children must know how to count and identify numbers before they can add, subtract or multiple.

This week, we share some tips to teach your children numbers at home.

  • Five little frogs.  Say this nursery rhyme while holding out your hand.  Each time a frog goes away, put down one finger.  “Five little speckled frogs sat on a speckled log, eating the most delicious flies (yum, yum).  One jumped into the pool where it was nice and cool.  Now there are only four speckled frogs.”  Continue singing the song and counting down until you get to the end of the song with no frogs.
  • Meal count. During breakfast or dinner, take an opportunity to count.  Identify how many plates are at the dinner table, how many glasses and how many utensils.  Discuss how many things you put on your plate or eat.
  • Trace numbers.  Start by drawing numbers on a sheet of paper with a marker.  Use your finger to trace the number shapes.  Next, try tracing the number with a crayon or pencil.
  • Hopping game.  Choose a number and hop in place that many times.   For instance, if you choose 7, hop 7 times.   You could also make this into a race and hop across the room.
  • Zero.  Learning about nothing tends to be difficult for children.  To teach this concept, we encourage you to give your child three items.  Ask him how many he has if you take away 1.  Then, take away another object and see how many items he has left.  Continue this until you get to zero.
  • Number claps.  Start with 10 sheets of paper and write down the numbers 1-10 on the sheets of paper.  Have one person hold up a number from the deck while the others clap that many times.
  • Face count.  Take turns looking at each other’s faces.  Ask your child how many eyes you have; then count his eyes.  Repeat the process for ears, teeth, tongue, nose, eyebrows, etc.
  • Polka dot counts.  For this activity, you will need bingo daubers, paper and markers.  Start by writing and drawing a number on a sheet of paper.  For instance, you can write 3 and three.  Have your child accurately daub the correct number of dots on each sheet of paper.
  • Toe count.  Count how many toes your daughter has.   Then, count how many toes her dad has.  If she has a sibling, count everyone’s toes.   See if everyone has the same amount.
  • Money and numbers.  Show your child real bills and how they have numbers on the bills.  Explain how a $10 bill is worth more than a $1 bill.  Practice putting the bill numbers in order from smallest to largest.

Counting together gives everyone an opportunity to practice numbers and learn the basic building blocks for math and science skills later in life.  By teaching your child about numbers today, you are instilling skills for life.

© Let’s Talk Kids, 2014

Kids need structure

Imagine one of the nation’s most powerful public figures at a school near you.  He shares ideas about being a leader and a good citizen.  Then, he yells, “At ease!”  The kids quickly stop talking and listen.  He has their attention.

Colin Powell, the former U.S. Secretary of State, has been traveling the country and sharing an important message with children that discipline and respect is essential to be a good citizen.  He also encourages parents to provide structure at home and says this is where success starts.

“It begins, the first time with a child in his mother’s arms, he looks up and says, this is my mother, she is the one that feeds me,” Powell said.

He continues the message by sharing how a young child trusts the loving adults that provide for her needs.  The mother, father, grandparent or sibling will talk with the baby, feed the baby and change the child’s diapers. This is when structure begins.

“By three months of age … that is when language, love and structure begins,” Powell says.

He emphasizes the importance of reading to a child, teaching a child and spending quality time together.  His message states that this is the nation’s responsibility- with Head Start, preschool and prenatal care.  But it is also the responsibility of parents.

“The education process begins, even before the child is born,” Powell says.

He says that parents should be reading to their children.  A high indicator of lifelong success for a student, and a child, is their ability to read in third grade.

“If you are not at the right reading level in third grade, you are a candidate for jail at age 18,” he said.

Powell freely offered that he was not the best student in preschool or elementary school and got his records to prove it.  He even tried a few college programs, which didn’t work for him.  Finally, he found structure with the ROTC and excelled.

He notes how the military provided him much success because of the structure.

He then traced his success back to his upbringing and having a community that believed in him.

“You can self-improve and self-educate as you go along.  But, this begins with the gift of a good start,” Powell said.

He attributed his good start by being raised in a nice family, a family that believed in him.

“It is so essential that we put this culture back into our families.,” Powell said.  “We are not just investing in our kids, we are investing in our future.”

© Let’s Talk Kids, 2014

What role does birth order play in shaping personality?

Have you ever noticed how children from the same family can be so different?  Do you often look at your children thinking how am I raising these kids with such opposite personalities?

In his book, The Birth Order, Dr. Kevin Leman explains that many of these differences can be attributed to the order in which your children were born.  We share some of his theories below.

  • First born.  A child who is born first tends to be a perfectionist. This child has a lot of adult attention since they are the first baby in a family. Parents have high expectations and ask their children to perform well in school. First-born children tend not to break rules and like to follow directions to please people, namely their parents.
  • Middle child. The second child, or those born in the middle of other siblings have characteristics of being a peacemaker. They tend to be more quiet or easy-going.  This child typically likes their older and younger siblings and might serve as the bridge between the two.  At times, this child will try very hard not to be their older sibling.
  • The youngest.  Older children will say that this child gets away with everything.  Some believe that parents are more tired and just don’t have as many rules or are less concerned about enforcing the rules. This child tends to like attention and have things his or her way.

 

Leman’s book goes on to describe how birth order affects children throughout their lives. Sometimes it shapes the careers that is chosen and/or whom we marry.  Leman’s theory argues that first born children will tend to marry youngest or middle children; whereas, a middle child will marry a younger or oldest child.   He states that we like the roles we play in life and enjoy abiding by what we know.

In the career world, older children take something stable like a government job, accounting or a leadership role. Younger children like to have careers that are noticed- a radio deejay, a politican or a dancer.  Middle children will find a role where they can nurture or keep the peace, like a teacher or in healthcare.

Similarly, children might have different interests based on when they were born. An oldest child might enjoy academic activities or be the captain of the football team. As a reminder, the oldest likes to excel in what he does and possesses maturity in his role.  Younger children will be more outgoing and seek to perform- dance, music or acting might be more their style.  They enjoy the spotlight.

Parents should not be concerned if their children do not easily fall into one of these categories.  Kids who are the only child can possess each of these characteristics. Likewise, if there is a big gap in your children’s ages, you might have two children with first-born characteristics.

Overall, it important to love and nurture your child where they are at without having expectations that the second or third child should be just like the first child. Enjoy celebrating the different characteristics in each of your family members.  Variety is the spice of life!

© Let’s Talk Kids, 2014

It’s a Wacky, Wacky Wednesday!

Dr. Seuss inspired us to celebrate the days of the week. In his book, “Wacky Wednesday,” he specifically focuses on the middle of the week and the numerous funny things that can happen in one day.

Children love to read this book. It is extra fun for them since that have to interact with the pictures in the book by identifying and counting all of the wacky things that are out of place.

We thought it would be fun for you and your family to recreate some of the funny things that happen in the “Wacky Wednesday” storybook. Here are some of the ideas we came up with.

  • Wall shoe. Since the book starts out with the “crazy shoe on the wall,” mimic this. Tape a shoe to the wall or many shoes. Put one or two on the ceiling, if possible.
  • Wacky alphabet. Start by writing the letters A-Z on note cards. Mix them up so they are not in order. Even put some of the letters upside down. Can your child identify which ones are wacky? Ask him why. Then, help him rearrange the letters into the correct alphabet order.

    photo_wallhanging_small

  • Upside down photos. Turn the photos or wall hangings in your house upside down. We found that command adhesive strips work well for this. See if your child notices the wackiness of upside down photos!
  • Backwards nap. During naptime, sleep on the opposite end of your bed. Put your head where your feet should be. Make sure to put your feet on your pillow.
  • Fruit tree. The book shows upside down bananas in a tree. Can you creatively put fruit in a tree by your house? Ask your child to find the fruit. If you don’t have a tree, hide fruit around your home. Take turns finding the fruit. Eat it together as a snack.
  • Mixed-up clock. Put removable labels over the numbers on your clock and mix up the order of the numbers. Put the 12 where the 6 should be and so on. Ask your child if he notices anything different about the clock.
  • Shoe table. Place a shoe on one of your kitchen table legs. This would be similar to what happens at the school in the book.
  • Count the wackiness. Have your child count how many wacky things she can find around the house.
  • Roller skating parent. If possible, put on roller skates or rollerblades in the house. (Make sure to be safe!). Act like everything is perfectly normal.
  • Funny signs. At one point of the book, there is a sign outside that says “Four Sale.” To highlight this idea, put funny signs all around your home. See how many funny signs you can create. Ask your child to count how many funny signs he sees.

When you are finished hosting your real-life Wacky Wednesday, we encourage you to end the day by reading “Wacky Wednesday” by Dr. Seuss.

As your child gets ready for bed, ask him what was his favorite part of the day. Discuss which wacky thing was the funniest and why.

Ask him if Wacky Wednesday was going to happen again, what wacky thing would he like to see? Consider incorporating this into your next Wacky Wednesday day!

© Let’s Talk Kids, 2014

What to expect at doctor appointments

Bringing your newborn baby to the doctor for the first time can be scary. Some parents wonder what to expect, others may fear that the “mean” doctors will make their babies cry with shots whereas some are excited to see how much their child has grown.

We, at Let’s Talk Kids, believe that information is power. Thus, we have created this “cheat sheet” for parents on what to expect for doctor’s visits.

  • Time.  Most appointments are relatively quick and take less than 30 minutes. Some appointments may take longer if children need to have blood tests.  You can call the office ahead of time to ask.

  • Weighed and measured. Little ones most likely will get weighed and measured at every doctor’s appointment. Please note that it is helpful to bring extra diapers since babies usually get weighed nude.
  • Temperature. Oftentimes, nurses will take the temperature of your child. Most are now taking the temperature in the ear or across the forehead.
  • Shots. You can call your doctor’s office beforehand to see if your child needs a shot during the visit. You can also give your child Tylenol before the appointment to help minimize the pain associated with getting a shot.
  • Development questions. Please note that your doctor will ask how your child is developing. He or she might ask questions like, “Is your child eating, walking or talking properly?” These questions will be geared towards your child’s age and the appropriate skill levels for his age. Please note that it is good to be honest with your doctor as there are special services that can aid a child in developing properly. Catching any problem early is more likely to result finding a workable solution and getting your child appropriately caught up. For instance, a child who is not crawling can meet with a specialist to help strengthen his core so he can start crawling.
  • Car seats. New government regulations help ensure children will be safe while riding in vehicles. Your doctor may ask if your car seat is expired, has been in a car accident and/or if it remains current. As you may know, car seats should be replaced every 6 years. Your doctor might also discuss proper installment of your car seat.
  • Living conditions. A doctor may ask about your home life and if you have pets, if anyone smokes or if your child attends daycare. These questions are being asked to help your doctor understand about your child’s health and if she has allergies.  Make sure to answer truthfully to best prepare your child for a healthy upbringing.
  • Examination. When your doctor is done asking you questions about your child, she or he will examine your child. The doctor will look into your child’s ears, nose, throat and at her eyes. She will check your baby’s neck, chest, back and stomach. She will examine the diaper area for rashes or infections. Doctors will also check a child’s legs and feet. Basically, doctors are checking to make sure your baby is healthy.
  • Ask questions. If you have any concerns or questions, a doctor’s appointment is the perfect time to ask. Make sure you feel confident in caring for your child’s health. There is no time like the present to ask a simple question or two.
  • Finishing up. Your doctor will finish the appointment by asking any necessary follow-up questions, by providing advice or giving you a report from what was found. Your doctor will advise you on when your child should come back for his next appointment. If necessary, a doctor will provide you with any prescriptions that you may need filled and may give you a handout of the day’s progress.

Remember that the going to the doctor doesn’t have to be scary. Arm yourself with questions you may have, bring your child and consider packing items to entertain your baby during the appointment.  Knowledge, love, doctor visits and attentiveness are all in the recipe for good child health!

© Let’s Talk Kids, 2014

 

 

We are a Minnesota Cup semifinalist!

Let’s Talk Kids is one of 10 semifinalists in the Minnesota Cup’s Social Entrepreneur category.  The Minnesota Cup is a premiere small business competition.

photo_MNcup
Candi and Wendy Walz presented to a room full of judges and the public about Let’s Talk Kids’ learning kits.

2014 Minnesota Cup Semifinalist

The next step of the process is submitting a 10-page business plan and 15-slides about our business by the end of July 2014. The judges will choose 3 finalists from the 10 semifinalists to advance to the next round. We also will be given a business mentor. We are so humbled and honored to be at this point of the process. We will keep you posted as we learn more.

How do you communicate love?

Each of us has a special language that helps us communicate our love and gives us new opportunities to receive love. After decades of serving as a marriage counselor, Dr. Gary Chapman has boiled down love to five categories- words of affirmation, quality time, receiving gifts, acts of service and physical touch.  He has shared these ideas in his book “The Five Love Languages.”

According to Chapman, we speak and receive love in these five ways.  Each of these languages can be present in our lives, but some languages are more prevalent to individuals than others. Applying this idea to children, you might have one child who speaks or communicates in one love language whereas your other children might speak in a different language.  This week, we encourage you to take the time to understand and discover the love languages your child speaks.  Then, give him the opportunities to receive and give love. It will pay off in huge dividends.
Here are the definitions of the five love languages and some ideas you can do to share love with your child in each language.  We have also included ideas to let your child speak love in the corresponding language.

 

  • Words of affirmation.  Adults can speak words of affirmation to their children by praising them for a job well done or encouraging them to do tasks.  Chapman points out that sometimes people don’t want to do a task if they are nagged but instead might do the task since others have encouraged them.  For instance, by telling your child he is a great dishwasher, you might get him to do the dishes more often than saying, “why don’t you ever help with the dishes?”Speaking words of affirmation can be done through words or by giving a card or note saying how special your child is.  Children communicate  in this language by giving a card, or speaking their love by saying, “You are the best mom, ever” or “Dad, I love when we play baseball together.”
  • Quality time.  Communicating love as quality time means spending time together and giving your child your undivided attention. This means shutting off  the TV or radio and really enjoying your time together.To speak this language, think of fun things you would like to do as a family.  Maybe your idea is to go on a hike, go to the library or have ice cream together. Quality time is an opportunity to unplug and focus on your company.  Children who speak this language might come across as needy when they want your continued time and attention.  Be aware of giving them time and asking them what they would like to do together.
  • Receiving gifts.  Speaking love through gift giving doesn’t have to be costly.  You can give your child a small toy, or something that reminds you of them.  You can also do cost free gifts like draw a picture for your child, writing a song or finding a special rock while you are out on a walk.  People who like to receive gifts find any thoughtful gesture to be an act of love.Children can speak this language by giving parents a feather, flowers she has picked or by coloring a picture for family members.
  • Acts of service. Sometimes, we just want children to do chores without asking. Children who speak in acts of service will be quick to jump in and lend a helping hand. They might keep their rooms organized or clean. They might love cleaning up toys since they know it is helpful to dad or mom.Parents continually speak in acts of service, especially when children are born. Parents have to change diapers, feed babies and rock their youngsters to sleep.  All of this is done as an act of love.
  • Physical touch.  Giving hugs or kisses, holding hands or cuddling on the couch are all examples of physical touch. Children that communicate in this language might like to sit close to family members or touch their hands.  To speak and receive in this language, be open to giving and receiving touch.

Stay in tune with your child and “listen” to the way that she communicates love. It might just help you relate to your child in a new way.  And, we can all use more love in our lives.  Someone wise said, “Love makes the world go around!”

© Let’s Talk Kids, 2014

 

Thank a teacher or two!

Take a moment to think of your favorite teacher.  Did she encourage you to learn by building you up or teaching you a new skill? Did he have interesting, engaging lessons?

We all have a special place in our hearts for the teachers that made a difference in our lives. Some say that teaching is a thankless job, but we disagree. There is nothing better than sharing your knowledge and seeing your students grasp a new idea or lesson.

Parents spend a lot of time and energy requesting good teachers. Each wants their child to learn from the best.

Involved parents also realize that their interactions with teachers support students better. You might think that teachers provide education, but instead, it is a two-way street. Parents also need to reinforce study skills and learning at home.

Staying involved in your child’s academic career will lay a foundation to a positive experience in school.

Here are important tips to follow to build that relationship with the teacher and/ or say thanks for the work that they do:

  • Say thanks with flowers. My sister and I have vivid memories of cutting lilies of the valley from our yard and bringing a vase full of these to school for our teachers. We always felt proud to bring something special to our teachers. We think it made the teacher feel special, too.
  • Think about the support staff. There are many workers at the school that encourage your child throughout the day- this might be the school nurse, the custodian or the lunch staff. Find ways to say thanks to these wonderful people as well. Perhaps have your child write a poem, draw a picture or give a thank you photo to these staff members.
  • Share a card of thanks.  Have your child write a note to say thank you to his teacher(s).  Let him share words from the heart.
  • Send electronic communications. As the parent of a child, tell your child’s teacher he is doing a great job through email.  Sometimes a simple thank you means the world to a teacher!
  • Go out of your way to call the teacher. I still recall getting a call at work about one of my students from her dad. He thanked me for being a positive influence on his daughter and went above and beyond to share about the joy that my class brought to his daughter.  These words of thanks will help keep any teacher going- from preschool to college!

As the school year winds down, we encourage you and your family to say thanks to the important teachers in your life. We also hope you will continue to stay involved in your child’s education career.  It will make a difference!

© Let’s Talk Kids, 2014

Activities to celebrate Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day is a day of love. Kids hug parents, partners give cards to express their feelings and children give gifts to classmates at preschool or school.

As Valentine’s Day approaches, we ask you “What do you do to share your love? How do you show love to your child? How does your child express love?  Here are some ideas on how to share love on Valentine’s Day.

  • Make a hanging heart. Start by drawing a big heart on tag board or construction paper. Use ribbons, glue, markers and lace to decorate the heart with your children. Hang this above your kitchen table for others to enjoy.

  • Sort heart candies. Start with a muffin tin and a box of candy hearts. Label each tin with a different color. Have your child sort the hearts into the corresponding tin.
  • Play pin the heart on the person. This game is a mimic of pin the tail on the donkey. Start by drawing a person on a piece of tag board with a heart outlined in the center. Tape this to the wall. Then, cut out a heart for each person with tape on the back. Use a blindfold and cover each person’s eyes.  Spin them three times and have them “pin the heart on the person.”  The closest to the heart outline wins.
  • Fill Valentine bags. Take a paper lunch bag- white or brown – and decorate these with hearts, sayings for about love, handprints or drawings. Fill these with candy, fruit, pencils, trinkets or small toys for family members or friends. Give them to the people you love or have a scavenger hunt to find them.
  • Trace and cut hearts. Use empty heart candy boxes to trace hearts. If you don’t have any empty heart boxes, trace hearts on cardboard. Allow your children to trace these and cut them out.
  • Host an indoor heart search. Cut 20 hearts out of construction paper. Put these around your house while your children close their eyes or sit in another room. Let them dash around the house to see who can find the most hearts.
  • Create Valentine’s headbands. Start by cutting out 2-inch wide strips of paper. Measure these to your child’s head to make sure the strips are long enough. Glue on paper hearts, use heart stamps or foam heart stickers to decorate your headbands.  Staple these together when you are done decorating. Wear these for your Valentine’s Day supper.
  • Make Valentine’s Day magnets. Start with wooden hearts (you can usually find these at a craft store) and paint them in your favorite colors. Put a magnet on the back and place it on your refrigerator.
  • Host a Valentine’s Day dance party. Invite your friends over to dance with you to the music.
  • Create a Valentine’s Day coupon book. Include coupons that can be used throughout the year. Consider writing things like “a free hug,” “I will make my bed today” or “I will read a story to my sister/ brother.”

Enjoy spending time with your loved ones you love this Valentine’s Day by making special projects for them. Take time to share why you love all of the people in your life this season.

© Let’s Talk Kids, 2014