Creating a Whimsical Woodland Party, by Sarah Wilson

Sarah Wilson shows us how to put together a “Whimsical Woodland Party”, something she did recently for her five year old daughter. Great, creative ideas shared by an energetic Mum!

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Well I’ve been looking forward to creating a whimsical woodland party for quite some time, and with my daughter’s fifth birthday approaching I thought there was no better time than ever to start planning. Recent research has demonstrated what we already intrinsically know – that nature is great for all of us. As a result, nature nurseries, schools and woodland themed activities have become all the rage.

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We decided to host our woodland party at home and being summer, we were able to spend the entire time outside. I’m always in favour of not having too many structured activities at a child’s party, and just letting the kids engage in free play. We started off with a visit from Furries, Feathers and Fangs – a very reasonably priced family owned company that bring animals to events. The children were able to hold a hedgehog, frog, guinea pig, large continental rabbit…

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Four Daily Habits that Build Connection with our Kids, by Rebecca Eanes

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Looking back on my childhood, the summer vacations to the amusement parks and over-the-top Christmas celebrations do stand out in my mind, but the grandiose doesn’t take up the biggest places in my heart. It was small things – fishing at the lake on a hot summer’s day, playing Scrabble at the table, gathering over mashed potatoes and baked chicken – that made me feel connected. It was the ordinary regular occurrences that made us feel like family.

Now I’m raising two children of my own. When I feel like I need to throw a Pinterest-worthy birthday party or guilt arises because I haven’t yet taken them to Disneyland, I remind myself that it’s the everyday habits I keep that they will hold most dear. It’s during the moments when I put aside busyness to be present and attuned to the people in front of me – to laugh, to listen, to love – that the messages that matter reach their hearts. You are valued. You are loved. You belong here.

It doesn’t take a lot of time to connect deeply with our children. In just a few minutes at a time, several times throughout the day, we can bring our focus onto them and fill their cups with positive attention and affirmation. Here are four daily habits you can begin now to build connection:

1. Start the Day with a Morning Blessing

Mornings can be a real hassle. Trying to get everyone up and out the door on time is often a stressful time for families. Our adult minds are focused on the dozens of things we must accomplish in the next 12 hours, and our children are often tired, grumpy, or preoccupied with their own thoughts on the day ahead. Taking two or three minutes of the morning to focus on our child’s face and say something positive can really have a big impact. “Good morning, my love! Seeing your sweet face makes me happy” is a thoughtful way to greet a child into their day. I think“Triple A to start the day.” That stands for attention, affection, and affirmation. Aim to give them your full attention for at least a couple of minutes, offer a hug or rub on the head, and say something positive about them. Making this a daily habit starts each day off on the right foot.

(To read more of this article, please follow the link below…)

https://www.positiveparentingsolutions.com/parenting/four-daily-habits-build-connection

The Benefits of Art for Kids, by Jean Van’t Hul

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Everyone says art and creativity are important, but are you wondering what the actual benefits of art are for kids?

Today I’m sharing some of the many kids’ art benefits as well as a quote about children’s art that I just love.

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THE BENEFITS OF ART AND ARTFUL LIVING

The Artful Parent Book by Jean Van’t Hul

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(Excerpted from The Artful Parent: Simple Ways to Fill Your Family’s Life with Art & Creativity, © 2013 by Jean Van’t Hul. Reprinted by arrangement with Roost Books, an imprint of Shambhala Publications Inc., Boston, MA.)

Educators tell us that art encourages fine motor skills, neural development, and problem-solving abilities and that it can be used effectively to teach and understand other key subjects such as reading, writing, math, and science. Therapists tell us that art is valuable because it allows children to process their world, to deal with sometimes scary emotions in a safe way, and because it gives them critical sensory input. Artists tell us that art is important for its own sake—as a source of beauty and expression, as well as simply for the process of creating. Kids tell us that art is fun, an activity they enjoy. Parents tell us that art is vital to their families because it keeps everyone engaged and happy and helps with the sometimes difficult transitions of the day. Art is naturally linked to creativity, an attribute that is increasingly being touted as one of the most important factors for the success of individuals, organizations, and cultures.

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The truth is that art is vital, if somewhat intangible, and that if children engage in hands-on art activities, they learn much better in all disciplines. Here are some of the reasons why children thrive when they make art:

Art Promotes Creativity

Creativity is the ability to think outside the proverbial box, to string two unrelated ideas together in a new way. Solutions to major problems and breakthroughs of all kinds are linked to creativity. The ability to be creative is vital to the success of our children and the well-being of our world, now more than ever, as we face incredible challenges such as racial discord, wars, global warming, and mass extinctions. Individuals, organizations, and governments seek innovative solutions every day. According to the International Child Art Foundation, “Research indicates that a child who is exposed to the arts acquires a special ability to think creatively, be original, discover, innovate, and create intellectual property—key attributes for individual success and social prosperity in the twenty-first century.” The world needs more and better thinkers.

Art Encourages Neural Connections

Art is an activity that can employ all the senses—sight, sound, touch, smell, and taste—depending on the activity. Children’s brain synapses fire away as they experiment and create, squishing paint between their fingers, mixing colors and materials, or drawing from imagination or what they see in front of them.

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Art Builds Fine Motor Skills

Gripping a paintbrush, drawing dots and lines, mixing colors, cutting with scissors, controlling a glue stick or squeezing a glue bottle, kneading and rolling play dough, tearing paper—all of these tasks require increasing amounts of dexterity and coordination, yet they are so fun and rewarding that children want to do them over and over. As kids engage in art activities over time, their fine motor skills improve.

Scribbling is a Precursor to Writing

Babies and toddlers begin by scribbling randomly, back and forth. The more they scribble, the more they are able to control the crayon and its movements across the paper. As children learn to control their scribbling, they make a wider variety of shapes, eventually making all the shapes necessary to write the letters of the alphabet—any alphabet.

(To read more of this article, please follow the link below…)

http://artfulparent.com/2016/01/the-benefits-of-art-for-kids.html

7 Ways to Build Stronger Connections with Your Kids (Even When You’re Busy), by Kathryn Trudeau

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Dr. Harley Rotbart, author of No Regrets Parenting, reminds us that there are only a mere 940 Saturdays from your child’s birth day until the day he or she turns 18 years old. Nine hundred and forty. That’s it. The statistic is enough to make you start planning family outings and picnics from now until 2026.

But… I have a complaint. Nine hundred and forty days is not nearly enough to bond and create enough memories to last a lifetime. As parents, we are blessed with 6,570 days from birth until the age of 18, why not take advantage of each and every one of those days? Sure, the weekdays are busy, crazy, messy, and loud, but that’s no reason to relegate all the bonding to just Saturdays.

Here are seven ways to build stronger connections with your kids, even when you’re crazy busy:

Reading together.

Studies consistently show that reading to children promotes healthy brain development and improves literacy skills. Reading, however, can be as much of a bonding experience as a learning experience.

Try to carve out at least 10 minutes a day to read together. Even reading a short bedtime story can do wonders for reconnecting with your child during a busy workweek. Have a pre-teen or teen? Let them choose a chapter book and read it together, even if it’s just a few pages per night.

Connect at bedtime.

With babies and young toddlers, parents often fuss over finding the perfect bedtime routine to get baby to sleep, but bedtime is just as important for older children too. Bedtime is a great opportunity to reconnect with your kids, especially after a busy day.

As you tuck your child into bed, give him or her an extra hug or cuddle. Hum a lullaby that reminds your child of when he or she was a baby. Listen if your child has any last minute stories or questions.

It’s all too easy to rush bedtime in order to have a few minutes of peace to ourselves – believe me, I know. But some of the best moments of the day are hidden in the soft, sweet moments between awake and slumber.

Touch.

Both parent-instincts and science tell us that loving touch is important. From building self-esteem and boosting brain development, gentle caressing or loving touches can also help build connections with our kids. Touch is extremely easy to sneak into busy schedules.

  • Exchange a secret handshake as you pass each other in the hallway.
  • A hug first thing in the morning, before departing each other, upon reuniting, before bed.
  • A kiss on the forehead as you serve dinner
  • Cuddling together on the couch as you unwind with a show at night (or… a book).
  • A pat on the back for a job well done.

To read more of this article, please follow the link below…

7 Ways to build Stronger Connections With Your Kids (Even When You’re Busy)

Back To Basics: Raising Children In The Digital Age, by Richard Freed

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“This is impossible,” Emily, the mother of three boys, exclaimed. “I don’t know if I’m supposed to give my kids more technology or less.” Emily felt paralyzed because she was caught between digital-age parenting advice and what her heart told her was right.

Online articles claimed that children need freedom with gadgets, but she knew a number of teens who spent their lives on their phones, spurned their families, and suffered from emotional problems. Emily was also dubious of promises that devices are the key to kids’ success, as she knew more than a few game-obsessed 20-somethings who still lived with their parents and showed no signs of being productive.

The Surprising Science of Raising Happy, Healthy Kids

In meeting with parents like Emily, I acknowledge the confusion about what is good parenting in the digital age. For guidance, I suggest looking to the science of raising healthy children. What it’s revealing is extraordinary: that even amid the trappings of our tech-obsessed culture, children’sconnections to family and school are still the most important factors in their lives. In other words, it’s time we get back to the basics.

There are other elements of raising healthy children, including engaging kids in creative and outdoor play, and showing them what it means to be a good friend. We also need to teach kids self-control and how to use technology productively. Yet, children are better able to acquire these abilities if they have strong connections with family and school. Children learn the value of nature when parents expose them to the outdoors. And kids acquire self-control, or grit, by persevering through challenging school assignments.

The Two Pillars of Childhood

Family is the most important element of children’s lives — even in this world of bits and bytes — because we are human first. We can’t ignore the science of attachment that shows our kids need lots of quality time with us. Such experiences shape children’s brains, and they foster our kids’ happiness and self-esteem, while diminishing the chances that they will develop behavior or drug problems.

Second in importance only to family is children’s involvement with school. Nevertheless, some question the value of traditional schooling, claiming that in the digital age kids learn best through exposure to the latest gadgets. But, according to the Pew Research Center, the value of a college education is actually increasing in recent decades, providing youth higher earning potential and significantly lowering their risks of unemployment or poverty. And how do colleges gauge admission? Not through high scores on video games or the number of social media friends, but instead by measuring kids’ understanding of the learning fundamentals taught in school, including the ability to read, write, and do math well.

(To read more of this article, please follow the link below…)

Back To Basics: Raising Children In The Digital Age, by Richard Freed

How to Stop Yelling at Children Once and for All, by Jennifer Poindexter

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You are doing it again!

Yelling at your children over big things, little things, and all things in between.

But why?

Why do we parents feel the need to yell when our point isn’t getting across?

Why do we have to resort to screaming to get our kids’ attention?

The reality is—we don’t have to. We are making rash decisions in difficult moments that are teaching our children bad habits.

Janet Lehman, a veteran social worker who she specializes in child behavior issues says:

“When chronic screaming becomes the norm, children are also apt to think it’s okay for them to scream all the time, too. You’re teaching your kids that screaming is a suitable response when you’re frustrated or overwhelmed. It doesn’t teach anything positive, just that life is out of control—and emotionally, you’re out of control.”

Wow—that hits home!

Believe me, I am not judging.

I was (probably) the world’s worst about yelling when my kids did something wrong, wouldn’t listen, talk back, seemed defiant — the list could go on and on.

I was a chronic yeller.

But I had a terrible wake up call when I ended up in the middle of a feud that happened in my extended family. Though this person was totally out of line when making accusatory statements, one thing that was said to me was, “Well, you’re a horrible mother because I’ve heard you yell a lot!”

Ouch!

What could I say? “No, I’m not a horrible mother! I am just human”? But I did yell a lot!

That hit me right between the eyes, and I woke up. I decided from that day forward I was going to work on not yelling.

I was going to conquer this horrible habit I had developed.

Not because this person was wrongfully judging me, and I didn’t want it to happen again. (I mean, no one wants that, but you can’t please everyone either.)

But because I was and am a good mom, and I want a better relationship with my children than that!

So if you are in the same boat as I was, I want to share with you a few tips I used to stop yelling at my kids once and for all.

#1 Know What Sets You Off And Nip It

We all have pet peeves. We are human after all.

There are certain things that happen throughout a day that just grind your gears.

Inevitably, the ones we love most are going to find a few of those gears and start grinding away at them.

You need to start realizing what those things are.

The reason is because those ‘gears’ are what is going to trigger you losing your cool and raising your voice.

(To read more of this article, please follow the link below…)

afineparent.com/stop-yelling-at-kids/yelling-at-children.html

Five things pediatricians want dads to know about how important they are to their kids, by Megan Daley

 

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Pediatricians have a message for fathers: You’re more important to your child’s health and well-being than you — and we — might have realized.

After assessing more than a decade’s worth of psychological and sociological research, the American Academy of Pediatrics has issued a new report about fatherhood and the things doctors can do to help the nation’s 70 million dads reach their full parenting potential.

Fathers aren’t just back-ups for moms. Their presence in their children’s lives is beneficial in and of itself.

For instance, a 2012 study in the journal Development and Psychopathology looked at pairs of sisters who had differing levels of father involvement. Researchers found that the chances of teen pregnancy and other early sexual experiences were lower for daughters who spent more quality time with their dads.

A review of multiple studies found that kids who grew up spending time with their fathers were less likely to have behavioral and psychological problems. They were also more likely to be independent, intelligent and have improved social awareness.

See the most-read stories in Science this hour »

“The role of fathers, and fatherhood, is in the process of changing,” said Raymond Levy, a clinical psychologist and executive director of the Fatherhood Project at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. Traditional roles are merging, with moms spending more time in the workplace and dads spending more at home.

The new report from the American Academy of Pediatrics takes an expansive view of fatherhood. It defines fathers not merely as men who sire children, but as the male adults who are most invested in the care of a child. That can include a biological or adoptive dad, a stepfather or a grandfather.

Here’s further proof that modern dads don’t necessarily resemble Jim Anderson, the insurance salesman patriarch of the TV series “Father Knows Best” — today, fathers account for 16% of America’s single parents, a number that totals 1.9 million. In addition, the U.S. Census Bureau estimates that nearly 200,000 married fathers are stay-at-home dads.

The authors of the new report considered the special needs of specific groups of fathers, including those in same-sex relationships, those coping with military deployment and those who have spent time in prison.

“We’ve looked more broadly at our totally diverse groups of fathers,” said lead author Dr. Michael Yogman, a practicing pediatrician who studies father-child relationships at Harvard Medical School. “We’ve realized it’s really important to encourage fathers to be involved.”

Here are five things dads can do to take their parenting to the next level.

Be a role model

Children look up to their fathers and have a tendency to imitate their behaviors. That’s why pediatricians want dads to be conscious of how the actions they take — whether it’s lighting a cigarette or buckling a seat belt — will influence their children as they grow and learn to make decisions on their own.

Fathers should get involved with their kids right from the beginning, by playing with them or just talking to them. That lets them see their dads as supportive companions and teachers.

“The old expectation that men were inadequate mothers, and that they had to do everything just like mothers did with young children, was unfair,” Yogman said.

He encourages fathers to find their own relationship with their children and figure out what works best for them.

(To read more of this article, please follow the link below…)

http://www.latimes.com/science/sciencenow/la-sci-sn-fathers-pediatricians-20160613-snap-story.html

Not Purrfect, but a whole lot of feline fun…. By Sarah Wilson

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Not Purrfect

So I was quite looking forward to blogging about our little feline themed party that we had for our four year old over the weekend. And then I came across this in my facebook feed. http://www.newshub.co.nz/tvshows/paulhenry/have-childrens-birthday-parties-have-become-too-extravagant-2016061712#axzz4CAW2RpSN

Yep, I really like the author and blogger who was featured on the news, and yes…she really does have a point. Perhaps parties have gotten out of control. I would agree that no one needs to spend loads of hard earned cash on their child’s birthday party. After all, kids really do like simple things. But this was a bit of a downer. It seems like it’s in vogue to criticize anyone who wants to put their heart and soul into a kid’s celebration. But my take on it is simply this: if people want to spend time on creating a celebration then let them go for it. And if they don’t want to…

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All you need is Love Bombing, by Oliver James, psychologist

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In March 2010 I received an email from Miranda. She wrote that her son Tim, nine, “seems to not like himself and has no focus. He says he hates himself and that he’s rubbish at everything”. A bright boy, Tim refused to do his homework and was prone to temper tantrums.

The solution I proposed was love bombing, a method I developed to reset the emotional thermostats of children aged three to puberty. It entails spending a period of time alone with your child, offering them unlimited love and control. It works for a wide variety of common problems, severe or mild; from defiant – even violent – aggression to shyness, sleeping problems or underperformance at school.

This is not the same as “quality time” – just hanging out with your child. When you love bomb, you create a special emotional zone wholly different from normal life, with new rules. More than 100 families have tried it, nearly all with positive results.

So, how exactly does it work? First, you explain to your child that, sometime soon, the two of you are going to spend time together, one to one, and have a lot of fun. Your child is going to decide what they want and when they want it, within reason. You give the message that this is going to be a Big Event: It’s Coming Soon … How Exciting! The child then draws up a list of things to do. It doesn’t matter if it includes lots of SpongeBob SquarePants: the key is that your child has chosen it.

Throughout the experience, you are trying, as much as possible, to give them the feeling of “whatever I want, I get” – of being in control and of being gratified, as well as bombed with love.

You may be thinking: Is he mad? My child is a tyrant – rewarding him like that is just going to make it even worse! This is understandable. Love bombing seems to fly in the face of conventional wisdom, which often recommends more control, not less, when a child is not complying, and stricter, firmer reactions to undesirable behaviour.

(To read more of this article, please follow the link below…)

http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2012/sep/22/oliver-james-love-bombing-children

“The Guardians of Childhood” Books by William Joyce, article by Kirsteen Mclay-Knopp

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The Guardians of Childhood is a series of children’s picture books and novels and the inspiration for DreamWorks’ Rise of the Guardians adaptation. The books are written and illustrated by author William Joyce, whose other works include George Shrinks, Santa Calls, A Day with Wilbur Robinson, and the much loved Rolie Polie Olie series, which has earned Joyce three Emmy awards.

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A luminous new book series from William Joyce that redefines the icons of childhood: Santa Claus, Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, Sandman, the Man in the Moon and many more. Published by Simon & Schuster, these books explore the mythology of childhood legends through vividly illustrated picture books and chapter books for young adults. In November of 2012, the series became an animated feature film from DreamWorks Animation:Rise of the Guardians.

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We at “The Forever Years” love this series and the movie, because they epitomise the “magic of childhood”, the magic of “believing”.    Many parents and carers disagree about the benefits to children of believing in characters such as Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny and those of Christian faith often feel that the latter two detract from the true meaning of the festivals they represent.  Leaving these arguments aside, however, the “magic of childhood” is a universal concept.  We all have childhood memories of times which seemed “magical” or, perhaps for want of a better description, times filled with warmth and family, positive surprises and wonder.  Most people have at least one such childhood memory, no matter how good or bad their other childhood experiences might  have been.  As adults, we are tasked with “paying the magic forward” and creating opportunities for our children to see that the world can, indeed, be an amazing and wonder-filled place.

The character of “Pitch Black”, who represents “the bogey man” or “monsters under the bed”, is a generalised depiction of childhood fears coming to life.  He also seems to represent adult cynicism, a loss of the “wonder” of childhood.

Pitch is everything a child fears, and he thrives on the fear of children, taking a cruel delight in turning their pleasant dreams into nightmares. But what Pitch hates is when children overcome their fears and don’t believe in him, particularly when parents tell their kids that the Boogeyman is just a bad dream. 

http://riseoftheguardians.wikia.com/wiki/Pitch_Black

In many ways we adults are the “Guardians of Childhood”.  We choose how much cynicism, apathy or sometimes downright defeatism and lack of self-belief we impart to our kids, which in turn effects their outlook on life as they grow into adults… including their belief in themselves and their ability to influence the world around them.  While childhood, and life in general, cannot be perfect or ideal all the time, striving to keep a sense of hope and wonder in our children’s “forever years” is giving them a gift which will stay with them throughout their lives… and which they will “pay forward” to their own children.

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