Children Beware: Cultural Landmines Abound

We live in a time when childhood obesity is reaching epic proportions, as are the typical food servings dished up to our nation’s youth – much to their naive delight. The old adage remains true: ignorance is bliss, but its time for our children to get educated on the relationship of lifestyle and health!

Rather than hemming and hawing about the gravity of the problem, practical methods of teaching children how to recognize and, in turn, circumvent negative societal influences while also imparting how and why to make better lifestyle choices is long overdue. Given all of the negative stimuli our kids encounter each and every day – sometimes hour by hour – of course they are going to make poor choices. Simply put, they are easy prey, and society is setting them up for failure.

With the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reporting that over 20 percent of American children are either overweight or obese, now more than ever we must help our kids recognize the overwhelming number of cultural influences outside their span of control that impact their decision making, and lessen the emotional burden carried by children who have internalized the responsibility for their weight problem. Rather than harboring displaced blame or guilt, our nation’s children would greatly benefit from re-focusing their emotional and physical energy on effecting positive, healthful changes in their life.

This all sounds good in theory but, rather than conjecture, we need action…primarily by parents who are the true foot soldiers in our kids’ battle of the bulge. And, it’s NOT rocket science. For starters, parents must teach their children the vernacular of healthy living, so they understand exactly why they are being asked to do things as it relates to their health so they make the proper connections. Children should know that it’s important to drink milk because it contains calcium that will make their bones strong, or to eat protein because it will help them develop muscle strength. They should know that their parents go to the gym to work out or walk outside because exercising helps keep their heart healthy.

Parents, teachers and other adolescent caregivers should TALK about the health risks of a chronically overweight and obese condition, including age-appropriate concepts related to high blood pressure, high cholesterol and type 2 diabetes. Parents should point out those television commercials, billboards and other commercial advertising that attempts to influence their child(ren) to make a poor choice, and talk about what a healthy alternative would be. While out and about, parents should show the child exactly how temptations are strategically placed practically everywhere they go, and how to read the Nutrition Facts on food labels so they don’t fall victim to false or misleading health claims.

Parents should teach children how to eat “appropriate” portions of food – even when the restaurant serves entrees that could feed a family of four, should stock their home with nutritious snack and other foods so that their children are enabled to make proper choices, and should limit the amount of time their child is allowed to spend in front of the TV, computer and/or video game system. Parents should teach their child to take the stairs even if an elevator is right nearby. This is the tip of the iceberg…there are so many practical ways we can teach our kids to make the right choices in life.

The bottom line is simple: childhood obesity not only spells danger for the future health of our children, but for our nation at large. As such, it’s our collective responsibility to help kids navigate the omnipresent cultural landmines.

Benefits of Free Online PC Games for Children

A lot of parents are afraid of allowing their children to play online games because they believe that these games can be addictive and harmful to their intellectual development. However, this could not be further from the truth, as there are a lot of benefits that online games can offer children. These games have proven to be very entertaining, educational and safe for kids who love playing them.

One of the obvious benefits of online games for children is that they will learn hand-eye coordination from an early age. This is a skill that will be useful to them in future in the various career paths that they choose to take.

Another benefit of some of these online games is that they help the child to become more alert and attentive. A lot of children cannot concentrate on one thing at a time. Children get bored very easily, and they are always looking for the next exciting thing. However, these games are very exciting, and children can concentrate on them for hours. Researchers have concluded that by helping kids to learn how to sit still and to concentrate on something for long periods of time, these games help children to remain alert. This is a skill that will be useful in future when they need to concentrate in classroom, or to remain alert while reading.

There are online games that have a global following, and children get the chance to play with other kids from all corners of the globe. This will help the child to become more aware of the world that they live in, as they make friends with people from different countries and cultures.

Some of the games offered online are very educational, and they help children to develop different skills such as improved memory. Some games even help the child to understand subjects that they are taught in school in a way that is more enjoyable to them. These games will help the child to learn in a fun environment, and they are more likely to grasp the concepts that the games try to teach.

Online games are very diverse, and most of them offer a lot of benefits to the young one. Even those that do not seem to have any educational or intellectual value will ensure that the child has a lot of fun. Parents can supervise their children as they play these games in order to ensure that they play online games that are appropriate for their age.

5 Tips on Raising Happy Children

Nurture and nature play important roles as far as raising children is concerned. There are several things that parents should do to ensure that children are raised in the right manner. Parents should ensure that the children consume the right nutrients, get enough quality sleep and stay healthy, both emotionally and physically. Here are some steps that may help you raise a happy child.

First, you should let your child be aware that you’re excited to see them as they enter the room. You should let them see that light dance inside your eyes when they look at you. You should be mindful of their presence through showing them your smile, and warmly greeting them. Call out their names aloud. Your child adores you the most. And imagine the returns after childhood that’s filled with much affection.

Secondly, you should teach the child it is okay to be bored. Yes, as parents our normal instinct is to keep on entertaining the child every waking hour. If we don’t have the energy and time, we allow the babysitter to do it on our behalf. However, when we depend on TV, or any other form of entertainment, we only succeed in limiting their imagination. The child has clear imaginations that only flourish when nurtured. But without opportunity for creativity, it all withers away. Give the child a piece of paper and crayons instead.

Thirdly, the child should know that they are more vital than work. You should give the child tender loving affection. The child doesn’t just need you around. He or she need you present. Therefore, play with the child. Discover what’s important to them through asking questions and be attentive to their answers. The child deserves a little bit of you every day. You shouldn’t let your work separate you from the child. Letting him or her know they are important just makes them happy.

Fourthly, you should allow the child to make a few rules. You do not have to make them the boss so as to let them feel that they are empowered. Sometimes, power struggles with the children are a result of them feeling they have lost control. You may curb easily such instances through allowing the child to feel like they are making some decisions. This is going to make them follow the rules.

Lastly, you should model appropriate behavior. Children normally do what they see, and not what they are told. When you need the child to be mindful of others, you too should do the same. When you need the child to be happy, you should also smile without hesitation. You are the role model to your child.

12 Keys to Using Songs For Teaching Children English As a Foreign Language

Teaching Children English Using Songs

In answer to a reader question on using songs for teaching Italian children English, I gave the following twelve quick keys. They’re equally effective, however, for children from any country, or of almost any age too for that matter.

Here they are:

1. You can use most songs for English Language Teaching, but learners usually prefer songs which are currently popular. Both you and your learners can collaborate on selecting songs.

2. You should also select songs with easy-to-understand lyrics, absolutely NO profanity, violent, illegal or immoral themes like sex, drug use, prostitution, gang violence, kill-your-mother, suicide, etc. (It’s easier to fall into this trap than you think. Many popular song lyrics are horrid)

3. For motivating children take along a dozen or so children’s songs on cassette or CD with the lyrics. Beg, borrow or steal a selection of popular children’s songs and you’re all set. (Okay, don’t steal them, ask – politely, about a million times until they say “yes”)

4. Most popular song lyrics are available online. You’ll need to be very, very careful of downloads from sites like these since they frequently FULL of viruses, Trojans, worms and lord only knows what else.

5. Walt Disney has a truckload of great children’s songs. Us e films and shorts directly or just a recording with display pictures for visual support.

6. In addition to the above keys, there are the standard children’s favorites any primary song child or teacher can tell you. You can even use songs from your childhood, if you were ever a child, that is.

7. Use inter-active games and Total Physical Response (TPR) along with the songs. Choreograph simple moves and actions to the beat and rhythm of the song.

8. Keep a fairly fast-paced class going as children get bored and restless easily with their short, short, short attention spans. Change activities every 15 minutes or so – even LESS with tiny “Chiquiticos”.

9. Try incorporating some simple “dance” moves into the songs too for some added benefit. Have the “kiddies” ad lib, lip sync, pantomime, swing, sway kick, hop, slide, glide, whirl, spin, dip, step, jump and wave – you get my drift?

10. Use pictures as an aid in teaching key words in the song lyrics. Cutouts, posters, drawings, anything that provides positive visual support and reinforcement for lexical elements, grammatical them, connected speech, pronunciation or use in context is fair game in EFL classes for children (and adults too, actually)

11. Practice a couple of the songs and activities beforehand in front of a mirror on your own. (See how silly you look! That’s okay though, so don’t worry. We can’t see you)

12. Oh yes, and be sure to have lots of FUN yourself! Whoever said English and foreign language teachers can’t have fun too? (Certainly not me. Despite my scholarly appearance, sometimes I’m nuts in EFL classes!)

So “Don’t Worry, Be Happy”.

I hope this helps you with using songs to teach English to children. Be sure to check out the other article posts of mine like “9 Reasons Why You Should Use Songs to Teach English as a Foreign Language” on my blog for teaching English using songs.

Do Children Need Insurance?

Because children are prone to diseases and accidents, it is our obligation as parents to provide them with the best healthcare possible. We should give them the right care and protect them. With the right health insurance policy, we will have peace of mind knowing that they are well-protected and they are able to function well like other healthy kids.

It is our responsibility as parents that we give only what’s best for our kids that’s why it’s important that we secure them a health insurance policy. Insurance for children plays a vital role in giving the proper healthcare they need. Without this, their health status will be put at risk as well as their families’ well-being.

Disadvantages of Not Having an Insurance Coverage

Research shows that without health insurance, it will greatly affect them in all aspects of their lives and not just their physical well-being. Youngsters who have no primary or preventive care are the ones who receive inappropriate and more expensive services.

Usually, these children have more serious medical problems that need attention. Their health or medical problems are usually neglected. And because of this, they miss school and fall behind in their studies. This will greatly affect their future educational and employment and they will not be able to function well and achieve their full potential. These are serious consequences that they will have to face when they do not have the right protections, and these outcomes should not be neglected at all.

Choosing the Right Health Insurance

Choosing the right coverage for your children is very important. It does not only protect your child’s mentally and physically, it also protects you from expensive hospital expenses brought about by doctor’s fees, hospitalizations, surgical treatments and other medical expenses.

Kids do reach a certain point in their lives when they get sick most of the time and regular check-ups and doctor’s visits are normal. As a parent, you make sure that they are given the right medical attention. And as a parent, you find peace of mind when you know that your their needs are well taken care of by medical people.

Before purchasing any policy for your beloved young one, make sure that these plans will work well with your financial requirements. Finding the best one at a very reasonable price is not impossible at all. You can approach an insurance agent regarding the type of plan that you need or you can just do the shopping online and get quotes from different companies.

We want only the best for our kids and it is our responsibility as parents that we provide them with the basic needs that they deserve, including medical needs, to ensure that they are stable, healthy and that they are functioning well and achieving their full potential.

Best Children’s Books: Top Ten Early Readers

The period during which children actually learn how to read is so crucial. Helping them learn to read using books they will love will motivate them to rise to the task and ask for ever more books. The selected books span the range from those learning to read their first words to those who want an increasing challenge.

1) Moo Baa La La, by Sandra Boynton: This little book helps young children to increase their vocabulary by saying words that mimic animal sounds. Many young children adore this book. As they memorize it, you can say the first part of each page and your child will read the second.

2) Chicka Chicka Boom Boom, by Bill Martin: Kids love this book because it has soul. They love saying words with spunk and rhythm. The nonsense verse thrills kids with its deceptively simple narrative and with the repeating of such catchy phrases as “skit skat skoodle doot.” The bold color scheme matches the kooky mood perfectly. Children love seeing the familiar alphabet transported into this madcap adventure.

3) You Read to Me; I’ll Read to You: Very Short Fairy Tales to Read Together, by Mary Ann Hoberman, These hilarious versions of the three bears, pigs and goats, plus a couple of princesses and one beanstalk make for a charming story set for two voices reading to one another. The cozy appeal of partnered reading and slightly quirky stories are snuggly enough to be read over and over.

4) Brown Bear, Brown Bear, by Bill Martin: It’s an excellent introductory book for colors, animals and words.This book is great for teaching basic sight words, because words like see appear often, kids are bound to learn these words. This is a wonderful book that all children should own. Very repetitive and children can read along with you.

5) Green Eggs and Ham, Dr. Seuss: These unforgettable fifty words stay with you forever. “I am Sam, Sam I am” begins this silly tale. Only Dr. Seuss could compose such amusing yet elegant stories, and all with a simple concept. Kids and adults alike have loved and cherished Seuss’s story books for decades.

6) Winnie the Pooh, by A.A Milne: Of course, everyone knows that kids love Pooh. Some people swear that it’s better to forget other versions and find the reprinted version by Milne. There is a special charm the way Milne words and phrases the stories that may be missing in other renderings.

7) There is a Bird on Your Head, by Mo Willems: The story is funny, educational, and the drawings are simple but very effective. Willem’s stories might become a family favorite for you. Kids love the expressions on the faces of both characters. And, more importantly, they want to do the reading at bedtime because they have fun trying to match the reading to the expressions on the faces.

8) Diary of a Worm, by Doreen Cronin: No child can resist the young worm in a baseball cap whose diary chronicles his daily adventures – whether it’s playing with his spider friend, teasing his sister, or doing the Hokey Pokey with his classmates. This book is educational, hilarious, and it takes kids on such a beautiful journey into the life of a worm.

9) How I Became a Pirate, Melinda Long: If your child dreams of treasure chests and wonders what a pirate’s life might be like, then sail away on a real pirate ship. At first, life seems perfect for Jeremy when he joins Braid Beard and his rambunctious crew: no manners, no bedtime and no nagging about tooth-brushing make life onboard ship quite attractive. But soon Jeremy begins to miss the comforts of home and soccer practice.

10) I Need My Monster, by Amanda Noll: This is a unique monster-in-my-room tale with the perfect balance of giggles and shivers. The author does a masterful job of defusing the typical jitters a child might have about monsters. Maybe your fearful child might even welcome this monster into her room.

Honorable Mention: The book, Tuesday, by David Wiesner only includes a few words but it is fantastic in sparking the imagination of young children. Let the kids spontaneously tell you their own version the second time through.

There was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly, by Simms Taback. The pictures help students decode words they otherwise may not know, thereby building their reading confidence

Animals Should Definitely not Wear Clothing, by Judi Barrett: Easy text to read and the belly-laugh illustrations make the book. It pictures various animals wearing clothing that would never suit them.:… sheep wearing a wool sweater, a giraffe wearing neck ties, a chicken wearing pants (Where does the egg go?), just to name a few. Kids love the story so much you may even get a little tired of hearing your child read it to you over and over.

Parenting Adult Children Today

Was it stressful sometimes having to change dirty diapers almost every two hours? It even worsened when your beloved child became a teenager; he or she used to be rebellious and gave you sleepless nights. Time flew by and now your “child” has grown into an adult. What happens when you realize he or she is making a serious mistake? Will you scold him/her like the teenager you used to have? I am certain this will ruin your cordial relationship with him/her.

Everybody wishes to have his/her adult child as their best friend, but this will not come easy, unless you recognize their status as adults and also learn to treat them with the same level of respect you will give to other adults. This will definitely strengthen the bond between you two. Now your child is ready to settle down but his/her choice of spouse makes you want to force some sense into their heads, so how do you handle such a situation? You may try to talk with your child about your concerns but please try to maintain a respectful tone to avoid seeing your own blood rebel against you! If talking it out with them will not help then you will have to accept the bitter reality, and just accept and respect the spouse.

Visiting your children at their homes will definitely put smiles on their faces, “your presence is more important than your presents”… but you will also have to inform them of your visit. This will definitely create a good environment between you and your child`s family. Making surprise visits may seem fun but also keep in mind that your child is now an adult and his/her privacy should be respected. If they are still living under your roof you may have to involve them in running the household. This does not mean that you should make them pay rent… letting them buy some groceries, utilities and sometimes pay the water bills will not break a bone.

Gone are the days when you used to have the final say! They are no longer small kids, therefore when having family discussions you will have to listen to what they have to say and respect their ideas. If you do not agree with any of their advices you will have to respectfully talk to them and try to nicely talk them into buying your ideas. Undertaking important issues concerning the family without informing them will definitely drive them away from you!

It reaches a point when your adult child will ask you for a loan. Remember you are their best friend! and they definitely count on you. So how do you go about it? If you are not in a position to help out just be honest about it… they are adults and they will understand. If you can swing it then be transparent about it and inform your other children. This will prevent sibling rivalry. Then set a repayment schedule. By granting them loans you are turning them into very independent people. Parenting adult children is much easier than handling teenagers. Despite their adult status, they will still be your babies, and you should lend a helping hand when needed.

Why Scrabble Is A Great Game For Young Children

As most people know, Scrabble is a game where you have to spell out words on a board in order to earn points. Certain letters are worth more points than others and certain spaces on the board are worth more points than others. But Scrabble also represents a great educational opportunity for young children. It is obvious that Scrabble teaches children new words and expands their vocabulary, but Scrabble has other benefits that may not be obvious at first glance.

#1: Scrabble Improves Young Children’s Spelling

Part of the gameplay is having to spell words correctly. When young children play the game, they are forced to spell their words correctly, otherwise they do not receive points for them. Spelling words correctly will become an integral part of a child’s growth because spelling mistakes are often frowned upon in writing. As young children play Scrabble over a period of time, they expand their vocabulary and learn to spell more complex words correctly. This will really help children in the future.

#2: Scrabble Motivates Children To Learn More Vocabulary

This is different from the previous statement made that Scrabble expands a child’s vocabulary because this point is meant to indicate that children are more motivated to learn new words. As children continue to develop their gameplay skills, they will realize that they must learn new and complex words if they are to win. Children are willing to look in the dictionary more often and look for new words that are longer in length and will help them score more points. Over time, this will help improve their motivation to learn new words in general and not just for the game itself.

#3: Scrabble Also Represents A Parent’s Opportunity To Teach The Child New Vocabulary

Board games represent an opportunity for families to come together and bond. Scrabble is no exception. Whenever parents play with their children, it gives them a great chance to teach their kids new words. It is hard nowadays to sit kids down and motivate them to learn. Thus, it is advisable to keep the child busy in a game setting where they can have fun and learn at the same time. Scrabble accomplishes just that.

Value Of Books In Character Development In Children

Reading is a fun and interactive way to bond with kids. Experts recommend reading a good book to a young child every day. It is usually done before a child goes to sleep. It is an excellent way to end the day as it leaves the kid’s imagination flowing with wonderful thoughts. Moreover, reading books to children aloud can help cultivate creativity and expand vocabulary and reading skills. Children are curious beings and they love to hear new stories, see beautiful pictures and illustrations. Parents use books to help their children develop good character traits like courage, kindness and obedience.

Story Telling Books Mold Character

Stories have been an important part of man’s life. Before, stories were passed on by word of mouth. Now, there are so many kinds of books available, thanks to the invention of the printing press in 1440. Story telling books today ranges from fairy tales, princess and prince books, fables, parables, folklore and so on. Millions of parents around the globe still use these story books to teach moral lessons to their little ones. Goldilocks and the three bears and Little Red Riding Hood are two of the most popular books of all time. These books teach kids different values which are applicable to all aspects of life. Goldilocks and the three bears talks about respect of others property and privacy. Little Red Riding Hood, on the other hand warns children of the danger of talking to strangers.

Fables And Parables

Parables illustrate life lessons and instructive principles. The Bible’s New Testament provides a number of parables that Jesus taught himself while he is still on earth. One of the most significant parables in the bible is the Prodigal Son, which teaches about the love of the Father to his children. Fables, on the other hand, are very much like a parable but the difference is that it uses animals in the story. Aesop is credited for a number of popular fables today. Thus, the name Aesop’s Fables become a popular household name. Aesop, according to research was Greek slave and story-teller believed to have lived between 620 and 560 BC. Some of his famous stories are “The Dog and the Wolf”, which teaches the importance of being free, “The Bear and the Two Travelers” which talks about sincerity of friends.

Evolution Of Books

For years, books have greatly evolved. Before, books are part of every kid’s bedtime routine. Children anticipate eagerly the first page of the book that their parents will read to them. Each book has a new story to tell. Children are intrigued to see how each story will end. Will the princess meet his prince charming? Will the frog turn to a handsome prince? On the other hand, with the advancement of technology, some children are no longer accustomed of having good books around the house. More parents and educators rely on the power of the internet to teach young minds to explore. Yes, having educational other educational materials and gadgets around the house is good. Then again, it is refreshing to see kids enjoying reading books. Certainly, the experience of feeling the hard covers of the book and the crisp turning of pages is different from just clicking on pages.

Though, books have evolved in form, it is still relevant today. Parents and educators alike still use books as part of instruction and grounding materials for development of moral and character to children.

Homeschooling Children with Autism: 5 Reasons Why It Works

As a homeschooling parent of a child with autism, I am often asked, “How do you do it?” It takes dedication, planning, and research, of course, but I find that it is not all that difficult when I remember why I do it.

There are 5 primary reasons why homeschooling is the best option for my child:

1. One-to-one instruction provides for optimal learning.

It is a generally-accepted educational principle that the lower the teacher-to-student ratio, the more effective the teaching can be. Most parents realize that the more students a teacher has, the less attention and direct instruction each student will receive from the teacher. One-to-one instruction is always preferred for private lessons or tutoring because the lessons can be customized to the student’s ability in order to maximize their progress in the shortest amount of time.

Homeschooling or private tutoring offers a child with autism the opportunity to make the most of their learning potential. The child receives more direct instruction time, immediate feedback, and teaching that is tailored to their learning style and strengths. Due to the individualized instruction he or she receives, the child with autism is able to experience success on a daily basis which helps improve their self-esteem. Feelings of success are something that many children with autism do not experience in a typical school setting.

2. The environment can be adapted to the child’s sensory needs.

In a home setting, it is much easier to control the learning environment. Unlike a classroom situation where other students can be a big distraction from learning, homeschooling parents can structure an environment that is best suited to their child’s needs. Whether it is a quiet room, special lighting, background music, or breaks for sensory issues, the home can be an ideal educational setting.

3. Homeschooling offers flexible scheduling.

With fewer distractions and more direct instruction, home-schooled students require less of their time to be spent on schoolwork. There is no time wasted on the taking of attendance, class announcements, student reprimands, repetitive teaching on a subject the student has already mastered, etc.

The school day can also be planned around the child’s best time for learning. Some children with autism are “night-owls” by nature and have a difficult time going to bed early and getting up early for school. We can adjust our hours of instruction to correspond with the times that the child is naturally most alert and able to focus. We can also schedule shorter learning sessions throughout the day with plenty of breaks as needed. Shorter sessions also promote greater intensity and concentration on academic tasks resulting in the child retaining more of the material being taught.

Most parents quickly realize that another benefit of homeschooling is the fact that you can plan field trips during the week when places are less crowded. This is a big advantage for children with autism who may not do well with large groups of people.

4. The child has a better opportunity for positive socialization.

All socialization is not beneficial for our children. In schools, you must take the bad with the good. In a home setting, parents have more say in determining when their children are ready for specific social situations. For more on the topic of schools and socialization, see my article entitled, “Social Skills and Autism – Where’s the Best Place for Socialization?”

5. The child’s interests can be incorporated into their schoolwork.

Anything that your child is interested in can form the basis for their studies. In homeschooling circles, this is referred to as unit studies. You take any topic of interest and design a complete educational program around that topic. This approach works well for reluctant learners who say that school is boring.

For my family, homeschooling is a great time-saver that allows us to focus our attention on constructive social opportunities, educational field trips, and practical daily living skills. We don’t have to worry about which teacher our child is going to have every year nor do we have to spend most of the year trying to help the teacher “get to know” our child and their needs. We don’t have to fight the school district for services or for the correct implementation of services that were promised. We don’t have to waste our time going back and forth to school or to school-related meetings. Simply put, homeschooling offers my son with autism a method of instruction that works efficiently and effectively to enable him to achieve his highest potential.