Fun Activities to Teach Your Kids Sustainability This Summer

(Photo from Pexels)

Guest Post Contributed by: Andrea Gibbs

The summer is a time for fun, adventure, and learning. As parents, we want our children to be able to explore the world around them, discover different cultures, learn life lessons, and have fun with their friends. We also want them to understand that they are a part of this world and need to care for it. The best way to teach your kids these ideas is through activities you can do together as a family.

Here are some activities that will help easily teach your kids sustainability.

Encourage a Connection with Nature.

When it comes to nature, never underestimate the power of play. Your kids will spend a lot of time outdoors this summer, so take time to get them in touch with nature regularly. 

One of the best ways to help your kids connect with nature is through first-hand experience. If you already have a garden, get the kids involved in planting seeds to help them understand how plants grow over time. Furthermore, you can choose flowers that bloom at different times of the year so they can watch them grow throughout the summer. It is much easier to teach them about the environment when they understand that they are a part of it.

Make Your Home More Green.

As parents, we should strive to make our homes as green as possible. There are many little things you can do to help make your home more sustainable, and it doesn’t take much effort. Start by switching out traditional lightbulbs one at a time and replacing them with longer-lasting more energy-efficient bulbs. Look for the Energy Star label on the box to verify that it meets the standards set by the U.S. Department of Energy and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. 

Opt for clothing with natural fibers, which won’t release micro-plastics into the water. Look for eco-friendly laundry detergents, and wash clothes in cold water instead of warm. Washing in cold water helps clothes last longer, uses less energy, and helps prevent synthetic fibers from braking down during the washing cycle and releasing small particles of plastic into the water supply. Lastly, introduce your kids to natural cleaners and fixatives to help keep dust from accumulating in your home.

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.

Teach kids about the importance of recycling and how to properly dispose of trash. It will help give them the idea of sharing and caring for their belongings, which is essential for being eco-friendly. Ask them to donate items they no longer need to charity.

Shop for household items with your children, and seek out environmentally friendly items and packaging.

Teach Your Kids About Global Warming.

Talk to your kids about global warming and how they can help. As you talk about global warming and how it will affect them later on, explain what they can do now to slow down the process and prevent further destruction to our planet.

Kids must know how to be environmentally conscious because this will benefit them in the future. Let them know that they are the future of our planet and that whatever they do now will affect the environment in the future.

Plant a Garden and Play Outside.

Flowers are also a great way to teach your kids about nature. You can help them understand how important it is for them to help keep the world around them clean and safe by asking them to plant flowers that don’t need much water and are low maintenance. 

If you are not sure what kind of flowers you should be looking for, check out the natural environment around you to get some ideas. You can also ask your local plant nursery for ideas.

Lastly, spend time playing with your children outdoors this summer. It’s an excellent opportunity for you to show them how you can reduce your environmental footprint without compromising the fun you have each day. It teaches them how to be happy with less, which is something that will benefit them their entire lives. You will be surprised at how much your child will learn from being exposed to nature from an early age.

Shop Local.

Shop local whenever you can and visit your local farmers’ markets. That will encourage more people to buy locally and help support small farms, which is essential for sustainability. You’ll have the opportunity to get to know your neighbors and help out by buying goods from them. Become an advocate for reducing your carbon footprint. 

Explain to your kids why it’s important and how they can help by asking them questions about it.

Also, tell them about all the great things about being eco-friendly. For example, if you purchase locally grown fruits and vegetables, you will be able to support local farmers and reduce emissions associated with transporting food. It will help reduce global warming by reducing the amount of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere. 

Talk About Saving Water.

When you’re outside, please talk with your kids about how they can save water. When teaching your kids about conservation, teach them the importance of turning off their faucets when they are not using water instead of leaving it running. A great way to do this is by painting pictures of what happens when water is wasted. 

For example, when your kids are at the sink washing dishes and they notice a lot of water running out of the faucet, have them pretend to be a sponge. Have them talk about how it takes water to be carried by water pipes that travel thousands of miles until it comes back to wash their dishes. When they’ve finished talking, have them come up with alternatives for how they could get this same thing without wasting so much water.

Conclusion

Living Green is a way of life, not just a fad. A little planning and hard work can enormously influence the environment and your children’s future. By teaching your kids about the importance of being green, you will help them learn about how to live out their dreams while leaving behind a legacy that will benefit future generations. 

With education, patience, awareness, and commitment, there is no reason why they can’t be responsible adults that can maintain their eco-friendly lifestyle.

Author Bio:

Andrea Gibbs is the Content Manager at SpringHive Web Agency, where she helps create content for their clients’ blogs and websites. She is currently a blog contributor at Montessori Academy, a blog dedicated to helping parents with the ins and outs of parenting children within the Montessori tradition. When she isn’t writing, she enjoys spending time with her family and her dog.

Happy National Sibling Day! And a Fun List of Kids Books About Siblings!

For national sibling day, I’m sharing a book list of children’s books about siblings. These books about brothers and sisters may inspire a little love between your own kiddos, or they may provide a little sense of validation for the tough feelings that sometimes come with these special relationships. Perhaps the little brother or sister in your home will relate to the little sister in Secret Tree Fort as she desperately tries to tempt her older sister into her tree for to play.If your kiddos share a room, they may have felt like Mia from Mia Moves Out when she becomes so frustrated with sharing her bedroom with her brother that she packs a bag and leaves home!

I hope you’ll find one of these books or another favorite story that celebrates the love between siblings today.

Siblings Day originated in 1995 by the Siblings Day Foundation. “Sibling Day follows the spirit of Mother’s Day, Father’s Day and Grandparent’s,” the Sibling Day Foundation stated. “It is an uplifting celebration honoring people who have shaped our values, beliefs and ideals.”

Here’s a few fun facts about siblings in America:

  • 89% of Americans have siblings.
  • 36% of Americans would choose to be the older sibling.
  • 31% of Americans would choose to be the youngest sibling.
  • More than half (62%) of Americans with no siblings wish they had a sibling.

And now for your sibling day book list…

Kids Books About Siblings:

Secret Tree Fort by Brianne Farley

This little sister has quite the imagination as she tries to tempt her big sister into joining her in her amazing secret tree fort. The big sister with her head in a book is uninterested. Will she change her mind?

Mia Moves Out by Miranda Paul

Mia has had enough of sharing a bedroom with her messy little brother and decides to move out, but will she find that there’s no place like home?

Little Miss, Big Sis by Amy Rosenthal

Little Miss is all to excited as the prepares for her new role as “Big Sis.”

Lola Reads to Leo by Anna McQuinn

When Lola becomes a big sister, the first thing she wants to share is her love of reading.

Tell Me Something Happy Before I Go to Sleep by Joyce Dunbar

In this sweet bedtime story, a little brother asks his older brother to lull him to sleep with “something happy,” and the big brother’s response is all too perfect.

Peter’s Chair by Ezra Jack Keats

Adjusting to a new sibling can be difficult. Peter is not pleased that things around the house are being painted pink for his new baby sister!

Maple & Willow Together by Lori Nichols

Sisters don’t always get along, but they can learn to navigate conflicts and have fun like Maple and Willow.

My Sister, Daisy by Adria Karlsson

This big brother just loves his little brother, but one day his younger sibling and best friend says she’s actually his little sister. It’s a surprise, but he finds she’s the same person she always was and is still his best friend.

Charlie and Lola Series by Lauren Child

This fun and whimsically illustrated series is a joy to read as big brother Charile helps guide little sister Lola in this own way and with his big brother wisdom.

Ling and Ting Series by Grace Lin

These early readers about twin sisters a fun for kids to read on their own. Whether they are twins, have a sibling who is mistaken for a twin sometimes, or just know some twins, these stories can help validate the fact that twins are “Not Exactly the Same!”

Happy Sibling Day!

Practical Ways to Limit Your Child’s Screen Time

Guest Post Contributed by: Daniel Sherwin

Parenting young children is hard. Even if you’ve been thinking about how you would like your child to spend less time in front of a TV or other electronic device, it doesn’t mean it’s going to be easy. After all, sometimes you need a few minutes to do the dishes or laundry or catch up on work. Sometimes, you just need a break to allow your mind to recharge.

Screen time is not harmful in and of itself. There are plenty of shows, games, and activities that can benefit your child’s education and socialization skills. But when they have unlimited screen time—which means less time in nature and in-person interaction—it can harm their physical, mental, and emotional health.

If you’re ready to learn more about limiting your child’s screen time, keep reading this guide. We’ll even provide you with some alternatives to help keep your child entertained, active, and learning!

Why You Should Limit Screen Time     

Experts recommend that babies and children under 18 months should not have any screen time and that children ages 2 to 5 should not have more than one hour each day. If your child is video chatting with friends or family members, you don’t have to count that as screen time because it is seen as high-quality media use.

When toddlers are not sitting in front of a screen, it gives them more opportunities for developing essential skills like creativity, communication, agility, and so forth. Replacing screen time with imaginative play can do wonders for helping younger children learn and grow. And you can also use your child’s unplugged time to help them get exercise and rest.

Older kids can benefit from having their screen time monitored as well. Establishing daily screen limits can result in academic, physical, and social improvements. Also, having conversations with your child about the content they enjoy can show your child that you are interested in what they are interested in without them staring at a screen for hours on end.

Then there is the content itself. Particularly with elementary-age kids, monitoring their media use can help you limit their exposure to harmful messaging and media violence. This can reduce aggression and improve sleep, academic performance, and social skills.

Risks of Unlimited Screen Time      

Across all age groups, the average daily screen time is seven hours. Electronic media use consumes more of the average child’s day than any other activity. Kids ages 2 to 5 use tablets and smartphones for almost two hours a day, elementary-age children spend four to six hours, and teenagers spend about nine hours per day.

If you notice that your child is using technology to escape their situation, thoughts, or emotions, it could signify that they are spending too much time on their devices. Another indicator is if your child’s screen time is disrupting their or your daily routine. Moreover, if your child shows obsessive behavior when you take their device away or has a meltdown when the battery dies, you might consider tightening their screen limits.

Many negative consequences come from spending too much on electronic devices. Here are a few common symptoms:

  • Higher risk of obesity
  • Poor academic performance
  • Inadequate sleep
  • Irritability
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Anxiety
  • Depression

How to Limit Screen Time     

We can’t pretend that technology does not come with its fair share of benefits. It can help our kids stay connected to relatives and friends from a distance, make learning more entertaining and engaging, and provide parents with a much-needed break. But to maximize the advantages and minimize the drawbacks, it’s critical to set healthy screen limits. Here are a few strategies to help you do just that:

Establish Clear Rules     

One of the most practical ways to ensure technology is not harming your child’s health, well-being, or development is to establish tech time limits in your household. The precise ground rules should depend on what your child enjoys doing on their devices. Many parents allow their children an hour of TV after completing their homework for the day or 30 minutes of social media time. Whatever your rules are, make them clear and stick to them.

Fortunately, most major device manufacturers and cable carriers provide parental control features to help parents set and maintain their goals. Just remember not to give in when your child is pleading, crying, or negotiating to have more time in front of their device!

Come Up With Alternatives   

If you want to succeed in your screen limits, you will need to compile a list of alternative activities that can keep your child learning, active, and engaged. For example, perhaps you could build a firepit and host family camp nights in the backyard. Maybe you can plan a weekend getaway that includes hiking, fishing, and other outdoor activities. If your child holds up to their end of the bargain by heeding your screen limits without complaining, you could even give them a few choices of destinations for your getaway!

One of the best overall activities you can do with your child is to read with them. Not only will this help them in their academic endeavors, but there is endless content out there to keep them entertained and engaged without a screen. For instance, look into interactive children’s books and reading activities.

Prepare Your Home       

If you plan to engage in backyard activities with your child, you’ll want to make sure your property is safe and that it facilitates any activities you have in mind. First, consider installing a fence around your property if you don’t already have one. You can easily connect with local contractors by searching “fence company near me” online.

Monitor the Content     

Like most parents, you may want to know precisely what your child is viewing on their devices. Make sure you take advantage of all the parental control tools on your TVs, tablets, computers, and wireless subscriptions. Other than that, it can help discuss the content your child is engaging in actively. This will allow you to pick up on some of the themes and ideas your child is getting from the content.

Remove Screens from the Bedroom      

Finally, another practical way to limit your child’s screen time is to remove all media devices from their bedroom. If your child has a mobile device or TV in their room, they are likely to spend much more time using technology than if they don’t have access to those devices all the time. Sleep is critical for children of all ages, and keeping your child’s bedroom device-free can ensure that online activities or blue light emissions are not harming their rest.

Conclusion

There are plenty of technologies that can help your child develop social, communication, and academic skills. But unless you establish boundaries around screen time, technology can harm your child more than it helps. Keep the information and advice above in mind, and try to think of as many alternative activities as possible to keep your child healthy, well, and thriving!

Author Bio:

Daniel is a single dad raising two children. At DadSolo.com, he aims to provide other single dads with information and resources to help them better equip themselves on the journey that is parenthood.

Summer Learning Loss: The Problem and Some Solutions

Summer is just around the corner. Cue influx of articles, blog posts, and discussions about dreaded summer learning loss and summer learning opportunities. (And here’s one more, haha!) Before we go into a frenzy, signing kids up for educational summer camps, making reading schedules, and grasping for workbooks for our children, let’s take a look at summer learning loss research and then reflect on what our kids—and the kids in our community—really need this summer.

The Jury Is Still Out on Summer Learning Loss

Summer learning loss, or the catchier “summer slide,” receives a lot of attention every year. In 2018, one researcher found about 50,000 stories in the media on the topic, many with gloomy forecasts of how far children “fall behind” each summer.

Some studies suggest a one-month loss in academic achievement over the summer so that when children return to school in the fall they are a month behind their achievements reached by the end of the previous school year. Other studies say there may be up to a three-month reading gap created over the summer when comparing children who read during the summer and children who do not read or do so very little.

However, overall, the summer learning loss research is truly mixed.

In fact, a review of the available data in 2019 found that fewer than 10 percent of children starting first grade experience a one-month learning loss in math and reading, according to Abel J. Koury, Senior Research Associate at Ohio State University. This went up a few percentage points when looking at children starting second grade, but overall the vast majority of children do not lose a month of learning over the summer.

By the end of fourth grade, there is little difference between those perceived to have experienced a summer slide, with test scores varying by justv0.04 points in math and 0.12 points in reading, according to Koury.

Are There Summer Learning Gains?

While we may be concerned at first about summer learning loss, the next question for some may be, are there learning gains to be had during the summer?

The answer is a resounding, “yes,” but they may not come in the way we first think.

Summer “homework” is not really the answer. In fact, Koury’s research found that 78 percent of parents of children who gained reading skills during the summer and 79 percent of parents of children who “slid” during the summer read to their children regularly during the summer. There was however, a slight perceived difference among children who read independently on a regular basis during the summer.

Additionally, there are two ways children can learn and wire their brains for success during the summer, and guess what? Neither involve workbooks or academic training. Both rely on downtime.

First, while we Americans are not typically good at allowing ourselves and our brains (or our children’s brains) to rest, doing so is actually quite important. “When the brain is at rest—daydreaming, staring into space, meditating, and sleeping—it is consolidating new information and skills, making connections that can only come with what we call radical downtime,” according to William Stixrud, Ph.D. and Ned Johnson in an article in Psychology Today.

In addition to allowing time for rest, the summer has been observed to be a critical time for children to pick up reasoning and life skills that often fall by the wayside when they are engaged in academic endeavors and structured extracurricular activities.

Some studies have shown that while some children may temporarily forget certain math processes they learned in school, their math reasoning sometimes improves as they actually apply math skills to their day. Whether baking, dividing up cookies among friends, or calculating how many hours until they can have a popsicle, children often naturally engage with numbers throughout the summer.

Furthermore, children tend to pick up valuable life stills during the summer as they have time to engage more naturally with the outside world. They may help cook dinner, help with laundry, pack their own suitcase for a trip, or  use some physics and risk assessment skills to decide which trees to climb and how high to climb.

Thus, we parents can calm our worries about summer learning loss and focus instead on what our children have to gain during the summer.

Who Is at Risk for Summer Learning Loss?

While the studies are mixed, there is no denying the countless headlines and studies that claim children slip a little in their academics during the summer. As Koury noted, learning loss is evident among just a minority of students, but who are these students? Should we worry? And how can we help them?

The first guess might be that children who are already behind my lose more during the summer, but Koury says that’s not actually the case. In his observation, children with the highest math and reading test scores are the ones who tended to slide during the summer. Perhaps these students have been able to cram a lot of information into their brains during the school year without taking 100 percent of it into their long-term learning.

Allowing these students time to explore and rest may help them solidify some of what they learned, and evidence shows these children tend to “recover” academically fairly quickly when they return to school in the fall.

What Should Your Children Do This Summer?

If we’ve calmed some fears of summer learning loss, we might then wonder, what should children do during the summer? The summer break is long, and while rest is good, most children don’t want to stare into space for three months.

The summer is a great time to allow children to enjoy books. Let them choose books from the library, them flip through magazines, or read comic books independently. Helping our children ignite a love for reading can benefit them in countless ways long-term.

Also, while summer homework assignments tend not to demonstrate much academic advantage, one study showed that children who read independently during the summer between first and second grade did have a slight advantage over their classmates.

In addition to reading time, allow children to follow their own interests. Talk to them about how they’d like to spend their summer days, what they’d like to learn, and what they’d like to try for the first time perhaps. Maybe  they’d like to learn to draw better, or maybe they’d like to learn about all the types of birds that live in their neighborhood. It matters much less what exactly they are learning and much more that they are motivated to learn, gather information, and apply and improve their skills.

If you plan to sign your child up for some summer camps, try to take their input, and also seek out camps and activities that provide some unstructured time and some self-directed or group-directed activities.

How to Help Those Who Lag Academically Take Advantage of Their Summer:

When we think about summer learning opportunities for our own children, it can be a relief to know that summer learning loss may not be all it’s hyped up to be. It’s good to know that our children can and should have undirected free time, relaxation, and some good old fun during the summer.

However, we should also take a moment to think outside of our own home for a moment and consider how we can help children who are vulnerable to the very real and documented achievement gap between children from high-to-middle- and low-income households.

One way to help is by providing books to those who may not have an extensive home library. Some schools host a school-wide book exchange either throughout the year or at the end of the year to provide children with access to at-home reading materials. Children can bring in books to donate, and then any student can take a book or books of his/her choosing. If your school has one, be sure to participate, and if your school doesn’t have one, perhaps you could suggest or even help organize one.

There are also several book charities working hard to provide children with access to engaging and age-appropriate reading materials. Check them out, and find ways to help all children find some book joy this summer!

The Case for Comics and Graphic Novels for Kids

Comics and graphic novels for kids can be a fun, educational and worthwhile part of a child’s reading diet.

While growing steadily in popularity, comics and graphic novels for kids have been met with a mix of resistance and some often-cited benefits for “reluctant” and “struggling” readers. However, the genre is a good fit for any reader—reluctant or voracious.

Graphic novels have gained considerable ground, breaking sales records and winning prestigious children’s book awards in recent years. Sales of comics and graphic novels have risen steadily for the past several years with a slight dip in 2017 before a rebound in 2019. In total, comic book and graphic novel sales reached $1.2 billion in North America in 2019, a record year.

While many librarians have embraced graphic novels, “an implicit – and strong – bias remains in U.S. education against books with pictures,” Karen MacPherson, a children’s and teen services coordinator for a library in Maryland, wrote in an article in the Washington Post early last year. Her perception is that even among the adults who value graphic novels for children, they are seen simply “as a steppingstone toward the goal of reading text-only books.”

She pointed out that graphic novels were given some new credibility in 2020 when New Kid by Jerry Craft was awarded a Newbery Medal, which MacPherson says is “considered the most prestigious U.S. children’s book award.”

Here are a few reasons we should embrace comics and graphic novels as valid and educational reading for children and teens:

Benefits of Reading Comics and Graphic Novels for Kids:

Draw in Reluctant or Struggling Readers

Comics and graphic novels are often recommended for children who struggle with reading or are disinterested. Relying heavily on images and with far fewer words per page compared to a traditional novel, these books are often less intimidating. However, they have complex and longer story lines compared to traditional picture books, which children will feel they have “grown out of.” A struggling reader will likely feel much more confident carrying around a graphic novel than a picture book.

Comics and graphic novels can often feature humor or engaging plot lines that can make reading fun for those who dread it. However, the benefits of graphic novels go beyond engaging reluctant readers.

Develop Inferencing and Sequencing Skills

With a sequence of pictures and a few words per frame, readers of comics and graphic novels are called upon to infer what is happening in each frame and between each frame. They must understand how one frame leads to the next and make several inferences about the characters, the world they live in, their relationships with one another, and more.

Develop Visual Literacy

As much as parents battle “screen time” and try to combat the influx of new technology in our children’s lives, we live in a highly visual world. As such, we must learn to “read” images and visual ques. Comics are a great practice for this necessary skill.

There is no narrator telling us when a character is sad, happy, angry, or perhaps feeling mischievous. We can read the speech bubble of one character, and then we have to look at another character’s face and body language to determine their reaction. In fact, comics and graphic novels can be a great way to practice understanding and talking about the emotions of different characters.

Expose Readers to Advanced Vocabulary (Often More than Other Reading Sources)

Another benefit of comics is they tend not to shy away from advance vocabulary. In our home, we’ve definitely noticed this when reading Calvin and Hobbes comics, a favorite for our whole family. We often find ourselves stopping to discuss a particular word.

In fact, a study of more than 1,000 comics found that 36 to 76 percent of language in comics and graphic novels is “representative of language found in senior secondary school and college/university placement tests.” This compares to just 14 percent of the language in most newspapers, according to Our Kids Media.

Develop a Love of Reading and Books

Comics can introduce beloved characters such as Calvin and Hobbes that we can connect with, laugh with, and enjoy throughout our lives. Graphic novels can also tell compelling stories in a captivating way that can spark a love for books in young readers. This brightly colored and fun storytelling method can draw children into the literary world and can be the starting point for a lifelong love of reading.

When our children are learning to read and learning to love reading, we should be happy whether they are reading the back of a cereal box, a comic, or a novel.

Can Inspire Creativity and Writing

Comic books may also inspire children to create their own stories. For children who are just learning to write, creating their own comics gives them a way to tell a complete story through a combination of pictures and written word. The task of creating an entire story may seem much less daunting to children who are still learning to spell and may write slowly.

Great for Family Bonding

Comics are also a great opportunity for parents and children to bond. When we read a picture book or chapter book, it is easy to just glide through the story, reading the words and turning the pages. However, when we read a graphic novel, we have to “read” the pictures as well as the words to understand the complete story.

All of the inferences and connections our minds have to make usually require a conversation when reading a comic together. The conversations and laughter that take place when reading comics together can be a great moment of connection for the family.

If you’re interested in finding some comics and graphic novels for your child, you can try reading a few classic comic strips such as Calvin and Hobbes or Peanuts, and you can also check your local library. Scholastic also has a long list of graphic novels for kids.