Archive for April, 2012

10 Things Kids Can Grow in Their Room

April 27th, 2012 by admin

As greater emphasis is made on sustainable agriculture, “green” habits and eco-friendly gardening, it’s only natural that kids should become interested in growing things themselves. Though some plants are too finicky to be suitable for young gardeners, there are others that do quite well in containers. If your child’s green thumb is budding, here are ten things that they can grow in their own bedrooms.

  1. Aloe Vera – The hard-to-kill nature of the aloe vera plant makes it a great choice for kids rooms, as it can withstand a bit of neglect without suffering greatly. As an added bonus, kids can reap the benefits of their well-cultivated plants in the event of skin irritation or burns.
  2. Cacti – There are many varieties of small cacti that thrive indoors and require next to no care, though they’re more suitable for older children that understand to handle these prickly beauties with care.
  3. Sunflowers – These tall, bright blossoms will bring a smile to your child’s face every time they see them, and can thrive in containers with proper lighting conditions. There are several varieties of these yellow wonders to choose from, and most are relatively low-maintenance.
  4. Philodendron – The fast growing and hardy philodendron vine is a great choice for kids, as it can withstand a bit of abuse without dying. The vines can also grow new roots in a glass of water if cut carefully, so kids can relive the potting process over and over again.
  5. Spider Plant – Inexpensive and tough, spider plants can survive a few forgotten waterings and even flourish if they receive a bare minimum of care. They’re also touted for their air-purification abilities by some.
  6. Kitchen Herbs – Basil, mint and parsley are all hardy and useful plants that kids can grow; they can also feel a sense of pride when their “harvest” helps to flavor dinner as plants mature!
  7. Kit Gardens – There are several kit gardens designed for indoor growth and selected with young agrarians in mind; both online retailers and brick-and-mortar gardening stores will have a selection.
  8. Radishes – Because the sprouts of radishes tend to become visible in a relatively short time, kids will get the satisfaction of seeing the results of their efforts before their attention span is expended on a pot full of dirt.
  9. Panda Plant – The fuzzy leaves and drought-resistant qualities of the panda plant, also known as kalanchoe, are great choices for young gardeners due to their ability to weather neglect and the fun texture of the leaves.
  10. Mold – Any mother who’s ever had to clean a child’s room knows that the thing kids are most adept at growing is mold. Half-hidden, forgotten dishes and remnants of food can become quite the colorful, spore filled mess. While these “experiments” may earn top place at the science fair, they aren’t likely to win any awards with Mom.

After kids get the hang of caring for these low-maintenance plants, they can move to more finicky specimens that will require more attention and care. Depending on the placement of windows and the quality of light in your child’s room, the possibilities for container gardening are quite varied.

10 Classic Kids Underdog Stories

April 17th, 2012 by admin

People have been inspired by underdog stories for generations. We love being immersed in the classic battle between good and evil that is further emphasized by the sheer determination of overcoming insurmountable odds. It’s a good lesson to teach our children that no matter what your circumstances you can achieve great things. That life is seldom fair, but those with ingenuity, effort and heart can sometimes do better than those endowed more favorably. Here are 10 classic underdog stories that will continue to inspire kids for generations to come.

  1. The Tortoise and the Hare – One of the oldest underdog stories known today comes from Aesop’s renowned fable the Tortoise and the Hare. Just about everyone has heard the tale of this classic race where the hare is so overly confident in his ability to win that he decides to take a nap while the tortoise finishes the race as he sleeps.
  2. The Ant and the Grasshopper – Another of Aesop’s well known fables is the Ant and the Grasshopper. The big carefree grasshopper spends his summer singing and playing while the industrious little ant is doggedly preparing for winter. When the weather turns cold and bitter, the tiny ant is prepared to endure the long winter season while the grasshopper is left cold and hungry.
  3. David and Goliath – Even older than Aesop’s fables is the story from the Bible of David and Goliath. David is a young lad armed only with a slingshot who takes on the giant Goliath. Although the giant is armed to the teeth and clad in body armor, the stone from David’s slingshot finds the one unguarded weakness of Goliath and hits him in the temple killing him instantly.
  4. The Little Engine that Could – What child hasn’t heard the story of the Little Engine that Could? While all the other engines gave excuses as to why they couldn’t pull the train over the hill, the littlest engine just kept saying “I think I can, I think I can” until he achieved his goal.
  5. Rocky – More recently movie makers have found new ways to expound on the underdog theme. The Rocky series of films are a classic example of this. The unknown boxer Rocky Balboa takes on the heavyweight champion Apollo Creed and although he loses in the first movie, he does beat him in Rocky II. The rest of the series pits the Italian Stallion against various opponents he must struggle to defeat.
  6. The Karate Kid – Inspired by the success of Rocky, the Karate Kid is another movie series that is based on fighting, though this focuses on a martial arts theme instead of boxing. These movies are motivating to kids because they show that fighting dirty is not only wrong, but may not be successful either.
  7. Star Wars – What kid wasn’t enthralled with the classic underdog story set in outer space? Star Wars pits the mere human Luke Skywalker against the evil Darth Vader and the Death Star. With the help of his alien friends, Luke gains the ingenuity and skill to overcome insurmountable odds.
  8. Forrest Gump – Although he might not be the brightest crayon in the box, Forrest Gump is an inspiration to kids of every age. We all have our personal deficiencies, but can rely on our redeeming qualities to see us through.
  9. Rudy – This is the story of a kid whose ultimate goal is to play football for Notre Dame. Rudy has to overcome the daunting obstacles of his dyslexia and physical size, but manages to win the hearts of those around him to achieve his dreams.
  10. Braveheart – The historical movie about the 13th century Scottish warrior William Wallace doesn’t end well for him, but his bravery and determination live on after his death. Robert the Bruce motivates his army by invoking Wallace’s memory and goes on to win freedom for Scotland.

It’s so important for children to learn that even though life is not always fair, everyone has something to contribute and can achieve greatness with determination and effort. A world where everyone has a guaranteed outcome would be boring and uninspiring. That’s why these underdog stories are so enduringly popular. We all love the idea that anyone can achieve the impossible dream, or at least surpass others expectations.

10 Reasons Kids Can’t Resist Claw Machines

April 11th, 2012 by admin

These great big phone booth-sized cases, stuffed to the gills with soft toys, beckon from across the room whenever kids see them. And they see them everywhere – arcades, restaurants, lobbies and malls. What is it about these contraptions that kids – and more than a few adults – just can’t resist? Well, here are ten possibilities:

  1. Attractive Prizes – The stuffed toys themselves are so appealing. Their bright colors and cute fuzzy looks are irresistible. They just look like they’re waiting to be picked up and taken home. Easier said than done …
  2. The Challenge – Once they’ve taken hold of that joystick and maneuvered ever-so-carefully for their targeted prize, the game just seeps into them. It just looks so easy, and those toys just look so cuddly …
  3. Selection – Because there are so many different prizes to choose fun, all piled together, there’s always something that a child can aim for if given the chance, and a quarter – or three …
  4. Deceptive Appearances – Piles of stuffed animals give the illusion that you just can’t miss. It seems impossible not to come away with a toy. They’re all over the place, for Pete’s sake. Well, guess it’s not quite like you’ve imagined …
  5. Just Like Dad’s Big Rig – Some kids imagine themselves operating a big piece of heavy equipment just like their dads work on. The opportunity to take the controls in their own hands makes them feel like grown-ups …
  6. Sense of Power – So as a child takes control of the machine, they gets a taste of what it’s like to be in control, rather than being a passenger or spectator. It’s bound to have an addictive effect on the kid.
  7. Location, Location, Location – Not only are these gizmos all over town, but they’re strategically located in places where kids are apt to be idling impatiently, like restaurant waiting areas, malls and doctor’s offices, as well as arcades.
  8. Bright Lights, Bright Colors – The display case, in effect, is a well-lit toy chest that is just brimming with possibilities. It’s what we adults might refer to as a target-rich environment.
  9. Monkey See, Monkey Do? - Okay, so perhaps referring to our little ones as primates is a bit much, but you get the drift. When one child sees another jockeying that claw for a colorful prize, you just know they’ve got to have a crack at it too. Which brings us to …
  10. Missed It By That Much – Once you’ve had one of those little stuffed dolls in your grasp, even for an instant, you may as well face it – you’re hooked. Unlike the doll, which always seems to give you the slip just when you think it’s all yours.

Claw machines are a great way for children and adults to waste quarter after quarter. The occasional (very occasional) win makes it just that much more addictive. Like slot machines for kids, the claw machine will hook you in and leave you hanging.

10 Ways to Keep Siblings Hugging not Hating

April 1st, 2012 by admin

Sibling rivalry has been going on since the dawn of time; everyone knows the story of Cain and Able. That story didn’t end well, so parents do their best to discourage animosity among their children. Although it’s perfectly natural for siblings to have disagreements, you want to keep them to a minimum. This is important not only for their development, but for the parents own peace of mind. Here are ten ways to keep siblings hugging more and hating less.

  1. Start early – Sibling rivalry usually starts as soon as a new brother or sister is born. The older sibling is no longer the sole recipient of their parent’s affection and feels neglected. It’s important at this crucial time to give as much time and attention to your first born as possible and help the children establish a affectionate relationship with each other.
  2. Be fair – Be careful not to play favorites. This can be more difficult than you think, especially if one child is usually the instigator of conflict. Problems will only escalate if the kids don’t think you’re being fair.
  3. Set rules – It’s important to establish the ground rules and communicate them to you children. They need to know that you expect them to get along and to love each other no matter what. Set the rules and be sure to enforce them consistently.
  4. Common activities – Find common activities that both siblings can do together. By getting them to work with each other to accomplish the same goal, you’ll encourage sibling camaraderie instead of rivalry.
  5. Work it out – Sometime you need to step back and let the kids work it out themselves. This is a good idea for minor conflicts and gives them a chance to develop their negotiating skills.
  6. Discourage competition – Try to avoid situations where siblings are competing against each other. Don’t compare their report cards or athletic abilities to each other, but praise each of them for their individual accomplishments. Also encourage them to root for each other.
  7. Encourage affection – Lead by example and let your children know it’s great to show each other affection. Encourage them to give each other hugs and praise them when they’re getting along.
  8. Time apart – Sometimes siblings need a little time apart to enhance their appreciation of each other. Maybe some time alone in separate rooms will be all it takes or perhaps going away to separate summer camps. They might be happy enough to see each other again that they hug spontaneously.
  9. Appreciate their differences – No two children are alike; even identical twins each have their own separate personalities. Be sure to teach your kids to appreciate each others differences. By supporting the other’s strengths and helping to overcome their weaknesses, siblings can learn to be a team instead of rivals.
  10. Patience – Sibling rivalry tends to come and go in stages. Depending on their age difference and other factors, kids will fight like cats and dogs for awhile and then be best buddies as they grow older. Sometimes it just takes some patience.

No matter what you do, some conflict is inevitable, but you don’t want it to get out of hand. Siblings don’t really hate each other. They’re just struggling to establish their own identity and place in the family. Hopefully your kids will eventually learn that they can count on each other for support and friendship. There are nothing like brothers and sisters to be in each others corner when times are tough. With a little refereeing from their parents, siblings will keep doing more hugging than hating as they grow to be adults.