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Welcome to the December 2016
“News for Parents”

Dear Friends of Parenting Press:

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Skill building books and ideas for parents, children, and teachers

  1. WHAT’S NEW?


  • Gifts Kids Can Make

    Creating gifts can be a win-win-win project. Kids learn the joy of giving, and that gifts don’t have to come from the mall or an online retailer. Just as important, they have the pleasure of a creative project—and they’re kept busy during what are dark, cold days in many parts of the country.

    Link to full page kid coupons (pdf file)
    Kid Coupons
    (Click for full size)

    Even preschoolers can help make such simple gifts as the peanut butter-filled pine cone bird feeders and fabric paint hand prints on aprons. They can also watch you scan their artwork, resize it, and print it out to be laminated for bookmarks for doting relatives.

    Older kids might make books, photographing each other for simple alphabet or number books for toddler siblings or cousins. Imagine a child holding an apple for “A,” a toy car for “C” or cuddling with siblings for “3,” as in three cousins. The pages can be printed out, laminated and spiral bound at your local print shop, or ordered as a bound book through online photo processors.

    A child who is reading well can create an audio book for a younger relative or friend by recording the text of a favorite book along with reminders on when to turn the page, and then sending the electronic file along with a copy of the book.

    Other crafty gifts:

    • Photograph each family member standing up in a swim suit and after printing and cutting out the images, turn each one into a paper doll with a wardrobe of clothes the recipient can color herself.

    • Build birdhouses, bird feeders, or planter boxes with adult help or in shop class.

    • Create origami figures that can be hung as ornaments or glued onto note cards.

    • Assemble art kits for young friends or relatives with stencils, googly eyes, yarn, glue sticks, and safety scissors, and such throwaways as bubble wrap, fabric and wood scraps and foam packing sheets.

    And gifts of themselves:

    • Homemade coupon books for babysitting, car washing, leaf racking, or lawn mowing.

    • Tins of homemade cookies or candy.

    • “Promissary notes” to write or e-mail on a regular basis—perhaps every week or once a month.

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  • Learning to Say Thank You (Even If. . .)

    Both honesty and kindness are important values in most families, and demonstrating both may require a little help in this season when entertaining and gift-giving are common. Everyone in your family will be better able to avoid (or politely handle) awkward situations if you do some role-playing in advance.

    For example, if any of you have dietary restrictions or strong preferences (you’re lactose- or gluten intolerant, perhaps, or vegan), practice how to act at a holiday meal where almost everything is dairy, wheat or meat. Especially if you don’t know the hosts well, or they are easily offended, coach kids on how to politely decline foods they don’t eat, and to take only reasonable quantities of what they prefer. (The News for Parents editor recalls a potluck where before others had served themselves, a child helped himself to most of a smoked salmon appetizer because that was all he saw that he liked.) Kids can practice comments that sound complimentary: “The candles are so pretty,” or “I’ve never had roasted radishes before.”

    If a gift is opened when it’s presented, all of us need to work hard at keeping body language positive, or at least neutral. When we unconsciously recoil when unwrapping something unattractive or unwanted, our thank you is unlikely to be perceived as sincere. If you anticipate such situations, consider a role-playing session at home, perhaps with such improbable mock gifts as a can of soup or a fireplace log wrapped up. (Imagine how much fun kids will have wrapping up odd items to see how good parents are at expressing thanks!) Safe responses include, “What a great color!”, “I love the texture,” and even, “Wherever did you find this?” and “Oh, how much work went into this.” In every situation, it’s appropriate to say or write, “How kind of you!”

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  • SIDS Author Outlines Safe Sleep Recommendations

    Rachel Moon

    Parenting Press author Rachel Moon, co-author of 14 Ways to Protect Your Baby from SIDS: Safe Sleep Advice from the Experts, is the lead author of a new American Academy of Pediatrics report on safe sleep.

    “We know that parents may be overwhelmed with a new baby in the home, and we want to provide them with clear and simple guidance on how and where to put their infant to sleep,” says Dr. Moon. “Parents should never place the baby on a sofa, couch, or cushioned chair, either alone or sleeping with another person. We know that these surfaces are extremely hazardous.”

    According to the AAP, approximately 3,500 American infants die each year from sleep-related deaths, including sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS); ill-defined deaths; and accidental suffocation and strangulation. To help avoid such tragedies, the AAP now recommends:

    Link to book description
    • Place the baby on his or her back on a firm sleep surface such as a crib or bassinet with a tight-fitting sheet.

    • Avoid soft bedding, including crib bumpers, blankets, pillows and soft toys. The crib should be bare.

    • Keep the baby in the parents’ room for at least the first six months, and ideally for the first 12. Room-sharing decreases the risk of SIDS by as much as 50 percent.

    • Avoid baby’s exposure to smoke, alcohol and illicit drugs.

    • Offer a pacifier at nap time and bedtime.

    • Do not use home monitors or commercial devices, including wedges or positioners, marketed to reduce the risk of SIDS.

    • Make sure infants receive all recommended vaccinations.

    Breastfeeding is also recommended as adding protection against SIDS. After feeding, the AAP encourages parents to move the baby to his or her separate sleeping space, preferably a crib or bassinet in the parents’ bedroom.

    While infants are at heightened risk for SIDS between the ages 1 and 4 months, new evidence shows that soft bedding continues to pose hazards to babies who are 4 months and older.

    “We want to share this information in a way that doesn’t scare parents but helps to explain the real risks posed by an unsafe sleep environment,” Dr. Moon said. “We know that we can keep a baby safer without spending a lot of money on home monitoring gadgets but through simple precautionary measures.”

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  • Dramatic Short Histories for Kids 9–12

    Adventure! Danger! Survival! That’s what upper elementary and middle-school kids will find in two new collections of historic events. These seem especially appealing for reluctant readers or those tired of formulaic fiction that leads to improbably easy solutions and unrealistic happy endings. Some of the brief pieces, like the stories of Ernest Shackleton’s trip to Antarctica and the cannibalism of the Donner party, are familiar. Others—for example, the shipwreck saga of French immigrants to Senegal—are new to many of us.

    Survival: Real Tales of Endurance in the Face of Disaster, written by Tom McCarthy, describes Shackleton’s tragic journey, the mutiny against Captain Bligh of the Bounty, a pioneer group that set out to cross Death Valley on foot, the shipwreck and African desert wanderings of the French immigrants, and the trip west that killed the Donners and many of their fellow pioneers.

    Pirates and Shipwrecks: Real Tales of Terror on the High Seas, also by McCarthy, includes several even more exciting stories, including the account of how a young Maine sailor en route to Cuba survived a shipwreck and brutal attacks by pirates in 1824, the disappearance in 1845 of an expedition to the Canadian Arctic to find the Northwest Passage, and the life of 18th-century pirate Mary Read.

    Each tale ends with a brief explanation of what is known about the rest of the lives of the people described, and with a list of events occurring worldwide in the same era: for example, that Leonardo da Vinci was painting the Mona Lisa at the same time the one-armed pirate Barbarossa was battling the Spanish. The books use large print and ample white space with maps that show where the events occurred. Each has a glossary that explains terms that may be unfamiliar to young readers such as cholera, contagious, gorge, sextant, pandemonium, ransack and schooner. Published by Nomad Press, each is $9.95.

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  • New Screen Time Guidelines

    How much screen time should kids have? When should they be allowed to use computers, handhelds, televisions and videos? What should they be allowed to watch? And perhaps most important, how should adults and caregivers model safe and healthy screen use?

    You’ll find help answering these questions plus a template for developing your own family media use policy at the website of the American Academy of Pediatrics, which recently published new recommendations for media use at “Children’s Media Use”. The interactive template for a family media plan is at

    The AAP recommends parents prioritize creative, unplugged playtime for infants and toddlers. Some media can have educational value for children starting at around 18 months, pediatricians say, but the AAP emphasizes, “It’s critically important that this be high-quality programming, such as the content offered by Sesame Workshop and PBS.” And just as important, parents should watch media with their young children, to help children understand what they are seeing.

    For school-aged children and adolescents, the idea is to balance media use with other healthy behaviors, continues the AAP, which explains, “Problems begin when media use displaces physical activity, hands-on exploration and face-to-face social interaction in the real world.”

    Too much media causes other problems, too. “Every hour of entertainment programming a child watches in the first three years of life increases his odds of exhibiting attention issues at school at age 7 by 10 percent,” says Dimitri Christakis, the doctor who directs the Center for Child Health, Behavior and Development at Seattle Children’s Hospital, and a co-author of the new AAP guidelines.

    Another researcher says parents have to be willing to model good media use. “If parents want to limit their children’s screen time, then they have to limit their own as well,” Teresa Belton of Britain’s University of East Anglia told the Wall Street Journal. Christakis reinforced her comment by noting that parents often give children an iPad or iPhone to comfort them after a medical procedure: “What they need is a hug, not an iPhone.”

    Among the AAP recommendations:

    • Younger than 18 months: only video-chatting.

    • 18 to 24 months: high-quality programming, with parents and children watching together.

    • 2–5 years: no more than an hour a day of high-quality programs that parents watch with children.

    • 6 and older: limit both time spent on media and types of media, and ensure media does not replace adequate sleep, physical activity and other healthy behaviors.

    • Designate media-free times, such as dinner or driving, as well as media-free locations at home, such as bedrooms.

    • Talk about online citizenship and safety, including treating others respectfully both online and offline.

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  • Finger Play for the Road

    If you’re looking for screen-free fun for kids when you’re traveling, origami is one alternative. Even better is origami that kids can play with once they’re done folding.

    That’s what you get with Origami Finger Puppets, a new project book by Muneji Fuchimoto (Quarry Books). Inspired by one of his kindergarten son’s class projects, Fuchimoto has created a 64-page instruction guide to simple origami figures—people, animals, buildings, flowers and trees—that can be turned into puppets for pinkie fingers and thumbs. With the 25 sheets of provided paper, your child (perhaps with the help of someone a little older) can create the cast for “Little Red Riding Hood” and “The Three Little Pigs.” Or fold up such holiday decorations as Santas, Christmas trees, jack o’lanterns and bats.

    Of course, you don’t have to be on the road to enjoy this book: use it at home to make decorations for gifts or kids’ holiday cards, for a play date with craft friends, or to amuse a child stuck inside with a sniffle.

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  • Editor Retires

    All good things eventually come to an end, and after almost fifteen years in this position, the News for Parents editor is retiring, and with Linda Carlson’s departure, News for Parents is retiring, too. We thank those of you who through the years have suggested article topics, provided books for review, and reprinted our articles in your newsletters and on your websites. In the short term, archived copies of the most recent issues will continue to be available. Feel free to use these in your publications, classes and parenting workshops.

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  • Tips for the month

    Each Saturday, Parenting Press posts a new parenting tip and the previous week’s tip is moved to the archive.

    This month, we’re sharing archived tips on kindness, affection and values that you may find helpful for the holiday season.

    December  3 — Raising Children to be Affectionate
    December 10 — Identifying Values You Hold Dear
    December 17 — Encouraging Thankfulness
    December 24 — Instilling Kindness and Compassion in Our Children
    December 31 — Discouraging Unkindness in Our Children

  • Family Fun Ideas — Candlelight Celebrations

    Moonlight, starlight, candlelight: is there anything more special? In this darkest part of the year, create light in your home, yard or on a balcony with luminaries. Traditionally, these are paper bags anchored with a few inches of sand, each holding a candle that shines through the pattern punched in the paper. These are safer if you use votive or tea light candles in small glass jars inside the bags. Cut patterns such as snowflakes with small sharp scissors in the bags or, for adults and older kids, punch an abstract design or the outline of a snowman with a large rug yarn needle. Kids can even punch out the letters of their names! Or try this variation for the candles on your dinner table: around the outside of glass jars, wrap paper in which the patterns have already been cut. (Remember that nothing flammable should ever dangle near candles and that candles used indoors should never be left unattended. Extinguish them when you leave the room.)

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  • Community Service — Holiday Kindnesses

    Our goal with this column is to suggest ways that you can model the concept of sharing and giving back to your community. Children also learn to work as part of a team. There are practical advantages to community service, too. Kids can use these projects to meet school or youth group requirements for community service and to start building resumes that they’ll use when applying for first jobs or college. You’ll find dozens of ideas for family-appropriate community service projects in our downloadable book Teaching Your Kids to Give Back and our Qwik Sheet Community Service for Kids.

    This month, as in every December, we suggest you remember those who are near or dear to you with such simple kindnesses as a dozen home-baked cookies delivered to an elderly neighbor, caroling outside a home where you know someone is ill, writing holiday cards to loved ones who are far away—even building a cheerful snowman on a neighbor’s walk. Consider a holiday countdown, with your family doing something for someone else each day of the month (maybe even as a secret on some days).

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  • Special of the month — Así me siento yo Teachers Guide

    Link to book description

    If one of your New Year’s resolutions is to introduce another language in your home or classroom, we’re glad to suggest you start with the Spanish language edition of The Way I Feel, Así me siento yo. For teaching assistance, we’re celebrating the season (and resolutions!) by offering our readers a complimentary download of the Así me siento yo Teachers Guide. Ideal for use as a family project, when you’re home-schooling or if you’re in the classroom. It’s simple: use the promotion code “ASI 2016”. (But do it before the clock rings in 2017: this offer is only good through Dec. 31, 2016.)

  • Reprinting newsletter articles in your newsletter.

    If you publish a school, preschool, day care or parenting newsletter, you are welcome to reprint articles from this newsletter. Include our copyright notice with a phrase such as

    Reprinted with permission from Parenting Press News for Parents, copyright © 2016. For a complimentary subscription, see

    And please mail or email a copy of your newsletter to Publicity Department, P.O. Box 75267, Seattle WA 98175-0267.

Last updated December 01, 2016