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Welcome to the December 2014
“News for Parents”
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- WHAT’S NEW?
- COMING ATTRACTIONS
- Welcoming a Baby
- Review, Not on Speaking Terms
- Family-friendly Finance Tips for ‘15
I. WHAT’S NEW?
Family Centered Festivities
Make memories this holiday season with one-on-one activities, as well as those shared with everyone in your home, on your block or in your extended family. Among the seasonal events we at Parenting Press have shared with our children:
Making cookies. Mix up your favorite butter cookie or gingerbread recipe, buy a boxed mix or use slice-and-bake dough. The youngest kids won’t care what you start with: what they’ll probably remember is working side-by-side with you and the delight of pulling freshly baked cookies out of the oven. (And just as much fun to walk a plateful of still-warm cookies over to a neighbor, too!)
Watching holiday parades. Many cities kick off the holiday season with a parade that concludes with Santa’s arrival. Bundle up and go early so it’s easy to see, and then stop for hot chocolate or (as in Seattle) for a merry-go-round ride afterward.
Looking at lights. When decorations go up, take an early-evening walk around your block, or drive through your commercial district after dinner one night.
Gathering the greens. Some arboretums and extension service gardens offer wreath-making workshops or sales of evergreens. Whether or not your kids are interested in wreath creation, they’re bound to enjoy the scents of the different kinds of foliage. (And there’s almost always hot chocolate on hand, too!) Or go completely do-it-yourself with a wire wreath form, clippers and whatever grows in your own yard; if the kids aren’t old enough to handle clippers themselves, they can point out what greens or vines they’d like you to use.
Cookie and candy houses. Table decorations made of gingerbread a la the witch’s abode in “Hansel and Gretel” are traditional, but they can be tricky to build from scratch. Try a kit with prebaked gingerbread, or use a cardboard base for a house sided with graham crackers, roofed with shredded wheat cereal and surrounded with a Jolly Roger candy sidewalk.
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Quick, Easy Gifts
Looking for inexpensive gifts you can make or assemble in a flash? Look no further! Here you’ll find suggestions that work as holiday and hostess gifts, for holiday-season birthdays, and in some cases, as the gift packaging as well!
If you sew:
Tote bags. In Seattle, where News for Parents is published, tote bag patterns are now common because retailers legally can no longer give away free disposable bags. Whether you’re making something for groceries, a yoga mat, gym clothes or to deliver a gift, you don’t need complicated patterns. One of the cute bags we saw recently was made from the still intact legs of well-worn jeans; others can be made from upholstery fabric samples or leftovers from a sewing project. Bags can be as simple as two rectangles stitched together with a length of wide braid for a handle. Or box the bottom of your rectangle to create a wider bag and attach straps on each side. (The News for Parents editor uses curtain fabric samples for gift bags; try heavy paper, too!)
Kids’ costumes. Turn a yard of fabric and a giant snap into a cape. If you don’t have a sewing machine, select fabric that doesn’t ravel, or use iron-on tape to hem the edges. Gather the top by making a couple of rows of gathering stitches with heavy thread and then sew on the snap on each side of the front. A yard or two of tulle makes a fabulous tutu or dress-up skirt when it’s attached to an elastic waistband (which can be as simple as one-inch elastic run through satin blanket binding).
If you shop:
Dress-up fun. Fill a tote bag or cardboard suitcase with thrift-store and garage-sale treasures like hats, aprons, scarves, handbags, and costumes left from Halloween and school plays.
Retail play. Head for the supermarket with a miniature shopping basket that you can fill with everything for a play grocery: single-serving boxes of cereal, and the tiniest cans of vegetables and fruit. Add a dollar store package of play money for the shoppers to use, and lunch-size brown paper sacks for bagging up the purchases. (Or maybe a child-size tote bag!)
Prefer to use your computer for gifts?
Lacing cards. Enlarge photos from your family or neighborhood and print them on lightweight cardstock. (Or, if your printer won’t handle that thickness, use a glue stick to attach photos to cardboard. If you try glue, avoid smearing the photo by ensuring its ink is dry before you start and that you use only a thin layer of glue.) Trim the photo if you like—say, to outline the house, pet or child’s shape—and then punch holes around it. Attach a shoelace long enough to go around the image.
Paper dolls. Photograph family members separately. Make sure each is standing up, preferably with arms outstretched. Print the images on heavy paper and cut them out. (Optional: laminate with plastic for durability.) Then outline all sorts of garments to print out and package with a set of markers and maybe even some lightweight fabric samples and trims for the kids to practice fashion design.
Alphabet, vocabulary or counting books. Create books for the youngest members of your family with images they’ll recognize: “A” with the animals in your home or neighborhood, “B” with a baby they know, “C” with their chair or crayon, and so on. (Try “Y” for “you,” with a lightweight mirror on the page.) Or add words you want them to know with photos or illustrations special to your family: a photo of the child all tucked in with “bed,” being read to with “book,” and being scrubbed with “bathtub.” For slightly older kids, consider “asparagus,” “bicycle,” “cinnamon,” and “dinosaur.” Similar books can be created to illustrate numbers: a picture of the child with the numeral 1, the child and a friend or sibling with 2, with one parent for 3 and with both parents for 4. Continue adding other relatives, friends and pets to get to 10, 12 or as many other pages as you like! These can be printed at home on index stock and laminated, or ordered through the many online or drugstore photo book services.
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Besides bundling up to watch Santa arrive or for traipsing around admiring lights, there are dozens of ways to get outdoors even when it’s dark and cold. Here are a few of our favorites:
- Beach walk. Jump from one driftwood log to another as you watch the wind and tide churn the surf, even if it’s blowing so hard the kids are ready to go in after a half hour. Don’t live on a coast? Remember the wind can create awe-inspiring waves on lakes and rivers, too.
- Critter watch. Make a list of the animals active during the winter in your area (or the area you’re visiting for a holiday), maybe using a library book or website to study their seasonal camouflage and tracks. Then trek out to see how many you can spot: it may be the squirrels scampering across the street, the blue jays chattering on a porch railing, a fawn nibbling on windfall fruit—or a spider’s icy web.
- Snow angels. Got new snow? Make a family of snow angels! Show the youngest family members how to flop down, wave their arms and legs and then step away carefully. Got an aspiring film maker among the kids? Imagine the video he or she could shoot: an ideal greeting for distant relatives.
- Snow hike. Whether you live near mountains, or in a park or golf course that’s open when snow falls, pack water and snacks and head out for a walk. If the kids are in a backpack or old enough to manage gear, try a trip by snowshoe or cross-country skis. (Dress appropriately, of course, and check weather and road conditions so that you all stay safe and comfortable.)
Seattle’s Olympic Sculpture Park
- Sculpture gardens. Many cities have outdoor gardens with traditional or modern sculpture and landscaping that’s interesting even when it’s chilly. Especially if you’re visiting relatives for the holidays, a quick visit to such a site might be a terrific antidote to cabin fever.
- Historic landmarks. What was Christmas like in any of the thirteen colonies? How did pioneers make it through the winter in their sod houses? Many historic sites and museums offer holiday programs and reenactments of early-day celebrations with costumed interpreters.
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Making New Year’s Resolutions
As you think ahead to 2015, and what you hope to accomplish in this new year, consider discussing resolutions with the kids. The youngest children will need the concept explained, and perhaps you’ll want to ask them to make a single realistic resolution (brush all of their teeth twice daily every day, or keep the cat’s water dish clean and full). With older kids, it may be important to discuss how persisting with incremental steps can lead to accomplishment. For example, how starting with a dozen sit-ups will eventually lead to two dozen and four dozen and a stronger core, or how reading aloud from a favorite story book each day will improve spelling, vocabulary and reading. If you have teenagers, this may be the time to introduce an emphasis on preparing for life after high school—taking college-prep courses and saving for college expenses, or researching apprenticeships and training in the skilled trades.
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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. If you’d like the tips emailed to you each week, just let us know with a message to email@example.com. Make sure you put “Weekly tips” in your subject line and include the email to which the tips should be sent.
For December, when there are often more events that require careful scheduling, dress-up attire and extra-special manners, kids sometimes get involved in power struggles, either with siblings or with parents. To help you recognize, manage and possibly even avoid power struggles, here are four tips from our archive.
December 6 — What Children Need to Know about Power--Part I
December 13 — What Children Need to Know about Power--Part II
December 20 — Recognizing Power Struggles
December 27 — Defusing Power Struggles
Family Fun Ideas — Sing-along
Singing eases stress, say the experts, and what better month than December to try this out, when we have so many wonderful seasonal lyrics? Wake the little kids with “Jingle Bells,” start “The Twelve Days of Christmas” when you’re driving the car pool, and ask everyone to sing along with a Bing Crosby recording when it’s almost time for dinner. Even more fun (and ideal for those of us with poor memories): have everyone sing only a single line of a favorite, one right after another. So you’ll have a combination like, “I’m dreaming of a white Christmas. . .” followed by “Come, they told me,” and then, “We three kings of Orient are” and “You know Dasher and Dancer and Prancer and Vixen. . .” And who knows what will come next? (Need the words to carols? Your library has songbooks, and with an Internet search, you can read the lyrics and hear the songs sung.)
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Community Service — Countdown with Kindness
Our goal with this column is to suggest ways that you can model the concept of sharing and giving back to your community. Kids 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.
This month, however, as in every December, we suggest you find simple ways to introduce the concept of “sharing and caring” with your children. One way to emphasize the importance of this to your family is to schedule it, perhaps with a specific day each week when you’ll all work together on something to benefit someone else. This may be carrying fresh-baked cookies to a new neighbor, addressing holiday card envelopes for an elderly friend, raking up the last of the autumn leaves for a grandparent, or knitting a hat or two for a shelter’s gift distribution to street people.
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Special of the month — Autism Overview
Understanding Autism is one of our newest Qwik Sheets, downloadable information sheets that provide concise overviews to parenting and child development topics. This new PDF describes autism and its symptoms and risk factors. A $2.95 value, it’s complimentary through Dec. 31, 2014 when you use the code “autism”.
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