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Welcome to the July 2014
“News for Parents”

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  1. WHAT’S NEW?
    • Help Kids Avoid Bullying at School
    • Reluctant Readers, Perseverance and Sportsmanship


  • 3 Woodworking Projects for Kids

    What can even little kids make out of wood? Jack McKee has dozens of answers in an easy-to-understand guide, Woodshop for Kids: 52 Woodworking Projects Kids Can Build (Hands On Books, Bellingham WA).

    The father of two, McKee spent 15 years teaching young children how to handle tools before he put together a practical book that spells out how to set up a workshop for children, especially one to accommodate a group: for example, a scout or Campfire group or an after-school or weekend class. His guidelines have been carefully tested, with children as young as preschool, including 3-6-year-olds in a Montessori school. He’s also worked with preschool teachers and parents, to provide them the basics they need when working with children. Here are three of his project suggestions:

    • Sculpture. This is an almost “anything goes” project that McKee likes because it teaches so many basic construction techniques, such as how much glue is necessary, and how long glued pieces must be held together for the glue to dry. This project also points out that large pieces can’t be held together with only glue, that braces can strengthen joints, that heavy pieces need to go on the bottom, and perhaps best of all, that there are usually several ways to approach a construction problem. Tools include eye protection, a saw, vise and a low-temperature hot-glue gun. Materials should include a square of wood or heavy cardboard for a base—and then almost anything else your kids can find: wood scraps, nuts, bolts, wire, motors from broken small appliances and power tools, film canisters, CDs, tiny toy figures, you name it.

    • Puzzles. Start with eye protection for both child and adult, a coping saw and a piece of quarter-inch pressboard or smooth-finish plywood (a six-inch square is good for a start, says McKee). Then your child can use markers to cover the front of the wood with a picture. Cut out the center of the square: this is what your child will cut into puzzle pieces. Hot glue the back of the puzzle frame to a thick piece of cardboard. Now it’s time to make the puzzle pieces. McKee advises cutting the large piece into two, of whatever shapes your child likes. Then each smaller piece can be cut once more. Before any more cutting, kids should test the puzzle. Then they can decide if they’d like more and smaller pieces.

    • Toy furniture. McKee recommends this project for kids as young as preschool if adults are cutting wood into thin strips. Then the kids can simply glue two squares to the ends of a rectangle to make a tiny bed, or to the underside of a larger square to make a table. With two squares (one for the seat and one for the front leg) and a rectangle (for the back and back leg), a child can make a chair. Older kids can use saws to trim tree branches into chairs, beds and couches, and can drill into a cross-section of the branch to create a table. All pieces should be sanded smooth before they are glued together.

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  • Smithsonian Artifacts Explain American History—Quickly

    Getting kids interested in history isn’t always easy. (Not always easy with adults, either!) That’s why we’re excited about a new book that reminds us of dozens of events and people in American history and introduces us to many more—with high quality photos and just a few pages of text for each.

    The Smithsonian’s History of America in 101 Objects by Richard Kurin (Penguin, 2013) is more than 700 pages of information and images from the Smithsonian museums, organized by era starting with “Before Columbus”—bald eagle, for example—and “New World”—slave shackles, portraits of Columbus and Pocahontas, and a fragment of the Plymouth Rock. Ideal for generating conversations with kids who are beginning to study U.S. history or for background for your vacation travels, this volume explains when “The Star-spangled Banner” was written, what the Conestoga wagon was used for, how sewing machines changed both wardrobes and worklife, World War I gas masks, Marian Anderson’s concert at the Lincoln Memorial, the polio vaccine, the pandas from China, the AIDS memorial quilt and so much more. It’s sure to prompt comments like, “I didn’t know that much,” or “How could I have forgotten that?”

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  • Easy Peasy Projects Introduce Stitching How-to’s

    Oriented to middle-schoolers, We Love to Sew Bedrooms: Cool Stuff for Your Space is full of how-to’s that also make sense for older teenagers, those leaving the nest—and for adults with no sewing experience.

    New from FunStitch Studio, an imprint of C & T Publishing, this book by Annabel Wrigley divides projects into three categories: “Easy Peasy,” “A Teeny Bit More Challenging,” and “Take Your Time and Ask for Help.” She recasts old maxims like “practice makes perfect” into hipper language: “practice makes awesomeness,” for example, and emphasizes the importance of making time and patience pay off with a finished product that you’ll love and be proud of.

    For absolute novices who need only the real basics (your college freshman, for example), the pages on sewing on a button, using an iron and hand sewing will be the most important. Besides the iron, the glue gun and staple gun are the two pieces of equipment that you’ll want to ensure kids use carefully. (No roughhousing if a group is working on projects!)

    Among the techniques used for projects are simple patchwork, cross-stitch, fabric painting, applique, and blanket-stitching. Some can be made with scraps or thrift-store finds; others require high-loft batting, double-edged tape, dowels, metal trash cans, or embroidery hoops. The book includes full-size patterns or detailed cutting instructions for all projects. Photos walk the reader through construction of each.

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  • Understanding Autism

    If you read our May and June issues, you know that we have on our desk an extremely helpful new book on special needs, Charting the Course for Children with Autism: A Beginner’s Guide for Therapists by Linda Kelly, a school psychologist, and Janice Plunkett D’Avignon, a clinical psychologist (W.W. Norton, 2014). It’s also very useful for parents, caregivers and educators in understanding the actions of children on the autism spectrum. This is perhaps especially important now that those previously identified as having Asperger’s Syndrome are now often diagnosed as “high-functioning autistic.”

    It’s no surprise to read that children identified as autistic or with Asperger’s are often bullied. But as the authors point out, some such children are also accused of being bullies. “A lack of impulse control, perseverative thoughts [editor’s note: this is the inability to switch ideas], a lack of social awareness, or a response to a felt anxiety could all look like bullying behaviors.” Many answers to questions are perceived as sarcasm when they are simply direct: “The child is unable to see how he or she is coming across due to the inability to take another person’s perspective.” (For example, a child asked how he believes someone else would feel is likely to reply, “I don’t know: I’m not that person.”)

    Another issue is that these kids often have difficulty playing as typically developing kids do. “For many ASD [autism spectrum disorder] children pretend play can be a source of anxiety. . .They tend to think literally and concretely and. . .imagining what is ‘not real’ can be confusing.” The authors point out that such children may seem extremely possessive about their belongings and their rooms. They can be anxious about sharing due to fear about possessions being damaged, and about having their “personal space,” their “safe haven,” violated by visitors or siblings. “This feeling of loss of control is tied to unpredictability and to a break in routine.” This sense of having no control very often results in such characteristics as rigidity and obsessive behavior getting worse, say these experts.

    Obviously, all kids have to learn to treat visitors politely, and many have to share bedrooms. They also have to be sensitized to how others may be put off by comments that the kids regard as normal and accurate. When it’s important to talk about their actions with kids, especially kids that you suspect or know are on the autism spectrum, the authors emphasize, that you be precise in what you say. “Do not offer hypothetical situations to explain your point.”

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  • Low-cost, No-cost Summer Fun

    Avoid complaints like “I’m bored” and “There’s nothing to do” by starting right now to gather easy, inexpensive ways to entertain kids now that school is ending. Maybe even jot each idea down on an index card and drop them all in a “Fun Jar” that your family can turn to when it’s time to brainstorm a day’s activities. You’ll find dozens of tips online, in magazines and your newspaper’s event schedules and even walking around your neighborhood. Here are a few more:

    • Boxes! What’s better than a box? Or a tube? A baby old enough to sit up may enjoy peeking through a square box with both ends removed and slightly older kids can use paper towel and wrapping paper tubes for pretend telescopes. Or gather up as many different size boxes as you can find for tots to use in making towers. Shoe boxes become doll furniture or truck garages while larger cartons can be imaginary cars and boats or a dollhouse. With the help of an adult, a large box can be cut into a puppet theater or a playhouse.

    • Boxes the game
    • Boxes the game. Got paper? Got pencils? Play boxes. Make a grid of dots and then your kids can take turns drawing lines between two dots. The player who draws the fourth line on a shape and creates a box earns a point. (Want to get kids outdoors? How about creating an oversize grid on a sidewalk or driveway with chalk? Or making the grid on the beach with rocks and shells and drawing the lines in the sand?)

    • Sock puppets. Got the puppet theater ready? Or simply drape a sheet over a table, so kids can crouch below and let their hands do the “talking” with characters made of old socks. Use the socks as they are, or help kids sew on button eyes, felt ears and yarn hair.

    • Flour resist. For kids old enough to keep the mixture out of their mouths, combining flour and water in equal parts into a paste and then smearing it over light-colored cotton cloth will make a satisfactorily messy project that introduces the concept of batik. (Substitute baby rice cereal, instant potato flakes or oatmeal if you like.)

      Once the paste has dried, the cloth can be crumpled until there are cracks in the coating. What kids use to paint over the entire piece will depend on their age, whether they’re working indoors or outside, how much you can supervise and what’s available. Water-based paint is best for the youngest artists. Older kids can paint every exposed part of the fabric and every crack with ink or with fabric dye. (To prevent stains, make sure work surfaces and clothing are protected.) As soon as that’s completely dry, spread the fabric outdoors, away from lawn furniture, and soak it with a hose, until the flour breaks off and washes away. Or let the kids scrub the cloth in a washtub full of soapy water. When everything’s clean and dry, you’ll all see the patterns created where the color seeped through the resist.

    • Crayon resist. Another lesson with resist: give each child a white crayon or white candle stub to write or draw over heavy white paper such as butcher paper. Remind them to press hard! Then hand out water color or tempera paints for them to brush over the paper, watching as the waxy areas repel the paint, and the children’s artwork is revealed.

    • Hangman
    • Sneaky spelling. For kids who are reading, use the game of hangman to keep them busy in restaurants, when traveling and whenever else you want them to unknowingly brush up their spelling. To get them started, draw dashes for every letter of the word you have in mind. As kids guess at letters, the correct letters are written in. For each error, you draw one part of the hanged man. The game ends when the word is completely spelled, or when the man is completely drawn, whichever comes first. (Kids who want to keep a game going can add clothes and shoes to their man, too!)

    • Hula, hula! Get the kids wiggling with hula hoops! You’ll find them in toy and athletic supply stores, and if your family wants to make its own, there are how-to’s online.

    • Wheels to go. Get out the bikes, trikes, scooters and skates for racing on a playground or deserted parking lot. Create an obstacle course with cones or chalked lines or set up relays, with a biker passing the baton to a skater and the skater passing it to a scooter!

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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 e-mailed to you each week, just let us know with a message to Make sure you put “Weekly tips” in your subject line and include the e-mail to which the tips should be sent.

    Summer’s a good time to practice interpersonal skills: there’s none of the stress of homework, and kids may be making new acquaintances on the playground, at the pool and in summer camps. If your family will be expanding this summer—it’s the most common time for babies to arrive—then you may want to take the opportunity to prepare your children for the changing family dynamics. And, of course, learning how to interact with others is invaluable for those starting preschool or kindergarten this fall.

    July  5 — Social Skills Development
    July 12 — Fostering Cooperation Skills in Your Family
    July 19 — Building Friendship Skills
    July 26 — Making Friends in a New Class

  • Family Fun Ideas — Celebrate!

    Fireworks in Washington D.C., courtesy of the Library of Congress

    July 4 is July’s biggest holiday, when we celebrate Independence Day with parades, concerts and fireworks displays around the country. If there’s no event planned for your community, encourage the kids to create their own—maybe as simple as decorating their bikes with flags and streamers for a ride around the neighborhood, down to the pool and out for ice cream. If you’re traveling this summer, here are anniversaries you might observe: the end of the Civil War battle of Gettysburg, on July 3, 1863; the beginning of Hoover Dam construction, on July 7, 1930; and the grand opening of Disneyland, on July 16, 1955.

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  • Community Service — Help Out the Library

    Our goal with this column is to suggest ways that you can model the concept of sharing and giving back to your community. 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.

    This month, ask your local library what kids can do to help. Maybe they can hand out library card applications at the farmers market, organize a talent show by kids for the library lawn, or decorate a bulletin board with brief reports on their favorite books.

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  • Special of the month — What About Me?

    This special has expired.

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Last updated September 01, 2014