Monday, April 17, 2017

The Benefits of Boredom



April vacation is here! The kids are out of school and the weather is warm, great conditions for a family vacation.  Alternately there are plenty of options from gymnastics to computer programming to fill those non-school hours with edifying pursuits. But some of us do not have a trip planned and prefer not to spend an almost equivalent amount of money on "vacation camp", and we are faced with the daunting question: "What am I going to do with my kids all week?"

Well, the magic answer to that question does exist : NOTHING. That's right, nothing. Apparently boredom has benefits that may outweigh any or all of the 21+ enriching activities we've spent hours planning to get ourselves and the kids to the end of the week.
Creativity & Imagination
Being bored forces children to use their imaginations to entertain themselves. A 1980s study comparing the imaginative capacity of preschoolers who watched TV with those who didn't showed significantly more imagination on the part of the TV free kids. More recently, Dr. Teresa Belton, who studies the connection between boredom and imagination at University of East Anglia, maintains that boredom is critical to the development creativity in children.

Independence & Self Reliance
When kids don't have their whole day scheduled out for them, they are compelled to figure out on their own how to best spend their time. According to child psychologist Lyn Fry, "Your role as a parent is to prepare children to take their place in society. Being an adult means occupying yourself and filling up your leisure time in a way that will make you happy."

Tolerance & Emotional Self-Regulation
Having to deal with being bored is one way kids get practice tolerating things they may find unpleasant or uncomfortable, definitely an important skill in adulthood. It will serve them well when they become parents, and have to listen to their own kids whine about being bored.

Better Sleep Habits
This particularly applies to the overuse of digital devices for entertainment, but applies to non-digital forms of excitement as well. Giving kids' brains a break from constant stimulation, even educational or beneficial stimulation, can improve sleeping habits and contribute to the ability to calm oneself. If they never get a break, how can they learn how to consciously take one when needed?

Does this mean we don't have to play cruise director? We don't have to defy time and space to deliver 3 children to 3 separate activities that all begin within the same 15 minutes? That's exactly what this means. But before you start calling your mom friends to find out if they prefer mimosas or margaritas, I'm afraid I have to point out one teensy weensy downside to this approach : they are going to whine. By 'they' I mean your kids, and that's 'whine' with an 'h'. So herein lies the real challenge for us, the parents: to listen to the whining and hold strong. As in "No, you can't watch TV"; "No, you can't play video games"; and "No, you can't use the ipad".
That being said, we're only human. So when you've reached the point where you're wishing you actually were a cruise director, on a boat, somewhere far away - remember it's only a week. Still fantasizing about working for Norwegian Cruise Line? You'll find a few links for some activities and ideas for things to do below. So you and your mom friends can make it to the end of the week and enjoy your margaritas in peace.

"A child develops best when, like a young plant, he is left undisturbed in the same soil. Too much travel, too much variety if impressions, are not good for the young, and cause them to grow up to become incapable of enduring fruitful monotony." Philosopher Bertrand Russell, 1930

Kids' Fun Stop Indoor Playspace (Parent Talk member discount $2 off child's admission)
Needham arts & crafts drop off classes (Parent Talk member discount 15%)
Jump N' Slide (Parent Talk member discount 33% on walk-ins)
Check out our ParentTalk Member Discounts page for more discounts on drop-in fun
Needham Public Library Calendar
Needham Candlepin Bowling
Wellesley Toysinbox 3-D Printing Show
Natick minigolf
Drumlin Farm Wildlife Sanctuary in Lincoln
Cambridge Science Festival
Boston Common Swan Boats
Museum of Fine Arts Vacation Week Free Activities
Zoo New England Vacation Week
Ecotarium in Worcester


About the Author:

Laura Perras is a mom and Realtor who grew up in Needham, where she now works as part of the Perras Group at the William Raveis Needham office. In addition to mom-ing and selling houses, Laura enjoys djing, yoga, and arts and crafts. She’s very excited to be taking on the role of blog coordinator! Please reach out if you would like to submit a post to the blog or have feedback or ideas regarding what you’d like to see here : Laura.Perras.Realtor@gmail.com

Friday, March 31, 2017

Teaching Kids Compassion

We all want our children to grow up to be kind, compassionate, happy adults.
Research has shown that engaging in acts of compassion increases individual happiness, well-being and physical health. One study found that even in toddlers as young as 2 years old (yes, even those little monsters) giving to others made them happier than being on the receiving end. We are all born with an innate sense of compassion, but while adults have the benefit of learned impulse control and the understanding that tomorrow is another day, children live in the moment, at the mercy of feelings they can't even name. So how can we help them tap into this beneficial ability?

Live our own lives compassionately
If there is a golden rule of parenting, it's probably this: If you're gonna talk the talk, you'd better walk the walk. Our kids learn how to be people by watching us, so if we want them to become compassionate people, we have to show them how. First and foremost by addressing their needs. Particularly when they are pushing our buttons. It's often in those moments when we aren't exactly bursting with spontaneous compassion that our kids need our comfort the most.  And when we screw up? We can admit it. We can apologize if an apology is in order.

Talk to our kids about compassion
There are lots of ways to bring compassion into the conversation with kids, since it plays a role in so many aspects of our day to day lives. We can't force them to be kind or care about others, but we can certainly sing their praises when  they do, and we can ask questions that lead them to both articulate their own feelings in a given situation and ponder how someone else might feel. Examples can be found during dinnertime discussions of the day's events, while moderating sibling disputes, or by reading books or watching movies together that tell stories of compassion and kindness. Younger children especially are still learning how to name their feelings, and by helping them do so we are not only teaching them how to communicate but also helping them develop self-awareness and emotional intelligence. 
For a list of books with compassionate themes for all ages, click here: http://www.the-best-childrens-books.org/teaching-compassion.html 



Encourage acts of compassion
Cheering up a sad friend, comforting a sick sibling, or helping a neighbor are all acts of compassion. We can help our children write sincere thank-you notes for received gifts, or volunteer in our community. You can find family friendly volunteer opportunities here on the Parent Talk website, such as our upcoming Project Night Night event on April 8th (info below). Check out this article for more Boston-area volunteering ideas:

About the Author:
Laura Perras is a mom and Realtor who grew up in Needham, where she now works as part of the Perras Group at the William Raveis Needham office. In addition to mom-ing and selling houses, Laura enjoys djing, yoga, and arts and crafts. She’s very excited to be taking on the role of blog coordinator. Please reach out if you would like to submit a post to the blog or have feedback or ideas regarding what you’d like to see here:  Laura.Perras.Realtor@gmail.com

Please join us on Saturday, April 8th, from 10-11:30am for Project Night Night Bag Decorating and Playtime. We'll provide all the supplies you need to decorate your bag(s), plus your child(ren) can enjoy the playspace when they are done with their bag(s). Bring your PNN bag(s) or bring $3.50 for each bag you are picking up at the event, as well as your items to fill them with.
Location: Caryl Community Center, Room 215, 4 Springdale Ave, Dover
More info about Project Night Night: http://www.projectnightnight.org/
Contact: Nar and Julie projectnightnight@parenttalk.info
Register (before April 7th):
https://www.eventbrite.com/e/project-night-night-bag-decoratingstuffing-and-playtime-tickets-32475977523





Wednesday, February 22, 2017

PT Volunteer Raffle Winner Does It All, But How?

Parent Talk's new volunteer appreciation program has drawn its first raffle winner and . . . (drumroll) . . . Julie Hannon and her family have won a free Parent Talk membership year!  

Julie joined PT about three years ago after being introduced to PT's playgroups by a neighbor.  Since then, she has become a familiar face, volunteering at PT's Preschool and Kindergarten Fair, the bi-annual Used Toy, Clothing, and Equipment Sale, Spring Fundraiser, and the Summer Camp Fair. Volunteering at these events can include helping with things like set-up/clean-up, tagging, contacting participants, organizing, and marketing.  This year, Julie's efforts coordinating Parent Talk's 4th Annual Summer Camp Fair resulted in her name being entered in PT's first raffle under the new volunteer appreciation program.

Julie with  her husband P.J. and sons Bobby (5 months old), Patrick (4.5 years old) and Joseph (3 years old).


Julie works two nights a week as a nurse at Boston's Beth Israel and is married with three kids (aged 4.5 years, 3 years and 5 months old).   Parenting is a challenging job, whether you share responsibilities with others or do it all yourself.  Add the energy devoted to nurturing a relationship with a partner or spouse.  Add the demands of a stressful job like nursing.  Add the fact that all three kids are energetic boys under age 5.  Add that one of them is an infant.  What do you get as the total sum?  Not a lot of time left for volunteering, that's for certain! So, how does Julie do it?!

Julie explains, "The great thing I found out about Parent Talk is that sometimes you are afraid that you have no time to dedicate to it, but a lot can get done on your own time.  You can do it a little at a time, and not all at once."

Julie's first volunteered at PT's annual Preschool Fair.  She needed to research preschools for her family, so decided to fill the role of event coordinator.  She enjoyed it, and coordinated the Fair the next year, along with volunteering for many other PT events.

"It can seem overwhelming at first to take on a coordination role, but you can do a lot from home and online, especially with events like the Summer Camp Fair and Preschool Fair.  You can do it when you have a free moment, whether it be morning or night.  There's a lot of historical help.  [Parent Talk's] Preschool Fair [keeps] spreadsheets of who to contact.  It's easy to navigate a list of what to get done.  It makes it so much easier.  You don't necessarily have to get together with a group of people and coordinate schedules."

Julie says volunteering has helped her make connections and meet people in the community she otherwise would not have met.  "The best thing about volunteering is that you learn about Parent Talk offerings . . . and you are helping a great organization," she adds.  You might miss an online announcement, but volunteering puts you in contact with the community and can keep your family in the loop about fun events and helpful resources.

While many volunteers could just as easily have won this first raffle, we are happy that it was you, Julie!  Thank you for all of your efforts that benefit our entire Parent Talk community.

About the Author
Darlene W. Cancell first volunteered for Parent Talk at its biannual Used Toy, Clothing and Equipment Sale a few years ago.  She continued to volunteer at various events and enjoyed a stint as PT's Blog Coordinator.  Currently, Darlene is enjoying her role on the Board as Volunteer Chair,  She looks forward rewarding more PT members in future raffles under the new volunteer appreciation program!

Parent Talk thanks all of our wonderful volunteers who are essential to making PT events, programming and resources available to all members!

Monday, December 5, 2016

Make Meaning with Parent Talk this Holiday Season and Beyond

We all want to teach our children to be kind and generous, especially in today's world.  It can be both heartening and overwhelming to know that they learn directly by watching us -- the way we interact with others, the manner in which we speak, and the things we value most.

"Garden Clean-Up Grand Rapids Montessori School" by Steven Depolo


This time of year, many of us have long To-Do lists.  Simultaneously, we strive to concentrate our efforts on making memories.  Many Parent Talk members are also looking for ways to give back to the community.  We would like to help you in these efforts!

 Ways to Give Back, Give Thanks, and Spread Kindness

1.  Share the food pantry wish list from Needham Community Council with your children and have them pick an item to purchase on your next trip to the grocery store.  Pop by the food pantry together to drop it off.

2.  Help your children choose one or more toys that they no longer play with and donate them to an organization such as Cradles to Crayons.

3.  Explain to your child the importance of thanking public service workers for all that they do to keep us safe.  Help them write a note and/or draw a picture and drop it off at a police or fire station.

4.  Connect with the Needham Community Council to find out what it needs for its holiday outreach programs.  One possibility is decorating bags to hold gifts for local nursing home residents.  Your kids could also make holiday cards to send along with NCC's turkey dinners that are dropped off with local families.

5.  Find a good-sized rock, help your child paint it, and write an inspirational word or quote on it.  Place it in a popular place where it will bring a smile to people's faces when they see it.  Some places to put rocks include next to a tree in a park, on the edge of a frequently traveled path, or give it to a teacher for use as a door stop.  The goal is to pick a place where it can spread kindness and happiness to others.


 Organizations Parent Talk Supports/Has Supported

Let Parent Talk know if you want help in getting connected to opportunities to support the organizations below, or others. These links are to the organizations (along with some opportunities to get involved) that Parent Talk has supported through the years.   If you have hatched your own idea, don't be afraid to reach out!  Parent Talk is interested in helping you develop initiatives that help the community.  



"cradles-to-crayons-4" by Barb Hoyer



Needham Community Council (Fit To Be Tied Program; Food Pantry)

Project Night-Night

The Walker School 

Home For Little Wanderers

Room To Grow

Brockton Neighborhood Health Center

Library Foundation of Needham (Little Free Libraries)

Cradles to Crayons

Massachusetts Department of Children and Families

Operation Christmas Child

Bagong Kulturang Pinoy

Arm2Arm 

Lynn Women's Health

The above are opportunities to feel accomplished while showing your kids what matters most.  Please feel free to contact Parent Talk's Community Relations Chair at cheripugatch@gmail.com, anytime with questions, comments, or ideas about supporting our communities.


About the Author
Cheri Pugatch is mom to three daughters and a golden retriever puppy.  Before becoming Parent Talk's Chair of Community Relations, she was a kindergarten teacher.  She enjoys volunteering in her daughters' schools and with various non-profits.  Cheri is very excited to get more involved in Parent Talk, where she brings her passion for connecting children and families with community service.


Parent Talk Wishes You Happy Holidays! May this Season (and Beyond) Be Filled with Meaning and Memories!






 

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Volunteering with PT Just Got More Fun with More Rewards!

If you are a Parent Talk member who volunteers, you already know that volunteering is its own reward.  Volunteering makes you feel good, and it's a great way to get to know the community and make new friends.  Now, with a new volunteer appreciation program, there is added icing to the cake!

"Cupcakes" by phil wood photo

Starting with PT's 12th Annual Preschool and Kindergarten Fair (October 19) and Portraits in Silhouette (October 23-24), every time you volunteer, you will be entered into a raffle for a free year's membership to Parent Talk.   The more you volunteer, the more entries you get.  The more entries you get, the more chances of winning!  We will also be awarding gift cards and other prizes to a few lucky volunteers at various times during the year.

Haven't gotten around to volunteering yet?  Want to cross that 2-hour annual commitment off your To Do list?  Now is the time!  You might be pleasantly surprised by how easy it is.  Give yourself the satisfaction of finally being able to say, "Mission accomplished!" And, don't forget, you might be a winner!

"We Can Do It" by Stew and Vee Carrington

Member-volunteers run almost all aspects of PT.  Have you enjoyed shopping at Parent Talk's bi-annual Used Clothing, Toy, and Equipment Sale? Or attending playgroups, lectures, and family-fun events like Flicks on the Field and Barn Babies?  Yes, those are all run by member-volunteers.  Just goes to show you that while 2 hours is a small amount of time, the contribution of many volunteers achieves great things!  And when you find out how rewarding it is (as I have), you just might keep coming back.

So, go ahead and volunteer!  Volunteer opportunities are usually announced in PT's email newsletter, and time slots are viewable on links to Sign Up Genius.  The PT website, Facebook and this blog can also have information.  Check for a time that works for you on October 19 or October 23-24, respectively, for the upcoming Preschool and Kindergarten Fair or Portraits in Silhouette. If those dates don't work for you, not to worry -- there are plenty more volunteer opportunities coming up, like Parent Talk's Winter Marketplace on December 11, 2016!  Hope to see you at a PT event soon!



About the Author
Darlene W. Cancell is an attorney turned stay-at-home mom.  She discovered the joys of volunteering with Parent Talk through its Sale, and then as its Blog Coordinator.  Currently, she is excited for the chance to help make volunteering even more fun and convenient for PT members in her role as Board member and Volunteer Chair.  She welcomes your feedback and suggestions for volunteering here, or at darleneparenttalk@gmail.com and volunteers@parenttalk.info.













Monday, August 8, 2016

The Importance of Promoting Healthy Eating in the Early Years

From the moment that your child is born, his or her relationship with food begins and, as a parent, it is important that we nurture this relationship and ensure that, when possible, it is a healthy one.  Living a healthy and well-nourished lifestyle is important for your child's physical and mental development, which is why it's so essential that children are encouraged to develop healthy eating habits and eat a healthy and balanced diet.

The consequences of not enjoying a healthy diet can be dire.  The obesity crisis means that more than two thirds of adults in this country are considered to be overweight and obese, and around one third of children between the ages of six and nineteen are either overweight or obese.   Healthy eating could not be more important.  So, how can you promote and encourage these healthy eating habits?  Here are just a few tips and ideas.


"Unwrapped Dum Dums Lollipops" by DDGuy

RETHINK DINNER TIME

Most children are notoriously fussy eaters, and many parents find it difficult to encourage their children to eat, and worry that they are not getting enough calories each day.  This is one of the main reasons parents succumb and allow their children to eat an excess of junk food, such as chicken nuggets and french fries.  One way around this is to take a different approach to dinner time.  When cooking your main evening meal, always make sure that you offer at least one item that the kid likes and will eat.  You should also only cook a limited amount of the starch dish.  Cook extras of the fruits and vegetables and other healthy components, in order to encourage second helpings.  Why not try our recipe for hidden vegetable pizza (below) which is a great way to introduce those extra veggies in a way that your kids will enjoy?

REDEFINE TREATS

Many parents reward their children with unhealthy food, positioning candy and chocolate as "treats."  This can be very damaging and can create a long term mentality of associating food with rewards.  Instead, consider rewarding children with non-edible treats, such as a trip to their local bounce house, a day out to the park, or even a small toy or gift.  If you do decide to reward them with food, introduce healthy treats such as fruit, or even fruit incorporated into cake (see our recipe for a healthy fruit tart, below).  If you do succumb and bring junk food such as sweets and candies into your home for your children, then choose the smallest possible package size.

TALK ABOUT FOOD

Finally, the most important aspect of instilling lifelong healthy eating is education.  It is important to make your children aware of the differences between healthy and unhealthy foods and the effects that they have on their bodies.  Because of children's susceptibility to eating disorders (regardless of their age, gender, or current weight) it is important not to focus too deeply on weight and on the concept of being obese or "fat."  Instead, position healthy foods as something that helps children to grow strong and healthy.  No food should be forbidden.  Banning things only makes children want them more.  Instead, encourage your children to make healthy choices as much as possible, but acknowledge that the occasional sugar craving is not something that should be ignored, and it's important to include a huge range of different foods (even less healthy ones) in your diet.

"Summer kids eat lunch" by U.S. Department of Agriculture

These small changes can really help to promote healthy eating.  By talking to your children and explaining why you are making these changes to their diet and the positive effects on their lives and their bodies, you are likely to find that your kids will get on board with the idea very quickly.

RECIPES

Hidden Vegetable Pizza

1 Cup fresh spinach
1 Cup mushrooms
1 whole green pepper
1 jar of spaghetti sauce or passatta
mozzarella cheese
1 premade pizza crust

Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.
Use a blender to blend together the spinach, mushrooms, pepper and spaghetti sauce.
Spread the sauce over the pizza crust.
Top with mozzarella cheese.
Bake for 10-15 minutes and then serve hot.

Healthy Fruit Tart

15 Medjool dates, pre-soaked
1 Cup cashew nuts
1 Cup Greek yogurt
Assorted sliced fresh fruit (depending on child's preference)

Use a blender to blend together the dates and cashew nuts into a dough.
Press dough evenly into a lightly greased pie tin.
Spread the yogurt over the top of the pie crust.
Decorate with the fruit, then slice and serve.



About the Author
Helen Watts is a freelance writer and mother.  She began writing professionally after becoming a mother and leaving a varied career as a nutritionist and dietician.  She is particularly passionate about healthy eating for children.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Giving Experiences (and an Experiment) for Father's Day

"Father's Kiss" by Shuana Hawkins

Father's Day is coming up this Sunday, and in my household, we have been brainstorming ways to show the many fathers in the family that they are appreciated and loved.  Psychologists say that the most satisfying gifts are experiences, not things.  Maybe take a family outing to the beach, or eat out or in from a favorite restaurant (Gari's Maki Madness for sushi lovers)?  Or, relieve Dad of his household chores so that he can spend more time doing something that he really enjoys?  Some family fun ideas include an art festivalfarm festival, a day sailing, and Stone Zoo or Franklin Zoo (fathers get free admission!).

While gifting an experience is a good idea, I'm also a big believer in pairing it with something tangible that can be unwrapped.  Luckily, my craft-loving preschooler has been excited about creating a present for Dad.  So, we took a trip to Michaels and after nosing around a bit, came home with a large, white, cotton tee-shirt and dimensional fabric paint to customize a Father's Day shirt.  Along with a stencil and sponge brush which we already had at home, these were our basic tools. The results of my little guy's first shirt-decorating experiment is below.

OUR PROCESS

First, we laid the shirt on a flat surface.  After placing the stencil where we wanted it (middle of the shirt), my son squeezed fabric paint onto the stencil.




Then, with a sponge brush, he spread the paint throughout the parts of the stencil that he wanted to use.




To switch paint color, we rinsed the sponge brush in a cup of water, and squeezed out excess water with paper towels. After rinsing and squeezing, the brush was ready to be used with another paint color.



The stencil was moved to another section of the shirt to continue decorating.




When the stenciling was finished, my son added "DAD" and signed his name on the shirt, next to a heart.





When the back of the shirt was dry, I turned the shirt over to add lettering for Fathers Day 2016 on the area under one shoulder. My son added his fingerprints in his favorite color everywhere else, adding his personal touch.




LESSONS LEARNED


  • Dimensional fabric paints, I discovered, are the same thing as "puffy paint."  It can be hard to squeeze even amounts while writing words, and the words end up . . well. . . puffy.  Next time, if a more polished look is the goal, we'll try flat paints, letter stencils, or markers.

  • Using a simple, single shape would probably result in a crisper, cleaner look than the graffiti stencil we used here.  For our second try, I may have my son paint a large sponge or cardboard cut-out that I provide (possibilities include a happy face, palm tree, or ocean waves) to simply press onto a clean shirt for the image transfer.

  • It helps to place a couple of brown paper grocery bags on the inside of the shirt to prevent paint soaking through to the other side.  In case you are wondering, yes, adding my son's fingerprints to the front side of the shirt was how we made a couple of unintentional dots of paint become part of an intentional design!


Even if the ultimate result is not really polished looking, I know my husband will enjoy this gift.  It's a wearable piece of art as well as a tangible reminder that he will have of the fleeting days of his son's early childhood.

Happy Father's Day!



About the Author
Darlene W. Cancell is an attorney turned stay-at-home mom.  After serving as Parent Talk's Blog Coordinator, she looks forward to her new role as PT's Volunteer Chair for 2016-2017!



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