Tag Archive for vacation

Help Your Children Get “Ready to Learn”

Learning can happen anytime and anywhere…not just in school. In fact, most learning probably occurs outside of school. Our children learn by watching us. They learn while playing. They learn everywhere. But if you really want to get your children “ready to learn” in more formal settings like school, a series of five studies out of Ohio State University offers a simple, yet powerful suggestion. In this series of studies, participants played a simple computer game in which one group saw “colorful images of unfamiliar creatures” later identified as “flurps” and “jalets.”  They received no information about these creatures in the first phase of the study. They simply saw them. A second group played the game and did not even see the creatures.

In the second phase of the study, both groups received explicit instruction about “flurps” and “jalets.” The researchers measured how long it took participants to learn the difference between them. The first group, who had previous exposure to the creatures, learned the differences between “flurps” and “jalets” more quickly than those who had no exposure to them. Simple exposure prepared them to learn.

In another study, participants would see the creatures in the middle of the screen and have to push a one button if the creature jumped to the left or a different button if it jumped to the right. No one told them that one category of creature always jumped left, and another category always jumped right. Surprisingly, participants did not recognize this difference while playing the game. Mere exposure did not teach them which creature jumped in which direction. But, that exposure did allow them to learn the differences between the creatures more quickly than a group who had received no exposure to the creatures. In other words, the exposure did not teach them about the creatures, it simply prepared them to learn about the creatures.

What does this mean? It means that merely exposing your children to new places and things prepares them to learn about those places and things. They may not learn from simply experiencing the new object or place, but the experience prepares them to learn about it more quickly when they receive actual teaching. In other words, you can prepare your child to learn by simply exposing them to new things. Here are some ideas to prepare your children to learn.

  • Go on vacation. When you go on vacation, your children encounter new places, new people, new foods, new ecosystems, new animals, new history, and more. Simply experiencing these things prepares them to learn about them in their school studies, readings, or family talks.
  • Listen to a variety of music. Don’t get stuck in one style of music. Let your children experience a variety of music. Also, buy some toy instruments and let them play with them. Let them bang on the Tupperware, shake the toy tambourine, hum in the kazoo. As a result, they will be better prepared to learn about rhythm, melody, harmony, and instruments.
  • Play with sports equipment. Toss a ball around. Play catch. Swing a bat or a tennis racquet around. Run. Have fun. It will prepare your child to learn about sports when they get more serious.
  • Play board games and card games. Games can expose children to the concept of “chance” and numbers as well as strategy and more. Counting dice, counting moves, deciding if it’s worth the risk to ask for another card…all these prepare a child to learn math and science skills.
  • Cook with your child. Measuring ingredients for pies or cookies prepares your child to learn about math.

These are just a few ideas. There are many more. Take the time today to engage your child in something new and get them “ready to learn.” What activities can you think of that will expose your child to a skill that they will later learn as part of life?

The One Trait Kids Need to Achieve

Did you know that children from a lower socioeconomic status often have lower academic achievement than peers from families with higher income? According to several studies, children who live in families with a lower socioeconomic status start school with a disadvantage, they don’t have access to the same resources. As a result, they have lower academic achievement UNLESS… Yes, there is a BUT to this statement. There is one trait that levels the playing field. If children have this one trait, they perform equally well regardless of socioeconomic status! This trait even gives an advantage. Most important, parents can nurture it! What is this all-powerful trait for academic achievement? Curiosity. That’s right. (Learn more about the benefit of curiosity in Parenting the Curious Explorer.)children exhibit curiosity they achieve well regardless of socioeconomic level and even ability to sustain attention (What Science Says is One Trait Kids Most Need to Succeed in School). Fortunately, parents can nurture curiosity. If your curious about how to nurture curiosity, try these 6 tips.

  1. Ask questions. When your children show an interest in something, even a fleeting interest, ask them questions about that interest. Become a student of your children’s interests. Let them teach you about the object or topic of their interest.
  2. Let them ask questions. I know…sometimes it gets old listening to our children incessantly ask questions. But, let them ask. Feed their inquisitive nature. Encourage their exploration. If you don’t know the answer, help them look it up. You’ll learn a lot. They’ll learn a lot. You’ll deepen your relationship with them. And, you’ll nurture a curiosity that will contribute to future achievement.
  3. Make up alternative endings. Enjoy a good book or movie with your children. Then write a new ending. Maybe write two. What happened to Cinderella when she and the prince run off together? What did Moana do after she restored Te Fiti’s heart, what other adventures did she experience? Use your imagination and have fun.
  4. Allow your children to experience new things. Better yet, encourage your children to experience new things. You don’t have to push them into things. You can do it with them. Take them to free concerts of all types of music. Accompany them to the park, the zoo, the river, the ocean, the conservatory. Visit the aviary and make up stories about the strange birds you find.
  5. Travel. Traveling is a great way to experience new things and nurture curiosity. You don’t have to travel far. Look around your state and see what would be of interest to visit. There are historic sites, nature sites, and interesting factories. For instance, our family had the opportunity to visit the Crayola factory, the Bluebell Ice cream plant, the Andy Warhol Museum, Gettysburg, and Lincoln’s home among others. Traveling also allows your children to experience different cultures. It all nurtures curiosity. What can you visit near your home or near family?
  6. Pay attention. When you pay attention to your children and focus on the things that catch their attention, you increase their attention span (Nurture Your Child’s Attention Span) and their curiosity.

I’m curious…what are some other ways you nurture your children’s curiosity? Share them in the comment section below.

Trying Out for Family Happiness

We all want to live in a happy family. Happy families enjoy one another’s company more than unhappy families do. They resolve arguments and outside stresses more quickly and easily as well. Happy families produce happy people. Happiness is good for us, too. People Trying Out 400who learn the skills of happiness tend to become more successful. They get better performance reviews. They have more satisfying marriages. Happy people live longer and healthier lives. I don’t know about you, but I want these benefits. I want my spouse and kids to have these benefits as well! And, the best place to learn happiness is in the home
with our family. It begins with acceptance and can include simple skills like exercise and setting goals. “Trying out” also raises the level of family happiness.  I don’t mean “trying out” in the sense of “trying out” for a position on a sport’s team or “trying out” for a part in the musical. “Trying out” in this sense means to keep on learning new things. “Try out” something new, just for the fun of it. Trying new things engages our curiosity…and curiosity is one of the top 5 “basic human strengths” associated with an overall life of fulfillment and happiness! Trying new things also allows us to accomplish new things. Accomplishments lead to greater self-confidence. Accomplishment and confidence contribute to overall happiness. So, let’s start “trying out” new things to boost our family happiness. Here are a few simple ideas to get you started.

  • Turn something old into something new. All families have their routine activities. Sometimes these activities can become too routine and humdrum (like the family meal); or, even worse, they become so routine we disliked them (like washing the dishes). Next time your family engages in one of these routine activities, look for and talk about three novel or unexpected aspects of the activity. Focus on the sounds, the facial expressions of your family members, the smells, or the physical sensations of the experience. For instance, how do the bubbles of the dish soap feel? Can you make the bubbles float into the air? Sing a song about the activity. Can you make music with the dishes as you clean them? Try telling stories to make your family laugh during dinner? You get the idea. Look for the humorous, the novel, and the overlooked aspects of the old routine activity. When you discover one, shout it out for all to hear.
  • Learn the family stats. Learn something new about your spouse, kids, and parents. What are their current interests? What are their current challenges? What are their greatest joys? What family stories have your children never heard but speak of fun or resilience in your family heritage? How have your spouse and children grown? What have they learned? What excites them? How have they changed since last year?
  • Dream. As you spend time together, begin to dream. Think about activities you would like to “try out.” Have you tried skiing or hiking? Paint ball or fishing? Why not take the family out and give it a shot? You could read a book that no one has read but you think you’d all enjoy. Take a trip to a place you have never visited. Try cooking a type of food you have never eaten—Asian, Middle Eastern, French, Brazilian, etc. Plan a vacation to someplace you have never been. Whether the Bahamas, Yellowstone Park, Ohiopyle, Europe, or Ohio, plan the trip as a family.
  • Live the dream. After you have planned out any one of your dream ideas, do it. Enjoy the ethnic feast, the dream vacation, and the simple activity. Have fun “trying out” something new.

What are some new things your family has “tried out” to boost your happiness?

Tips For A Great Family Vacation

Summer time means summer vacation. Vacations are a wonderful opportunity to bond with your family while having fun. Whether you go to the beach, camping in the woods, or visiting family, here are some hints to make your family vacation time even more fun.
      ·Include the whole family in planning. Let each family member give input about various activities to include in your vacation. Perhaps one family member wants to visit a particular museum near your vacation spot while another would like to eat lunch at a particular restaurant. Allow both people to give input and, if possible, arrange your vacation schedule to include both activities. Including the family in planning may involve negotiating sleep, meals and foods, activities, use of video games and other technology, the balance of time together versus independent time, and even who sits where in the car.

·Speaking of technology…vacation is a great time to unplug. Allow the majority of your vacation time to be free of technology. You may still check in with your IPad and your children may still enjoy a video game here and there, but do not allow technology to rob you of valuable family time. Take the time to simply enjoy “tech-free” activities and interactions with your family.

·Don’t over plan. No one enjoys rushing from one activity to another, especially during your vacation time. So, don’t over plan. Allow yourself time to relax and recharge. Schedule activities and outings, but make your schedule leisurely and flexible. Maintain some “down time” each day so your family can “do their own thing” for a time.

·Take some old-fashion games with you (remember, vacation is a great time to unplug so avoid computer games). Spend some time each day playing a game. Games can range from Apples to Apples, Uno or other card games, putting together a jumbo jigsaw puzzle, or playing with beach balls, Frisbees, or footballs. These types of games and activities allow you and your family to have fun, talk, and relax all at the same time. You don’t have to worry about who wins the game…simply enjoying one another’s company means you have already won.

·Keep your eyes open for the spontaneous treat. Perhaps as you drive to your vacation spot you will come across a beautiful overlook. Stop and take a moment to enjoy the scenery. Maybe you will walk by an ice cream shop while shopping and, since you have a leisurely schedule, you have time to stop for an ice cream cone. Go ahead and enjoy it. You may even enjoy something as simple as a momentary opportunity to put your arm around a family member as you both look at something beautiful (like a picture, the sunset, or a waterfall) and enjoy the spontaneous opportunity to connect by sharing the experience.
I am not sure where you might go this summer for vacation. Wherever you go, remember these tips, enjoy your family, and have a great time!

Take a Fall Family Vacation

I recently read a blog from The Generous Husband that talked about taking a vacation. I really liked the blog…and I love vacations. About this time of year, I’m looking for a vacation. The rush of the holidays is around the corner, the demands of homework and fall activities have taken a toll on my rest (or lack thereof), and I often feel overwhelmed by life. I want a sabbatical. I want a family vacation where I can enjoy time with my family without the nagging schedule and rush-induced stress that contributes to bickering and snappish remarks. So, this year I’m taking my family on a vacation. Well…not the kind of vacation you might imagine. We are not going to get away from home; and, we are not going to the mountains or the shore. Instead, I am taking my family on a vacation to get away from nagging, fault-finding, and bickering. We are leaving complaints and allegations in our rear view mirror and heading off to the perfect vacation spot…a beautiful resort of peace and quiet where we can find rest and relaxation. Actually, the perfect vacation spot is not so much a place as it is a charge, a duty, an investment. This perfect vacation spot involves changing the orientation of our heart and the focus of our time. It is nestled scenically at the center of the happy family. In this pleasant and breathtaking destination, our family can settle down on the beach of affirmation and listen to the waves of thanks and encouragement wash up on the shore of our heart, softly rolling over our spirit with words of support and love moment after moment. Of course, we will take a cooler filled with refreshing compliments to quench our thirst for acceptance and recognition. Fully equipped for a day at the shore, we can bask in the warmth of affirmation and affection, allowing the warm rays of encouragement to melt the stress of everyday life away, and enjoy the loving interaction of family. Would you care to join me and my family on this vacation? We will be enjoying this scenic and invigorating vacation spot for the rest of the week. You are welcome to join us. In fact, we hope to see you there!

Family Road Trip Games

Remember “Star Trek”? Whenever Captain Kirk wanted to come home from a planet, he flipped open his communicator and said, “Beam me up Scotty.” Within seconds he was transported from one location to another. I always wanted a transporter to get to and from vacation spots. Alas, we have to drive. We pile our family and luggage into the car for a “3 hour tour” (Sorry, I switched TV metaphors). Anyway, our 3 hour tour generally seems to last all day. Fortunately, even the road trip can become a fun part of the vacation when you have a few activities planned. We have found several activities that make the road trip more enjoyable and I thought I would share some with you. Hope you enjoy them and your family vacation.
Use a Playlist: Talk to each of your family members about their current favorite songs or albums. Put together a playlist of everyone’s favorites. During the trip, sing along to each person’s favorite music for a portion of the trip. By the way, don’t just use everyone’s playlist to sing along. Use familiar melodies and make up your own words.
The License Plate Game: Print out a U.S. map and mark off each state as you see the corresponding license plate. See if you can find a license from each of the 50 states during your summer travels. This can be a family project or a competition to see who finishes first.
The License Plate Game, Part 2: Look for “designer plates” and call them out. For instance, if you see “KLNX BX,” yell out “Kleenex Box.” You can also use “non-designer plates” to make up your own words and phrases. For instance, “DLP” on a plate might be “Dollop” or “CHT 9032” might be “CHaT at 9:03 too”. See who can make up the most creative words…you might find a budding Dr. Seuss.
Play Cards: Bring a deck of cards and play “Go Fish,” “Old Maid,” “500,” or any other game your family enjoys.
Hand (or Back) Writing: One person closes their eyes while another person “writes” a letter or word on their back or hand. The person with their eyes closed has to guess what was “written.” 
Tell Jokes: Take turns telling jokes—”Knock, Knock” jokes, riddles, or plain old funny stories. If you don’t know many jokes, get book from the library and take turns reading jokes out loud.
Cat’s Cradle: My daughters enjoyed making string figures like “Jacob’s Ladder” and “Whiskers.” Don’t ask me how…I never could figure this one out.
I Spy: One person secretly identifies an object that everyone can see. He then says, “I spy with my little eye something…” and identifies the color of that object. Everyone else has to guess what the object is until someone figures it out. The first person to figure it out gets to pick the object for the next round.
20 Questions: This game is sometimes called “Animal, Vegetable, Mineral.” One person thinks of an object but does not tell anyone what it is. The other players ask questions, trying to determine the object in less than 20 questions. Many people ask if it is “animal, mineral, or vegetable” to get started. (I always got stuck at this question–is it a vegetable or a fruit? And what really constitutes a mineral? Is a tree animal, mineral or vegetable? I don’t know…after all, I’m a psychologist not a biologist.) 
The Alphabet Game: Start with the letter “A” and find one on a sign, truck, or building. Identify the letter for everyone to see and then move on to the next letter. You can do this as a competition or together as a family for the younger beginning readers. The first one to get to the letter “Z” is the winner!
Alphabet Game II: In this version, one person picks a theme such as foods, animals, places, girl names, boy names, bands, songs…. Starting with the letter “A,” everyone picks an item that corresponds to that letter. Then move to “B” and so forth. When a person can’t think of an item, they’re out. Last person in, wins.
Rock-Paper-Scissors: In this game,each play says “Rock, Paper, Scissors” while lightly slapping a fist into their open hand once for each word. When saying “scissors,” each player changes his fist into one of three gestures: a rock by keeping the fist, scissors by holding out their first two fingers, or paper by keeping their hand flat. Rock beats scissors, scissors beat paper, and paper beats rock. You can use variations of this game by making up other gestures such as Dragon (putting your hands like claws near your ears), Knight (pretending to swing a sword), or Damsel (laying your head on your hands while batting your eyes). In this version, dragon beats damsel, knight beats dragon, and damsel beats knight.
Duct Tape Art: Buy a roll of duct tape and let each person make something with it. Today, you can find duct tape in all kinds of colors–orange, blue, the traditional grey and black. Our kids and their cousins have made wallets, bracelets, gloves, and sandals. Go figure…duct tape really can fix everything.
I’m sure you have your own ideas. Please share them in the comment section or on Facebook so we can all benefit…and, have a great vacation even while your travel.