Is My Child Ready for Swim Lessons?

Boris op de rand
source: Ianus via Flickr Creative Commons

You’ve heard stories of babies thrown in the water who come up swimming at six months. You’ve seen kids in the pool who look way too old to be wearing floaties. So when should a child learn how to swim?

Here are some tips, although of course you know your child best and should take that into mind.

  • Children younger than 3 are probably not able to do a swim lesson with an instructor. (Really, how often does your 2-year-old listen to YOU, nevertheless someone else when he is distracted by splashing?) Hold off on parent-free lessons until age 3. But if you can take a parent-child class, go for it if you toddler is comfortable with it.
  • Find a class that splits by age range so your child will not be mixed in with kids much younger or older.
  • Most experts will say that the motor skills for actual swimming are not developed until age 5 and beyond. Preschoolers will do great in simple getting-used-to-the-water type lessons, but don’t expect your son or daughter to learn how to really swim in a proper fashion before 5. The more comfortable he or she already is with the water, though, the easier lessons will be in the future.
  • Lessons will be progressive, so continue them each summer.
  • Studies show that whether you start swim lessons at 2, 3, or 4, most kids won’t start swimming independently until about 5 1/2.

I would conclude that you can start swim lessons when you’re comfortable with your child being in the water with an instructor – beginning with a parent-child class and moving onto group or individual instruction without parents in the pool. But don’t be discouraged if your preschooler doesn’t learn to swim independently.

(Puddle Jumpers are so wonderful for that age when they WANT to try to swim but can’t, too!)

Do you have any tips or stories about swim lessons?

 

God-Focused Summer Reading

While you’re trying to get your child to read this summer, why not slip in some books that will increase their faith as well as their reading level? Here are some ideas for books on every level.

God-Focused Summer Reading from Toddlers to Preteens

Babies and Toddlers

Preschoolers

Early Elementary

Preteens

Maybe that will help you jump-start some summer reading? I love that we have so much Christian media – books, TV shows, movies, music – that helps us reinforce biblical truth.

What’s one of your favorite Christian kids books?

Giving My Kids Responsibility for Their Stuff

One of the best choices I’ve made in parenting!

#ds302 - Trail of Tears

I was so tired of asking my kids to clean their rooms.

It gets old, doesn’t it? The fact that my 6-year-old would still throw a giant tantrum any time I asked her didn’t help. Maybe it was because by that time, I was so frustrated I was about to burst. This had been going on for years. Instead of cleaning, she would whine, complain, cry, and then often fall asleep in avoidance of the task at hand.

We don’t have a ton of toys for our kids, either. But we live in an apartment, a small-ish place, no playroom, and the toys seem to overrun it nonetheless.

One day I decided I was just DONE. I talked it over with my husband. What do we do well that the kids respond to?

Bedtime. We do bedtime right. Every night, the kids (6, 4, and 2) know exactly what to expect. We read a Bible story, share what we are thankful for, and sing a song. Then they brush teeth, get tucked in with essential oil diffusers on, and are expected to go to sleep. My sons (the 4 and 2 year old) share a room, and often giggle and chat until it gets dark. But they know to go to sleep. They don’t come out and ask for a million things. It’s BEDTIME.

So I thought about how we could transfer that kind of consistency to cleaning up. After thought (especially reflecting on some of Kevin Leman’s books, like Make Children Mind Without Losing Yours), I posted a few new rules on a chalkboard in the kitchen the next morning.

Rule #1: The kids would be expected to have clean rooms by 7 p.m. on Sunday evening. If they did, they would receive an age-appropriate allowance. Rule #2: Any toys left in the living room after bedtime might not be there in the morning.

Simple, right? But it was enough to make it click for my 6-year-old, at least.

The first week, my 4-year-old’s room wasn’t clean at 7 p.m. And he didn’t get the allowance. You better believe it was clean the second Sunday night!

There’s more to it, of course, a few more rules we created to help consistency around here. But just putting it in writing has made a huge difference in our household. And the best part is my own freedom: I might remind them that if they pick up during the week, it will make Sunday easier. But it puts all the responsibility on them, not me. And amazingly enough, the rooms have stayed much cleaner the rest of the time, too.

Do you have any great go-to tips for getting kids to pick up and do chores?

Photo used with permission of Flickr Creative Common from user Sharon Drummond. This post added to Works for Me Wednesday at Giving Up on Perfect

When Your Kids Are Like Night and Day by Jessie Weaver

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I’ve always been sort of baffled at how very unalike my two older children are.

Exhibit A: This was one of the first times David played on ABCMouse, a learning Web site. When his sister (older by two years) does these coloring pages on the site, she generally does everything one color, wanting to get it done as soon as possible. These days, she enjoys spending all her earned “tickets” to buy clothes for her avatar and decorate her virtual room. She is jealous of her brother’s thousands of tickets, earned because he will do puzzles on the highest level and spends his time detailing the coloring pages.

IMG_4986

Exhibit B: This boy loves to dress up. He never changes after church on Sunday, no matter how dressed up he is. The first Monday after he wore his fancy suit to church on Sunday, he was home alone with my husband. Adam asked him to go get dressed. Adam says he came out dressed in the suit, again, having dug it out of the dirty clothes. Poor David had to learn that we do not wear dirty clothes. Usually.

My daughter, on the other hand, no matter how much she loves to dress up, changes the second she gets home from church into “comfy clothes.” I am never sure whether she is uncomfortable or she just wants the chance to wear another outfit. But she has to get into a new get-up whether Mommy thinks it’s necessary or not.

These two, they are remarkably different, showing that nature can have a funny sense of humor. I’ve never know whether it’s boy/girl, older/younger, or just their personalities. One is an extroverted, wild, active child with gangly limbs and big curls. One is introverted, generally quiet and focused, teensy-tiny and with none of his brother and sister’s curly locks. They are night and day.

I’ve found, though, that my job as a parent is not to identify more with one of them. I see myself and my husband in both of their personalities. I love those little reflections. But I can love every piece of them, as different as those pieces may be. And, most importantly, I learn differently from my children. From Libbie, I learn to live a little more exuberantly, embracing life in its fullest, loving people loudly. From David, I learn patience (did I mention he is SLOWWWWW?) and to take time to stop and smell the roses. I try to delight a little bit more at dandelions and puffy clouds.

God’s given me three very different children. (I’m not even getting into my baby, here!) And they are all blessings. I just have to learn how to delight in their differences!

Jessie Weaver writes regularly about family, faith, and food at jessieweaver.net. 

 

Create a Hall of Family Faith

One of the greatest gifts we can give our kids as people of faith is a long line of believing people. Deuteronomy 7:9 says, “Know therefore that the LORD your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commandments” (NIV). It is a blessing to our great-great-grandchildren, whom we may never meet, to be a person of faith!

Custom "Frames" Family Portraits up on Etsy!
source: Grace Uhm via Flickr Creative Commons

If you’re searching for a meaningful way to decorate your home, how about making a Hall of Faith for your family lines? This will involve some research, but will be well worth it.

Think of some moments of faith in your life and your spouse’s. Brainstorm together. Maybe you have pictures from:

  • baptisms, dedications, or confirmations
  • mission trips
  • special church events
  • your wedding

If your children have accepted Christ, make sure to include pictures of them or of their baptisms.

Then think back to your parents, grandparents, and beyond. Are there any great stories of faith in your family histories? Perhaps you have a missionary aunt, a pastor grandfather, or a relative who worked in disaster relief through a state board. Personally, I know my mom was an awesome VBS director and when my ancestors came over from Germany, I believe one or two were ministers.

Frame photos of as many people and events as you can, and hang them in a “Hall of Faith” gallery wall. Tell the stories to your children. They will pass these pictures frequently, and you may have to tell the tales over and over again. But that will help ingrain these events in their young minds. They can be excited about the family history of faith, just as we are excited about the heroes of the Bible when we read Hebrews 11.

And if you don’t have a history of believers? Focus on you, your spouse, and your children. Add some photos of biblical or historical figures, people your children admire. Share stories of their faith. And anticipate the wonder of a thousand generations starting with you!

 

 

What a Teacher Wants to Tell You, the Parent by Ashley Terpstra

What a Teacher Wants to Tell You as a Parent
source: Duke University Archives via Flickr Creative Commons

  1. The reason we give homework is not to make your life harder as a parent. In order to transfer their knowledge, it is important that they practice independently what we are learning that week. We have a limited amount of time to practice during a given lesson. Ideally, homework is something we, the teachers, think that they can do on their own without help.
  2. School isn’t like it was when we were young anymore. Current educational research trends support children taking more charge in their learning. We don’t do math by teaching them algorithms (one certain method) anymore either. We KNOW that it is difficult to watch your children struggle with their learning, but it is helping them learn how to think rather than just digest and spit out information without really learning anything.
  3. The teacher is on your side! And your child’s side! You are your child’s first and most important teacher. You are the expert on your child, and we are the experts on teaching. It is so important to be on the same team. Adversarial parent-teacher relationships are only detrimental to your child, and no one wants that. Keep your child’s teacher informed. If your child had a bad morning, communicate that with the teacher! If we know what’s coming, we will be more ready to help your child jump that hurdle and move on with the day.
  4. When your child is in our class for the year, they become “our kids.” Being a teacher is like having 20 children that are the same age. It can be difficult sometimes to be a teacher. My whole life is encompassed by these children. If they have a bad day, I have a bad day. I may have high expectations of their behavior and their effort, but if someone messes with MY kids, I will take up for them every time. Here is my pinky swear–I honestly want your child to reach his highest potential, to grow to be a whole person, to learn empathy and compassion, and do her best.
  5. Teachers are real people. They are dealing with person struggles, heartaches, illnesses, and the plethora of everyday life events. They put this aside to teach and empower your children. Give them the benefit of a doubt. They are doing their absolute best for your child.

 

Ashley Terpstra is a first-grade teacher in Chattanooga, Tennessee. 

 

How Surviving a Snow Day Is Like Getting through a Spiritual Drought by Jessie Weaver

snowdaysanalogy

First of all, you have to know that I am not talking one snow day. I’m talking two weeks where my elementary-school-aged child has gone to school a grand total of 8.5 hours. She is distraught. I am stir-crazy. My preschooler went once for 2.5 hours. In two weeks! I pay for him to go to school!

I’m reminding myself that this is the consequence of living in a very large county with mountains. And in the midst of my stir-craziness and feeling like I cannot possibly find one more thing in our apartment for my three children to do, I find myself thinking how getting through a fortnight of snow days is an awful lot like finding your way through a spiritual drought.

At first, it’s not so bad. Maybe fun, maybe you do things you don’t normally do. Eat ice cream for breakfast and hot chocolate with lunch; loll in bed for a few extra hours. Forget that these things bring repercussions. After a little while, though, you start to feel desperate. Where can I hide? Why can’t I seem to buckle down and read the Word without distractions? Why does every hour seem so long? Why why WHY is my head swimming with questions God won’t answer?

And then, you approach the end. I am sincerely hoping and praying for a normal, 5-day school week this coming week. (It is March, after all. And the South. Thus it should be SPRING.) And with the knowledge that my kids will be going back to their normal school routines, I want to hold them a little tighter. I enjoy their presence a little more. There is a light at the end of the tunnel, and I see things through that glowing pinprick instead of under a magnifying glass.

When a spiritual drought is ending – when we start to feel God’s presence again, get comfortable in the Word and in prayer – there is a sense of sincere relief. There is growth. There is knowing you learned something during the snowstorm of your soul. You dig out the driveways of your heart and get ready to emerge, better for the journey.

I hope if you’re going through a spiritual drought right now, you’ll remember that there is light and hope. It is coming.

And if you’re going through a season of snow days … my prayers and thoughts are with you.

“Hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.” – Romans 5:5

 

photo source: Shawn Carpenter. Used with permission of Flickr Creative Commons. 

Teaching Children about Diversity

With today being Martin Luther King, Jr. day, I wanted to highlight some activities for children that teach about diversity. “Red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in His sight”! Teach your children the blind love of Christ before someone else shows them otherwise.

 

diversitycollage

 

1. Fingerprint Dove / Busy Happy Mom

2. Talking about Diversity with Children Using Playdough / Bonbon Break

3. 10 Children’s Books That Teach Diversity / She Knows

4. Where in the World Is Your Food From? / Kid World Citizen

5. How to Develop Emotional Intelligence in Children / Imagination Soup

6. It’s What’s on the Inside That Counts / School Counselor Blog

Equip Yourself for the High Calling of Raising Kingdom Kids by Dr. Tony Evans {GIVEAWAY}

Raising Kingdom Kids

In the Evans’ home, we took the idea of raising kingdom kids seriously. But sometimes, we got distracted.

I remember when our kids were small. We took them to Disneyland and experienced the sights, sounds, and excitement of all that makes it wonderful.

We were looking around and enjoying ourselves. But somewhere between Fantasyland and Tomorrowland, we lost track of our youngest child, Jonathan. I looked up, and I couldn’t find my son.

Panic set in, because there were thousands of people all over the property. And so we began a search for our son. We looked and looked. We fanned out, and we couldn’t find him.

Minutes went by; it seemed like hours. Our child was lost, and we didn’t know where he was. We called security to help us find Jonathan. I don’t really remember how long it was before we located him. He was looking in one of those windows, at all of the fancy stuff–the prizes and glitz and glitter. It’s surprising how some of that plastic, under just the right lighting, can become so alluring.

We all too easily become distracted.

We had lost track of him because we were looking at the things around us, too. He had become distracted. I had become distracted. We had become distracted. In the midst of enjoying a blessing for our family, we lost each other.

We did everything we could to locate him. When I found him, I hugged him (even though a part of me wanted to spank him). But I hugged him because of the joy of finding a child that was lost.

Our world today distracts children from parents and parents from children.

We are in a kingdom today that has plenty of distractions. These distractions have caused us to lose our children.

This earthly kingdom is set up to distract parents from children and children from parents. Parents are distracted by work, career, entertainment—even church can sometimes shift our focus from what we as parents ought to be doing. Our kids are distracted too. Online media, peer groups, social pressure, and entertainment vie for the attention of our kids.

Distracted parents produce children with a weak faith.

The result is a distracted family, acting separately, living anything but in unity, and treating this dysfunction as the norm. And then we wonder why our kids grow up with a weak faith.

Kingdom Parents have the high calling of raising kingdom kids.

Parents, you have been called to raise kingdom kids–in God’s kingdom. Kingdom parenting isn’t perfect parenting, it’s purposeful parenting, helping children learn to live under God’s divine authority, both today and in the future. I am here to assure you that you are equipped with everything needed to accomplish this high calling. I know this because God chose you to be parents.

Sure, you will get distracted once in a while. But kingdom parents will regain their focus on what really matters–advancing God’s kingdom in your immediate realm of authority, which begins with your family. Wherever you’re starting, it’s just the right point to say, “Okay God. Starting today, I’m about your business of raising kingdom kids.”

Raising Kingdom Kids

Raising Kingdom Kids Group Video Experience: Giving Your Child a Living Faith is a powerful tool created by Dr. Tony Evans. Based on the top-selling book, Raising Kingdom Kids, this multimedia package is designed to equip parents to advance God’s kingdom in their own family. It is great for individual, small groups, Sunday school classes, retreats, and church outreach events.

WIN a copy of this video experience from Tyndale House and ParentLife Online! Just use the Rafflecopter widget to enter. We have FIVE copies to give away!

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Dr. Tony Evans is founder and senior pastor of Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship in Dallas, founder and president of The Urban Alternative, former chaplain of the NFL’s Dallas Cowboys, and present chaplain of the NBA’s Dallas Mavericks. His radio broadcast, The Alternative with Dr. Tony Evans, can be heard on nearly 1,000 US radio outlets daily and in more than 130 countries. For more information, visit TonyEvans.org.

In Defense of Fun Food

Every time my kids go to their Grandma’s, they want to make “spiders.”

These spiders are made by spreading peanut butter between two Ritz crackers, sticking straight pretzels in for legs, and adding a few raisin eyes. They take about 45 seconds to put together. And my little ones think they are the best thing ever.

Is it because they truly adore crackers, peanut butter, pretzels, and raisins? Not really. Those are all foods they like. But the excitement comes from the whimsy. From the silly act of eating an arachnid.

Surprise – there is a lot of criticism on the Internet. And whenever someone shares a picture of a silly or creative food made for kids, there are haters. “Who has time for that?” “It’s tricking your kids!” “You obviously have too much time on your hands.” “Kids don’t care anyway.”

And if it’s not your thing, I get that.

But I love the light in my kids’ eyes when they have a “spider,” a pumpkin sandwich with candy eyes, a sandwich cut into a butterfly shape. It’s such a simple act that truly brings them enjoyment.

It makes me think of how Jesus said we should come to Him like a child. My little ones grow wide-eyed and giggly every time they hear a jingle bell, open a Christmas book during December, or see a wreath on a door. They just take joy in the little things. They are in awe of Jesus and the world around them.

I’m taking advantage of their childish joy while I can … and trying to grasp a little of my own through them.

Tomorrow we’re all having snowman pancakes for breakfast.

photo via Kraft Foods