Keeping Young Minds Active During the Summer

Summer is a time for relaxation and family fun, but most parents would agree that their children should be actively engaged in educational activities and experiences over the school break. To keep your child productive, consider the following ideas, broken down into each major subject area:

1. Heed the Need to Read: Countless studies show the importance of summer reading: Kids who read in the summer outperform their peers in the fall. Avoid the “summer slide” by making sure your kids read often during the summer.

●Most libraries have a summer reading program with incentives and prizes. Visiting the library once a week can be a fun family escape. Research shows that kids who choose their own books (with parent approval) read more.

●Create a time during the day when no TV or electronics are allowed.

● Read to your child and listen to your child read.

●Listen to books on CD  while traveling.

●Model reading.

2. Do the Math! Few would argue the importance of math. Skills that are not used are often forgotten, so practice is essential. Besides specialized math tutoring facilities, which are gaining popularity and producing increasingly impressive results, there are many ways to keep math skills sharp at home. Consider these fun activities that allow your child to practice math:

● Follow recipes

● Read maps, and calculate mileage on trips.

● Use flashcards to practice facts.

● Utilize online math practice sites for kids, such as the following:


3. Invite ‘em to Write! Good writing skills provide evidence of learning and understanding. Writing makes thoughts and ideas visible and gives children a clear way to express themselves. Encourage your children to write using these ideas:

● Keep a journal on trips and at home.

●Write letters and emails, requiring correct capitalization, punctuation and grammar.

●Let your child record her voice telling a story, then dictate that story onto paper.

●Encourage your child to write one short story a week. Keep them in a folder as a keepsake from the summer.

4. Smart Summer Science:  Science helps us to understand the world around us. Besides being educational, science can be lots of fun! The following activities reinforce important science concepts:

●Visit science museums, zoos, and aquariums.

●Dig for fossils.

●Gaze at stars, find constellations and track the moon’s phases.

●There are many fun experiments that can be done at home. Visit the following web sites for ideas:

National Geographic Kids

PBS Kids-Dragonfly TV



5. Make History with Social Studies Activities-Summer provides an escape from  that sometimes-boring history class. Use the summer months to strengthen your child’s interest in things of the past. History teaches helps us learn from our past and prepares us for the future. Geography knowledge is vital, but often over-looked. There are many activities that can encourage your child’s social studies understanding:

● Visit history museums and historical places.

●Research your family tree.

●Make a map of your neighborhood using a GPS .

●Research and report upon the locations (states/countries) that you visit on vacation.


Kelly Wilson Mize is a wife, mother, freelance writer, and fifth grade teacher living in Huntsville, Alabama. She holds a master’s degree in elementary education.

Cold Treats for Hot Days

I don’t know about where you are, but here in Tennessee it is HOT. After an on-and-off Spring (is it Summer? is it Winter?) it’s finally dived into true, humid summer in the South.

Licking popsicle drips on a hot Summer afternoon is a happy memory every child should have! Here are some ideas for easy to treats to make at home. Popsicle molds are very inexpensive and a worthwhile purchase for parents.

Popsicles are also a great way to get some extra nutrients into your kids. Mine will happily suck on popsicles made only with fresh fruit and fruit juices. You can even stick in a handful of spinach when they’re not looking. Dark berries like raspberry, blackberry, or strawberries will usually cover the green color from the leafy greens.

Homemade popsicles are so much more healthy than store-bought ones made with food coloring and corn syrup. Here are a few recipes to inspire you! (Subscribers will need to click through to see Pinterest embeds.)

Chocolate-Covered Strawberry Popsicles from Carrots & Chocolate

Honeydew-Raspberry Popsicles at Kitchen Simplicity

Raspberry Cheesecake Popsicles at The Novice Chef

Healthy Strawberry Popsicles at Vanderbilt Wife

What’s your favorite kind of popsicle or frozen treat?

Ahh, Summertime!

Summer fun

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I have loved summer since I was a kid. Back then, summer was for playing outside, attending special church camps and events, vacationing, working in our garden, staying up late, laboring on our farm, and playing baseball.

My kids don’t have quite the same agenda, but there is still lots of playing, staying up late, church events, vacation, and baseball.

Pick up our July issue of ParentLife this Sunday and see all the great content about summer for families.

  • Moving or preparing a child to enter school for the first time? Check out Kristen White’s “Smooth Moves” (pp. 36-37).
  • Planning to spend lots of time outdoors? Then don’t forget these summer safety tips in “Super Summer Outdoor Safety” (pp. 24-25).
  • Looking for great summer activities? Dig in to “Create and Play” (pp. 30-31) and “Fast, Fun, and Free!” (pp. 32-33) for some great summer fun ideas.
  • Wanting a new twist on celebrating Independence Day? See “A Celebration of Heritage” (pp. 42-43) and find ways to celebrate Independence Day and explore history with your kids.
  • Make studying the Bible fun this summer. Check out “The Rizers” (pp. 20-23) to find out how they make Scripture memorization rock for kids (and adults — their catchy tunes will have you jamming to Scripture when you least expect it).

We offer lots of activities to help fill your schedule but let me recommend something often overlooked to supplement your summer fun: nothing. A day full of planned activities doesn’t give kids the opportunity to be bored and use their imaginations. Take some time to do nothing together. In fact, mark it on your schedule so you’re sure to keep your appointment with your kids for a day filled with kid-directed play.
Let us know what fun you are planning this summer!

Photo Source: vastateparksstaff


Safe Swimming

Check out the following swimming safety tips to help stay safe this summer.

  1. July_26_Swimming.jpgDon’t Swim Alone. Do not allow children to swim without an adult. Even adults should never swim alone. In a pool, swim at a depth that is safe for you. Keep in mind that swimming at night increases all risks.
  2. Follow Regulations. If you are at a public pool or beach, follow all regulations and lifeguard directions.  Depth markers are important. Never dive into shallow water. Additionally, if there is not a lifeguard on duty, take extra safety precautions.
  3. Learn to Swim. Learning basic swimming and floating techniques saves lives. Check with your local YMCA or community pool for information on swimming lessons from a certified swimming instructor.
  4. Safety Equipment. It is important to keep rescue equipment by the pool or on your boat. Life preservers and life jackets should be easy to access in case of an emergency. At home, keep a telephone and emergency numbers poolside. Additionally, parents should know CPR. Statistics show that when CPR is performed, it improves the outcome for drowning victims.
  5. Fencing. If you have a pool at home, make sure the pool is completely surrounded by fencing.  Fencing should be at least four feet high and separate the house, yard, or play area from the pool. Fencing latches and locks should be high enough to be out of the reach of children. Remove all toys from the pool and surrounding areas immediately after use. The presence of toys may encourage children to enter the pool area unsupervised.
  6. Flotation Vests. When boating, you should wear a Coast Guard-approved flotation vest, regardless of your swimming abilities. Even while wading in the ocean or at the lake, it is recommended to wear a personal flotation device. This is especially important for inexperienced swimmers and children. Remember, water wings, noodles, inner tubes, and rafts should never take the place of an approved flotation device.
  7. Designated Areas. Swim only at designated beaches or in swimming areas marked with buoys that keep boaters, water skiers and jet skiers away. If you cross these buoys, you run the risk of not being seen by boaters, and you could potentially be injured. Additionally, rip currents, tides, and water depths may be different the farther out you swim.
  8. Surf Conditions. Ask a lifeguard about surf conditions before swimming in the ocean. Rip tides are dangerous and can catch even the best swimmers off guard. If you are caught in a rip current, swim parallel to the shore. Once you are free of the current, swim toward the shore.  Rip currents can be recognized as water that is discolored, choppy, foamy, or filled with debris and moving in a channel away from the shore. Report any hazardous conditions to the lifeguard.
  9. Warning Flags. Beaches post warning flags to alert swimmers of the day’s conditions.  Be sure to check these flags before entering the water. a. Double Red: The beach is closed. b. Red: No swimming allowed – Dangerous conditions. Usually this flag is up when there are extremely dangerous rip currents. c. Yellow: Swim with caution. Be cautious of strong long shore currents or other swimming hazards. d. Green: Safe swimming conditions. Swim with usual care.

Did you know?

  • Swimming is the third most popular recreational activity.
  • Ninety two percent of children who survive a drowning are discovered within two minutes following submersion, and 86% children who die are found after 10 minutes.
  • The 2010 hurricane season runs from June 1 – November 30. Hurricanes can create dangers in the water such as rip currents, increased swell sizes and larger waves. According to the United States Lifesaving Association, rip currents cause approximately 100 deaths annually in the United States.
  • Children from non-swimming households are eight times more likely to be at-risk of drowning.

For swimming safety information, visit

About the author:  Bret Almassy is the Vice President of Residential Services for AlliedBarton Security Services,, the industry’s premier provider of highly trained security personnel to many industries including commercial real estate, higher education, healthcare, residential communities, chemical/petrochemical, government, manufacturing and distribution, financial institutions, and shopping centers.

5 Simple, Summer Crafts for Creative Kids of All Ages

This month in ParentLife, writer Kristen White wrote in "Essential Creativity" (pp. 32-33) about creativity with kids and how to be creative with them at home this summer. We wanted to give you some more great ideas. Check out these from creativity coach, Whitney Ferre.

June_23_craft.jpgThis summer the goal is to have fun, keep it simple, and feed your children’s minds with creative activities! You don’t need fancy supplies, have to spend a lot of money, or worry about perfection (P.S. it doesn’t exist). All you have to do is provide the raw material and the backyard table. It will be a little messy, it won’t look perfect, but it will be worth it. Why? Because so much of our kids’ lives are scheduled, structured, plugged-in, and “multiple choice” that the value of preserving some good ole’ creative time, where it is all about them, is priceless! Here are my top five summer crafts projects for kids of any age:

#1 Tie-dye

Supplies: Tie-dye kit, blank t-shirt/ tank/ beach towel/etc., gloves

You can’t beat it! I recommend buying a tie-dye kit. Jacquard makes some great, simple kits that have everything you need!  The colors will really stay vibrant (just follow the directions). You could do t-shirts (or cute tanks for girls, etc.). Or what about tie-dying white beach towels, bandanas, or cover-ups? You can tie-dye almost anything! This is definitely an outdoor project and be sure to wear gloves, or you and your kids’ hands will stay multi-colored for days. When you are finished, clean up is a cinch. Take the kids to the pool or turn on the sprinklers!

#2  Artsy Summer Tote

Supplies: Masking tape, non-toxic acrylic paint, plain tote bag (color is fine), paintbrush, sponges or stamps

Place the tape on the flat side of the bag in whatever shape you want. If you have younger kids, create “organized chaos” by taping paper to cover the rest of the tote so all of their creativity stays “in the lines.” Let them use a paint brush, their fingers, stamps, sponges, or anything else that is lying around that tickles their creative fancy (the beauty of outdoor craft projects). Start with one paint color at a time. If they want to use all colors, start with the lightest first and move up: yellow, orange, red, blue, purple, green. Or stay in one color family so the colors don’t get “mushed” into muddy colors. If your kids don’t have a long attention span, make it a multiple occasion craft and leave the rest for another day. Go with the flow! You have to with creative kids!

#3  Patriotic T-shirts

Acrylic or fabric paint, star-shaped sponge or cookie cutter, paintbrush

Your kids will feel so proud when they are sporting their own patriotic designs! Start with a red, white, or blue t-shirt and use the same colors of acrylic paint. You can use standard artist acrylic paint or specialty fabric paint. For ease, use whatever you have. Acrylic paint doesn’t come out of clothes, so either option is good. Use star-shaped stamps or if you have star shaped cookie cutters you can use those by painting the edges. They can use their fingerprints to make fun designs. Let them have at it. Watch your desire to control their experience. Let it be their project. People will recognize that your “little artist” is wearing an original design and you will be the one with the “gold star” by your name!

#4 Splatter Paint Bed Set

Supplies: Solid-colored or white sheets, acrylic paint, water, yogurt cup (empty & clean)

If you have kids around the 8-12 range, they will think you are so “cool” to let them do this. It may feel scary, but just take a deep breath and remember that it is all about fueling your kids’ inspired minds! Use any set of old/new solid-colored or white sheets. Mix 2 parts acrylic paint to one part water in the individual yogurt cup size containers. This will thin the acrylic so the sheets are still comfy in the end. Lay the sheets out on the grass, away from the house, and let the kids release their inner “Jackson Pollock”! Let the sheets dry in the sun, then wash them on the gentle cycle, and let the kids make their new beds! If you need to relax after this project, treat yourself to your own creative retreat and tap your own inner-Pollock here:

#5 Feed the Birds … in Style!

Supplies: Wooden craft-store feeder, shoe box, or old bird feeder; acrylic paint or old house paint; glue; found objects (i.e. glitter, bottle caps, buttons, etc.)

Kids love birds! For this project you can use just about anything to make a cool feeder for your yard.  Try a wooden bird feeder from a craft store, make a temporary feeder with a shoe box, or salvage an old bird feeder and give it a new life. Brainstorm with your kids about what you could turn into a bird feeder. See how many ideas you can come up with … an old shoe, a milk jug, a peanut butter jar with a wire handle to hang from a tree or hook. The possibilities are endless. Grab any acrylic paint or old house paint you have lying around and paint whatever medium you’ve chosen for your feeder. Glue on found objects such as glitter, bottle caps, buttons, those colorful erasers hanging around from goody-bags…or anything else that inspires your kids. Remember, the focus of all of these craft projects isn’t whether or not the bird feeder is still up in the fall or if the paint splattered sheets make it to the next season. It’s about encouraging and nurturing your child’s creative ability. Creativity is a “21st Century Skill” and more vital than ever for our national and global prosperity. If we’re not raising creative kids, who is going to create all of the solutions?


33Things_Kids_TPCover.jpgWhitney Ferre is a creativity coach, author, and mother of three kids. She’s the founder of The Creative Fitness Center in Nashville, TN. Featured on HGTV’s Our House, she is the author of two books, including 33 Things to Know About Raising Creative Kids. For more information about Whitney, visit Provided by Whitney Ferre and Turner Publishing.


Is Your Child Homesick?

June-24_homesick_teen.jpgFor many families in today’s plugged in society, camp is the first real separation they have experienced — and many parents may be worried about homesickness — both for their happy camper and for themselves.

Research indicates that it is common for campers and parents to feel a tinge of homesickness at some point during the camp session. So how can parents help?

The American Camp Association® (ACA) recommends the following do’s and don’ts families can use to help deal with homesickness.

  • DO encourage independence throughout the year. Practice separations, such as sleepovers at a friend’s house, can simulate the camp environment.
  • DO involve your child in the process of choosing a camp. The more that the child owns the decision, the more comfortable the child will feel being at camp.
  • DO understand the camp’s philosophy on how issues, like homesickness, are addressed. Talk candidly with the camp director to understand his/her perspective on your child’s adjustment.
  • DO discuss what camp will be like before your child leaves. Consider role-playing anticipated situations, such as using a flashlight to find the bathroom.
  • DO reach an agreement ahead of time on calling each other. If your child’s camp has a no-phone-calls policy, honor it.
  • DO send a note or care package ahead of time to arrive the first day of camp. Acknowledge, in a positive way, that you will miss your child. For example, you can say "I am going to miss you, but I know that you will have a good time at camp."
  • DO pack a personal item from home, such as a stuffed animal.
  • DON’T bribe. Linking a successful stay at camp to a material object sends the wrong message. The reward should be your child’s new found confidence and independence.
  • DON’T plan an exit strategy. If a "rescue call" comes from the child, offer calm reassurance and put the time frame into perspective.
  • DON’T feel guilty about encouraging your child to stay at camp. For many children, camp is a first step toward independence and plays an important role in their growth and development.
  • DO trust your instincts. While most incidents of homesickness will pass in a day or two, approximately 7 percent of the cases are severe. If your child is not eating or sleeping because of anxiety or depression, parents should work with the camp director and other camp staff to evaluate the situation.
  • DO remember that camp staff are trained to ease homesickness.
  • DON’T make your child feel like a failure if their stay at camp is cut short. Focus on the positive and encourage your child to try camp again next year.

For more information on homesickness or expert advice on camp, visit Families can search ACA’s Find a Camp database, which allows families to look for a camp based on region, activity, cultural focus, budget, session length, and much more! In addition, families can follow ACA on Facebook and Twitter for helpful hints and camp information.


Summer Reading Fun

This summer our boys had summer reading to do for school. To help them stay motivated, we enrolled them in the summer reading program at our county library. Christy and I decided it was only fair that we join the adult summer reading program too! And what a great time we have had reading!


Jonathan really enjoyed reading one of my personal childhood favorites The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, one of C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia series.


We have read a bit of everything under the sun to Christopher but now that the start of kindergarten is only about a month away, our reading will turn to some books to get him ready. I can’t wait to hear Christopher’s reaction at the end of First Day Jitters by Julie Danneberg.


Christy has enjoyed reading Karen Kingsbury’s Redemption series.


I finally finished some books that I have had on the shelf a long time, including The Shack and 90 Minutes in Heaven.

What are some of your favorite books that you have read this summer?

Travel Tips for Families

REI_logo.gifThanks to REI for this great travel advice for families. Use these tips for any last minute travels between now and the start of the school year!

  1. Plan Together — Encourage your children to be a part of the planning/selection process. Select a few trips that meet your family’s requirements, engage children in learning about each trip, then let them choose the family vacation this year.
  2. Ask Questions — Once your vacation is selected, ask your children what questions they have about the trip or location.
  3. Geography Lesson — Use a map/globe to help children learn how far they are going and what the flight route will be, etc. This helps establish an early connection to the destination.
  4. Research Locations — Search online for small towns your itinerary will pass through – learn about the history, animals plants and people that live in these places. Find something your family wants to learn more about or see while you visit.
  5. Pack It Up — Pack with your child – use the gear list and have them think about what they already have that fits the need and what they will need to get.
  6. Keep a Travel Journal — Get your child a journal and help them write in it each day about what happened on their trip – encourage them to draw pictures. Be sure to record the senses you used along the way to hear different sounds, smells, tastes, and sights you experienced in each place.
  7. Make a Lasting Memory — Make sure your children get to use your camera, or have their own so they can take photos. An instant camera is a fun thing to take along when visiting developing countries. It’s a great gift to share on the spot with new friends you make along the way and a quick way to add photos to the journal when the children recaps their day.
  8. Send a Postcard Home — Look for postcards to send to family, friends, and even to your own home so your children have a memento from their trip awaiting them upon your return home. Make sure you use colorful local stamps – great keepsakes and addition to journals.
  9. The More the Merrier — Travel with other families with children. Both families will appreciate the company of other playmates, and adults.
  10. Present — If your child is in school, have him create a presentation for the class to "show and tell" about his trip.

Do you have any other great tips you would offer based on your vacation experience?

Word Play for Day

Check out this great article and summer fun idea from ParentLife writer and local school counselor, Bill Conger, about musician Roger Day.

music_dream_lil.jpgRoger Day doesn’t have any trouble getting in touch with his inner child. As a children’s performer, the former camp counselor travels the nation entertaining preschool- and elementary-age children with silly songs that he created like "It’s a No-No to Kiss a Rhino!" and "Mosquito Burrito."

"What I love about doing children’s music is that it’s all my own stuff," Day said following a July 9th gig at the Brentwood Library near Nashville, Tennessee. "It’s my own creativity. It’s my own imagination. I’m not doing other people’s music. I think that’s great for kids to see so that they are encouraged to use their imagination too.”

An entertainer on the college circuit, Day never envisioned making a living in the kid’s market. After his wife had the couple’s third child, he became a stay-at-home dad while mom returned to her speech therapist job with special needs children. During those three years, he played a few more college dates, but he felt led to transition to children’s music full-time in the late 90s. "I told everybody I’m going to do kid’s music, and everybody said, ‘Greeeeat! Good luck with that’  because nobody really had an idea of what you could do with it."

His songs are more than goofy ditties that kids sing. It’s also another way of educating them, something he has witnessed personally. "My son, who’s 16, mentioned at the end of school that they were studying ‘The Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner’ because in one of my very first songs ‘Reach Up’ I talk about having no time for albatrosses hanging around us. He said that when he studied ‘The Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner,’ he thought: Albatross! I know what that is! My hope is that kids when they’re taking their SAT will say: ‘I wonder how many chambers there are in a snake heart? Ah, 3. How do I know that? Oh, that Roger Day song talked about it.’ "

To check out more about Roger Day’s music and his touring schedule, visit his Web site

What is the best kid music that you secretly like to listen to?

Lawnmower Safety

62.lawnmower.jpgUsing a lawn mower is as routine as bike riding or barbeques during summer months. But people can find themselves in terrifying situations with these seemingly safe household machines. In fact, 200,000 people – 16,000 of them children – are injured in lawn mower-related accidents each year, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission reports. Most injuries are caused by careless use and can be prevented by following a few simple safety tips.
“Power lawn mowers are dangerous adult tools, but many children, and sometimes adults unfortunately, see them as toys,” said ASPS President John Canady, MD. “Lawn mowing can be dangerous to the operator as well as those nearby if proper safety precautions aren’t taken.”
The following tips will help prevent lawn mower-related injuries:

  • Children should be at least 12 years old before they operate any lawn mower and at least 16 years old for a ride-on mower.
  • Children should never be passengers on ride-on mowers.
  • Always wear sturdy shoes while mowing – not sandals.
  • Young children should be at a safe distance from the mowing area.
  • Pick up stones, toys, and debris first from the lawn to prevent injuries from flying objects.
  • Always wear eye and hearing protection.
  • Use a mower with a control that stops it from moving forward if the handle is released.
  • Never pull backward or mow in reverse unless absolutely necessary – always look for others behind you when you do.
  • Start and refuel mowers outdoors – not in a garage. Refuel with the motor turned off and cool.
  • Blade settings should be set by an adult only.
  • Wait for blades to stop completely before removing the grass catcher, unclogging the discharge chute, or crossing gravel roads. (As a safety feature, some newer models have a blade/brake clutch that stops the blade each time the operator releases the handle.)

To read the AAP policy statement, “Lawn Mower-Related Injuries to Children,” click here.

This information is sponsored by a coalition of the following organizations: American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS), the American Society of Maxillofacial Surgeons (ASMS), the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS), and the American Society for Reconstructive Microsurgery (ASRM).

What chores do you involve your children in during the summer?