How to Choose an After School Activity your Child will Love

Word After School

  1. Lооk fоr сluеs іn уоur сhіld’s асtіоns аnd іntеrеsts tо hеlр уоu аsсеrtаіn whісh ехtrасurrісulаr асtіvіtіеs аrе bеst suіtеd tо thеm. Іf уоur сhіld іs аlwауs сlіmbіng thе furnіturе оr hаngіng оff thіngs, уоu mау hаvе а buddіng rосk сlіmbеr оn уоur hаnds. Dоеs shе brеаk оut іn sоng оr dаnсе аt thе fіrst sіgn оf а bеаt? Dаnсе аnd thеаtrе соuld bе rіght uр hеr аllеу.
  2. Соnsіdеr реrsоnаlіtу аnd gіvе thеm а сhоісе. Маnу kіds аrе kееn tо trу sоmеthіng whеn thеу аrе gіvеn а сhоісе, whіlе оthеrs shу аwау frоm еvеrуthіng. Іf уоur сhіld hаs аn аdvеnturеsоmе sріrіt, sреаk tо hіm аbоut thе dіffеrеnt орtіоns аvаіlаblе іn уоur аrеа. Іf hе іs mоrе tіmіd аbоut trуіng nеw thіngs, fіnd оut whаt асtіvіtіеs оffеr а trіаl сlаss оr drор-іn орtіоn. Тhіs wау уоu саn іntrоduсе dіffеrеnt орроrtunіtіеs tо sее whаt hе еnјоуs thе mоst bеfоrе соmmіttіng tо а full sеssіоn.
  3. Іs уоur сhіld а tеаm рlауеr оr mоrе оf а sоlо flуеr? Ѕоmеtіmеs іt’s bеst nоt tо рush thе full tеаm sроrts іf уоur сhіld іs nоt rеаdу fоr іt. Yеs, оrgаnіzеd аthlеtісs mау hаvе bееn уоur fаvоurіtе dіvеrsіоn аs а сhіld, but уоur dаughtеr mау рrеfеr thе sеlf-dіsсірlіnе оf Таеkwоndо, swіm сlub оr tеnnіs іnstеаd.
  4. Lооk bеуоnd sроrts. Fоr kіds whо wаnt tо раrtісіраtе іn оthеr thіngs bеsіdеs sроrts, lооk fоr hоbbу аnd skіll-bаsеd сlubs suсh аs аrt сlаssеs, musіс lеssоns, аnd уоur lосаl gіrl guіdеs оr bоу sсоuts trоuре.
  5. Рrохіmіtу аnd trаnsроrtаtіоn tо аnd frоm ехtrасurrісulаr асtіvіtіеs аrе аlsо kеу fасtоrs іn уоur dесіsіоn mаkіng рrосеss. Іf а studіо іs оn thе оthеr sіdе оf tоwn, іt mау bе сhаllеngіng tо mаkе іt thеrе оn tіmе аftеr sсhооl. Тhе lасk оf рublіс trаnsроrtаtіоn оr lіmіtеd аvаіlаbіlіtу оf саrрооlіng саn mаkе іt іmроssіblе fоr mаnу раrеnts tо еvеn соnsіdеr сеrtаіn асtіvіtіеs.
  6. Ѕtrіvе fоr bаlаnсе wіth аftеr-sсhооl рursuіts. Оftеn, оnе асtіvіtу а wееk іs еnоugh whеn kіds аrе јugglіng sсhооl, рlауdаtеs аnd mоrе. Еnsurе thеу hаvе еnоugh tіmе tо dо hоmеwоrk аnd gеt аdеquаtе slеер, аs thіs іs еssеntіаl tо hеаlthу dеvеlорmеnt.
  7. Аftеr-sсhооl асtіvіtіеs shоuld bе а роsіtіvе аnd соnfіdеnсе-bооstіng ехреrіеnсе. Whеthеr уоur сhіld іs lеаrnіng а nеw іnstrumеnt, trаіnіng fоr а sроrt оr vоluntееrіng іn thе соmmunіtу, ехроsіng thеm tо а vаrіеtу оf асtіvіtіеs wіll hеlр thеm bесоmе wеll-rоundеd іndіvіduаls. Аnd thеу mау dіsсоvеr а truе раssіоn іn thе рrосеss. Ѕuрроrt уоur сhіld bу hеlріng thеm tо сhооsе аn аgе-аррrорrіаtе аnd sаfе асtіvіtу thаt thеу аrе ехсіtеd tо раrtісіраtе іn, аnd dоn’t fоrgеt аbоut thе іmроrtаnсе оf unstruсturеd рlау.

What activity is your child interested in this year?

How to Introduce STEM Play to Babies and Toddlers + Top 5 STEM Toys for Little Kids

Albert Einstein said, “The true sign of intelligence is not knowledge but imagination.” When it comes to kids learning through play, the old fashioned way of showing kids how to use a toy or kids learning through reading instead of experiencing has faded away in the wake of a new (and more effective) type of learning called STEM play.

STEM is an acronym for “Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math” (also known as STEAM if you include art in there as well). 

Far before your child knows how to do math or completes science projects, STEM skills are developed naturally in babies and toddlers by exploring and learning about the world. (Source – Baby Savers)

Bright Hub Education explained each element of STEM very well:

  • “Science is a way of thinking through experiments, observation, making predictions, asking questions, and deciding how things work.

  • Technology is a way of doing. With learning tools, kids become inventive, identify problems, and make things work.

  • Engineering is also a way of doing. A child can solve problems with a variety of materials – they design and create. Little learners build things that work.

  • Math is a way of measuring. Preschoolers explore shapes, size, volume, and learn about patterns and sequencing.” (Source – Bright Hub Education)

What are the benefits of STEM learning?

  • STEM gets kids excited to learn.
  • STEM is all about curiosity which strengthens the brain.
  • STEM teaches kids to fail – and that it’s okay!
  • STEM prepares kids for today’s technology.
  • STEM fosters creativity and the imagination.
  • STEM promotes independent play – let your child lead and see what they discover on their own.
  • STEM helps kids relate to the world around them.
  • STEM helps kids with memory retention.
  • STEM better prepares kids for school.

(Source – Cool Mom Picks)

(Source – The Stempedia)

STEM learning does not mean a complicated DIY science experiment where you need a ton of time and materials.  It can be as simple as going outside in nature with your child.

Ask “What” questions when exploring:

What are those ants doing?
What shape is that rock?
What is on the branch?
What is under the rock?
What do you see in the sky?

For babies, try to not say “no” often and instead let your baby explore more freely. For example, our son used to get into this cupboard in the kitchen that was located on the ground level (all the other cabinets had safety locks), but this particular cupboard was filled with old baby bottles, plastic containers, lids, and things like this so we left it unlocked.

Our son LOVED opening this cupboard and taking out everything inside and then he would even climb in the cupboard and play in there (the door was always open). Yes, it made a huge mess on the kitchen floor, but instead of saying “no,” we allowed him to play and explore. Afterwards, I just cleaned it up – no big deal.

This cupboard would keep him entertained for a good 45 minutes!  With a baby’s short attention span, this was amazing and proves that STEM activities and toys are more engaging for kids.

For toddlers, STEM gets even more fun when we can talk with our kids, listen to what they have to say, and watch them imagine and figure things out.

Stemsational is a fabulous blog about STEM activities for kids.

“STEM projects for toddlers help children explore a variety of thinking skills that boost both their creativity, logic, spacial awareness, fine motor skills, and gross motor skills. Toddlers who engage these systems, versus toddlers who largely learn from screens an immobile activities have a huge advantage once they reach school-age.” (Source – Steamsational)

In addition to DIY STEM learning, STEM toys are really important because these are the best toys that will help your child develop and learn instead of just sitting around collecting dust.

Take a minute to think about your child’s top three favorite toys.  I bet they are interactive in some way, right?  We just donated two trash bags of toys to our son’s pre-school because we noticed he only played with three main toys:

  • His cars / hot wheels (he loves to line them up and one by one he looks at each car carefully, it’s really cute. Especially when he says, “Look, Camero!” or “Mama, Hummer!” Also, he sorts all his cars by color in piles)
  • Building blocks
  • Lincoln logs

Baby Savers published an amazing list of ideas and activities for parents to refer to when choosing STEM toys:

“Seek out toys that encourage one or more of the following ideas or activities:

  • Comparing
  • Sorting
  • Sequencing (putting things in order)
  • Observing
  • Speed and distance
  • Cause and effect
  • Questions
  • Predictions
  • Identifying shapes, numbers and/or letters
  • Measuring
  • Spatial sense
  • Problem solving
  • Building or balancing” (Source – Baby Savers)

Additionally, here are some great tips to follow when introducing your baby / toddler to STEM toys:

  • Keep it simple.
  • Avoid technology.
  • Don’t use battery operated toys which tend to guide the child on how to play instead of the child exploring and learning on their own.
  • Avoid teaching.
  • Make it fun.
  • Talk together.
  • Follow your child’s imagination – there’s no right or wrong way!
  • Switch it up a bit – dad can be cooking and mom can be mowing the lawn.

Here are our top five STEM toys for babies and toddlers:

#1 People Blocks – Magnetic Building Blocks

People Blocks are GENIUS and it’s cool that their toy designer is the brainchild designer of the -world-famous Magna -Tiles. These magnetic blocks get babies and toddlers building earlier and learning while having fun. This is the epitome of STEM play.

“Most toys today are designed to only keep the attention span of a child for a short period.  We are changing that by creating toys that grow with your child, not outgrown by your child like you typically see,” says Rudy Valenta, CEO of People Toy Company (aka People).

Throughout the toy development process, People looked for ways to take the developmental milestones acknowledged by the medical community around the world and find clever ways to incorporate the skill development in play.  They have their own private studies and research with parent groups and child industry experts to ensure their toys are not only fun but have high play value with STEM features.

Their newest People Blocks collection are their Working Cars, a magnetic click and stick car set with 18 new automotive inspired shapes. Your child can build cars and discover how to fit the blocks together to build different shapes. Remember with STEM there is no right or wrong and it’s all about discovery.

$34.99 – BUY HERE

Another new People Blocks set we love are the Zoo Animals Clear Magnetic Blocks – perfect for light tables and a fun way to explore colors and light. This set comes with 17 new creature inspired shapes.

$34.99 – BUY HERE

#2 Puzzle and Geometric Lacing Toys by Manzanita Kids (Merged with Little Sapling Toys)

We love toys from Manzanita Kids because:

  • Natural wooden toys – no icky toxins!
  • Made in the USA – Seattle, WA.
  • For every toy sold, they plant a tree…100,000 trees so far!
  • Wide array of toys for babies, toddlers and big kids.
  • High quality – toys that last and can be passed down.

For younger babies the Natural Shapes Puzzle toy is a great way to introduce STEM play.

  • Handmade four-piece wood puzzle
  • Solid wood – maple, cherry and walnut
  • Finished with our homemade organic, natural jojoba oil/beeswax finish.
  • Simple, modern, natural and waldorf-inspired fun.
  • Solving puzzles helps children develop problem-solving skills, spatial reasoning, and builds their confidence!

BUY NOW – $34

For older kids (3 years old and up), this geometric lace toy really gets kids thinking and focusing!

BUY NOW – $34

#3 Kiddybrain Matching Eggs

They say this is a great Easter gift and we agree, but my son loves playing with this year round. Kids love anything to do with food. These eggs are not just any eggs though. Once opened, tiny shapes are revealed and to put the egg back together the child must match the extending shape with the shape hole from the other egg half.

$11.99 – BUY NOW

#4 Bug Catching Magnetic Puzzle Game by Melissa & Doug

I love watching my son play with this toy. There’s a bug net with a magnet at the end of a string and when it touches on of the bugs, the puzzle piece comes out. Once all are out, he then fits all the pieces back in the right place.  

At first, my son realized the magnet on the string would not easily go to where he grabbed the magnet at the bottom and placed it on the puzzle piece. Instead of me saying, “that’s not how you are supposed to use it” I said, “that was smart of you to realize you had to hold close to the magnet to get it where you want faster. This is an easy way of doing it. Now let’s try the harder way. Try with one hand only holding the fishing pole and I know you can do it with just a little bit of patience.” 

So he then tried again and slowly lowered the magnet on the string as it swung back and forth. As he lowered it more, it finally clicked on to the magnet. He was so excited he did it with only one hand.

$9.00 – BUY NOW

#5 Bettroom Geometric Shape and Color Board

I love this toy because it has many levels of learning. First, there are the shapes, then the colors, and lasting the peg holes that kids must fit the shape on in order to stack on the board.

  • Encourages hand-eye coordination and imaginative play
  • Great for 1 -5 year olds
  • NON-TOXIC and safe to use
  • Stacking blocks contains 20 pieces

$12.96 – BUY NOW

STEM play is not just a hype word; it’s a very important part of how our kids should be learning on a daily basis. Remember that STEM play can be done using anything around you like nature, a bunch of empty dishes that fit into one another or have covers that snap on, to more advanced STEM play using the best developmental toys for babies and toddlers.

By introducing STEM play early on, your child will be ahead of the curve when they go to preschool and school so get out and get your STEM on!

Fun Box Tops Activity for Parent and Teachers

School has officially started for the boys and one thing that is really important in our morning routines is making sure they eat breakfast before we head out the door. One of their most favorite is cereal. It is quick and easy and they love it. They each have a favorite kind as you can see in the below picture. Andrew loves French Toast or Cinnamon Toast Crunch, Ty loves Cocoa Puffs and Eli loves Lucky Charms (mainly the marshmallows). Each of these boxes have a Box Top at the top right corner. It means that if we collect them and turn them into our school they earn .10¢ per one. Since we are attending a new school this year I thought this would be a great opportunity for the boys to help support their new school. It is also teaching them that even though we buy it and they eat it, we still are giving back to a good cause which helps our school help the students. So our goal this year is to buy all Box Top related products do that we can support our school.GMB3

Here are a few more of our favorites:


If you would like to help your local school visit the Box Tops website and see their list of Box Top Products.

A fun way to remember Box Tops on a daily or weekly basis can be hard. I wanted to come up with an activity that a teacher or parent could do with their kids to help everyone to remember those Box Tops. Here’s the activity-

Box Tops Acrostic Poem

You and your class or kids are going to create an Acrostic Poem out of the words Box Tops. This is such a fun activity to get everyone excited about Box Tops and the role they play in Education.

  1. Step One: Pass out a piece of paper with the words “Box Top” written in bold letters.
  2. Step Two: Talk about what Box Tops are and how they help schools earn cash for Education.
  3. Step Three: Challenge the class to create an Acrostic Poem using the words Box Tops. The poems can be silly, fun, or serious!
  4. Step Four: Share the poems with everyone. And encourage the students to bring their poems home to show their parents.

Here are some examples of a few Box Tops Acrostic Poems to share and hang around your classroom or home.

B is for Breathtaking, a magnificent sight
O is for Original, an independent thinker
X is for X-factor, you have it

T is for Tasteful, odes of style
O is for Orderly, ever organized
P is for Perceptive, keenly insightful
S is for Sensible, you always do the right thing

Here’s another poem to share.

B is for Bold, forging your own path
O is for Optimistic, always staying upbeat
X is for X-factor, people are drawn to you

T is for Thorough, attentive to details
O is for Obliging, willing to accommodate
P is for Picturesque, strikingly beautiful
S is for Satisfying, most excellent company

Have fun with this little exercise and if there’s time at the end, you can have the children move onto writing an Acrostic Poem with their own name! They’ll have fun with this part of the exercise too.

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of General Mills®. The opinions and text are all mine.

Back to School with Box Tops for Education at Sam’s Club

Disclosure: I receive monetary compensation from General Mills in exchange of my endorsement of Box Tops For Education.

We are still on summer break here, but, that doesn’t mean my thoughts don’t drift to school several times a day. Especially during meal times when I see a box top for education on the packaging for our favorite snacks and foods. Kickoff the back-to-school season by stocking up on all of your favorite General Mills products at Sam’s Club and earn bonus Box Tops for your child’s school!

Box Tops for Education are such an easy way to make your kids school a better place. By purchasing your favorite products like Nature Valley granola bars, yummy cereals like Cinnamon Toast Crunch or Lucky Charms, or our go-to after-school snack of Totinos Pizza Rolls, you can help your earn cash for supplies and equipment.
All you have to do is stock up and clip the box top and send it back to school. Now is the perfect time to head into Sam’s Club and stock up on all of the things that help you feed your family during the school year rush.
Box Tops for Education at Sam's Club
Box Tops for Education at Sam's Club
Clipping box tops is a great way to get your kids involved in the process. It gives them a chance to let them improve their scissor and math skills, as they can count how much they are contributing to their school. It also teaches them that even though we buy it and they eat it, we still are giving back to a good cause which helps our school help the students. When you visit the Box Tops website they have fun collecting sheets that the kids can add their box tops to and send to the school.
Getting kids excited about collecting box tops is not hard at all! Our PTA hosts several incentives a year for the classes that collect the most box tops. Last year the boys could help their classes win a cookie and cocoa party around the holidays, a pizza party in the spring or a fun glow in the dark party at the end of the year.  The boys were immediately on board for collecting and clipping box tops!

Other ways to get the kids excited about giving Box Tops to their school could include:

  • A reward that can be earned after 50 box tops has been saved. A trip to the movies, a pack of Pokemon cards or even extra play time at the park are also great motivators.
  • Ask your school administrators what was purchased with box tops and show it to your children, the appeal of new playground equipment next year can really entice playful kids to get involved too!
  • Creating a cute box to store them in also makes it fun for kids. They will love to create a craft with you and fill it with box tops is like the icing on the cake for this craft idea.
No matter how many you save and send to school, know that every box top adds up to an amazing future for school children. Sam’s Club has all of your favorite products with Box Tops on the packaging at great prices. So be sure to stock up and save money and box tops for education!
Does your family clip box tops? If you have an idea for how to get the kids excited about saving the box tops and returning them to school I would love to hear about it in a comment!
For every 3 participating BTFE products purchased in a single transaction at Sam’s Club on or after 8/1/18, you can earn 100 Bonus Box Tops. To redeem offer, you will need to download the Box Tops Bonus App and scan your receipt with 3 participating BTFE products by 9/30/2018 or while supplies last. Maximum of $150,000 in Bonus Box Tops combined may be redeemed for Sam’s Club offer. Standard Data Rates May Apply. Learn more at Each box top is worth 10 cents to redeeming school when clipped from box tops products and sent to the redeeming school. Only BTFE registered schools can redeem box tops. Limit $20,000 per school per year for box tops redeemed through the clip program. See for BTFE program details. © 2018 General Mills. All rights reserved.

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Gearing up for the New School Year!

This is a social good post on behalf of the This blog was not compensated for this posting.

It’s that time again! Back-to-School season is officially here! Whether you’ve just begun prepping for the new school year, or your kids have already started – this can be an exciting but hectic time for both parents and kids. In our family, getting school supplies and maybe a few new clothes can be exciting and fun, but also builds anticipation for that first day back. We are anxiously waiting to know what teacher/classroom they are assigned to and how many of their friends will be with them.

The beginning of a new school year can be an especially challenging time for families with children who struggle with reading and writing, math, organization and focus. Did you know that one in five children in the U.S. have learning and attention issues, like ADHD and dyslexia? Children with these types of challenges – many of whom have never been formally diagnosed – can feel especially stressed during the back-to-school season as they face new subjects, teachers and schools.

The Ad Council and have partnered to promote ways children and their families can be First-Day Ready. is offering a free First-Day Ready Guide to help parents with students at every age successfully manage back-to-school transitions. is a free, easy-to-use online resource and community designed to support parents and caregivers of children with learning and attention issues.

As the new school year approaches, we were excited to get personalized tips from the First-Day Ready Guide to help our kids make a great start. My three boys are in grades 2nd, 4th and 5th, and they were so excited to start school. This guide has been helpful on getting them back on track and ready for another fun school year filled with learning new things.

Check out these back-to-school tips from the website. They helped my family; hopefully they can help yours too.

Planning early is important to help relieve stress. Creating structure and routine around the start of the new school year—with checklists, calendars and other organization systems— helps prepare kids for class expectations. The tool I have found to be helpful this far is the Backpack checklist. It helps the boys remember what to have in their backpacks daily.

You can also take your child on a school tour to help ease fears by showing them how to find their classroom, nearby bathrooms, the cafeteria and other important places the first week of school. This can be a huge stress relief whether the child is new to the school or not. Just knowing where to go can help them feel more comfortable.

Connecting with your child’s teacher early on benefits everyone and creates a great starting point for the new year. This will give you an opportunity to share your child’s needs or learning style while expressing your support for the teacher and the challenges he/she may be facing with a new classroom full of students. You will help create an atmosphere of cooperation while speaking up for your child and his or her challenges.

Finally, get support! Many parents and students are going through the same experience. and Understood’s Facebook page connect parents across the country to share information and learn from each other. You can also ask around your community and school to find other parents you can connect with.

So, no matter your child’s age or needs, make this Back-to-School season a seamless transition and positive experience! If you could use some help getting started on the right foot this school year, is a great place to start.
All kids learn in different ways and at different paces. With the right support, all kids can thrive in school and in life.

3 Great Ways to Study to be a Parent

3 Great Ways to Study to be a Parent

Going back to school has plenty of advantages. For the most part, you are thinking about getting into the professional working world, or you would like to advance your career once your children are older. Either way, you will have to find additional time in your day to study, while at the same time managing all of your parenting duties. Online colleges are very popular and do offer you the chance to take courses for a major degree, all while sitting in the comfort of your home. Here we are going to talk about ways you can study and be a parent at the same time.

Planning, Planning, and more Planning

You might think that you have a great system down for remembering all of the things you do on a daily basis. Now, throw a couple of online college courses into the mix and it will seem like you were never good at time management at all. That is where planning comes into play. Make sure you plan time for studying and being a parent. The task might seem obvious, but until you have a good schedule down, it might seem like you will never have time to study.

Schedule a “Study Hall”

If your children are old enough to understand learning, simple schedule a study hall time period for everyone. That way you can get into your own books while they are coloring in theirs. It will also give you time away from electronic devices and it’s a great time to show your kids a few new hobbies they might like to participate in. Studying for your online degree is not going to be easy work, but nothing worth doing ever is. With a little planning, you can really open up your schedule for these types of things.

Have Your Kids Help

If there is a way that your kid can help you study, then go ahead and make that situation happen. Maybe they can hold the flash cards or help quiz you with questions if they can read. These are two easy things you can do to make them feel like they are helping and you can form a goodnatured bond with them at the same time you are preparing for an exam. Even if they cannot help you with studying directly, maybe they can do the dishes, or talk the dog outside for a walk. Both of those tasks will free up time for you to get your work done.

3 Great Ways to Study to be a Parent

Studying for a college course is not easy for anyone. That means you have to be creative with your time, especially if you are home with the kids all day. Freeing up a little time here and there is enough to get the job done and soon you will be on your way to earning an online master of healthcare administration in strategy and innovation degree in no time. Don’t forget that your better half can also take on extra duties when available to help free up that time as well!

Disclosure: This blog received a form of compensation for this publication. All opinions are my own.


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