Workplace Charitable Giving

I want to work for a company that contributes to and is part of the community. I want something not just to invest in. I want something to believe in.”
– Anita Roddick

charity-blogIMG3You may not even be aware of it, but many companies not only encourage their employees to give to and volunteer time to nonprofit organizations in their communities, but will also match those efforts with dollars or other means of support.  Corporate giving is no longer just about giving; it’s aboutcreating unified opportunities to engage employees.

Workplace giving programs can operate in a variety of ways.  They may offer donations through things such as – payroll deductions, volunteer support programs, employee matching gifts, and annual giving campaigns.

  • Donations Through Payroll Deductions – Set up for employees who desire to easily donate to a worthy cause.  Companies usually limit the type of nonprofit to which their employees can contribute.
  • Volunteer Support Programs – These programs basically reward employees who donate their time to a nonprofit organization.  For instance, a company might offer a mone tary stipend to an organization for a specified amount of time that an employee volunteers there.  Some companies will also help groups of employees organize for various nonprofit projects and make a corporate donation on top of these team efforts.
  • Employee Matching Gifts – Donations an employer makes to match its employees’ charitable contributions.  They are often dollar-for-dollar, but some companies will give double or even triple the original donation!   And when employees participate in fundraising events, their employer may match the money they raise through sponsorships or other donations.
  • Annual Giving Campaigns – These use payroll deduction to channel donations to charities, but these take place during certain times of the year. One of the leading fundraising drives in the United States is the Combined Federal Campaign (CFC), sponsored by the U.S. government. (A number of states have workplace giving campaigns of their own.)

Another popular giving practice is when businesses take up collections to donate to a local cause.  They may also choose to sponsor a family in need or give to a local shelter.  This seems to be as effective and morale-boosting as volunteering.  If you don’t have one already, you may want to help set up a canned food drive in your office.  Employees can bring in canned goods and drop them in a box, which can then be taken to a local food bank.

If your workplace is short on options, consider doing some online research to find a respected charity that matches your desire to give.  Charity Navigator, the nation’s most-utilized assessor of charities, rates them on one to four stars, and gives a top-ten list. Those that make the cut have all received Charity Navigator’s highest rating in financial indicators as well as integrity and transparency.

It is easy to find your perfect match, as you can browse by categories in alphabetical order, which include: Animals, Arts, Culture, Humanities, Community Development, Education, Environment, Health, Human Services, International, Human and Civil Rights, Religion, and Research & Public Policy.  This is also a good way to get children and family involved, inspiring long-term awareness of the issues in the world both near and far.

Whatever you decide to give and however you decide to do it – you will have a sense of belonging to a greater cause and knowing you have made a difference in someone’s life.

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world.
Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

– Margaret Mead

References:

Forbes – Charitable Giving

http://www.charitynavigator.org/index.cfm?bay=content.view&cpid=2203

http://www.charitynavigator.org/

http://grantspace.org/tools/knowledge-base/Funding-Resources/Corporations/workplace-giving

5 Things You Can Do to Get Your Family on a Sleep Schedule

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Dreaming of academic success for your little scholar? Sleep is a crucial component to a positive school experience.

As summer officially draws to a close and the days grow shorter and colder, the sleeping schedule may have slacked. When school is in session, that schedule snaps back and can really catch kids by surprise. If they are used to going to sleep at 9:00 and now bedtime is 7:30, you might be looking at a power war.

And lest we forget, kids need more sleep than adults, with preschoolers requiring 10-14 hours per night1. They need that time for specific brain function development, and growth, so there’s no better time than the present to coax everyone into bed at a reasonable hour, to hopefully wake up feeling refreshed and ready for each day. Here are a few little tidbits to get you there:

  1. Gradually ease bedtime forward. Do what parents have always done and put them down with the sun, just scooting back by 10 minutes or so. That won’t work in the winter when it’s dark at 5:00pm, but in the autumn, it can be one signal to the younger kids that it’s bedtime.
  1. Wind down after dinner. That just means reducing down stimulating activities like playing on the tablet, listening to loud music, or watching TV.
  1. Form a regular routine. Even the teens need to stick to a uniform program so that the younger ones don’t protest. This helps set the body’s circadian rhythms that help our senses distinguish when it’s time to be awake from when it’s time to sleep.
  1. Hold yourself to a reasonable schedule too. That also goes for adults, because no one benefits if you are stuck in third gear in the morning. It’s tempting to stay up and watch grown up TV, but consider taking a bath, stretching, or reading as sleep-prep alternatives.
  1. Do a relaxation exercise. If your little ones have trouble winding down, do a breathing exercise with them and make a game out of it. Breathing to a count of four, or slow finger counting will give them something to focus on, but it will also relax them. Again, this is an easy habit that the whole family can do.

You don’t have to be a disciplinarian about it, but creating a calm environment with daily practices will eventually get everyone’s sleep habits to align. You’ll not only be surprised by how much better everyone feels and gets along as a family when they are getting enough sleep, but the kids will be poised for a fantastic new school year. Sweet dreams!

References:

  1. https://sleepfoundation.org/excessivesleepiness/sleep-news/how-much-sleep-do-babies-and-kids-need

Age-Appropriate Politics: Talking to Your Kids About the Election

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We are a nation that prides itself on free speech, but that means we don’t control the conversation. 

A second grader came home from school last week and asked her mother what will happen if the (expletive) gets to be President?  Her mother was completely taken aback.  “Where did you hear that?” she asked.  On the playground, of course. 

Politics has always been a dirty business with the mud slinging and the glad-handing.  However, this election has seen some really disturbing practices that have astonished even the veteran journalists and pundits who have covered politics for decades.  The lack of a handshake at the last debate is one example, or one candidate referring to a former candidate and POW veteran from his own party as a “dummy.” 

For our children, this type of low-blow rhetoric is especially problematic.  We don’t want them thinking this level of discourse is normal, not on TV or on the playground.  By the same token, we want to shield them from the larger problems. 

There is regular talk about bullying, sexual assault, corruption, and police brutality. How do we educate our kids about these heavy-duty topics and put these charged phrases into context?

  1. Talk about it and listen to them.  We need to be clear about what is taking place in an age-appropriate way.  Children need to understand how important the election is, the history of the vote, and the struggle for everyone’s voice to be heard.
  2. Be honest about tough subjects.  The world is not fair.  It’s not just and it’s not kind.  This is a rough lesson, but we are better off having age appropriate conversations about real world problems like social injustice.  Keep it simple and answer their questions as best you can.
  3. Respect all sides of the political arena.  Don’t talk smack about the party you don’t belong to.  We all try to avoid name-calling and teach our children that they should never hurl insults, but when it comes to politics, we often get so worked up that we give ourselves a pass.  We need to avoid knee jerk reactions to opposition and instead, try to elaborate on the need for diversity in the public conversation. 
  4. Present your views as your own.  We all have different perspectives that are shaped by our backgrounds and social group. 
  5. Facts vs. opinions. Kids should know that we are expressing our opinions and learn the difference between opinions and facts.  Facts contribute to opinions and facts are indisputable where opinions are not.
  6. Agree to disagree.  This election brought many different causes, priorities, and data out into the light, but these things can sometimes muddy the waters further.  If you can model respectfully disagreeing with someone else’s opinion for your child, you show them that we are all entitled to our vantage point.  That is what voting is all about. 
  7. Play by the rules, even if others don’t.  The big teachable moment here is why some of us follow the law and some don’t.  Some of us are honest, and some of us aren’t, and when it comes to politics, most aren’t.  However, if we let unlawful or immoral behavior be the measuring stick, we all quickly sink to the lowest level.  Our kids should know that we play fair because we have an internal moral compass that demands it. 

Our kids will encounter hateful language in their lifetimes, and election season is fighting season.  They will hear hurtful words and not understand.  That’s just life.  We can show them how to stick up for themselves against abusive and disrespectful language by modeling self-control, emphasizing the positive, and demonstrating the importance of everyone having a right to expression in a democracy. 

Fantastic Scholastics: Great Spelling Apps for Kids

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Are your middle scholars having trouble with spelling? Not to worry, most kids work out the kinks with a little extra help. The amazing thing about new educational technology is that we have learned so much about the human brain in the last 15 years and as a result, gaming apps are often designed around different stages of development.

Take a look at these interactive apps for iPhone that entertain and build basic skills at the same time.

Most kids get there just fine when all is said and done, and so if they are having trouble with spelling, the best thing we can do as parents it to try and make it fun. Make sure that you sit with them and play the games with them, so that it is not only a fun activity, but also a chance to spend some entertaining time with you.

Working Together: Coping Solutions for Sibling Rivalry

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Parents share some ways to minimize conflict and promote harmony.

You are having the fifth tear-your-hair-out moment of your day; from the second they woke up, they have been at each other’s throats, squabbling, yanking toys away, provoking tears, and demanding you weigh in.

This is typical when multiple children reach a certain age, but it can be very distressing for the entire family, and if parents don’t set up an atmosphere where sibling disputes are resolved, it can affect kids into adulthood1. Thankfully, there are some tested methods of cutting rivalry off at the pass, so to speak, and here we share some of these ideas from parents who have to contend with multiple children and strong wills.

It’s important to note too, that part of childhood is growing into identity and our family is the first place where we see our best and our worst qualities reflected back at us. This is why decades later, holiday meals with the relatives can become tense; our family will always be the first crucible that made us into who we are. The overarching theme in these parental pieces of advice is communication, the willingness to face the sticky and uncomfortable parts of loving other people. It takes practice and humility, and no one gets it perfect.

Start encouraging a positive relationship before birth. A new baby is an anxious experience for older siblings, particularly if they are still young. They give up being the center of attention (in China where one child per family is mandated, only children are often referred to as “little emperors”2) and they have a sense their whole world is going to change. To counteract this, prep them for the bond they will experience with their new brother or sister.

Have regular talks with your child or children about the baby arriving, revisit their own baby pictures, and let them talk to the baby in the tummy. There are plenty of kids’ books with this new baby theme, like Julius, the Baby of the World. All this illustrates that it’s normal to be worried, but it is actually an opportunity and a cause for celebration.

Illustrate the role of the older sibling and point out the positives. Kids respond to roles, and helping gives them a sense of worth, so make sure that they know they will be mommy’s helper and that they will be looking out for their younger sibling as they get older. Make quality time before and after baby’s arrival so the older kids don’t feel left out. Some jobs you can give them include assistant, comforter, teacher, and entertainer.

Give the older sib some private space. A crawl space or closet makes a perfect fort or clubhouse that belongs just to that kid. It’s a place where they can play on their own, or go to calm down when they are upset. This idea of personal space is one that translates to older kids too, and the sense that you are defending their right to keep some things for themselves is very valuable.

Set limits. In a culture where “helicopter parenting” is rampant, it is important to let our kids sort their dynamics without intervention, to a point. If there is a struggle over a toy or activity, it’s ok to say, “If you haven’t figured out a way to share or take turns in three minutes, the toy goes in the garage,” and walk away. As parents, we sometimes subconsciously avoid conflict at all times. We bribe, we redirect, and we give into unreasonable demands. But letting them negotiate is part of development and unless things escalate, at which point a break becomes necessary, give kids the chance to resolve their conflict themselves.

Always listen to everyone’s side. When arguments or issues come up, have a sit down, and take the dispute seriously. Nothing creates antagonism better than the feeling of injustice, that a parent is automatically siding with the youngest kid. Listening is one of the more powerful tools you have as a parent, and it requires patience. Children want to resolve conflict, and during these discussions, point out that everyone wants to feel better. Play fairly; don’t play favorites.

The key here is to stay loving and positive with the knowledge that it is a process. It is way more difficult for some kids, and some really take on their new roles without difficulty. The best thing parents can do is employ fairness and keep an open conversation going. This way, as adults, your children will continue to work out their conflicts in a conciliatory way.

 

References:

http://www.sylviarimm.com/article_sibcomp.html

http://healthland.time.com/2013/01/10/little-emperors/

Calming Techniques to Soothe the World-weary Mind for Parents

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Modern life with its 24-hour news stream, smart phones and computers continually pumping more information into view, makes it increasingly challenging to focus on our individual lives. And even there, our schedules are full, our obligations to friends and family require maintenance, our finances and possession demand constant attention.

Our health is also a major factor contributing to our worldview. Somewhere along the line we traded convenience for nutrition and as a nation, we are seeing the effects, both physical and psychological.

In yoga there is a Sanskrit word for this feeling over overwhelm: vritti. It translates roughly to whirlpool of emotion, or the constant chatter of the mind. There are tricks to turning down the volume that don’t require outsmarting your monkey mind. They don’t require more money, or a ton of spare time. But investing in these tricks can mean the difference between calm alertness and keeping the head above water.

  1. Seek Nature. This doesn’t mean booking a two-week vacation in the woods. It means stepping outside to admire the night sky, going for a walk, building a snowman, gardening, making mud pies in the backyard with your child.
  1. Breathe. Sitting quietly, deliberately setting aside your plans, memories, emotions seems so simple, but its is the fundament of our existence. Listening to the air move in and out of your lungs triggers a series of events in the body that slow down the anxious mind.
  1. Add in the good. It is a daunting task for most people to go on a detox, cleanse, fast or diet. It’s an easy way for most of us to disappoint ourselves. So instead, consider the concept of adding in the good. Target 2 or three combinations of things you can make a part of your healthy self-care. When you sit down to eat, take a moment to acknowledge all hard work that contributed to the food you are about to enjoy. It makes it taste that much more delicious.
  1. Slow Down. Tim Ferriss pointed out that most of us are so afraid of failure, we don’t even bother to pop the trunk on “failure” and see what it looks like. Will the house burn down if we let the vacuuming go? No. Will the dentist still see us if we are 3 minutes late? Yes, probably. But we let these little things rush us around and rush our kids around. After you do the breathing ask yourself nicely to slow down. It will all get done.
  1. Think Local. We can use our energies to fret about the state of the world, or we can drive that same energy into something where it does have an impact: our own communities. Networking and volunteering go hand in hand, and giving time is a great way to strengthen our selves by assisting others. Studies have shown that people who volunteer or do hospice care have better health, recover from illness quicker, have lower instances of depression. 

Contentment is not gained by owning more, doing more, getting thinner or traveling to a better place. Our levels of happiness and resilience are determined by our outlook and the quality of our attention. As parents, we must adopt tools that will in turn teach our kids how to cope with challenges, how to create conditions for maximal happiness, and how to keep calm and move along.

10 Acclaimed Kids’ Books: Why They Are Great and What They Will Teach Your Child

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Revisit some classic literature from your own childhood and meet some contemporary favorites.

Great stories really are the gift that keeps on giving. They illuminate the most essential parts of humanity, and children’s books do this with simplicity and a beauty that sticks for a lifetime. We all want our children to live a life full of imagination and curiosity, not to mention learn how to love fully and live honestly.

Take a first look, or a worthwhile second look, at the following titles:

  1. Where The Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak

Why it is great: Sendak ranks among the best storytellers and illustrators in the last century, partly because of his skill (the drawings are so detailed, charismatic, and distinct) but also because of his willingness to tackle tough subjects head on, like misbehaving.

What it will teach your child: This story is a beautifully drawn metaphor for how bad behavior is sometimes about the need to be in one’s own world. Children often experience frustration when they feel powerless, and Max, our anti-hero, sails off to another fantastic land where he is the king of the monsters. Parents are just an aside in the story, but their presence and warmth are vibrant characters.

  1. The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats

Why it is great: Keats brought a subtle humor and a city sensibility to kids lit that wasn’t there before. Using a combination of collage and drawing, Keats introduces African American characters with an everyday charm and humor in a time when books where dominated by a more singular perspective.

What it will teach your child: This book is a glorious depiction of that first winter snowfall, and the sense a child has that the whole world is new and ripe for exploration.

  1. Blueberries for Sal by Robert McKloskey

Why it is great: The striking details of this book are so alive that the characters, both human and animal, jump from the page. Sal, short for Sally, is a short-haired, overall-wearing adventurer whose curiosity gets the best of her.

What it will teach your child: McKloskey captures the simplicity of country life with a perfect portrait of mother and daughter. In its small way, it hints at the value of exploration but also the value of listening to directions.

  1. Owl Moon by Jane Yolen

Why it is great: Vivid art with and an engrossing but quiet premise, Owl Moon is a story about searching and familial connection. It evokes a wonder for nature that is wordless, and the richness of the moment.

What it will teach your child: A boy and his father go out after dark on a full moon to see if they can find an owl. The boy discovers that to find the elusive creature, you must use patience and stillness.

  1. Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein

Why it is great: Because kids love rhymes! This author writes poems about nonsensical people and imaginary creatures that seriously crack kids up. His jaunty style grabs attention for kids and grown-ups. Warm up first because this one is a tongue twister!

What it will teach your child: That the world is not always as orderly as it is seems. That pigs actually do fly, and that if you don’t take the garbage out, the consequences could be disastrously funny.

  1. Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson

Why it is great: This kind of simple style isn’t really en vogue anymore, but the imagination it took to create it is totally exceptional.

What it will teach your child: This story is a brilliant metaphor for visualization, the process by which we dream something up and make it actual. Harold’s magical tool is nothing other than a simple crayon, but with this tool he draws himself a whole adventure.

  1. Olivia by Ian Falconer

Why it is great: Falconer is a New Yorker cartoonist who infuses this laughable story with inside jokes and surprises. The use of black and white is especially striking.

What it will teach your child: Olivia is an irreverent little pig living in the city with her family. She marches to the beat of her own very loud drum, but she also knows when she has taken her antics too far.

  1. Madeline by Ludwig Bemelmens

Why it is great: You probably remember this series of books that take place in a Parisian boarding school. The art is consummately French and the language is written in catchy rhyme.

What it will teach your child: It’s from another time and place when kids were educated by nuns, and tonsils were still a problem. Madeline herself is an emblem of courage that kids can easily relate to.

  1. Frog and Toad are Friends by Arnold Lobel

Why it is great: This series is a beloved first reader collection that shows the value of friendship, despite obvious personality differences. Half and half pictures and text, the narrative is charming, funny, and a great starter book for when kids are learning to read on their own.

What it will teach your child: Sometimes unlikely characters bond and they must then do unlikely things to solve problems. Sometimes awkward situations pop up but true friends help each other through.

  1. The Story of Ferdinand by Munro Leaf

Why it is great: There was never a more fully realized vision of the Spanish countryside (complete with matadors and flamenco dancers) than in Ferdinand. The story is witty and universally relatable.

What it will teach your child: That is ok to be different and that sometimes, doing your own thing presents a distinct advantage.

The beauty of these books is that adults can also get completely carried away to another time and place. Sharing this magic is one of the best things you can do for your child, presenting them with a richer perspective and a bigger sense of the world.

The Rock Stars of Work-Life Balance: A Case for Single Mothers as Managers

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Let’s do away with the misconception that women raising children on their own are less qualified– they are, in fact more capable by necessity.
Janet was 24 when she finished her second tour of duty in the U.S. Army, where she was posted in Frankfurt, Germany.  She specialized in computer science and was hoping to continue her education after her service when she met Adam, a fellow serviceman.  They became great friends and their relationship quickly accelerated after they both completed their military time.  Within a year, Janet got pregnant with her little boy, Owen, and while both Adam and Janet had plans to get graduate degrees, the economy took a nosedive when they arrived back in California.  
Adam got a job at a moving company and within the financial struggle, their relationship fell apart.  Owen was not even two years old. Adam was accepted into a CPA program but it required him to relocate, so Janet moved into her own place, supported by a Section 8 housing subsidy.  The money she received from her service was barely enough to cover her expenses.  After Owen went to sleep each night, she would stay up late researching online programs, local resources, and possible solutions to her childcare problem.  
By the time that Owen was three and a half, Janet got accepted into a reputable IT program, completed an introductory coding certificate, and was learning how to design websites.  Her classes were dominated by men but she did meet other women in her position in her neighborhood, and one night when they got the kids together, this small group of women realized they had unwittingly assembled a team of programmers, designers, coders, and management to form their own company.  
For the next year, these women traded off with childcare, pooled their resources for babysitters so they could have meetings, and gave each other moral support with their work and studies.  Janet and her friends created a site where local parents could meet, do trades, borrow and lend, and plan group trips.  They received acumen from their local press and businesses were suddenly lining up to advertise on their site.  
Janet’s story is not uncommon in this vastly changing economy where single mothers are currently estimated at 9.9 million.  Compare that number to 1970,when it was 3.4 million [1].  According to Pew Research Center, in 2013, moms makeup to 40% of the breadwinners in American households and 63% of them are single [2].  
That is not to say that going at it alone is always a success story.  Women who got a college education before marrying and having children out earn women who didn’t if they divorced or never married in the first place [2].  
Despite the fact that stigma around single motherhood is a powerful influence in the job market, these women have a unique set of skills that make them excellent candidates for management.
What are some of the immediate experiential qualities that single moms bring to the table?
  Problem Solving.  When you are a single mom and you get a flat tireand the school calls because your toddler is sick and you are on adeadline at work, you don’t have the luxury of a personal assistant ortime to panic: you assess the situation and take action.  By proxy,these women are excellent at the strategic gymnastics it takes to
navigate the unexpected.
 Time Management.  Again, procrastination is not an option when you are self-sufficient.  Women in this situation are reasonable about their time constraints, learn early how to prioritize, and distill tasks down to the most time-effective processes.  
 Budgeting.  And boy, do they know how to stay accountable andstretch a dollar.  That means looking at spending over the long term
and fastidiously tracking it. 
 Creativity.  The Internet has done worlds of good for moms who carefor young ones during the day but have a product to sell or an articleto write at night.  Mothering inspires idea improvement, innovation,and collaboration.  For women on their own, creativity isn’t afrivolous dream, it’s a life skill they put to use on a daily basis. 
Because women are making such powerful strides in the last 30 years, and they are out performing their peers in arenas like new businesses, job creation, and employee satisfaction[3], it is crucial that we demystify the outdated notion that single women are a fringe minority.  They represent a significant portion of the population contributing to the economy, and we do them and ourselves a disservice by overlooking them when we hire for management positions.  
References:
1. http://www.infoplease.com/spot/momcensus1.html
2. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/05/29/single-moms-pew-research_n_3349525.html
3. http://www.inc.com/lisa-calhoun/30-surprising-facts-about-female-founders.html 

5 Life Hacks for Having an Easy Breezy Summer with the Kids

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When it starts to get sweaty, let cooler heads prevail with some easy ways to beat the heat.

For most of us the summer is a really busy time: lots of birthday parties and swim lessons and vacations. It’s the time of year we really look forward to because we get to spend more time in the folding chair on a beach. If we’re lucky.

It’s about to heat up, uncomfortably so in some places. Many families are planning getaways and jump in the pool on a regular basis, all of which we recommend, but if you are in between any of those shady spots, add in these simple backups to defend against crankiness. For kids or adults.

Freeze your Fruit. Put your grapes or your cubed watermelon in the freezer, try strawberries and kiwi blended up and poured into an ice-cube tray for freezing, or if you want to be more traditional about it, use a popsicle mold. Make sure they eat that outside with their hands, preferably in a bath suit so you can just turn the hose on them afterwards!

Water Balloons. If your kids are old enough, you have to do it at least once. Toss is fun, but full-on guerilla-style water balloon combat is the most fun. Throw some squirt guns in there, because, why wouldn’t you? Make sure you pick up all the pieces and dispose of them properly since they are a choking hazard for babies and animals.

Spray Bottle. Whether you are camping high in the pines or just hanging around the house, having a spray bottle of clean water around is a really easy way to stay cool and energetic. Just a little spritz to your face or all over is all it takes. You can even put a few drops of lavender or mint essential oil and shake it up well before you use it.

Mister. If you want to get crazy and take it to the next level, you can get some simple attachments that run misting lines off your back porch, RV awning, or any other overhang. This will seriously keep your kids entertained for hours at a time, and it uses very little water.

Cold Soup. A total mom secret weapon. Throw some greek yogurt, a few avocados, a fist full of basil and a pinch of salt and pepper in the blender, thin it with a little milk or soy milk and stick it in the freezer for about 10 minutes. Take it out and re-blend (you don’t want it frozen, just really cold). For the grownups top it off with a little salsa and you’ve basically just given everyone savory ice cream for dinner.

If everyone is comfortable, the family time is memory-making, even when the temps are into the third digits. Don’t forget your sunscreen (no matter what color you are) and have a really enthusiastic and adventurous summer.

Baby Sign Language: The Benefits Behind the Gesture(s)

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Teaching sign language to children as young as six months old has become more and more popular over the past decade. This practice of using modified gestures from American Sign Language is appropriately referred to as baby sign language, and research suggests that it might give a typically developing child a way to communicate several months earlier than those who only use vocal communication. This can help ease frustration between ages eight months and two years — when children begin to know what they want, need, and feel, but don’t necessarily yet have the verbal skills to express themselves. Children who have developmental delays might benefit, too.

Infants who learn baby sign language are also thought to gain psychological benefits, such as improved confidence and self-esteem. Feelings of anger due to an inability to communicate may not occur as often, and anyone who’s had a frustrated toddler throwing a tantrum can certainly see the benefit in that. Having the ability to sign could be a lifesaver when a child is too distraught to speak clearly. It may also actually facilitate the acquisition of verbal and written forms of communication later on.

Parents say that signing is rewarding, and aids bonding because of the need to make more eye-to-eye and tactile contact. Also, as children age, it may be easier and perhaps kinder to reprimand the child in public using sign language, saying “no” for example, and equally can become a way of giving praise privately.

If you decide to implement the use of baby sign language with your child, Mayo Clinic offers these helpful tips:

  • Set realistic expectations. Feel free to start signing with your child at any age — but remember that most children aren’t able to communicate with baby sign language until about age eight months.
  • Keep signs simple. Start with signs to describe routine requests, activities, and objects in your child’s life — such as more, drink, eat, mother and father.
  • Make it interactive. Try holding your baby on your lap, with his or her back to your stomach. Embrace your baby’s arms and hands to make signs.   Alternate talking and not talking while signing. To give signs context, try signing while bathing, diapering, feeding, or reading to your baby. Acknowledge and encourage your child when he or she uses gestures or signs to communicate.
  • Stay patient. Don’t get discouraged if your child uses signs incorrectly or doesn’t start using them right away. The goal is improved communication and reduced frustration — not perfection.
  • Stay verbal too. As you teach baby sign language, it’s important to continue talking to your child as well. Spoken communication is an integral part of your child’s speech development.

As you can imagine, not only does taking part in baby sign language provide the discussed benefits, but it can flat out just be a lot of fun for the whole family too. Even parents may learn a thing or two – not only some signs, but also greater insight into how your children can communicate, and how to better reciprocate that.