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Create A Sleep Friendly Bedroom For Your Child

Create A Sleep Friendly Bedroom For Your Child

Sleep is important for everyone, but as any parent knows, if your kids don’t sleep, you don’t sleep. They will get you up. While you can’t keep away all the sleepless nights by creating a sleep friendly bedroom for your child, you can make it as easy as possible for sleep to come.

A Sleep Friendly Bedroom Is Dark

If your child’s bedroom isn’t dark, they probably won’t sleep as well as they should. Blackout curtains will help if light comes in their window from other sources. This is especially important during the summer when the sun sets late and rises early.

Some kids need a night light for a time, but try to minimize that. If a night light is required, try to use something with an orange or red hue – blue lights are disruptive to sleep. When my nephew came to visit and needed a night light, we would turn on my salt lamp, as it has a lovely orange glow that reassured him, but all my other kids found less disruptive to their sleep.

Keep Electronics Out

Keep the electronic gadgets out of the bedroom as much as possible. They often emit quite a bit of blue light, unless they have settings that change in the evening. Electronics use is also just not a good way to wind down for the evening, no matter how many kids (and parents!) enjoy using them. Encourage everyone to read a book before bed instead.

Unclutter The Child’s Bedroom

A cluttered bedroom is hard to sleep in. It can be difficult to get some kids to keep their toys picked up and to not have an excessive number of stuffed animals in bed with them. It is a help, however, if you can build their habits so that they pick things up before bed, and only have a special lovey in bed with them.

Paint The Walls A Soothing Color

While the color of the walls can’t be seen in a dark room, a soothing color will help make a more sleep friendly bedroom for your child. Light colors are best, especially blues and greens, which most people find more relaxing.

My youngest daughter’s room, for example, is light blue, and each wall is (at her request) themed to a particular season. Snowflakes on one wall, flowers and butterflies for spring and summer, and autumn leaves for fall.

Air Out The Room

A room that hasn’t had an open window for a time doesn’t smell as nice as one that gets aired out regularly. When the weather permits, open the windows and let that fresh air in.

Keep It Cool

Much as a warm room feels nice during the day, people get better sleep in cooler temperatures. 60-67 degrees Fahrenheit is ideal.  Blankets and pajamas can be used to keep your child cozy.

Use Soothing Music

Soothing music, quietly played, can help kids sleep. White noise is another option. Keep the volume high enough to be heard, but low enough to not disturb your child’s sleep.

This is especially helpful if there’s a lot of background noise in your house or neighborhood when your kids are trying to sleep.

Bring In Nature

A little nature goes a long ways in making a sleep friendly bedroom for a child. A plant or two is a great choice. Keep them out of reach of younger kids, but as they get older, it’s something they can help take care of.

A fish tank is another good option. My youngest has a fish tank, currently occupied by goldfish purchased to handle a snail problem in our big tank. She fell in love with them, and I wanted different fish in the big tank once the snails were gone, so now they’re hers. Goldfish can live quite a while if well cared for, but are cheaper than most other fish if you get them small.

You could combine plants and fish with an aquaponic tank. It grows plants at the top, with fish below. The small ones are about three gallons, and only suitable for fish such as bettas.

Make sure the fish tank light is turned off when the kids need to sleep.

Get A Good Mattress

Kids may not complain much about an uncomfortable mattress, but a poor quality mattress can make it harder for them to sleep. Combine the mattress with comfortable bedding to help your kids sleep well.

It’s such a help when your kids sleep well. It means you can sleep better too.

20 Fun Ways To Teach Your Kids To Love Nature

20 Fun Ways To Teach Your Kids To Love Nature

One of the things we love to do as a family is get out in nature. It’s not always easy to find the time, but it’s always worthwhile. In our area, the weather is good enough to get outdoors much of the year – we’re more likely to have too hot weather than too cold or too wet. Any time that the weather permits in your area is a good time to teach your kids to love nature.

The key is to make it fun whenever possible. Kids don’t need a lecture on enjoying nature. They need to be allowed to have fun in nature and develop a love for it from the things they’ve done in nature.

Teaching your kids to love nature doesn’t require a curriculum. It doesn’t require a lot of supplies. It only requires your time and participation. You can spend money on some things, such as gardening, but many other things can be done for free.

And remember, getting dirty is good for kids!

1. Let them dig.

Kids love to get dirty. Letting them dig in the dirt will encourage them to get out and play.

My sister let her kids dig what turned into a full on trench in their backyard. It was several feet long and probably 3 feet deep. All the kids loved it, and my kids helped when they came over.

Pick a part of your yard that you don’t mind having destroyed and let the kids go at it. Make sure they aren’t going to hit anything important such as buried irrigation pipes and such. If they get good at it, they might be able to help you dig things up for a garden. Speaking of which…

2. Plant fruits.

If you have the space in your yard, plant fruit trees and bushes. Strawberries are good if you only have a little room, as you can grow them in containers. Consider what grows well in your area as well as what your family likes.

If you can’t grow anything because you don’t have the space or inclination, take the family to a local apple orchard or other places that allows people to pick fruit. You’ll get the experience of picking fresh fruit right off the tree without all the work that comes with owning a garden.

3. Plant vegetables.

What vegetables do your kids like? Growing them in your yard often encourages kids to eat more of them, including some vegetables they don’t like otherwise. Homegrown is so much more interesting and tasty than anything you can get in the store.

4. Plant a butterfly garden

This was the first year that we’ve had a deliberate butterfly garden in our yard. It was a massive success, considering how little we did. We planted one milkweed plant along with some other butterfly-friendly flowers. We have butterflies out there daily.

The single milkweed was a huge mistake. We should have planted more. We decided to buy more when the already well-chewed milkweed plant had at least 15 monarch caterpillars on it, and no leaves or flowers left.

Our yard had so many butterflies this year. Monarchs, swallowtails, skippers, buckeyes and several others we didn’t see close enough to identify. One of the monarch caterpillars even built its chrysalis on our house, so we were able to watch it develop. Next year, more butterfly friendly plants will be in our garden to encourage even more to come.

It’s easy to plant a butterfly garden. Many of the flowers grow well from seed, or you can buy the plants already grown. I like seeds because they’re so cheap, but there are times buying a plant makes sense.

5. Be excited about nature yourself.

How are your kids supposed to get excited about nature if it doesn’t excite you? Show them how much you enjoy nature.

6. Have a picnic.

A picnic is such an easy way to enjoy a bit of nature. A bit of food, a blanket, and some reusable dishes, and you’re ready to go. Go out and find a pretty spot or just head out to the backyard.

7. Geocache.

Geocaching is a great way to combine getting outdoors with a treasure hunt. The caches are usually hidden well enough that you have to be very observant to find it. That’s good when you want the kids to really look around.

8. Hike.

We love going out for family hikes. It’s not hard to find a natural area to go hiking in most areas. Sometimes you can find places that aren’t all that well known but have really beautiful scenery.

9.Check out scat.

Don’t just be grossed out when you see animal poop in the yard. Take some time to find out what left it. You and your kids will learn a lot about the animals in your area.

If you really want to get into it, you can order owl pellets online. They’re a great way to learn about what owls eat.

10. Identify birds, bugs, and wildlife.

What wildlife do you see around you? It can be fun to take a little time as a family to learn to identify the birds, bugs, and wildlife that live around you. Kids are naturally enthusiastic about living creatures, making this an easy way to teach your kids to love nature.

A bug vacuum can be a help in identifying bugs. Kids can get a really good look at bugs when they’re in the container. You may need to keep a bit of an eye on them – my son got stung by a bee when he was little because he thought it was calm enough in the container that he could hold the bee in his hand.

Don’t show fear when you can help it. My kids were nervous the time we had a bee swarm rest in our yard for a few hours, but that’s one of the best times to closely observe bees because they don’t have a hive to protect.

11. Collect rocks.

Most kids love rocks and have very interesting perspectives on what makes a rock worth taking home. It’s usually not what an adult would pick. That doesn’t matter – it’s the interest in rocks you want to encourage.

When you’re at a place where they’re allowed to collect rocks, let your kids have some fun with it. It doesn’t matter how nice the rock looks. Any rock can be something to talk about or just admire.

let kids play in the mud

12. Play in the mud.

Yes, kids playing in the mud is messy, but it’s so much fun for them. Be ready to clean them off part of the way while they’re still outdoors. Your drains will be happier if you don’t get too much dirt down them all at once.

We’ve had the occasional mud mishap with my kids. One time my oldest was making some mud to play in and didn’t know that the hose was on the jet setting. The backsplash got her right away. It was cute and messy.

13. Go to the beach.

The beach is a lot of fun to go to as a family. The precautions you have to take will depend on the ages of your kids, how well they swim, and conditions at the beach. But even if you just stay and play on the shore, it’s a lot of fun.

Better yet is when the beach has tidepools. It’s so much fun to explore tidepools with children. Sea anemones are always a hit – just make sure the kids are super gentle with them. Spotting tiny fish, crabs and even the occasional octopus can be even more exciting.

14. Do art outdoors.

I love it when my kids want to do art outdoors. It doesn’t matter if it’s sidewalk chalk, painting on the easel, collecting leaves for a project or whatever they want to do. Keeping the art outdoors helps control the mess in the house and gets the kids to realize how much fun they can have outside.

15. Take nature photos together.

Children love to use cameras. These days it’s easy to let them use the one on your phone to take pictures when they see something interesting outside. The perspective of a child can make for some wonderful photographs. There will be a lot of awful ones too, but that’s how you learn to use a camera.

16. Climb rocks and trees.

My kids love climbing rocks and trees. One of their favorite day trips is to head out to Joshua Tree and climb on some of the boulders out there. They’ll go at it as long as we let them.

Always make sure they climb safely. Teach them to look for trees that should support their weight well. Help them learn how to be safe when climbing rocks or trees by considering not only how they’re going to get up, but how they will get down. Down is usually more difficult.

17. Ride bikes.

Bike riding is a great way to get kids out in the neighborhood. It’s great for their independence. They’ll learn a lot getting out there. Keep their range appropriate to their ages, competence, and the neighborhood.

18. Go camping.

Camping will expose your family to nature in a really wonderful way. You don’t have to go far – backyard camping is great for getting the family used to the idea when you have small children. As you get more experienced, you can camp in more interesting and beautiful places. The experience is worthwhile for the entire family.

19. Participate in a beach or park cleaning.

How do the beaches and parks look in your area? Do they need a good cleanup?

You may be able to participate in a formal cleanup day at your local beach or park, or you can clean up on your own. Bring trash bags and gloves, and help your local park or beach look better.

20. Talk and listen as you teach your kids to love nature.

Talk to your kids about nature. Show you care.

But when you talk, you also need to listen. If they want to talk about something they saw outside, let them tell you all about it. Kids need to know that you find their perspectives interesting. When you want to teach your kids to love nature, it helps to let them tell you about it.

12 Apps That Encourage Kids to Get Out and Explore

Kids get out and explore

As a mom or dad, you probably grumble sometimes about how much time your kids spend in front of one screen or another. And it’s true that kids spend way too much time in front of screens. However, there are some apps you can put on your smartphone that will encourage your kids to get out and explore.

Obviously, you need to decide how much supervision your kids need with each of these apps, depending on location and your child’s maturity level. Some of the apps mentioned here are free; others you have to buy.

1. Geocaching

If you haven’t heard of geocaching yet, the idea is simple. It’s called the world’s largest treasure hunt. The app helps you find geocaches in your area and navigate to them. People hide small things in the cache, and if you find it, you can take it and put something of equal or greater value in, or put the item back where you found it.

Geocaches are all over the place. The website tells me there are more than 8000 geocaches near my town. That’s not just in my town, of course, but in areas surrounding it. Still, I looked at the map and could see quite a few within a few miles of me, and a huge number along a popular local hike.

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2. iNaturalist

Share your observations of plants and animals you observe to contribute to biodiversity science. You can use crowdsourcing to identify plants and animals you don’t recognize. You’ll connect to other naturalists who share your interests in the world around you.

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3. Audubon Bird Guide

Do your kids love birds? Make it easier to identify them as you wander outdoors with this guide. You can log sightings and share with the community, as well as get help identifying birds you can’t quite identify on your own.

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4. Nature Cat’s Great Outdoors

Based on the PBS Kids character, Nature Cat’s Great Outdoors offers daily adventures for kids. The app may have the kids use the compass, camera, microphone or sketch as they create a nature journal.

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5. DIY Lake Science

DIY Lake Science is helpful in learning about lakes and freshwater ecosystems. There are hands-on activities, requiring supplies that are generally easy to get. There is also an “Under the Lake” simulation which allows students to explore what happens as temperatures change for different lakes.

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6. Star Walk 2

Build an interest in astronomy with Star Walk 2, a stargazing app which helps you identify objects in the night sky where you are. Move your device around and it updates as you go.

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7. Redshift

Redshift will also help you identify astronomical objects in your area, and guide you to ones you’re trying to find. It also offers 3d “flights” to go to the surface of other planets and moons in the solar system.

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8. Pokémon Go

Pokémon Go hit it huge when it came out. There have been problems with people not really watching where they’re going as they seek Pokémon. Some have played the game in inappropriate places, although the developers have put in some effort to keep the game out of such places. You have to walk to hatch your Pokémon eggs, guaranteeing that the kids will get some exercise.

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9. Ingress

Before the Pokemon Go app, there was Ingress. Like Pokemon, you will need to be aware of the potential safety risks as kids visit waypoints and how they chat with other players. Forming alliances with other players is a part of the game, so that your alliance can control more areas.

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10. Zombies, Run!

This app will encourage walking and running. You start out on your walk or run, your music playing as you get your mission. When the zombies start chasing you, it’s time to run. It’s a fun story combined with exercise.

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11. Fit For Battle

Another app that makes walking or running into a game. Shia the elf and Keg the dwarf will let you know when to speed up or slow down as they take you through the game.

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12. Monkey Spot Scavenger Hunts

Make exploring your area more interesting with photographic scavenger hunts. The first four hunts are free, then you have to buy further scavenger hunts. Sometimes you can get an addon hunt free.

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7 Ways to Raise a Green Toddler

7 Ways to Raise a Green Toddler

Raising kids with a green lifestyle can be difficult at times. Toddlers can be especially tricky, as they become aware of wanting particular things, not just what you give them. They start to have more opinions, and don’t always want to do things your way. It takes effort to raise a green toddler. Here are some ideas to help.

1. Make the most of handmedowns and secondhand clothes and toys.

My kids are all very used to receiving handmedowns. My sisters and I pass clothes and toys from kid to kid to kid, sorting out what has become too worn out or just doesn’t appeal to the next kid. The better toys may even be used as Christmas or birthday gifts, not just random surprises.

My kids get excited about their handmedowns most of the time. There’s one purple jacket that is on its fourth girl, and every one of them has been very reluctant to release it to the next. It’s just that cute a jacket. My kids get to say whether or not they like particular things, so the handmedowns don’t feel like a burden. Give them a say even as toddlers, and such things become something to look forward to.

If handmedowns aren’t a realistic option for you or don’t provide enough clothing, try resale and thrift shops. You can find a lot of great deals for much less than new clothes and toys cost.

2. Decorate their rooms with their own artwork or other treasured things.

Toddlers are often prolific artists. Rather than crowd the front of my refrigerator, they get to hang their artwork in their own bedrooms. My kids have artwork that they made years ago still hanging in their rooms, and it started when they were little. This allows them to make their rooms very much their own style, and you don’t have to buy anything more than the art supplies you probably would have bought anyhow. Don’t forget to teach them how to make recycled art!

3. Teach them to recycle.

It’s easy to teach very young children to recycle. Once they’re old enough to carry things to the trash, they’re old enough to start learning which things should be recycled instead.

It takes a lot of watching, especially with food related items that may need to be rinsed before going into the recycle bin. Toddlers often forget where things go, but it’s a great age to set them on the recycling path.

4. Walk together.

Don’t drive everywhere you have to go, if you have the option. If school, the park, museum or the store are close enough, consider walking there instead. You may want to use the stroller at times, as toddlers will get tired fairly quickly sometimes, or decide it’s naptime before you’re done with your errands. Fortunately, the stroller can also be convenient for carrying groceries or other packages.

Walking to the park can also be a great excuse for a picnic. Eating outside is often a treat to young children.

5. Use public transportation.

When walking isn’t the best option, consider public transportation. This option won’t work everywhere – not all places have good public transportation – but it’s a very good option if it works for you. Riding a bus or train is a big adventure for young children.

6. Grow a garden together.

Toddlers love growing things. Whether you have a backyard with room for a garden or have to keep everything in containers, gardening is a great activity to do together. Gardening can also be used to encourage your child to eat more vegetables, as they often love eating things they grew themselves.

7. Control screen time.

One of the big ways toddlers learn to want more things is by watching TV or playing games on websites with ads. Not only is too much screen time bad for kids, especially toddlers, as it limits physical activity, it makes it easy for them to learn about more things they want.

There are useful things kids can do with screens, such as play educational games, or give the parents a little break. It’s not your only option, and you shouldn’t use it that way if you can avoid it.

Should You Encourage Your Kids to Bike to School?

Should You Encourage Your Kids to Bike to School?

Kids are steadily heading back to school across the country, if not now, soon. That means huge crowds of cars as parents hurry to get their children to class on time. These days relatively few kids get themselves to school, and I think that’s a shame. What if more parents encouraged their kids to walk or bike to school, as used to be normal?

I’m a big fan of kids getting to school on their own. My older two walk to school. It’s easy, as we’re less than a quarter mile from the school. Only risky part is crossing the street to the school with all the parents driving in to drop their kids off.

Close as we are, they don’t need to ride bikes there. I don’t mind if they do. They’d have to be extra careful as they got close to the school, maneuvering around all the people who parked in the neighborhood and are now walking onto school property. It gets very crowded around the parking lot, and bicycles have to be walked at that point.

But how do you decide if it’s the right choice for your kids to ride their bikes to school? It’s healthier for them than riding in the car and better for the environment, but is it safe? Here are some points for you to consider.

School Rules

If your child’s school says they’re too young to ride to school, odds are you aren’t going to let him or her ride a bike to school. Some parents do take on this battle (can the school really say what your child does off campus outside school hours?), but for many it’s simpler to go with the rules set by the school so the bike can stay at the school during the day.

You also need to know where the bike will stay during the day. Our school has a fenced off bike rack where kids can lock their bikes up for the day. I’ve noticed that a lot of kids don’t even bother locking up their bikes beyond putting it in the bike rack. Personally, I’d tell kids to lock up their bikes even so, but I have to admit it doesn’t seem to have been a problem.

Bike Riding Ability

Is your child good enough on his or her bike to ride to school and deal with the crowds upon arrival? Schools often want kids off the bike once they get on campus – things are just too crowded for a bicycle to be ridden safely. You not only want your child riding the bike well enough to deal with any traffic on the way to school, you want your child able to walk their bike without bumping into other people, and the sense to know when it’s time to get off the bike and walk it.

Street Safety

Are you in a situation where you child could ride to school safely? Is the neighborhood generally safe? Are there any streets you don’t want your child riding on that can’t be avoided on the way to school? Does your child watch out for cars as they ride?

Appropriate Safety Gear

Does your child’s bike helmet fit properly or is it time for a new one? Your child should know how to put it on correctly and agree to always keep the straps fastened while riding. I’ve seen lots of kids riding with bike helmet on but unfastened, and that’s not going to help in an accident.

A Well Maintained Bike

Be sure your child’s bike is in good condition for riding. Brakes work, tires well inflated, things like that. While a bike can develop a problem on the way, you want to minimize the chances for that to happen.

It should also be the right size for your child. Not so tall that your child has trouble touching the ground when stopped, not so short that it’s uncomfortable to ride.

A Plan For Problems

Sometimes stuff happens when kids are out on their own. Make sure they know what to do about flat tires, crashes and so forth. You can decide if it’s worth it to have your child carry a cell phone (pay attention to school rules about cell phones) or if there are enough options for your child to get help if it’s needed on the way.