The weather is getting cooler, and COVID 19 is still hanging around. Outside dining and backyard gatherings with family and friends aren’t as easy as they were over the summer, school is back in session, and we’re all wondering how we’re going to navigate a full winter of social distancing. Below are a few tips for making the most of the colder months during a pandemic.
Working out is one of the most important things we can do for our physical, mental, and emotional well-being. As New Hampshire based strength coach Bobby Bonia says, “Motion is lotion.” In other words, staying active is the key to staying healthy. Ice-skating, snowshoeing, and sledding are fun winter activities that will get your heart pumping and your muscles working. Even a brisk walk is a great winter activity that can improve your health.
If you want the structure of a gym, but aren’t comfortable with indoor workouts, many fitness clubs are now offering outside group classes. This can be a fun way to exercise in a structured, safe environment while maintaining social distancing.
Bonia says that pandemic or not, MOVING is the key to wellness. Setting aside time to be active each day will help ease your COVID stress and keep your waistline from expanding. For more information about strength training and overall fitness, visit his Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/groups/288163315220712.
Working and Learning Remotely with Young Children
Working parents of school-aged children are now veterans when it comes to balancing their professional responsibilities with their children’s virtual learning. But even though you already know the drill, it still isn’t easy, especially if your children are young. The tips below will help make the winter days a little easier.
Remote learning for pre-school, kindergarten, and primary grade children isn’t ideal, but with the right approach, it can still be successful. Certified Educator Karen Rimol suggests making sure that children are properly prepared for online learning situations. Getting ready for school should include having breakfast or lunch, being dressed, and having anything necessary for online lessons. Parents may wish to incorporate routines that start the school day. If possible, parents should sit with their young children during instructional computer time. Older children may be able to engage in online learning more independently, but just as with any online time, your children should be somewhat supervised to ensure that they are engaged in the lessons and accessing the content to make learning successful.
Rimol advises incorporating breaks into the day that are off line. Exercise and fresh air help the body and brain oxygenate. Children in remote learning are missing out on important social time with peers. Find opportunities to play a quick game of tag, catch, or “make believe.” The fresh air and physical activity will prepare both of you for the next item on your To-Do Lists.
Your children will most likely be done with the school day before you’re done with your workday. And, if you’ve spent some (or most) of your work day focused on your kids, you likely have a lot left to accomplish before you shut down for the day. One way to protect this valuable time is to have a surprise bag with things like a new jar of play-doh, a fresh box of crayons, a new coloring book, or a deck of cards inside. When the kids are done school for the day, allow them to pick an item out of the bag that they can play with while you work.
Safely Interacting with Friends and Family
Most people have missed social gatherings more than anything else during the pandemic. The summer months allowed for outdoor gatherings that eased this burden. But as daylight wanes and temperatures drop, we find ourselves separated once again. Fortunately, with a little bit of planning, outdoor activities can still take up space on your calendar. Here are a few suggestions to keep you both socially distanced and entertained.
Hot dog and s’mores party: If your town allows outdoor fire pits, get a permit from your local fire chief and host an outdoor weiner and marshmallow roast.
Sledding: Accompany your children to the neighborhood sledding hill and take a few trips down yourself. After climbing up the hill a few times, the cold won’t seem so bad.
Build an ice rink in your yard: Having a family skating rink outside your front door will ease cabin fever. There are plenty of DIY instructions available online, but since I haven’t built one myself, I won’t recommend any or provide a specific link. However, I’ve had the opportunity to enjoy several homemade rinks, and can say that they are lots of fun.
We’ll eventually figure out how to deal with COVID 19 without having to be socially distant, but until that time, we need to get creative and make the most of it. If you have suggestions to make dealing with the pandemic easier, please post them below! If you’d like to order some books for the little ones in your life, visit http://www.kellymcintireonline.com/adventures-in-fairy-meadow.htmlor http://www.kellymcintireonline.com/time-twisted.html.
Driving by the local high school this morning, I was jolted into reality by the school sign announcing that the first day of school is only 3 weeks away. Summer vacation is fleeting! But fortunately, there is still some time to celebrate summer with your kids before the school year schedule takes over.
By now, your family has probably had a few vacation adventures, and although we take more pictures than ever, they rarely make it off our devices and into photo albums or scrapbooks. As convenient as technology makes it to store our memories, sometimes the tangible evidence of our adventures get stuck in the cloud or on older devices that we no longer use. This summer, why not engage your children in an activity that will be a future reminder of family vacation fun? Why not create a time capsule?
Building a time capsule is a fun activity in and of itself, but the real joy comes when you open it at a later time and relive your summer escapades all over again. When you open your time capsule is up to you, but for the greatest impact, consider the following suggestions:
For those of you who have read my children’s novel, Time Twisted, the time capsule idea will be familiar. But, no matter what, it’s a fun activity that captures the imaginations of adults and kids alike.
Kelly McIntire is a children’s author who believes that magic and adventure should begin in childhood and last a lifetime. Her books include Time Twisted and Adventures in Fairy Meadow. Visit her website at www.kellymcintireonline.com for more information.
Ah, summertime. Adults and children alike look forward to the slower, more relaxed pace of summer. There’s just something about the warmer weather and longer hours of daylight that make the season a little more special. And for kids, the break from school and homework is the highlight of the year.
But, a three-month break from school, however much fun, isn’t always the best for children’s reading skills. Most experts agree that kids who don’t read over the summer fall behind their classmates who do. According to Study.com, reading not only keeps literacy skills sharp, it also allows kids to gain knowledge, and it helps them to develop and maintain critical thinking skills https://study.com/blog/why-is-summer-reading-so-important-for-kids-success.html.
So how do parents bridge the gap between keeping the less stress summer vibe alive and making sure their kids don’t backslide academically? Below are some fun suggestions that will keep your kids moving forward academically without stifling the summer fun.
Hopefully these suggestions will keep your kids engaged academically while they are away from the classroom, and also provide some fun for your entire family. Above all, enjoy the fleeting summer season, and keep reading!
We all know that reading to younger children is important to their academic and social development. It helps with language skills, forms bonds, encourages creative thinking, and develops concentration skills. Pediatricians, teachers, and other experts agree that it is one of the most important activities in which to engage young children.
But while many parents and guardians heed this advice with their pre and early readers, reading together often drops off once children can read on their own. Many parents believe that once children are capable of reading independently that it should become a solitary activity. However, according to a recent study by Scholastic, kids feel differently. Over 70% of the middle grade children polled said that reading with their parents was a special time for them, and over 60% considered this time to be fun.
And if bonding and enjoyment aren’t the only reasons to read with older children, then continued skill development is. As Allison McDonald blogs on the Scholastic Parent Page of Scholastic.com, that when parents read with their older children, children learn how to correctly pronounce new vocabulary and how to read with expression.
Even when your kids are too old, or too cool, to snuggle up beside you with a good book, you can still find ways to read together. Magazine articles or blog posts can be shared at the dinner table, and even a few pages of a good book can be snuck in during half time of the big game. And if your children have “boring” reading assignment for school, why not switch off reading pages with them to make the assignment a little more bearable? In addition to fine-tuning their reading skills, reading together will provide a variety of topics to talk about with your children.
If you get creative, occasions to read together are endless. Planning everything from family dinners to vacations are opportunities to read, so take advantage of them. The more your children read with you while they are developing, the better their skills will be, providing them an advantage for future success.
If you've found this blog to informative and/or helpful, please consider sharing it.
The Caregiving squeeze
My upcoming middle grade novel, Time Twisted, is about thirteen-year-old Lea Grant adjusting to her grandmother, who has Alzheimer’s Disease, moving in with her family. There are a lot of other things that happen in this story, but the relationship between Lea and her grandmother is what weaves everything together, and this is what most kids will take away from the story.
For parents though, I think Time Twisted highlights a different topic. Many of us have had to care for aging parents and other family members at the same time we are raising our children. I’ve experienced the “caregiving squeeze” first-hand, and I hope that this blog will open a discussion about the topic.
It’s a big change for a family when an elderly relative either moves in, or begins to require more help to successfully live alone. Caregiving starts out slowly, usually with transportation to appointments or trips to the grocery store. However, over time, it can become more consuming. When mom and dad have to spend more time caring for gramma and grampa, there is less time for everything else. Obviously, this has an impact, and I believe that “tweens” and young teens are especially affected because of where they are at developmentally.
Kids between the ages of 12 and 15 are fairly independent, but they don’t yet have the autonomy of being able to drive or of working regular hours. Because of this, they tend to be home more than kids in their later teens. Additionally, most of them can be trusted with looking out for their younger siblings, and are even capable of helping care for the older family member who requires assistance. This is a huge help to the adults in a family who, while in the midst of raising and providing for their children, are also required to take care of an elderly relative.
But how much responsibility should children of these ages have to assume in this circumstance? My personal belief is that families should work together, and that when kids help out, they learn a lot that will benefit them later in life. However, they are still children, and they shouldn’t be over-burdened with adult responsibilities. As with most things, there is a fine line between the two, which probably gets thicker or thinner depending on individual family dynamics. What are your thoughts?
Caring for an elderly family member can have a positive impact on a family, but inevitably, there are times when it is difficult. The goal is to make sure that the positives outweigh the negatives, which is always the responsibility of the adults.
In my family, we learned pretty quickly that planning was the key to keeping life on track. We wrote everyone’s appointments and commitments on a family calendar, which we reviewed every weekend. If there were conflicts, we had time to resolve them before the next week began. What are your suggestions? Please feel free to comment below.
If you have found this blog interesting or helpful, please share with friends: https://www.kellymcintireonline.com/blogs-essays-and-other-musings
Today I finished a jigsaw puzzle that our family had been working on for a considerable amount of time. It was a project that lasted, at a minimum, over two years, and it may have taken as many as 4. None of us actually remember when we first started putting it together. It became a fixture in our home. It was started on the dining room table, but it had to be moved to a card table once a holiday rolled around. The card table was sometimes in the kitchen and sometimes in the living room, depending on our entertainment schedule. At times the puzzle was ignored for months on end, and at other times (usually during big snow storms), it became the center of family activity. At some point, we all contributed to the project.
Just about a week ago, I decided that it was time to break the puzzle apart. It was 95% complete, and it was clear that pieces were missing. We had all lost interest, and we were getting the house ready to entertain for another family event. But, when I tried to break it apart, I just couldn’t do it. It seemed wrong to give up on something that had been in progress for so long and was almost complete. I rationalized that we had tried to finish it time and time again, and that we were at a stalemate. If I didn’t break it apart, it would probably stay on that card table, being moved from room to room, until we ultimately sold the house. However, as is most typical, the rational side of my personality lost, and I again moved the card table, puzzle intact.
I’m not exactly sure from where my desire to finish this puzzle came, but it most likely had something to do with sentimentality. The puzzle is a picture of Times Square at night, showing all the hustle and bustle that is the heart of New York City. I bought this puzzle as a family Christmas gift after we had visited on vacation. We stayed in the middle of Times Square and thoroughly enjoyed all the area had to offer. The puzzle reminded me of the fun we had. Additionally, I treasure the family time we shared putting the puzzle together. But no matter what the cause of my dedication to the project, the puzzle had survived another holiday.
Maybe it was my subconscious getting the better of me, but last night I sat down at the card table and began working on the puzzle. To my surprise, and delight, the pieces were easily going into place. In just under 45 minutes, it was almost complete. I probably would have finished the whole thing, but hunger took over and I made dinner instead. However, my first task this morning was to work on the puzzle. In 20 minutes, the seemingly endless project was finally finished. I was probably more excited than was warranted, but it was gratifying to know that we hadn’t given up.
As I moved on with my day, the puzzle stayed with me. At the risk of sounding ridiculous, I reflected on the lessons it taught me. Of course, the most obvious is that perseverance pays off. I realize that this can be attributed to almost every successful endeavor, most of which are far more important than putting together a jigsaw puzzle. But, it showed me that not giving up on the little things could be as important as not giving up on the big stuff. The little things, the day-to-day stuff in our lives are what define our lives. Seeing the little things through, like eating well and exercising, lay the foundation for the bigger things, such as running a marathon or beating a disease. The other thing that struck me is that we almost gave up on the puzzle because we knew there were a few missing pieces. In reality, the missing pieces had little impact on the final product. We thought those missing pieces might make it too difficult to actually finish the task. Looking back, they were just an excuse to give up. How many times have I done that on something that really mattered? So often we all focus on what we’re missing instead of on what we have, and that point of view can jade our outlook, limiting what we pursue. It’s like saying that if you’re short you can’t play basketball or that if you’re tall you can’t do gymnastics. We all know that there are other attributes besides height, or lack of it, that make an athlete successful. Focusing on the negative will never help you achieve your dreams.
So maybe I’m waxing way too philosophical about a 1000 piece puzzle of the city that never sleeps. But then again, maybe I’m not. In either case, the card table has been disassembled and put away. And for those of you who are wondering about the puzzle, I bought puzzle glue. It’s now glued together and hanging in the finished part of the basement as a tribute to family time, perseverance, and the ability accomplish a goal despite a few missing pieces.
Kelly McIntire is a New Hampshire-based author specializing in children's fiction and family topics.