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Can your child’s after-school program lead to a STEM career?

  • Written by BPT

It’s important for parents to assess after-school or summer camp programs with a critical eye, and consider how successfully a program combines learning with fun and basic care.

While many programs are effective at keeping kids safely occupied after school ends but before parents are done with work, not all emphasize educational material. Programs that stimulate a child’s interest in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) subjects can be particularly valuable – possibly even inspiring an interest in a high-demand STEM career.

An after-school program with a STEM emphasis can fulfill both the need to educate children and inspire a lifelong love of STEM subjects, experts agree. Parents seeking a STEM program for their children should look for one that:

* Offers creative and engaging activities that are as fun and motivational as they are educational.

* Encourages curiosity and creativity, which are building blocks of independent thinking.

* Draws on the real-life expertise of people working in STEM fields. For example, engineers and architects designed Bricks 4 Kidz modules.

* Uses familiar, loved learning tools, like LEGO (R) bricks, to provide hands-on, interactive STEM lessons.

To find a Bricks 4 Kidz program in your area, visit the interactive map at www.bricks4kidz.com/locations. You can learn more about the programs and search for a location by state or ZIP code.

Three easy tips for cooking with kids

  • Written by BPT

Once temperatures start to drop, keeping kids active can be a difficult task as weekends migrate away from park visits and Little League games to more time spent indoors. Luckily, there are plenty of things you can do in your own home to keep children engaged and help limit their video game and TV time. One of those things is cooking together, which reinforces math, science and reading comprehension skills while building great memories.

Keep your household free of the winter blues by following these simple steps to a successful and fun time with kids in the kitchen:

Establish good habits

Set good habits for your children by teaching them to wash their hands before, during and after cooking. Kid-friendly tools, like a small step stool or high-tech faucet, can help make reinforcing these habits even easier. Let your little sous-chefs know that they should wash their hands with soap and warm water for 20 seconds, by helping them count or singing the "Happy Birthday" song twice. Remember to set a good example by washing your own hands before and after eating and during the cooking process, as needed.

A Delta kitchen faucet featuring Touch2O Technology makes it easy to turn on and off the water with a simple tap anywhere on the faucet. Use the handle to set the water at a comfortable temperature for kids to lather up. When hands are messy, the back of a hand or forearm can be used to help keep the faucet clean and reduce the concern regarding mess or cross-contamination.

"As a lifestyle expert and baking connoisseur, I spend so much time in the kitchen and I’m always looking for ways to simplify things, especially when I have my son by my side," says Melissa Johnson, mother and founder of the popular lifestyle site, Best Friends for Frosting. "Touch2O Technology has made teaching my son the importance of washing his hands easier and lends a helping hand throughout the cooking process."

Different stages for different ages

Understanding which tasks your child is capable of doing is important. Children under 5 years old enjoy observing how recipes are compiled and can help out with small tasks like setting the table, while school-age children can strengthen their math skills as they help combine ingredients for recipes and practice cooking basics, like cracking an egg. This stage is a great time to introduce the importance of choosing nutritious ingredients for everyday cooking, which can help lay the groundwork for a healthy lifestyle. Tap teenagers for help by encouraging them to choose the menu or explore new and exciting cuisines.

Timing is everything

Avoiding a tight schedule is important. Instead of involving children in the dinner rush, enlist their help on a weekend afternoon when there is plenty of time for questions, experiments or careful demonstrations. Choose a time when everyone is well-rested and not easily frustrated.

Plan ahead when deciding what recipe you will cook together. For younger kids, consider starting with a simple dish that has fewer than five ingredients like a fruit salad or an easy muffin recipe. A pizza assembly line allows children to show their creativity by choosing their own mini-crusts, sauces, cheese and toppings.

Visit www.deltafaucet.com/InspiredLiving to find kid-friendly recipes, and take a kitchen personality quiz.

Tips and tricks for planning the perfect Halloween

  • Written by BPT

Planning the perfect Halloween can be pretty spooky, and it’s not just because of the ghosts and ghouls that run from door to door. Coordinating Halloween activities, planning a festive party and pulling off the perfect costume for each family member can be frightening. But with a few technology tricks, you’ll be rewarded with a lot of treats and plenty of fun to make this holiday one to remember.

Eerie e-vites set the tone for parties

Planning a Halloween party? Email invites are perfectly acceptable for a casual soiree. Send out e-vites a few weeks ahead of time to give friends and family plenty of notice. Be sure to mention that costumes are encouraged, and list any other important details, like if the party is potluck style. The best part of email invites is you’ll receive RSVPs electronically, so you can track responses and get the perfect amount of party supplies for all attendees. And if you have an Outlook.com email account, you can flag RSVPs to the top of your inbox for easy reference, and instantly chat with friends on Facebook, Skype or Gmail to firm up last minute details, right from your inbox.

Scary inbox? Organize email easily

If your inbox is a scary sight, it’s time to tap your magic wand for an organization transformation. With Outlook.com, it’s easy to sort through hundreds of messages in a few clicks. You can use the "sweep" feature to get rid of outdated emails you don’t need, like all those costume coupon deals that have expired.

Frightful or friendly, find the perfect costume

Whether young or old, Halloween is a time to let imaginations run wild and play pretend for the day. Finding the perfect costume for each member of the family can be a difficult and costly process. Track sales from your favorite Halloween supply stores and subscribe to email newsletters to get the latest alerts on costume trends and discounts. After Halloween is over, you can use Outlook.com’s one-click unsubscribe to get off all those email lists with little effort.

Access the perfect trick-or-treat schedule

Hit the candy motherload and have fun with all the neighborhood kids and parents by plotting your trick-or-treat schedule ahead of time. Upload it to SkyDrive and everyone can access it while en route on any device. Then, all you have to do is get your flashlights, candy bags and giggles ready.

Share boo-tiful photos from the day’s festivities

Whether you love your smartphone or are a diehard digital camera guru, there are bound to be plenty of fun photos the group needs to exchange. Use Outlook.com and SkyDrive together to share all your Halloween snaps in one mail – the file size doesn’t matter – and they will arrive in slideshow format! There’s no limit to the number of photos you can share and, since they’re all stored on SkyDrive, you can access them on any device anywhere, anytime. Share with Grandma and Grandpa, or gather the kids and relive the Halloween fun over and over again.

From supplies to volunteering, parents can find ways to support teachers

  • Written by BPT

Parents know educating their children is a collaborative effort between families and teachers. Each new school year, parents look for ways to make that effort as fruitful and positive for their children as possible. By supporting their child’s teacher, parents can help ensure kids get the best education possible every year.

If you’re looking for ways to show your child’s teacher your support – and facilitate his or her efforts to educate your child – keep these points in mind:

Supplies show support

Teachers often spend their own money to ensure their students and classrooms have the supplies they need throughout the year. In fact, a study by the National School Supply and Equipment Association found that teachers spend an average of $356 from their own pockets on supplies and instructional materials – a total of $1.3 billion for all U.S. public school teachers. The same study revealed that parents – not governments, corporations or even charities – were the major source of supplemental funds for classroom needs, averaging $19 per student on classroom supplies.

This year, parents can do even more to ensure students and teachers have the supplies they need to succeed. Teachers participating in the Staples Teacher Rewards and Reward-A-Classroom programs can now generate custom supply lists that parents can access on www.staples.com/rewardaclassroom. Searching by the teacher’s name and city, parents can locate and print out a custom list, and bring it to a Staples store – or order directly from Staples.com. Additionally, through the Reward-A-Classroom program, parents can earn extra rewards for a participating teacher of their choice. By linking their Staples Rewards account to a participating teacher’s Rewards Account, parents will earn an additional 2 percent back in Rewards on everything (5 percent back on any Copy & Print order) when they shop in store and online that will go directly to the teacher. Parents will still receive their usual five percent back in Staples Rewards on everything.

"Sometimes, helping obtain needed supplies can be the most supportive thing a parent can do for their child’s teacher," says Alison Corcoran, senior vice president of stores and online marketing for Staples. "When parents can help supply teachers simply by spending money on things they would purchase regardless, it’s a win-win situation for everyone."

To learn more about the rewards programs, log on to www.staples.com/rewards.

Stay in touch - in every way

Schools often offer orientation nights to introduce parents to teachers and demonstrate the curriculum students will learn throughout the year.

Attending these events is a simple, powerful way to show teachers you support their efforts – and appreciate them taking personal time after hours to benefit your children.

If your teacher maintains a website or page for your child’s class, be sure to check in regularly for homework assignments, news and any updates to your teacher’s supplies list or wish list. Keeping in touch helps teachers know you’re aware of their work and of students’ achievements.

Hands on wherever you are

Whether it’s at home checking your child’s homework or as a volunteer in the classroom, taking a hands-on approach to helping shows teachers you are as committed to your child’s education as they are.

Schools need volunteers for a range of activities, from assisting on testing days and in school libraries to helping out with parties, performances, sporting events and other fun occasions.

Even if you can only spare an hour a month, you’ll be helping out the teacher – and demonstrating to him or her that you consider yourself a part of the educational team.

If volunteering isn’t practical, consistently reinforcing classroom messages and lessons at home can be just as helpful and supportive.

Look for ways to incorporate lessons learned in the classroom with day-to-day home life. For example, when your child studies weights and measures, involve him in food prep and use cooking as a way to practice measuring techniques. When your child learns about government and voting, take her with you to the polls so she can see the voting process.

"It’s important for all of us to show teachers how much we value their commitment and contribution to our communities," Corcoran says. "Keeping teachers well-supplied and reinforcing classroom lessons are great ways for parents to help teachers make a difference – and ensure their kids get the education they need."

Back to School Blues - How to transition from one year to the next

  • Written by Elizabeth McAninch, Language Arts Teacher, Dartmoor School

As backyard barbeques, family vacations and the long days of summer begin to wind down, families everywhere are preparing for the inevitable excitement and anxiety of returning to school.

For some, this means new supplies, new clothing and new possibilities for the year. For others, however, this means what has come to be known as "the back to school blues."

Parents scramble to get last minute items on their child’s school supply list, children begin to stress over new classes and new teachers, and everyone laments the finale of days of freedom and sleeping in.

While we often disregard this phenomenon, we should not take these feelings of anxiety lightly. According to APA psychologist Lynn Bufka, PhD, "The end of summer and the beginning of a new school year can be a stressful time for parents and children. While trying to manage work and the household, parents can sometimes overlook their children’s feelings of nervousness or anxiety as school begins."

Change is always a difficult thing, but there are some ways we can deal with this anxiety we may feel. Making the transition together can help. Setting up a routine that works smoothly can make busy mornings easier and put our body clocks back on a normal schedule. A routine can also help us to avoid exhaustion and disorganization. 

Organization can also help us transition with ease. Having a place for all of our anticipated materials from classes can enhance our focus as well as our productivity. An organized workplace at home can carry over into how we handle our school work and we can prepare by setting this workplace up prior to the beginning of school. If children have an organized place to work at home they will feel more confident about the work that is being given to them at school.  

If children are hesitant to return to school, discuss the positive aspects of school a child will appreciate, such as meeting new people and learning new things.

Lastly, reach out to your teacher before school and begin forming a positive relationship. Creating this comfortable environment will make returning to school fun and an event that we begin to anticipate.

The end of a fun, event-filled summer can create a sense of dread for the return of homework, difficult classes and new teachers but battling the back to school blues is simple if parents and children work together. Keeping communication open and organization essential will help to develop a routine to help us adjust with as much ease as possible.