Four survival tips for your family vacation

  • Written by ARA

You know the old saying that the journey is just as important as reaching your destination? It can also be applied to your family vacation. Some even believe that the journey is half the fun of getting there. While you may already have a getaway destination in mind, traveling as a family presents its share of challenges for the journey ahead.

That’s why it’s so important to plan ahead to make sure your trip is a memorable voyage, rather than an endless undertaking. Preparing for vacation travel is all about using your resources, staying organized and snacking smartly.

Whether you’re traveling by car, plane or train, here are a few travel survival tips to ensure a smooth journey during your next vacation:

• Keep a snack stash. Hunger is the happy traveler’s kryptonite, as moods can go south quickly when you’re in need of a snack. The type of snacks you choose is also important, as snacks overloaded with sugar might not help you feel satisfied for long, and sugary snacks can also leave your kids with lots of energy and nowhere to burn it off. Try stocking up on healthier snacks that are convenient for on-the-go situations like Snyder’s of Hanover pretzels. They come in a wide variety of shapes and flavors, including 100-calorie packs and gluten-free varieties, offering something for everyone on board. Snyder’s of Hanover Pretzel Pieces, which range in flavor from Buffalo Ranch to the new Bacon Cheddar are an especially good option for crumb- and mess-free snacking. To learn more about the available options, visit

• Take a clean-up kit. Hand sanitizer, napkins and hand wipes can help keep everyone  and the inside of your car  clean during your trip. If you have younger children, keeping a bag with a change of clothes easily accessible can help you weather any bad spills or accidents.

• Don’t forget the fun. Car games can make the time fly by for children. If you’re driving, games like car bingo and the license plate game are fun ways to help your child discover the scenery. To combine food and fun, use pretzel bits as bingo pieces or a tasty game of tic-tac-toe. Bringing pads for doodling is never a bad idea either, and washable markers are always a good option since they won’t easily break like crayons or colored pencils might.

• Make it easy to get some shut-eye. If you have a longer trip planned, bringing smaller travel pillows and blankets to help your passengers rest when they get sleepy can help keep everyone happy. You may also want to consider sun-blocking screens that still allow the driver to see out the window although a comfortable pair of sunglasses for the little ones can also help.

• Keep travel-friendly technology handy. Smartphones and tablets make great travel companions for adults, giving you access to helpful maps, restaurant reviews and tourism sites. You can also scan the Web for travel-related games for the kids. Follow Snyder’s of Hanover on Facebook and Twitter for road trip snacking tips and look for game ideas and travel tips on the brand’s Pinterest board.

Today’s Camps Are Not the Same Old Summer Camp You Attended

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You may have attended summer camp when you were a child. And while you may have enjoyed yourself, you may have wanted something more. Today’s camps are not the same old summer camp you attended.

Years ago children would have attended summer camp and expected to enjoy a variety of activities. They would have spent some time doing arts and crafts during a specific time during the day. Later on they would have spent time swimming or canoeing. Depending upon the camp they attended, they may also have had an opportunity to ride horses. Some may have learned archery skills.

Summer camps were designed to expose children to things they may not have a chance to experience during their normal life. They also gave children an opportunity to meet people from other areas of the state or country. In many cases children were able to make friendships which lasted a lifetime.

Children attending summer camp today have opportunities you may not have had. Many camps offer focused activities for the entire time children are at camp. For instance, children who are interested in computers may be able to find summer camps which offer skills such as web design, game design, virtual camps and 3-D design.

Other types of focused content camps may be planned for children involved in particular sports. You can easily find football, basketball, golf, volleyball, gymnastics, running and other sport camps. If your child plays a sport during the school year this type of summer camp would be a great opportunity for your child to increase their skills during the off-season.

Is your child interested in the arts? You can find drama and theater arts camps. You can also find camps which are focused on playing a specific musical instrument. In fact, you might be able to find a summer camp for nearly any activity or interest your child has.

What about children who love horses? In summer camps of the past, children might be able to ride horses one or two times during a week. There are summer camps specifically designed for children who enjoy equestrian sports but they may not be offered in every state.

Do you have a child who enjoys learning or has specific educational goals? Academic and college prep summer camps may be a good choice for them. Children who are struggling in school can also benefit from educational summer camps offered by tutoring companies.

Most people who experienced summer camp as a child look back on those weeks during the summer with fondness. You want your child to have the same opportunities as you had but know that today’s summer camps aren’t the same as the old summer camp you attended. You want something different for them.

If you’re looking for a specific type of summer camp, look no further than This website offers you the ability to search for traditional as well as specialty camps. You can find which camps are available in your own state. Check it out if you’re trying to find the perfect camp for your child to attend this summer.


Game on! What games should kids play?

  • Written by ARA

Kids love video games — they’re exciting, fun and engrossing. While games can promote learning and growth, too much video gaming or playing inappropriate games,  can lead to negative consequences. What should parents know to make good game choices for their children?

Ola Gardner, a faculty member in Game Art & Design at The Art Institute of Atlanta, offers these tips when selecting games for kids:

•Become familiar with the Entertainment Software Ratings Board. These ratings are designed to help potential players understand the game’s content and offer guidance on which games are appropriate for different ages.

•Explore This site provides a report card on games with detailed descriptions of game content, technical performance and kid friendliness.

•Understand the types of games on the market: edutainment (educational games focusing on teaching the player), role playing games (that offer deep story and character development), action games (that train and enhance hand-eye coordination), simulation games (building vehicles such as planes or cars) and strategy games.

•Use online reviews, ask other parents, ask the staff at your local store and play games with your kids.

It’s also important for parents to understand the different game platforms.

“Generally Nintendo (Wii and the portable 3DS system as well) is a very kid-friendly platform to purchase for younger children. The Sony PlayStation3 and Microsoft’s Xbox 360 have kid-friendly games to play as well, though parents need to exercise caution as some of the games released are for adults only,” says Nick Viola, a Game Art & Design faculty member at The Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale. “The Wii and the Xbox 360 Kinect encourage families to play together and get the players off the sofa.”

Whatever the game and whatever the platform, video games for kids — like those for any age — need to be engaging.

“The interactivity of these games seems to be the crucial factor that engages kids of all ages. Exciting visuals and action are also key,” says David March, a Media Arts & Animation faculty member at The Art Institute of Virginia Beach, a branch of The Art Institute of Atlanta.

And what children’s video games do these experts like best? “My favorite kids’ games are the Ratchet and Clank series and the Super Mario franchise,” says Gardner. Super Mario Brothers is a favorite of Viola’s as well. “Its bright bold colors, simplistic playing mechanics and iconic sound effects will always draw my attention,” he says. For March, favorites include “the side-scrollers like Prince of Persia - things with lots of lush graphics. And I’m a total sucker for almost any game involving flying an aircraft.”

Bottom line? Video games are here to stay. And when appropriately used, they can provide an opportunity for families to play together as well as for kids to learn and grow. To learn more about The Art Institutes schools, visit

Leaders Grow

  • Written by Maren Schmidt, M.Ed.

Research shows that it takes a minimum of 10,000 hours of focused practice to become a master musician, artist, dancer ... parent or leader.

One of the first steps in becoming a leader is realizing that proficiency requires a significant amount of time, commitment and dedication. How much time is 10,000 hours? Practice eight hours a day, and that figure translates to 1,250 days or about three-and-a-half years. That’s assuming eight hours a day with a leadership attitude!

Your initial sphere of influence as a leader is small. Stretch out your arms horizontally to the floor, turn around, look in the mirror and there is your beginning sphere of influence. You. Your ideas, your thoughts, your actions, your habits, your character, your life. The most important person you will ever lead or influence is yourself. And the most difficult person? You guessed it. Yourself.

We grow our sphere of influence by asking a key question: What is the best thing I can do under this set of circumstances?

Leadership is a choice, not a position, and once we make the choice to lead and empower ourselves to direct our lives, we begin to enlarge our sphere of influence to include items of personal concern — our families, our friends, our jobs — that grow over time to include our community and the larger world.

Daily, as we ask the key question: What’s the best thing to do? We need to consider the level of initiative to use. Stephen Covey in The 8th Habit tells us of seven levels of initiative, the lowest being wait until told, then ask, make a recommendation — I intend to, do it and report immediately, do it and report periodically, and ending with do it. Perhaps using a child’s development will help us gain insight into our personal growth.

Let’s consider three-year-old Jacob who wants to help in the kitchen. At the first level, Jacob waits until he is told to do something and shown how to do it. Jacob learns to perform such tasks as setting the table, learning to slice fruits and vegetables, load the dishwasher, stir batter, and drop cookies onto a cookie sheet.

Even as a three-year-old Jacob would work through these seven levels of initiative as his skills grow. He’ll ask to set the table.

He might recommend setting the table differently. He could tell you he intends to set the table. Jacob could set the table and report back immediately, or periodically. At the final initiative level, Jacob would be independent and do it without being told, reminded or anything else. He would just do it.

Day by day, year by year, Jacob’s skills and sphere of influence grow by learning new skills, practicing them, and discovering ways to use those skills to help himself and others.

At some point, perhaps age nine, Jacob would have learned all the skills to independently prepare a family meal.

As adult leaders, we grow by asking ourselves continually: What is the best thing to do? We grow by understanding our skill levels and working each day to build proficiency.

We understand our sphere of influence and maximize our work in that area.  We use the seven levels of initiative to understand how to best approach each task in current circumstances.

Happiness is Who You Are - Promoting Life Satisfaction in Schools

  • Written by Erica Peterson, Campus Manager, Dartmoor School, Woodinville
How can we make our kids happy?

It’s a question that has stumped many parents and teachers alike.

Oftentimes, our answers revolve around giving kids things that they want, like the latest electronic gadgets or the funding and freedom for adventures with their friends. We imagine that they will be happy later on in life as long as they have steady jobs, stable families and nice homes with at least two cars each. We pack them off to school and agonize over grades in the hopes that our efforts will one day pay off in the form of jobs, responsibility and social standing.

The image of the happy American adult is so ubiquitous that it can be a shock to discover that, statistically speaking, typical markers of success such as marriage, homes and jobs don’t have a very big influence on people’s reports of their satisfaction with life. It’s true, and researchers at the London School of Economics have added another study’s worth of data to back it up. They studied life satisfaction ratings from over 8,000 Australians who reported their levels of happiness twice, once at the beginning of the study and again four years later. Researchers wanted to correlate positive changes in life satisfaction with changes in other life factors to discover what makes people happy.

The results pointed to one primary life factor: personality. People whose personalities changed over the span of four years gained a lot more in happiness than their peers who merely changed jobs, got married, and bought houses. Specifically, participants had to gain positive personality traits, such as becoming more agreeable, more conscientious, and more open to new experiences. Equally important were reductions in neuroticism—a personality trait describing how strongly participants respond to life events with negative emotions.

Such personality changes strongly predicted gains in happiness.

It’s a finding that surprises many and prompts a reconsideration of the role of school in the life of young people.

There’s no doubt that education is essential for financial stability later on in life, but what if schools could contribute even more to students’ wellbeing?  According to Erikson’s theory of psychosocial development, school years are seminal to the development of personality and personal identity, particularly the years when most students are in junior high and high school. Because they contain students who are already primed for personality formation and ready-made social groups ideally suited for personality practice, schools powerfully influence how students develop.

And if school experiences are already formative for students, they may as well be constructive.

We need to reconsider how our schools affect the development of our students’ personality traits, and how we can create opportunities to foster positive growth. Are teachers modeling positive traits like warmth, respect, and willingness for social participation? Do students who struggle with anxiety, anger, and other negative emotions have sufficient access to counseling services and other venues for help? Are our students taught about the importance of character and how it can influence happiness?  We can maximize the benefits of school when we keep in mind that happiness is not about what our students have, but who they are.