Apps For Young Children

Choosing high quality entertainment media is difficult. Just because something is called educational does not mean that it is high-quality. Look for apps and games that are not passive in nature. You can make the experience more meaningful by playing with your child and engaging them in conversation before, during, and after. I love Common Sense Media reviews. Check out the “Families can talk about…” sections that give suggestions to make the most of media time.

Here are a few places to start when looking for good apps for your younger children.

Bible for Kids

Bible for Kids is a fun and interactive storybook Bible for children. The app allows you to download over 40 Bible stories for free. The app reads the story out loud to your child and then allows them to interact with illustrations, search for hidden objects, and answer questions about the story. Available on iTunesAmazon, and Google Play Store.

Starfall.com

Starfall.com is a free site dedicated to young students that are both learning how to use the computer and learning to read. The site has poor graphics; however, it is very interactive. Starfall also offers a free app called Starfall ABCs. Available on iTunes, Amazon, and Google Play Store.

My PlayHome

My PlayHome is an interactive roleplaying game that allows your child to create a dollhouse family and interact with them. As your child plays the game, talk to him as he explores the dollhouse. Make connections between situations in the game and real world scenarios. Available on iTunes, Amazon, and Google Play Store.

This is My Story
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This is My Story allows children to use simple sight words to fill in the blanks and create basic stories such as “The cat played with the kite.” The app then reads finished stories out loud. After you get the hang of playing the app, teach your child to make up their own silly stories in real life! Available on iTunes.

The Very Hungry Caterpillar & Friends- First Words
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We love Eric Carle at our house and The Very Hungry Caterpillar & Friends-First Words contains many of his illustrations. The app introduces common words in five different languages. Available on iTunes.

Dr. Panda’s Toy Cars

Dr. Panda’s Toy Cars is set up like a car play mat. Kids can play different cars and act out different community helper roles as they play in the town. Play the game with your child and talk to him about different vehicles and jobs in your community. Available on iTunes, Amazon, and Google Play Store.

Drive About: Number Neighborhood
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Drive About: Number Neighborhood is a set of nine games that feature math skills for preschool students. After playing the game, talk to your children about numbers and shapes in the real world. Available on iTunes.

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Screen Time and the Young Child

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, kids take in an average of SEVEN hours of media time a day!

At the same time, the AAP advises that children and teens should only engage in one to two hours of “high-quality content” entertainment media per day. Furthermore, children under two should not engage in television or other forms of entertainment media at all because of their rapidly developing brain.

These guidelines come from scientific research, showing that “excessive media use can lead to attention problems, school difficulties, sleep and eating disorders, and obesity. In addition, the Internet and cell phones can provide platforms for illicit and risky behaviors.”

We are living in a world where young children are getting their own smartphones, restaurants are placing gaming devices on tables, and daycare centers and schools use television as a part of routine instructional time. Avoiding entertainment media is impossible, and also not recommended. Instead, parents should establish clear boundaries on screen time for their children.

Setting time limits on media usage is a great place to start; however, quality is just as critical as quantity when it comes to screen time.  So, what is “high-quality?” A “high-quality” form of entertainment media emulates real-world social interactions, introduces educational concepts, and/or requires active participation on the part of the viewer.

Beware of some so-called educational games that are not considered “high-quality” because they are passive in nature and do not involve any engagement on your child’s part.  Some “non-educational” games, such as role playing games, encourage creativity and may be preferable to mindless entertainment such as Candy Crush. Facetime with Grandma can be considered quality media time because it emulates a real world social interaction.

This is not to say that the occasional mind numbing game should not be allowed. Just as you should try to get your child to choose healthier food options, you should try to get your child to choose higher quality entertainment when possible.

When it comes to choosing appropriate media, I ADORE Common Sense Media reviews. Their movie reviews analyze content based on positive messages, positive role models, violence, sex, language, consumerism, and drinking, drugs & smoking. They review app content based on ease of play, violence & scariness, sexy stuff, language, consumerism, and drinking, drugs, & smoking. Each category is rated on a scale of 1 to 5 and includes an in depth analysis of each category. There is even a section called “Families can talk about…” for each review that allows parents to make the most of media time.

When engaging in media with your child, make sure to have a dialogue with them about the media. Talk about central themes, characters, and scenarios from movies and television shows. Discuss strategies and educational content from apps and games. By taking an active part in your child’s media usage, you are extending the educational value of their screen time.

Home Remedies: Sore Throat

coldLast week, my family was struck with a series of illnesses (strep, pink eye, ear infections, and a flu-like virus). So, I have been trying various home remedies for sore throat, dry cough, and congestion. Here is my analysis of ten home remedies (plus one suggested by the Champ).

Hot Chocolate

This was one of my favorite means of relieving both sore throat and dry cough. I attempted drinking hot chocolate made with water and with milk. The hot chocolate with milk seemed to provide the longest lasting relief. Perhaps, the milk coated my throat better.

Ice Cream

We look for any excuse to eat ice cream at our house! The ice cream did provide sore throat relief. However the downside to ice cream is that it tends to disappear quickly (and has the unwanted side effect of increasing our waistlines). I found the most relief with a mint cookies and cream shake (mint has been suggested as a home remedy).

Yogurt

We mostly ate yogurt to help relieve side effects from our antibiotics. However, the yogurt also provided some sore throat relief. Be sure to get a non-citrus variety for maximum comfort.

Steam Room

The most effective means of getting rid of my dry cough was creating a sauna in our bathroom. I closed the bathroom door, turned the hot water on high in the shower, and sat next to the shower for five to ten minutes. The best part about this method is that it works as a decongestant as well. We tried this one time with the Champ, and he did not like the steam. Other variations of this method may include a humidifier or simply taking a warm shower.

Chicken Soup

We let the Champ pick out “fun soup” at the grocery store to hold on to in the event of illness striking. He picked noodles in the shape of Frozen characters. However, his poor throat was too sore to consume the noodles. He did drink a little of the broth. The chicken noodle soup was pretty effective against my sore throat for at least thirty minutes of relief. It was one of the few non-dessert foods I was able to consume at the height of my illness.

Honey

The Coach’s grandparents are bee farmers, so we consume a lot of honey at our house. Anytime the Champ is “sick,” he demands a spoonful before bed. This works better for us than cough drops for him because there is a much lower choking risk.

I highly recommend Broke T Honey! It is so much better than honey at the grocery store. It is raw honey and contains no chemicals or additives.

Warm Milk and Honey

I was not excited about trying this combination because I prefer my milk cold and unsweetened. However, I drank a cup of this before bed and my cough was greatly reduced throughout the beginning of the night.

Mock Hot Toddy

A hot toddy is a traditional alcoholic British drink (derived from India) used to relieve sore throat. We do not consume alcohol in our house, so a traditional hot toddy (made with whiskey) would not work here. But, the main non-alcoholic components (honey, lemon, and clove) are all great for sore throat.

Mock Hot Toddy
1 TBS Honey
1 tsp cinnamon
½ tsp nutmeg
½ tsp clove
1 cup hot brewed tea
1 TBS lemon

Stir all ingredients together for three minutes. Strain and serve warm.

Gargling Saltwater

I attempted to do a warm saltwater gargle. However, this did not seem to help the back of my throat much and I do not like the aftertaste that a saltwater rinse leaves behind. I also had trouble not coughing long enough to gargle.

Hot Tea

I love hot tea! My favorite herbal tea for sore throats is “I Love Lemon” by Bigelow. I add in a tablespoon of honey and this seems to be a great combination for sore throat. The steam from the tea also works as a decongestant.

Spaghetti and Breadsticks

This was the remedy suggested by the Champ (age 3).  A suggested remedy we did not try was garlic, so maybe he was on to something here. I went to Fazoli’s and bought him a kid’s meal. The effect was minimal; however, the breadstick was his first “meal” in three days.

 

*All of these methods were used to bring comfort to my family members. However, I am not a medical professional. This information should not be considered medical advice. Please see a medical professional for diagnosis and treatment recommendations.

** Please note that I get a small percentage of sales from the Amazon link above. However, I drink a lot of Bigelow tea and I am personally recommending it to my readers.

International Sports Day

According to my calendar, today is International Sport Day!

I have no idea what that really means. But, in a house full of boys, any reason to celebrate sports is taken advantage of.

So, we are making it the “Day of Sportsing.”

Our first sport is PVC Bowling. The rules are simple. Set pieces of leftover PVC pipe up like bowling pins and toss a ball at them. Squeals will ensue each time a pipe falls down.

Sport two is indoor soccer. The Champ and I will attempt to get a balloon past one another to score a point. At some point, the Champ will start using his hands and this will turn into more of a weird version of volleyball, until the balloon touches the popcorn ceiling and pops, scaring the dogs and ending our game.

Sport three is football. We take turns holding the foam football with our finger while the other one kicks it. At some point, the Champ will remove the football right before I kick, a la Lucy from Charlie Brown.

Sport four is baseball. We will take turns hitting a ball off of a tee. Mommy cannot catch, so she will miss every hit. Ethan will end up getting distracted by an interesting weed, ending the game entirely. Thus concludes the “Day of Sportsing.”

Comment on your favorite “Toddler Friendly Sports.”

Chores For Young Kids

Start Them Young

Young kids love to help mom and dad. Take advantage of this. If your child can dump out a box of toys, he can place the toys back in the box. We started “cleaning up” with our son at 18 months of age. We started by helping him with most of his toys and gradually increased the number he was required to pick up.

Make Sure Chores are Age Appropriate

Young toddlers may only be able to sort their toys into baskets. Older toddlers can make their beds, put up their clothes, and dust low shelves. Older children can unload the dishwasher, run the vacuum cleaner, and take out the trash.

Show Your Kids What You Expect of Them

Provide clear instructions for your children and lead by example with a positive attitude. Written job descriptions and chore lists are great tools to use with any age child. For children who cannot read, make a list using pictures.

Find Joy in Your Work

Make chore time fun by turning your chores into games or having dance parties while doing your work. Spend time with your child by doing chores together. If your child sees you having fun cleaning, they will follow suit.

Reward A Job Well Done

Most importantly, make sure to reward a job well done, positive attitudes, and good work ethic. This does not have to be a physical rewards such as money or a treat. A simple “nice work” or “great attitude” will encourage good work in the future.

Bunnies, Chicks, and Jesus!

Easter is this Sunday and our son, the Champ, is getting to the age where we have to be more sensitive about Christian holidays. We want him to understand that Easter is the celebration of Christ’s victory over death. But we want him to be able to have fun celebrating the holiday as well. Below are the ways we will incorporate non-religious Easter traditions with our preschooler.

Egg Hunts

I spoke earlier this week about Resurrection Eggs. I love using these as a visual teaching tool. I believe that we can allow our son to participate in egg hunts and open up the eggs to get candy “prizes.” However, I want to stress to him through the use of Resurrection Eggs that our real Easter prize is Jesus.

The Easter Bunny

I will not be going out of my way to avoid the Easter Bunny. He is everywhere this time of year. Instead, I will be explaining to my son that the Easter Bunny is just something fun that some people do at Easter time and is not what this holiday is about.

Chicks, Flowers, Eggs, and Other Non-Religious Easter Symbols

All of the other non-religious Easter symbols are simply Spring symbols. This is easy enough to explain as a Christian parent. When we see pictures of Easter eggs and chicks, I can remind my son that many birds lay eggs during the spring time. The same applies for flowers. Lambs are usually considered by society to be a “non-religious” Easter image, so I can discuss Jesus’s role as a sacrificial lamb.

Easter Baskets/Presents

We will still give our son a Easter basket. However, we will clearly explain that this is a present from us, not the big bunny. His present will also be a religious gift. This year we are giving him God Is with Me: 365 Daily Devos for Boys (VeggieTales).

How do you celebrate Easter with your young children?

Products I Love: Resurrection Eggs

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As a mom of a three year old boy, I appreciate anything that will help me explain the Bible in a real and tangible way. Easter is such a difficult concept for three year olds who do not have the attention span to listen to and comprehend the Easter story being read to them.

I purchased Resurrection Eggs because they claim that you can “See, Touch, and Hear the Story of Easter.”

The set comes with twelve eggs that each contain an item relating to the Easter story, a plastic container to store the eggs, a lesson booklet, and a sticker sheet. I was really impressed with the quality of the items.

The book contains twelve days of readings. Each day includes a Bible verse, a prompt for opening an egg, and a short devotional explaining the item inside the egg. The lesson takes less than five minutes to complete.

We started these 12 days before Easter. Each day we review the items we have already talked about, read the booklet, and then open a new egg.

We are on day number eight and I feel like he has really enjoyed them. While he does not have a full grasp of the story, as we review the items he remembers that “Jesus rode a donkey” and “Jesus prayed to God in the Garden.” For a three year old, I am very pleased with this.

I do recommend reading the booklet yourself before reading it to your child. Some parts of the story may need modifications to better fit your understanding of the Gospel. However, for the most part our family enjoyed the simplification of the story.

How do you celebrate and explain the Easter story to your young children?

*Please, note that I get a small fee from Amazon through the link above. However, I have purchased Resurrection Eggs and my family loves to use them to explain the Easter story.

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