It’s going to be icicle cold on New Year’s Eve in the Capital Region, with low temperatures projected to be below zero in the Albany area.
For parents with younger children, that means all of the fun on the night before the new year likely will come indoors. And for that to happen, you need to prepare to celebrate with the kids in style.
For starters, we’re talking about shopping at party supply stores like Party City in Latham, and at supermarkets such as Market 32 or Hannaford in Clifton Park and throughout the area to get all the goodies you need.
To make the kids really feel comfortable on New Year’s Eve -- a traditionally big night for grown-ups, of course -- invite family members and friends to celebrate indoors.
If you want to make it an early night for younger children, pretend that 8 p.m. really is midnight, and start your 20-second countdown to the New Year at 7:59. Regardless of whether you choose 8 p.m. or midnight as your magical time, you’ll need a plan to keep everyone engaged and happy.
With help from The Spruce, here are some ideas to consider for the night:
Alexa, how can parents keep their kids safe from the pitfalls of Echo and other “smart speaker” devices?
On the day after Christmas, Amazon announced it celebrated its “biggest” Christmas ever behind robust sales of its Echo voice-command products, which include the larger Echo and the smaller Echo dot.
But your son or daughter asking Alexa how many quarts are in a gallon is much different than asking the voice remote to send an expensive product that is billed to your account and shipped immediately. Or asking Alexa for some information that you'd rather your kids learn from you.
This brings us to the subject of parental controls, a necessary part of kids’ ever-increasing fascination with technology. That fascination helped to spawn the sale of “tens of millions” of Alexa-enabled devices worldwide, according to Amazon. (The company did not release the exact number of sales.) It's likely thousands of them entered households from Albany to Altamont, North Greenbush to Guilderland this week.
With Echo devices, children can interact with Alexa through “kid skills” -- programs comparable to apps on smartphones. Examples include The SpongeBob Challenge from Nickelodeon and Sesame Street from Sesame Workshop.
Parents have to give their permission every time a new kid-skill is set up on an Amazon device through the Alexa app. Also during the process, a code is sent to parents’ mobile phones via text message to let parents know it is them giving the permission, rather than their child.
So parents, you really do have some say on what content or products your kids ultimately receive. Engagement with your children -- and caution -- are of the utmost importance as the technology age adds another item to your parental checklist. The parental controls that Amazon has added to its Echo products is a start to a lot of fun and learning for little ones, but parents still need to set rules regarding its use.
They aren’t the easiest things to write, but they make a world of difference to those who receive them. And they can make the sender feel pretty darn good, too.
We’re talking about thank-you notes.
Whether it’s for Christmas presents, birthday gifts or to the neighbor who invited your child to join their family to see Sesame Street Live! at the Times Union Center in Albany, thank-you notes just make the heart feel good.
And writing thank-you notes is a great life skill for kids to learn at an early age. There are many occasions when adults need to write notes of thanks; developing the habit as a child make it second nature as the kids grow older.
From realsimple.com, here are five tips for writing those notes with your kids:
Set a time for it. There’s something wrong about trying to teach gratitude by nagging or rushing a kid. Get some snacks and settle in for the activity.
Gather your resources. A correspondence kit is a fun motivator. Put one together with note cards, a return-address stamper, a cool pen, postage stamps, stickers, a first address book, and even a monogram seal.
Be the designated writer. Children who can’t write yet, or who are just learning, will feel more grateful if they don’t have to agonize over sentences. Also, transcribing their thanks gives you a chance to capture the depth and complexity of their feelings. (“Thank you for the game Candy Land, which has Queen Frostine, which is who I love so much even though it’s who Ben loves, too, and so we fight sometimes.”)
Teach sincerity. You want your kids to be authentically gracious. Aunt Ida’s terrifying woolen anorak? Skip “Thank you for the beautiful sweater — I love it!” and talk your child through what’s true. “Dear Aunt Ida, it must have taken you so long to crochet this. The wool feels really warm, and you remembered my favorite color is green! Thank you so much.”
Do it now — and later. Every now and then, encourage your child to send another note, long after the fact, just to make somebody’s day — especially for a gift that has turned out to be a favorite. “Remember that moose hat you gave me last Christmas? Here’s a picture of me wearing it on our trip to Niagara Falls!”
It’s almost Christmas Day and your kids want to get a gift for Grandma and Grandpa, but with these nasty roads and at this late hour, a trip to Crossgates or Clifton Park Center just won’t work.
What should you do?
How about a homemade present? Grandma probably would prefer that over another scarf, anyway.
Here are some last-minute ideas, courtesy of Parents magazine and other sources:
This is the easiest one. Place your child’s hands flat in a shallow container of non-toxic paint, then place them on a piece of cardstock paper and let the paper dry. Frame the paper and give to Grandma and Grandpa every year during childhood to let them know how the kids have grown. Write the year and child’s name at the bottom left or right corner of the paper. And don’t forget to wash the kids’ hands with soap and warm water before they touch any furniture!
What you'll need: Calendar template from online, white or cream paper or cardstock, markers, crayons or paints, metal binder clips.
What to do:
1. Print out calendar; have your child complete illustrations for each month.
2. Secure pages together with two binder clips.
Lavender-scented eye pillow
What you'll need: Fabric shears, knee-high socks, fabric glue, clothespins, uncooked rice, dried lavender, pinking shears, felt.
What to do:
1. Cut a 10-inch section from the leg of one sock.
2. Glue one end of the sock closed, leaving a half-inch outer edge. Hold in place with clothespins until dry.
3. Fill the sock with 2 to 2½ cups of rice mixed with lavender. Close the other end, leaving a half-inch outer edge. Glue, holding in place with clothespins.
4. Trim ends with pinking shears.
5. Cut out two closed eyelash shapes from the felt and glue on the pillow. Let dry.
Give the sports fans you know a reason to cheer with a pair of soft pillows that will make watching the big game even better. For a baseball, cut two 18-inch circles from white fleece. For a football, cut two pointed ovals (about 16 by 21 inches) from brown fleece. Stack the matching shapes. With a marker, make dots 3 inches in from the edge and about 1 inch apart. Cut through both layers of fleece from the edge to the dots to make fringe. For decorative stitching, make three-eighths-inch slits in one piece of fleece. Tie a knot in the end of a red or white shoelace. Stitch through the holes, then knot the lace and trim the excess. Re-stack the shapes and tie together the matching fringe pieces, leaving four untied. Stuff with batting, then tie the remaining fringe.
This jar runneth over
Share good feelings and promote positive thinking with the help of a simple Smile Jar. Cut a piece of felt to fit the top of a canning jar and make a slit in the center. Have each family member write down a few happy thoughts, jokes or silly notes on small slips of paper and place them in the jar. When someone's feeling down, he or she can take out a note for a quick pick-me-up. Refill with kindness as needed. (Originally published in September 2014 issue of FamilyFun magazine.)
The holidays are a special time of year. Traditions often are the main reason why.
We might look back, years later, and remember the year we got those stereo headphones for Christmas or that Snoopy soap dish for Hanukkah, but we always remember the traditions ― the ones that make the holidays unforgettable.
Members of our TSL family have those traditions at home, and we’re sure your family does, too. Cherish them and do everything you can to keep them alive. That’s what they kids will remember.
It’s never too late to start new family traditions, either. Here are some ideas you and the kids might enjoy:
Whatever you do this season, whatever holiday you celebrate, remember one thing: Do it together.
Everyone has one. You know that, parents, don't you?
When it comes to children and cellphones, not everyone has one, but a shockingly high number of kids do. Consider these facts from the website GrowingWireless.com.
So it's likely your child has asked for a cellphone -- whether it’s for Christmas, a birthday or just because -- and as you ponder the response, you should consider the following thoughts from a cnn.com article that offers tips from Dana Graber, co-founder of CyberWise.org, and Lori Cunningham, founder of the blog The Well Connected Mom.
OK, so today your child is 12 years old. With your oldest on the verge of being a teenager, it’s never too early to think about parenting a teen, right? And that means, among the changes the teen years bring, it will be time to teach your child how to drive. (For those of you who tweet, we like to use #anxiety when talking about this subject. And also, just know your older sister will remind you of how you rolled your eyes when she talked about all the challenges parenting a teen brings.)
For an opportunity to get on the road, your teen will offer services that he or she otherwise wouldn’t dream of doing. You know, a trip to Hannaford to get milk and eggs, a trek to the Speedway for gas for your morning commute, a jaunt to the post office at Colonie Center to stand in line to mail those Christmas packages.
But before your teen angel can do any of those good deeds, he or she actually has to get a driver's permit and learn how to drive. And get a driver’s license, of course.
In addition to your #anxiety tweets, the learning curve takes patience and focus.
From our friends at the State Farm Mutual Auto Insurance Company, here are steps to take before you let your kid get behind the wheel of your car.
Start with a tour of the vehicle: Before you hit the road, demonstrate how to adjust the side- and rear-view mirrors and seat to fit your teen's needs. Make any other necessary accommodations, such as tilting the steering wheel. Also make sure your teen knows how each of the following works: dashboard controls, turn signals, headlights, safety features (airbags, seat belts, emergency lights), wipers, parking brake/release, ignition, gas, brakes (especially ABS), warning indicator lights on dashboard. Be sure to show your teen where the registration, insurance card and car manual are located.
Get a feel for the vehicle: For the first teen test drive, start in a safe location, such as an empty parking lot where the businesses are closed for the weekend. Have your teen practice applying gas and brakes, driving straight, turning and backing up. On the next visit to the vacant parking lot, have your new driver practice pulling in and out of a parking spot. Also have your teen practice checking mirrors and scanning continuously for hazards, such as a dog running into the pathway of your car.
Start in low-speed, low-traffic areas: Once your teen is comfortable with the basic operation of your vehicle, take your lessons to quiet streets, where he or she can practice staying on one side of the road, pulling up to a stop sign, and anticipate cars leaving driveways. For the next several lessons, stick to roads that have slower speed limits (under 35 mph). Emphasize that the posted limit is only a guide for an acceptable speed in excellent conditions. Your teen should drive even slower in poor weather, heavy traffic or areas that have a lot of pedestrians. Try to take a different route each time ― one involving a school zone would be good ― to make sure your teen is getting the variety needed to become a safe driver.
Driving on the highway: Traveling on a multi-lane highway for the first time can be scary. Start by having your teen drive at quieter times of the day to practice merging into traffic, staying in a single lane, and using higher speeds and safe following distances without the added stress of rush-hour traffic. Once you are both comfortable with that, gradually move on to busier traffic situations. Before heading onto the highway, prepare your new driver for such situations as driving near large trucks and looking for stopped or slowing traffic.
After the practice sessions ― good job, parents! (#anxiety) ― it’s time to take the road tests given by the DMV.
After those tests are passed, it’s all about safety and good judgment on everyone’s part.
Smart decisions never grow old.
Hey, parents, do you usually have to remind your kids to brush their teeth?
We’re seeing several hands go up.
Hey, kids, do you generally have to be reminded to brush?
More hands going up. Exactly what we thought!
Brushing twice a day is the healthy way to go, but so is eating broccoli, and we know where that falls on the fun list.
If parents and kids want to keep their chompers around until well in adulthood, we all need to brush at least twice a day.
Teeth-brushing is a skill, just like tying your shoes or learning how to ride a bike. Helping your child get into the habit of brushing twice a day for two minutes isn’t easy, but according to a page on the American Dental Association’s MouthHealthy website, the following creative approaches can go a long way toward ensuring your kids’ long-term dental health.
Have four minutes of fun: Don’t just set a timer and supervise ― make brushing twice a day for two minutes an event. Turn up your child’s favorite song. Or try reading a two-minute story using all your best voices.
Start a routine and stick to it: You might be tempted to let your child skip brushing after a long day or when your normal schedule is off (like vacations), but keep at it. The more second nature brushing becomes, the easier it will be to make sure your child is brushing twice a day.
Reward good brushing behavior: What motivates your kids? If it’s stickers, make a reward chart and let them add a sticker every time they brush. If they like to read, let them select a bedtime story. Or maybe it’s as simple as asking to see that healthy smile, saying: “I’m so proud of you” and following with a high-five.
Characters count: Which character can your child not get enough of? Many children’s shows and books, including Sesame Street, have stories about brushing. Watch and read them together, so when it’s time to brush, you can use that character as a good example.
Make brushing a family affair: Your children learn from you, so set a good example. The family that brushes together has even more reason to smile.
She was in the hospital one year on both Christmas and New Year’s Day when her two children were young.
Those holidays were somber, with a lightly decorated hospital room taking the place of a home adorned with an ornament-filled tree, stockings and Christmas music softly emanating from stereo speakers.
After she got out of the hospital, she and her husband vowed to make other patients’ lives a little easier during the holidays by volunteering at a hospital in the Albany area. So a few years later, the couple visited hospital patients at St. Mary’s Hospital in Troy, then teamed with their two children to serve homemade cookies and brownies to families in the waiting room at Ellis Hospital in Schenectady.
“After being depressed and wondering whether I would ever make it out of the hospital myself, I decided I wanted to do what I could to make other patients’ lives a little brighter during the holidays,” she said. “Just seeing smiles on their faces and the hope in their eyes made it all worthwhile.”
According to Parents Magazine, volunteering teaches even toddlers and preschoolers about compassion, empathy, tolerance, gratitude and community service. And children who volunteer are more likely to do so as adults.
When volunteering, decide whether your family is interested in a one-time project or a longer-term commitment, such as putting in time at an animal shelter once a month. Then make sure to contact the chosen organization to ask what approvals you need and how you can help.
According to Parents Magazine, once you've picked a project, tell your children what to expect and why it’s important. Lastly, be enthusiastic and have fun!
With some inspiration from the magazine, here are some volunteer paths you and your kids could take:
If a puppy is on your child’s Christmas list this year, don't bring home the first cute face you see. When adding a four-legged member to your household, there are several things to consider.
According to petMD, you should choose the family dog based on three major factors:
Now that you’ve considered the above questions, here is the list of the best dogs for kids and families, with a short description, courtesy of petMD:
Remember: Puppies can look cute, but that doesn’t mean they’ll be perfect at home. No matter which dog you choose for your family, remember to give him or her a heavy dose of TLC.
TSL Team Contributions
This blog is for parents and educators to learn more about our organization. It's also the space where we share information of interest to parents.