The fun part about kids having a wintertime birthday: School is in session, so the birthday boys and girls probably are wished a happy birthday on the school loudspeaker in the morning announcements. A star for the day.
The bad news: In the Albany, New York, area, it’s generally cold and snowy, so figuring out how to celebrate gets a little trickier than in the warmer months. Just what kind of party can you throw that takes the elements out of the equation?
There are a number of fun ways that range from little cost to a little more costly, from at home to at a special spot.
To start, there’s always the basic slumber party, an inexpensive event where you invite a small group of your child’s friends to your home on a weekend night. Experts recommend limiting the guest list to five. From there, plan a full evening: food, a movie, cookie decorating, a “spa night” with fun hand creams and nail polish for the girls, maybe video games or knee hockey, if you’ve got the space, for the boys.
For the older kids, who undoubtedly will be bringing a smartphone to the party, set up a fun photo booth with props so they can capture silly pictures with their friends on their phones. It's all about making memories.
Chris Nease, founding editor of the website Celebrations At Home, likes to embrace winter by creating a cozy party with a theme of warming up. One of her favorite ideas, according to care.com, is to set up a tent in the middle of the living room and make s'mores with hot cocoa. She also likes going with a luau theme, complete with leis, hula skirts and coconuts.
If you want to move beyond a house slumber party to celebrate a winter birthday, here are some suggestions from experts via care.com:
Don’t let the snow and cold be a deterrent to a fun birthday party. Wintertime options abound in the Capital Region!
“Back in my day, I got an allowance of (insert pitiful amount here), and then it increased to (slightly less pitiful amount here) and I felt rich.”
Ahh, the memories we parents share with our kids. (Remember: We’re the same folks who walked uphill to school both ways when we were young.)
Financial allowances are an important family topic because of the importance of money in our society. You know, the money that buys food, shelter, clothing and PlayStation 4 games.
The website MarketWatch references a study by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants that says approximately 70 percent of parents give their kids an allowance, and the average amount is $67.80 a month.
But whatever amount parents dole out, they should be aware of these common mistakes, according to MarketWatch:
Oh, those dry, chapped, cracked ― and sometimes painful ― hands.
You shouldn’t have to go through tubes of ointments and boxes of Band-Aids to get rid of one of the downsides of winter for you and your kids.
The Children’s Hospital of Orange County, Calif., reminds us that when the outside temperatures drop, the wind increases and the house heater gets cranked up, dry and cracked hands are an unfortunate and common side effect.
“The cold air is more drying and wind is also more drying. And then add forced-air heating, and that will dry skin out even more,” CHOC pediatrician Dr. Angela Dangvu said on the hospital’s website.
Although parents can’t control the weather, they can take the following steps to help protect their child’s hands against dryness, according to CHOC:
Choose soap carefully: Start by using a moisturizing hand soap. Frequent hand washing, which is crucial during the winter season to avoid colds and other viruses, worsens the problem by further dehydrating the skin, Dr. Dangvu says. Look for soaps that more resemble a lotion than a traditional soap and have words like “moisturizing” or “conditioning” on the label. Avoid antibacterial or deodorant soaps. Also, hand sanitizer gel is an effective way to clean hands that is less drying than a soap-and-water method. However, children with the onset of dry skin should avoid gel, because its alcohol content can sting.
Creams, not lotions: As a preventative measure, parents can apply moisturizer to their child’s hands after hand-washing or bath time. Look for products described as creams rather than as lotions. These are richer and have more staying power than thinner products such as baby lotions.
A three-step approach: If a child’s hands still become dry, Dr. Dangvu recommends the following three steps.
Now that the holidays are over, it’s time for parents ― and kids ― to resume a healthy lifestyle together.
That means … exercising!
During the winter in the Albany area, that can encompass everything from walks to housework, while in the summer, the exercise can be stretched to bigger energy burners, including participatory sports such as softball, basketball, swimming and tennis.
We accept no excuses for no exercise, parents. Partaking makes us feel better ― it sparks the release of uplifting chemicals called endorphins ― and it also helps control our weight.
Adelphi University professor Stephen Virgilio, author of the book “Active Start for Healthy Kids,” told Parents magazine that “it’s never too early to start" exercising.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that children and adolescents get one hour or more of physical activity each day, and that adults get at least 2½ hours a week.
With those goals in mind, here are some family activity suggestions from Parents magazine:
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.
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.