28 Feb

Cold Weather and Crazy Kids

by Carrie Spencer

How to keep your kids from going crazy
when cold weather keeps them indoors.

With the holidays behind us, so many parents and children start looking forward to spring. Still, there are bound to be a few more cold and wintery days ahead. So it’s important for parents to be prepared with fun indoor activities that will keep kids from getting bored on those snowy, rainy, or chilly days. Keeping those activities educational and budget-friendly scores some bonus points, so here are a few ideas for entertaining your kids when it’s too cold to go outside.

Score Points With Secondhand Surprises

If your kids tend to get bummed out when they are stuck inside, you may want to consider lifting their spirits with a few budget-friendly surprises from eBay. eBay offers plenty of gently used video games, toys, portable gaming systems, and even indoor sports gear, plus buying items secondhand will help you save some serious cash. On top of those savings, you can also look for eBay cash back offers, coupons, and promo codes to keep prices for your purchases even lower.

Using coupons to score surprises can be a simple and effective way to cure cabin fever for your children. Now you may also be wondering how you can keep video games educational for your kids? Well you may be surprised to know that many of your kids’ favorite video games can actually provide mental stimulation and education. That’s because age-appropriate video games encourage children to solve problems, work with hand-eye coordination, and use creative solutions. So playing games can be fun and beneficial!

Create Some Cold-Weather Fun With Some Homemade Science Projects

Picking up a few surprises from eBay is a surefire way to beat boredom on those chilly days when your kids are stuck inside. If you find yourself facing a snow day or blustery weekend before you have a chance to shop for those surprises, however, you are going to need some backup plans. With a few low-cost and basic ingredients from your cupboards, though, coming up with educational and fun activities for your kids on a whim doesn’t have to be a hassle. For example, you can combine flour, water, and few other ingredients to help your kids create custom playdough! Watching the chemical reactions that transform these solids and liquids into a pliable dough is a great way for children of all ages to gain experience with science and chemistry, and you can even make a few different recipes to note the differences between reactions and results. Other kitchen science activities you can try include creating your own butter, baking bread, or even allowing toddlers to bang on pots and pans.

Encourage Kids’ Creativity With a Few Indoor Arts and Crafts Activities

Playing video games and whipping up kitchen experiments can help children fine-tune their sense of creativity. When you want to keep your children busy and boost their creative skills, however, you should just plan exciting art activities. Now you may be thinking that stocking up on arts and crafts supplies will cost you a small fortune, but there are so many creative ways for you to save on those basics. For instance, just like with those homemade science experiments, you can also create your own paints to cut costs on art supplies for your children. Puffy paint is just one of the many DIY art materials you can whip up to keep your kids busy for hours when they are stuck indoors, and this homemade paint can be especially pleasing for children who are developing their senses. Edible finger paints are also a sweet and safe DIY paint option that can come in handy for keeping toddlers and smaller children entertained, and you can make these non-toxic paints with cheap ingredients you likely already have in your kitchen cabinets.

Seriously, don’t let yourself get stressed out by surprise snow days or any other inclement weather that keeps your kids indoors! Because with a few creative and educational tricks up your sleeve, you can prevent boredom and any related behavior problems. Plus, you can use DIY tips and coupons to stick to your budget, so it’s a win-win for all.

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24 Jan

6 Smart Money Things You Should do ASAP as a New Parent

Written by Ted James of

Becoming a parent changes your world—and your priorities—in many ways. One significant consideration for new parents is how to best plan for your financial future and that of your child. Here are six things you should do ASAP.

Think Critically About Life Insurance

Life insurance for you, your partner, or both can provide for your child if disaster strikes. For most parents, term life insurance is an ideal solution. It can cover you until your child reaches adulthood, meaning the policy gives you peace of mind without costing you over the long term.

You can also cover unexpected expenses with burial insurance. While it may seem intimidating to contemplate as a new parent, if you were to pass away suddenly, burial insurance helps cover final expenses like funeral costs and medical bills. Investigate average burial expenses in your area and shop for the best rate to ease your family’s potential financial burden.

Update Your Will

Ideally, you already have a will that only requires updating now that you have a baby. The most common change to a parent’s will is a clause on guardianship, which requires an attorney to adjust. You can also draw up guardianship forms without a will, however.

Other legal steps you can take without a lawyer’s involvement include drafting a living will and designating beneficiaries for your assets. For example, to leave a 401(k) fund to your child, you’ll need to file the appropriate forms with the company that oversees the account.

Start Saving for Your Child Right Away

Whether you want your child to attend college or hope to help them buy a car when they turn 16, opening a savings account is a thoughtful step. And the sooner you open a baby savings account, the sooner you can take advantage of compound interest.

U.S. News recommends choosing a bank account with no fees, low minimum balance requirements, and flexible withdrawal limits for later. Alternatively, you can choose a 529 plan, which gives certain tax advantages but also limits spending to qualified tuition expenses.

Whatever account type you choose, the most crucial part is starting ASAP so your child’s savings can grow.

Keep Health Insurance Current

Depending on your health insurance plan—whether employer-sponsored or otherwise—you may have a limited window to add your infant to your policy. While the birth or adoption of a child counts as a qualifier for special enrollment (outside normal enrollment periods), you likely have only 60 days to make policy changes.

The good news is that even if you miss qualification periods, there are other options. For example, a Medicaid-backed Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) provides coverage for eligible children without other health insurance.

Invest In an Emergency Fund

Even with every type of insurance available, families still encounter unexpected financial burdens. Whether a vehicle breaks down or your child’s health insurance doesn’t cover a specific treatment, having an emergency fund can help ease such stressors.

Budgeting for savings should be part of your plan already, but if not, add it to your parenting toolkit. Experts recommend that an emergency fund should cover three to six months’ worth of expenses, minimum. Conservatively invest for better odds of seeing a gain on your fund—otherwise, you’ll be losing value if the cash sits over the years.

Don’t Forget About Retirement

With a new baby, you’re likely focusing on your child’s future instead of your own. But think ahead: When you’re older, do you want your child or children to be responsible for you? Maintaining your retirement fund is one surefire way to preserve your children’s future and your own.

If you’re not already contributing to your retirement, make it a priority. Before diverting funds to your child’s savings account or educational plan, ensure your financial future is safe, too.

Becoming a new parent can feel all-encompassing. Between sleepless nights and your regular adult responsibilities, considering your finances might not be a priority. Of course, it should be—and taking these steps ASAP can help preserve your family’s financial future.

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23 Jan

Teacher prep, equity top list of ‘hot’ literacy topics

The International Literacy Association’s survey comes as state chiefs gather in Washington, D.C. to discuss what some call a reading crisis.

Clink here to read more about the article.

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26 Aug

CBS Sunday Morning

Cracking the Code of Dyslexia
Yale University Dr. Sally Shaywitz defined dyslexia as “an unexpected difficulty in reading in an individual who has the intelligence to read at a much higher level.”

Click on the link and read the story.

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13 Aug

Tips for Avoiding These Four School-Year Disasters

Another three months of relaxation, great weather, and quality time with friends and family is coming to an end. A new school year is almost in full swing, along with all of the responsibilities and duties that come with it. As a parent, you’ll be involved in almost every aspect of your child’s day. From doctors visits and emergency school runs to homework help and last-minute shopping, you play superhero the entire year to make sure everything runs smoothly. In anticipation of another busy year, here are some strategies for handling common school disasters.

Not getting enough sleep

During the summer, your child’s sleeping schedule gets out of whack. Staying up late to play games and sleeping in until 10 isn’t going to cut it for the school year. Falling asleep in class or showing up late to school are two potential disasters that can arise from a poor sleep schedule. Furthermore, when a child is too exhausted to make it through the school day, their grades and overall behavior may start to slip. To avoid these problems, put your children on a school-like sleeping schedule a week or so before the summer ends. This will give their bodies enough time to adjust to the new rhythm.

Too distracted to do homework

School-related disasters don’t end when the final bell rings. Children still have to stay focused and organized to finish their assignments at home. For many students, this means taking a few hours to complete something that should take half-an-hour. Setting up a designated study area and working station can limit distractions and increase the speed at which your child finishes their homework. After you find a quiet and secluded area in your home, shop around to find the perfect desk that fits in terms of size and function. Your child will feel like a grown-up with a separate area to complete their assignments.

Refusing to go to school

Some children will complain of a tummy ache on the first day just to avoid going to school. These students are known as school refusers. Despite their staunch opposition to attending class, it isn’t coming from a place of defiance or ill-will. Instead, your child may be experiencing anxiety and shyness that makes it difficult to work up the courage to go to school. Once you’ve determined that nothing is amiss at school or with your child, work to make it less appealing to be at home and more exciting to go to school. Encourage your child with kind words and always listen attentively.

If you realize that your child is indeed getting sick too often, consider adding a daily multivitamin. There’s a good chance that your child isn’t getting the daily recommended allotment of essential vitamins and nutrients to help their immune system fight off germs. Although vitamins won’t ensure that your child never gets ill, they will definitely make it easier to fight off things going around school.

A fussy morning routine

It’s no fun to fight a child through a fussy morning routine of waking up, getting dressed, and heading to school. In order to avoid this daily school-year disaster, parents should be a little more tactful. Instead of abruptly waking up a child at the last-minute, open the door to their room and turn on a light to allow them to wake up naturally. When it comes to getting your child dressed, make it a fun occasion rather than another chore. You can ask them to pick out their favorite outfit or to match one with the outfit you’ve chosen for the day.

Heading back to school after summer vacation is never a seamless process. Even when you get back into the swing of things, there will still be some mishaps, accidents, and dilemmas. As a parent, it’s important to keep an eye out for these potential school-year disasters so they can be handled timely or avoided altogether. This foresight will help make the start of the school year go as smooth as possible.

By: Janice Russell |

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06 Aug

IDA Pinnacle Award

John Hike - Nike Chief Designer

The Pinnacle Award was created to recognize an individual who has faced reading challenges, has made significant achievements in his or her field, is leading a successful life, and is a role model for others with learning differences.

John Hoke currently serves as Nike’s Chief Design Officer. In this role, he leads Nike’s global design team, responsible for envisioning the future of sport. John directs an international creative community of over 1,000 designers charged with inspiring and innovating while designing hundreds of apparel and footwear styles each year.

John promotes, speaks, and writes about the power and possibility of design and creativity throughout the world. He is a permanent design fellow at Pennsylvania State University, his alma mater; a member of Herman Miller, Inc.’s Board of Directors; an advisor to Piaggio Fast Forward; and a trustee at Pacific Northwest College of Art. John also served as national trustee of the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum. Read more about John here.

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23 Oct

How to Prepare When You’re Expecting a Baby with a Disability

How to Prepare When You’re Expecting a Baby with a Disability

Bringing a new life into the world is one of the most challenging and rewarding journeys you will ever travel. Most parents feel both frightened and exhilarated about having a baby, and when your little one has a disability, you might feel especially overwhelmed. With a few preparations, however, you can be ready when your child arrives.

Bringing Baby Home

 Depending on the nature of your little one’s disability, you might need to make home renovations. Some changes might be pertinent right away. For instance, if your child will be dependent on special equipment, adding an emergency generator might be a top priority before your baby arrives. Another suggestion is to invest in a window air-conditioning unit. That way, if your cooling system fails, your child can remain comfortable. In terms of long-term plans, you might need to widen doorways, create a roll-in shower, or add a wheelchair ramp to an entrance. Reviewing a home-modification checklist can help you prioritize your projects.

Some of the more substantial renovations you might be able to put off until after your child is older, and spacing things out over time can be a practical way to manage your budget. Rather than a single, big remodel to make your whole home handicap accessible, try doing some of the smaller modifications that can be made inexpensively. Adding grab bars to a bathroom, a threshold ramp for easier navigation through a doorway, and smooth surface flooring are relatively low-cost modifications that promote mobility.

Prepare Your Finances

 Do you have a budget in place? If you don’t, you need to establish firm financial footing before your baby arrives. Tally your total income and reduce it by your expenses, and work your numbers until you have a zero balance. Make note of your negotiable expenses, such as clothing, versus non-negotiables, like your mortgage payment. An overage in income can go toward savings, and the easiest place to cut expenses is in the negotiables.  When it comes to the costs related to raising a child with a disability, Mint explains you are likely to have substantial expenses relating to your child’s special needs. One suggestion is to save for your child’s future in the same manner you would for college. By including that category in your budget right away, you create a cushion for unexpected expenses sooner.

Insurance Inquiries

 If your little one will have many medical expenses early on, Kiplinger explains that Medicaid might fill in gaps your health insurance doesn’t cover. Non-reimbursed expenses can often be written off on your tax return, so you should track copayments and out-of-pocket expenses related to tests and traveling to appointments right off the bat. Also, depending on the nature of your child’s disability, you might be your baby’s caregiver well into her adult years. You might be thinking about investing in a life insurance policy, as that can be a practical solution for helping to finance your child’s ongoing care after you are gone. Setting up a special needs trust is another good option, as it is designed to protect your child’s rights should anything happen to you. Consider discussing your personal circumstances with an estate attorney or financial consultant to determine the best course of action.

Taking Care of You 

Many times, parents of a child with a disability tend to focus their energies entirely on their little one. While putting your baby first is a natural inclination, you can actually run yourself ragged doing so. As the Daisy Foundation points out, without a healthy self-care plan in place, you risk depression, anxiety, and poor health. Both during pregnancy and after your child is born, ensure you take time for yourself. Relax, rest, play, and do things you enjoy — your physical and mental well-being need to be a priority.  After all, your baby is counting on you!

Expecting a child can feel overwhelming, especially if your little one will have a disability.  Prepare your home and your finances, and take care of yourself. You can be confident and ready when your baby arrives.

Author: Charles Carpenter created He believes in the power of music and sound as a healing tool. He is based in San Antonio, Texas.

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04 Oct

Hard Words: Why Aren’t Our Kids Being Taught to Read?

Recently, American Public Media (APM) released the documentary, “Hard Words: Why Aren’t Our Kids Being Taught to Read?” APM Correspondent, Emily Hanford, began her reporting on this topic back in 2017 with a documentary about why so many students with dyslexia have a hard time getting the help they need in school. She discovered that the kind of reading instruction students with dyslexia need is the same kind of instruction all kids need. But many kids are not getting this kind of instruction in school. Emily has come to think of kids with dyslexia as canaries in a coal mine, a warning sign that something is wrong with the way reading is being taught.

More than 60 percent of American fourth-graders are not proficient readers. According to Emily’s reporting, a big part of the problem is that many educators don’t know the science on how children learn to read, and they are not using approaches to reading instruction backed up by that science.

To listen to this podcast, click here.

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18 Sep

6 Ways Music Can Improve Child Literacy

6 Ways Music Can Improve Child Literacy

It may sound surprising, but music and literacy go hand-in-hand. Research has shown that music can have a profound effect on psychological and mental health. It can calm you down and help you focus. Music also can improve the imagination and expand the mind in new ways. Here are a few more ways how music can help your child become more literate.

It Establishes a Foundation of Practice

When your child is learning a new instrument, they’ll need to exercise good practice habits. Neuroscience shows that setting up a regular practice routine fundamentally changes the way our neurons fire. Practicing helps a person think in more dynamic ways, which can improve their learning instincts. It would be beneficial to create a space in your home for practicing, so find a spare room that allows for privacy as well as the ability to create a little noise without disrupting other members of the family. According to HomeAdvisor, it costs an average of $1,642 to soundproof a room in your home, so plan accordingly.

Music Improves Attention and Focus

According to The Guardian, certain kinds of music can help to reduce distraction. Musical training requires a high level of attention to detail and focused exertion. It’s especially helpful when listening to or playing music you like. When your child is playing music, help them find the beauty in the music they’re playing, or help them play music they’re interested in. This can be translated into reading, as reading itself requires some focus as well.

Memory Is a Key Part of Reading

Studies have demonstrated music is one powerful way to strengthen the connection between emotion and memory. This can improve cognitive function and build new links that further promote memorization. Memory is vital for literacy. Given how important it is to develop strong reading comprehension skills, music can help improve your child’s memory and give them greater understanding.

It Rewires the Brain to Listen in New Ways

Studies in neuroscience have found that active engagement with music enhances the neuroplasticity of the brain. This helps the brain change and adapt over the years. This kind of active engagement also helps the listener learn how to identify melodies, background music, and even different instruments and harmonies. This aids in literacy development as your child becomes more engaged with reading and develops and uses different parts of their brain.

Playing Music Helps the Brain Process Language

According to the Washington Post, research has shown that musical training can help to improve phonological awareness and also aids in the processing of complex auditory awareness. This can help your child with literacy as they understand words, their pronunciation, sounds, and meanings. These are important skills for anyone that is learning to read.

Expanded Vocabulary

Research has shown that music, especially music with lyrics, has the ability to expand an individual’s vocabulary. Exposure to music more frequently is associated with an even more powerful effect. Try exposing your child to music from all types, from classical music and jazz to classic rock and rap. There’s so much they can learn and apply into their own education.

Music is powerful and has the ability to expand your mind and enhance the neuroplasticity of your brain. It can give your child a soundtrack to their own life, along with the books they encounter. Music can pump you up and improve your empathy as well. Take time to help your child learn a new instrument and encourage them to read more. They’ll appreciate the benefits that come from the educational value of making music.

Author: Charles Carpenter created He believes in the power of music and sound as a healing tool. He is based in San Antonio, Texas.

A similar article on music and learning can be found here at myaudiosound.

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08 Aug

5 Tips for Parents with Children with a Disability

5 Tips on How to Prepare for Parenthood When You Have a Disability
by Ashley Taylor

Parenthood is a huge milestone that is both nerve-wracking and exciting. It’s made even harder when you’re suffering from a disability. There’s a lot on your plate that you have to get done before you bring your baby home from the hospital to make sure you and your baby are safe in your house. Here are some tips you can follow that will make the first few months of parenting a little easier for you.

Replace steps with a ramp

If you’re reliant on a wheelchair to get around, you should replace any steps in your home with ramps before you bring your baby home from the hospital. Ramps will help you reduce stress on your body, and you can use all the extra energy you’ll save spending time with your new baby. Ramps come in a variety of styles (like modular, lightweight, folding or rentals), and it depends on your level of mobility and your lifestyle.

Purchase expandable hinges for doorways

 One of the issues you might run into by being bound to a wheelchair is not being able to fit through doorways. Expandable hinges that you can install in the doorways in your home can make your life easier when you’re raising your child with a disability. These hinges provide an extra two inches of space in a doorway, which gives you more space to fit through the doorway in your wheelchair. With expandable hinges, you can move throughout your home without worrying about not being able to fit through your doorways easily.

 Install skid-resistant flooring

 Slipping on floors can be common when you’re giving your newborn baby baths. Your baby is going to splash around and It’s easy to get water on the floor. Prevent any slips or falls by installing slip-resistant flooring in your bathroom. This type of flooring will avoid any hazardous situations. Slip-resistant flooring comes in both rubber and vinyl options. Vinyl flooring is cost-effective, durable and can be bought in a variety of designs. Rubber flooring is easiest if you’re bound to a wheelchair and it’s low-maintenance and hypoallergenic.

Clean and meal prep

When you have a baby, household chores can fall by the wayside such as cooking and cleaning. It’s best to clean your home before you bring your baby home. This includes clearing your home of any clutter, vacuuming carpets, washing dishes and doing laundry. Preparing meals ahead of time and freezing them will help you create easy dinners when you’re too busy to cook. You’re going to be stressed trying to take care of your little one and meal prepping will provide you a little peace of mind.

Babyproof your house

You’ll want to babyproof your home before your baby is born. Even though your newborn won’t be able to crawl or walk for months, it will make you feel a little better knowing your home is safe for your little one. It’s easiest to begin in your kitchen by adding safety latches to your cabinets, and drawers. Next, move onto your bathrooms. In your bathrooms, put soft covers around the faucets in your bathtubs, so that when you’re giving your baby a bath, they don’t accidentally bang their head on the faucet.

Finally, take a walk through your home and look for any electrical cords that you can put away. Bolt all TV units to the wall, TV stands or armoires to prevent any accidents.

This is an exciting time in your life. Enjoy every moment of becoming a parent. Knowing that you have taken safety precautions beforehand will allow you to focus on your little bundle of joy.

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