Jacksonville Kids' Directory Blog

Traveling With Your Kids This Summer? 9 Tips for An Awesome Road Trip

Hitting the road is always a great way to kick off a summer full of adventures. However, trying to drive with a car full of kids and your luggage can get more than a little crazy. Since the last thing you need is to give up before the fun even begins, use these road-tested tips to ensure that everyone gets to enjoy your family’s time together on the road.

Plan Your Route Carefully
Making good time may be your priority, but it is important to relax a little bit when you are traveling with kids. Spend some time looking at your route to determine good spots along the way where your kids can burn off some energy while the grownups stretch their legs. City parks are always a great place to stop, and fast food restaurant playgrounds work well for letting the kids run on a rainy day. While it may take you a little longer to reach your destination, stopping for breaks will keep those backseat arguments to a minimum.

Mix Screen Time With Classic Road Games
Road trips today are much easier than they were in the past now that you can give your kids a tablet or smartphone to keep them occupied. However, your kids staring at a screen with headphones on leaves very little room for making memories together as a family. Consider setting a timer, and plan games to play in between your kids movies and web browsing. For instance, you could play license plate BINGO or do an on-the-road scavenger hunt. A few classic road trip games will get the conversation flowing while also helping to create a fun memory of your time together in the car.

Pack Lots of Snacks
Keeping those little tummies full is a big part of avoiding meltdowns among your backseat passengers. Pack lots of finger foods that your kids can eat without creating too much of a mess. Crackers, pretzels and fruit are a few options that will allow your kids to feel some control over those hunger pangs. You can also make each of your kids a little snack kit with an assortment of bags containing their favorite snacks so that all they have to do is reach in and find what they want when they get hungry.

Avoid Crayons
Sure, it makes sense that coloring would be a great activity to keep your kids occupied during hours of driving. However, you will want to be aware that crayons can melt and leave behind a waxy mess in your backseat if you travel to anywhere that is warm. Instead, consider giving your kids colored pencils to draw with or special markers that do not leave behind stains unless they are used on the correct type of paper.

Carry an Assortment of Plastic Bags
While you may prefer to recycle, plastic bags are your friend during a family road trip with young kids. Carry a few grocery shopping bags along with the classic plastic sandwich bags. These can be used for everything from distributing snacks to holding wet clothing after a spill. Plastic bags also work great for trash containers that your kids can reach from their seat. Simply attach it to the edge of their car seat, and let your kids throw away their things as needed.

Give Your Little Ones a Camera
Older kids tend to have cameras on their smartphones, but preschoolers can also get a chance to document their journey when you put a camera in their hands. Cheap disposable cameras work well, or you can look for kid-friendly digital ones that your kids can use to take pictures and upload them to your computer once you get home. The excitement that they feel about being able to put together their own album will keep them happily snapping away at the scenery for hours.

Bring Along Comfort Items
At some point, most kids will fall asleep in the car, and you can increase the odds of them getting a good nap or a full night’s sleep by including their favorite comfort items on your packing list. Give your kids a pillow, blanket and stuffed animal that they can use to snuggle with when they get tired. Noise-canceling headphones may also be effective for helping your kids rest if their siblings are being loud.

Stick to a Fairly Normal Routine
It’s harder to do things like eat and sleep on a schedule when you are on the road, but it is possible to keep your kids on somewhat of a normal routine. Make sure to bring along their travel-sized toiletries so that they can have a bath and brush their teeth like they normally do in the evening if you stop at a hotel. If not, your kids can still accomplish toothbrushing at their next stop. You can also read a bedtime story if you are not the only person driving. Including little parts of their daily routine will give younger kids a sense of comfort, and it makes it far easier to get back on schedule once you return home.

Dress Your Kids Comfortably
Naturally, you want your kids to look cute in all of those roadside stop pictures. However, your kids should also be dressed in comfortable clothing that minimizes any whining from the back about how their pants are too tight. Choose pants and shorts with elastic waistbands that allow kids to quickly get in and out of the restrooms for pit stops. You might also opt to dress your kids in layers if you anticipate temperature changes along the route. This also prevents wars being started over who has control over the car’s heater or air conditioner knob.

This season, plan a summer to remember with a road trip that leads to unforgettable experiences. While you can’t control everything that happens on the road, you can use some strategic planning to keep everyone happy as they ride along in the back seat. By incorporating these ideas, your kids will only have beautiful memories of the time you spent together on your family’s summer vacation.

Jessica Kane is a professional blogger who writes for Documents International LLC, a leading apostille service for individuals and businesses.

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The Benefits of Playing Sports with Family Members

One of the most prevalent concerns from family members—mainly parents, but also children—is that they don't spend enough quality time together. To be sure, this very valid concern is one that's both pressing and relatively complex. Between working around everyone's schedule and finding something to do that everyone's interested in, spending this quality time together can be difficult, for family members.

But difficult doesn't mean impossible, and as it happens, the solution to the dilemma is simple and concise: sports. Playing sports together is the very best way for family members to spend time with one another, and furthermore, the benefits of playing sports—generally and compared to other ways of socializing—are remarkable.

Let's take a look at the benefits of playing sports with family members!

Extra Exercise

For family members (as well as everyone else who wants to join in!), outdoor sports provide incredibly useful exercise that burns calories and improves one's physical condition. The best part is that this extra exercise results from fun and excitement—not painstakingly counting steps.

Nobody can say they're too healthy, and as such, the physical byproducts of family members playing sports together are tremendous.

Fun for the Whole Family

While certain family members may, depending on their age, prefer to partake in specific activities more or less than other family members, sports are universally thrilling: everyone can participate, everyone will have fun, and everyone can be involved. Age limitations, height requirements, and other concerns simply aren't part of the equation.

Sports truly do offer fun for the whole family—this point is made even clearer when the next benefit of playing sports is considered.

Plenty of Choices

When a family decides to spend time together by, say, heading to a local swimming pool or amusement park, the fun stops when they're sick of swimming or riding rollercoasters, respectively. With sports, though, family members have plenty of variable choices that allow the activity to constantly remain fresh, exciting, and engaging.

For example, a kickball game can be swapped for a soccer match when the former gets old. Softball can be turned into a game of catch when players grow tired, and when families are feeling especially excited, a light-hearted game of dodgeball may do the trick. The possibilities truly are endless.

The point is that sports offer families plenty of choices, and therefore, nobody will ever become bored or uninterested.

Nearly Free Cost

There's nothing wrong with spending money on family entertainment. But sports, to their credit, offer a nearly free (excluding the cost of equipment) entertainment alternative that virtually everyone can experience. On the contrary, many other forms of entertainment are rather expensive! For example, taking a family of four to a 3D movie in theaters can, with snacks and tickets considered, easily cost more than $100!

Movies are well and good, but sports are an impressive way for families to have fun on a budget.

Fun on a Schedule

Many of the aforementioned non-sports activities, as well as most others, share one key similarity: they take quite a bit of time to complete. Even though a movie, for instance, is usually an hour and a half long, by the time a family prepares to leave (15 minutes), drives to the theater (20 minutes), purchases tickets and snacks (10 minutes), waits for the previews (10 minutes), and drives home (another 20 minutes), the entire process has taken close to three hours!

Sports, inversely, can be decided upon and enjoyed in seconds; walk outside, grab a ball, and let the fun begin! Additionally, family members can play sports games for however long fits their schedules. This means that if one member has to leave in 20 minutes, he or she can still experience some quality time outside with loved ones, even in that small window.

As is probably now clear, the benefits of family members playing sports together are incredible. For a low cost, working around any schedule, including every family member, and while getting extra exercise, families can spend valuable time together with sports. It's hard to dispute the importance and impressiveness of these points.

Don't delay—make the most of the weather and have fun with family members by heading outside to play some sports today!
Jessica Kane is a writer for SteelLocker Sports, a leading retailer of brand name baseball equipment at great discount prices.

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How Music Can Influence Children

There's a reason why so many kid shows are jam-packed with singing and dancing. Songs and melodies are an incredible aid in the development of young minds. Put into use correctly, the right music can accomplish so much!

Music Is A Wonderful Teaching Tool
Starting at the youngest age possible, we can begin to teach the basics of education through songs and gestures. Children learn their body parts through "Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes", the alphabet through "The ABCs" and even some slightly morbid history through "Ring Around The Rosy". Learning doesn't stop with nursery rhymes though. As children get older, they learn the state capitols through song and so much more.
Songs are catchy, and lyrics stick in our mind easier than boring memorization and repetition. Anything can be put to music! Difficult equations, historical events, the periodic table. The ideas are limitless, and the end result is magnificent. Learning can be productive AND fun.

Songs Can Influence Children To Complete Daunting Tasks
So, there is an age where children become independent but hate doing those things we must do everyday. Brushing teeth, getting dressed and cleaning up their messes are just a small selection of the things children hate to do the most. These things need to be done, however, and kids need to learn to do them on their own daily. Luckily, there are songs for every one of these tasks and more.
Also, it doesn't take much to get a song stuck in your little one's head. This doesn't mean that they are all of a sudden going to enjoy the task at hand, but they will have something to keep them motivated, captivated and focused on what they are doing.

Kids Get Moving With Music
We live in an era of less outside time and more childhood obesity. After a while, we all learn that simply barking orders to go play or demanding a rigorous exercise regiment either end up in misery or don't work at all. But what fun it is to turn up some bouncy music and just dance, dance, dance! It's hardly recognizable as a workout at all. (Until it's break time, of course.) Offer your child water when they rest, and then get back into the groove!
Dancing works every part of your body and, more importantly, your heart. Cardiovascular exercise will get blood pumping and little bodies moving. Once they get used to shaking their tail feather when they hear a catchy song, you won't be able to slow them down.

Naughty Songs Fill Little Heads With Naughty Thoughts
There is a downside to kids and music. That downside is using it inappropriately. I am, by no means, in a place to judge the options any parent implements for their children, but there are a few things we can all probably agree on. Listening to explicit music will distort a child's view of what's right, acceptable, desired and expected of them. Music is a powerful tool, and when it's used correctly, it does wonderful things. But if it is used negatively, you may not end up with the results you were hoping to achieve.

There's no need to hunt down the perfect song for every situation. We are all perfectly capable of coming up with a catchy tune and putting lyrics to it. Even the least musically inclined person can just simply sing what they are doing. After some time of putting it to use, you'll be an expert at using music throughout the day. You may even find that positive things are happening to you too!

Jessica Kane is a writer for SoundStage Direct, the number online source for the best vinyl records and turntables.

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Paying Attention to Your Child Within

Paying Attention to Your Child Within

Paying attention to your child within…

My mind has been racing with thoughts. I was thinking of Tim’s blog from a couple weeks ago, which only gave me more things to ponder. I’ve thought it before but his blog added to my own about-what am I teaching my kids and am I doing ok? On the flip side I’m always wondering what in the world is everyone else teaching theirs.
Kids can not express emotion or even thoughts the way we need them too. Thankfully this is because they have not been tainted by real burdens of the world yet. They see the world differently but there feelings, fears and desires to understand are very real. Yet as adults we forget this reality and expect our children to understand our needs and follow our commands with ease. I have not been sleeping well and I know it impacts my patience so when my 8 year old daughter wants to constantly hang on me or ask me to do things it can be challenging, but I’ve been trying extra hard to stop myself and let her hang on me and actually look at her and hug her back during my “busy” moments. What a difference it makes to take one minute of acknowledgement and acceptance vs 5 mins of blah blah blah about her interrupting me. Last week I watched a gymnastics teacher walk with a student to the bathroom and the child looked up at the teacher with a look of concern that she may have upset the teacher by needing help- it truly made me ponder how giant our moods, attitudes or words are to children. It doesn’t take long to look at a child and acknowledge their need, but as an adult we are easily put off by a child needing us when we are not ready for it.
Listening to NPR last week it was not shocking to me to hear about a study on electronic use where the use was around 9 hours (not work) a day for adults (when you “take a minute” to check an email or text or facebook). All this electronic use clouds precious time for catching the emotion or hug your child needs. The NPR report was emphasizing how as parents we model quietly for our children so it might be great to start by putting down the phones, laptops, etc especially to establish connective time such as dinner, bedtime a well needed attentive hug etc.
But believe it or not, electronics are not the only barriers to taking time to check in with our kids. As adults we tend to get caught up in what we think is best for them and miss out on what they really need. We miss opportunities to take their cues. My 12 year old son is new at his school and I want him to connect w kids so I’ve been encouraging him to join clubs or go to events. I think I have been good at listening to what makes him comfortable and not pushing things he says no thanks to. This is difficult sometimes but important. In fact, by me showing him some club ideas and asking his opinions and engaging in conversation about his thoughts I was able to listen to what made him feel comfortable and interested. He ended up liking one of the clubs that came up a week later. Paying attention to physical cues of yourself or child are equally important. Tonight my 8 year old was excited about Christmas as it meant her older brother who past away a little over a year ago would come down from heaven and be close with us (because the angels come down at Christmas) I told her he’s always around. After a couple minutes of me explaining he’s always here She got quiet and looked sad. I chose to stop what I was doing, think about how my simple words of trying to open her up to my thoughts of comfort was not her comfort and realized I needed to correct my action and words. I told her that she can believe whatever she wants that makes her feel good and if coming down as an angel at Christmas worked for her then she should continue to think that and I would continue to feel that Charles is in my heart and around all the time, but now will especially look forward to his angel self being with us. What a difference in her response then. I helped her open up instead of shutting her down. My ideas are clearly not the only ones- who knew? Everyone!!!
It only took me two minutes to look at my daughter and repeat her thoughts and accept them. It only took me a few minutes to hear that my son was not ready for certain school adventures, but was willing to hear more ideas as they came up. Oddly, it takes me several minutes to hours to days to yell at my kids for fighting or not listening to me- funny isn’t it, I’m the adult yet I forget to listen (with my eyes, ears, and time) to my children. May the New Year bring me and you more time to listen to your child’s need- maybe with a sincere look or talk or just time in silence together. I hope for all parents out there that this Holiday season brings you peace of mind and time that you will give to truly hear your child within… there world.
Mistie Eltrich
Mistie has worked with children all her life, making it an official career when she became a School Psychologist in 1998. Pursuing her dream, in 2001, Mistie earned her doctorate degree from Fairleigh Dickinson University. She has worked in schools with children pre-school through high school, but mostly preschool through elementary aged schools. She also worked in a special needs school (Gillen Brewer) in NYC. However, her biggest job has been to parent her four children (two were easier births as they are her step children- none the less hers). Being a parent is a constant review for her career and sanity, but most importantly her joy.

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Do You Understand Your Children?

Do You Understand Your Children?

Do You Understand Your Children?

My sons’ 7th grade science teacher invited parents to join a book club this April to share about adolescence. Being a psychologist and having been through two teenagers already I had already read the book, but was happy to re-read it to refresh myself. The book is Why Do They Act that Way?, by David Walsh (2004). I must say that I have found this book truly refreshing and no matter what you think you know as a professional or an experienced parent- kids are genius’ for showing us we know zero. Each child will be different and reminders of how the adolescent brain works is very important to staying on top of your game. Knowing why your child acts a certain way is key to knowing how to be a better parent. If you know your child gets sassy when they are hungry then call them out on this and encourage a snack before further discussion about a topic. If you know your child becomes more verbally and/or physically aggressive after excessive screen time, then inform your child you have observed this behavior and are limiting screen time and even possibly eliminating potentially violent game/shows. If you know your child throws tantrums/ yells at a sibling a lot, consider just grabbing the child into a loving hug- helping your child by controlling their body that they cannot and giving them positive attention at the same time.

I loved rereading this book because it made me accountable for all the areas of parenting that I wasn’t doing well- luckily I took that well. While this book is referencing the adolescent brain- it applies to all children. One point made in the book is to talk naturally to your child about everything from birth all the way through adulthood. Waiting until your teen is a teen to talk about menstrual cycles, body changes, relationships, drugs, sex, etc is too late. Teens really will have trouble believing you know what you are talking about if you only mention something once. Many parents are uncomfortable talking to their kids about life events such as body changes, drugs, sex, death, divorce, etc. My advice is to just start talking, but keep it brief. Be aware of opportunities to mention something, such as reading a book to your child that mentions a character feeling a certain way or noticing changes- you can quickly ask if they have similar feelings…. Leave a book about the subject lying around the family room and then mention it at a later date. When something happens in a movie or show seize the opportunity to share this with your child and make sure they understand what it was really about.

I personally feel it is extremely important as a parent to teach our children how to talk about difficult topics and to become comfortable by recognizing this is all part of life. Some families believe we encourage children to do things by talking about them, but this is very inaccurate. Telling your 8 year old that one day they may see one of their friends smoking cigarettes and the friend may offer them one is not encouraging your child to smoke, but preparing them for how to handle the situation. Just the other night my daughters brand new hamster died while I was out at dinner. She did not know as she was sleeping. My friends at dinner told me to make up a story about how it died or to try and get a new one before she woke up. I disagreed with all of that. The hamster died because she forgot to give him water all day because she and her friends were playing with him outside his cage and the poor thing dehydrated (they are so tiny, who knew that would happen within 12 hours). The next morning as expected she came to tell me her hamster was missing. I informed her that he died and explained that two main things happened to cause this death- she had him in the sun by the pool and left him in his carrier without water all day. She was heartbroken. We buried him in the backyard. She then said with tears in her eyes, “I know this is terrible, but can I get another one.” I told her it’s not terrible and maybe in a few weeks we will get another one, but for now I need her to feel the sadness and understand that we did not take care of this living being and we cannot take that lack of responsibility lightly. Life lessons are hard, but she understood and one week has gone by with her sad off and on, but also with her immediately recognizing rules for her friends and that she has to take charge and be responsible for her things.
Another topic Walsh talks about is parenting styles, which are good to be aware of yourself. A couple weeks ago I checked in with my kids on how they see me as a parent. I explained the different styles of parenting using terms I like from Kids are Worth It by Barbara Coloroso, 2002 (Jellyfish- let’s kids do whatever they want, Brick Wall- commands kids to do only what they say, and Backbone- flexible, sets boundaries but also hears out needs of child and may bend in their direction if needs are within parental values/boundaries and allows growth for the child). Big guess for the kind of parent we should all be. I asked my children what kind of parent they saw me as being- at first my son hesitated, not my daughter- she blurted out “you are in between jellyfish and backbone, mom.” My son agreed with her and I think I surprised them by agreeing too. I told them my goal is always to be backbone but sometimes I get caught up in them being so good most of the time that I give in to things or I’m too tired and give in. It’s hard being a kid and even more difficult being a parent. But our job is to ultimately produce someone that will make their way on their own in the world and contribute positively to our society. Children and teens must have boundaries and consistency from the parents. This allows them to feel safe and give them freedom to grow/learn. We are not in this alone, find places/people you can trust with your children and make them your outer family support system. Most importantly, do not be afraid to admit mistakes to your children or retract something you feel was shouted out in anger versus made with a clear mind. This is how we all learn.

Mistie Eltrich
Mistie has worked with children all her life, making it an official career when she became a School Psychologist in 1998. Pursuing her dream, in 2001, Mistie earned her doctorate degree from Fairleigh Dickinson University. She has worked in schools with children pre-school through high school, but mostly preschool through elementary aged schools. She also worked in a special needs school (Gillen Brewer) in NYC. However, her biggest job has been to parent her four children (two were easier births as they are her step children- none the less hers). Being a parent is a constant review for her career and sanity, but most importantly her joy.

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