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Ultimate Guide to Educational Toys for Kids

Ultimate Guide to Educational Toys for Kids
Did you know it’s possible to have fun and learn at the same time? While it’s great for kids to play with toys, their young minds are at the prime stage for taking in information and learning new skills. The solution? Toys that allow kids to learn while they play. This year when you shop for holiday and birthday gifts, opt for something with educational value. Need help finding ideas? We’ve rounded up some of the top educational gifts for kids of all ages.

JUMP TO:
Babies Toddlers Preschoolers
Early Elementary Upper Elementary
Pre-Teens Teens

Babies

Even though babies won’t remember whether you bought them a gift for Christmas or their birthday, sometimes you still want to get them something. Instead of adding another stuffed animal to their collection, try one of these options.

Ultimate Guide to Educational Toys for Kids Baby's First Blocks

Baby’s First Blocks: Nothing beats a classic shape sorting toy for babies and toddlers. Baby’s First Blocks from Fisher-Price features a handy tub to collect the shapes and a handle for carrying it. Babies and toddlers will learn to grab, manipulate, and match the shapes.

Skip Hop Activity Mirror: Mirrors are great toys for babies. They allow them to explore the world around them and also begin to recognize their own face. This mirror from Skip Hop is just one of many baby mirrors that can be attached to the seat of a car or the bar of a stroller for babies to enjoy.

Munchkin Mozart Magic Cube: Babies love music and this magic cube combines music with lessons in cause and effect and tempo to create a fun learning experience for babies. They can press different parts of the cube to add instruments to the orchestra and see lights flash wUltimate Guide to Educational Toys for Kids Magic Cubeith the tempo of the music.

Go Car: This car comes with a handle to make it easy for babies to hold on to it and control the way it moves. It also glides smoothly on different surfaces, helping babies begin to learn about the concept of movement.

What’s Inside Toy Box?: With the What’s Inside Toy Box, babies begin to learn that objects have names and also build motor skills as they reach in and pull out objects or put objects back in. Additionally, this toy can help teach object permanence.

All About Me Personalized Photo Book: Babies can learn the names and faces of loved ones, pets, and other special people or places in their lives with this photo book. Parents can insert photographs in protected compartments so babies can flip through and look at them.

Toddlers

Ultimate Guide to Educational Toys for Kids Start Up Circuits
Start Up Circuits: Toddlers who enjoy playing with switches will enjoy these toys that help them begin to understand how circuits work. Simply flip the switch to make each object work.

Wooden Building Blocks: Blocks are a favorite for toddlers because they help them build motor skills and begin to understand geometrical concepts. This set from Pidoko Kids features 50 colorful blocks in different shapes and comes with a container for carrying them all.

Personalized Name Puzzle: One of the first things a toddler learns how to spell is his/her name. Help develop that skill and help your toddler start learning how to complete puzzles with a personalized name puzzle.

Color Discovery Boxes: Color Discovery Boxes help toddlers learn their colors and begin to categorize objects. Each box contains multiple objects to represent the color. Mix the objects up and have toddlers sort them and put them back where they belong. Ultimate Guide to Educational Toys for Kids Bunny Peek A Boo

Bunny Peek a Boo: This fun game helps toddlers learn about prepositions and object placement. They must look at the cards and try to create the scene with the bunny and various blocks. Parents are encouraged to give clues and talk about where the bunny is. For example, “The bunny is behind the box.”

Learn the Alphabet Dough Mats: You can print out and laminate your own dough mats or you can buy these handy mats which feature uppercase and lowercase letters. These help kids learn letters and build fine motor skills.

Size and Sequence Farm Puzzles: Size and Sequence Farm Puzzles have toddlers put the puzzle pieces in order by size. This set of puzzles helps them learn how to organize objects from smallest to largest.

Dress Up Career Set: Toddlers can learn a lot from dressing up, especially when they dress up to represent different careers. With this set, your toddler can pretend to be someone else nearly every day of the week.

Seek A Boo: Seek A Boo is a fun game designed to get toddlers and preschoolers moving and help them learn how to categorize objects. Basically, it works like a game of “I Spy” where kids must find a circle that meets a particular description. Adults and kids can take turns coming up with questions.

Preschoolers

Ultimate Guide to Educational Toys for Kids Code a Pillar
Think & Learn Code-a-pillar: Kids are never too young to learn some of the basic principles of coding and the Code-a-pillar helps them do just that. Kids can build the Code-a-pillar to make it move in different ways, helping them learn how to code at an early age.

Balancing Stacker: Preschoolers can learn about patterns and balance with the Balancing Stacker. This toy comes with different cards for kids to follow as they place the rings on the board. It also builds fine motor skills and color recognition skills as they must manipulate the rings and place them carefully on board based on the colors on the cards.

Bear Counters: Bear Counters and counting cubes can be used by preschoolers in a variety of ways. Not only are they good for counting practice, but they can also be used for creating patterns and measuring.

Think & Learn Measure With Me! Froggy: The Measure With Me! Froggy encourages kids to measure things around the house. It helps kids learn the concepts of long and short and also has fun songs to help kids learn to count by 5s and 10s.

Fun Express Happy Kids Hand Puppets: This adorable set of hand puppets features kids from different ethnic backgrounds. It’s great to include with a puppet theater and to use to act out social stories to help get preschoolers thinking about their actions and emotions.Ultimate Guide to Educational Toys for Kids Hand Puppets

Toss Across: If you’re looking for a fun game to get kids moving, try Toss Across, a game that helps kids practice their throwing skills and learn about patterns while playing a game of tic tac toe.

Periodic Table Blocks: Make block play a little more educational by having kids learn the elements of the periodic table at the same time. These square blocks are great for building and also feature the names, symbols, and atomic numbers of various elements.

Rainbow Mosaic Pattern Puzzle: Kids can build fine motor skills and create patterns when they play with the Rainbow Mosaic Pattern Puzzle, an activity that features connecting tiles that kids snap together to create a mosaic on the floor.

Early Elementary

Ultimate Guide to Educational Toys for Kids Teaching Talking Cash Register
Teaching Talking Cash Register: This cash register is a favorite of kids because it offers many functions. Kids can play store or open a real store and the cash register will help them add up totals and calculate change. It also features a fun scanner.

Melissa and Doug Magnetic Human Body: Kids can learn the different parts of the human body by taking them on and off the wooden form. It’s a great, non-gory way for kids to begin to explore what makes up the body.

Snap Circuits: This kit helps kids learn about the basics of electricity and other STEM principles as they put together circuits.

Magformers: Magformers feature fun tiles that connect to one another. Kids can use them to build unique structures.

Magnetic Science: Magnetic Science contains 38 pieces to help kids explore magnets and their various uses.

Geosafari Talking Microscope: With this talking microscope, kids can learn about the world around them and the samples they are viewing. They can also learn how to properly use a microscope.

Precision School Balance: With a balance, kids can practice weighing items and comparing different weights. For example, is a carrot heavier than four quarters? Ultimate Guide to Educational Toys for Kids Tumble Trax

Dive into Shapes: Using a series of rods and balls, kids can build their understanding of geometry as they try to recreate the shapes on the cards.

Tumble Trax: Tumble Trax is a magnetic marble run. Kids can arrange the pieces in a variety of ways to create crazy and challenging marble runs of their own.

Sum Swamp: Sum Swamp is a fun game that helps kids build their addition and subtraction skills.

Electric Plane Launcher: With the help of a grown-up, kids can put together the electric plane launcher, and then make a variety of paper planes and see how far they fly.

Beaker Creatures: Learning Resources has created a fun science toy where kids can conduct experiments to reveal hidden creatures. Kids simply pop a reactor pod into the chamber, complete the steps, and discover a surprise. They learn about the scientific method and following directions at the same time.

Upper Elementary

Ultimate Guide to Educational Toys for Kids Rush Hour
Rush Hour Logic Game: The Rush Hour Logic Game has become a classic game for helping kids build logic and problem-solving skills as they maneuver the cars in the parking lot.

Women of NASA Lego Set: Celebrate the women of NASA with this fun Lego set which features mini figures and building kits. It’s great for girls and boys.

Adopt an Animal: Start teaching your child about giving back and becoming more aware of the world by adopting an animal. The kit comes with a certificate and a stuffed animal.

Kiwi Crate offers maker kits for kids up to age 16. Try Doodle or Tinker Crate for ages 9-16 and Kiwi for ages 5-8. Sign up for a monthly subscription box. Each box comes with fun STEM and STEAM activities for kids.

Tin Can Robot: Take an ordinary tin can and turn it into something cool with the Tin Can Robot kit. Using this kit, kids can build their own robot.

Star Wars Death Star Electronic Lab: Star Wars fans will love the challenge of the Death star Electronic Lab which has them connect circuits to help bring the Death Star to life.

Super Slime Factory: Slime is all the rage these days and the Super Slime Factory gives kids the chance to make their own slime while learning a bit about the science that goes into the process.Ultimate Guide to Educational Toys for Kids Super Slime

Qwirkle: Qwirkle is a fun game with a dominoes-like feel. Kids must match the shapes and colors, but they also have to use a bit of strategy to win the game.

Keva Contraptions: With Keva, kids can learn about engineering and geometry. This set allows kids to build unique contraptions and also comes with two balls. Perhaps kids will use them to make an epic marble run.

Create a Maze: With the Create-a-Maze set, kids are tasked with re-creating the maze on a card and then trying to get a ball through the maze.

Klutz LEGO Chain Reactions Craft Kit: This book and LEGO set helps kids learn how to build simple machines and put them to use, introducing them to the laws of physics at the same time.

For preschoolers through upper elementary school students, you can also put together a craft kit, full of supplies, such as googly eyes, stickers, craft sticks, and glitter glue, to make a variety of crafts and to encourage kids to use their imaginations.

Pre-Teens

Ultimate Guide to Educational Toys for Kids Kano Computer
Kano Computer: Pre-teens who enjoy coding and working with electronics, but are not quite ready to work on a full-fledged computer will appreciate Kano Computer, which allows them to build their own mini computer.

Perfume Maker: A lot of science goes into the creation of perfume. This set allows pre-teens to make their own scents while learning at the same time.

Spa Soaps Kit: Let pre-teens make their own spa soaps, and then use them to host a spa party for their friends. Better yet, they can package their soaps and give them as gifts to others.

Boxed Book Sets : If you know a pre-teen loves to read or has a favorite series, consider purchasing a boxed set. The Giver trilogy by Lois Lowry is a great set to consider.

Eco-Friendly Bean Bag: Instead of a normal bean bag, opt for an eco-friendly bean bag. The gift will teach pre-teens about being more environmentally conscious.

Giant Inflatable Ball: Encourage pre-teens to get outside and be active by purchasing a giant inflatable ball. They can make up their own fun games to go with the ball too.Ultimate Guide to Educational Toys for Kids Giant Inflatable Ball

Build Your Own Pinball: Kids and teens can learn about engineering by building their own pinball game with this fun set.

 

Teens

Ultimate Guide to Educational Toys for Kids Displate
Displates: Give teens a unique gift that teaches them to value creativity and different art forms. Displates come in different styles and relate to interests such as popular movies and TV shows or musical instruments.

Quadcopter: What’s more fun than a drone? A drone with a camera. Teens can make their own videos and take pictures as they fly their drones.

Marvel Puzzle: Have a superhero fan? Give them a superhero puzzle so they can enjoy some of their favorite skills and they put their puzzlesolving skills to the test.

Codenames: Disney: Codenames is a fun word association game. Purchase the Disney version or another themed-version and play it with your teen.Ultimate Guide to Educational Toys for Kids Codenames

Die Cast Spirograph: Spirograph may seem like a kids’ toy, but this version of the classic drawing kit is super sleek. Teens may find creating their own spiral shapes relaxing.

Games: World of Puzzles: Purchase a subscription to a magazine such as Games: World of Puzzles. This fun magazine includes many different puzzles for teens and adults to solve.

Game of Phones: Teens are always on their phones. Get them to interact with one another with this fun game which has them use their phones to send messages and complete challenges.

My Cinema Lightbox: A lightbox is a fun way to get teens to write. They can come up with creative messages or even practice spelling vocabulary words.

In addition to the gifts listed above, consider purchasing apps and other digital gifts for teens or giving them a gift card to purchase music and apps for their phones or tablets.

Do you know of any must-have educational gifts for kids or teens? If so, we’d love to hear your ideas. Share them in the comments!

15 Educational Travel Activities for Kids

15 Educational Travel Activities for Kids
If you’re a parent, you know there are very few times you have your kids’ undivided attention. However, when you’re traveling, you have a captive audience. Whether you’re going by plane, train, or automobile, family travel offers an amazing opportunity to connect with your kids and engage them in educational activities. The next time you head off to grandma’s house for Thanksgiving or fly to Florida for vacation, put away the smartphones and tablets for a bit, and try out some of these educational travel activities with your kids.

Toddler – Preschool

“I Spy”
At this age, a key skill for toddlers and preschoolers is being able to take what they’re learning and connect it to the real world. While you travel, you can use the ever-changing landscape to help them make some of those connections. Play a simple game of “I Spy,” but don’t just look for colors. During the game, you can say “I spy…”

  • a shape
  • a number
  • a letter
  • a particular animal

Let your kids join in and pick things that they spy too. If they have trouble seeing out the window, then randomly place stickers around the car for them to spy as you drive. You can get reusable stickers if you’re worried about them sticking too much.
Find 100
Another type of seek-and-find game is “Find 100.” In this game, you challenge kids to find 100 of something during the trip. This helps reinforce counting skills. For kids who are just learning to count, you can keep a tally for them or adjust the number to 5, 10, or 20. You can also add in an additional challenge by seeing who can find that number of objects first. Things kids can look for include:

  • animals
  • shapes
  • letters
  • items of a certain color
  • types of cars
  • restaurants
  • trees

You can extend the activity by having kids complete a 100 Chart, coloring in the numbers to find a mystery picture.

Virtual Hide and Seek
Toddlers and preschoolers love to play hide and seek, but the game is kind of hard to play in the car. You can, however, play a virtual game of hide and seek where they pretend to hide somewhere in another location and you try to guess where they are. For example, if they pretend to hide somewhere at home, you could say, “I’m looking in the bathtub. Is that where you’re hiding?” If guessing proves impossible, have them give you clues to figure it out.

Motion Games
Kids need to move around, but that’s pretty hard if they’re strapped into a car seat or stuck on an airplane. However, their arms and legs are usually free to wave and kick, so you can take some of their favorite movement songs and adapt them to fit in the car. Some songs that make great car motion games include:

  • The Wheels on the Bus
  • The Itsy Bitsy Spider
  • If You’re Happy and You Know It (change “Stomp Your Feet” to something else)
  • Alice the Camel

If you’re traveling for the holidays, you can also look for holiday-themed songs and finger plays that include motions. For example, Five Little Turkeys or Way Up High in the Apple Tree for Thanksgiving and Up on the Housetop or a modified We Wish You a Merry Christmas for Christmas.  When you stop for a rest stop, kids can stretch their bodies with a fun movement story.

 

Elementary

15 Educational Travel Activities for KidsThe Alphabet Game
There are many different versions of the alphabet game. To play you can start off with a phrase, such as:

  • I’m going to the store and I need to buy…
  • I’m going on a trip and I need to pack…
  • I’m going on a trip and I will visit…
  • I’m hungry and I’m going to eat…

Take turns adding to the list, letter by letter, repeating all the previous items as you go. At the end, see who can recite the entire list without making a mistake.

License Plate Meanings
License plates are often random combinations of letters and numbers. Pick a random license plate while driving and make up a meaning for the letters and words on the license plate. For example, JCAI26 could be “Just Cruisin’ Along Interstate 26″. You can make the descriptions completely random or try to base them off the type of car or people you see in the car. For more fun, make up a story about the people in the car. What are their names? Where are they going?

Math Quiz
Use the trip as an opportunity to brush up on basic math facts. For younger children, start by stringing addition problems. For example, “What’s 2+2? What’s 4+4? What’s 8+8?” For older children, call out basic multiplication or division problems. If you have multiple children in the car, pull out a stopwatch and see how many problems they can solve in a minute. Use our Worksheet Generator to print out some basic math worksheets before you go.

Twenty Questions
Twenty questions is one of those classic games that kids have been playing for ages. Simply think of a person, place, or thing. Then the other people in the car can ask up to 20 yes/no questions to figure out what it is. You may be surprised how easy it is to figure something out by asking simple questions.

Family Spelling Bee
Who is the best speller in the family? A family trip is the perfect opportunity to find out. Hold a family spelling bee, taking turns spelling words to see who can spell the most words correctly. You can use random words or pick words related to a particular holiday or location. For even more fun, bring along a dictionary and let your children randomly pick out words to see if they can stump you.

 

All Ages

Listen to a Story
A car or plane trip is a great time to enjoy a good book. If you’re riding in the car, download a novel that the whole family can enjoy and listen to it on your trip. If you can’t find a book to download, bring along a few books to read and take turns reading aloud to the rest of the family. Not only will you get to enjoy a good book, you’ll help your children learn the importance of reading. If you don’t want to read an entire novel, check out funny storytellers, such as Bill Harley or the Story Pirates podcast.

Tell a Story
Instead of listening to a book or story, you can always make up your own. You can start by making up your own version of a popular fairy tale or embellish a story from your childhood. To get your children involved, tell a story where every person tells one sentence of the story and the others add on to it. If you’re worried you won’t know what to tell a story about, take a look at our writing prompts for some inspiration. You can print out a few to take along on your trip.

Would You Rather?
Would you rather have leaves for hair or mushrooms growing out of your ears? These kinds of silly questions are great for kids of all ages. They teach kids to think creatively and learn how to back up their opinions. If you’re not sure you can come up with questions on the fly, let your kids do the work or just look up a few before you go. Sites with great Would You Rather questions for kids include:

Listen to Educational Songs
Turn on some music the whole family can enjoy and learn from at the same time. If you have satellite radio, you can listen to a station like Kids Place Live which is full of fun indie music for kids and call-in radio shows for kids, much of which is educational. You can also purchase fun kids’ CDs or download albums full of educational songs. Some good ones that parents will enjoy too include:

Road Trip Bingo
Print out or create your own version of Road Trip Bingo to play. As you travel, kids can look for the items on their bingo boards and cross them off as they see them. The first one to get five in a row wins the game. To play the game multiple times, put the bingo boards in plastic sheet protectors and bring along dry erase markers for kids to use to mark each item off. Then you can wipe the board clean in between each game.

How Far Away Is it?
To help make the time go faster, have kids guess how far away different places, landmarks, or rest stops are. For example, if you see a tunnel in the distance say, “How far away is it?” Then watch the odometer to see whose guess was the closest. You can also give kids a map or let them look at the map on a smartphone or tablet to help them figure out exactly how far away a particular landmark is.

These are just a few ways to engage kids in learning activities as you travel during the holidays and year-round. Of course, you can also print out some of your favorite Help Teaching worksheets and put them in a binder for kids to work on during the drive.

Do you have educational activities you enjoy with your kids while traveling? If so, we’d love to hear them. Share them in the comments below.

 

5 Parent Tips for a Successful School Conference


Parent-teacher conferences can make parents, students, and even veteran teachers feel like they are on pins and needles. As parents, we want our children to be successful and happy. We love to hear about their accomplishments and it can be challenging to accept feedback on areas needing improvement. Developing a strong partnership with your children’s teachers is essential to ensuring academic progress. Enter your next parent-teacher conference prepared, with an open mind, and ready to collaborate with these five tips.

Involve Your Child

While some teachers invite students to sit in on parent meetings and some schools have moved to student-led models, many still offer traditional parent-teacher only conferences. Yet, this doesn’t mean your child shouldn’t be part of the conversation. After all, the meeting is about her success! Chances are your child will have some apprehension and curiosity about what goes on during the meeting. Alleviate the stress by talking with her beforehand. Ask your child if there is anything she would like you to share with the teacher. Maybe there is something she has enjoyed about being in class that the teacher would appreciate hearing. Or, if there is a concern she isn’t comfortable voicing on her own, this is an opportunity to bring it up. This is also a good chance to look over student work together. After the conference, reassure your child that you and her teacher as working as a team to help her succeed. Emphasize the positives that came out of the meeting as well as share any strategies that will be implemented going forward.

Do Your Homework

Your child has been working away at school and doing her homework. The teacher has pulled together student work samples, gathered data, and discussed your child’s progress with other teachers and specialists involved in her education. Now, it is your time to prepare for parent-teacher conferences! Start by looking over some of your child’s work. Read a writing sample. Try a few of the math questions from the last test. Develop a solid sense of the work your child is doing.

Next, write a list of questions you want to ask during the conference. The teacher may answer many of your questions during the natural progression of the meeting, but having a checklist will help prevent you from wishing you had remembered to ask about something. Some questions to consider include:

  • Is my child performing at grade level?
  • Is my child making sufficient academic progress?
  • Where does my child sit?
  • How is my child’s individualized education plan (IEP) being followed?
  • Do you have any concerns about my child’s social-emotional development?
  • How much time should my child spend on homework?
  • What can I do at home to better support my child’s learning?
  • Does my child show strong interest in any topic or subject?
  • Is there anything I should share with next year’s teacher?

Finally, jot down about what you would like to share about your child with her teacher. Perhaps your child is passionate about a particular sport or book series. Sharing this information may help the teacher better connect with the student. If there are changes in the home environment or medical concerns that may impact your child’s performance at school, let the teacher know. Include information from last year’s teacher on strategies that helped your child succeed in class.

Respect Time Limits

Whether your conference time is set for ten minutes or thirty minutes, be mindful of time limitations.  Show up ten minutes before your allotted meeting time. Use that time to look over your prepared questions. Spend a few minutes admiring the student work displayed in the hallway. During the conference, the teacher will most likely have an agenda and keep the conversation moving forward. If a topic comes up that needs to be discussed in more detail, make a note, but allow the conversation to progress. While discussing your child’s academic progress is the purpose of having a parent-teacher conference, it should not be at the expense of another family’s conference time. When you reach the end of your time, leave things on a positive note and exit the room. Doing so allows the teacher to make her own notes about the conference, prepare for the next meeting, and keeps things running on schedule.

Have a Conversation

A parent-teacher conference should be a conversation rather than a confrontation. Both of you share a common goal, the academic success and well-being of your child.  View the meeting as a collaborative session between teammates. Like any productive conversat5 Tips for a Successful School Conference Listion, a good conference should involve both participants listening and speaking. The teacher will most likely lead the flow of the conversation. Listen actively to what the teacher says. Take notes that you can refer to later and record actions items that you need to follow through on after the conference ends. Ask questions and share information about your child where they naturally fit in the conversation. Towards the end of the conference, read through the notes you prepared ahead of time and bring up any items that were not mentioned. Don’t forgot to discuss anything your child asked you to share with her teacher!

Make a Plan

The final couple minutes of the conference should be spent developing an action plan for how you and the teacher will best support your child going forward. This may include scheduling a follow-up meeting to further discuss anything that came up during the conference which couldn’t be fully covered in the allotted time. Review the things that you and the teacher will do to support your child as well as any expectations that need to be communicated with your child. Make sure you know the best method of contacting the teacher and determine a timeframe for when you will next check-in on your child’s progress.

Family engagement is vital to student success. Your parent-teacher conference attendance shows your child that you care about them and what goes on at school, as well as opens a dialog with the teacher. Share your tips on how to have a successful conference in the comments.

If you enjoyed this article, read 7 Tips for Learning with Kids. HelpTeaching.com also offers free, printable study skills worksheets to help promote effective learning strategies.

How to Help Kids and Teens Handle Tragedy

How to Help Kids and Teens Handle Tragedy

Twenty years ago, schools had fire drills and tornado drills. Today, they’ve added drills for handling bomb threats and active shooters. In addition to these types of tragedies, students also have to deal with suicides, overdoses, car accidents, and other tragic events that take the lives of their peers. As parents and educators, we have a responsibility to help students work through these tragedies and provide them with the support and resources they need.

Give Them Hope

We live in a world that is full of evil, but not everyone who lives in the world is evil. In fact, there’s a lot of good going on every day. Talk about some of the positive things students are doing in the classroom and in the community. Look at resources such as the Good News Network which highlight the positive things that are going on in the world. Draw their attention to the Random Acts of Kindness movement and talk about how they can spread kindness and do good work in their community every day.

Give Them Safety

When tragedy strikes, many kids and teens worry that it could happen to them. Take some time to reassure kids that despite the attention these events get in the news, they are rare and not likely to happen where you live. Explain some of the procedures you have in place to protect students should something bad happen and, if they are not convinced, encourage them to come up with some ideas of their own. Let them know that while you cannot promise bad things will never happen, you will do all that you can to ensure that students are safe and taken care of.

Give Them Relief

Often, kids and teens don’t know how to express negative emotions in a healthy way or are afraid to let them out. Instead, they bottle them up inside. Even if kids and teens are able to share how they’re feeling, the weight of those feelings can weigh them down. Recognize that when tragedy strikes, some students may need help shedding some of the heaviness they feel. During these times, extend a bit of grace to students. Give them an extra day to complete homework or even offer a homework pass. Overlook minor outbursts. Provide plenty of opportunities and activities, such as coloring pages, silly games, meditation activities, and brain breaks, where students can decompress and unwind.

Give Them Attention

“I try to talk, but no one listens to me!” Many kids and teens have uttered this phrase. Make it your goal to ensure students never say this about you. When tragedies strike, make yourself available. Be willing to listen without judgement and answer any questions they may have. If you don’t have the answers, offer to help them find the answers or direct them to someone who can help. If students do not want to talk, that’s okay too, but regularly check in with them and let them know your door is always open. If you work in a school, set up a safe space where students can go to talk or collect their thoughts during the day and let them go without judgement. Will some students take advantage of the opportunity? Yes. However, the benefits to those who need it will far outweigh the few who take advantage of the situation.

How to Help Kids and Teens Handle Tragedy List

Give Them Support

As students talk and share their feelings, let them know that you are there for them and that you always have their best interest in mind. If students express needs or desires, take them seriously and try to offer whatever support you can. Don’t be afraid to ask students, “What do you need from me?” They may not have an answer right away and you can encourage them to share those needs with you when they arise. If a student says, “I just need you to lay off my case for a few days,” then respect that. If a student says, “I need you to be very positive,” then be that that person. If a student says, “I need you to understand that this a big deal,” then let them know that you recognize the magnitude of what they’re facing. Avoid phrases such as “get over it,” “move on,” or “let’s try not to think about it right now.” Those phrases downplay what kids and teens are feeling and can come off as very insensitive.

Give Them Love

Adults show love to students in different ways. Parents might want to give their kids extra hugs, tell them that they’re proud of them, and say “I love you” every day. Teachers may want to smile at students, write positive notes to give to them (or send home to parents), and incorporate their interests in class. There are many different ways to show kids you care about them.

Give Them Purpose

Tragedies often leave kids and teens feeling hopeless. Finding ways for them to help after the tragedy can help relieve some of that hopelessness. Students may write letters of encouragement and support to families who have lost loved ones. They may collect bottled water and toiletries to send to people affected by a hurricane. They may collect money to send to an organization that is providing aid. Organizations such as the American Red Cross often create lists of items that they need. News organizations and people on social media are full of ways people can help too. Before donating money or supplies, do a little research to make sure the request is legitimate. If it is, give students a chance to help. Doing so may help them work through some of the negative emotions they’re dealing with.

Do you have any advice for parents and teachers who are helping kids work through difficult situations? If so, please share it in the comments.

8 Ways to Build Community While Homeschooling

8 Ways to Build Community While Homeschooling

“But aren’t you concerned about socialization?” If you’re a homeschool parent, chances are you’ve heard this question or some version of it more than once. When parents choose to homeschool their children versus sending them to traditional school, they often have to give up the built-in peer support network. But that doesn’t mean children won’t get any social interaction. To have a successful homeschool experience, community is extremely important. If you struggle with building community or are looking to expand your community, we have some ways to help.

1. Join a Co-op

A co-op is a group of homeschooling families who meet together on a regular basis. Some homeschool co-ops meet every day of the week. Some meet once a week. Some only meet up for field trips and special activities. The size and age-ranges of co-ops also vary. In some co-ops, parents take on some of the teaching duties, presenting courses to small groups of students. The courses students take are typically enrichment-oriented. For example, students may take a course on Shakespeare’s England or Model Rocket Building, offering unique ways to get in some of the science, history, and English lessons.

Finding a co-op can be difficult for some homeschoolers. Many co-ops have monthly or annual fees to help cover the cost of the space they meet in and the materials needed for the courses. It’s also important for parents in a homeschool co-op to get along and share similar educational goals and values. For example, a parent who believes in a classical Christian education may not mesh well with those in a co-op that focuses on unschooling. To find a co-op or other support group near you, check out the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) or The Home School Mom’s Local Support resources.

2. Visit Local Attractions

Sometimes just getting out of the house and visiting local attractions can be a great way to build a community as a homeschool parent. You may encounter other home school families at the zoo, the local art museum, or the science center. If you’re visiting these places and see a mom (or dad) with children who look like they are school age, consider striking up a conversation to see if their children are homeschooled. Perhaps you’ll find a new friend in the process. In addition to randomly approaching strangers, you can check out the events page for your local library and other local attractions. Many libraries and museums offer special homeschool programs on a weekly or monthly basis. Even some amusement parks offer discount admission for homeschoolers at the beginning or end of the season.

3. Go to School

While you may not want your children to attend public school full-time, many school districts offer part-time options where homeschooled students can attend for part of the school day or take special classes, such as physical education, band, or art at the school. If your area public school does not offer this benefit, you can often find the same benefit at a local private school. If you’re struggling to find homeschool groups that cater to your child’s age group, sending your child to school for an hour or two a day can be a way to build those peer connections while still maintaining control over your child’s education. In addition to taking classes at the public school, many school states have laws that allow homeschool students to participate in athletic programs at public schools.

4. Play a Sport

Even if you choose not to participate in the athletic programs available through your local school district, sports can8 Ways to Build Community While Homeschooling List be a great way to build community as a homeschooler. Check out your town’s recreation department or local YMCA for different athletic opportunities. Chances are you’ll find sports programs to cover every season. For example, your child may play soccer in the fall, basketball in the winter, baseball/softball in the spring, and swim in the summer. Look beyond the popular sports too. For example, your local bowling alley may

5. Celebrate Homeschool Spirit Week

During the last full week of September, many families celebrate International Homeschool Spirit Week. Just like Spirit Week at more traditional school, this week gives homeschool families a chance to participate in themed days, such as Crazy Hair Day and Superhero Day. Families can participate as a co-op or individually. Photos can also be uploaded to social media channels using a special hashtag. As you look through photos from other homeschool families, you will feel a sense of community and you may also find some kindred spirits in the process.

If you live in a community that doesn’t have a strong homeschool presence or you find it difficult to make it out of the house to attend a co-op, you can also find community online. Search Facebook for homeschooling groups or conduct an internet search for “online homeschooling groups” to find a wealth of possibilities. Just like with an in-person co-op, look for groups that share your core values and educational goals. For example, you might search for “Christian homeschooling groups” or “unschooling groups.” Whatever group you find, make sure that you feel supported in your homeschooling journey and leave any negative groups immediately.

6. Connect Online

offer a youth bowling league or, if you live in a town with an ice rink, you may be able to sign your child up for ice skating lessons or a curling club. Dance and gymnastic teams and classes can also be a good way to find a community to connect with.

7. Volunteer

The community you build does not have to be one full of other homeschoolers. You may find that community through a local non-profit organizaation or another volunteer opportunity. Check out your local animal shelter to see if they offer volunteer opportunities for homeschool families. Contact a local nursing home to see if you can bake cookies and visit with residents once a week. Serve meals at a local homeless shelter or help at a local food pantry. Many of these organizations have loads of people ready to volunteer on the weekends, but during the week they can often really use the help.

8. Get Involved in Your Community

Beyond volunteer opportunities, just get out and get to know people in your community. Visit the local library and the post office. Spend time playing at the local park. Talk to the workers at your local grocery store or hardware store. Attend community fairs and festivals. If you’re religious, get involved in a local church. The more you get out of the house and experience your community, the less likely you are to feel isolated as a homeschooler.

How do you build community as a homeschooling family? Share your tips in the comments!