Monday, June 29, 2015

28 Summer Bucket List Ideas for Your Family

Every summer at the beginning of June it feels like we have endless time ahead of us, but without fail, every year August rolls around and we hear ourselves saying, “where did the time go?”

One of the best ways to make sure you don’t let the summer fly by without doing any of the fun activities you wanted is to make a Summer Bucket List. At the very beginning of summer, sit down with the family and make a list of all the activities you want to accomplish and places you want to visit that summer. Then make sure to hang the list up in a place where you’ll see it everyday, like on the fridge. Not only writing it all out on a list but also hanging it up as a daily reminder will help you keep track of what you’re accomplishing and not let the days get away from you. It can also serve as a reference for those rainy days when the family is bored and looking for something to do. 
ONCEKids Publishing is run by literacy advocate and Mompreneur Eileen Wacker.  Click here to find her acclaimed books

Have the summer you always say you’re going to have when June rolls around, while you still have plenty of time left! To help you get started, we asked real moms for some ideas straight from their own summer bucket lists.

1. Go strawberry picking

2. Set up a lemonade stand with the kids 

3. Have a family water balloon fight

4. Explore a part of town your family has never been to

5. Have at least one family picnic (complete with straw baskets and everything!)

6. Go for a family bike ride

7. Have a family cook off or bake off on a rainy day 
Make two teams, one with mom as the coach and one with dad, and then compete against each other to see who can make the better meal or dessert.

8. Host a BBQ for your family and friends

9. Go on a family nature walk and learn about the plants and birds

10. Have a family game night complete with snacks and prizes

11. Catch fireflies

12. Visit your local farmer’s market

13. Run (or walk) a 5K race with your family

14. Take the kids to a drive-in theater

15. Go camping (even if its just in your backyard)

16. Make a slip-n-slide in your own backyard

17. Make a fire and roast marshmallows

18. Volunteer with your family for a local charity

19. Visit a park you’ve never been to

20. Go to the zoo and teach the kids all about the different animals 

21. Start a garden with your children as helpers

22. Make up your own holiday and celebrate it as a family

23. Do arts and crafts outside as a family 

24. Make homemade snow cones with the kids

25. Teach the kids how to fish

26. Play flashlight tag or ghost in the graveyard with all your neighbors (yes this includes the adults too!)

27. Go for a family bike ride

28. Go kayaking 

ONCEKids Publishing is run by literacy advocate and Mompreneur Eileen Wacker.  Click here to find her acclaimed books

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

How Parents Can Stay Sane When Kids Are On Summer Break

During the school year, parents and children develop a concrete schedule or routine of daily and nightly activities and know what to expect when each day arrives. Parents find comfort and stability in this routine and it helps free them from some of the chaos of parenthood. However, when summer break arrives and the kids get out of school, that routine is abolished and can make parents feel, well, a little bit crazy. Psychologists and child specialists recommend a few strategies for parents to utilize during these summer months to free them from some of the chaos and get some structure back in their life. Three months is a long enough time to develop some sort of routine, but the first few weeks can be hectic.

ONCEKids Publishing is run by literacy advocate and Mompreneur Eileen Wacker.  Click here to find her acclaimed books

One of the first ways parents can stay sane as they watch their routine dissolve right before them is to organize a new (but less structured to compensate for the flexibility of summer) schedule before the kids even get out of school. This includes new summer bedtimes, meal times, and maximum technology hours. It can also include a list of activities family members are still expected to do on a daily basis regardless of summer vacation, such as making their beds or tidying their rooms. 
Another way to stay organized and feel a sense of structure is by making a summer bucket list. Three months sounds like a long time but once August rolls around, many of us find ourselves asking where the time went. Filling your family’s summer with fun and exciting activities is a lot easier to accomplish when you have a list to serve as a reminder. It can also provide a reference for when a nice summer day comes around and you aren’t sure how to spend it. 

Parents can feel the craziest during the rainy days when kids can’t play outside and the whole family is cooped up indoors. Use these days to have movie marathons, read or play board games as a family. Make it fun by letting everyone stay in their pjs all day and picking out movies everyone can enjoy. Another fun activity to try on cooler or rainy days is baking. Kids love to help parents bake and kneading dough or using cookie cutters will keep them occupied long enough for parents to take a deep breath and relax for a minute. 

Another method for keeping somewhat of a schedule over the summer months is to establish a daily quiet time. Even if it is just for an hour or two a day, kids can use this time to read, play quietly, go outside, write stories, or watch a TV show. This gives parents a window of time each day to get some important things done or just take some time for themselves knowing the kids are occupied. 

A last, but important, way parents can stay sane over summer break is by having the kids help out around the house more than during the school year. Summer is for everyone to enjoy, including parents, and without a long school day, kids have unlimited free time. Give each child a few summer chores to help out around the house so everything gets done faster and everyone can have more free time to enjoy themselves. 

Long breaks from school can feel overwhelming and anxiety provoking for parents of children with unlimited free time, but there are absolutely ways parents can minimize some of the chaos and make it so they have a fun and relaxing summer, too! 

ONCEKids Publishing is run by literacy advocate and Mompreneur Eileen Wacker.  Click here to find her acclaimed books

Monday, June 22, 2015

How to Keep Kids Learning Over Summer Vacation

Just because it’s summer vacation and schools out of session doesn’t mean parents want all learning to come to a halt. However, without a routine schedule and structure of a school day, finding ways for kids to keep their learning can be a little tricky. But with some creativity and a lot of time outdoors, there are definitely opportunities for learning that parents can take full advantage of.

ONCEKids Publishing is run by literacy advocate and Mompreneur Eileen Wacker.  Click here to find her acclaimed books

1. Make a trip to the zoo into a science field trip
Hands-on and visual learning are such fun ways to learn. Most families take at least one trip to the zoo during the summer anyway, so take this opportunity to turn it into a fun learning experience! Act like it is a science field trip and have the kids read all the descriptions of the animals and learn about them, like what type of animal they are and where they originate from. 

2. Try a new type of learning called “Genius Hour” 
There is a new idea experts have come up with called Genius Hour, where once a day for an hour kids are allowed to pursue whatever subject or knowledge they wish to, just for its own sake. It helps kids explore a subject they are passionate about and expand their learning and knowledge base all at once. 

3. Keep their problem-solving skills sharp
There are lots of video and computer games out there for kids that are fun but also provide cognitive nourishment and help build problem solving skills. So keep your kids problem solving skills sharp and use those rainy days to keep them occupied with some “learning-friendly” computer games. 

4. Start a vegetable garden in your backyard
Another fun way to teach your kids the basics of science is by having them help you plant a small garden or vegetable garden in your backyard. Talk with them about the science of plants and what it takes to keep them healthy and growing. In addition to the educational and learning aspect, having to tend to the plants and keep them alive is a good way for kids to learn some responsibility. 

5. Have kids keep a journal about your family vacations or adventures
Writing, even free writing, is very good for expanding kids’ reading skills and keeping their wheels turning during the long summer months. Having kids keep journals is a great way to keep them reading and writing, but also gives them something to look back on and read when they get older. 

6. Use a Museum Visit for a History Lesson

Another great way to spend a rainy or cloudy day is with a visit to a museum. Not only does it provide entertainment when the outdoors can’t, but it can also be a great excuse to teach the children some lessons about history in a way that is fun and interactive. 

ONCEKids Publishing is run by literacy advocate and Mompreneur Eileen Wacker.  Click here to find her acclaimed books

Friday, June 19, 2015

Harvard Psychologists Give Their Six Tips to Raising Kind Children

A group of psychologists at Harvard recently did a study to examine how parents can raise kind and “good” children in the madness of modern day society. People who are raising children today experience many criticisms and conclusions made by others of how technology and social media is ruining children and parents are constantly feeling like they need to change their strategies and reshape their parenting styles to accommodate the continuous advancements. But to those parents- worry no more! The results of the study have the Harvard psychologists saying that underneath the madness of modern technology, the basics of raising a good, kind, and moral child haven’t really changed. 
In today’s world, parents focus on raising children to find success and achievement as well as personal satisfaction and happiness- but the psychologists conclude that it is still possible to raise children to be goal-oriented while still raising them to be kind and empathetic people using the same strategies parents have been using for generations.

ONCEKids Publishing is run by literacy advocate and Mompreneur Eileen Wacker.  Click here to find her acclaimed books

Their study’s results show that these six “tried-and-true” strategies remain the best ways to raise kind, understanding, and goal-oriented children in the modern world:

1. Spend time hanging out with your kids
The importance of this will never decrease. Spending time with your children and showing them their importance is the foundation that all the rest can build on. Asking children questions about themselves, showing interest and understanding of their world, telling them about your world, and just demonstrating caring is so important to raising children who will do the same for others. 

2. If it matters, say it out loud
The psychologists report, “Even though most parents and caretakers say that their children being caring is a top priority, often children aren’t hearing that message.” Remember that children don’t always pick up on cues and don’t assume they know your expectations and what you think is important. Communicate those things openly and honestly to your children. Make sure you tell them how important kindness, openness, acceptance, and caring is and they will be much more likely to demonstrate those qualities. 

3. Teach your child how to “work it out”
It is important for parents to help guide children and offer advice, without always stepping in to solve their problems for them. Children who learn problem solving and decision making are not only better at solving their own issues, but also helping others solve problems. Encourage children to identify the source of the problem, evaluate the pros and cons, think about how their decision affects others, and move forward with a solution. 

4. Make helpfulness and gratitude routine
According to the Harvard researchers, “Studies show that people who engage in the habit of expressing gratitude are more likely to be helpful, generous, compassionate, and forgiving- and they’re also more likely to be happy and healthy.” Parents can encourage helpfulness and gratitude by asking children to help out siblings, assigning daily or weekly chores, and reminding them to give thanks throughout the day. 

5. Check your child’s destructive emotions
No children are perfect or never experience negative feelings or emotions. The trick is to help children learn to work through those emotions and keep them in check. This can be done by talking to your children and guiding them to a safe and productive conflict resolution. 

6. Show your kids the bigger picture
The researchers report that “almost all children empathize with and care about a small circle of families and friends. The trick is getting them to care about people who are socially, culturally and even geographically outside their circles. You can do this by coaching them to be good listeners, by encouraging them to put themselves in other people’s shoes, and by practicing empathy using teachable moments in the news and entertainment.” 

Read more about Harvard University’s “Making Caring Common Project” here

ONCEKids Publishing is run by literacy advocate and Mompreneur Eileen Wacker.  Click here to find her acclaimed books

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

The Parental Debate: Should Kids Go Unplugged During the Summer?

Today, technology is an essential part of kids’ schooling and has become deeply integrated into much of the curriculum- but that has not stopped parents from asking themselves; how much technology is too much? This question comes up again with even more urgency when the weather improves and school is no longer in session. Many parents feel more inclined to let their children indulge in more technology use during the winter months when playing outside isn’t really an option but when summer break starts, feelings change and boundaries become less clear. 

The start of summer break has many parents debating- should they make their kids go unplugged for the summer or is that asking too much? Some parents feel that a tech-free policy for the summer is unfair or just unrealistic, others think that its necessary to get kids to go outside and keep playing. To give some perspective on this hot topic, we researched what the experts had to say. 
ONCEKids Publishing is run by literacy advocate and Mompreneur Eileen Wacker.  Click here to find her acclaimed books

Much to my surprise, feedback from experts did not support turning off technology for the summer but thought that such a policy was not only unfair, but even cruel. Their support behind this thought was that school is a social place where kids can see and interact with all their friends but during the summer months, kids lose some of that interaction and technology is a method for keeping in touch. Author of “From Fear to Facebook”, Matt Levinson, says that staying in touch through social media or texting is a way for kids to preserve their social connections. 

Despite the conclusion that kids should not be forced to unplug completely during the summer, experts do emphasize that there are other methods and strategies for keeping kids actively playing and spending time outside and not always on technology. 

One method is to lead by example. Parents need to be good models for their kids by paying attention to their own use of technology. If parents are always plugged in, then how can they expect their kids to be inclined to unplug? 

Another method is to search for a regulating approach that works for your family. Every family is unique, and different strategies and rules work for different families. Technology use during the summer should not be as black and white as either no rules surrounding technology or banning it altogether, but some sort of happy medium should be implemented. Examples of boundaries you could set for your family could include a time limit on recreational technology use or a rule that no one can use technology starting an hour before bedtime (this is a great way to reserve time for reading each day). 

Another method experts suggest is to come up with a list of fun activities that the whole family can participate in that don’t involve technology. This is a great way to encourage kids to expand their hobbies and participate in activities that don’t involve any sort of technology without having to ban or implement strict rules surrounding technology use. Added bonuses include spending more time as a family!

What do your thoughts? Should kids be technology free during the summer? 

ONCEKids Publishing is run by literacy advocate and Mompreneur Eileen Wacker.  Click here to find her acclaimed books

Dove Shows Men Finding Out They Are Going to Be Fathers With Emotional Ad

In the last few years, Dove has come out with some pretty amazing, and pretty emotional, commercials that have had me reaching for my box of tissues- and their Father’s Day ad was no exception.

ONCEKids Publishing is run by literacy advocate and Mompreneur Eileen Wacker.  Click here to find her acclaimed books

Just in time for the holiday, Dove released an emotional ad sharing a collection of moments of men finding out that they are going to be fathers for the first time. The clips are real-life footage of men’s honest and candid reactions to their other half’s news of her pregnancy. The reactions are touching, exciting and priceless. 

If that wasn’t amazing enough, the end of the ad features a message saying, “real strength means showing you care even from the very first moment.” Dove reports that the ad is to honor men for Father’s day but also as part of a Dove “Men+Care” campaign to demonstrate that showing care and love is a sign of a man’s real strength. 

Watch the heartwarming commercial below and become part of the campaign by tweeting your fatherly wisdom or advice using the hashtag #RealStrength 

ONCEKids Publishing is run by literacy advocate and Mompreneur Eileen Wacker.  Click here to find her acclaimed books

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Six Strategies For Keeping Kids Reading This Summer

Keeping kids actively reading can prove to be a challenge during the warm summer months- but just because school is not in session doesn’t mean that reading is any less important. It’s critical for kids to practice their reading and expand their skills while they aren’t in school, but with all the distractions of summer and no classroom setting, things can get tricky. Without teachers around, parents have to play the major role of motivators and supporters of reading. Below are some easy but effective strategies Laura Colker, Ed.D., suggests parents can employ to get their kids motivated and keep them reading during the summer.

ONCEKids Publishing is run by literacy advocate and Mompreneur Eileen Wacker.  Click here to find her acclaimed books

1. Be an example
Your kids will be more likely to believe you when you say how important and fun reading is if you are doing it yourself- so read as much as possible this summer, especially in front of them. Whether it is a newspaper at breakfast or a book on the beach, leading by example will definitely increase the chances of your kids following in your footsteps and picking up a book themselves.

2. Pay a visit to your public library
Make a weekly trip to the library a fun family outing that the kids can get excited about. Make things even more exciting by letting the kids get their own library cards. Also, check your library’s website- many libraries have child-friendly summer events and reading programs. 

3. Read aloud with kids
Kids are around a lot more during the summer than any other time of the year- use this extra time to bond with them over books. Read-alouds are fun pretty much no matter how old the kids get, and maybe even for parents too. Laura also reminds parents not to forget to improvise or even wear a silly hat to make the story more interesting!

4. Use books to break the boredom
Without the busy schedule and structure of school, kids need more activities to fill in the hours. Use books as a way to teach kids that reading can be a fun way to keep themselves occupied when they are bored.

5. Combine books with other activities 
Kids are a part of a lot of activities during the summer. Whether it is going to the beach, going to a baseball game, seeing a movie or going to the park, bring books along and encourage reading as much as possible. 

6. Have plenty of reading material around

Laura emphasizes the fact that story books are not the only material that can make reading fun. Keeping lots of newspapers, magazines, and other informational material around can also spark a young reader’s interest. 

ONCEKids Publishing is run by literacy advocate and Mompreneur Eileen Wacker.  Click here to find her acclaimed books

Sunday, June 14, 2015

8 Daddy Bloggers You Need To Follow

While we love our Mommy bloggers, with Father’s Day just a week away, we are honoring all the Daddy bloggers out there. In honor of the holiday, we have put together a list of our favorite Daddy bloggers that you should definitely check out. These 8 dads are putting a new and modern spin on fatherhood through their funny and honest blogs about their adventures through parenthood. 

1.  OneDad3Girls
Hilarious father Darren shares tales of what life is like as the only man in the house with his wife and two girls. In addition to his hilarious narratives, Darren also includes ideas for family days out, useful recipes, and product reviews. 

2. Diary of the Dad
Tom shares his best (and worst) stories of his two sons, Dylan and Xander, his musings on parenthood, as well as his personal reviews of various kid products and toys. He says that “despite robbing us of our sleep and destroying the house”, he can’t stop writing about his two boys.

3. DadStreet
DadStreet is the perfect blog to read for a candid, honest narrative about what life is like for dads through a dad’s lens. It is a great take on parenting from a man/father’s perspective. 

4. DaDa Rocks
DaDa Rocks as a blog that takes openly about parenthood for the father, marriage, the best products for children, news, and even sports. 

5. Dad or Alive
In addition to having an extremely catchy name, Dad or Alive is a Huffington Post blogger, former VP for Adam Sandler and Chelsea Handler, and an author. The talented writer documents his chaotic life working and taking care of his three-year-old daughter and 18-month old son through his awesomely popular blog.

6. Daddy Knows Less
Another catchy name, and an equally awesome blog. Justin Mannato offers a father’s take on the “perils and pearls” of parenthood. 

7.  Daddy’s In Charge?
John Willey narrates life as a stay at home dad with two boys through his humorous blog cleverly named “Daddy’s in Charge?”

8. Life of Josh 
Josh Wood gives us a preview of life with six children with his candid blog “Life of Josh” 

These 8 fathers are changing the game of parenting for men as well as some of the gender stereotypes associated with fatherhood and stay at home dads through their open, honest, and humorous narratives of the roller coaster ride that is parenting. We at ONCEKids commend these fathers and encourage you to read what they have to say! 

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

10 Unique Gift Ideas for Father's Day that Won't Break the Bank

Sometimes buying a quality present for your father without spending a ton of money can feel impossible. Things on his to-buy list such as electronics, grill equipment, and outdoor furniture can get very pricey- but getting another tie or watch year after year can get pretty boring (for both of you!). But don’t get discouraged! There are cool gifts out there that will make your dad feel special without making you broke, they just may involve a little more thought and time- but isn’t Dad worth the effort? Luckily, we did some research and got some suggestions from other fathers to make starting out a little easier on you.

ONCEKids Publishing is run by literacy advocate and Mompreneur Eileen Wacker.  Click here to find her acclaimed books

1. A nice bottle of wine
Moms aren’t the only people who can appreciate a good bottle of wine! Ask around and find out what kind of wine he prefers (white or red, dry or sweet) and then pick up a high quality bottle he will love but wouldn’t necessarily buy for himself. 

2. A cell phone case
This gift is not as boring as it sounds! Phones are so breakable now, and all look pretty much the same that it is important to have a good quality case to not only protect your phone, but make it stand out too. Depending on his personality, you could pick out a really high tech case, a funny one, or if he is as clumsy as me maybe a LifeProof. 

3. A beer of the month subscription 
Is your dad a beer lover? Surprise him with this gift that keeps on giving- with a new beer delivered to his doorstep each month. 

4. A personalized six-pack
If your dad has specific tastes or is passionate about locally brewed beer, surprise him with a six pack of all his favorite and most unique beers.

5. A Nintendo 64 or GameCube 
If your dad loves video games and also likes to collect vintage stuff, surf Ebay for a gently used Nintendo 64 or GameCube gaming system with a couple of old school games like Mario Kart. Now that is a gift that the whole family can get into. 

6. A grill cook book and some (not too expensive) grilling equipment 
This isn’t exactly a new or unique idea, but it is the start of summer after all and that means grilling season. My dad is always looking for new dinner ideas and any excuse to pull out his beloved grill, so this gift is sure to please no matter what.

7. Tile Key Finder
Is your dad slightly disorganized or lose things easily? If so, then the Tile finder is a fantastic gift for him. At a reduced price of $20 you can attach the little white tile to anything, such as keys, and find it with your phone. That sounds like something I need!

8. Himalayan Salt Tequila Glasses
This is the perfect gift for any dad who appreciates a good summertime margarita or loves his tequila. The fancy and festive glasses are made from sea salt to give each shot of tequila the salty addition they need. 

9. Make Your Own Hot Sauce kit
My dad loves his hot sauce, and if yours does too then look no further! Allow your dad to make his own hot sauce exactly the way he likes it with this cool DIY set. 

10. Beard Pack

If your dad sports a beard, keep him from looking like a grizzly lumberjack with an all-natural facial hair care set. Your mom will thank you. 

ONCEKids Publishing is run by literacy advocate and Mompreneur Eileen Wacker.  Click here to find her acclaimed books

What Dad Really Wants This Father's Day

This Father’s Day get your dad something he’ll really love. The cute cards and funny ties worked for a few years but now I think it’s time to consider changing things up. When we asked real fathers what they want for Father’s Day, they were not shy about sharing their true feelings. So use their advice to ensure your father has the gift that he really wants this year. 

ONCEKids Publishing is run by literacy advocate and Mompreneur Eileen Wacker.  Click here to find her acclaimed books

1. Instead of more family time, maybe a day with some family FREE time.

2. A quick breakfast in bed followed by an invitation to spend the day on the golf course solo or with friends (with no strings attached!).

3. A trip to the mall where the only shops gone into are the ones of his choice.

4. A day on the boat with a fishing pole and a 6-pack.

5. An uninterrupted couch session with the game or his favorite show.

6. A delicious dinner that he doesn’t have to do any work for (whether it is homemade or dinner out)

7. Surprise him by washing his car and/or doing some of the yard work he’s been putting off.

8. A gift card to his favorite “toy store” aka books, tools, fishing gear, electronics, and so on. This way he can have the freedom to pick out exactly what he wants or needs.

9. Is Dad a movie lover? How about a subscription to Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon Instant Movies where he can sit down, relax, and order that movie he’s been wanting to see but hasn’t had time for. 

10. A course or trip. Is there an activity that he’s always wanted to try? Sign him up for a fly fishing class or scuba diving course. Maybe he wants to go kayaking or even bungee jumping (don’t get too crazy!). Maybe you can sign yourself up and you can do it together.

11. Beer Gift Basket. There is nothing that says relaxing after a long day at work like an ice cold beer. Find out exactly what he likes and put together a gift basket made up of all his favorites.

ONCEKids Publishing is run by literacy advocate and Mompreneur Eileen Wacker.  Click here to find her acclaimed books