My Peaceful Christmas Season

christmas nativity

I turned my shopping cart down the aisle in the big box craft store and felt tension immediately creeping into my neck.  It was September and I was staring at trees, lights, ornaments and wrapping paper in an explosion of green and red.  That tension was a sign that I was bracing myself for the stress that usually overcomes overs me in regards to the holiday season.  Only this year it was already starting in September.  The stress was also known as Christmas.

The holiday season is often a silent scream that is aimed at adults, often times moms who seem to often orchestrate the magic that surrounds the holidays.  TV commercials, Facebook event reminders, school events all become reminders of the traditions and magic that should be created each year.  As a mother and wife I took that responsibility on, to make the season magical for my loved ones.  Pinterest and Instagram brought the expectations to a whole new level these past few years.

christmas

I can sit and reflect on past years where gifts, stockings, hosting parties, decorating the home, taking the perfect photos, all left me feeling empty and breathing a sigh of relief on the December 26.  But this year as I sat at a recent MOPS meeting, watching a video about this exact stress, I decided that this year Christmas would be different.

Christmas is about love coming down to Earth.  It is the story about a mother and her baby.  In particular I am reminded of the verse “Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.” (Luke, 2:19).  I look at my three beloved children and am reminded every day of how quickly they are growing.  About how limited my time of actually having them under my roof really is.  It is all fleeting moments and I am determined to not let the stress take over my holidays anymore.  Instead I have made a conscious decision to limit our commitments, and choose family and quality time this season.

nativity

My husband and I have decided to focus on three festive events this Christmas season.  Beyond that we are not stressing about fitting everything else in.  If we can squeeze in a few extra events, great!  If not, no big deal.  We actually took out our calendars over Thanksgiving and scheduled in activities to make sure that time was blocked out.

meadowlark

For our family, the first event we chose was experiencing the lights at Meadowlark Botanical Garden in Vienna, Virginia.  This spectacular display of holiday lights that you can walk through has been on my list of things to do for 10 years now.  By strategically planning our time we were able to accomplish this event and were lucky enough to pair it with a visit with great friends.

meadowlark

If you are planning on going to Meadowlark make sure to go online and purchase your tickets earlier in the week.  The time slots do sell out on the weekend.  There are often discounts offered weekdays through Certifikid or their Facebook page.  Dress warm as you will be outside for an hour or so.  We brought the stroller which worked well for our 17 month old.  Even though it was 7, his bedtime, he was so distracted by the beautiful lights that he was fine.  At the end there is a stand to purchase hot cocoa, smores supplies to roast by the fire, and popcorn.  If you are looking for a good quick dinner before or after, try Church Street Pizza.  It’s delicious, in particular their white pizza and meat lovers.

How do you manage the holiday stress?  Are you starting any new traditions this year?

 

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Flying with Baby: What to Pack in Your Carry On

flying with baby

 

With the holidays upon us, traveling is inevitable.  And traveling with a baby, especially flying, is tricky.  But traveling light with a baby, hahaha, it doesn’t exist.  There are extra car seats, strollers, luggage, possibly a pack and play.

However you can still maintain some sense of packing light when it comes to your carry on.  Gone are the days when you could go for a two-week trip in Europe with only your backpack,. Just embrace the fact that if you can get all essential baby items in a backpack you are golden.  This does take a little planning, a little practice, and some trial and error.

WHAT DO I PACK IN THIS SUPER IMPORTANT BAG?

Lucky or unlucky, I have flown a lot with kids during these last 12 years.  I find a backpack to be the most practical bag to use, and I have actually had the same REI bag since 2006!  It is our designated travel type diaper bag, as it leaves our hands free and fits nicely under the seat in the airplane.  Th.ere are lots of pockets and has worked well even when carrying my baby in the ErgoBaby.

ITEMS FOR COMFORT:

  1.  Swaddle blanket-  These are perfect for keeping baby warm, wiping spit up, as a scarf for mom, and as a cover for nursing.  They are super lightweight so is definitely a space saver.
  2. Small toys-  Toy keys, a music toy like the baby Einstein music box, Sophie the Giraffe, some stuffed animals, or any other special lovey.  It is a good idea to have some variety to keep your baby well entertained for the flight.
  3. Pacifier and clip-  Go ahead and bring several pacifiers, even if your baby is not the biggest fan.  It is a good idea to have the pacifier attached to a clip so that it won’t fly out of their mouth and fall onto the dirty airplane floor.  They easily could roll under a seat to never be seen again!
  4. Dropper Stopper-  This is a smart idea I wish i had years ago with my first two children.  attach it to any toy your baby is playing with, and then strap it to your wrist so that you are not bending down every 5 seconds to pick the toy up off the floor.
  5. Extra clothes-  Do not attempt to fly without some extra clothing in your bag.  One piece jammies are a great option because they take up less room, keep their feet warm, are easy to change a diaper in that teeny tiny airplane bathroom.  It may even be worth it to stash two pairs in there. You will be amazed at the messes that can occur when traveling.

 

DIAPERING ESSENTIALS:

      

 

  1.  Diapers Pack alot of diapers, more than you think you will need.  A good rule to follow is about 1/2 times as many as you think.  It is always better to have more than you need.
  2. Travel wipes case–  I like the one from Huggies, but there are several on the market.  It is easy to refill, is small and thin, and has a great strap that can attach anywhere.
  3. Diaper rash cream–  We ran into a big problem years ago after a long flight to Alaska, and my baby had the worst rash.  We had to run around through the airport trying to find diaper rash cream before almost missing our next flight.  Find a travel size and toss that in your bag.
  4. Diaper wet bag–  These are great to put a dirty diaper in, wet or soiled clothes, and can also be used for wet bathing suits once you get to your destination.  I like the type with two sections, as it can easily be brought with you to change a diaper with a clean and dirty section in the bag.

FEEDING:

  1. Bib– I personally like the silicone bibs that can easily be wiped and cleaned up.  Just make sure your baby does not have an allergy towards it, as my youngest child did for several months.  This one bib will last you the entire trip since there is no need to throw it in the washing machine.
  2. Spoon with travel case–  A spoon with a case is great when you can’t get to a sink to wash it during the flight.  Honestly a plastic baggie would work just as well, but this is a cute option.
  3. Bottle-  If you are formula feeding, go ahead and prefill with the amount of water you will need.  TSA will just need you to take the bottle out and run an extra test on it.  You can also ask the flight attendant  for a small bottle of water as soon as you board, so that it is ready when you need it later on.
  4. Formula dispenser – This is extremely useful when trying to make a bottle mid flight.
  5. Squeeze pouch baby food-  these are the ultimate in convenience and don’t know how I lived without them while my first two were little.  They make eating on a plane so much easier, just make sure it doesnt’ explode when you open it.
  6. Puffs-  The entire container may take up too much room, so go ahead a fill a smaller container with the puffs.
  7. Wet Ones-  The antibacterial wipes are good for cleaning the tray table, seats, arm rests, and anything else.  The sensitive skin ones are good for items like toys that will end up in your baby’s mouth.
  8. Infant Tylenol- You just never know when fever is going to strike.  Keep it in a baggie so that it can be removed while going through security.

MOM ITEMS:

  1. Earbuds-  You may get lucky and your baby falls asleep for a while.  Go ahead and try to watch some of that movie, listen to music, or even an audio book.
  2. Phone-  This seems like a given nowadays, but make sure you have some books and magazines downloaded on there as well.
  3. Wallet-  Another essential, make sure you have it tucked somewhere you can easily reach.
  4. Shout wipes–  There is no doubt that babies are messy, and these little wipes are great for getting out stains.
  5. Baby birth certificate copy-  It is not a bad idea to keep a copy of the birth certificate in your bag in case the airline requests to see one in regards to the age of a lap baby.
  6. Extra t-shirt-  If you have extra room toss a shirt in your bag.  Babies get sick, throw up happens, and it’s usually on mom.

Happy Travels this holiday season.  What do you travel with?  Have I forgotten any essential items?

 

 

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Fidgets: Quiet Ways for Fidgety Kids to Release Energy

 

Fidgets have become increasingly popular both at home and at school.  Used properly, they can be a great tool.

Some kids are in constant motion.  They are moving, tapping, bouncing, touching, or talking.  Often when these are occurring in a group or a classroom, it becomes a disruption to learning around them.  This is when parents and educators need to come up with a creative toolbox of quiet fidgets for children to use to burn that energy.

Fidgets are all the rage right now.  They are all over the news, as well as schools.  As a result fidgets are also getting a bad rap and are being banned.  But there are many more types of fidgets, beyond the fidget spinner that is in every store.

What is the Problem?

Certain children, such as those with autism or ADHD, may be in constant motion.  Asking them to sit quietly in a seat is impossible.  They are kicking, squirming in their seat, ripping paper, or walking around the room.  They may talk a lot while sitting or make other noises.

Why Does This Occur?

It is thought that impaired motor control centers in the brain are the cause of fidgety, hyperactive behavior.  Impulse-control problems also play a part.  The hyperactive child is unable to inhibit the impulse to move around.

How to Help

Parents and educators need to provide physical outlets that let these children  release pent-up energy and improve focus.

Types of Fidgets

fidget spinner

Fidgets are really anything that can be quietly squished or handled. Not having to focus on staying absolutely still conserves the child’s energy for focusing on class lessons or other activities.  First year special education teachers, it’s definitely worth collecting some of these for your classroom.  Here, are my recommended soothing, effective fidgets for children who focus best when they are chewing, squeezing, picking, or  spinning.

Wikki Stix

wikki stix fidget

Wikki Stix are a combination of wax and yarn that your child can bend, twist, roll and sculpt to create art.  They are durable, cannot be pulled apart, and can be cut.  They help with fine motor skills and sensory stimulation, and are great to strengthen little fingers.

Silly Putty

silly putty fidget

Silly Putty is a tried and true inexpensive favorite fidget.  It can be squished, pulled and squashed which provides lots of handheld stimulation.  There are different brands such as TheraPutty and Power Putty which have different resistance levels depending on the child’s hand strength.

Dog Tag Chewies

Dog Tag Chewies fidget

If your child is always chewing things such as nails, hair, or objects than these dog tags provide a more sanitary and appropriate alternative.  They are a discreet alternative that provide oral stimulation and tactile.  The chewies are made of silicone that is free of BPA and can be put in the dishwasher for cleaning.

Palm Weight

palm weight fidget

The soft beanbag-like pillow with a hook-and-loop strap fits in the palm of your hand, or on the back of your hand, and is then secured by a strap. The weight steadies and calms hands. It provides proprioceptive input and sensory feedback to help encourage proper writing position and better handwriting. The weight calms fidgety hands so children and adults can concentrate on writing. The weight has just the right input to help improve handwriting and boost writing skills.,

Cheww Stixx

chewie stixx fidget

Children who chew pencils and erasers often don’t realize they are doing it, it can be a dangerous habit.   Cheww Stixx are oral fidgets that fit on the end of a pencil and satisfy the need to chew.  they come in lots of colors and designs, are free of BPA, and can be washed in the dishwasher.

Fiddle Linx

FiddleLinks Fidget

This was designed by a hand therapist and has interlocking and rotating pieces to provide light stimulation and strengthen fingers.  It allows the children to keep their eye on the teacher, and is a good choice for the older student.

Ziggy Pasta

ziggy pasta fidget

Ziggy Pasta is tons of colorful noodles that slide through your fingers as you squeeze.  It provides a soothing sensation for a child that is highly sensitive to different textures.  It does not make any noise and is a favorite choice of teachers.

Denim Pocket Lap Pad

denim lap pad fidget

Weighted blankets are great choices for schildren with sensory processing disorder and ADHD but not a great choice in the classroom. This smaller version allows the child to keep it on their lap at their desk and also slide their hands in the pockets.  It provides calming pressure and helps remind the child stay in their seat when restless.  It is a bit expensive but is durable and will last a long time.

Boinks

boinks fidget

Boinks are a small tube of nylon with a marble sealed inside.  You can squeeze or slide the marble back and forth, bend it, fold it, squeeze the sleeve together and roll the marble like shaking a bell. 

OVER TO YOU

Does your child fidget?  Have you or a teacher tried any of these fidgets?  Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.  I’d love to hear from you!

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Video Games to Help Improve Executive Functioning

video games

A little extra screen time spent on video games can actually help improve executive functioning in children with ADHD.  The following post contains some of the best choices in gaming for your child.

Executive function, the skills we need to plan, organize, and regulate behavior, can naturally be developed by the use of games.

video games

Go and Play Your Video Games!

Honestly in the past this was something I would NEVER say to my children.  But then I started looking at what was the allure of video games? Why do children with ADHD seem to love video games, to the point of missing meals and not going to the bathroom?  The utter concentration employed during the game, the ability to fail at a task and keep trying until they beat that level.

Games contain the ideal ingredient for motivation.  They are attractive, take a realistic amount of energy and the chance of success are good. The feedback is immediate as are cognitive rewards. So then I wondered, How can this  translate to completing homework for students with executive functioning difficulties?

As kids work through levels of the game, they learn what mistakes they made and to not do them again.  They know the goal, or endgame.  The child needs to develop their own strategy to beat the level, and they receive immediate feedback.

When it comes to homework, the resistance for some children with ADHD and executive functioning difficulties may be the lack of clear short-term goals with purposeful objectives. There is an absence of immediate feedback and reinforcement.

super mario bros wii

 

Video games such as Mario Kart Wii, Super Smash Bros. Brawl, and New Super Mario Bros. Wii help to exercise working memory skills, one of the key executive functions.

zelda

 

Legend of Zelda

Players attempt to save kingdoms, battle monsters and follow a story line. They use flexible thinking, planning and working memory skills as they navigate the game. They need to solve puzzles, learn how to master swordplay and deal with other characters. All of this goes on with distractions in the background.

minecraft

Minecraft

Minecraft is a video game that your child can customize. Players must figure out ways to use virtual blocks to build communities. They also must mine the materials they need to make tools, food, clothing and whatever else they need to sustain their environment. Multiple modes of game play give players a chance to see how different plans pan out. If one doesn’t work, players can rebuild from scratch.

 

portal 2

 Portal

Portal is set in a 3D world called Aperture Science Enrichment Center. Players work together to get around obstacles that keep characters from getting out of Aperture. Tasks get harder as players improve. They range from putting an object in the right place in order to open a door, to getting through multiple portals in a short time. Schools often use Portal 2 because it’s a fun way to think about spatial reasoning and basic physics.

scribblenauts

 Scribblenauts

Scribblenauts is much less action packed than some other video games. But it uses critical reasoning in a unique way. Players have to solve the spatially oriented obstacles the hero encounters as he goes through the levels. And they do it by literally writing the solution and having it appear. Players can write simple things, such as “ropes.” Or they can write crazier things, such as “Yeti the snowman-like creature on a lawnmower.

 

sim city

SimCity

The object of SimCity and SimCity Creator is to build a civilization from the ground up. Players have to plan and anticipate what the city will need as it evolves. A society that begins with hunters can quickly grow into one that needs factories and school. Players need to know zoning laws and municipal codes as they build. They also must use problem-solving skills to find ways to meet the challenges of supply and demand.

Computer Games

There are a number of computer games thought to help develop certain specific brain functions such as memory and attention. Here are some online sources of “brain games” to consider:

Fit Brains

Lumosity

Managing fantasy sports teams requires executive skills, along with task initiation and time management.

OVER TO YOU

Does your child struggle with executive functioning? Do they love video games?  What are you thoughts on the topic, I would love to hear.

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I send out blogs like this often, offering my expertise and useful tips for parents about all things related to child learning, ADHD,  reading instruction.  and the occasional recipe or DIY project.

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Executive Functioning: The # 1 skill needed at school

child at school

The #1 Skill Children Need to Be Successful

We all want our children to succeed at school.  But that is not always an easy task.  You may wonder, what is the #1 skill needed for my child to succeed at school?  The answer is Executive Functioning.

What does this really mean though?

It’s mentioned a whole lot nowadays, but why?  Is it really important?

Yes, because executive functions comprise the essential self-regulating skills that we all rely on everyday to accomplish just about everything.  Executive functions help us to plan and organize, learn from our mistakes, make decisions, control our emotions and impulsivity, and shift between thoughts and situations.  Kids start their day by relying on executive functions to get dressed for school and rely on it for every other task until bedtime.

Children who have poor executive functioning skills, often times this goes hand in hand with ADHD, can be quite disorganized.  Their backpacks are an explosion of papers.  Their school desks have piles of garbage in and around their desk.  Homework agendas are not filled out.  They take forever getting dressed, and completing one chore can often take a really, really long time.  Long term assignments are left until last minute, as is studying for a big test.

Well there is help.  And many learning specialists have devised strategies that can help students with poor executive functioning.  Improving organization skills can be achieved through specific strategies and alternate learning styles.

Here are some skills to help students, and parents, get that homework done as well as some other tasks around the house!

Checklists

The steps necessary for completing a task are often not obvious to kids with executive dysfunction.  Defining them clearly ahead of time makes a task less daunting and more achievable. Following a checklist  also minimizes the mental and emotional strain many kids with executive dysfunction experience while trying to make decisions.

With a checklist, kids can focus their mental energy on the task at hand.

You can make a checklist for nearly anything.  For example, posting a checklist of the morning routine can be a sanity saver: make your bed, brush your teeth, get dressed, have breakfast, grab your lunch, get your backpack.  Click MORNING ROUTINE task cards to grab a free copy of a morning checklist.

Set time limits

When making a checklist, many experts recommend assigning a time limit for each step, particularly if it is a bigger, longer-term project.  Talking about the steps to create a poster timeline project for example, requires research, finding pictures, gathering materials, creating a rough draft, and the final draft.  Discussing the time needed for each part can help the student see the bigger picture.

Use that planner

It is crucial that students learn to use a planner.  Most schools require students to use a planner these days, but they often don’t teach children how to use them.  It will also not be obvious to a child who is overwhelmed by—or uninterested in—organization and planning. This is a bad combination because kids who struggle with executive functioning issues have poor working memory, which means it is hard for them to remember things like homework assignments. And working memory issues tend to snowball. Fortunately many teachers also use online platforms and their websites to post homework assignments and test dates.  This comes in handy when that planner or agenda comes home blank, again.

Spell out the rationale

While a child is learning new skills, it is essential that he understand the rationale behind them, or things like planning might feel like a waste of time or needless energy drain.  Kids with poor organizational skills often feel pressured by their time commitments and responsibilities.  Explaining the rationale behind a particular strategy makes a child much more likely to commit to doing it.

Explore different ways of learning

Because everyone learns differently, it is good practice to use a variety of strategies to help kids with executive dysfunction understand—and remember—important concepts. Using graphic organizers as a reference for visual learners is one example.

Other kids remember things better if there is a motion supporting it, like counting on their fingers, which is good for visual and tactile learners. Younger children benefit from self-talking to reduce anxiety and Social Stories, which are narratives about a child successfully performing a certain task or learning a particular skill.

Establish a routine

This is particularly important for older kids, who typically struggle more to get started with their homework.  Check my post of the ultimate after school routine for some ideas.

Use rewards

For younger kids, you can try putting a reward system in place.  Something like a star chart, where kids see the connection between practicing their skills and working towards a reward, works very well.

For older kids who aren’t as motivated by things like rewards, parents should still be encouraging.  Parents need to be checking in with older kids.  Ask how things are going or offer help. Tell them you appreciate all the hard work they’re doing. School is really hard for a lot of kids and they should be recognized for their effort.

We use our organizational skills every day in a million ways, and they are essential to our success in school and later as adults. Following these tips should help to put your child on the right track.

OVER TO YOU

Does your child struggle with executive functioning? Do they seem to be unorganized? Let me know in the comments below – I’d love to hear from you!

ENJOYED THIS POST?

I send out blogs like this often, offering my expertise and useful tips for parents about all things related to child learning, ADHD,  reading instruction.  and the occasional recipe or DIY project.

If you sign up for my email updates, I’ll send exclusive content straight to your inbox!

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IEP Meeting: 10 Questions Every Parent Should Ask

iep meeting

Preparing to attend an IEP Meeting? These are 10 questions every parent should ask the team in an IEP meeting!

I want this post to provide support for families and be able to express myself clearly.  I have served as a special education teacher for many years in the school system.  I have sat in on hundreds of IEPs and intervention meetings. They are a regular part of my work week.  And they don’t have to be scary or intimidating!

Why would I say that?  Well it provides a chance for families and all staff that works with that child to communicate and brainstorm.  It is a chance to create a plan to help children who need support.  It provides a chance to create a truly individualized plan to meet the students’ needs.

An IEP meeting is a chance for school personnel and parents to communicate.  The one thing I say to every parent before an IEP meeting is to be prepared.  Make sure you have done your homework.  An IEP meeting can be an amazingly positive experience if everyone is able to communicate clearly.

IEP meeting

A FEW THINGS TO DO BEFORE AN IEP MEETING:

-observe in your child’s current classroom setting if allowed

-reread their expiring IEP if they already have one…..do you feel their academic and behavioral goals have been met? Be prepared to share YOUR thoughts.

-make a list of concerns and a list of accomplishments.  What is going WELL? What is still a struggle?

-research the academic standards for your child’s grade level…….consider where they currently fall in terms of those standards.  They may need support still, and that’s TOTALLY fine.  But the more you’ve thought about these long term goals….the more prepared you’ll be to speak to them and to listen to the team.

-be prepared to ask questions (a lot of them)

iep meeting

IEP Meetings: 10 Questions Every Parent Should Ask

  1. How can I contact you? Ask each member of the IEP Meeting Team the BEST way to contact them.  Let them know you’ll be checking in regularly.
  2. When is a good time to have an informal conversation about my child’s progress? Teachers are more than willing to chat and meet about your child.  However their day is often very busy, so it is best to ask them what time would work the best.
  3. What do you see as my child’s strengths? How can I support and encourage them? An IEP meeting should not be all about weaknesses.  Ask how you can support your child’s strengths and passions.  These strengths and passions are what will make your kiddo successful as an adult.
  4. What type of progress can I expect to see? What will this look like? The great thing about an IEP meeting is that you get the input of specialists.  But that’s also the toughest at times.  Acronyms, teacher speak, developmental milestones….it can be VERY overwhelming.  After each IEP section, ask the team…….what should this LOOK like? How long will it be before I see progress? What are the signs that we are moving in the right directions? What should I watch out for?
  5. What can I do at home to support our goals? For students to make the most progress (emotionally or academically), goals needs to be fluid between school and home.  Ask the team…..what can I do at home? Ask for specific suggestions.
  6. Which of these goals are the top priority? Between behavioral goals and academic goals…..by the end of an IEP meeting, you’ll feel like your head is spinning.  An important thing to ask…..which of these is top priority? Is it behavioral (transitioning to school, for instance)? Is it academic (phonemic awareness….you need to read before you can write or comprehend text)?  Ask the team.  That way, you’ll know what to focus on in discussions about school.
  7. How will we measure progress? How will we communicate about this with my child? Progress towards goals (both academic and behavioral) can be measured in many ways.  Will the team be using test scores? A running record with observations of the child? A tally system of behaviors being exhibited (or not exhibited)?
  8. What do these supports look like on a daily basis? How will my child’s day look? Academic and behavior supports can be provided in MANY ways.  Will the supports be a pull-out model (student removed from the class for small group support) or a push-in model (the support staff blends in to the classroom for a period of time)?   You should know EXACTLY what your child’s day looks like!
  9. Who will provide these supports? How will my child’s classroom teacher be provided with resources and assistance to implement these supports? The best thing about having a support team in place? Everyone helps EACH OTHER (that includes you mom and dad)! Ask questions.  How can you support the teacher? How can the speech therapist support you?
  10. What would YOU do if this were YOUR child? An IEP meeting can often be all business.  In the end….what would I want to know? If this were your own family member, what would you suggest?  Trust me, you’ll get some pretty honest answers.

iep meeting

IEP meeting questions Poster (1)

Are you looking for more information about IEP’s and 504 Plans?

Here are some fantastic resources

What is the difference between and IEP and 504 Plan?

Why you might need a 504 Plan

10 Common Mistakes Parents Make at IEP meetings

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Why is my child so Angry? ADHD and anger

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Do you have a child or student who can get angry, frustrated, or even explosive? Maybe they often need help calming down.  Children with ADHD can have frequent meltdowns and need lots of help and coaching to get back on track. I am super excited about the download I have created and am ready to share with you.   From many years of teaching children with special needs, and parenting three children, I have gathered 10 tips and resources to help calm the angry child.

[emaillocker id=”212″] [/emaillocker]

 

ARMED WITH KNOWLEDGE

I really believe in trying to be proactive before big problems arise.  This means becoming better at catching the “build up” or knowing what the “triggers” are for that child.  It is best to be educated as a caregiver and have concrete strategies you can easily put in place.  This download can be hung up in your kitchen, classroom, anywhere that allows you to glance quickly and remind yourself of some things to help.  This can be hard in the heat of an argument.

Below is a resource which may be helpful to some of you.

 

The Explosive Child by Ross W Greene

 

Remember that outbursts are always the result of the child needing something. The reasons vary and there are many layers involved with teaching and parenting an angry child.

 

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Annual Apple Picking Trip at Great Country Farm

close up red and yellow apples

This past weekend marked our annual apple picking trip.  The weather was perfect on Sunday, especially after a really gloomy Saturday.  So we hopped in the car, rain boots and all in case of mud, and drove out to Great Country Farms.

Weekday Admission: $8/child & $10/adult
Saturday/Sunday Admission: $10/child & $12/adult
540-554-2073
18780 Foggy Bottom Road, Bluemont, VA 20135

We were meeting up with friends at the apple orchard which made the trip extra awesome.  My friend over at Lightning Bug Designs told us about Great Country Farms two years ago.  I find it makes the perfect apple orchard adventure for several reasons.  It’s a little over an hour from Prince William County.  There are several routes out, but we always take the most scenic which makes for an awesome Sunday drive.  Great Country Farm s really big and fun for all ages.  And if you are military they waive the admission fee which is amazing and means more money on this apple picking trip for donuts, apples and kettle corn!

apples in box, peck, bushel

Activities on the Farm

Our group had kids ranging from ages 13 months all the way up to 12 years. They all had fun at the apple orchard, like alot of fun.  Most fell asleep on the ride home from the exhaustion of playing and picking apples all day.

When you get to Great Country Farms, go ahead through the main gates to get your bracelet which gives you unlimited access to almost everything on the farm.  There are wagon rides, a giant jumping pillow, putt putt, animals in the barn, tractors to climb on, farm play area, corn mazes, and a fishing pond.

Ninja Course and GaGa Ball

Worth special mention is the new Ninja Course geared towards 12 and under.  And a GaGa ball pit.  The dads were so excited about this, as they all felt they had become experts at scout camp this summer.  It was super fun to watch them play!

baby counting apples in orchard

For a small additional fee at Great Country Farms there is a super cute cow train for the little ones and a gem mine sluice.  This is a big hit with my kids.  You buy a bag of dirt with hidden items in it like arrowheads and rocks, then they take it to the sluice and mine for treasure.

Lunch

There are lots of food choices or you can bring a picnic.  If you want to buy lunch there are chicken sandwiches, hot dogs, pulled pork, donuts, ice cream, and kettle corn all available while you listen to live music on Sundays.

jam and salsa at apple picking farm in mason jars

Wagon Ride to the Orchard

We decided to head out to pick apples in the orchard after playing for several hours.  You hop in a wagon for a quick 5 minute ride, and the wagon driver will let you know which orchards are open for picking that day.

Plan on spending the day playing and apple picking, because your kids won’t want to leave.  They will be begging you to come back soon to pick some pumpkins.  Grab some donuts for the ride home, and plan out some recipes to make with all your apples.

apple pie homemade from apple picking, lattice on top

We went with the apple pie this year, after much debate.  Although I still have a ton left, so it’s on to apple crumble, baked apples, and apple sauce next.

Come back tomorrow for a roundup of Northern Virginia’s Best Apple Picking Farms.

 

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5 Steps to the Ultimate After School Routine

5 steps to the ultimate after school routine

The new school year means a new chance to create an after school routine.  Every day little guy and I head outside to wait for the big, yellow school bus.  We are super lucky that the stop is in front of our house.  It is extra awesome that there are about 11 families that use our stop.  So it basically means a giant playdate in my yard and driveway each afternoon.

Little guy eagerly waves at the bus, and all the kids come tumbling down the steps.  This usually turns into kids running everywhere and asking who’s house they can play at that afternoon.  It also means every parent reminds their child that they have their afternoon routine to get through.

If the weather is super awesome, or in the winter if darkness comes way to soon, we may choose to delay the ultimate after school routine.  It has taken many years of adjustment trying to figure out what works best for our family.  And honestly each year the after school routine changes a bit.  But so far this years’ is the best so I am excited to share with you!

 

1.  Get the kids inside

Like I said, since our house is at the bus stop it is hard to get them inside.  But once I do, the backpacks are tossed on the ground, the baby is crawling everywhere, the dog and cat are running around, and there is lots of talking.

All of this can make my head spin, but I try not to start yelling “Pick up your backpack” or “Start your afternoon routine.” Often there is something that happened which they can’t wait to talk about, or the opposite occurs and there is radio silence.  Both are okay.

bus stop after school

2.  Feed them!

School schedules are crazy and this year my one child eats at 10:20 in the morning.

This means they come home hungry and cranky.  I know personally I become hangry when I don’t eat, I think my kids are the same way.

Although they won’t admit it, they are much more pleasant with a full tummy.  I encourage a snack with some protein and carbs, for some quick energy and to sustain their energy.

Breakfast cookies, now after school cookies, can be a great option.

breakfast cookies after school snack

3.  Chill out time

We are lucky enough to have lots of friends in the neighborhood.  I really believe in letting kids run around after a very long day at school.  Recess has been cut so short in our district, our kids just need to get up and move.  Plus all the benefits of getting kids moving really helps with concentration for school work.  So it’s playdates at rotating houses for about 45 minutes.

swings after school playground

 

4.  Unpack backpack and complete homework

So it’s time to tackle school paperwork and homework.  In our county there is minimal homework, as the belief is that after a long day of school work kids should have time for other activities.  With that being said there is always reading and usually a small number of math problems.  For older kids studying for quizzes and tests occurs as well.

We have a basket for each child where important papers are placed.  These are items to be signed and any work samples I would like to save.  We have several homework stations throughout the house that are stocked with needed supplies.  Read this article to see why multiple stations may be beneficial to your child.

homework station with paper, pen, computer

5.  Chore cards

Finally they have to complete one chore before earning free time.  We have tried many chore charts.  They never work for long.  So this summer I came up with chore cards.  On each card is written a different chore, and each child gets seven for the week.  They can choose which they want to complete each day.  At the end of the week my two oldest switch piles for the upcoming week.  This has eliminated me having to yell about helping around the house.  They know if it doesn’t happen, then electronics are not an option.  And that is really motivating.

chore card after school routine

I hope this ultimate after school routine helps to get your family on track for more peaceful afternoons.  Less yelling and more talking is always a good thing!

 

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Homework Help for the ADHD child- Part 1

Homework Battles

So the first week of school has come to a close.  For most kids the routine of homework and studying is not in full swing yet.  That makes this the perfect time to get a head start and set your student up for success.  A common story heard from almost all ADHD households is how much homework is disliked.

Most families can easily remember the endless nagging, arguing, searching for missing assignments, and endless hours of wasted time that lead to utter frustration.  Your student is smart and capable.  You see that they aren’t reaching their potential.  And the daily homework battle is a constant reminder of your child’s challenges and struggles.

Homework Police

It is absolutely no fun taking on the job of nagging and prodding your child on a daily basis.  You don’t want to hear it, your child doesn’t want to hear it, and it really isn’t helping them in the long run.  This will probably lead to larger battles and more trouble in the long run, as homework resentment builds up.

Setting up for Success

What your child will really benefit from is having their parent set up routine and structure so that they can improve their executive function ability.  The goal is for them to complete their homework, independently, without the nagging.  The parents’ role is to ask questions, provide guidance, and support.  So you may be asking “How do I do this?”

Organize

What you do not want to do each year is wait and see how it goes.  This is not taking a very proactive approach, and you want to be able to set your student up for success.  Make a plan before the school year starts, and then adjust as the year goes on.

Talk with your child about what worked last year and what did not.  Discuss what needs to change this year. Remember that no parent or child loves the constant nagging or arguing during homework.

Here are some practical organizing tips:

  1.  Sunday night should be a time to get set up for the week.  Plan out the week activities, discuss upcoming assignments, know which days are gym or instrument days.
  2. Homework folders for all ages are really helpful.  In middle school teachers will not often set them up, but you can do so at home.  Incoming assignments go on one side, completed assignments go on the other.
  3. Have a staging area in the house where your child can lay things out at night for the morning.  This includes a packed backpack, lunch, shoes, gym bag, instrument, sports equipment.  In the morning it will be a big relief to not run around looking for shoes!

Set up a homework routine

Homework routines are important but it is not a one size fits all.  I recommend having several areas throughout the house that can accommodate a child doing homework.  This can be in the kitchen, in a study or other quiet room, maybe a spot on the porch.  Sometimes a change of scenery for a child will help them complete the assignment. I often find that having your child have a snack first helps to boost their mood and blood sugar.  Burning off some energy with a short playdate can also help them to focus later on for homework.  Have your child reflect on what has worked in the past, and what hasn’t.  They should be part of creating a routine.

Squirmy, restless kids

For the child who just cannot sit still to do their homework, do not embarrass and point out the negative behavior.  Instead try and redirect that energy.  The spinner fidgets have been all the rage this year, but there are many other types of fidgets.  Take some time to research and try different types to see what type of sensory input would be helpful.

 

Next up, Part 2– Getting started, estimating time, and procrastination

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