Toy Blog - Toys, Parenting, and Kids

Fun Warm-Weather Activity – Rise and Shine Party!

With warmer days approaching, start thinking outside the box for ways to encourage some connections among the neighborhood brood.  Oftentimes, when the weather is chilly and the days are short, we lose touch with those that we spend endless summer nights chasing around the front yard and riding bikes up and down the block.  So, get everyone together for a Rise-and-Shine party!

The party idea is simple: gather the neighbor kids and their families together for an early-morning delight.  Host it outdoors if the weather is warm.  Dress is casual, and pajamas are welcome.  Serve up bagels, fruit, milk and juice, muffins, cereals and even donuts and coffee for the grown ups.  The key is to keep it simple and low-key.  Many people may be on their way to sports events or work, so make it easy on those folks as well.

Invitations can be anything from an electronic (email) message or a printed card.  Be sure to invite children and adults for adequate supervision and a chance to catch up with some big-people, too.  As the host, try to set as much of it up the night before.

In one neighborhood, as the year went on, families took turns hosting the Rise and Shine party each weekend.  It is a great way to connect with neighbors and reinforce good relations with the children!

Long Distance Friendships

In our transitional society, children tend to slip in and out of friendships quite easily.  With relocating being the “norm”, children are constantly falling in and out of social situations, such as school, clubs, church and other organizations.

Every once in a while, though, children will make a connection with a peer that seems to be something deeper than just your classmate-friendship.  These close relationships are ones that tend to stand the test of distance and time and are most notable from about fifth grade and up.  Long distance friendships require work, though, to keep them up.  Here are some pointers to helping your older child keep those friendships that mean so much to him or her:

  • Give them a call.  With so many calling plans today offering free or flat-rate long distance, allow your child to make a call every now and then and touch base with an old friend.  It doesn’t have to be for long – just a few minutes to say hello and find out what exciting things are going on with their friend.
  • Remember birthdays.  Send a card or even a small gift for a birthday or holiday.  Make a homemade card with a handwritten note inside.  Remembering special days is a great way to keep up with friends.
  • Make a point to schedule a visit if you are ever back in the area (or your friend is visiting close by).  Pick a neutral area, such as a park or a fast food restaurant so both parties are on “equal territory”.  If possible, arrange a mini-vacation for the kids.  When I was in junior high, my best friend and I were five hours apart.  I would spend a week at her house in the summer, and then she would spend a week at mine.  Those summers are probably my most favorite memories growing up. 
  • As the parent, be aware of the status of the friendship.  If there is some friction, help your child address it.  Perhaps it is time to let the relationship end and revisit it later.  Be an open and unopinionated listener for your child when things just don’t seem “right”.


Today is a school holiday in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr, so last night ended up being the perfect time to offer up a sleepover.

We have had sleepovers in the past with Travis – either friends coming here for Travis going there.  And, when I think back on it, it seems strange to have “boy” sleepovers.  When I was little, I had tons of slumber parties and friends spending the night.  My brother?  Not so much.  In fact, my mom and I can’t remember a single time my brother had a friend stay over for the night.  I, however, was a regular on the sleepover circuit.  So, at least I have my own experience to draw upon for ideas.

Being eight, there’s not too much to plan or prepare for a sleepover.  We keep our events with our guest for the night pretty low-key.  For instance, last night’s little friend got to our house around 4, and the boys played football and hide-and-seek in the yard until it was time for dinner.  They then helped prepare dinner (we made pizza last night) and set the table.  After dinner, everyone cleaned up and I pulled out a fondue pot I had received for Christmas.  We melted the chocolate and dipped all sorts of stuff into the pot: pound cake, marshmallows, fruit, pretzels, and even cookies.  It was messy, but the boys loved it.  (I’m not so sure I’ll do it again, simply because the clean up was horrific – either that or I need a different fondue recipe!) 

Our younger son was hustled into the bathtub while the older boys played quietly, and once we got the little guy tucked into his bed for the night, we set up camp for the bigger boys in the playroom (our boys share a room, so sleepovers get special sleeping arrangements in the playroom).  The sofa bed was pulled out, and sleeping bags were dumped on top.  The boys worked on all sorts of building toys in between putting on pajamas and brushing teeth, and when they were finally ready to settle down, they were allowed to choose a DVD to watch on the computer (they chose from MY selection).  By the time the movie was over, they were beyond tired and fell asleep.

This morning is a Big Breakfast morning: eggs, pancakes, biscuits, bacon, juice, and milk.  The boys will play a bit more before our little friend’s mom comes to get him around noon.  We will have just some low-key playing and possibly some fun outdoors if the weather holds out.

The best part about sleepovers from my point of view is the time I get to spend interacting with my son’s friends.  It puts me in touch with who he plays with at school, what interests this age group, and how well my son gets along with others.  It is a wonderful window into my son’s life without prying or nagging for details.  By passively participating (being a presence without being a PRESENCE), I am privy to my son’s world outside our home.  And the kids think I’m *cool*.

That’s the best part!

What Goes Around Comes Around

“The only difference between teaching 8th graders and preschoolers is the height.  Everything else is about the same.” 

I start out each year with my pre-kindergarten parents with this same line.  My experience in teaching is varied, but most of my public school educational experience is from teaching junior high – 8th grade.  And, with each class I teach in the preschool age, I notice there isn’t THAT much difference.  See if you agree:

1.  LANGUAGE ACQUISITION: If you were to sit in my pre-k classroom and listen to the conversations that happen in a 20 minute time period, you would hear plenty of “original” words, mispronounciations, and horrible sentence structure.  You might even hear a “dirty” word every now and then (immediately redirected by me – at this age, they really don’t know what they’re saying).  That’s how kids learn – by trying out new things.  And, in my junior high class, it was much the same, even if it was more intentional.  The “duhs” and “phats” and incomplete sentences – yep, all part of being 13 and 14 and learning to communicate.

2.  SPEED: Four-year olds know two speeds: fast and crash.  My boys especially were either running around the room or crashing into tables/easels/each other.  It is just how they are.  And, getting into wide open spaces makes it more manageable, but it is still run and crash.  It is much the same at the 7th and 8th grade level – adolescents are constantly running through the halls, running through the cafeteria, and as much as you tell them to SLOW DOWN, they continue to do so until they crash into a locker/door/desk/each other.  And again, it is usually the boys.

3.  THE EMOTIONAL ROLLER COASTER: One of the hardest parts about teaching 4′s is the girls.  Come February, we start the “you’re not my friend - today” game.  It is one of my least favorite parts of my job.  Girls don’t realize how much it hurts to hear those words, even when they have been said to themselves.  And, in 8th grade, many a girl-fight begins with the same attitude – you’re not my friend and I’m going to show you how I feel about you.

4.  GIMME SOME LOVIN’: The bright side to pre-k kids is the love they show.  Oh, they may act tough, but they flash that smile or color a picture for you.  They pick flowers on the playground and notice when you get your hair cut.  And, 8th graders aren’t much different.  They don’t WANT to like you – you are the teacher.  But, they leave you notes on your desk, wave to you across the cafeteria, or say hi to you at the football game.

What goes around comes around.  Growing up is one big circle.  We just travel it several times as we learn a bit more about what makes the world right.  Teaching junior high all those years did wonders to prepare me for being a preschool teacher – and a parent.  The only difference is the size of the package!

  • WonderBrains Educational Toys Weblog - Blogged blog search
directory Blog Directory & Search