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Posted by Stacey West (NH/MA) on 8/11/2017

My family went on several camping trips up and down the east coast when I was a young child. At the end of the trip my parents would often ask us kids what our favorite part was. Was it the roller coaster park? Kayaking down the river? Hiking up the mountain? Much to their dismay, our answer was usually something like "roasting marshmallows" or "jumping on the air mattress." The moral of the story: If you have young children you don't need to take time off from work or plan expensive vacations for them to have a great time and build lasting memories.  One of the best ways to mix things up at home and spend time with your children is to camp out in your own backyard. Here are some fun ideas to include in your backyard camping trip. My two pieces of advice before you start:

  1. Get the kids involved in the planning to build their excitement
  2. Leave the electronics in the house; it will take away from the camping experience

Backyard camping ideas

  • Be prepared. Make sure you have everything you need outside before you start your "trip." Bug spray, sunscreen, food, fire fuel, sticks for roasting marshmallows, etc. You don't want to have to keep running inside the house.
  • Make your tent a fortress. With blankets, pillows, and poles (like a broom or rake) you can build a vast fortress inside your tent that the kids will love.
  • Fun and games. Unless you live on a mountain you probably aren't going to be doing much hiking to fill the daylight hours. Plan outdoor games that are age-appropriate for your kids. Examples: bean bag toss, I-Spy, bird-watching with binoculars.
  • Rough it. Don't take any shortcuts when it comes to camping at home. To you it might seem like a pain to have to bring everything outside, but for your kids it's exciting. Set up the tent together, build your fireplace and fire together, cook food outside together, and so on. Not only is it a fun way to teach your kids outdoor skills, but it will also be good preparation for your next real camping trip.
  • Explore. We take the little things for granted. Odds are your backyard has some small parts of nature that you've never even noticed. Have your kids collect leaves, flowers, and whatever else they find and make a collage.
  • Night time fun. The most exciting part of camping for children comes when the sun goes down. It's usually a time they're not allowed to be outside, so they'll probably be full of energy. Take advantage of that by playing games with flashlights. Flashlight tag is fun, but if your child is very young you might want to do a flashlight hunt instead. Hide an object in your yard somewhere while you and your child try to find it with flashlights.
  • Food and fires. Cooking on a fire is very exciting for kids. The classic example is making S'mores, but if that's too messy or you can't have a campfire where you live, you can always cook on a grill. Put some marshmallows and chocolate inside an ice cream cone to make less-messy S'mores cones.





Posted by Stacey West (NH/MA) on 2/3/2017

A house fire is a parent and home owner's worst fear. Many people see tragic house fires as a case of very bad luck, but in reality most house fires can be avoided by practicing good fire safety. To prevent house fires and to know what to do in case you have one, you'll need to learn and teach your children about the main causes of house fires, how to prevent them, and what to do when a fire occurs. We'll cover all of that in this article, plus give you some tips on making it easy and fun for kids to learn.

How do house fires happen?

The eight most common causes of house fires are:
  1. candles
  2. smoking
  3. electrical/lighting
  4. dryers and washing machines
  5. lightning
  6. kids playing with fire
  7. tree decorations
  8. kitchen/cooking

Play investigator

To prevent some of the causes of fire listed above, gather your children and put on your investigator hat. Make a checklist of the following and scour your house together to search for clues of fire hazards, taking care of them as you go along. Look for:
  • Overloaded power strips and damaged power cords
  • Dryer vents that are clogged up or dirty
  • Stove burners that are near flammable items like curtains
  • Smoke detectors checked
  • Extra batteries located
  • Escape route noted (see below)
  • Ensure kids know the rules about candles, cooking, playing with fire, etc.

Plan your escape

Teaching kids a fire escape route can be tricky. It might get confusing for them or they might forget or panic in case of an actual fire. Therefore the best way to teach kids a fire escape plan is to practice it often. Have monthly or bi-monthly fire safety checks with your kids and go over your escape plan and test your smoke detectors. Yearly, participate in fire safety week, which also covers escape plans and best practices but turns it into a weeklong series of activities you can do with your kids. When it comes to the actual fire escape plan, grab some graphing paper and colored pencils and sit down with your kids to create your home. Include in your plan the names and escape routes (2 minimum) of each room and the outdoor meeting place. Have kids draw their own (age appropriate) to help them understand the plan better and get them involved. Once you've drawn the plan, run through it a few times with your kids. If you have infants or very young children who can't get themselves out of the house, plan who will retrieve them from their room in case of a fire. Remember to tell the kids not to wait for others before getting outside, and to not try to take belongings with them.

Stick to your routine

The hardest part about fire safety is making it a habit. At school, your kids have mandatory fire drills. At home, however, parents get busy with work or forget and tend to ignore fire safety. So, you'll have to find ways to make sure you and your family stick to the plan. If you have a family calendar hanging in your home, make sure you pencil in your bi-monthly fire safety meeting. Similarly, anyone in your family who uses a calendar on their phone or computer should add it there as well and invite the other family members. Make sure the event is fun for everyone to ensure no one dreads it. You could make a plan to take the kids out to dinner or somewhere fun after to make it a night everyone looks forward to every couple of months.





Posted by Stacey West (NH/MA) on 6/3/2016

Moving is tough for many reasons, from bidding on a house to packing up all your possessions stress is bound to happen. However, for children, it can be more stressful. Change can be harder for them to deal with and they can feel lost in the bustle of the move. There are a few things you can do for your child to ensure that the moving process goes smoothly for both them and you: Model behavior - Project a positive attitude about moving will demonstrate to your child that this is a positive event for them to look forward to, children pick up on the behavior of the adults in their lives and signaling to them that is a time they can anticipate with excitement with your behavior about moving can go a long way. Have conversations - Take the time to talk with your child about moving and what they can expect about a month before the move date. Be open to their thoughts and feelings and give them some space to feel upset. Explain the moving process to them in a simple way that they can understand, perhaps with a story played out with their toys. Ensure to not only tell them what will change but also what will stay the same. The more they know what to expect of the days leading up to and after the move the more comfortable they will feel with the process. Get them involved - If possible include them in the house hunting process by showing them pictures of the new house. If you are moving to a new town or state show them pictures of the school they will attend and the nearby parks. If it is nearby, explore the new neighborhood together and make visits to the new house a few times before moving day. Keep things similar - If your child doesn't deal well with change try to keep the same furniture and arrange in a similar layout as their old room. Prioritize having your child's room in order before the rest of the house so that they have their own space to feel comfortable in the new house right away. Unpacking their favorite toys or blankets first can help them feel more at home. Sticking to the same routines where possible is also ideal. On the other hand - Allowing your child to pick out new furniture and paint colors for their new room can help them get excited about the new move and give them some control amidst so many changes. Making friends - Practice with your child how to introduce themselves to other children. Get involved with the new community and allow your child to signup for any activities that interest them. Arrange times for phone calls or to write letters to friends and family from your old neighborhood so they feel in touch with those they care for. While moving can be a stressful time for the whole family, it can have a large impact on a child. Making time for conversations and including them in the process can not only help them feel more at ease with the moving process but also deepen your relationship with your child as you go through this life event together.




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