Christmas Toys for Endless Fun

ted-the-bear-3-1367103 []Are you still shopping for Christmas toys? Are you overwhelmed with so many toys to choose from? Do you want something kids won’t toss aside after a few weeks? Here are some tips on buying toys for endless fun.

There are many factors to consider when choosing a toy, such as safety, the child’s interests, durability, and your budget. Because toys are already subject to safety tests, my best advice is to purchase developmentally age-appropriate, open-ended toys. What do all these words mean?

Developmentally Appropriate

Age-appropriate means the toy matches the child’s developmental level. Children generally develop within a predictable sequence, but some develop earlier while others develop later. For example, some children walk before one year while others walk after one year.

Age Suggestions & Safety

All toy manufacturers must indicate age suggestions on the packaging, such as six to twelve months, three to five-years, etc. Parents and grandparents are often tempted to purchase toys that are intended for older children because the child is “so smart.” The child may be bright, but the manufacturer suggestions provide the best safety for children. For example, preschool toys may have smaller pieces that would be unsafe for toddlers.

Variety, Creativity & Budget-friendly

Alongside choosing age-appropriate toys, choose toys that are open-ended. This means toys that provide different ways children can play with them. A jack-in-the-box is a closed-ended toy. There is only one way to play with a jack-in-the-box, over, and over, and over again. Open-ended toys offer more variety and creativity. A jack-in-the-box will be interesting for awhile, but open-ended toys can provide fun for several years. This makes open-ended toys more cost effective and budget friendly.

Endless Possibilities

Open-ended toys offer children endless play possibilities. Items children can build with or create anything they want are ideal for their imaginations. Possibilities include dress-up clothes, wooden blocks, Duplos, Legos, Lincoln Logs, Mega blocks, and magnetic blocks. One day children create a zoo and dress up as a zoo keeper while another time they construct a ferry. Open-ended toys facilitate endless possibilities for fun.


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3 Children, 2 Grocery Carts, 1 Blessing

After I helped in the grandkids’ classes, I stop at the corner Walmart. Near the eggs, I practically cause a mishap.

“I’m sorry, I almost ran into you,” I say to the preschooler sitting in the cart. His mom is between two carts; pushing one and pulling the other. “You’ve got a big load. That must be heavy. I don’t think I could manage that.”

I turn the corner and proceed down the next aisle.588172201_how-to-make-a-countdown-vimeo-com

With a full cart, I get in the check-out line. Moments later, the preschooler’s mom gets in line with two overflowing grocery carts. “How long have you been here?” I ask thinking it would take me forever to select that many groceries.

“Only about an hour. It used to take me longer. I’m by myself. My husband’s in Sacramento. Once I figured out where everything is that all three kids like it goes pretty fast.”

“Your husband being gone must be hard for you and your family.”

“It’s hard but I’ve realized how strong I am. He hasn’t seen the kids in two years. He’s going into an addiction program pretty soon. He drinks a lot.” She pauses and adds, “I don’t drink.”

I finish unloading my cart. “It’s probably difficult to understand his addiction since you don’t drink. How old are your other children?”

“Six and ten. Both girls.” She adds, “We get along okay.”

The clerk begins to check my groceries. “I’ll pray that it goes well for you. It will be great to have your family back together again.”

“We started going to our neighborhood church. It’s different from what I’m used to, but I like it. The kids love it.”

“Sounds like you’re doing the right things. Getting involved in the church, including God. I bet you can get lots of support there.”

She leaves to get something else to add to her cart. I stare aimlessly at the food she’s loaded onto the conveyer belt. I hear God’s voice in my head, “Fifty.”

“Huh?” I question.

“Fifty Dollars,” He explains.

I ask the clerk, “Where are the Walmart gift cards?”

“They’re on the end of aisle five.”

“I’ll be back,” I inform the clerk. I wonder why the gift cards aren’t at every register while I wedge myself between shopping carts and customers to locate a gift card several aisles over. There’s only one Santa card and several baby shower cards left. Santa will do.

I return to my cart. “I’d like $50.00 on the gift card.” After the clerk validates the card, I put it in the tiny envelope. I pay for my items. But before I leave the checkout, I walk a few feet back towards the mom.

As I stand next to her I quietly say, “Here’s a gift card for $50.00. Blessings to you.”

She gives me the warmest hug. “That is so kind of you.”

“Merry Christmas,” I reply.

I float out of the store with a smile on my face and warmth in my heart. I think to myself, a mom parenting three children by herself, two overflowing grocery carts, and one blessing. The blessing is all mine. Thanks Lord, for prompting me with fifty.


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Intervention Strategy #3: Use Natural or Logical Consequences

What would happen naturally if an adult did NOT intervene and take responsibility, but hold child responsible for actions? “No piggy backing allowed,” says author Dr. Jane Nelson. “Adults piggyback when they lecture, scold, say, ‘I told you so,’ or do anything that adds more blame, shame, or pain than the child might experience naturally from the experience.”1

Though natural consequences teach a child responsibility, there are three situations when you don’t want to use natural consequences according to Dr. Nelson. “When a child is in danger. Adults cannot allow a child to experience the natural consequences of playing in the street, for example. When natural consequences interfere with the rights of others. When the results of children’s behavior do not seem like a problem to them and the natural consequences will adversely affect their health and well-being.”1

LCSW Amy Morin says, “Natural consequences should be used to teach children to make better choices in the future, not to make them suffer for the mistakes they already made. So, before you allow natural consequences to happen, make sure your child will be able to safely learn a life lesson.”2



  1. Nelsen, Dr. Jane. Natural Consequences.
  2. Morin, LCSW Amy. Using Natural Consequences as a Discipline Strategy.
  3. Image:

Intervention Strategy #2: Model Problem-Solving Skills

Adults can offer verbal and/or physical help to model problem solving. This helps students recognize and name feelings, identify problems, and come up with ideas for solving the problem, and try possible solutions.

Four Steps to Problem-Solving1

  1. “Acknowledge the problem. ‘Tim has the ball, and you want to use it.’
  2. Ask guiding questions. ‘Have you asked Tim to give you the ball?
  3. State a solution or physically demonstrate. ‘Tell Tim that you would like to use the ball when he’s finished.
  4. Summarize the problem-solving approach for student. “‘Next time, you want to use the ball, you can try to remember to ask to have a turn.’”

Whether the problem relates to playground balls or interacting with others, modelling problem-solving methods shows students different ways to overcome obstacles. “As children become more familiar and experienced with this process, they can be encouraged to generate suggestions or alternatives of their own.”1



  1. Guiding Children’s Behavior. BC Health Planning, 2003. 
  2. Image:

Intervention Strategy #1: Re-direct

My husband and I have seasons tickets to Fresno State football games. On game day, certain streets are only one way while others may be closed to thru traffic. Cars and people are re-directed to help the traffic flow better. Re-direct defined is the action of assigning or directing something to a new or different place or purpose.

Re-direction is the second of two strategies that is underused. Some educators mistakenly think that they have to “punish” all behavior. Re-direction is one way to guide without punishment.

With students, change the situation that is contributing to inappropriate behavior. Re-directing provides information and redirects student how to do the same activity in a more acceptable or safer way. Redirection can offer an alternative, suggest a safer way of deal with emotion in an acceptable way. Redirection is most effective when “consistent” with the student’s motives, interest or needs. It may quickly resolve problems or conflicts. Ask yourself: What is the student’s motive, interest or need? The biggest three behaviors that are easily redirected are throwing, running and digging.

Correct Re-direction

Situations Redirection
1.        Digging in flower

garden or around trees

2.        Throwing ball

dangerously near


3.        Throwing something

because of


1.      Offer an alternative. “You can dig in the school garden area,” or “You can dig in the sand box.”

2.      Suggest Safer Way. “You’re too close to the portable window. Throw your ball over here so it won’t break the window.”

3.      Deal with emotions in acceptable way. “I know you’re angry. You can throw the ball against the ball wall or do punching in the air.”


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Prevention Strategy #10: Be Alert to Total Situation

Use the most strategic positions for supervising students to ensure their health and safety. Observing the total setting involving students is essential to effective guidance. Proximity: stay close by when younger children are still learning to play together. Keep moving! Activities can change constantly.

Be Alert

Observe and engage students in activities. If you’re alert, you’re in a better position to anticipate potential difficulties. Can step in to prevent problems. If you see something you need to report to a teacher, write it down so you don’t forget. It could be an ongoing behavior challenge or an observed success that a student finally accomplished such as a new social skill. Carry a pad of Post-it Notes and pen or pencil for jotting down quick observations.

Incorrect Educator Response

Two educators are hanging out talking to each other about the latest movie they saw while ignoring students who are shoving each other and calling each other names.

Here’s How to Use Strategic Positions

Rotate and cover specific areas weekly or every other week. Why? First, it is equitable. The same person shouldn’t get the easier or nicer roles like an area that’s shaded when it’s hot or the area that no one likes. Second, rotation prevents boredom which often results in lax discipline and inconsistency. At one site I was told that they couldn’t rotate because they had less experienced educators. Ultimately, the goal is to get everyone trained and competent in supervising every area, so rotation is possible.


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Prevention Strategy #9: Ignore Minor Incidents

This is the first of two strategies that is way underused. Sometimes parents and educators think that they must intervene in every situation which is simply not true. “Adults who work with young children need to develop tolerance for a certain amount of noise, clutter and attention seeking behaviour. As long as children’s activities are not infringing on the rights of others, it is often best to ‘take a breath’, rather than to speak.”1 If you consistently ignore attention-seeking behaviors, they typically stop.

Can and Can’t Ignore

What types of behaviors can parents and school staff ignore? Attention seeking behaviors, such as: whining, interrupting, petty arguments, making disruptive sounds, pouting, and sulking. Behaviors that don’t infringe on others. What behaviors can’t parents and educators ignore: dangerous and destructive behaviors, bullying, hurting self, hurting others, or damaging property.

How to Ignore

  • Temporarily stop paying attention to your child or student.
  • “This means no eye contact, no talking, and no physical touch.
  • Look the other way, pretend you don’t hear him and act as though his behavior doesn’t annoy you.”2
  • When the behavior stops, pay attention to student.

Correct Response

Child: Makes silly sounds.

Adult: Temporarily stops paying attention to child. No eye contact, no talking, no physical touch.

Child: Stops making sounds

Adult: Pay attention to child. Look at child, use eye contact and say, “Hey, it’s good to see you today,” or some other friendly recognition.

Which of your children’s or student’s behaviors can you ignore?



  1. Guiding Children’s Behavior. Island Health. August 2014.
  2. Morin, LCSW Amy, Reduce Attention-Seeking Behaviors by Ignoring.
  3. Image: Ignore Point []

Prevention Strategy #8: Reinforce Appropriate Behavior, With Words and Gestures

Give positive attention for good behavior rather than negative attention for inappropriate behavior. Focus on specific behavior, rather than on the student. Tell students what they’re doing right. Acknowledge through words and/or gestures.

Focus on character traits, such as: responsibility, perseverance, civility, courage, respect, initiative, compassion, honesty, loyalty and others. “Positive reinforcement helps children build self-confidence and encourages students to repeat desired behaviors.”1

Incorrect and Correct Responses

  • Rather than saying, “You’re my best helper.”
  • Say, “When you sweep the floor, it makes our house cleaner. That shows responsibility.”
  • Rather than saying, “Good job.”
  • Say, “I like that you asked Samantha to join you in four-square. You’re showing compassion.”
  • Rather than saying, “Way to go.”
  • Say, “I appreciate your telling me the truth even though it was hard. You demonstrated honesty.

How do you reinforce appropriate behaviors with your children?



  1. Guiding Children’s Behavior, BC Health Planning, 2003.
  2. Image: behavior highway sign []

Signs Your Child Has a Bad Teacher

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Your kids started the school-year not that long ago. Yet your child is already complaining. Is the problem your child or the teacher?

Although children can create behavioral challenges, teachers can also instigate problems. Your child may complain that the teacher yells. A teacher who yells is out of control. The louder the students get, the more the teacher yells and grows angry.

Yelling and Fear

This can create fear in some children, not to mention being poor teaching practice. My daughter complained about this one year, but when I helped in her classroom, the teacher raised her voice slightly in a stern voice. My daughter perceived that as yelling. However, typically when children report yelling, the teacher is out of control.

Softer and Quieter

Good teachers know that the noisier students get, the quieter the teacher’s voice gets. A “look” works better than a raised voice. The teacher also gets closer to the disruptive students. For example, a group in the back is rowdy. The teacher walks near the group and softly says, “I need this group to stop talking and listen.” Most of the remainder of the class doesn’t even hear and class goes on.

Negative Treatment

If your child complains about how the teacher treats students, the teacher may be labeling or embarrassing children. Such actions as put-downs, belittling, sarcasm, labeling “stupid” or “slow,” or making fun of children are all completely unacceptable and demonstrate a lack of respect for children.

Teaching Styles

Teachers have different teaching styles that your child may need to adjust to; however, being treated disrespectfully is one of the most common ways the teacher is the problem. Maybe the teacher refuses to model the lesson more than once.

What’s the Real Story?

If you sense there is a problem, don’t go to the principal or the school board. Speak directly to the teacher. If it is still unresolved, you can then ask to speak to the teacher’s supervisor. Remember, you always want to get both sides of the story. By listening to both your child and the teacher, you can obtain accurate information. Then you’re prepared to make the best decisions for your child.

How have you handled the situation when your child complains about a teacher?


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Back to School: Study Tips

[] Kay Pat homework-1481153

Children are already back to school. Here’s some tips for parents to help their kids begin homework.

Habits Begin Early

Children typically start getting homework in kindergarten. Many teachers send home a packet for parents to complete with their children during the week and return on Friday. The homework time is about 10 minutes per day for four days.

Some Families Ignore Homework

Unfortunately, many kindergarten teachers I know report that a large number of families don’t do the homework with their kindergarteners. If parents don’t begin establishing an important homework routine during kindergarten, their children will most likely struggle academically as school doesn’t seem to be a priority for these families.

Transition Time After School

Children need time to play and eat a snack when they get home from school or at their after-school programs. Just as parents need time to transition from work to home, children need this transition time as well. They’ve been in school all day and they need a break from academics. After an hour or so, they can do their homework.

Monitoring Homework

For first through third grades, parents will need to monitor their children’s homework time. Restrain from doing the homework for your children. Have a designated area for homework. Many families use the kitchen table or counter. Keep school supplies nearby for convenience. This also helps children stay on task as they’re not roaming around trying to find supplies. Its best to turn off the television and electronics so children can focus better. Active children need to do 15 minutes of homework and take a break. Then they can do another round of 15 minutes.

Transition Year

By fourth grade, hopefully the after school or evening homework routine is strong enough that children can start being accountable for initiating their own homework time. Fourth grade is a critical transition year for children. They go from cooperative learning in kindergarten through third grade; whereas, in fourth grade, the students do more individual work. Parents must make sure their children are making this transition successfully and continue to ensure that the child is doing his/her homework.

What works best for homework in your home?


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