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15 Fun and Free Online Coding Classes for Kids

coding classes for kids
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By Analiese Dodd

These 15 free coding classes for kids are available now to help your kids learn skills that are becoming more and more essential in our current times. Knowing even just basic computer programming is more important than ever with lots of businesses moving to online platforms. Your kids can start from a young age to develop these skills, and these options will allow them to do it in a fun and interesting way.

If you’re looking for other online coding classes, check out Scoop: Code With Penguin Coding School This School Year

Blocky Games

Blocky Games has several inviting activities that kids can use to learn about basic coding functions. Each game focuses on one element of coding, and shows kids exactly how changes to the basic code can make a huge difference in the results. It shows kids the basics of coding, and gives them introductions to important concepts they can use later in more advanced coding programs.

Code.org

Code.org provides an assortment of enrichment activities your kids can enjoy while also developing their coding skills. Their “hour of code” programs allow kids to spend time focusing on projects that relate directly to their interests. Whether they want to explore the world of Star Wars, Disney, or Minecraft, they’ll find an exercise that relates to it here.

Code Combat

Code Combat is an interactive experience in which kids can venture through a magical world with coding as their weapon of choice. This adventure game combines coding with magic warriors to keep kids invested from the first level. As they journey on, the coding gets more and more complex increasing their personal skill level as well as their character’s. If your kids already love video games, this one will allow them to have all the excitement of playing while also teaching them along the way.

Codemoji

Codemoji has created a unique coding experience with their playground in which basic coding commands are shown as fun emojis. Instead of remembering headings as <h1>, kids can remember that the ice cream cone creates their headings. Codemoji also offers more traditional coding options you can introduce after the emojis have lost their intrigue. The entire website will keep kids entertained no matter their coding level.

Code Monkey

Code Monkey is a fun animated website where kids can learn basic coding skills and techniques. It provides coding games for every age range and skill level to keep kids busy throughout their childhood. The animation and fun levels will keep kids glued to the screen, and learning code without ever realizing it. There are free versions of each game, but also paid longer versions if your kids get invested.

Crunchzilla Code Monster

The Code Monster provides an excellent source for those just starting out in coding. Crunchzilla provides two boxes; on the left they can see the code, and on the right they’ll see what their code is actually doing to the image. The fun monster takes kids step by step through basic codes to see how it all works. This website is a great way for kids to see exactly how their actions change their programs and will give them basic knowledge they can use in more advanced coding later.

freeCodeCamp

This website provides over 6,000 tutorials for kids to use to develop essential coding skills. These courses cover a variety of topics with great videos and instructions. Whatever your kid’s goal is related to computer programming, they’ll be able to find workshops here to develop the skills necessary to achieve those end goals.

Glitch

Glitch is perfect for any kid who is looking for traditional coding practice. It walks kids through how to build websites and apps from start to finish. Glitch provides basic instructions, but leaves everything else up to your kids. Once kids have even a small grasp of coding, this is the perfect place to uses those skills in a creative and unique way.

Khan Academy

Khan Academy is known for its great math courses, but now they’ve entered into the world of computer programming too. They offer a variety of different classes within the realm of coding, so kids can learn a myriad of skills. Khan Academy is similar to a traditional classroom with videos followed by fun assignments. If your child learns best in this setting, these classes are perfect for them.

LightBot

LightBot is an entertaining game in which your child must light up certain tiles to advance. The entire adventure requires kids to think through programming logic in order to solve each problem. It teaches kids the basics of sequencing and procedures through a game they can get invested in. They can investigate the puzzles level by level, developing more advanced skills each time they level up.

mBlock

mBlock provides access to coding editors for python and block-based coding. Kids can also get involved with other coding projects working on things like facial recognition and a music lighting show. If your kids want to experience all different types of programming, they’ll be able to find lots of different options for some more advanced coding practice.

Scratch

Students at MIT created Scratch to encourage the next generation of kids to get involved in coding for free. The website allows kids to create their own programs that can do anything they set their minds to. Their tutorials will take kids through every step in creating their own interactive programs. With hundreds of possibilities, your kids will be able to share their creativity through coding in a way they never have before. They also have Scratch Jr. aimed at an even younger group of future coders.

Stencyl

Stencyl provides kids with an opportunity to create their own game using some basic coding skills. The app doesn’t go into full detail about all the coding that goes into creating the games, but it gives kids an introduction into the larger world of game design. If your kids are obsessed with video games and apps, this will allow them to develop their own adventure while learning along the way.

Swift Playgrounds

Swift Playgrounds is a fun and interactive app where kids can create their own world through coding. Similar to a puzzle, kids will solve problems through coding, developing their skills in a quick and fun way. It requires no prior coding knowledge and is an entertaining gateway to more advanced coding later. Do keep in mind that it does require either a Mac computer or iPad in order to run.

Tynker

Tynker has tons of different coding games you kids can create for free. No matter their interests, your kids will find a program where they’ll be creating something for themselves. There is also an option to create your own project that can be shared with others in the community. You can play up to 20 coding games for free, and pay for more if your kids still have interest.

This story first appeared on NewYorkFamily.com.

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7 Tips for Researching Summer Camps Amid the Pandemic

summer camps
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By Jess Michaels

Researching summer camps is an important step to finding the right camp for your child. And this summer, after a year of remote learning and limited socializing and activities, your child is going to need a summer at camp more than ever before. 

Even in the midst of a pandemic, there are ways to go about narrowing down your choices and choosing the best camp for your child and family. Here are some ways to get your camp search started.

VIDEO CALLS WITH THE DIRECTOR

One of the best ways to learn about a camp is by speaking with the camp director. While many overnight camp directors have done home visits in the past so you can get to know the director (and for them to get to know you and your child), they have moved these meetings to Zoom! Facetime, Google Meets and Zoom have made it even easier to get to know a camp director and to inquire about the camp’s philosophy, mission, activities and more.

COURTYARD AND BACKYARD HOME VISITS

If you rather do a home visit, camp directors are happy to do outside home visits when the weather warms up. Backyard and courtyard visits worked very well this fall and they will start up again as the weather improves.

DAY CAMP TOURS

Since day camps are local, they offer camp tours all year long, even in the winter. If there is a day camp you are interested in, give the director a call to schedule a tour. Touring allows you to see the camp and facilities, even if it will all look different in the summer! Tours also allow you to ask questions while in the camp environment which often sparks additional questions.

SPRING OPEN HOUSES AND TOURS

When the weather warms up, many day and overnight camps will host some kind of socially distanced open house dates and camp tours where you can see the camp before deciding on a camp.

VIRTUAL CAMP FAIRS

Camp fairs typically allow families to meet with dozens of camps all in one day! Since in-person events are challenging during COVID-19, camp fairs have been re-imagined this year. New York Family will be offering a virtual camp fair that will be using an online platform with an algorithm that will create one-on-one video calls between camp directors and qualified families, based on the criteria both camps and families submit. There will be four virtual camp fairs, taking place on April 11.

CAMP WEBSITES AND SOCIAL MEDIA
Already have a few camps in mind to check out? Camp websites and social media pages are filled with information from activities offered to videos. Looking at a camp’s website is a good starting point for your search but it’s always important to speak with the camp director before registering to ensure the camp is the right fit for your child.

CALL THE AMERICAN CAMP ASSOCIATION, NY & NJ

Did you know that the American Camp Association, NY and NJ offers parents free, one-on-one advice for parents looking for a day or overnight camp? Families can call Renee Flax at 212-391-5208 to speak with Renee about their child and what they are looking for in a camp.

This story first appeared on NewYorkFamily.com.

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5 Steps to Spring Clean Your Pantry and Get Organized

spring clean
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By Laura Kinsella

How to Spring Clean Your Pantry

It’s hard to believe we’ve been pandemic living for an entire year now! There’s no doubt our kitchens have been working around the clock for our families, and it’s time to give them the TLC they deserve.

Psst…For more cleaning tips, check out Back-to-School Organization Secrets!

Whether you’re swimming in pandemic related backstock items, or just need to hit the ole reset button to clear the clutter, I’m breaking down how to clear out and spring clean your pantry in 5 easy steps:

So let’s break it down, shall we?

What you’ll need before you begin:

• A vacuum/hand vac

• Hot soapy water or preferred cleaning solution

• Cleaning Cloths or sponge

• Sharpie & Post-its

• Measuring Tape

• Label Maker or Paint Pen

clean and organized pantry
Francesca Russell Photography

1. Clear Everything Out. Yes, Everything.

With spring in full swing, now’s the time to dive in, and give your kitchen the deep spring clean it needs. Whether your pantry is a single cabinet or a full sized closet, here’s how to begin:

• Pull items out one by one and place them on your counters, kitchen table, or if you’re really low on space, the floor!

Don’t worry about what you’re pulling out or where it needs to go (what is that sticky stuff on that can of beans anyway?), just focus on emptying every nook and cranny of your dedicated pantry. We don’t want to get too caught up in our feelings towards an item, so it may be best to set a 15-20 minute timer or enlist your kids to get the emptying done!

2. Wipe it Down

• Grab your vacuum or hand vac to do some of the initial work for you. Crumbs, dust, and all kinds of debris can sit loosely on the shelves, so give it a once over first.

• Depending on the type of cabinets you have, will depend on the best method to clean them. Hot, soapy water with a sponge or cleaning cloth is always a good option, but you can also utilize an all-purpose cleaner, white vinegar, or even baking soda (especially for those sticky spots!) Give your cabinets a thorough clean, and be sure to wipe them completely dry once you’re done.

Pro Tip: we all know how precious Clorox wipes have been, and if you’ve managed to grab a few, be sure to save those for your counters, doorknobs or high traffic zones. Although they work on all hard, non-porous surfaces, they can discolor or eat away at certain finishes or sealants. This is why it’s always best to stick with good old fashioned hot, soapy water!

3. Edit & Take Inventory

It’s true that we don’t really know how much or what we have until it’s all staring us in the face. This is where you’ll need to roll up your sleeves a bit to assess what you have.

• Toss anything expired, stale, or near empty (also known in my house as the Triscuit box with exactly 1 1/2 crackers left – thanks family!)

• Separate unused, non-expired, questionable items (if you have to think about whether you would consume it, or how you would begin to cook with it, it’s a go.) We want to make sure we are setting aside anything worthy of being donated. If there ever was a time to phone a neighbor to see if they may need something you would never use, now is it!

• Take inventory of your remaining items and start to group them into broad categories of what they are and how you use them. This can be as simple as breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks, or you can further categorize how you see fit: canned goods, pasta, grains, baking, kids snacks, etc. The last thing we want to do is overly categorize and complicate our systems, so aim for 10 categories or less. If you’re swimming in Costco sized quantities (15 boxes of mac & cheese), or pandemic related items (extra water or canned food), place those items in a separate category labeled “bulk” or “backstock” so that multiples aren’t cluttering those everyday zones.

Pro Tip: Place items that overlap categories in one single category that makes the most sense to you. For example, if you consider applesauce a snack and a baking staple, but more often utilize when you bake, place ALL of your applesauce in the baking category. We don’t want it in both because we will inevitably forget it’s stored in multiple spots, and we’ll mistakenly keep replacing it.

4. Put it All Back

Once you’ve determined what’s remaining, give everything a good wipe down, and assign “homes,” or a designated spot for each category to live. Frequently used items should go in those prime real estate areas so they are within easy reach for you. Try space planning by writing down the category names on Post-its, and placing them on your shelves or drawers to test the flow before anything gets put away.

Don’t forget about items your kids need to access themselves (think healthier grab ’n go items lower down), as well as items you don’t wish for them to have easy access to (like that secret stash candy jar above the fridge because moms should be allowed to snack in peace too!)

5. Contain & Label

This is everyone’s favorite part (your hard work is about to pay off big time!), but it’s important to resist the urge to excitedly purchase organizational products before measuring.

While categories help you determine how much containment you need, taking careful measurements is the only way to ensure what will actually fit (and maximize) your space. You may have a few organizational items on hand already, or you may wish to completely streamline and start anew. No matter how you choose to contain, don’t skip this essential step!

Deep shelves? Try deep bins! Tricky corner? Try a lazy Susan! Sprawling drawers? Try a few drawer dividers! Have fun with it, and choose containment that elevates your style and that will work seamlessly for you and your family. I love utilizing products that are wipeable (glass, plastic, etc.), or have a machine washable lining (inside certain woven baskets) for ease of spring cleaning and overall upkeep.

Once everything is contained, it’s time to label! I recommend utilizing a label maker, or simply hand writing labels with a paint pen. Customize the categories with language you and your family use (ie: if you refer to pasta as “noodles,” label it noodles!) Labels are essential, as they make everyone in your family accountable, from putting groceries away in their proper place, to taking inventory before a grocery shop, or simply for setting limits on what gets overly stocked.

Pro Tip: When organizing, consider decanting frequently used items (that you buy week after week) into air tight containers like your favorite snack or cereal. Packaging can be cumbersome and bulky, and while there is an initial time investment with this method, your pantry items will keep fresh longer, and you’ll have a clear visual when something is running low (no more near-empty boxes of Triscuits or cereal!)

Remember, there is no right or wrong here when it comes to the hub of your home, as long as the solution is practical and manageable for you and your family!

Laura Kinsella from Urban Organyze
Francesca Russell Photography

Laura Kinsella is the founder of Urban Organyze, a New York based home organizing company that transforms your mess into meaning and clutter into calm. Since 2015, Laura has empowered hundreds of women to gain more clarity and control, by creating homes that are efficient, elegant, and easily adapt with the demands of a growing family. As a born and bred New Yorker and mom to a growing preschooler, Laura’s mission is to support fellow moms towards their vision of a healthier, lighter, and more organized life. Laura has been featured in New York Post, New York Family, Apartment Therapy and more. For inspo, please visit urbanorganyze.com, or follow @urbanorganyze.

This story first appeared on NewYorkFamily.com.

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Tips For Supporting Your Kid’s Emotional Well-Being During the Pandemic

emotional well-being
Parents need to talk to their kids about their feelings. (Getty Images)

By Cara Zelas

With children’s education being disrupted during the pandemic and with ongoing school closures, hybrid and remote learning, Zoom fatigue, and finding the right access to technology, a lot of pressure has been put on the shoulders of parents and caregivers. 

It is difficult, at times, to maintain positive emotions within ourselves, let alone for our children. However, as we move into 2021 and remote school continues for some children, it is important to help them build positive routines, nurture emotional self-regulation, and build resilience. 

“People develop new understandings of themselves, the world they live in, how to relate to other people, the kind of future they might have, and a better understanding of how to live life,” says Richard Tedeschi, who developed the theory of post traumatic growth with fellow psychologist Lawrence Calhoun.

Here are some strategies and tips on supporting you and your children’s emotional well-being that may help your family get through this new year with firm footing. 

KEEP TALKING

Clear and honest communication is important to maintain with your children. Listen, show understanding, and acknowledge that this is an uncertain and difficult time. Successful communication can deepen relationships as it brings awareness to each other’s needs. 

NAME FEELINGS

Noticing and naming our emotions can help diffuse a situation and assist children in processing their feelings. Naming our emotions helps us to step back and think about the choices we have in that moment. 

MODEL POSITIVITY

Try and think of one positive thing that you can focus on. And in a moment of despair or sadness, bring your attention back to that one positive thing. When your children see you being positive, they copy or model what they see. 

SUSTAIN ROUTINES

Be consistent with when you eat, work, play, and go to sleep. Pepper your day with rituals: Create a family dream board that you all add to; at bedtime, talk about one positive experience of the day; do a short breathing exercise together; make up a special hug that you give each other; or think up a little mantra or saying that you repeat, such as “I love you to the moon and back.” 

MAINTAIN INTERACTIONS

Stay connected with others in a small group, where you can comfortably social distance and wear a mask but be together. Have your child be old-school and write a letter or card to a loved one via snail mail. Make a video or record voice messages to send to family and friends. 

This story first appeared in New York Family.

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10 Fun St. Patrick’s Day Activities to Enjoy With Your Kids

st. patrick's day activities
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By 

Activities to Enjoy With Your Kids this St Patrick’s Day

This St Patrick’s Day, get your kids involved in all the festivities with these enthralling activities. You can engage with them on Irish culture and bring joy into your home for this very special day. You can eat food, watch programs, and create crafts that will help kids recognize the influence of the Irish in their own lives. There’s so much fun to be had this time of year, and we’ve compiled an excellent list of how you can optimize your family’s experience. No matter how you like to celebrate the day, you’ll find suggestions here to make this holiday more fun and inviting than ever.

If you’re looking for more things to do this upcoming season, check out our spring bucket list!

Picture of mint matcha brownies from Simple Mills

Courtesy of Simple Mills

Bake Some Irish and Green Classics

Baking is an easy and fun way to get kids involved with some St Patrick’s Day traditions. You can make classic Irish soda bread or there are lots of green food recipes you can make to bring in the classic color associated with St Patrick’s Day. Simple Mills provides tons of different recipes for Irish classics and green food you can make with your kids for the holiday. Check out their delicious recipes for Irish soda bread or mint matcha brownies that you can make yourself to celebrate this year.

Lucky you cupcakes from Baked by Melissa

Courtesy of Baked by Melissa

Pick Up Some St Patrick’s Day Cupcakes

Bring something fun and green into your home for the whole family to enjoy! If you’re not much of a home chef, pick up some sweets to enjoy while you celebrate this Irish holiday. Baked by Melissa is offering a selection of mini St Patrick’s Day themed cupcakes that are sure to make kids excited for the day. They’re a fun and easy way to celebrate all together, and can be used in tandem with some of our other suggested activities to make for an excellent holiday celebration. They are available for pick up or delivery from several locations in Manhattan. Order yours here.

Watch the Parade

The New York City St Patrick’s Day Parade is a staple each and every year. Due to Covid, things are running a little different than in past years, but there is still lots to get involved with. There will be a virtual mass from St Patrick’s Cathedral and a virtual parade composed of videos from groups in parades from past years. The event will still be a celebration of Irish heritage and will be a spectacle for you to watch from the safety of your own home. Here is more information on the parade’s events and times.

Watch the Rhythm of Dance Performance

Show your kids some traditional Irish dancing from your own living room. The National Dance Company of Ireland is releasing their filmed live performance for everyone to enjoy. With their combination of traditional dance and music with modern technology, your kids will be enthralled by these incredibly talented performers. The show will be available from March 15th to March 21st, so you can watch it as many times as you want within the time frame. The performance is “pay what you can” meaning you can enjoy the incredible dancers no matter what your budget is. You can check out tickets and see more information here.

For the full list of St. Patrick’s Day activities, visit NewYorkFamily.com.

This story first appeared on NewYorkFamily.com.

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Children’s Books to Read in Celebration of Women’s History Month

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By 

25 Children’s Books to Add to Your Bookshelf for Women’s History Month

This Women’s History Month, invest in children’s books to inspire your own young girls to change the world. Some of these books will help your kids discover stories about real-life heroes they’ve probably never heard of. Others will help girls find their own inner strength and make them proud to be a woman. These books will give your kids an easy introduction into what it means to be a woman and how they can influence the growth of women in the future.

If you’re interested in finding other books to inspire your children, check out 10 Children’s Books to Read for Black History Month.

Books About Historical Figures

Cover of A is for Awesome: 23 Iconic Women Who Changed the World

A Is for Awesome!: 23 Iconic Women Who Changed the World by Eva Chen, Illustrated by Derek Desierto

Age: 1-3 years

Covering important women from A to Z, this book allows young readers to discover historical figures that don’t always get covered in their classes. The fun illustrations and feminist icons in this book will intrigue your young children. It provides introductions to some of the most important women in history. It allows children to connect these figures of the past to the rights and inventions they enjoy today.

Cover of Amelia and Eleanor Go for a Ride

Amelia and Eleanor Go for a Ride by Pam Muñoz Ryan, Illustrated by Brian Selznick

Age: 7 to 10 years

This book is based on a true story from the friendship of Amelia Earhart and Eleanor Roosevelt. It follows the women as they sneak away from a White House dinner in order to take flight. Reading about the incredible relationship between these two strong women, young girls can learn the importance of friendship. They can see these two trailblazers defying what’s been done before in order to find a better way to do it in the future.

Brave Girl: Clara and the Shirtwaist Makers’ Strike of 1909 by Michelle Markel, Illustrated by Melissa Sweet

Age: 5-8 years

Based on the true story of Clara Lemlich, this book will teach kids about the importance of speaking out against inequality. A young Ukrainian immigrant, Clara refuses to accept that women must work grueling hours in factories instead of receiving a decent education. She decides to lead the largest strike of women’s workers in American history, and change the working lives of women forever. Her amazing bravery and refusal to accept the injustice in a country where she didn’t even speak the language reflects the power young women hold. Hearing her underrepresented story makes this book an excellent addition for Women’s History Month.

Elizabeth Started All the Trouble by Doreen Rappaport, Illustrated by Matt Faulkner

Age: 4-8 years

This children’s book looks at one of the most important figures in women’s history: Elizabeth Cady Stanton. Your children will be inspired by her spirit and determination in advancing the rights of women. This book will give them a better understanding of one of the most important movements in women’s history. Stanton helped give women one of their most innate rights. Her fight is an important one for every child to know, and this book puts it in a way even the youngest can understand.

Fantastically Great Women Who Made History by Kate Pankhurst

Age: 7+ years

A follow up to Fantastically Great Women Who Changed the World, this book looks at women around the world who helped change the course of human history. It’s informative about some lesser-known historical figures while still being accessible to younger children. There are now quite a few books within this series all of which will teach young girls about the women who paved the way for their brighter future.

Cover of Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls

Good Night Stories For Rebel Girls by Elena Favilli and Francesca Cavallo

Age: 5 to 10 years

Filled with stories about 100 incredible women throughout time, this book is perfect for you to read every night with your children. The book is illustrated by 60 female artists from around the world providing a new and interesting take on every page. This is the perfect book for any child’s bedside table. It will provide them with endless inspiration for everything they can achieve in their dreams and in real life.

Cover of Here Come the Girl Scouts!

Here Come the Girl Scouts!: The Amazing All-True Story of Juliette Daisy Gordon Low and Her Great Adventure by Shana Corey, Illustrated by Hadley Hooper

Age: 4-8 years

So many young girls participate in the girl scouts, but not many realize the work that went into creating the organization. This book gives girls a chance to learn the history of an organization they still have the opportunity to take part in. Juliette Gordon Low believed that girls could do anything, and she created an organization where they could believe it too. More than one hundred years later, Low’s legacy still lives on. Other books celebrating women’s history can be hard for young children to connect to their lives as they seem so far in the past. The modern-day connection to the Girl Scouts makes this an excellent choice to begin your child’s interest in the women who have an impact on their own lives even all these years later.

For the full list of books, visit NewYorkFamily.com.

This story first appeared on NewYorkFamily.com.

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Tips For Researching Summer Camps Amid Pandemic

summer camps
Getty Images

By Jess Michaels

Researching summer camps is an important step to finding the right camp for your child. And this summer, after a year of remote learning and limited socializing and activities, your child is going to need a summer at camp more than ever before. Even in the midst of a pandemic, there are ways to go about narrowing down your choices and choosing the best camp for your child and family. Here are some ways to get your camp search started.

Psst…Check out Questions to Ask Camp Directors Amid a Pandemic

Video Calls With the Director – One of the best ways to learn about a camp is by speaking with the camp director. While many overnight camp directors have done home visits in the past so you can get to know the director (and for them to get to know you and your child), they have moved these meetings to Zoom! Facetime, Google Meets and Zoom have made it even easier to get to know a camp director and to inquire about the camp’s philosophy, mission, activities and more.

Courtyard & Backyard Home Visits – If you rather do a home visit, camp directors are happy to do outside home visits when the weather warms up. Backyard and courtyard visits worked very well this fall and they will start up again as the weather improves.

Day Camp Tours – Since day camps are local, they offer camp tours all year long, even in the winter. If there is a day camp you are interested in, give the director a call to schedule a tour. Touring allows you to see the camp and facilities, even if it will all look different in the summer! Tours also allow you to ask questions while in the camp environment which often sparks additional questions.

Spring Open Houses and Tours – When the weather warms up, many day and overnight camps will host some kind of socially distanced open house dates and camp tours where you can see the camp before deciding on a camp.

Virtual Camp Fairs – Camp fairs typically allow families to meet with dozens of camps all in one day! Since in-person events are challenging during COVID-19, camp fairs have been re-imagined this year. New York Family will be offering virtual camp fairs that will be using an online platform with an algorithm that will create one-on-one video calls between camp directors and qualified families, based on the criteria both camps and families submit. There will be four virtual camp fairs, taking place on: Sunday, March 14th • Sunday, April 11th.

Camp Websites & Social Media – Already have a few camps in mind to check out? Camp websites and social media pages are filled with information from activities offered to videos. Looking at a camp’s website is a good starting point for your search but it’s always important to speak with the camp director before registering to ensure the camp is the right fit for your child.

Call the American Camp Association, NY & NJ – Did you know that the American Camp Association, NY and NJ offers parents free, one-on-one advice for parents looking for a day or overnight camp? Families can call Renee Flax at 212-391-5208 to speak with Renee about their child and what they are looking for in a camp.

This story first appeared on NewYorkFamily.com.

Sign up for Long Island Press’ email newsletters hereSign up for home delivery of Long Island Press here. Sign up for discounts by becoming a Long Island Press community partner here.

8 Best Websites For Kids To Send Valentine’s Day E-Cards

valentine's day e-card
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By Brooke Thompson

Valentine’s Day is around the corner, which means it’s time for chocolates, red hearts, and exchanging valentines. With Valentine’s Day looking a little differently this year, the fun children’s tradition of exchanging valentines at school might have to be done virtually.

If you are looking for some ideas on how your child can give Valentine’s Day cards to their friends in class, why not send them an e-card? E-cards are virtual cards that can be sent by email. They typically feature animations, songs, and sometimes even interactive elements, like games and quizzes. You also can include a personalized message and, sometimes, even a gift.

Here are eight websites that specialize in sending Valentine’s Day e-cards.

Best Websites to Send Valentine’s Day E-cards

Hallmark

Hallmark always has amazing cards to give to your favorite people, and their e-card selection does not disappoint. Their Valentine’s Day e-cards come in a variety of genres and brands that your child is bound to find one they’d love.

In typical e-card fashion, these cards are animated. Children will enjoy characters moving across the screen, the wacky sound effects, and personalizing their own messages to their friends and classmates.

Here are a couple of the cards on the website:

Heart in a Basket
“A Heartfelt Adventure” e-card

“A Heartfelt Adventure” e-card is a cute, short animation that features a valentine heart, spreading kindness throughout their journey.

“Sending a Little Magic” e-card

“Sending a Little Magic” e-card showcases Mickey Mouse’s magic skills as he sends hearts and messages to the viewer.

American Greetings

American Greetings is another website where your child can send Valentine’s Day e-cards to their friends and classmates. What is unique about American Greetings’ cards is that some of their e-cards are interactive. Children will enjoy popping balloons, clearing away confetti, or chasing butterflies before getting to read a special message.

American Greetings has over 100 valentine e-cards to choose from, so your child is sure to find the perfect one to send. While some of their e-cards are interactive, there are others that feature animations, songs, and even quizzes.

Happy Valentine's Day
“Special You” E-card from American Greetings

“Special You” features a small heart singing a sweet message to the recipient.

Three Balloons
Valentine Balloons Interactive

The “Valentine Balloons” is an interactive e-card where the viewer can pop the balloons to reveal messages.

For the full list of websites, visit NewYorkFamily.com.

 

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A Child Psychologist’s Advice For Letting Kids Recharge By Putting the Phone Away

putting the phone away
Getty Images

By Emily Klass

Tips from Child Psychologist, Emily Klass, on Putting the Phone Away at Night

Psst…For more helpful ways on managing screentime, check out Helpful Tools and Tips on How We Can Best Manage Kids’ Screen Time

Struggling to have your child to put down their phone and go to sleep at night? It was hard before the Covid-19 pandemic; now it just seems impossible. As a child psychologist, I hear story after story of children of all ages having extreme reactions to putting their phone away at night.

This extreme reaction interferes with the quality of sleep, sleep that is vital to healthy growth and development. Historically, we as parents have been deeply involved in the sleep of our infants and gradually move away from this close monitoring as they grow up, trusting that a reasonable bedtime and a bit of a routine will serve to allow the child to recharge their bodies and minds. This transition to sleep has been deeply disturbed by the presence of cell phones in the room, the bed, on the pillow of our kids. It is there during tiny mid-night awakenings and the light emanating is suppressing the hormone melatonin that provides for sleep.

The importance of sleep in child development is fact. Sleep deprivation damages children’s brains –normal plasticity – the adaptation of neural structures to the stimuli the brain receives is disrupted. The brain centers responsible for processing visual signals and sensory information are affected. Children are more apt to develop mood and anxiety problems. Those children who are more vulnerable, say with a diagnosis of ADHD, are even more highly affected. Worsened academic performance, obesity, poorer concentration is all evidenced.

In 2019, teens spent 7 hours and 22 minutes on the phone each day with tweens not far behind. Preschool-age children use smartphones and tablets longer than recommended and parents often don’t realize it. And those are preschoolers! When the phone is in the bedroom, children may not be able to separate from their phones and their usage is much longer than any of us know! How many parents have woken up in the middle of the night, expecting their children to be fast asleep, only to find out that their teen was on their phone most of the night? And children (and adults) steadfastly state the importance of what might happen if they are not!

Researchers, scientists, psychologists and parents know the hazards of too much smartphone use for our children. Sleep is critical to healthy child development. Sleep deprivation can alter the brain’s ability to adapt to change. Children who don’t get enough sleep are more likely to develop mood and anxiety problems. This is especially true of children with ADHD. A lack of sleep can also lead to problems with concentration, declining academic performance and obesity. The Mayo Clinic cautions that we must manage our children’s interface with smartphones.

Pre-pandemic, our children were deeply embedded in the electronic world. Since the pandemic, they have been forced to now even live their academic lives on their phones. And the phone has become an extension of their bodies. At the end of the arm and hand is the phone; ergonomically developed to fit perfectly and designed to maintain undivided attention with algorithmic coding.

Our children do best when their days follow reasonably predictable patterns and rhythms. Going off to school, changes and transitions during the school day, the return home, afternoon and evening activities and routines and bedtime. These normal markers of time help our children develop habits and routines that significantly help the development of healthy sleeping eating, mood regulation as well as the executive function skills – anticipation, planning, self-control, communication and self-confidence that are all reinforced with these structural scaffolds.

Covid has thrown all these time markers (across the whole 24 hours) in the air like a deck of cards. Not going into school at all, or going erratically, opening a laptop in bed — when the normal markers of time become ambiguous, our children have less opportunity to develop these routines and habits and skills. Establishing routines, habits — a healthy relationship with screens supports our children’s lives. The transition to sleep serves as a linchpin of this healthy relationship. Just emerging scientific research is compellingly telling us that our children are experiencing increasingly disrupted sleep schedules, sleep quality, extremely decreased opportunities for physical activity and way more sedentary behavior.

At night when we tell our kids to give us their phone, we might as well be telling them to cut off their hand – it is their friend, all they have learned during the day, pictures of their pets and their self-reflections, their fun, their social standing, their favorite book and song — their world.

We can address the transition and quality of sleep in these proven ways:

1. The phone cannot be in the hand all day. The tie becomes too great, and separating too intense.

2. Keep a bedtime ritual – from super simple to elaborate. Use a ritual that works for your child and your family. Perhaps it is a quick teeth brush and then jump into bed or perhaps all animals real to stuffed and parents must be kissed, lights checked, etc. When there is a bit of a ritual, separating from the phone can be incorporated into it.

3. Mirror your expectation of them in your own behavior: children are quick to indict parents for being glued to screens.

4. Put the phone to bed. Let it recharge while we all recharge.

In my office I have long had a little doll’s bed – children, teens, and even adults “tuck” their phones in, freeing themselves to concentrate on our sessions.

With my industrial design partner, I have invented a product called KozyFone for us all, to tuck in and recharge our phones while we and our children are recharging. It offers a new part of our bedtime rituals – marked by this tucking-in – to promote better sleep hygiene to children in a positive way. It is part of the sleep ritual (and recharges the phone) and I wrote a manual for helping our children to go off to sleep incorporating the evidence-based information we now have.

To support our mission of improving children’s sleep health and relationship with technology, you can learn more about our product here: KozyFone-Kickstarter-Panels.pdf

For more info please visit landaudesign.co and psychhealthpartners.com

Dr. Emily Klass, Child Pyschologist: eklass@psychhealthpartners.com

Evan Landau, Industrial Designer: landaudesign.sc@gmail.com

This story first appeared on NewYorkFamily.com.

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How To Celebrate New Year’s Eve At Home For 2021

New Year's Eve at home
Getty Images

2021 is almost here and we are looking forward to welcoming the new year! While you may not be throwing a big bash or attending any parties, you can still ring in 2021 with your family. Try out these ideas on how to create a spectacular New Year’s Eve at home.

Ideas on How to Create an Amazing New Year’s Eve Party

In terms of parties, there are three main things you need: decorations, food, and entertainment. If you are unsure where to start, the following list should give you some ideas on how to throw an amazing New Year’s Eve party that will dazzle your family.

Decorations You Will Need

You can’t have a party without some decorations! Even if the celebration is just with your family, liven up your living room or dining room with these must-have New Year’s Eve essentials.

New Year’s Banners

Add some festivity to your house with the 4ct Sparkling New Year’s Banners from Party City for $7.99. The foil fringe banner will make an excellent table decoration while the three other banners will add some pizazz to your party room. If you plan on making a photo booth, the banners could also be used as part of a backdrop.

Gold and Black Streamers

Gold Crepe Paper
Crepe Streamer by Celebrate It™

Grab some gold and black streamers from Michael’s for only $3.99. These will brighten up the room and make it feel a little festive for New Year’s Eve. Take some scissors and curl the edges to add some flair to your streamers. Also, any leftover streamers can be used to create a nice backdrop for a photo booth.

Noisemakers

Noise Makers
Metallic Fringe Squawkers 8ct for $2.49

What better way to ring in 2021 than with noisemakers. Whether you choose Party City’s Metallic Fringe Squawkers or their Black and Gold New Year’s Eve Noisemakers, both make great accessories for a New Year’s selfie or as a photo booth prop.

New Year's Eve Noisemaker
Black & Gold New Year’s Eve Noisemaker for $0.99

Black and Gold Plates & Cutlery

Black New Year Plate
Disco New Year’s Eve Lunch Plates 8ct

Add some pizazz to your table with these Disco New Year’s Eve plates from Party City for $3.49. These plates come in a pack of eight and will match the decorations you hung up earlier while tying the room together. Be sure to throw in some matching napkins and silverware for the occasion.

Champagne Flutes

Four Champagne Glasses
4ct Gold Champagne Flute – Spritz™

You can’t properly celebrate the New Year without making a New Year’s toast. Grab a pack of the Gold Champagne Flutes from Target for only $4. Their glittery design is perfect for your favorite beverage and celebrating a year of new beginnings.

If you already have some flutes but want to give them a festive look, get some Mod Podge Dishwasher Safe Gloss, gold or silver glitter, and a paintbrush. Take your paintbrush and coat the outside of the flutes with the mod podge. (Make sure the coat is even to ensure the glitter stays on). While the mod podge is still wet, sprinkle the glitter over the cup. Next, let your glasses dry for at least two hours. Once the glasses are dry, add another layer of the mod podge to ensure the glitter stays on. Allow them to dry again before using them.

Headband or Party Hat

New's Year Eve Essentials
Box of 5 New Year’s Eve Party Kit – Spritz™

Accessorize your New Year’s Eve outfit with party hats or a headband. You can pick up a box of five New Year’s Eve hats and tiaras from Target for only $10. Be sure to use these for your photo booth later!

Or, if you are feeling extra creative, make some for your loved ones. To make a New Year’s Eve headband, what you’ll need is some cardboard, silver or gold spray paint, glue, silver/gold wire, a glue gun, a spool of gold/silver rick rack, a headband, and a paintbrush.

First, cut your design out of the cardboard. This could be a 2021 sign, a “Happy New Year” sign, or simply some stars. Take your paintbrush to spread the glue over the top of your design before applying the glitter. Next, cut a 10 in. and a 12 in. piece of wire. Then, wrap the rick rack over the top and bottom of the headband before gluing in the two wires with your glue gun. Continue wrapping the rick rack around the headband to secure the wires before attaching your design to them.

What Types of Food You Could Serve

What’s even more important than decorations is food. But with so many options for a New Year’s Eve feast, where do you even begin? No worries! We got you covered. If you’re looking for ideas or a starting point on what food to make for your New Year’s Eve celebration, look no further than the list below.

Sparkling Grape Juice

Sparkling Grape Juice is the cornerstone of a New Year’s Eve party. Be sure to stop at your local grocery store and pick up a bottle of Welch’s Sparkling Grape Juice or Martinelli’s Sparkling Grape Juice. Be sure to pour it in the glitter champagne flutes you made earlier!

Punch

If you’re unable to find some sparkling grape juice, a good substitution is punch. There are great recipes out there for non-alcoholic punches that your family will enjoy. If you need a few ideas, here are a few delicious punches to start with:

For the full list of at-home New Year’s Eve Party ideas, visit NewYorkFamily.com.

This story first appeared on NewYorkFamily.com.

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