Posts Tagged ‘ holidays ’

Celebrate Presidents Day as a Bonus Day with Your Kids

Tuesday, February 11th, 2014

Silhouette of family on a beachEditor’s Note: In an ongoing series, Dr. Harley A. Rotbart, a Parents advisor, will be guest blogging once a month with advice, tips, and personal stories on how parents can “savor the moment” and maximize the time they spend with kids. Read more posts by Harley Rotbart on Goodyblog and on Parents Perspective.

On February 17, 2014, the country celebrates Presidents Day, which coincides with George Washington’s birthday. Known as the “father of our country,” Washington is said to have been a devoted stepfather to the two children of his wife, Martha. I cannot tell a lie: I really don’t know if it was the Washington family routine to take a day off (from the day-to-day demands of the Revolution and of the Presidency) for his birthday to spend quality family time. But for many parents and kids, Presidents Day means a three-day weekend, so if you’re able to take the day off with your family, I encourage you to do so.

Three-day weekends are unique parenting opportunities. Unlike the usual overbooked experience of a two-day weekend, filled with soccer games, playdates, and to-do lists of chores, a three-day weekend is bonus time for the family, especially if your kids are home from school and less programmed than usual. If you’re lucky enough to have Monday off, think twice about scheduling golf or tennis with your adult buddies and shipping your kids off to friends’ houses. If there are chores around the house, do them with your kids. If you can’t resist the Presidents Day Sale at the furniture store or car dealership, take your kids along with you and go for ice cream afterwards. If your plan is to sleep in for an extra two hours while the kids are watching TV, change your plan – sleep in an extra hour (you’ve earned it!), but spend the second hour with the kids not watching TV.

There are 940 weekends between your little girl’s birth and the day she leaves for college. Sounds like a lot, right? But if she’s 5 years old, you’ve already used up 260 of those weekends. And only about 100 of them are three-day weekends so, by the time she turns 5, you’ve already used up 25 of those! If you’re like most parents who think their kids are growing up too fast, you probably already wish you could have some of those weekends back. Even though you can’t, now is the time to make sure you don’t have any regrets about how you spend the remaining weekends of your kids’ childhoods. And three-day weekends are the perfect place to start.

Get out your calendars and mark down these official federal holidays (which include a few three-day weekends) for the rest of 2014: Memorial Day (Monday, May 26); July 4 (a Friday this year); Labor Day (Monday, September 1); Columbus Day (Monday, October 13); Veteran’s Day (Tuesday, November 11); Thanksgiving (Thursday, November 27); and Christmas (Tuesday, December 25). If your job doesn’t let you take off for all these special days, you can still spend the time you have wisely.

This February 17, take a little time to talk with your kids about George Washington and other great presidents in U.S. history. Give your kids a shiny quarter or a crisp dollar bill and point out George’s image. Or try throwing a rock or a penny all the way across a river (who can afford to throw away a sliver dollar today?).

On Presidents Day, honor the father of our country, and your kids, by doing something really fun that the whole family will remember until Memorial Day—the next three-day weekend!

Dr. Harley A. Rotbart

Dr. Harley A. Rotbart is Professor and Vice Chairman Emeritus of Pediatrics at the University of Colorado School of Medicine and Children’s Hospital Colorado. He is the author of three books for parents and families, including the recent No Regrets Parenting, a Parents advisor, and a contributor to The New York Times Motherlode blog. Visit his blog at and follow him on Facebook and Twitter (@NoRegretsParent).

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Parenting Style: Positive Parenting
Parenting Style: Positive Parenting
Parenting Style: Positive Parenting

Image: Silhouette of family on a beach at dusk via Shutterstock

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Raising Your Child in the Year of the Horse

Tuesday, February 4th, 2014

Chinese New Year began on Friday, January 31, which means a new animal in the Chinese zodiac. 2014 is the Year of the Horse, specifically the Wooden Horse. Even though there are 12 animals in the zodiac, each animal is connected to one of the five elements (earth, water, wood, fire, metal), which corresponds to a different year.

For babies born in Wooden Horse years, parents can expect strong-willed, hardworking, and charming personalities, coupled with stubborn, willful, and impulsive dispositions. Generally, though, people born in Horse years share the same positive and negative characteristics. Read on for a brief list of these qualities, plus tips on how to raise your fillies and foals.

Positive Qualities

Cheerful - Children born in Horse years are naturally animated and bright, so cultivate your child’s happiness. As your child grows up, don’t criticize her for bad behavior; instead, calmly explain the good behavior you hope to see.

Clever – Even though your child will be intelligent and a quick learner, you can still nurture his education at a young age and improve his teach lessons outside of the classroom during school years.

Communicative – Your child may be predisposed to be a chatterbox, but you can still boost her language development. Help her use her words by expressing emotions in a healthy way (and not through hitting or biting), in order to be an effective communicator.

Negative Qualities

Impatient - As the adage goes, “patience is a virtue,” so start teaching patience at a young age. Try simple activities to make waiting time fly by and, as your child ages, start teaching him how to improve his attention span.

Difficult to Control – There will be moments when you need to tame your bucking bronco, so brush up on the types of tantrums and learn how to give effective time-outs. If all else fails, try these mom-tested discipline tricks.

Too Talkative – Your communicative child may need to be reined in before she says something embarrassing. Follow these simple tips to avoid TMI moments and learn how to respond when she talks back in her tween years.

According to the Huffington Post, famous Wooden Horse year trailblazers include Ron Howard, Condoleeza Rice, and Jackie Chan while other Horse Year celebs include Aretha Franklin, Oprah, Paul McCartney, and Kobe Bryant. So your child will be in good company!

Now is a great time to introduce your child to Mandarin Chinese with the help of our printable flash cards.

What is the Ancient Chinese Gender Predictor?
What is the Ancient Chinese Gender Predictor?
What is the Ancient Chinese Gender Predictor?

Image: Traditional Chinese paper cutting of a horse via Shutterstock

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8 Ways to Celebrate Chinese New Year (Even If You’re Not Chinese)

Tuesday, January 28th, 2014

Chinese New Year red envelopes and orangesChinese New Year is one of my favorite Chinese holidays (in addition to the Mid-Autumn Festival) because it symbolizes good luck and fortune, a fresh new start, and the promise that spring (and warm weather!) is around the corner.

Chinese New Year lasts for 15 days, and this year it starts on Friday, January 31 and ends on Friday, February 14. And in the Chinese zodiac, it’s the Year of the Horse. Even if you’re not Chinese, you can still ring in the New Year at home with your kids. Here are eight (a lucky number in Chinese culture) simple and fun ways you can celebrate during the two weeks.

Clean and de-clutter your home – It’s important to clean your house a few days before the New Year begins to sweep out bad luck and make way for good luck. So get an early start on spring cleaning — wipe dirt off the floors and windows, remove dust from tables, throw out old and broken things (including dishes and bowls), and organize everything from top to bottom.

Decorate the house in red and gold - Red and gold are lucky colors because they convey happiness and prosperity. Traditionally, paper cuttings and firecrackers, poetry scrolls, and signs with the Chinese character for good fortune are displayed on doors and walls. If there’s a Chinese grocery store in your neighborhood, you can look for decorations. Otherwise, purchase red and gold streamers and garlands to hang around the house, or print out images of horses and the good fortune character and glue them onto red/gold papers.Visit Pinterest for DIY Chinese New Year decoration ideas, including these pretty paper rosettes.

Set out some sweets - It’s tradition to eat candies and candied fruit to sweeten the New Year. Buy bags of your favorite candy (or dried fruit and chocolates) at the local supermarket and set them out in small, pretty dishes. Or find a traditional Chinese candy box or bags of red-and-gold wrapped “lucky candy” at local Chinese stores (even has them). Better yet, indulge in a limited edition box of Godiva’s Lunar New Year chocolates. The beautiful red-and-gold box includes six pieces of horse-stamped truffles in three flavors (white chocolate pineapple macadamia, milk chocolate cherry almond, dark chocolate caramel pear). The folks at Godiva were kind enough to send our office a sample box, and we gobbled them up — everyone loved the creaminess and subtle sweetness of the truffles. Plus, other Lunar New Year chocolates from Godiva are available.

Give out lucky red envelopesRed envelopes filled with money are always given as gifts during the New Year, usually by older, married couples to kids and single adults. If you also can’t find red envelopes at a specialty store, pick up some regular red envelopes or make your own from red paper and then decorate them with gold pens and images. (Side note: The Godiva chocolate box also comes with red envelopes.) Don’t break the bank by stuffing envelopes with a ton of money; for kids, a few dollars or coins (including gold-wrapped chocolate ones) would do. Just avoid giving money in fours (4, 14) or odd numbers (5, 7), which is bad luck.

Prepare some meaningful dishes – You don’t have to master any complicated Chinese recipes to eat foods usually found during New Year feasts. Instead, cook simple foods that have special meaning. Fill your table with long, uncut noodles (symbolizing long life), chicken (family unity), fish (abundance), and dumplings (prosperity, because they look like gold ingots). Don’t have time to cook? It’s fine to order these dishes from a local take-out or to dine at a local buffet.

Have oranges for dessert - Oranges are a must-have during the New Year because they symbolize good luck, good fortune, and abundance. So pick up some mandarin oranges, tangerines, or clementines at the local market and snack on them during the day or after meals. You can also set them out on plates or in bowls as decoration or give them as gifts (in addition to red envelopes).

Watch dragon and lion dances - Head to a Chinatown near you to watch the annual dragon dance and lion dance, where performers dance to the sounds of drums and cymbals. These animals symbolize strength, ferocity, and dignity and are said to drive away bad spirits. Firecrackers and fireworks may also be seen and heard during performances at nigh. If you can’t make it to a Chinatown, make a dragon marionette and put on a mini dragon dance of your own, or make these mom-approved fireworks at home.

Craft your own paper lanterns – A Lantern Festival, where lanterns are lit, hung, or paraded through the streets, marks the last day of celebrations (when there is also a full moon). Instead of buying lanterns, follow our craft expert’s how-to instructions for making crepe paper lanterns and baby food jar lanterns. Just make sure to use red/gold crepe paper or paint as your colors. Or follow these guidelines or find a lantern project on Pinterest. Insert and secure electric candles or tea lights into the lanterns, hang them up in the yard or the house, and then watch them glow.

Xin Nian Kuai Le! (Translation: Happy New Year!)


Now is a great time to introduce your child to Mandarin Chinese with the help of our printable flash cards.

Sesame Street Lessons: Learning Tips and Tricks
Sesame Street Lessons: Learning Tips and Tricks
Sesame Street Lessons: Learning Tips and Tricks

Image: Two mandarin oranges put on red packets via Shutterstock

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Forced Physical Affection Raises Concern

Tuesday, January 7th, 2014

Child KissFamily gatherings are always more fun with little ones present. When conversation with grandparents becomes repetitive, that adorable sticky-fingered, loose-lipped younger cousin can serve as the perfect distraction. But when guests part ways at the end of the night, those same kids are sometimes the cause for a bit of an awkward situation.

Over the holiday season, I’ve noticed that, when it comes time to pack up and head out the door, my relatives with young children often prompt their kids to hug and kiss the other guests goodbye before leaving. On some occasions, the child willingly complies, as those who have ever sported a slobbery, Christmas-cookie-crumb-laden cheek can attest. Yet, on other occasions, the child maintains a death grip on his parent’s arm and refuses to do as told, either because of a sudden spark of shyness, fatigue, crankiness, or what have you.

You’ve seen it: The relative being denied the affection will shoot for a pity hug by pretending to cry, but the kid will not budge; he’s already in his Batman pajamas and wants to get in the car to watch a movie before he knocks out eight minutes later. The parent becomes annoyed with the child’s seemingly rude behavior and eventually drags the kid outside, looking defeated.

Hugging and kissing family members and close friends goodbye is a customary sign of warmth and appreciation, a common courtesy that adults practice without a second thought. But in light of child sexual harassment scandals that make headlines all too frequently, maybe we should think again.

Is it really a good idea to teach kids that they have to touch someone upon request? Family members are generally deemed trustworthy, but what if the person in question is a less familiar bus driver or coach, or even a complete stranger, and what if the touch is more than just an innocent hug or a kiss?

Children should be able to recognize that they do not have to do what an adult or authority figure says, just because he or she acts upset or helpless, or offers some sort of gift. Shouldn’t we protect children from sexual predators and kidnappers who utilize those same tactics?

Maybe it’s worth it for the parent to endure the temporary embarrassment so that the child understands that physical affection is a choice, not a requirement.

Whether your child is an unconditional kisser or a hesitant hugger, try to respect his thoughts and feelings with these positive parenting tips.

Parenting Style: Positive Parenting
Parenting Style: Positive Parenting
Parenting Style: Positive Parenting

Image: Child kiss via Shutterstock

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Alcohol & the Holidays: What Do Kids Think?

Thursday, December 26th, 2013

By Leticia Barr

With Christmas behind us and a weekend of New Year’s celebrations ahead, have you ever wondered why your kids think you celebrate with a drink through the holiday season? To be honest, I hadn’t specifically asked my kids, ages 7 and 10, why they think my husband and I raise a glass to toast over holiday meals. Given how frazzled I often feel during the holidays, hearing my daughter say I drink “because it is fancy” was almost a compliment!

Admittedly, my daughter’s observation caused me to reflect. I know that kids have a way of observing and speculating on the things going on in their surroundings, even when it seems they’re not paying any attention at all.

Do you know what your kids would say if you asked them about drinking? Are they wondering why you’re pouring a glass of champagne on New Year’s Eve or a glass of wine with dinner?  Are they curious? Do they want to try your drink?

Recently a program called #TalkEarly embarked on an effort to ask parents how they manage holiday stress and how they find ways to relax, i.e. #HolidayZen. What the parents thought, however, is only part of the story because what the kids thought about the holidays was revealing. Why do parents celebrate with alcohol. What does it taste like?

Being exposed to the #TalkEarly campaign caused me to think twice about what I say and reflect on my actions. No more flippant comments like “I need a drink!” and certainly less joking about alcohol on social media by posting those witty Some eCards to my Facebook wall! As a parent, I’m passionate about talking to my kids about making responsible decisions, modeling healthy behaviors throughout the year, and seizing teachable moments to answer questions they may have about alcohol.

All this said, the videos are absolutely hilarious!  If you’re wondering what else these groups of kids, ranging in age from age four through sixth grade, had to say, here’s a link to the other short videos. I’m not afraid to confess my daughter revealed we fight about laundry, as well as toast with wine because it’s fancy.

For more information and tips on how to talk with your kids about alcohol, follow @TalkEarly on Twitter.

Learn how to make conversations with your kids easier with parenting books from our Shop, and find out what parenting style you have.

Leticia Barr is the former Tech Savvy Parents columnist on and currently writes for Babble and her own site, Tech Savvy Mama, where she helps parents navigate the ever-changing world of technology. Follow her adventures on parenting two tech savvy kids as she muses about them in real time and shares snippets of her life on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.


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