8 Ways to Enjoy Christmas with Your Kids in Saint Louis

Christmas with kids in Saint Louis

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas!

If you’d like to get out and about with the kids this holiday, and don’t want to spend a lot of money, you have plenty of options in the Lou! There’s no end to the kid-friendly events around town. Below, we list some of the light shows and holiday celebrations we’re looking forward to this season.  

Inexpensive, Family-Friendly Holiday Events in Saint Louis

(1) Holiday Lights at Anheuser-Busch  

This family-friendly feature isn’t just for beer-drinkers. Every year, Anheuser-Busch string up more than a million twinkling lights and sets up an ice skating rink and their popular Kid Zone, where kids can ride the Bevo Express train or enjoy Frosty’s Winter Wonderland. If you haven’t been before, it’s a Saint Louis tradition you shouldn’t miss. Visit Thursday through Sunday, 5pm to 10pm,  all the way through December 30th.

(2) Wild Lights at the Saint Louis Zoo

Our world-famous zoo never disappoints. During the holiday season, visitors are invited to view spectacular light displays as they say hello to the animals and drink hot chocolate. This event is taking place on selective nights through December 30th. Visit the Saint Louis Zoo website for details.

(3) Santa’s Wonderland at Bass Pro Shops

There’s no purchase required when you take the kids to see Santa at Bass Pro Shop in St. Charles. From now through Christmas Eve, kids can take their pictures with Santa and participate in all sorts of fun, free, and family-friendly activities. Check the schedule for details.

(4) Polar Express Train Ride

This one’s a bit more expensive, but worth it if you want to give your kids a magical experience. The Polar Express Train Ride rolls out of St. Louis Union Station every day through December 30th. Kids will sing Christmas carols, hear stories, get hot chocolate and cookies, and see Santa himself! Deals and hotel packages are available now.

(5) Free Carriage Rides at Westport Plaza

If you’d like to give your kids the experience of their first carriage ride, Westport Plaza offers them for free every Saturday in December and on New Year’s Eve. Rides are first come, first serve and begin every evening at 6:30.

(6) Winter Wonderland at Tilles Park

You can also take a carriage ride at Tilles Park, or just drive through and look at the beautiful light display. Take note: some nights are only for carriage rides and walkers, so plan your trip accordingly.

(7) Garden Glow at the Missouri Botanical Garden

Stroll through the garden at night and marvel at the unique light installations. With s’mores, yummy holiday drinks, and plenty of photo opportunities, this is something the whole family will love. From now through January 1st, visitors should be prepared to be wowed. Check the schedule for your opportunity to visit.

(8) Steinberg Skating Rink in Forest Park

We couldn’t end this list without mentioning a fan favorite and a Saint Louis tradition. The largest outdoor skating rink in the Midwest is in Forest Park, and it’s open every day of the week. Never been ice skating before? Why not take your kids for an experience they’ll never forget?

What Will Your Family Be Doing This Holiday?

When we compile these lists, we know we’ll inevitably miss an event. What is your family looking forward to this season?

If you have ideas we haven’t mentioned, please let us know! Comment here or on our Facebook page.

Whatever you do this Christmas, everyone here at Mary Margaret Day Care wishes you and your family all the love and happiness of the holiday season.

How St. Louis Does Halloween: Fun Events for the Whole Family

Halloween events in St. Louis

Fall may be St. Louis’ best season. The leaves are changing, stores are filled with pumpkins and fresh apple cider, and there are festivals just about every weekend. There’s no better time to get out and about with the entire family.

If you’re in the mood for Halloween, then we’ve got the perfect list for you! Click on the links provided for more information on dates and times.

Halloween Events in St. Louis

(1) Halloween Hoopla in St. Charles

This free event in Frontier Park is perfect for all ages. With activities for kids and not-too-scary ghosts to interact with, your family can kick off Halloween trick-or-treating early. No reservations are necessary. This event takes place from 3:00 to 6:00 pm on Wednesday, Oct. 31.

(2) Halloween Fun at Purina Farms

You can bring your kids and your dog to this Halloween event on October 21st! Both will enjoy participating in Trunk and Treat. There will also be face painting, balloon animals, and more family-friendly entertainment. Tickets are required. Learn more at the Purina Farms Facebook page.

(3) Everyone loves Boo at the Zoo!

Bring your little ones for some trick-or-treating at the zoo! Admission is free at the St. Louis Zoo’s Spooky Saturday event on October 27. There will be activity stations as well as photo opportunities for your costumed kiddos. Learn more about all the activities the St. Louis Zoo has planned for Halloween at stlzoo.org.

(4) Halloween Fun at the Library

The Julia Davis branch of the St. Louis Public Library, near Natural Bridge and Newstead, is offering arts and crafts, mask making, ghost stories and of course candy! Registration is not necessary for this free Halloween Celebration. Get more information at slpl.org.

(5) Halloween Parade at Westport

Kids age 10 and under are welcome to show off their costumes at the annual All Hallows Eve costume parade at Westport Plaza. This event begins at 6:00, and reservations are not required. Simply bring your family and your sense of adventure to this free, not-too-scary event. Get more information at westportstl.com.

(6) Spooky Science at the St. Louis Science Center

Bring your kiddos to this event for hands-on science that will get you in the mood for Halloween. There’s a Haunted Lab where kids can make a slimy creation, Halloween-themed movies in the OMNIMAX Theater, and a pumpkin demonstration called “Spooky Science Goes Splat.” We’ll let you guess what that looks like! The entire family is encouraged to wear costumes and tour all of the events at the St. Louis Science Center. General admission is free. Get more information at slsc.org.

(7) Ghost Stories at Jefferson Barracks

Costumed storytellers tell spooky stories at Jefferson Barracks, right on the edge of the Mississippi River. This once-a-year exclusive experience comes complete with candlelight, creaking floors, and other spooky sounds that will thrill you and the kids. Advance registration is required. Get more information by calling (314) 615-8800 or by visiting stlouisco.com.

(8) Halloween Party and Parade in Lafayette Park

Dress up the kids in their scariest costumes and bring them to Lafayette park for a Halloween party and parade. This event includes trick or treating, carriage rides, carnival games, and more. Everyone is welcome, and it’s free! Get more information at lafayettesquare.org.

What Will Your Family Be Doing This Halloween?

With so many events in St. Louis, we’re sure we’ve missed some. Comment and tell us what your family is doing for the holiday! Or, post your cutest Halloween pictures on our Facebook page.

Happy Halloween!

How Parents can Boost Language and Literacy Development at Home

language and literacy development

If you’ve ever watched a toddler melt down, you know how frustrated they can feel when they’re unable to communicate. Language development – and later, literacy development – is fundamental to your child’s future. It allows your child to express feelings, it supports problem-solving skills, and it’s vital to relationship-building. It’s also the first step to learning to read and write.

You’ve probably heard the phrase, “reading is fundamental.” You may not have given much thought, however, to how true that phrase really is. Reading skills are the building block for students who want to do well in school; they form the basics for learning in just about every subject.

So, if you’d like to give your child a boost before he or she goes to school, what can you do?

Luckily, it’s pretty easy to support your child’s language and literacy skills. It really just takes lots of talking, listening, and reading together.

How to Encourage Your Child’s Language Skills

(1) Talk with Your Child

Beginning in your child’s first year, talk to him/her! It may seem silly, but having conversations with your babbling infant teaches him/her about communication. Babbling, in fact, is a sign that your baby is developing language. Your baby wants to be heard! So, show him/her that you’re listening. Babble back, repeat sounds, explain what you’re doing, and sing or rhyme to your baby. You really can’t talk too much … it all helps.

(2) Listen and Respond to Your Child

Don’t just talk at your child; Listen, too! Even if your child is simply babbling, gesturing, or trying out words, you can respond. Ask your child questions and repeat what he/she is trying to say. For example, if your child points to an object and says “toy,” you can respond, “Do you want to play with the toy?” When you do this, it encourages your child to communicate. By simply tuning in, you’re helping your child develop.

(3) Read with Your Child

Encourage a love of reading early by sharing lots of books with your child. Reading aloud to your child allows him/her to learn new vocabulary in different contexts. Sharing picture books helps your baby learn more about the world. When you point to certain words in the book as you say them, you show your child that there’s a link between written and spoken words. All of these activities help your child develop literacy and appreciate the value of books and reading.

Studies show that kids who have been read to at home are more prepared for school. Children who have not had exposure to books, on the other hand, usually start school with poor literacy skills. It’s easy to set aside a few minutes before bedtime to read with your child, and it’s so important to do so.

What You Can Expect as Your Child Grows

Generally, children say their first words when they are between nine and 18 months old. By age two, children can use over 200 words and understand many more. They begin putting sentences together as they grow.

Around age three, children begin speaking more and more. What’s interesting is they don’t use language just to ask for things; they also use language to play pretend.

By the time your child enters preschool, he or she has started to understand the rules of language. At that age, children use language to connect their thoughts, just the way adults do.

Common Concerns

Are you concerned about your child’s language development? It’s not uncommon. Many parents listen eagerly for their child’s first word, and worry about speech impediments or learning difficulties early.

If your child isn’t following the timeline outlined above, remember that it’s not an exact science. In fact, there’s a pretty long range of time for each language milestone. Some children are late talkers; others begin forming sentences quite early. Every child is unique.

If you do feel that there’s a worrisome delay in your child’s language development, discuss it with your pediatrician. Here are a few signs to look for as well:

  • Lack of focus or poor eye contact
  • Pronunciation that’s hard for you to understand
  • Trouble understanding directions
  • Lacking empathy for others or a sense of humor
  • Repeating what you say or repeating themselves

Mary Margaret Teachers Support Language and Literacy Development

At Mary Margaret, we understand the importance of language and literacy development. That’s why we provide a book-rich environment and build communication skills with the young children in our care.

If you’re looking for a daycare center that cares about the development of each child, come visit us! We’re happy to discuss our learning programs with you.

The 10 Best Things You Can Do to Support Your Child Academically This School Year

academic success

If you’re breathing a sigh of relief now that the school year has started, you’re not alone. The beginning of a new school year allows you and your kids to get back to a comfortable routine. Plus, it probably gives you a little more free time! However, while it’s nice to hand your children over to their teachers, you’ll still want to do things at home to support your kids’ academic achievement.

Mary Margaret Day Care offers before and after school programs to extend your child’s learning beyond the classroom! Below are 10 other great tips for helping your child succeed in school.

Parental Support is Vital to Every Child’s Academic Success

Do you know what your child is studying at school? Do you know what his favorite subject is? What about the subject he has the most trouble with? How can you help?

Many of us fail to ask questions more complicated than “how was school today?” This question is generally answered with a shrug or a simple “okay.” There are better ways to get your child talking.

Pay attention to what your child loves. Get to know the subjects your child is mastering or struggling with. This interest not only lets your child know that you care about him, it also sends a message that what he’s learning in school is valuable.

Keep in mind that you are your child’s role model. If you show your child that you care about learning and understand the importance of doing well in school, your child will begin to believe it.

10 Things You Can Do At Home to Help Your Children Thrive at School

(1) Meet your child’s teachers.

Meeting the teacher at the beginning of the school year is a great way to build a rapport with those responsible for educating your child all year long. Be sure to pass along your phone number or email address so the teacher can keep you up to date on your child’s progress and behavior.

(2) Review progress reports and report cards.

If your child is not keeping up in school, it helps to know early! Keep track of how your child is doing, and what you and the school can do to help. It’s important to act before your child falls behind, and before it becomes too overwhelming to catch up.

(3) Ask for special services if your child needs them.

There’s no shame in getting your child the help he needs to be the best he can be. The school is required to support your child if you request an evaluation. Your child’s teacher may be able to provide accommodations for your child in class, or suggest other programs that will give your child some extra help.

(4) Make homework time a part of your daily routine.

The best way to encourage your child in school is to dedicate time each afternoon or evening for homework. Set aside a special place to read or study, take away any distractions, and check your child’s work. No homework that day? Encourage your child to read or go over what your child learned in each subject. These day-to-day routines can make a huge difference in your child’s academic success.

(5) Read at home.

There may be no better way to help your child than by encouraging him to read for 20 or 30 minutes every night at home. Is your child a reluctant reader? Read aloud with him! Reading helps your child learn more advanced vocabulary and understand the basics of characters, themes, and plots of stories. It’s truly vital to your child’s education.

(6) Talk – and LISTEN – to your child.

Yes, it’s that easy. Talking and listening to your child regularly helps your child learn language skills. It also helps your child follow directions and pay attention in class.

(7) Limit your child’s screen time.  

Yes, we know this is hard. However, setting boundaries on screen time and encouraging your child to read or play creatively instead will pay dividends in your child’s academic success later on. So, monitor your child’s time watching TV, playing video games, and chatting online. Then, set limits you can enforce.

(8) Help your child prepare for tests.

Whether you like it or not, tests are going to be a part of your child’s academic life. Ask your child when he has a test coming up, mark it on the calendar, and help your child prepare. You’re transmitting the message that the test is important and your child can do well if he studies. Your goal is not to cause anxiety, but to make your child feel more prepared and confident. Encouragement can make all the difference.

(9) Learn what programs and activities your child’s school offers.

Schools offer all sorts of programs that can enrich your child’s educational experience. Read the information the school sends home, and encourage your child to join extracurricular activities. Maybe there’s a music program, sports team, or academic club your child would enjoy.

(10) If you have time, volunteer at your child’s school or join a parent-teacher group. If not, try to make it to parent-teacher conferences and ask frequent questions.

Our basic advice is this: stay involved, and be an advocate for your kid. The more contact you can have with your child’s teacher, the more up-to-date you can be on your child’s academic progress.

At Mary Margaret, We Care About Your Kids’ Academic Success, Just Like You Do

Would you like to know more about how Mary Margaret can support your child’s academic success? Call one of our centers today to ask about our before and after school programs!

10 Inexpensive Water Games Your Kids Will Love

water games

We know how summer can get. It’s hot outside, your kids are bored, and you’re sick of spending money to keep them entertained.

Let our creative caretakers at Mary Margaret help with these inexpensive but fun water activities! You don’t need much money, and you don’t need to take a lot of time to prep these games, either. Just set them up and let your kids do the rest. There will be no excuse for whining with these fun outdoor water games!

#1 – Jump the Snake

For this one, the only thing you need is a garden hose. Turn it on (be sure to let the water cool!) and then run a stream from the hose back and forth like a snake. Your child should try to jump over the stream without getting wet. If you have several kids over, turn it into a game. The kid with the driest feet at the end wins!

#2 – Backyard Bath Time

Here’s a way to kill two birds with one stone. Take advantage of those warm summer nights by taking bath time outdoors. Simply fill a kiddie pool with soapy water and bath toys, and then let your child splash around. This turns what can sometimes be a frustrating chore into a fun game.

#3 – Ball Blast

Using pegs and string, or some other kind of marker, create a large circle or square on your lawn. Next, place balls inside: soccer balls, basketballs, beach balls – anything works as long as they’re balls of different sizes and weights. Give your child a garden hose and challenge him or her to blast those balls outside the lines in under a minute. If you’ve got several kids, try this with water guns and turn it into a competition.

#4 – Soaking Sponge Race

Place two buckets – one filled with water and one empty – on two ends of your patio or lawn. Then, give your child a sponge. The goal of the game is to transfer water from one bucket to the other using only the sponge! This can be a timed race with one child seeing how fast he can do it, or it can be a race with several kids. Either way, your kiddo is bound to be soaked by the end!

#5 – DIY Slip-and-Slide

You don’t always have to buy the real thing. Do you have a plastic drop cloth and some garden or tent stakes? Lay the drop cloth on a hill, stake it to the ground to keep it in place, and then get ready with a garden hose or some buckets of water. Your kids won’t care that it’s homemade. They’ll just love sliding down again and again.

#6 – Baby Doll (or Action Figure) Bath

Does your child have a favorite doll or action figure? This activity is perfect for her (or him)! Simply fill a baby bath with soapy water and let your kid play parent for a little while. You never know … before long ALL of your child’s toys might be clean!

#7 – Chalk Paint

Do you know what happens when you add water to sidewalk chalk? Chalk paint! This can get messy, but your kids will have a blast painting on the sidewalk (or each other). Don’t worry, parents. You can always hose them off before allowing them back in the house.

#8 – Duck, Duck, SPLASH

If you know how to play duck, duck, goose, then you’ll know how to do this game. It’s an update on an old-fashioned playtime activity that’s perfect for a hot, sunny day. Instead of tapping a friend’s head, the child who is “it” yells “SPLASH!” Then he or she drops a water balloon or splashes a cup of water on “goose.” This activity is great when you’re entertaining several kids on a hot day.

#9 – At the Car Wash!

We remember playing this one as kids. Set up a make-believe car wash with sponges, buckets of soapy water, and a garden hose for kids to ride their bikes and tricycles through. This is a great role-playing game, or just a way for kids to get active.

#10 – Sponge Tag

Here’s another twist on a beloved game. The player who is “it” uses a soaking wet sponge to tag another player. It’s easy to spot the kid who’s been tagged … at least at the beginning! This one will have your kids running and laughing in no time.

Mary Margaret Cares for Kids

Do you need a break? Stop by Mary Margaret Day Care to learn more about our summer programs for kids. 

Celebrate Spring with Family Friendly Activities in St. Louis

family friendly activities in St. Louis

Winter dragged on and on this year, but it’s finally spring!

It’s our humble opinion that spring is St. Louis’ best season. Flowers bloom in Tower Grove Park again, Cardinal’s gear pops up everywhere, and people begin to come out on their porches to chat and enjoy the fresh spring breeze.

As always, St. Louis has a lot to offer young families. We’ve covered popular spots like City Museum and Forest Park before. Here are a few more places to take your kids now that the weather is nearly perfect …

Family Friendly Places that Make St. Louis Great

(1) Grant’s Farm and Purina Farms

We’re rightfully proud of our award-winning zoo, but it’s not the only place to get close to some critters. Grant’s Farm, a Busch family estate once owned by Ulysses S. Grant, has a petting area, tours through a wildlife preserve, and even animal shows that are sure to wow the kids. There are carnival rides, too and – maybe best of all – beer for the parents.

If you’re a dog lover, you’ll love the dog shows at Purina Farms. There, you can watch some agile pups dive or catch flying discs. Purina Farms also features barnyard animals kids can get close to and other play areas with a family farm theme.

(2) Laumeier Sculpture Park

Are regular art museums a little too stuffy for your young ones? Take them to a place where they can run around outside and see beautiful art! The Laumeier Sculpture Park, one of the largest sculpture parks in the country, features 60 large-scale art projects spread out over 105 acres of gentle green hills. There are surprises around every corner here, and your kids will love running from sculpture to sculpture. The park is pet-friendly, too!

(3) Museum of Transportation

Do you have a little one who can’t get enough of trains and trucks? We bet you know one … If so, take your little racer to the Museum of Transportation. There, you’ll find just about every vehicle imaginable, from horse-drawn carriages to aircraft – with plenty of classic automobiles and train memorabilia in between. The interactive exhibits will keep your kids busy, and you might enjoy yourself, too.

(4) Citygarden

At 801 Market Street, in the heart of downtown, there’s a little oasis we bet you already know about. Even so, we couldn’t leave Citygarden off our list of fun locations. Why? Because kids simply love it! Let your kiddos run through the spray plaza or get close to the wacky art that dots this perfectly charming park.

(5) Adrenaline Zone and Demolition Ball

We couldn’t forget this fun zone, perfect for your older kids. This St. Charles attraction features laser tag on one side, and bumper cars on the other. Kids can play all day here, and probably will if you let them!

If those five spots aren’t enough, there are always St. Louis classics like Ballpark Village or the iconic Gateway Arch! Plus, nature reserves where your family can picnic, wander in the woods, or simply enjoy this beautiful spring weather. Did we leave your favorite location off our list? Let us know!

Keep Germs Away This Winter with Mary Margaret’s Tips

keep germs away

Did your kids make it through the holidays without a stuffy nose or fever? If so, you’re one of the lucky ones! We’re deep into cold and flu season, so it’s natural if you’re feeling achy, sniffly, queasy, or just plain worn out.

Some pediatric disease specialists say that toddlers and preschoolers can catch up to ten colds a year! And if that statistic doesn’t horrify you, this might: Colds and flu can spread from family member to family member and from kid to kid.

Let Mary Margaret help you keep sickness at bay with a few tips.

First Things First: Get That Flu Shot!

The best way to keep yourself healthy this winter is to get that flu shot! According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, children older than 6 months can get the shot safely. It will protect your family throughout the winter season.

“Well,” you might say, “January’s almost over and I can’t get a flu shot.” Here are some recommendations that will get you through the next few months.

Dirty Hands Spread Germs: Teach Your Child to Wash His Hands Often

Viruses are often spread by hand-to-mouth contact. So, keeping your child’s hands clean is vital. Teach your kids to wash their hands before they eat. In fact, you should begin washing your babies’ hands regularly as soon as they can begin reaching for things.

Washing with ordinary soap and water works just fine before and after meals. Just make sure your kids are getting a good scrub, not just a rinse or a splashy playtime in the sink! During the day, keep antibacterial gel or wipes handy. We keep them nearby at all times in our centers, especially this time of year!

You can also teach your kids to cough and sneeze into a tissue or into their elbow, not their hands. This will help keep germs away, and encourage your child to use good manners as well.

Germs Linger on Toys and Other Belongings: Show Your Child How to Protect Herself

Germs are spread on household belongings and in playgrounds, too. Make sure your child washes her hands after playing on public playground equipment. Toothbrushes, cups, and other items can harbor germs, so encourage your kids to use only items that belong to them. Wash or wipe these items frequently, especially if you’ve recently had sickness in the house. Finally, watch out for shared toys! Wipe them down frequently if they’re handled by multiple kiddos.  

What about infants? As you know, your adorable new baby is simply irresistible! Everyone wants to hold or kiss her. During flu season, however, it might not be the greatest idea to hand the baby over to auntie or let baby’s cousin lean in for a kiss. It’s okay to shield your infant from sick people and teach young children not to touch an infant’s face or hands.

We Do Our Best to Keep Kids Healthy: Advice on Mary Margaret’s Illness Policy.

To maintain the health of all of our kiddos and their families, we have an illness policy in place. Any time a child becomes ill while at one of our daycare centers, a parent or guardian will be called to pick them up. The child must be picked up within the hour. This policy is noted in our parent handbook and application. Please let us know if we can clarify or give you any additional information on our policy.

Holiday Advice for Parents: 3 Tips for You & 3 for the Kids!

holiday advice

It’s the holiday season. Along with the general excitement you and your family may feel can come a whole lotta stress. How do you deal with small children during the holidays? How do you deal with relatives, cooking, presents, parties? (Not to mention your own exhaustion?)

At Mary Margaret, we know that a relaxed parent is a happy parent. And when the kids are out of school and the holiday season draws near – that sense of relaxation is hard to find. Let us help with some holiday advice for a stress-free season with the kids.

Put Your Own Mental Health First So You Can Be Present For Others

Remember what they tell you in an airplane: In case of an emergency, put your oxygen mask on before assisting others. This is great advice, and not just on the plane! You’ve really got to keep your own stress levels down so you can be present for your children.

Tip #1 – Relax

Whatever you’re doing or not doing for the holidays … it’s good enough. You are good enough. You don’t have to decorate sugar cookies with your kids if you don’t want to. Can’t find that last minute gift? Don’t panic! Your kids will appreciate the spirit of the season more with a parent who is relaxed, happy, and present.

Tip #2 – Stick to Your Budget

Short on cash? Don’t go into debt buying presents because you think you have to! Simply spending quality time with your children is a way to make memories without the hefty price tag.

Tip #3 – Don’t Eat or Drink Too Much

It’s tempting to eat and drink all the goodies in sight, but that might not make you feel as festive as you’d like. Drink some water and just say no to that extra helping of sugary dessert.

Overall, remember to have fun! Take a break when you need to. Not enjoying a particular event? Make a note to skip it next year. Don’t hesitate to ask someone for help if you begin to feel overwhelmed. It’s the giving season! Your friends and family will be glad to pitch in.

Kids Need Structure Along With Holiday Fun  

If you’re like us, you love to see your child’s eyes light up as they gaze at a decorated Christmas tree or sit on Santa’s lap. But kids can also make the season trying. We’ve seen kids go from out-of-control hyper to gimme-gimme whiny in a matter of seconds. Here’s what we recommend to manage the meltdowns.

Tip #1 – Stick to Your Routine

Don’t let your kid skip that nap! As you well know, a tired kid is a fussy kid. The most important thing you can do to avoid holiday meltdowns is to stick to a steady routine. That means regular mealtimes and a not-too-late bedtime.

Tip #2 – Watch the Sugar

During the holidays, kids get way more sugar than they need! A little extra is okay, sure, but try to monitor how many treats your child is having. Avoid sugar highs and hyper behavior by mixing healthier snacks in with the candy canes and cookies.

Tip #3 – Be Prepared!

Spending a lot of time at a relative’s house? Pack a bag. Take along an extra set of pajamas, extra diapers and baby wipes, and a favorite blanket or toy. If it’s a late night, get your child ready for bed at a reasonable hour. That’ll make it easier to transfer a sleepy kiddo to bed when you do make it home.

Why Not Start Your Own Stress-Free Holiday Traditions?  

Do you have to answer every invitation, visit every relative, and squeeze in every single holiday highlight? Absolutely not! In fact, we recommend saying “no” every once in awhile. That particularly petty cousin will get over it. It’s far better, in our opinion, to create manageable holiday traditions in your own home than to please everyone else but yourself. So try reading a Christmas story before bedtime, or watching a movie your whole family will love in snuggly pajamas. Above all, enjoy yourself! ‘Tis the season to be merry – not miserable.

14 Educational Apps that will Make Screen Time Quality Learning Time for Your Kids

educational apps

We understand. You’ve had a long day, and so has your child. You know you shouldn’t let him just stare at a screen all evening, but you just don’t have the energy to police your child’s time — not tonight. So, what should you do when you want to monitor your kids’ screen time and provide them with educational material on one hand, and let them enjoy those devices they love so much on the other? We think we’ve got the solution.

Find a Healthy Balance with These Educational Apps

Recently the American Academy of Pediatrics changed their guidelines regarding screen time. They acknowledge that quality is more important than quantity. So, while you don’t necessarily want your kids watching hours of YouTube, you can encourage them to spend time playing challenging games that might enhance their education outside of the classroom.

There are plenty of educational apps that can keep your child entertained while keeping their brains active and engaged. Here are a few of our favorites …

Try These Apps for Little Readers

Want to give your child a head-start on literacy? These apps are designed to help your child improve reading fluency and comprehension.

  1. This app is for your little one: The Sight Word Adventure, designed for kids 5 and under, uses a game every child loves to practice cognitive skills. It’s hide-and-seek, but with sight words! This one is $3.99 on iPhone or iPad, but worth it to help your kindergartner gain those important reading skills.
  2. Disney Story Central – Do you have a little girl who loves Disney princesses? This selection of e-books starring recognizable Disney characters might be perfect for her. This app offers read-along narration and little prizes as your child progresses through the program. It’s designed for kids 2 and up. It’s free to start, but may charge for additional stories.
  3. Kids enjoy reading more when they can interact with the text. Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss allows them to do just that. This ebook highlights words as it goes along. When your child touches an object on the page, associated words pop up. This app is designed for kids age 2-6 on iPhone, iPad, and Android.
  4. Want to have thousands of books at your child’s fingertips? Try Epic! This app lets your child earn achievement badges when he finishes a new book. Designed for kids 12 and under, this app includes quizzes, books of the week, videos, and other perks that will keep your reader coming back for more.

Encourage Your Child to Explore the World

Sure, we don’t all get to travel the world. But that doesn’t mean your child can’t explore new places with the combined power of technology and imagination! Here are a few apps that will allow your child to broaden his horizons …

  1. Ansel & Clair’s Adventures in Africa: We fell in love with this app the moment we tried it! Join a photographer and a robot as they guide your child through quests and puzzles all over the great continent of Africa. This app is perfect for kiddos 6-8.
  2. The award-winning app, Solar Walk, helps your child explore planet earth and the solar system, and even learn about space missions! With videos and satellite models, your child will be blown away by this visually astonishing trip through space.
  3. This app is perfect for your little ones: GazziliScience will teach your preschoolers and kindergartners the basics of life science, like the four seasons, the water cycle, and more! Kids master one topic at a time and unlock more topics as they go.
  4. Another app designed for preschoolers is Leo’s Pad. This app features stories about history’s most famous scientists. A group of 8-year-old friends help users learn all about science. It’s perfect for kiddos ag 3-6.

Teach Kids their Numbers

  1. Time, Money & Fractions On-Track by School Zone Publishing: Would you like your school-age child to understand how to read a clock, count coins, and master fractions? This app helps kids learn these sometimes tricky concepts with sound effects and animated characters your kids will love.
  2. Help your child age 5 and below learn his numbers with Elmo Loves 123s. This app will teach simple addition and subtraction. It also offers Sesame Street videos and puzzles. If your kid loves Elmo, this app is a must-have.
  3. Winky Think Logic Puzzles will keep your school-age child busy with over 180 logic puzzles. These games start simple and get more challenging as your child goes along.
  4. Another math app for older children is Thinking Blocks Multiplication. This Common Core-approved app helps your child use number blocks to solve challenging word problems. This app can help your 3rd or 4th grader master multiplication in no time!
  5. Your child will love interacting with animation and practicing math using Dexteria Dots. This app is simple to use, includes bright colors, and helps with fine motor skills as well as mathematics. Players combine or divide colorful dots to solve problems.
  6. Dragon Box is another app that makes math fun by disguising it as a series of puzzle games. Kids move through levels and learn simple math, algebra, and geometry along the way. Play along with your child; you may get addicted, too!

There are Plenty of Educational Apps Out There … Let Us Know What YOU Find!  

As you can see, time spent online doesn’t have to be junk food for the brain! This list is just a sample of the educational apps out there. If you worry that your child is spending too much time watching cartoons or playing Minecraft, give a few of them a try.

Do you have a favorite app that we didn’t include here? Let us know!

Back to School! Are You and Your Child Ready?

back to school

Be honest, parents. Are you jumping for joy at the prospect of school starting soon?

We thought so. Now, how about your kids?

Some kids eagerly look forward to the first day of school. For others, though, it’s an event filled with anxiety. For parents, that can mean a battle when their child has to get up in time for the bus. So, what can you do to make the transition easier for both your kids and you?

Back-to-School Tips You Can Use Right Now

  • A couple of weeks before their first day, set appropriate sleep schedules. This may mean enforcing an earlier bedtime and setting a morning alarm. It’ll be tough, but not as tough as dragging a sleep-deprived kid to their first day of school.
  • End the summer brain drain by encouraging your kids to read a book or two before the school year begins. Even better? Read with your child to emphasize how important it is and get your child back into the habit of focusing and learning.
  • If possible, visit your child’s school and meet the new teacher. Kids feel more comfortable in a new situation when they know what to expect, so take some time before the school year to visit the classroom or go through your child’s routine.
  • Get the list of supplies needed and go school shopping! Take your kids with you so that they can pick out a favorite notebook, planner, or pencil case.
  • Set rules for homework time early. And plan for push-back. If kids have gotten used to unlimited screen time over the summer, they might resent new expectations, now that study time needs to be part of their daily routine again. It may help to create a space in your home for keeping school supplies or doing homework. Having an official “homework area” with limited distractions can let kids know you mean business.
  • The night before school begins, help your child choose an outfit, and get breakfast and lunch plans settled. Help your kids pack a lunch before they go to sleep. It’ll be a busy day, and the more you can prepare the night before, the better.
  • Have plans for after school, too! Will you be at home? Or will your child need other arrangements once the school day ends? If you need daycare of after-school programs, contact Mary Margaret! We offer after-school solutions in a caring environment.

Other Back-to-School Issues to Keep in Mind

Times have changed, and today’s kids face pressures that you may not have dealt with in your childhood, especially when it comes to social media. Teachers will tell you that some of the problems kids have with one another in the classroom get started on Facebook or Snapchat. Talk with your child about your rules and expectations ahead of time. It’s your choice, of course, whether or not you allow your child to have a cell phone during the school day. However, encourage your child to put the phone away during instruction time and avoid the drama that can infect social media interactions.

If your child seems nervous about the new school year, remind him or her that lots of students get nervous on the first day. Teachers are aware of this, and that’s why they make an extra effort to create a comfortable environment. Make sure to hit on these 5 Back-to-School Worries. Let your child know ahead of time how you expect him or her to behave in class. This will help him or her get over those first-day jitters and settle back into a routine.

If You’re Looking for After-School Programs for Your Kids, Mary Margaret can Help!

Mary Margaret is dedicated to fostering education, development, and building self-esteem in a secure and comfortable environment. We offer daycare and after-school programs for kids up to age 12. Contact us or come by one of our several locations if you have questions!

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