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  1. As soon as we arrived at Family Camp in Michigan last summer I started to lose track of time. We had decided to take a family vacation at a kids sleep away summer camp for a few days. Ostensibly it was to introduce our two kids to camp. But I was also curious to experience the classic American summer camp that I had seen in movies like “The Parent Trap” for myself—the kind with cabins and scenic ponds and bonfires around which we’d roast marshmallows and sing camp songs. We arrived at camp a bit late and so we dropped our stuff off in our cabin and headed to dinner at an array of outdoor picnic tables. As we started talking about the next few days and all the activities we wanted to try, I instinctively reached for my phone to check the time. And, I realized I’d left it at the cabin—something that I would do for the rest of family camp. How relatively easy it was for all of us to disconnect from our devices was one of the happy surprises from camp. At home, my boys typically default to watching screens or playing video games during down time. We set screen time limits but then find ourselves having to play screen time police, a role we do not relish. At family camp, the only devices available were the phones my husband and I had brought with us. And, because all meals and activities were already arranged and on-site it was easy to break the habit of constantly checking them. No need to look up directions, make dinner reservations, text the babysitter, or even keep track of time—our days revolved around a loose schedule of participating in various sporty activities, eating meals and, yes, roasting marshmallows around a bonfire! For the boys, the chance to try new things made them forget their devices quickly. When I asked my kids recently whether they had missed their screens at camp my older son replied “it just wasn’t on my mind.” And, it’s true. With so many activities within walking distance of our cabin, we all discovered newfound interests. My younger son discovered his love of archery and spent hours trying to hit a bullseye. And, the boys and I all tried water skiing for the first time– an exhilarating and slightly terrifying experience. At night, we’d all fall into our twin beds exhausted from our active days. We also quickly learned that the best way to discover things at camp was to explore. One night, we emerged from our cabin and noticed a number of families heading through a path in the woods that we hadn’t seen before. We decided to follow these families and discovered a shortcut to dinner! This tiny discovery felt huge, like we’d gained inside camper knowledge. And the fact that we’d gained it through our own powers of observation—not our phones—felt so satisfying. With more space from our screens, we all surprised ourselves and each other. My boys invented an imaginary game, incomprehensible to adults, that completely absorbed them for long stretches (and which they continue to play to this day). And, I slowly gained confidence that I was ready to re-enter the paid workforce after five-and-a-half years as a stay-at-home mom. Something about radically changing the scenery and rhythms of our day, and finding out we could adapt, made me feel confident that I could do this in other areas of my life too. For families looking to plan an unplugged vacation, the best advice that I have is to approach it with a sense of adventure. Embrace getting out of your comfort zone and try to find somewhere with lots of things to keep you occupied during the day. We loved attending family camp at Lake of the Woods and Greenwoods Camp. But there are plenty of other places that offer family camp including the YMCA Family Camp Nawakwa in Wisconsin and YMCA Family Camp Pinewood in Michigan. For those families wanting a true camping in a tent experience, the Chicago Park District offers a Family Camping program with campfires and s’mores of course!
  2. This is an excerpt from the Chicago Tribune's latest column, Kids like to swear. Do I blame Olivia Rodrigo? Or do I blame myself?, written by Christopher Borrelli. This column features a quote from NPN's Executive Director, Amy Johnson. I turned to the parent next to me and asked what she was going to do about all the, you know … I didn’t want to say it. The what, the parent asked. All of the swearing, the F-bombs and such, I said. This was several weeks ago, at the United Center, where Olivia Rodrigo was playing the second of two shows. Soon, if her new album, “Guts,” was any indication, she would be singing F-words and S-words and lots of other B(ad)-words, loudly and prolifically, and to judge by the lines to get in, she would be singing them to many, many children, middle school-aged and younger. Which meant, of course, thousands of young children shouting back naughty, naughty words. I wasn’t clutching my pearls in horror. But I was wondering: Have we all decided — you, me, Olivia, Beyoncé, Taylor Swift — that young children can swear now? Kim Vanhyning, the parent beside me, from the village of Channahon near Joliet, was attending with her two children, ages 9 and 12, and their grandmother Dorothy, who whispered: The kids recently lost their 7-year-old brother to cancer; they had shirts made that read “(Expletive) Cancer.” They knew swear words more intimately than they liked. And yet, Kim said, for tonight, “the rule is: Sing the swear words, but only tonight.” At their age, I would have felt weird swearing in front of my mom...
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    Join Hive for a free overview workshop on Conscious Parenting, you will learn about the 10-pillar framework that will give you additional tips and tools to bring more peace, calm & joy into your home, as you head into summer! RSVP required. Please go here to register.
  4. If you’re like most parents, returning home from a vacation with children can leave you feeling like you need a vacation from the vacation. With a little planning though, you can re-enter your routine with ease and even work in some much needed “vacay recovery.” Here are some top notch tips for helping you (and your kiddos) get back into the swing of things. Plan a buffer day for the family: It can be tempting to try to squeeze in as much away-time as possible, but returning home on a Saturday vs. a Sunday can make all the difference for you and your kids. Have a loose plan on how you’ll spend your first day back and keep it low key. My kids love to have pajamas and a movie day! If you’re really on your A-game, you might decide to pull out some old toys or games to keep kids entertained while you unpack luggage and prepare for the week. Plan a buffer day for YOU: This is great if you have school aged kiddos. If you can swing it, take the Monday off! Send the kids back to school and take your own pajama day. Resist the temptation to be productive and truly relax. No, you really don’t need to get back to work. This is your permission to take the extra day for YOU. Hire a service to clean while you’re away: The hustle and bustle to get out the door for vacation can sometimes leave your home in disarray. There is nothing better than coming home to a clean house. You’ll be so happy to walk into a clean home, with beds made, dishes cleaned, and toys tidied. From here on out, make it part of your vacation budget! Pre-plan grocery delivery: Place a grocery delivery order for the day you return home. Consider quick meals like frozen pizza or pasta. Of course take-out is always an option too, but even a small delivery of groceries to set you up with the essentials can put your mind at ease as you head into the week. Order prints of your vacation photos: If you see a dip in your mood upon returning from a vacation (this happens to my husband!), you might consider a fun activity for the family to reflect on the trip once you’ve returned home. Order prints of your vacation photos and have a scrapbooking night as a family. You don’t need to get fancy with materials either. Put the photos in a pile and let everyone cut, glue, and chat while you remember the fun you had!
  5. Embarking on family adventures, such as road trips, airport travels, or exploring foreign lands, often poses the challenge of picky eating. A change in routine, exposure to new environments, and the availability of unfamiliar cuisines can all contribute to a child's resistance to trying new foods. As a registered dietitian, I emphasize the importance of healthy eating, consistent meal frequency, adequate protein and energy intake, and hydration while minimizing highly processed foods. In this article, we'll explore the reasons behind children's picky eating during travel and offer practical tips to ensure proper nutrition whether on a road trip, at the airport, or overseas. Tips to Improve Eating Habits and Promote Nutrition on the Road, at the Airport, and Overseas Create a Portable Pantry for Road Trips I advocate for planning by packing a cooler with ice packs and a variety of healthy snacks. Options like cut-up/whole fruits or vegetable sticks paired with a healthy dip like dark chocolate/regular hummus, plain Greek yogurt, or nut butter packs, along with single-serving packet choices such as yogurt-covered/plain raisins, applesauce, low sodium jerky, seaweed snacks, popcorn, dried mango, dates, mini energy bars, cheese sticks/balls, drinkable kefir, cheese/nut crackers, plain/dark chocolate pretzels, pistachios or dark chocolate almonds, and sunflower seeds can provide essential nutrients during long drives. As a dietitian, I recommend avoiding excessive reliance on sugary treats, which can lead to energy spikes followed by crashes. Airport Adventures Navigating airport dining can be challenging, but with thoughtful planning, it becomes manageable. Carry a mix of healthy snacks such as the ones mentioned above. Look for airport restaurants offering balanced options like salads, wraps, or grilled chicken. Whether you're on a road trip, at the airport, or overseas, having a stash of familiar, healthy snacks can be a game-changer. Hydration is Key I stress the importance of staying hydrated during travel. Carry reusable water bottles and encourage regular sips. Limit sugary drinks and opt for water or diluted 100% fruit juices. Coconut water is also a great choice! Proper hydration is crucial for maintaining energy levels and overall well-being. Balanced Fast Food Choices While on the road, fast food may be the most convenient option. However, as a dietitian, I recommend making mindful choices by selecting items with a balance of protein, fiber, and vitamins and minerals. Many fast-food establishments now offer healthier alternatives, such as grilled chicken options or salads. Opt for Buffets or Family-Style Dining Choose restaurants that offer buffet or family-style dining options. This allows children to explore various dishes in smaller portions without feeling overwhelmed. It also gives them a sense of control over their meal choices. Embrace International Flavors Traveling abroad provides a unique opportunity to expose your child to diverse cuisines. Encourage kids to try small portions of local dishes. For food safety, focus on foods that are cooked thoroughly and filtered bottled water. Engaging in the cultural aspect of food can make the experience more enjoyable. Explore Local Markets While overseas, immerse your family in the local food culture by exploring markets. Allow your child to pick out fresh fruits, vegetables, or local snacks. This not only promotes healthy eating but also provides an exciting cultural experience. Maintain Routine with Time Zone Changes If traveling across time zones, try to maintain a consistent mealtime routine as much as possible. This helps regulate your child's hunger and ensures they receive the nutrients their growing bodies need. Set a Healthy Example Children often model their behavior after their parents. Demonstrate the importance of nutrition by making mindful food choices yourself. If they see you enjoying a variety of nutritious foods, they may be more inclined to do the same. Juggling picky eating during family travels requires creativity, preparation, and a dash of flexibility. By understanding the reasons behind picky eating while on the road, at the airport, or overseas, and implementing practical tips, you can transform mealtime into an opportunity for nutritional exploration. As a dietitian, my emphasis is on creating lasting memories of nourishing adventures for your child, ensuring they receive the nutrients their growing bodies need.
  6. NPN Sitaara

    Making Travel Au-some

    Traveling with children can be fun, exciting and challenging and traveling with a child with a special needs child adds a whole new dynamic. I’m a mom of three: I have one 3 year old son and 5 year old boy/girl twins and my oldest son, Owen, has autism. To get ready for a trip, whether that be an outing in the city, a car trip or a flight, I prepare well in advance, know my resources, plan for the day and embrace a positive attitude. Prepare in advance: Clear expectations, visuals and schedules help Owen process new outings. When preparing for our trip to Florida, we worked with Owen’s incredible and life changing therapy team at Chicago Pediatric Therapy and Wellness Center and utilized a social story. To our delight, Shannon Hurst, Owen’s Occupational Therapist, even went as far as to create a mock trip to Florida to help him prepare. During this mock trip, Owen boarded a flight with his own ticket, practiced wearing headphones to block out loud noises, engaged in a few typical Florida activities while working through sensory challenges such as using sunscreen, playing in the sand and wearing a bathing suit and sandals, and practiced boarding a flight home. This mock trip approach helped Owen know what to expect and equipped him with the tools to navigate uncomfortable situations, such as counting when applying sunscreen and wearing sandals when walking on the beach. Know your resources: Did you know that airports offer a variety of services such as TSA Cares to assist travelers with diverse needs? On the TSA Cares website, you can submit a request for assistance through the screening process and indicate any foreseeable challenges. For Owen, it is imperative that he carry his comfort item through security so I request that a hand scanner is used. We have been very fortunate flying out of O’Hare and have worked with extremely compassionate TSA Cares representatives. Additionally, airlines offer accessible travel options. Since most airplanes can be overwhelming sensory experiences, you can request to board early to get settled and some airlines even offer special perks like a children’s activity packet with a sensory calming strip. When traveling locally, seek out sensory friendly kid attractions. One of our favorites is Lincoln Park Zoo. They do a fantastic job hosting sensory friendly events throughout the year, including a sensory friendly evening during Zoo Lights. Like many other museums, sporting venues and concert arenas, they have a partnership with KultureCity, a non-profit that is dedicated to “creating sensory accessibility and inclusion for those with invisible differences”. When dining out, be sure to indicate your family’s needs when you make your reservation. Request a table or quieter spot in the restaurant that might suit your child best and provide the restaurant with any relevant allergy information. Plan for the day of: Preparation is key for any type of travel and if possible, allow your child to engage in gross motor play prior to and during the trip. If you’re driving, take a minute to walk around the rest stop. If you’re in an airport and see an empty gate, take advantage of open space. Be sure to throw some extra clothes in for the unexpected spill or accident. And of course pack many highly preferred snacks, as you can’t go wrong with snacks. YumEarth has Elderberry lollipops infused with vitamins and they are allergy friendly - a win win, boost your child’s immunity while giving them a calming treat. Additionally, Melissa & Doug mess free coloring sheets and workbooks as well as fidget tools provide entertainment for those long trips and potential delays. Embrace a positive attitude: Traveling can be an exciting opportunity for children to see the world in a new way and certainly will come with many hiccups. It has been helpful for us to break down the travel day into steps and explain each part to our children and celebrate as we make it through the various parts of the day. And yes, there are moments when I look at my husband and wonder, “Why did we sign up for this? Are we crazy?” and then we remember, we are turning therapeutic moments into valuable experiences and making lifelong memories.
  7. It used to be a painful exercise when I had to write a note to our son’s teachers to let them know we would be taking our son out of school for a family vacation. The guilt would sink in and I would start to think we were bad parents for not putting enough focus on his education. I would write and re-write these emails and would get a knot in my stomach after hitting send as I wondered what his teachers must be thinking of us for prioritizing a trip over the classroom. But as we’ve traveled more and I’ve gotten more practice writing these types of emails, I’ve come to a few basic conclusions: Travel is education. The memories and experiences gained through travel can sometimes be more valuable than the lessons learned inside a classroom. Our son is still very young and him being absent for a handful of days each school year is not going to have an impact on him learning the class material. The time we enjoy together on vacation is crucial for our family. The reliance on technology, work stresses, and constant running around the city for errands, after school activities and birthday parties takes a toll. It is a huge release to be able to leave all this behind and just focus on each other. Some will argue that vacations are no reason to take a child out of school, and I am also very aware that just being able to take a vacation is a privilege. But if you are able to take a trip and decide to do so during your child’s schooldays, here are a few tips on how to write that note to your child’s teacher: Before you send that email, review the school’s policies. What is considered an excused absence vs. an unexcused absence? What, if any consequences, will there be if your child accumulates too many unexcused absences? Communicate well in advance of your trip. Telling your child’s teacher a day or two before you plan on taking your child out of school for a trip is not best practice, and it’s not respecting the teacher’s time. We like to give our son’s teachers at least a month's heads-up when we need to take him out of school so they can modify their lesson plans for him, if necessary. Focus on academics. Your child’s teacher is concerned about your child’s academics, not your family spending a week at Disney World or Spring Training in Arizona during the middle of March when school is in session. So, let your child’s teachers know that your child will be making up any assignments they’ll miss. If assignments are posted online in Google Classroom or another platform, even better. Your child can still complete/submit work on time when they’re gone. Be honest. There’s no reason to make up a story about why your child is going to be absent. You’re taking a trip. At the same time, as mentioned above, you don’t need to share your vacation itinerary with your child’s teachers.
  8. How do Middle Schools Support the Development of Executive Function Skills in Students? Parents will learn from our school panelists on what exactly is Executive Function in the school setting, why it is important for students to develop these skills and how schools are supporting building EF in students to help them succeed in the classroom. In this recording, you will also enjoy a robust Q&A from parents who attended the live recording of the Webinar. Our Panelists include Representatives from Bennett Day School and The Academic Center at Whitney Young Magnet High School. Recorded on 2/16/2024
  9. There aren’t many topics that seem to ruffle feathers like the “Gentle Parenting” debate. And honestly, it makes so much sense. At some point the term Gentle Parenting came to be associated with permissive parenting, lack of boundaries, and parents who seemingly never get upset or raise their voice above 50 decibels. And while I didn’t coin the phrase, and I’m not too interested in defending the beast that gentle parenting has become, I will fiercely defend the parenting approach that I think it was trying to be. We love labels and categories, a quick google search on parenting approaches will turn up phrases like: gentle parenting, attachment parenting, connected parenting, permissive parenting, traditional parenting, conscious parenting, etc. But you don’t have to pay attention to any of that. If there is one thing I believe all parents need to understand, it’s that the best outcomes for our children depend on parenting in a way that builds a secure attachment between them (kids) and us (parents). And good luck trying to rebrand attachment theory, it’s grounded in decades of research. Its purpose and good name is here to stay! In my transformational parenting program The Empowered Parent: 90 Days to Parenting with Confidence, Pride, and Success, I lead parents to build this securely attached relationship with their children. And while my clients tackle aspects of parenting both deep and wide reaching, there is some myth busting that almost always takes place. So let’s set the record straight on three arguments I come across a lot. They’ll never be ready for the “real world” - which isn’t gentle at all. Yep! The world isn’t gentle. And guess what! Our kids are already living in that world. They experience pain, confusion, and heartache just as we do. They endure the death of family members, friends move away, they attend a new school, they encounter mistreatment, they witness images of violence. And they do all of this before they have a fully developed brain that could make better sense of it all. The world is tough, and we don’t need to be a source of that toughness. Instead, we provide security and safety. This is how our children grow to have resilience when they face hardships. The resilience is a result of having a safe and secure base in us to come home to. You can’t just let kids do whatever they want. I don’t know that anyone who understands attachment theory would advocate for letting kids do whatever they want - children need boundaries. I do however know that when parents move away from a mindset of needing to control their children and hold power over them, they see more cooperation and mutual respect. Think of your parenting as a set of guardrails along a path. If the guardrails are very narrow, our kids will constantly bump into them, causing friction and frustration for all of us. If the guardrails are too far apart or not present at all, our kids lack safety and reliable ways to learn from our leadership and presence. But when the guardrails are just right, we allow our children to explore, learn from mistakes with natural consequences, and provide the safety and leadership of thoughtful boundaries. Sometimes kids just manipulate for attention. This one may be half true! While I don’t think children misbehave to manipulate, I do think that a need for connection (i.e. attention) can show up with undesirable behavior. In her book Beyond Behaviors, Dr. Mona Delahooke explains that all behavior is communication. If we are able to shift from a behaviorist mindset that solely looks at behavior as something to be rewarded or punished, we are then free to examine beneath the surface and uncover the underlying cause of a child’s behavior. Often, our examination will reveal a child’s unmet need or an underdeveloped skill. At the simplest level, a newborn doesn’t cry to manipulate us. A newborn cries to get a need met - for example the need to be fed. And an infant hasn’t yet developed the skills (i.e. brain development) to ask for food with words or sign language. A key piece to the 90 day Empowered Parent Accelerator program is growing in knowledge of our child’s brain development. Understanding this development can make all the difference in how we respond to behavior - and probably most importantly the story we tell ourselves (and our children) about who our children are at their core.
  10. As parents, it's our job to do everything we can to make our children feel safe and secure. So it's only natural to default to avoiding topics that may frighten, concern, or cause panic in our children. But what should you do when the topic impacts you directly because of your religion or beliefs or when the topic feels unavoidable due to news and social media coverage? Ever since October 7th, many families (including my own) have been torn on how to answer this question. So, I compiled expert advice from trusted sources on how to best navigate these difficult conversations with their children in this age-by-age guide. Tip 1: TAKE INITIATIVE Don't wait for your child to ask you about it. Not all children will start a conversation or ask questions about what's going on and may instead choose to rely on information from their peers or social media. In order to ensure that your children are receiving accurate information, it's important to take the lead. Waheeda Saif, a program coordinator at Riverside Trauma Center in Massachusetts suggests using open-ended questions to start a conversation: "'Have you heard what's been going on in the world?' 'Have you heard anything about what's going on in Israel and Palestine?' And just see what they say, and take it from there," she said during a conversation with NPR. Children of all ages deserve a conversation — even those without loved ones who live in Israel or Gaza. Tip 2: LEAD WITH EMPATHY, NOT POLITICS Regardless of what you believe, we can all agree that everyone has a right to life. While this seems like a known fact, it's important to start here. According to Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health’s Claude Bruderlein, leading with empathy in these discussions will help dissociate ourselves from categories like race, nationality, and religion, which can become divisive. “The first, more sensitive step is really to take a stand that everybody has a right to life and dignity, regardless of their nationality, regardless of their religion, regardless of their gender and age,” Bruderlein told The Boston Globe. Tip 3: IT'S OKAY TO NOT HAVE ALL THE ANSWERS It can feel impossible to answer all of the questions that may pop up during your chat but it's important to remember that you don't have to have all of the answers and that you are not expected to turn into a historian or political scientist overnight. Often children just want to better understand why and how people can be so cruel to one another and as difficult as it can be to explain, it's okay to redirect them towards believing in the possibility of peace and coexistence. Allow them to lead by asking them how they can improve the immediate world around them by being kind to others. Tip 4: CHECK IN WITH YOURSELF Protecting your mental health at this time is vital. Family clinical psychologist Dr. Jennifer Hartstein, recommends that you "...check in with how you are doing, as well, to ensure that you are not flooding your own nervous system...be mindful of how you are feeling so that you can be more present for you children." How to Explain the Israel-Hamas War Age-By-Age *Source, Parents.com PRESCHOOL Many experts agree that discussing the war with your preschooler is not necessary UNLESS they ask you about it or see it on the news. You want to avoid dismissing them because of their age while keeping the topic age-appropriate by using words and situations that they can relate to. Leading the conversation with statements about people hurting each other and expressing that it is never okay to hurt someone else is an easy way to start. ELEMENTARY SCHOOL Keeping things simple with this age group is best as well. You can begin by showing them a map of where the conflict is taking place, discussing why people may be sad or upset and being direct about what it means to be at war. MIDDLE SCHOOL Once social media has entered the chat, the discussion needs to be dialed up a bit. It's important to help your middle schooler realize how to spot fake news and how to fact-check information that they may find on the internet. For this age group, it's important to let them lead the conversation. You can do this by asking questions to see what they already know and to help determine how they may already feel about it. Respect their opinion while introducing them to and educating them on the history of the conflict. If you don't know it, this is a great opportunity to learn together. HIGH SCHOOL Helping your high schooler learn to discern fact from fiction is key. Help them identify and follow reputable, non-biased sources that you know and trust to try to help beat the algorithm of content that is designed to spark an emotional reaction. Help them understand the importance of being mindful of their mental health. Scrolling social media and seeing photos and videos of death and violence can be traumatic. According to reports, Israeli and Jewish schools in the U.S. have even urged parents to delete social media apps from their children's phones to shield them from seeing any purported hostage videos from Hamas. Deleting social media from their phone may seem extreme so it's important to remind them to take breaks from social media when they feel overwhelmed with any content they may see and to also report the content on social media to keep it out of their feed. A major part of keeping our children as safe as possible is to make sure that they are aware of what is going on around them. I hope these tips help prepare you to do just that. Let us know how your discussions go on the forum.
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    NPN Parent Chats are your monthly virtual opportunity to join in on a casual conversation centered around topics that matter to you. Unlike our monthly webinars that are more structured and have a presenter and topic - you get to lead the discussion, vent about current happenings, or just observe and chime in as you see fit; think of it as our forum in video format! Sitaara and Amy from the NPN staff team will join you. If you've been craving connection, we hope you join us. RSVP today! You will receive an email confirmation, including the Zoom link, immediately upon registration. We will also send you the Zoom link the morning of the event. These chats are for NPN members only. Not a member? For a limited time, join NPN for $20 using promo code school23. This also gets you into the school fair for free!
  12. NPN Amy J.

    Head, Heart, Hand Parenting

    In this video, join Reena Vohra Morgan of Hive Educational Consulting and Parent Coaching as she shares a parent-centric framework grounded in attachment theory, brain science, and responsive parenting strategies. In this introductory workshop, you will learn ten pillars that can help you develop healthier family relationships and bring more peace, calm, and joy to your home. This session is useful for parents with children of any age, from 0 to adulthood. This video was recorded live on 8/11/23.
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    How do Elementary and Middle Schools Provide and Inclusive Environment for all Students? A healthy, diverse and inclusive classroom environment can allow every student to thrive. Children should be given the opportunity to learn free from discrimination and feel comfortable expressing their identities within their classroom and school community. Parents will learn what practical steps schools take to build a welcoming environment for all students including differing cultures, gender identities and learning differences. Schools will share why creating an inclusive and diverse community is important for all students and families and what they are doing inside the classroom and with families to support these principles. Our panel of speakers will include representatives from: Bennett Day School Francis W. Parker School The Frances Xavier Warde School North Park Elementary School
  14. NPN Amy J.

    Head, Heart, Hand Parenting

    Join Reena Vohra Morgan of Hive Educational Consulting as she shares a parent centric framework grounded in attachment theory, brain science and responsive parenting strategies. In this introductory workshop, you will learn ten pillars that can help you develop healthier family relationships and bring more peace, calm, and joy to your home. This session is useful for parents with children of any age, from 0 to adulthood. Reena Vohra Morgan is a mother to three children and has over twenty years of experience in education. She holds a Master's Degree in Early Childhood Development, Montessori certificates, and is a Jai Certified Parenting Coach. In combination with theoretical knowledge, practical experience, and compassion, Reena uses a strengths-based, reflective approach to coach and empower educators and parents. She offers concrete strategies, tools, and manageable action plans to support adults who interact directly with children. Reena is certified in positive discipline and Resources for Infant EduCareers (REI). Reena resides in Chicago with her family. Questions? Contact Amy at amy@npnparents.org.
  15. If you're like me, saving for my children's future is a top priority. But it's more than just saving for college: I want to help my kids have positive relationships with money. And that means talking to them early and often about money and finances so that they are equipped with the tools to make good financial choices as adults. However, in the last 10 years, the financial landscape and possibilities have changed drastically with the introduction of cryptocurrency and the Metaverse. As a parent, this leads me to ask so many questions: What does this mean for our kids and their future? How can I better educate myself so that I can safely introduce the world of web3 to my kids? And most importantly, is there a way that I can leverage crypto to incorporate it into our larger wealth-building journey to benefit both myself and my family? All of these questions led my husband and I to start a company called The CryptoMom App, the premiere destination for all things crypto for women, by women. I wanted to create an inclusive, secure platform for women to learn about crypto and then invest it in products that are meaningful to our lives, like college funds. And with April being Financial Literacy Month, there's no better time than today to start learning about cryptocurrency. Here are three ways to start conversations about financial literacy and web3 with your children: 1. Model good behavior by researching first The best way to learn about the basics of crypto is to start researching. There are really great social media accounts for women that encourage conversations and provide the basics of cryptocurrency; Some of my favorites are CryptoWitchClub on Instagram and Elana @TradingFemale on Twitter. You don’t have to know all of the jargon and buzzwords; It’s more about increasing your exposure to slowly gain familiarity. Then, talk about what you've learned with your kids in a casual setting, like at the dinner table. Your kids will certainly be impressed and you get to flex your 'cool mom' muscles! 2. Read Books Together Kids of all ages love to cuddle up and read books together. You can find books at your local library or online that teach kids the basics of crypto, even board books for infants and toddlers like Bitcoin for Babies. For your teens, offer to start a book club and read the book together. Not only are you learning together but you're also building authentic connections that are often difficult to maintain in the teen years. 3. Take the plunge by purchasing yourself first There's no better teacher than experience so now that you're prepared with research and knowledge, take your first step by purchasing your first coin. Don’t feel the need to invest large amounts of money; Invest what you feel comfortable with, whether it's $20 or $200. Platforms like The CryptoMom App allow you to buy small fractions of bitcoin in just three easy steps. If you're looking to connect with other women on their crypto wealth-building journey, sign up for the waitlist for The CryptoMom App to get exclusive, first access to our product.
  16. Zero to $25 Garfield Park Conservatory’s Spring Flower Show is here! Send your favorite flower lover off to the Conservatory with a cash donation ready to go. The spring flower show will give children and families the gift of warmth (truly! It’s balmy in there). Add on a disposable camera for fun and see what develops… you may be impressed with what captures the eyes of your nature lover. Bubbles Academy- For the younger child, look no further than Bubbles Academy for everything from drop-in art classes to outdoor classes and a nature playground. Coming this spring for families and children aged up to 7, check out their Silly Space Soiree or a gift card for one of their many fun and developmentally smart activities at any location. Chalk it Up - Chalk is an underestimated resource. Whether traditional or “spray chalk,” create sidewalk games like Hopscotch, Four Square, or more. Check out “Shape Hopscotch” for a fun twist. Birthday message artistry is also a fun treat to wake up to! Spray chalk works on grass and washes out after rain. Bee’s Knees (and butterflies, too!) – For kids or families abuzz to help our favorite little honey-makers, we suggest the gift of a native plant garden. For quickest impact, plant natives from a plug rather than seeds. Because the helpful native plants are hard to find at most big box stores or nurseries, we specifically like Possibility Place Nursery in Monee, (which also offers suggestions for plants to attract butterflies!). Prairie Nursery in Wisconsin also has native plant seeds with the option to ship. For a tree bee lover, we suggest making a donation in name to Southport Corridor Bees, or adding in a jar of local organic honey to the gift. Camping - If your child has their heart set on a camping adventure, we like the idea of sharing a weekend (or just an evening) away. With many camping areas within driving distance, you can make their dream come true easily. Check out Chicago Park District’s Coleman Gear Library, where you can rent everything from tents and sleeping bags to flashlights and much more for free. If your family is new to camping, you can attend a camping experience with Chicago Parks for around $50. Learn basic camping principles, take a nature hike and enjoy an evening around the campfire led by our expert camping staff. At night campers will enjoy hot dogs and s’mores over the fire, and a light breakfast in the morning. Art lovers - While the Museum of Contemporary Art and the Art Institute have daily admission or membership options, we find that children and adults alike enjoy spending time and money at the gift shops and surrounding restaurants. Check out specifically MCA’s Family Days and The Art Exchange at The Art Institute of Chicago. Send them with a calendar of upcoming events, and maybe some art supplies and snacks to supplement their fun. $25-50 Movie Theater- Many families have not been to the theater since 2019/early 2020, which means that some young kids have never seen a movie on the big screen at all. Make their day with a gift card to their nearest movie theater or IMAX location. Bonus points if you throw in cash for snacks! Chicago Children’s Theatre - offers drop-in day camps for performers and performance-curious. We also love their unique Red Kite Program, which has special offerings for children on the autism spectrum. They even offer financial aid options for those who need it. Indoor Play - Fit City Kids offers something from everything from crawlers to big kids. Parents can relax while children run, jump, slide, and dive around the massive play zone. Daily visit passes are available online. Personal and small-group training is also available for the more serious athlete. They even have pickleball classes for kids! You can also check out Climb Zone or Brooklyn Boulders; Trampoline parks like Altitude or Urban Air. And if you’re gifting for a grown-up 21+, check out Altitude’s Adult Nights, where tickets include a drink. $50-$100 Date Night - Who wouldn’t love to be gifted a date night with childcare covered? Send parents the gift of child care: whether by covering their babysitting costs, or gifting a “Parent Survival Night” at The Little Gym. If you’re feeling generous, send them with a gift card to a nearby restaurant for grownup conversation. Near The Little Gym in Lakeview, we suggest: El Tapatio, Volo, Coda Di Volpe, or Ella Elli. Over $100 Private food experience – For the foodie families in your life, consider giving a private or small-group class or dining experience. Who wouldn’t want to experience a cooking class with French Chef Vincent at Cook Au Vin? Cooking classes are BYOB, so feel free to package your gift certificate with a bottle of their favorite wine. We hear that private catering options are also available, which may be the perfect gift for small dinner parties or romantic special occasions. Sleep - Can you really gift sleep? We sure think so. Kelly Murray Sleep Consulting offers services for new and not-so-new parents. Professional sleep consultants offer free consultations and packages range from from program guides with online support to private in-home coaching. Bulls and Bears and Blackhawks, oh my - Tickets to a Chicago Bears, Bulls, or Blackhawks game are wonderful starting points. Chicago’s WNBA team, Chicago Sky, is also a fantastic idea. And for anyone who caught the soccer bug with last years’ World Cup, check out a match for the Chicago Fire (at Soldier Field) or Chicago Stars (Bridgeview). Family Photos – For families who are so busy making memories that they may forget to capture them, consider a family photo package. Various mini-shoots are available online around holidays. Little Bear Photography and TK Photography are both well-known for their high quality and ease to work with. Next-Level Sleepovers - The Shedd Aquarium offers many specialty events for families, including add-on events such as encounters with Sea Otter, Beluga, or even a shark feeding tour! The Aquarium offers impressive overnight events, from sleeping around the Caribbean Reef to Oceanarium, where you can wake up next to penguins, whales and even dolphins. The Field Museum has regular “Dozin’ with the Dinos,” where families with children ages 6 to 12 can spend the night in the museum. Even better, you can prepay for overnight parking! Museum of Science and Industry has the unique overnight “Snoozeum” The Getaway – The getaway gift is staple for a reason. Whether it’s your family or another, most enjoy the gift of a hotel overnight. For those with older children, consider offering a small party or sleepover for them at a cool rental property. While this gift may be reserved for very special occasions, it can be the memory of a lifetime. Imagine hosting a sixteenth birthday party at a rental property with a pool table and a hot tub. Families with younger children may appreciate being sent to an indoor water park or even to the spa for mani-pedis together. Priceless: The Gift of Cereal The best gift you can possibly give someone may not be one you could predict. A recommendation shared with me recently was this: Give the child something that they ask for often but usually don’t get. Maybe it’s something you would never think of. Maybe they want to wear mismatched socks one day, or have a parent say yes to their request for a popsicle at the beach or donut at the store. Ask the child’s parent for ideas of what the child is constantly asking for, and find out if you can give the child that. Perhaps it takes the shape of cash for the parent to keep on hand at the beach. In the case of one friend I know, it was cereal. The best gifts come from the heart, creative and even wacky gift ideas can be the most memorable.
  17. Let’s begin with a boundary check: The responsibility of homework completion falls squarely on the child. Without question, it is hard to watch our children struggle with the effort homework demands, but it is very important that we resist the urge to “rescue” our child from the discomfort of effort. If you “help” a butterfly out of its cocoon it dies because it wasn’t given the chance to build its wing strength. So, we can all agree that children should work through homework on their own, but there is still a tremendous amount of pressure on children and parents to achieve at very high levels in our culture. College applications reduce years of education to a discrete set of numbers and the status of being from certain high-performing schools. We are told to not interfere, and then we are shown a world in which not getting the best possible grades and achieving the accolades that come with that means dramatically reduced opportunity. And it all begins with homework, which is why it’s such a charged topic. While we often are looking forward towards an imagined future for our children, we are probably pointed in the wrong direction. To achieve a way forward through this achievement thicket, we should look to our own memories of doing homework as a child. There, we can mine the gold of memory: the parents who hovered over you and checked your work before you turned it in, or the parents who left you completely alone. We all have pain points from our school years. Exploring and healing these sore spots will free up space for you to more clearly choose how you want to interact with your child around homework. Your uncomfortable memories of homework and your child’s struggles with it today represent a perfect reparenting opportunity for you, which can lead to a deeply compassionate journey with your child as you work together to make homework work for them, instead of simply feeling like busy work. With this mindset you can start shifting the narrative from struggle and challenge to one that is about how we can learn and grow - together. Here are some suggestions of ways to foster relationship and a love of learning: Pair your own work time with that of your child by having work/study dates. You can set goals together, take breaks where you share what you are learning or working on, and most importantly celebrate progress together. Turn counterproductive statements or questions into learning opportunities by challenging them to problem solve. Respond to a statement like “I don’t know how to do this” with “What have you tried?” Having a good dialogue about a stumbling block builds critical thinking skills. Problem solve difficulty in completing homework together, as you might tackle a task management problem at work. Engage the challenge as a partner in removing obstacles. By making homework help a self-development opportunity, you can ensure a deeper engagement in learning for both your child and you.
  18. As a family law mediator and attorney, my hours are filled with former couples who must learn how to communicate for the benefit of their child. In advising clients on how to do this, we have to consider certain situations or feelings that get in the way. Before diving into advice on appropriate communication, I’ll explain a bit more on why it is so important: Your child deserves the best version of you, and the healthiest parents possible. Only you can provide them with a happy, healthy, and functional you. Your behavior is a model framework, and your child learns more from how you interact with others than from how you instruct them to interact with others. As we know too well, children are observant and smart. In their social skills now and for the future, your child will reference your communication skills (or lack thereof) as guidance for their social interactions. You are very uniquely positioned to help them become functional individuals who can face interpersonal difficulties. Your child will certainly pick up on your own attitude, demeanor, and language about your ex. If you ask adults whose parents were divorced to share a memory of how their parents communicated, they will undoubtedly remember. You don’t want your child to grow and think, “wow, my parent really couldn’t put me first. They hated my other parent more than they loved me.” You want your child to grow and know, “my parent did their best to protect me from the nuance and nastiness of their adult romantic relationship.” Finally, remember that your child is truly a combination of you and your ex. Regardless of who your child is closer to, resembles, prefers, etc., remember this: they have two parents. Your child could likely internalize at least some of what you’re saying about their other parent, because it’s, well, their parent! And you have a truly special opportunity to show them how to communicate in a healthy way. Caveat: My thoughts apply to standard or high-conflict situations where everyone is physically safe. Anyone dealing with an abusive or violence ex should, of course, put safety first. Universal guidelines for communication with a co-parent: Accept that your relationship with this adult is now primarily transactional. Consider this a business relationship where you are essentially professionals working together raising the child. Make, keep, and reaffirm boundaries. I highly recommend the book by Nedra Glover Tawwab as described below. Some common examples of boundaries with co parents are: Only being available to them for matters related to your child; Letting their calls go to voicemail and reviewing the voicemail; Answer non-urgent requests within 24 hours; and Reminding them as needed of your boundaries. Keep it BIFF: Brief, Informative, Friendly, and Firm. As described in the book mentioned below, communication between co parents can and should, in general, be straightforward. Your exchanges should be brief and to the point; informative and useful (no communication “just because…”); friendly without being flirty, and firm without being harsh. Again, you now have primarily a transactional relationship with this person. Behave accordingly. Consider shared calendar and family organization apps (Google Calendar, Our Family Wizard, Talking Parents) to limit unnecessary back-and forth. Never use the child as a messenger. Consider therapy another source of professional help for handling the massive emotions and changes you’re likely experiencing. You don’t have to do this alone. When one of you is still in love: Accept reality. However you must do this, learn and accept that you are now a solo parent and a single individual. This person is not your spouse, they are not your romantic partner. It is not ok to flirt with them or treat them romantically or “cute.” Distance yourself. Refrain from contacting them unnecessarily, or for reasons outside of their new role as co-parent (and not as your romantic interest). Ask some friends to be your assistants in this, and check with them before sending or saying anything that you think may not be best. Reframe their role in your life. While you may have once been comfortable calling this person your husband/wife/ spouse, this person has a new role: Teammate on Team Child. I have seen parents save each other's phones as new contacts “Sam Jones- Team Billy!” It’s corny, but maybe it will help. (Side note: if you can’t save them as something nice, save them as their own name. This is not a time for “nicknames.”) When there’s hate: Process it on your own. You are probably going to want a therapist, if only for a short term. How can you move forward if you’re still so angry abo it the past? Your anger may be well-founded and deserved, I get it. You must learn to leave your child out of this as much as possible, and prevent them from becoming collateral damage. Keep it away from your child. Regardless of where you are in the healing journey, your child is dealing with enough on their own. Protect them from adult matters by discussing co parenting issues when they aren’t around. Speaking in “code” or just out of their earshot probably doesn’t work as well as you think it does. Note: if there is or was abuse or violence in your relationship with your now-coparent, i recommend the following books in particular: “Splitting” and “Why Does He Do That?” These books separately address some of the considerations that you may unfortunately be dealing with. Regardless of where you are in the coparenting process, I hope you will consider your child above all else. Even the “best” parents struggle sometimes. It is hard! And you can do hard things. Especially ones that are so very worth it for your child. **Here are the links to the recommended reads mentioned above:** Set Boundaries, Find Peace: https://www.semicolonchi.com/humble-design/1du11v25tyoistwttyram0lgrgxvib BIFF: https://www.highconflictinstitute.com/bookstores/biff-for-coparents Splitting: https://www.goodreads.com/en/book/show/9996542 Why Does He Do That? Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/224552.Why_Does_He_Do_That_
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    Event Details: Give your baby a smart start! Maya Smart, author of Reading for Our Lives, will describe how reading unfolds from birth through the early elementary years and outline what caregivers can do to nurture it at each stage. You will leave armed with information about the six parent levers for literacy success, plus easy and research-based ways to nurture your child’s language and literacy development from the start. Chicago Public Library staff will facilitate an active play space for children and a caregiver before, during and after the presentation to demonstrate early literacy skills in action! Register for this event on the Chicago Public Library's website by clicking here. This is an external partner event. Please contact the organization directly with any questions or concerns: Children's Services (312) 747-4780 REGISTER HERE This event takes place in person at Harold Washington Library Center @ 400 S. State Street Chicago IL 60605. Masks are strongly encouraged in all CPL locations. Register by the start of the event. Chicago Public Library cannot collect personal information online from kids 0 to 13. A parent or guardian’s email address must be used to register.
  20. If your childhood was anything like mine, I’m sure you can remember being repeatedly asked what it is that you wanted to be when you grew up. I’m also pretty sure what you said then doesn’t match your life now! So, why do we force children to answer this seemingly rhetorical question? And how can we get our children to explore the endless possibilities of their future without boxing them in? As an adult and a mom, I’ve come to really appreciate experiences over things. You’ll often find me gifting tickets to shows, museums, or concerts instead of toys and clothing. So when it comes to getting my children to think about their future, I take the same approach and try to help them discover what they like and dislike based on their lived experiences. This is why I was really excited when I discovered Rocket Club Academy, a first of its kind program that provides children 7 to 14 years old the opportunity to explore industries in STEAM and entrepreneurship and discover their passions and interests along the way. With the help of industry leaders, Rocket Club Academy members learn by doing via the program’s proprietary curriculum, picking up valuable life lessons and skills that are not taught in the traditional education system. This January, Rocket Club Academy is launching a new module that will guide members on the journey of learning to own and operate a professional sports franchise! Members will analyze the marketing and financing behind major sports organizations, explore the technology behind how athletes are trained, and the impact on local communities. Encourage your child to expand their thoughts about their future by starting with a topic that sparks their interest and gifting them an experience that can change their lives and perspective forever! Rocket Club Academy is a boutique club with limited enrollment and locations in the heart of the Lincoln Park and Oak Park communities. As an NPN member, you have the opportunity to score a free 1-month membership (a $385 value) with access to the January class! Contact Rocket Club Academy to book a tour and learn more today at https://rocketclub.com/chicago
  21. As a pediatric physical therapist, something I hear quite often in new assessments with families is that they "knew something wasn't quite right and had questions on it, but were told to wait and see if it was still a problem" at their next pediatrician visit. Many times, things do work themselves out with development for a variety of factors. Unfortunately, it's not every time. If gaining anything from this article, my advice as a physical therapist and as a parent myself is to trust your instincts. YOU know your child best. Early intervention has been statistically proven to shorten overall intervention times as well as improve results across all disciplines with children. The challenge with the “wait and see” recommendation is that earlier in your child's medical care at their primary pediatrician, you are seeing each other every four weeks. By the time you may have concerns, your check-in period is every three months. Three months is a long time in a child's first year of development: it's a quarter of their life! [Related: Preschool, or therapeutic preschool?] So how does a family pursue occupational, physical, or speech therapy for their child? There are a multitude of different ways to access services, which move along their corresponding timelines for each path. Here are some of your options: 1. Call a reputable, outpatient center or home-based service to provide therapy services. Turn around time to services: one to two weeks Look at online reviews, ask for others’ experiences in local parenting groups, access NPN’s referral list — any of these areas could be a good starting point to contact for an assessment for services. Most places will directly call a pediatrician for the prescription to be on file prior to the assessment. In Illinois, you do not need a prescription for physical therapy, as it is a direct-access state. This means that patients can refer themselves and receive ongoing treatment without an initial referral. Reputable outpatient service locations will still gain a referral and share treatment plans and evaluation results with a primary pediatrician, regardless of the state requirement. You can also ask for this to be done! This is the most direct and fastest way to receive services. This can also be the most costly, especially if you still have to meet an insurance deductible or do not have private insurance to access. If you are in a rush to prioritize services, an important question during this process is whether the outpatient center or private-based therapy service site providers are also in network with Illinois's Early Intervention system. (We'll review how to access both services down below.) 2. Call the Illinois Early Intervention program. Turn around time to services: six to 12 weeks, depending on availability Illinois has a robust Early Intervention program offered for children ages 0 to 3. Services included in Early Intervention are speech therapy, occupational therapy, physical therapy, developmental therapy, developmental vision therapy, developmental hearing therapy, feeding therapy, social work, nutrition services, and diagnostic referral services, to name a few. Services are typically provided in home, in a daycare, or via teletherapy, depending on a family's preference. [Related: What to look for in a therapeutic preschool] Families can call the child and family connection facility associated with their home address ZIP code to obtain an assessment and report concerns related to their child's development. Pediatricians or other physicians related to your child's care can also directly refer to the Early Intervention system. To begin Early Intervention services, your pediatrician must agree with and sign off on all recommended services after the assessment. After calling to schedule an assessment, it typically takes two weeks to receive a scheduled assessment. Following the evaluation, recommendations are made and new providers are searched for to provide the recommended frequency of services. This process in finding your child's provider team can at times be lengthy to get set up, depending on availability of clinicians in your area. Despite the issues with timely services, the benefits to using the Early Intervention system are great for families! Monthly family fees are assessed based on number of family members and overall household income. This family fee is set from $0 to $200 max per month. Early Intervention can act as your primary insurance (as in, the only insurance plan that is billed for therapy services), or it can act as your secondary insurance (e.g., the insurance to handle any unpaid amounts after visits are processed by your primary insurance plan). Because of this set up, Early Intervention can provide an extremely affordable and accessible means for therapy services for children up to the age of three. 3. Combination of utilizing private insurance and the Early Intervention system through the state of Illinois. Turn around time: one to two weeks to get started; up to three months to bring on Early Intervention coverage At times, when a problem has been identified, waiting several months for services can feel like a lifetime. This is where a provider that can initially work with your insurance plan, that has providers certified through the Early Intervention program, can work nicely. Think of it as billing just your primary insurance for the first weeks before Early Intervention can "kick in." Early Intervention can then be used primarily as your benefits plan or to help supplement your insurance plan. Finding an initial provider that provides both services is also helpful so that you do not have to get services started and then switch providers to a different facility. Hopefully this has been a useful guide to accessing services and pursuing early intervention for your child. Again, listen to your instincts, pursue help when needed, and don’t rely on “wait and see”: it could prove to take even more time to make gains with this approach.
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    Join NPN program manager, Tareema, and other NPN members at the Cradle to Crayons Giving Factory. We will help sort and organize donations in the Cradles to Crayons warehouse. If you are bringing a child or children they must be at least 5 years old. Cradles to Crayon adult to child ratios are as follows: 1 adult for every 3 elementary aged children, 1 adult for every 5 middle school aged children, and 1 adult for every 10 high school aged children. Registration is a 2-step process. You must complete both steps to secure your spot. 1. RSVP with NPN. You will immediately receive an event confirmation email from NPN. 2. Complete the Cradles to Crayons registration link included in your NPN event confirmation email. Cradles to Crayons is located at 2500 W. Bradley Place, Chicago IL 60618. The GPS will not take you directly to our section of the property. We are behind Climb Zone, Power, and the other businesses in the front of the complex. Please go all the way to the back side of the complex near Elite Baseball Training and Windy City Ninjas and look for our purple Cradles to Crayons sign. We have parking spaces in front of our building that are first come, first serve. All adults and children must wear a mask over their nose and mouth. (Volunteers must wear the mask provided by Cradle to Crayons for the duration of their shift) Spaces are limited. Please honor your RSVP. RVSP no later than October 5th, 2022! Postpone your RSVP only if the following apply: - Diagnosed with COVID-19 and have not yet been cleared as non-contagious by state or local public health authorities. - Exposed to a person with a confirmed or suspected case of COVID-19 in the past 14 days. - Experiencing symptoms of illness such as a fever, cough, or shortness of breath. Questions? Contact Tareema at tareema@npnparents.org
  23. NPN Lauren

    Gardening with kids

    Water, sunlight, soil. It’s what all plants need, and one of the first science facts that kids learn. So gardening is the perfect way to harness an interest in the environment and to cultivate future scientists. These steps offer suggestions that can be scaled to fit any size patch, from large outdoor garden to tiny indoor pot. Planning The winter seems rather endless in Chicago, so thinking of warmer times ahead is a wonderfully positive pastime. Once we get past new year we start to dream of a flower-filled garden. Last year we created mood boards (both as a collage on paper and digitally using Canva), to share our individual visions. Researching Looking up native plants, preferred growing conditions, and the necessary maintenance, makes great reading and research practice, while sparking a conversation about sustainable gardening and climate. We love going to the library either in person or digitally (using sites such as Epic which has a free basic plan). [Related: Family-friendly summer bike rides in Chicago] Selecting We’ve all read that children who spend time around nature are happier, better focused, and more empathetic to others and the planet. A trip to the garden center makes a lovely family activity. Assign tasks to keep things harmonious: who is responsible for the cart, the shopping list, keeping track of the time? Alternatively, purchase from any of the one-off plant sales that occur across Chicagoland (bookmark for next year). Some of these have the option to pre-order and then for drive-up collection, which can be convenient if you don’t fancy keeping a toddler in line. Planting You know how much children love to get their hands in soil. Seeking out smaller tools can facilitate the planting. Little ones will love the colorful options available, while older children will take greater ownership if they’ve chosen items that appeal to their emerging aesthetic. Readers can check that plants are finding their preferred piece of your patch, while new writers can practice their handwriting by labelling popsicle sticks – drawings encouraged. Watering Every small child loves to wield a hose or watering can. Use this as an opportunity to watch the weather forecast and talk about the seasons. Then formulate a coding-like plan for watering: if there is no rain, the temperature is between X and X, then water once in the morning, and so on. Create a chart (an opportunity to practice computer and/or graphic design skills) and assign responsibility. [Related: 7 things to have on hand for fun at-home activities with your kids] Harvesting If you can include something you can harvest in your plantings, this will hold everyone’s interest. Tomato plants with little green fruit will provide a quick reward, which is imperative with very little kids. Peppers and herbs are other vegetation that kids get excited about and can lead to some fun cooking activities, including the crowd-pleasing pizza. Assessing Of course, plants do not follow strict instructions and with even the most loving and zealous care do not always yield the desired results. Making a review of your "land" part of your weekly family time and having conversations around this can help children understand that as well as planning, problem-solving and flexibility are important skills to learn. Then encourage them to suggest solutions for you to try. With children’s affinity for the natural world, gardening is a perfect activity to involve the whole family. Whether you have a vast, outdoor space, or need to set up your greenery indoors, there is the opportunity to engage and converse. We hope that this shared interest will continue to bond us as a family as we navigate the years ahead together.
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    Join NPN program manager, Tareema, and other NPN members at the Cradle to Crayons Giving Factory. We will help sort and organize donations in the Cradles to Crayons warehouse. Each adult may bring one child. If you are bringing a child, register for 1 adult and 1 child. Children must be at least 5 years old. Registration is a 2-step process. You must complete both steps to secure your spot. 1. RSVP with NPN. You will immediately receive an event confirmation email from NPN. 2. Complete the Cradles to Crayons registration link included in your NPN event confirmation email. Cradles to Crayons is located at 4141 W. George St., Chicago, IL 60641. There are 33 parking spaces in front of the building that are first come first serve. There is also street parking. Please do not drive past the concrete barriers that separate the shipping and receiving area of the building. All adults and children must wear a mask over their nose and mouth. (Volunteers must wear the mask provided by Cradle to Crayons for the duration of their shift) Spaces are limited. Please honor your RSVP. RSVP no later than January 12th, 2022! Postpone your RSVP only if the following apply: - Diagnosed with COVID-19 and have not yet been cleared as non-contagious by state or local public health authorities. - Exposed to a person with a confirmed or suspected case of COVID-19 in the past 14 days. - Experiencing symptoms of illness such as a fever, cough, or shortness of breath. Questions? Contact Tareema at tareema@npnparents.org
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    Join NPN program manager, Tareema, and other NPN members at the Cradle to Crayons Giving Factory. We will help sort and organize donations in the Cradles to Crayons warehouse. Each adult may bring one child. If you are bringing a child, register for 1 adult and 1 child. Children must be at least 5 years old. Registration is a 2-step process. You must complete both steps to secure your spot. 1. RSVP with NPN. You will immediately receive an event confirmation email from NPN. 2. Complete the Cradles to Crayons registration link included in your NPN event confirmation email. Cradles to Crayons is located at 4141 W. George St., Chicago, IL 60641. There are 33 parking spaces in front of the building that are first come first serve. There is also street parking. Please do not drive past the concrete barriers that separate the shipping and receiving area of the building. All adults and children must wear a mask over their nose and mouth. (Volunteers must wear the mask provided by Cradle to Crayons for the duration of their shift) Spaces are limited. Please honor your RSVP. RVSP no later than January 1st, 2022! Postpone your RSVP only if the following apply: - Diagnosed with COVID-19 and have not yet been cleared as non-contagious by state or local public health authorities. - Exposed to a person with a confirmed or suspected case of COVID-19 in the past 14 days. - Experiencing symptoms of illness such as a fever, cough, or shortness of breath. Questions? Contact Tareema at tareema@npnparents.org

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