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How To Teach Your Children To Be Household Helpers

(NewsUSA) - Children can begin learning and participating in household duties as young as two. While handling the tasks yourself may be easier and less time-consuming, involving your children in the home can bring a sense of joy and togetherness, helping them gain confidence, a sense of accountability, and a deeper connection to their family members. 

If you’re thinking, “But where do I start?” the key is in the approach and consistency. You must be as committed to your child’s role as they are. Here are a few tips to help create helpers in the home.

  1. Keep it age appropriate. As a good rule of thumb, your child should be assigned one role or responsibility for each year of age. If they’re three years old, give them three tasks. Make sure the tasks fit their developmental level. If you make them too difficult, they could get frustrated along the way.
  2. It’s all about learning and growth. If you keep this top of mind, you’re bound to be successful. Take the time to explain and demonstrate each task, then do the task with the child the first few times. After that, let them try it on their own. It won’t be perfect, but each attempt is a step towards independence. Set expectations with your child and be clear in your ask. Take each task one at a time to avoid overwhelming your child.
  3. Your encouragement is crucial. If you tried to do something new and failed repeatedly, you, too, would begin to feel discouraged. Remember, your child may feel the same when taking on new roles and responsibilities. Your positive feedback and support can make a world of difference. Tell them what you liked and what they did well. Encourage your child along the way and keep it fun—turn up the tunes, start dancing, and get to work. As they gain more independence with the task, make sure to tell them how and why they’re doing a great job.
  4. Don’t forget the transitions. Use “first-then” sentences to break a multi-step activity into two components. “First, we’re going to put away our race cars, and then we’ll start cooking dinner.” Timers are great visual and auditory cues to help your child know when it’s time to stop what they’re doing and move on to another task. The timers should be fun, interactive, and visible for your child. The timer should be implemented when you’re ready to follow through and should be used consistently. While using them, be sure to give verbal time updates and warnings, as time lengths will vary per child and task. This tool removes the person-to-person dynamic and helps your child understand the concept of transitions.

Each of these tips is also a best-practice teacher tool, so check in with your child’s teacher to see how they may introduce roles, responsibilities, and transitions with your child that you can carry over at home. For more information and resources, visit KinderCare.com.

 

 

Toys For Tots Brings Hope to Children in Foster Care

(NewsUSA) - May is National Foster Care Month, and Marine Toys for Tots, America’s premier children’s Christmastime charity, continues its year-round mission of providing support to at-risk children, including those in Foster Care, through their Foster Care Initiative.  

More than 700 children in the United States enter the Foster Care system every day.  Through no fault of their own, these young people find themselves removed from everything they know, often landing in an unfamiliar setting with only a small bag for clothes and little else.

“When I became the President and CEO of the Marine Toys for Tots Foundation, I knew we could be more than a Christmastime charity.  Part of that intent was to assist foster families and foster children. I wanted to involve the entire community to assist us in providing items such as backpacks and educational toys, books, and other gifts,” said LtGen James Laster, CEO of the Marine Toys for Tots Foundation.

In 2022, Toys for Tots launched its Foster Care Initiative to provide resources that support these children during extremely stressful and trying times. Their mission: to reduce anxiety for children in Foster Care and make a positive impact on their lives.

Marine SSgt James Caldwell knows from personal experience that seemingly small acts of kindness make a big difference. When SSgt Caldwell was a young boy, he experienced the uncertainty of Foster Care, but felt hope through the gift of a new toy from the Toys for Tots chapter in his community at Christmas.

Fast-forward to today, and SSgt Caldwell is giving back to disadvantaged children by volunteering with his local Toys for Tots chapter.

“If a kid is experiencing darkness all year long and then someone like me, dressed in a fancy uniform, comes along and says, ‘I think maybe we can help you a little bit,’ that may give them the hope they need to go on to do great things, and pay it forward,” says SSgt Caldwell.

SSgt Caldwell delivers more than just a new toy to disadvantaged children in his community – he also reminds children that brighter days are ahead, and Toys for Tots stands ready to assist whenever they need hope and joy the most.

Thanks to the generosity of donors across the Nation, Toys for Tots provided toys, books, games, and emotional comfort to more than 3,000 at-risk children, including those in Foster Care. Please join our continuing mission to help foster children find a path to a brighter future. For more information about the Toys for Tots Foster Care Initiative, visit https://www.toysfortots.org/programs/foster-children/.

 

Self-Care and Mental Health Tips for Caregivers

(NewsUSA) - Caregivers, especially parents, often spend so much time focused on the well-being of others, they neglect to take a break for their own mental health. According to KinderCare’s Parent Confidence Index, 51% of parents feel that they never get a break from parenting. As a result, their energy decreases, their emotional tank runs close to empty, and they can struggle to be at their best for their families.

As caregivers, it’s important to take care of oneself to show up each day and care for the needs of children. Simply put, you can’t pour from an empty cup. Guilt often creeps in for parents when they prioritize their own needs; however, it’s ultimately creating a win-win scenario because doing so teaches children how to keep their own mental health top of mind. May is Mental Health Awareness Month and a great time to start practicing.

Here’s a few tips on how to care for your own mental health amid the parenting frenzy:

  1. Start small. Simpler habits seem to form faster. Even if it's a few days a week or a few minutes a day, taking the first step of refueling and restoring your energy is a good start. Whether it’s journaling, gratitude recognition, exercising or reading, it’s not about what you choose to do as a reset, it’s more about the intentionality of taking the time to do it. 
  2. Ask for help. Talk with a loved one about your needs and goals. Ask them to not only help remind you to take breaks but encourage you to do so. Accountability can be a fundamental step in ensuring your positive wellbeing as a caregiver.
  3. Lean into existing resources. Utilize resources around you, such as your child’s child care center by extending their day in care a few days a week for 15-30 minutes. Having peace of mind of knowing that they’re somewhere safe and secure while you take a break is important.
  4. Set expectations with your children. Share what it will look like for them while you are taking time for yourself. Reassure them you will return to play, read a book or sing silly songs. Explain what they can do, who can help them if needed and when can they expect you back. Express that “this is what I need to help my body and mind feel strong.”
  5. Be a role model. As any teacher or parent knows, children mimic their caregivers’ behaviors and are in-tune with the attitudes and moods of those surrounding them. In time, they will learn how to take time for themselves by watching you create intentionality around it, and, in turn, will gain confidence in creating those moments for themselves.

For more tips on self-care and mental health for both parents and children, visit KinderCare.com.

No Child is Forgotten By Marine Toys for Tots

(NewsUSA) - Marine Toys for Tots, known for its core mission of Christmastime charitable efforts, has evolved into a year-round force for good – ensuring that no child is forgotten any day of the year. The assistance that the Program provides extends far beyond the holiday season because hope and comfort are needed year-round.   

“Innocent children have no control over their circumstances. Whether they face a sudden tragedy, a natural disaster, or a life of poverty, their needs are the same,” says LtGen Jim Laster, USMC (Retired), President & CEO of the Marine Toys for Tots Foundation. 

Toys for Tots is constantly spreading hope around our Nation to make a difference for those in need and promote a brighter tomorrow.  

The year-round efforts reassure families facing adversity and challenging circumstances that Marine Toys for Tots is there to assist when hope and comfort are needed most. The Program strives to restore and build self-esteem and inspire our Nation’s children to grow into responsible, productive, patriotic citizens.  

Although providing hope and joy at Christmastime is Toys for Tots’ primary mission during our annual holiday campaign, which includes support to remote Reservations through our Toys for Tots Native American Program, the needs of children living in challenging circumstances are year-round. For that reason, the Program has expanded their efforts and is now a year-round force for good for children in need. Toys for Tots is committed to providing emotional relief and support to disadvantaged children throughout the year with our Toys for Tots Literacy Program, Foster Care Initiative, and Disaster Response and Recovery efforts.  

With help from generous supporters across the Nation, the Marine Toys for Tots Program provided 25.5 million toys, books, and other gifts to 10.3 million disadvantaged children in 2023! Join us in 2024 as we continue to be an even stronger year-round force for good and deliver hope beyond the holiday season. Together, we can help hope flourish for children in need across the Nation and ensure that no child is forgotten. Visit toysfortots.org for more information or to donate.

Family Teacher Conference Topics Beyond Academics

(NewsUSA) - Raising a family is overwhelming enough; add in milestones, routines, challenging behavior and keeping an eye on academic progress, and you’re in for a spin. However, your child’s teacher is often there to help navigate you along the way. Family-teacher conferences are not only a great measure of your child’s academic progress and needs, but it’s also a time to learn more about your child’s personality and tips to set them up for confidence and success beyond the classroom.

“No matter how old your child is, it’s important to communicate regularly with teachers and stay plugged into your school community,” says Ariel Bronson, Inclusion Services Advisor for KinderCare. “We hold conferences twice yearly because we value family as important educational collaborators. Research shows that when families and teachers stay connected, children are not only better prepared to enter kindergarten but their social skills and achievement improve, too. We are always thinking about how to set kids up for the most success, and we’re proud that the longer kids stay in our program, the better they do.”

Here are two focus topics, beyond academics, to help set you up for a well-rounded family-teacher conference:

  1. Social-emotional. Your child craves relationships, and we know they’re important for you, too. According to a study, 58% of parents have seen a difference in their child’s social-emotional skills since enrolling their child in a child care setting. 
    • What are my child’s strengths outside of academic performance?
    • What is something kind you have seen my child do?
    • How does my child interact with their peers?
       
  2. Executive functioning. Your child is capable of more than you may think. As adults, we often want to help, but it’s important to take a step back so your children can learn more about their abilities to stay focused on tasks and continue improving and developing healthy skills.
    • How well does my child follow simple instructions?
    • How does my child bounce back from an unpreferred situation?
    • How does my child react to conflict?

Don’t be afraid to ask your child’s teacher to elaborate on an answer or explain using an example for you. Be sure to also ask for resources and tips to use at home to help your child expand on these skills.

Remember that these conferences are merely a snapshot in time. Use the results as a positive guide to build upon. This meeting does not define your child; it informs you about them. It’s not an all-inclusive list of their abilities or what they’re going to do in the future. You’ve got this, and they do, too! For more resources, visit KinderCare.com.

Youth Take Down Tobacco

(NewsUSA) - Advocates of all ages across the country join forces on April 1, Take Down Tobacco National Day of Action, to stand up and speak out against the tobacco industry.

Demonstrations, rallies and educational events are scheduled to expose how the tobacco industry targets kids with flavored, nicotine-filled products. Youth and adults are calling on federal, state and local officials to end the sale of all flavored tobacco products.

“When I finally realized that it wasn’t just cancer that killed my grandma, tobacco did, I started my tobacco prevention journey because I never wanted to see another person lose a loved one to tobacco,” says Neveah, a National Youth Ambassador with the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, which sponsors Take Down Tobacco.

The tobacco industry has a long history of using flavored products including e-cigarettes, menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars to appeal to children and other vulnerable groups. These flavors mask the harshness of tobacco products, making it easier for kids to start and ultimately become addicted.

“I’m shocked by the number of teens I see vaping who are vaping daily or even continuously. All of them are using minty, fruit flavors,” says Dr. Deepa Camenga, an addiction specialist with the American Academy of Pediatrics. “The products that are on the market have extremely high levels of nicotine and young people’s brains are particularly susceptible.”

A report of the U.S. Surgeon General found that, in addition to being highly addictive, nicotine can be harmful to child and adolescent brain development, especially the areas of the brain involved in learning, memory and attention. 

Although tobacco use among U.S. teens has decreased in recent years, the latest survey shows that 2.8 million middle and high school students still use tobacco products, including 2.1 million users of e-cigarettes.

“We’ve made tremendous progress in reducing youth tobacco use, but the tobacco industry is relentless in targeting our kids with flavored e-cigarettes and other flavored products. The FDA and  policymakers at every level of government should commit to removing all flavored tobacco products from the marketplace to protect our kids,” says Yolonda C. Richardson, President & CEO of Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.

“Take Down Tobacco National Day of Action is a time for communities to stand together against Big Tobacco’s efforts to addict another generation of kids,” she adds.

Take Down Tobacco is a national program of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids to empower youth to create change in their communities, with the goal of achieving the first tobacco-free generation. To learn more, visit www.takedowntobacco.org.

Taking Action to Take Down Tobacco

(NewsUSA) - Advocates of all ages across the country join forces on April 1, Take Down Tobacco National Day of Action, to stand up and speak out against the tobacco industry.

Demonstrations, rallies and educational events are scheduled to expose how the tobacco industry targets kids with flavored, nicotine-filled products. Youth and adults are calling on federal, state and local officials to end the sale of all flavored tobacco products.

“When I finally realized that it wasn’t just cancer that killed my grandma, tobacco did, I started my tobacco prevention journey because I never wanted to see another person lose a loved one to tobacco,” says Neveah, a National Youth Ambassador with the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, which sponsors Take Down Tobacco.

The tobacco industry has a long history of using flavored products including e-cigarettes, menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars to appeal to children and other vulnerable groups. These flavors mask the harshness of tobacco products, making it easier for kids to start and ultimately become addicted.

“I’m shocked by the number of teens I see vaping who are vaping daily or even continuously. All of them are using minty, fruit flavors,” says Dr. Deepa Camenga, an addiction specialist with the American Academy of Pediatrics. “The products that are on the market have extremely high levels of nicotine and young people’s brains are particularly susceptible.”

A report of the U.S. Surgeon General found that, in addition to being highly addictive, nicotine can be harmful to child and adolescent brain development, especially the areas of the brain involved in learning, memory and attention. 

Although tobacco use among U.S. teens has decreased in recent years, the latest survey shows that 2.8 million middle and high school students still use tobacco products, including 2.1 million users of e-cigarettes.

“We’ve made tremendous progress in reducing youth tobacco use, but the tobacco industry is relentless in targeting our kids with flavored e-cigarettes and other flavored products. The FDA and  policymakers at every level of government should commit to removing all flavored tobacco products from the marketplace to protect our kids,” says Yolonda C. Richardson, President & CEO of Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.

“Take Down Tobacco National Day of Action is a time for communities to stand together against Big Tobacco’s efforts to addict another generation of kids,” she adds.

Take Down Tobacco is a national program of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids to empower youth to create change in their communities, with the goal of achieving the first tobacco-free generation. To learn more, visit www.takedowntobacco.org.

Help Toys for Tots Turn the Page on Poverty for Children in Need

(NewsUSA) - Literacy is the foundation for success in life, but many children across the United States lack access to age-appropriate books. That is why the Marine Toys for Tots Literacy Program is committed to providing books and educational resources to children living in low-income communities and helping them turn the page on poverty.  

Most people know Toys for Tots as the organization that brings holiday cheer to children in need with gifts of new toys, but Toys for Tots also brings hope and support to these children throughout the year with initiatives such as the Toys for Tots Literacy Program.  

Unfortunately, 37% of children in the United States lack access to age-appropriate reading materials at home. During National Reading Month, Toys for Tots wants every child to experience the joy of reading and turn the page on poverty. 

“By getting books into the hands of struggling students, we are helping children become their best selves,” said LtGen Jim Laster, USMC (Retired), President and CEO of the Marine Toys for Tots Foundation.  “Our goal is to dramatically change the landscape for economically disadvantaged children and provide to the essential tools to ensure their future success,” he added. 

The Toys for Tots Literacy Program was established in 2008 as a year-round effort to offer our Nation’s most economically disadvantaged children the ability to compete academically and to succeed in life by providing them direct access to books and educational resources that enhance their ability to read and communicate effectively. Since the Program’s inception, over 57 million books have been provided to children living in low-income areas – turning the page on poverty, one book at a time.  

“This Program not only brings the joy of reading to these children, but it also serves as an important instrument in breaking the cycle of poverty,” said LtGen Laster. 

The message is simple: Get books into the hands of economically disadvantaged children. Please know that 100% of any donations are used to deliver books to children and promote the joy of reading! Visit toysfortots.org to donate today. Hope is just a book away! 

4 Tips for Introducing a Family Calendar to Your Kids

(NewsUSA) - When your morning starts off with questions like, “do I have school today?” or “how many more sleeps?” it may be time to introduce a family calendar.

A family calendar can be utilized by children as early as age two if it includes pictures of the activities. Around age three, children’s growing executive function and working memory skills expand, which means words like “yesterday” and “today” now have meaning for your little one.

Knowing what’s coming next can allow a child to better self-regulate emotions as they’ll know what to expect. Check out these four tips for introducing a calendar for your family:

  1. Determine what type of calendar works best and secure a central location. This could be in the kitchen, living room or a hallway. Make sure it’s in a central location that the whole family can locate and access. Calendars can be formatted in a weekly or monthly style and can be paper, dry erase or digital.
  2. Make it visually pleasing. Try using different colors as a differentiator. If you have multiple children, allow them to have their own identifier. Use a visual “day” marker, such as a magnetic frame or arrow to showcase “today” and “tomorrow.” If your child is younger, be sure to use age-appropriate stickers or pictures to portray what’s coming next. Refer to the calendar often so it becomes a daily or weekly tool for them. They could also be involved with moving the markers before bed or each morning.
  3. Use it as a balanced measure. Keep it positive by including events and happenings such as extracurricular activities, family game nights, holidays, play dates, etc. Be sure to also include unpreferred activities like medical appointments, new events or at-home responsibilities. The calendar should be a tool to help reduce anxiety around the unknown for your child.
  4. Make it personal. Tailor the calendar to your family’s needs. You know your children best, so be sure to include them each time the calendar is updated. If your child needs additional support, or if they live in a two-home family, you could have an extra small calendar on hand that stays with your child in their backpack or room so they can always see what’s upcoming.

A family calendar will not only help your child determine what’s coming but also help introduce organization to them at a young age. For more resources, visit KinderCare.com.

Marine Toys for Tots is Honored with Humanitarian Award

(NewsUSA) - Thanks to the ongoing support of the American public, the Marine Toys for Tots Program was honored to receive the esteemed Humanitarian Award at the 26th Annual CBS Family Film and TV Awards. The award recognized Marine Toys for Tots for their year-round work supporting struggling families and children across the country, which they are able to do with your unwavering assistance. 

Bestowing the award with celebrities Montel Williams, Dean Cain, and Laura McKenzie, television presenter and actress Elizabeth Stanton noted that “one organization that has consistently supported families in need is the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots Program.” 

A heartwarming video segment highlighted Toys for Tots’ National, year-round work, including testimonials of families from around the country who have been assisted by the organization. “Toys for Tots means everything to us,” said one teary-eyed mother. “When you live on a fixed income, pretty much every dime is accounted for, and we didn’t know what to do. Toys for Tots changed all that!” 

LtGen James Laster, USMC (Retired), CEO of the Marine Toys for Tots Foundation, and Major General Len “Loni” Anderson, Assistant Deputy Commandant, Plans, Policies, and Operations for the United States Marine Corps, accepted the award to a standing ovation in the packed theater.   

“We have expanded beyond Christmastime to provide year-round hope and support, and we couldn’t have done it without the generosity of the American people – you!” said LtGen Laster in remarks accepting the award on behalf of the organization. 

General Anderson added, “This recognition strengthens our resolve to continue our mission. It’s not just toys.  It’s about delivering joy and fostering hope in the hearts of those families when they need it.” 

LtGen Laster also laid out Toys for Tots’ ambitious goals for 2024, saying that the organization hoped to reach a record 11 million disadvantaged children this year. 

“The Marine Toys for Tots Program has been a beacon of hope for over seven decades, striving to bring smiles to the faces of children who might otherwise go without during the holiday season and throughout the year,” said LtGen Laster.  “It is an incredible honor to be recognized by the 26th Annual Family Film and TV Awards and receive the prestigious Humanitarian Award for the Program’s commitment to being a year-round force for good and making futures as bright as possible for children in need.” 

Visit toysfortots.org for more information and to be part of this year-round force for good!

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