Archive for the ‘family time’ Category

STEM at the fair

July 13th, 2015

It’s summer time! That means it’s county fair time. Do you know how much science, technology, engineering and math happens at a county or state fair?

Confession time, I was not a fair kid growing up. I thought that if I went to the county fair I would just see my friend’s farm animals and the cookies they had been practice baking for months. No really, that’s what I thought! I have come to learn however that it is about amazing fabulous STEM opportunities and experiences. Even as a visitor, your opportunities to experience STEM are endless.

When I searched ‘what to do at the fair’ I found an endless list of activities for families. From milking cows, to using robots, to participating in food demonstrations (read EAT), from creating your own artwork, to learning about wildlife and insects.  And these were just the 3 links I found from 3 different states! Not to mention all the counties in those various states that were sharing their fair activities.

Take a moment and think about how you might be able to encourage STEM activities in a fun and family friendly environment with your children. Most fairs are low cost or have discount days/times. They cater to families with children and want to create an engaging family focused time for you. Get creative while you’re at the fair. Create family challenges or mini-competitions at the exhibits and demonstrations. Enjoy the demonstrations and talk about how you might do something similar in your own home. Take the fair boards up on their offer, find a fair close to you and show your kids that you know a little about STEM too.

We would love to hear about your favorite fair experiences.


communicating, education, family time , ,

Parenting..More Than a “To-Do” List

May 28th, 2015

ThinkstockPhotos-476027825 (3)

I have two children that have graduated from high school and the youngest will start his sophomore year in high school this fall.   So my parenting years are dwindling. Do I have any regrets?  Well…I’m sure like many busy mothers; the years seemed to fly by and most of the time, I was blessed with children who were typically “easy” and didn’t demand intensive parental intervention.   Somewhere during those early years I remember reading a book by William Doherty, Ph.D. about being “intentional”. Doherty’s book helped me to realize the importance of everyday rituals that could strengthen our family and marital relationships.   I learned that I couldn’t do it ALL.  But I also learned that being intentional meant setting priorities.   And I learned that if I didn’t set goals, things just wouldn’t get done.  But sometimes, I just got tangled up in the never ending details of family life and responsibilities.  My kids have always been good at keeping me centered on what was most important.  I learned that when they were most unlovable, they needed love the most.  And when they were quiet and happily playing alone, they needed me just as much as when they were whining and pulling at my leg for attention.  We have attempted to make our family communication a two way street.  I know that I have learned as much from my children, as they have learned from me.  One of my most treasured “ah-ah” moments for me came from a mother’s day gift—from my then 12-year old daughter.   She framed a Dove Chocolate wrapper—with the fitting quote, “Life is more than a to-do list”.  How shaming, yet so very spot on!  I was taken back by her subtle communication tactic.  But I took her advice to heart and I still have the chocolate wrapper as a reminder of the most important things in life.  Be intentional and remember to take time for what matters most.

Janet Smith

balancing work and family, family time , ,

Conversations, conversations, conversations

January 31st, 2015

Dr. Constance Beecher, Ph.D, Assistant Professor, School of Education and Human Sciences Extension and Outreach shares more with us about expanding children’s vocabulary.

“Vocabulary can be developed by directly teaching new words, or indirectly through having a lot of exposure to words in books and conversations.   Research suggests a combination of both is the best approach, says Dr. Beecher.”

“Developing vocabulary indirectly through books and conversations has many benefits. Children who are read to frequently gain a life-long love of reading. The more children hear different words and understand their meaning, the better readers they will become. This is because learning to read requires an understanding of the relationship between the sounds of language (phonemic awareness) and the symbol or letter that represents that sound (phonics). The more words children know, the better they are able to understand the letter/sound relationship, and conversely, the more knowledge children have about the letter/sound relationship, the better they are able to learn new words,” Dr. Beecher.

She also suggests, “Parents can read a variety of books to and with children, and pause at words that children may not know to explain their meaning. For example, while reading “Corduroy went up the escalator.”, pause and ask “do you know what an escalator is?”. Then define: “An escalator is a set of stairs that moves you from one floor to another.” Then explain: “Last week while I was at Macys, and I rode an escalator from the first floor to the second floor”. Then relate to child: “Where have you ridden on an escalator?” – state the question in a way so that the child can say the word, or ask child to repeat word.”

Dr. Beecher reminds us that, “When having conversations, ask open ended questions (questions that can’t be answered with a yes/no). During these conversations, you can introduce synonyms. For example, you might be talking about what happened at daycare or preschool. If your child talks about making a tall tower in the block area, you can say “Oh, you made an enormous skyscraper?” “Enormous is another word for something is very big or tall”, and when a building is enormous, we call it a skyscraper. Why do you think we say skyscraper?”. This gives children an opportunity to practice the new words. Children need opportunities not only to hear new words, but to practice saying them.”

And she also wants us to remember the Non-fiction! Non-fiction or informational books are a great source of new vocabulary. When children are exposed to a wide range of vocabulary in areas like science or history, they are more prepared when they have to read these types of texts in school. See websites like this for suggestions,

Or talk with your librarian. This list of non-fiction books for ages 3-5 comes from the State Library of Iowa

Dr. Beecher says, “You can add vocabulary to your everyday activities. When you take your car to the shop to change your oil, talk about oil, engines, and other components of a car. When you go to a nursery to pick out new plants and flowers for your yard be sure to note the different names of flowers, types of grass, plants and trees. When you make a new recipe, talk about spaghetti, marinara sauce, parmesan cheese, sautéing. Use a mix of nouns and verbs.”

She says, “It takes about an average child about 12 times of interacting with a word before he or she is familiar enough with the word to use it, and many times we do not provide enough opportunities for children to get this practice.”

And Dr. Beecher’s final thoughts? “Lastly, make it fun. There is no need to sit children down with flashcards and ask them to define words. Reading and talking together will make learning vocabulary natural and fun.”


Share with us ways that you have made ‘vocabulary’ fun!

Lori Hayungs






communicating, family time, language development, miscellaneous, parenting ,

Christmas Sock Story Reinforces Gratitude

December 21st, 2014

This is a great time of year to tell family stories.  I purposely take the opportunity to retell my Grandma Isabel’s holiday story of gratitude each year to my children.  The story goes like this… her depression era grandparents would give each grandchild woolen socks with candy and an orange.  The gift was welcome to almost all of my grandmother’s brothers and sisters who usually received very little under the Christmas tree.  But one Christmas her ungrateful sister Ada complained that they were itchy and she didn’t like them.  Offended, her grandparents stopped the Christmas gift giving.  My grandmother was heartbroken, but her heart always remembered the importance of being thankful.  Her lesson of gratitude was repeated in story form for me each year!  I have continued the same story and sharing the importance of the value of gratitude.

My kids look forward to Christmas for 11 months each year!   The last thing I want to hear is them being an  “Ada” and complaining about is how they didn’t get everything they wanted, but teaching and having a spirit of gratitude instead.  Before Christmas, I try to set aside a time to do something for others.  They have griped at times…I will be honest…but I know that serving others will help make them into a better people.   It’s harder for them to think about their little problems when they see the Bob-Cratchit-sized issues of the less fortunate.

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From Maps to Apps

June 25th, 2014

Vacation day arrives bright and sunny. As the car pulls out of the driveway, you glance into the back seat to be sure the kids are settled. And settled they are – completely engrossed in whatever their smartphones and tablets have to offer. Is this what you had in mind for family vacation? Are you going to be nagging everyone (maybe even yourself) the whole trip to put the phones away?

It is well to remember that learning can happen in many ways. While the days of counting cars and playing the ABC sign game may be a thing of the past, family fun continues.

mapHere’s one example. Reading maps were a big deal when we traveled as a family. Someone would trace the route with a highlighter. We would use the legend to figure the distance in miles. Another person would check the population of towns we passed through and compare them to our hometown. Maps even had information about historical sites.

Now there’s an app for everything we used a map for – and more! Have the kids take turns with finding directions, checking out places to eat, sharing fun things about places, etc. You can make this into an electronic scavenger hunt (that dates me). The amateur photographers in the family can be responsible for taking pictures and creating a virtual album.

The point is to turn smartphones and tablets into a useful, learning part of vacation rather than a battle. And it’s still ok to occasionally have some “phone free” time. This too can become a game. Each family member gets to pick time during the awake hours each day when phones and tablets are taboo.

How do you handle this issue on your family vacation?

Donna Donald

education, family time, media and kids , , ,

A treasure hunt vacation? SIGN ME UP!

June 20th, 2014

SandraGeocachingGuest Blogger, Sandra McKinnon

Geocaching: A Great Family Activity

Geocaching is a world-wide treasure hunt where you electronically use longitude and latitude to locate the “loot.” It is a great low-cost family activity. It is easy to catch on to and you can do it anywhere you are.

My adult son introduced me to the game. We used his handheld GPS unit and went searching in a nearby park. What we found was a camouflaged box full of trinkets. He explained we could take a trinket, but if we did we were to leave another of at least equal value. We signed the log that was inside the box and carefully put it back where we found it. Then we went along our merry way as if nothing had happened.

How did he know that the box was there? He went online to and searched near his home for a cache. He plugged the coordinates into his GPS and we left the house. When we were back to the house, he went online to log the find.

Now, the electronic treasure hunt is as easy as getting an app on your smartphone. You simply search near where you are, choose the level of difficulty and terrain you feel appropriate, and then off you go geocaching.

Since the time with my son, I have logged caches in several states. I have also introduced geocaching to several friends, relatives and colleagues. My 4 year old grandson and I have gone hunting together. We searched for one that was easy enough to get to and to find. He delighted to find the treasure! And no one saw us – which is a trick sometimes! You see, the caches are secret so you don’t want anyone to know what you are doing.

I’ve enjoyed traipsing stealthily all over the U.S. It is a quick activity to stretch your legs or get children out to run a bit when the family stops for a break on a trip. Or plan a picnic and day out exploring wherever you are. Hint: many geocaches can be found at safe places like rest areas, parks and cemeteries.

Maybe you’ll find a cache that I have hidden. What will be inside it?

To learn more about the rules and courtesies of the game, and to search near you, visit

education, family time, miscellaneous, play, positive parenting, relationships , , , , , ,

A Museum, No Way!

June 12th, 2014

When our kids were growing up, there wasn’t much time or money for family vacations. But somehow one summer we managed to load the five of us in the Suburban and head to Chicago. Looking back I think all of us had different ideas about vacation. The girls wanted to swim in the pool at the hotel, my husband looked forward to interesting food, and I couldn’t wait to get to the museums. During the road trip, we started talking about possibilities and I realized I needed to think fast (something which Moms do pretty well).

d14db7fd3dHere is my solution. Each person got to choose one thing he or she really wanted to do. Then the rest of us would agree and participate. We didn’t have to like it but the rule was – no whining and no complaining. Now the interesting part. I chose the Museum of Science and Industry. A stern look was needed to silence the complaining that was about to erupt. We entered the museum and began to look at the exhibits on the first floor. And then the magic happened. After 30 minutes the girls were still enthralled in the first couple of exhibits. I had to keep encouraging them to move along to see more. Fun and learning and family time all got wrapped up into one wonderful afternoon. The discussions about what we saw and experienced extended well into the evening and later on the trip home.

A couple of takeaways here.

  • Mom doesn’t have to do all the planning. Everyone can have a voice in what the family does on vacation.
  • An afternoon at the museum can be a fascinating way to learn – in this case, science.

I still have a couple of the plastic cups we got at the Brookfield Zoo while on this vacation. Every time I use one, the fond memories come flooding back.

Donna Donald

education, family time, miscellaneous, school , , ,

Summer Vacation Time

June 2nd, 2014

Juggling work schedules, kids’ commitments and the family budget may make some parents wonder if a family vacation is worth the effort. But before giving up, consider this: the kids might learn something from the experience. Families take vacations for many reasons – to spend time together, have some fun, or rest and relax. However, research shows these opportunities to visit other people and places and see something new can actually boost your child’s academic achievement.

Join us during June as we talk about summer vacations and academic achievement.


education, family time, podcast , , ,

Remember when…

May 8th, 2014

I remember every summer camp experience I had. I only had a few but I REMEMBER! There were pivotal things that happened at each one. They shaped me. They were so important to me that as an adult I have attended a camp with my children for the last 5 years in a row. Not so much to create an experience for them, but to create experiences for all of the children attending. I LOVE CAMP! Can you hear me practically dancing on the keyboard as I type? You should have seen/heard me trying to speak slower for the podcast! My excitement over the possibilities that children have during camp experiences knows no boundaries. I’m even rambling now. So many organizations understand the importance of camp that they have scholarships, grants and monetary support systems to ensure children have opportunities.

Share your camp experiences with us. And if you really want to make a difference – find a camp near you and help a child enjoy it!

Lori Hayungs

family time, nature, positive parenting, social-emotional , , , ,

Do we get to help them choose?

April 24th, 2014

choice. choose. select. decide.

When it comes to children and religion who gets the the choice? Who gets to choose, select or decide?

I grew up  in a family that had religious rituals like Donna described last week. Religious rituals were always a part of my life. I was so comfortable with religious rituals that when I was a teen I decided that I would ‘change’ where I practiced those rituals. I yearned for more options and activities for teens, so I began to practice down the street with my friends (similar religion, different location). My family supported my decision with the rule that as long as I attended and participated I could go with my friends. It was my choice. I sometimes wonder what I would have done if my parents had said it wasn’t my choice. They were very brave to allow me the decision. I wonder if they were looked at ‘sideways’ for allowing me to select?  I wonder if they worried about telling me ‘no’ and feared that I would turn away from religion? Ironically, thirty years later, we all practice at the same place once again, my parents, my family, and my children. I sometimes think about what I would do if my teens asked me to practice elsewhere.

What might you do if your teen wanted to practice a similar religion at a different location? Share your thoughts with us.

Lori Hayungs


family time, miscellaneous, parenting, religion , , , ,

Spiritual Development

April 11th, 2014

Spiritual development in children… yep it’s part of their natural development. It’s part of their moral and cultural development. We didn’t just pick this topic randomly. We selected it purposely because just like physical development and social development, it is a part of your child that will continue to grow and develop over time. It’s the part of your child that plays into how they begin to make sense of their world and the people in it.  It’s the part of their development that shapes their values and beliefs about their families, friends, communities and nations.

How then can we foster a healthy spiritual development? How can we help to answer their questions about their world in a positive way? How can we nurture values and beliefs and children’s spiritual development? Spiritual and moral development can be a daunting and abstract concept but as I was looking through various resources I came across this poem and thought I would share.

What is Spirituality?

delighting in all things

being absorbed in the present moment

not to attached to ‘self’ and

eager to explore boundaries of ‘beyond’ and ‘other’

searching for meaning

discovering purpose

open to more?

Spirituality is like a bird; if you hold it to tightly, it chokes; if you hold it too loosely, it flies away. Fundamental to spirituality is the absence of force.

Rabbi Hugo Gryn

What are ways that you nurture spiritual development in your child?

Lori Hayungs

education, family time, moral, parental relationships, parenting, positive parenting, spiritual , , , , , ,

I want you to know…

December 13th, 2013

blue hairI want you to know that not everyone is going to like you. I want you to know that you can fail and I will still love you. I want you to know that I am not perfect. I want you to know…

I find myself thinking and saying this phrase a lot. I have two teens and one nine year old that thinks she is a teen. There is so much I want them to know but so much that I don’t always say out loud. Yes, I want them to know, but I also know that sometimes they will ‘hear’ it louder from someone else. What resources can I share with them so they will find the answers I want them to know?

Below are some of the resources I have share with my teens so far. And yes, it was via text, email, Twitter or Facebook. I’ll use any means I can to share the  information I want them to know.

I Am In Control

KidsHealth -Teen

What have you shared with your teen? I would love to know!

Lori Hayungs

family time, friendship, parenting, raising teens, social-emotional , , , , , , ,

Love, Gma

November 8th, 2013

I am the proud grandmother of seven young adults. They range in age from 14 – 24. Obviously they are well beyond the days of cuddling on my lap or arriving at the door with little suitcase in hand ready for a sleepover. As grandchildren grow up, it becomes a challenge as to how to keep connected.

Fascinating information from a new AARP survey reveals that more than 80% of grandparents speak to their grandchildren on the phone at least once a month. More than 1/3 do their communication via new technology – think Skype, Facebook, texting. So I started asking myself if I fit these results. I use Facebook for keeping up day-to-day. I text when I want a quick check-in. Phone calls follow if we need a longer conversation.

And what do we talk about? Again I’m right in tune with the survey results. The AARP survey says 50% talk about morals and values; religion and spirituality; peer pressure or bullying; illegal drugs; and drinking and alcohol use. Dating or sex are topics for 37% of the grandparents. I have to laugh as I often start conversations with some of the grandkids with this question, “And are you making good choices?”

The data about frequency of communication, as well as topics, fits well with grandparents serving a role as mentor and teacher. We have a wonderful chance to help grandchildren by sharing our experiences and knowledge, all wrapped up in a big dose of love. A personal aside – I always end my texts with Love, Gma.

How often do you communicate with your grandkids and what do you talk about?

Donna Donald

family time, grandparenting , , , ,

At what age should they start chores?

August 15th, 2013

GREAT QUESTION!  How about right now?!

If you look up Children and Chores at  you will find several different articles on children helping with household chores. And guess what? They can start right now helping with all kinds of things. Even toddlers LOVE helping to put socks in the basket or towels in the drawer.

Allowing children to help around the house gives them hands on experiences for learning as well as a feeling of independence and responsibility.

It is important to share with the child how you want the task done, let the child do it and then DON’T re-do when they are done.  Did you catch that? It’s OK that there is a wrinkle in the blanket or the fork is upside down. Let them know how proud you are of the work they did and keep modeling the way you would like it done eventually. Remember, you probably had a wrinkle in your bed at that age as well.

What are some chores that you have your children helping with? Share with us!

Lori Hayungs

brothers, chores, discipline, family time, fathers, mother, overindulgence, parenting, positive parenting, siblings, sisters , , , , , , , ,

Did NOT, Did Too, Did NOT! Mom he’s touching me!

July 18th, 2013

Two_school_age_boy_and_girl_not_getting_along275pixelsYou’re smiling. I know it. So am I. We’ve all heard, seen or done it oburselves.

Sibling rivalry. It is what it is. The love hate like despise relationship with those closest to us.

I wanted to see what research had to say about our siblings. I entered the following in my search engine:    Sibling Rivalry : edu

Wow what a list!  We must really have lots of questions about those amazing siblings!

What kinds of experiences have you had with sibling rivalry?


brothers, family time, siblings, sisters, social-emotional , , , , ,