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I’m a teacher, so you’d think that I’d have my kids outfitted in the very best camps and summer education money can buy. That is so not the case. From my perspective, we are limited on the hot weather time we get together, and since our days during the school year are short and hurried, I love to let my babes relax as much as possible when school is out of session. However, once school is out for summer, we don’t want to think about the grind of returning, but in my oldest boys’ lives, I realized it was time to have a little work with our play. I worked through many plans, and we have had great results with these tips the last two summer breaks.


Pre-K – Elementary

Read

Get your little one’s hands on anything and everything you can. Reading with your kids helps them achieve in all subject areas, provides them an intellectual escape, and increases their background knowledge which helps in all areas of life.

According to Scholastic, “…reading just six books during the summer may keep a struggling reader from regressing. When choosing the six, be sure that they are just right – not too hard and not too easy.” Local libraries have summer programs that are both fun and educational. They work to get children excited about reading and the library. They usually encourage kids to break out of their preferred genres, and they are surrounded by other avid readers with whom they can build a relationship.

Give your children quiet time each day that you set aside just for reading, and make sure to continue to read out loud to them so that you can model what a good and fluent reader sounds like.

Sidewalk chalk spelling and math

For some reason, if you are spelling words or completing a math problem with sidewalk chalk, it is so much more fun than on paper. While practicing spelling with your kids in the summer, try to chunk sounds and have them add the missing letters. For example, if you were to write the word “chunk”, have the parent write the “unk” and ask the child to add what was missing. This makes it more of a game for the kids, and they are learning their blends at the same time.

With math, parents have so many options. They can set up actual math problems for their kids with the chalk, or they can draw the outline of two or three children on the ground, and have them count the hands, the fingers, the toes, etc. As long as they are counting, they are thinking.

Experiments and examination

Exploratory nature walks are great in the summer. Have your child collect a certain kind of leaf, rock, or bug, then bring them home so that he or she can list down the similarities and differences they notice. They can make observation charts, or even conduct a sidewalk chalk presentation for siblings or the neighbors. Having them think like a scientist is a great way to get them thinking through how things work in the world. If you have a pet, find information on the pet that makes them special. Most kids will want to learn about the animals they love every day. They could also report those findings.

 

 

Middle School

Real money

It’s terrifying yet fun to send my middle schooler into a store to get something for me. I make it small enough so that he can use a $20.00 bill. Before sending him in for stamps or a Gatorade, I ask him how much money he should get back if stamps are $9.39 or if the Gatorade is $1.03, which makes for good practice of calculating in one’s head. Working out money in his head is actually harder than his geometry. The same work applies when we have a garage sale or a lemonade stand. Making change as part of the sale is good math practice.

Scavenger hunts

This will take some preparation, but it can be so much fun. Either have your child create a scavenger hunt for the younger children, or write your own. They will be reading, critically thinking, and problem solving. There are many scavenger hunt websites online that can help you create them, but I prefer composing my own hints that rhyme. Have fun and challenge your kids with an in-home scavenger hunt.

Museums and cultural studies

Get your kids out of the house and into a museum or interesting part of town. Each and every one of our cities has a history. Children will take ownership in researching what makes the city what it is today, and parents can learn right along with them.

If you aren’t sure where to go or if you’re new in town, a Google search will get you to your town’s homepage. Those websites are incredibly informative with sites and attractions close by. Your child can report with a Power Point, poster, or speech to your family. It can be as formal or as informal as you’d like it to be. Kids are motivated to learn about what surrounds them, and this type of research helps them take ownership in their very own community.

High School

ACT preparation

There are quite a few programs out there that require a lot of money on the part of the parents. ACT.org has practice exams and important information listed for free. Not only are the practices listed, but students can get immediate feedback on their answers. When they get the answer back, the site provides feedback as to why something is correct or incorrect.

The more access your child has to the type of questioning used by ACT, the higher their comfort level goes, and – in turn – the higher their score jumps. If you want to make it closer to the actual ACT, start timing your child. All of this preparation seems stressful, but this will help them to become more comfortable on test day.

Allow your teen to complete this practice at a coffee shop or restaurant as long as he or she is showing progress.These practices can be done weekly or daily, depending on the time you want your child to put in.  This may be the most important routine you establish for your high schooler.

Summer job

Get your kids out into the world and have them practice time management with a job. Learning a new skill, developing a work-life balance, and appreciating the value of their own money will pay off in more ways than the obvious.

Jeylan Mortimer found evidence that teens can benefit from employment if it is balanced with other activities. In Mortimer’s 2010 article, “The Benefits and Risks of Adolescent Employment,” it states, “We find evidence, however, that work experience can promote the healthy development of some young people, especially when it is moderate in intensity and steady in duration – attributes that assure that employment does not interfere with other important elements in a teen’s life, and instead foster an appropriate balance between school and work.”

Through employment, teens are gaining interpersonal communication skills along with becoming a contributing member of society.

Teach younger ones

I am never as good at a skill until I teach someone one. Have your older children guide the younger ones in their studies. Not only will this give parents a break, but siblings can connect on an academic level. The high school students will take pride in watching their little study buddy grow intellectually when they realize the growth came because of the partnership.

No matter their ages, there are endless creative ways to keep your children’s minds sharp during the summer. The resources available should help with their fall placement exams, and in some cases, get them money towards the college of their choice. There should still be time for all of the excellent parts of summer, but our children can only benefit from us taking a portion of our summer days to sharpen their skills.

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We spend a lot of time prepping for the arrival of a baby. But when it comes to the arrival of our breast milk (and all the massive adjustments that come with it), it's easy to be caught off guard. Stocking up on a few breastfeeding essentials can make the transition to breastfeeding a lot less stressful, which means more time and energy focusing on what's most important: Your recovery and your brand new baby.

Here are the essential breastfeeding tools you'll need, mama:

1. For covering up: A cute nursing cover

First and foremost, please know that all 50 states in the United States have laws that allow women to breastfeed in public. You do not have to cover yourself if you don't want to—and many mamas choose not to—and we are all for it.

That said, if you do anticipate wanting to take a more modest approach to breastfeeding, a nursing cover is a must. You will find an array of styles to choose from, but we love an infinity scarf, like the LK Baby Infinity Nursing Scarf Nursing Cover. You'll be able to wear the nursing cover instead of stuffing it in your already brimming diaper bag—and it's nice to have it right there when the baby is ready to eat.

Also, in the inevitable event that your baby spits-up on you or you leak some milk through your shirt, having a quick and stylish way to cover up is a total #momwin.

2. For getting comfortable: A cozy glider

Having a comfy spot to nurse can make a huge difference. Bonus points if that comfy place totally brings a room together, like the Delta Children Paris Upholstered Glider!

Get your cozy space ready to go, and when your baby is here, you can retreat from the world and just nurse, bond, and love.

3. For unmatched support: A wire-free nursing bra

It may take trying on several brands to find the perfect match, but finding a nursing bra that you love is 100% worth the effort. Your breasts will be changing and working in ways that are hard to imagine. An excellent supportive bra will make this so much more comfortable.

It is crucial to choose a wireless bra for the first weeks of nursing since underwire can increase the risk of clogged ducts (ouch).The Playtex Maternity Shaping Foam Wirefree Nursing Bra is an awesome pick for this reason, and because it is designed to flex and fit your breasts as they go through all those changes.

4. For maximum hydration: A large reusable water bottle

Nothing can prepare you for the intense thirst that hits when breastfeeding. Quench that thirst (and help keep your milk supply up in the process) by always having a water bottle with a straw nearby, like this Exquis Large Outdoor Water Bottle.

5. For feeding convenience: A supportive nursing tank

Experts recommend that during the first weeks of your baby's life, you breastfeed on-demand, meaning that any time your tiny boss demands milk, you feed them. This will help establish your milk supply and get everything off to a good start.

What does this mean for your life? You will be breastfeeding A LOT. Nursing tanks, like the Loving Moments by Leading Lady, make this so much easier. They have built-in support to keep you comfy, and you can totally wear them around the house, or even out and about. When your baby wants to eat, you'll be able to quickly "pop out" a breast and feed them.

6. For pain prevention: A quality nipple ointment

Breastfeeding shouldn't hurt, but the truth is those first days can be uncomfortable. Your nipples will likely feel raw as they adjust to their new job. This will get better! But until it does, nipple ointment is amazing.

My favorite is the Earth Mama Organic Nipple Butter. We love that it's organic, and it is oh-so-soothing on your hard-at-work nipples.

Psst: If it actually hurts when your baby latches on, something may be up, so call your provider or a lactation consultant for help.

7. For uncomfortable moments: A dual breast therapy pack

As your breasts adjust to their new role, you may experience a few discomforts—applying warmth or cold can help make them feel so much better. The Lansinoh TheraPearl 3-in-1 Breast Therapy Pack is awesome because you can microwave the pads or put them in the freezer, giving you a lot of options when your breasts need some TLC.

Again, if you have any concerns about something being wrong (pain, a bump that may be red or hot, fever, or anything else), call a professional right away.

8. For inevitable leaks: An absorbing breast pad

In today's episode of, "Oh come on, really?" you are going to leak breastmilk. Now, this is entirely natural and you are certainly not required to do anything about this. Still, many moms choose to wear breast pads in their bras to avoid leaking through to their shirts.

You can go the convenient and disposable route with Lansinoh Disposable Stay Dry Nursing Pads, or for a more environmentally friendly option, you can choose washable pads, like these Organic Bamboo Nursing Breast Pads.

9. For flexibility: A breast pump

Many women find that a breast pump becomes one of their most essential mom-tools. The ability to provide breast milk when you are away from your baby (and relieve uncomfortable engorged breasts) will add so much flexibility into your new-mom life.

For quick trips out and super-easy in-your-bag transport, opt for a manual pump like the Lansinoh Manual Breast Pump .

If you will be away from your baby for longer periods of time (traveling or working outside the home, for example) an electric pump is your most efficient bet. The Medela Pump In Style Advanced Double Electric Breast Pump is a classic go-to that will absolutely get the job done, and then some.

10. For quality storage: Breast milk bags

Once you pump your liquid gold, aka breast milk, you'll need a place to store it. The Kiinde Twist Pouches allow you to pump directly into the bags which means one less step (and way less to clean).

11. For keeping cool: A freezer bag

Transport your pumped milk back home to your baby safely in a cooler like the Mommy Knows Best Breast Milk Baby Bottle Cooler Bag. Remember to put the milk in a fridge or freezer as soon as you can to optimize how long it stays usable for.

12. For continued nourishment: Bottles

Nothing beats the peace of mind you get when you know that your baby is being well-taken of care—and well fed—until you can be together again. The Philips Avent Natural Baby Bottle Newborn Starter Gift Set is a fan favorite (mama and baby fans alike).

This article is sponsored by Walmart. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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Motherly is committed to covering all relevant presidential candidate plans as we approach the 2020 election. We are making efforts to get information from all candidates. Motherly does not endorse any political party or candidate. We stand with and for mothers and advocate for solutions that will reduce maternal stress and benefit women, families and the country.

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A viral video about car seat safety has parents everywhere cracking up and humming Sir-Mix-A-Lot.

"I like safe kids and I cannot lie," raps Norman Regional Health System pediatric hospitalist Dr. Kate Cook (after prefacing her music video with an apology to her children."I'm a doctor tryin' warn you that recs have changed," she continues.

Dr. Cook's rap video is all about the importance of keeping babies facing backward. It's aptly called "Babies Face Back," and uses humor and parody to drive home car seat recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).

"Switching from rear-facing to forward-facing is a milestone many parents can't wait to reach," Dr. Cook said in a news release about her hilarious video. "But this is one area where you want to delay the transition as long as possible because each one actually reduces the protection to the child."

Last summer the AAP updated its official stance on car seat safety to be more in line with what so many parents were already doing and recommended that kids stay rear-facing for as long as possible. But with so many things to keep track of in life, it is understandable that some parents still don't know about the change. Dr. Cook wants to change that with some cringe-worthy rapping.

The AAP recommends:

  • Babies and toddlers should ride in a rear-facing car safety seat as long as possible, until they reach the highest weight or height allowed by their seat.
  • Once they are facing forward, children should use a forward-facing car safety seat with a harness for as long as possible. Many seats are good up to 65 pounds.
  • When children outgrow their car seat they should use a belt-positioning booster seat until the vehicle's lap and shoulder seat belt fits properly, between 8 and 12 years old.

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[Editor's note: Motherly is committed to covering all relevant presidential candidate plans as we approach the 2020 election. We are making efforts to get information from all candidates. Motherly does not endorse any political party or candidate. We stand with and for mothers and advocate for solutions that will reduce maternal stress and benefit women, families and the country.]

Suicide rates for girls and women in the United States have increased 50% since 2000, according to the CDC and new research indicates a growing number of pregnant and postpartum women are dying by suicide and overdose. Suicide rates for boys and men are up, too.

It's clear there is a mental health crisis in America and it is robbing children of their mothers and mothers of their children.

Medical professionals urge people to get help early, but sometimes getting help is not so simple. For many Americans, the life preserver that is mental health care is out of reach when they are drowning.

Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg just released a plan he hopes could change that and says the neglect of mental health in the United States must end. "Our plan breaks down the barriers around mental health and builds up a sense of belonging that will help millions of suffering Americans heal," says Buttigieg.

He thinks he can "prevent 1 million deaths of despair by 2028" by giving Americans more access to mental health and addictions services.

In a country where giving birth can put a mother in debt, it's not surprising that while as many as 1 in 5 new moms suffers from perinatal mood and anxiety disorders, more than half of new moms who need mental health treatment don't get it. Stigma, childcare and of course costs are factors in why women aren't seeking help when they are struggling.

Buttigieg's plan is interesting because it could remove some of these barriers. He wants to make mental health care more affordable by ensuring everyone has comprehensive coverage for mental health care and by ensuring that everyone can access a free yearly mental health check-up.

That could make getting help more affordable for some moms, and by increasing reimbursement rates for mental health care delivered through telehealth, this plan could help moms get face time with a medical professional without having to deal with finding childcare first.

Estimates from new research suggest that in some parts of America as many as 14% or 30% of maternal deaths are caused by addiction or suicide. Buttigieg's plan aims to reduce those estimates by fighting the addiction and opioid crisis and increasing access to mental health services in underserved communities and for people of color. He also wants to reduce the stigma and increase support for the next generation by requiring "every school across the country to teach Mental Health First Aid courses."

These are lofty goals with a lofty price tag. It would cost about $300 billion to do what Buttigieg sets out in his plan and the specifics of how the plan would be funded aren't yet known. Neither is how voters will react to this 18-page plan and whether it will help Buttigieg stand out in a crowded field of Democratic candidates.

What we do know is that right now, America is talking about mental health and whether or not that benefits Buttigieg's campaign it will certainly benefit America.

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[Editor's Note: Welcome to It's Science, a Motherly column focusing on evidence-based explanations for the important moments, milestones, and phenomena of motherhood. Because it's not just you—#itsscience.]

If you breastfeed, you know just how magical (and trying) it is, but it has numerous benefits for mama and baby. It is known to reduce the likelihood of developing cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and rheumatoid arthritis, and cuts the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) by half.

If this wasn't powerful enough, scientists have discovered that babies who are fed breast milk have a stomach pH that promotes the formation of HAMLET (Human Alpha-lactalbumin Made Lethal to Tumor cells). HAMLET was discovered by chance when researchers were studying the antibacterial properties of breast milk. This is a combination of proteins and lipids found in breast milk that can work together to kill cancer cells, causing them to pull away from healthy cells, shrink and die, leaving the healthy cells unaffected.

According to researchers at Lund University in Sweden, this mechanism may contribute to the protective effect breast milk has against pediatric tumors and leukemia, which accounts for about 30% of all childhood cancer. Other researchers analyzed 18 different studies, finding that "14% to 19% of all childhood leukemia cases may be prevented by breastfeeding for six months or more."

And recently, doctors in Sweden collaborated with scientists in Prague to find yet another amazing benefit to breast milk. Their research demonstrated that a certain milk sugar called Alpha1H, found only in breast milk, helps in the production of lactose and can transform into a different form that helps break up tumors into microscopic fragments in the body.

Patients who were given a drug based on this milk sugar, rather than a placebo, passed whole tumor fragments in their urine. And there is more laboratory evidence to support that the drug can kill more than 40 different types of cancer cells in animal trials, including brain tumors and colon cancer. These results are inspiring scientists to continue to explore HAMLET as a novel approach to tumor therapy and make Alpha1H available to cancer patients.

Bottom line: If you choose to breastfeed, the breast milk your baby gets from your hard work can be worth every drop of effort.

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