Five Easy Ways Kids Can Go Green

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“Going green” isn’t just for grown ups anymore. Children, with their love of playing in the great outdoors and exploring nature, are often the ideal environmentalists. Give them fun ways to help protect Mother Nature, and involve your entire family in making small changes to reduce your carbon footprint (and save money)! Here are five easy ways you and your kids can go green:

1.     Read up. Kick off your green habits by reading a “Saves the Planet” Frecklebox bookthat gives helpful conservation tips kids can use—from turning off the lights to riding bikes to school. Your children will want to read the personalized story over and over again, and the information will be more likely to stick.

2.     Recycle. Explain to your kids that tossing a soda can or a water bottle in the garbage can will lead to unnecessary trash piling up in landfills. Show them which materials can be recycled instead of thrown away, and put the kids in charge of separating the contents of the bins. If your state offers rewards for each recycled item, recycling can be a fun and easy allowance supplement. You can also channel your creativity into Earth-friendly recycled craft projects.

3.     Unplug and turn off. Many households can reduce their energy consumption by simply unplugging electronics and turning off lights that aren’t in use. Make it into a scavenger hunt with your kids to see who can find the most ways to unplug and turn off, from cell phone chargers to coffee makers. Point out which appliances are important to keep plugged in all the time (like the refrigerator and clocks).

4.     Compost. Composting is easier, more accessible and less messy than many people think. It is a wonderful way to show children how organic kitchen waste (banana peels, eggshells, apple cores, etc.) can be transformed into rich, natural fertilizer for your garden. Adding earthworms to a compost bin can break down garbage faster and reduce odors (plus, your kids might get a kick out of them). Read more about home composting and how to make a compost bin out of a few simple materials.

5.     Start with the Small Stuff. Every little bit helps, so start with small changes and move toward bigger projects. Set a good example for your kids, and soon the improvements will become part of your family’s routine.

  • Conserve water. Turn off the faucet while you’re brushing your teeth, cut a few minutes off your morning shower and use water sparingly when gardening.
  • Bring your own bags. Keep a few reusable cotton bags near the front door or in the car so you have them handy when grocery shopping to avoid using plastic bags.
  • Leave the car. Walk or ride your bike for nearby errands or outings. You and your kids will get exercise and fresh air, and you’ll cut back on harmful greenhouse emissions.
  • Ditch the dryer. In warm weather, hang laundry on a line outside to dry instead of using the dryer for each load of clothes. Keep a stepstool near the line so the little ones can help.

How does your family go green? Leave your ideas in the comments.

Nurturing a Love of Language

It’s never too early to start nurturing a love of language in your children (they’ll thank you later, and the benefits will last a lifetime). Break out of boring old textbook exercises, and show your kids that learning vocabulary, spelling and grammar can actually be fun. Whether you’re teaching your children the basics of English or introducing them to a second language, you can blend these activities with playtime through reading, games and songs.

Learn With Word Games

  •  The new Frecklebox sight word pad is an indispensable tool for teaching your beginning reader the 20 most common words in the English language. Each word has its own activity page, drawing and flash card to reinforce learning.
  •  Quick! Say, “She sells seashells by the seashore” five times fast! Rediscover your favorite tongue twisters and expect a lot of giggling fits.
  •  Turn your Frecklebox personalized notebook into a word game activity center. Play games of hangman and bingo; create your own simple crossword puzzles and word searches—the possibilities are endless.

Learn With Board Games

Your favorite grown-up board games are often available in kid-friendly “junior” versions that are both fun and educational. Some of our favorites:

  •  Apples to Apples Kids  – This easy-to-play game geared toward early readers teaches language through hilarious comparisons.
  •  Boggle Junior – Preschoolers who are just learning how to spell and read will love this simple matching game. (For older kids, the original Boggle is also tons of fun.)
  •  Scrabble Junior – This version of the classic game has a two-sided board, one for beginners and one for advanced players, to grow with your kids.

Learn a Foreign Language

The younger you are, the easier it is to pick up a second language. Get your kids interested at an early age with these fantastic interactive tools.

  • iTunes podcasts – Browse the language learning section of iTunes podcasts to find a wide variety in a number of foreign tongues.
  • Rosetta Stone for Kids – This full-immersion, visual and interactive system is available in 31 languages, from Spanish and French to Russian and Thai.

Back-to-school lunch ideas

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It’s not hard to quickly fall into a rut when it comes to packing school lunches — here are a few ideas to start the school year off right and to inspire creativity the whole year through.

Two-tone sandwiches
– 2 slices of bread (one white and the other whole wheat, roughly the same size)
– Cookie cutters, 1 large and 1 small

Set the 2 slices of bread on a cutting board. Cut out the centers of each with a large and  small cookie cutter. Swap the center cutouts, so the wheat bread has a white bread design and the white has the wheat, then assemble your sandwich.

Fun Chips
– 1 large flour tortilla
– Cooking spray
– Salt

Use animal-shaped (or any shaped) cookie cutters to cut shapes from a large flour tortilla. Arrange the animals on a baking sheet, lightly coat them with cooking spray, and sprinkle them with salt. Bake at 350° for 5 to 7 minutes, and your chips are ready for a dip in salsa or guacamole.

 Fruity Tootie
– Any kind of fruit of relatively the same size (apples, pears, oranges)

Slice two pieces of fruit that are relatively the same size and alternately stack the pieces, as shown above.)

Banana Dog
– 1 hot dog bun (whole wheat, if possible)
– Peanut butter (or cream cheese)
– Jam (or honey)
– 1 whole banana
–  Optional raisins, shredded coconut or chopped peanuts

Spread one inner surface of a split hot dog bun with peanut butter or cream cheese. Spread the other side with jam or honey. Wrap in plastic wrap and place in your child’s lunch bag. Also, pack a whole banana (in the peel) and a small container of toppings, such as raisins, coconut, peanuts or whatever else you can think of.

At lunchtime, your child can peel the banana and place it in the bun, sprinkle on the toppings and eat.

Cheesy Salsa Dip
– 1 package(s) (8 ounces) light cream cheese
– 3/4 cup(s) cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
– 3/4 cup(s) medium-hot salsa

Don’t forget to pack a baggie of crackers or cut-up veggies.

Pizza Pockets (make the night before and refrigerate)
– 1/4 cup (50 mL) chopped pepperoni
– 1/4 cup (50 mL) shredded mozzarella cheese
– 2 tbsp. (30 mL) spaghetti sauce
– 1 6-inch (15-cm) pocket-type pita bread

In a small bowl, stir together pepperoni, mozzarella cheese and spaghetti sauce. (You can, if you want, include chopped mushrooms, onions, peppers, olives or whatever ingredients you choose instead of all or part of the pepperoni in the recipe. Just try to keep the total amount of ingredients about the same.)

With a sharp knife, cut a slit around one side of the pita pocket wide enough to spoon in the filling. Spread apart the sides of the pocket and stuff with the cheese mixture. Press closed and wrap in a layer of foil.

Bake at 400 degrees F (200 degrees C) for about 15 minutes or until the cheese has melted and the filling is hot. Unwrap and eat while still gooey and warm or pack in a lunch bag to eat at room temperature.

Find even more ideas:
http://www.amazingmoms.com/htm/baglunches.htm

http://familyfun.go.com/back-to-school/back-to-school-lunches-snacks/

http://www.goodhousekeeping.com/food/healthy/ideas-kids-school-lunches

http://recipes.kaboose.com/easy-school-lunch-recipes.html

It’s National Anti-Boredom Month: Five Ways to Beat Boredom

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“I’m boooooored.”

How many times have you heard your children whine that sentence on a hot summer afternoon? For the month of July, you have the perfect response: “You can’t be bored. It’s National Anti-Boredom Month!” That’s right. There is no boredom allowed for the month of July, so we’ve made a list of surefire lethargy-fighting activities.

1. Break a Leg

Kids tend to have a flair for the dramatic, so pull out all the stops and let them showcase their talents on stage. Write an original play or adapt a popular fairy tale or story into a simple script for your young actors. Jot down basic lines, but encourage the kids to adlib and have fun with their roles. Dig through the costume bin to create a Broadway-worthy wardrobe, and arrange a special performance for parents and friends in the neighborhood.

2. Make a Clean Sweep

It can be hard to convince your kids that cleaning out their closets is actually fun (same with doing the dishes, mowing the lawn and taking out the garbage), but hosting a family garage sale can be a great incentive. Get the whole family to pitch in and gather clothes, toys, sporting equipment and household goods you aren’t using anymore, and sell your wares at a weekend garage sale (here are some tips to get started). Decide together what you want to do with the money you raise—a day at the water park, a movie theater outing or a special dinner out… Enjoy a clean house and a fun reward for the family.

3. Do Silly Tricks

Can you touch your tongue to your nose or wiggle your ears or do a perfect imitation of a chicken? What about juggling or doing cartwheels or singing like Hannah Montana? Start an impromptu silly tricks and talents contest, and get goofy right along with the kids.  Cheer each other on for all of your incredible (and incredibly funny) talents.

4. Cool Down

The heat can exacerbate boredom, so cool down to revive your energy. Change into swimsuits and run through the sprinklers, fill up the wading pool or have a water balloon and squirt gun battle. Everyone will feel the relief of escaping the heat, and it’s a fun way to keep active.

5.  Be a Card Shark

If the idea of moving around too much, even in air conditioning, sounds exhausting, it may be time for a card game marathon. Grab a pack of playing cards and some cold lemonade and settle in for your favorite games. Crazy Eights, Speed, Old Maid, Go Fish, Rummy… the possibilities are endless!

Fun Family Outings on a Budget

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When the kids are out of school and the weather is warm, it’s a fantastic opportunity to get your family out of the house to spend some quality time together. The only problem is that sometimes quality time can get pricey when you multiply it by three, four, five or more people. Even a matinee movie for the whole family can break the bank when you start adding in popcorn, drinks and candy. Don’t worry; by getting back to basics and thinking creatively, it’s still possible to plan fun family outings without taking out a second mortgage.

1. Get the paper

Start by checking your local newspaper, newsweekly (those free, independent publications you see around town) or magazine to see what’s happening this week. You’ll be surprised by how often there are free concerts, art exhibits, plays and other events right in your backyard. Take advantage of the chance to try something new (for free).

2. Be one with nature

The great outdoors is full of possibilities, and it’s usually free or very affordable to explore. Pack your Frecklebox lunch boxes, some toys and sports equipment and head to a shady spot in the park for an afternoon. For a day trip, find an easy hiking path, pack bag lunches and plenty of water and hit the trail. For a longer stay, spend the weekend camping. Look up KOA campsites in your area and get ready for a few days of hot dogs, s’mores, campfires and sleeping under the stars.

3. Dive in

On a scorching summer day, nothing feels better than swimming in cool, refreshing water. Take the kids to the local public pool for an afternoon cool-down. If you live near a beach, a lake or a river, make a day of it and bring inflatable rafts, inner tubes, pails and shovels. Don’t forget the sunscreen!

4. Hit the books

Escape into the quiet, relaxing and often air-conditioned oasis of the nearest public library. You and your children can stock up on great books for summer reading, and you can also time your visit to coincide with a story hour. The kids will love being read exciting tales, and you will get a few minutes of your own to sit back and relax.

5. Get Cultured

Research the nearby museums, amusement parks, zoos and aquariums for specials. Many places offer one free or reduced-price day per month, so you can affordably take the whole family (and even a few friends). If you go to a certain place often, consider buying a year-long pass for your family-these tend to save you a lot of money in the long run.

You don’t need to spend a ton of money to have a great time! What are your favorite budget family outings?

Summer Reading Adventures: Top 10 Picture Books

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Whether you’re at the beach, grandma and grandpa’s house or in your own living room, long, hot summer days are perfect for relaxing with a glass of lemonade and a stack of entertaining picture books. Here are 10 of our favorite adventures to read with your kids this summer:

1.     Paddington at the Beach by Michael Bond

Beloved Paddington Bear is back, and this time, he’s off to the beach to make sandcastles, fly a kite and have a delicious snack… if he can outsmart the sneaky seagulls that have their eye on him.

2.     Lisa’s Airplane Trip by Anne Gutman

Lisa, a tiny white dog, takes her first solo airplane ride from Paris to New York, an eventful flight that involves a spilled glass of juice, a bath in the sink and a tour of the cockpit.

3.     Jumanji by Chris Van Allsburg

Judy and Peter have no idea that the board game they find in the park will come to life, turning into a wild adventure with an erupting volcano, a lion on a rampage and a pack of destructive monkeys.

4.     Apple Pie 4th of July by Janet Wong

A Chinese-American girl tries to convince her parents that customers won’t be interested in buying Chinese food from their restaurant on the Fourth of July, but she makes some surprising discoveries throughout the day.

5.     How I Became a Pirate by Melinda Long

Jeremy Jacob is innocently building a sandcastle when a pirate ship crew discovers him, takes him out to sea and recruits him to help bury a treasure chest.

6.     Ernest and Celestine’s Picnic by Gabrielle Vincent

An unexpected rainstorm can’t stop Ernest and Celestine, a lovable bear and mouse duo, from having a delightful picnic lunch.

7.     The True Story of the Three Little Pigs by Lane Smith

You think you know the story of the three little pigs and the Big Bad Wolf, but you’ve got it all wrong, according to this surprising version from the wolf himself.

8.     I Love Saturdays y Domingos by Elivia Savadier

Bilingual Ada narrates the fun weekends she spends with both sets of grandparents-Saturdays with her English-speaking paternal grandparents and los domingos (Sundays) with her mother’s Mexican-American parents.

9.     George and Martha by James Marshall

Five short, funny tales introduce George and Martha, two mischievous best friends who also happen to be hippos.

10.  Brothers of the Knight by Debbie Allen

Famous dancer and choreographer Debbie Allen retells the classic tale of the “12 Dancing Princesses” through the 12 lively, fun-loving sons of Reverend Knight, a straight-laced Harlem preacher.

What’s on your summer reading list? Share your favorite picks in the comments, and don’t forget to check out Frecklebox personalized storybooks.   Become a Frecklebox Fan on Facebook