Home for the Holidays With Little Ones

For many people, the holidays truly are the most wonderful time of the year, especially if you have little ones at home. There’s something magical about witnessing the wonder and excitement in children this time of year. From trimming the tree and baking cookies, to visiting Santa and watching their faces light up on Christmas morning, children add an undeniable element of joy to the holiday season.

In spite of the holiday hustle and bustle that often ensues, here are a few low-key, but fun, family activities you can enjoy. They’re guaranteed to create some lasting memories with your child.

  • There are so many wonderful holiday crafts that you and your children can enjoy making together. We love this personalized ornament! Wouldn’t it make a lovely addition to your tree, or the perfect gift for Grandma and Grandpa? This one is great, too!
  • As most parents know, sticking to a holiday budget can be tricky. But with a little creativity, there are plenty of simple things you can do to save time and money this time of year. One of our favorite ideas? Homemade wrapping paper!
  • So you found out the hard way that making a gingerbread house with your toddler is not as easy as it seems. Keep life simple with these candy cookie trees. They’re not only delicious, but they’re also easy for little hands to decorate.
  • Columbus has so much to offer when it comes to holiday events the whole family can enjoy.  Nearly every community around the city hosts celebrations complete with light shows, hot chocolate and visits from Santa. This year Franklin Park Conservatory is offering several wonderful events that include everything from exploring winter holidays around the world to breakfast with Santa. (And speaking of Santa, here’s his phone number!) “Zoo Lights” at the Columbus Zoo is another fantastic family event. Your kids will love strolling through the zoo (at night) to see their favorite animals amidst thousands of colorful lights.
  • For many families, the holidays are rich with tradition. Once children come along, it’s not only important to pass down special family traditions, but you should be creating new ones as well. You may decide to buy new jammies for Christmas morning, or check out holiday books for bedtime reading. You might even sing Christmas carols at a nearby senior center. Whatever tradition you decide to celebrate with your children, you can be sure they will look forward to it year after year. We personally love this sweet idea.

Take a little time this year to truly enjoy the holidays with your little ones. Try to see the season through their eyes—full of wonder and abounding joy!

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Minding your P’s and Q’s…Teaching Children Manners

With the holidays quickly approaching, children and adults will likely encounter plenty of opportunities to mind their manners. From dinner parties and gift exchanges, to sharing your home, toys and space with family and friends, the holiday season is especially trying for young children and parents alike. With this in mind, let’s explore a few, simple things you can do to teach your children about manners.

Table Manners

By the time kids reach the age of 3, they should be able to eat with a spoon or fork, sit at the table for about 15 minutes, and use a napkin to wipe their mouth. This behavior may require plenty of reminders and a great deal of training. A great tip for parents who struggle to keep their children at the table for more than a few minutes is to consider serving them dinner in courses, rather than putting everything on their plate at once. Once your child is finished eating, instead of jumping down from the table to play, ask him to say, “May I please be excused?”

Remember, one of the best ways to teach children manners is to model the behavior. Do you always say “please” when asking someone to pass the salt? Do you stand when eating your food, or do you make it a point to sit at the table? Over time, your children will do what they see you doing.

Please and Thank You

Teaching children to routinely use the words “please” and “thank you” begins at an early age. Long before they can talk, babies can learn to communicate these words using simple sign language. Once they find their voice and can verbalize what they want, they will need plenty of cues and reminders such as: “What should you say when you want something?” or “What do you say when you receive a gift?”

Politeness with Adults

Teaching children proper manners around adults – including strangers – is a skill that takes a while to develop, especially if your child is shy. When your child is talking to an adult, remind him or her to look directly at that person’s face and say hello. If the adult asks your child a question, you may need to help provide an answer, remembering to praise him or her for a job well done.

Interrupting can be another problem. When adults are speaking to one another, it’s important for kids to learn not to interrupt unless there’s an urgent need. A great way to teach kids not to interrupt is to come up with a silent signal – like gently touching your leg – if they need you when you’re talking on the phone, for instance. You can respond by touching your child’s hand, which signals that you’ll be with her shortly, either when there’s a break in the conversation or when the call is complete.

When your kids visit someone else’s home, remind them about the importance of sharing, asking for things using the word “please,” and always thanking the host before leaving.

Politeness with Peers

While it’s important for your child to be polite in the company of adults, it is equally important to learn these same social graces when interacting with their peers. Sharing is often a tough issue among toddlers, so parents often have to play the role of referee during play dates. A great way to work on sharing with small children is to choose two similar toys and help them offer one to their friend. You can coach your child by saying, “We have two trucks – a fire truck and a dump truck. You may play with the fire truck and let your friend play with the dump truck. After a little while, we’ll switch so that you both can have a turn playing with each truck.” When sharing goes awry and physical behavior such as hitting, pushing or biting occurs, step in immediately. If your child is the offender, you might say, “Hitting hurts our friends; let’s help him feel better by telling him that we’re sorry.”

Remember, learning manners takes time, so be realistic about your expectations. Try not to get discouraged when your child decides to bury his head and frown at the grocery store clerk – instead of smiling and saying hello. Simply use the opportunity on the car ride home to discuss the interaction and role-play future conversations. Your child will eventually learn to respect others and grow up to be a gracious adult.

Etiquette expert Emily Post said that manners are “a sensitive awareness to the needs of others.” With patience, consistency and positive examples, we can teach children to think of others first. It’s a great skill for life.

Celebrating Fall With Your Children

If you’ve lived in Central Ohio for any period of time, you know that autumn is a wonderful time of year in Columbus. From sunny, mild days–perfect for picking apples–to cool, crisp, campfire nights, the possibilities for fall family fun are endless. Lucky for you, we have some great ideas to get you started.

Check out these five ways to celebrate fall with your little one!

A fun, colorful fall craft – The colors this time of year are truly breathtaking.  While beautiful to look at and fun to collect, leaves also provide a visual opportunity to teach children about the seasons. Perhaps best of all, leaves are perfect for fall crafts; they are colorful, full of different shapes and textures, and readily abundant outside your door. Here are two fall crafts to try today.  One is perfect for babies and toddlers, while the other is great for preschoolers.

Fall fun in the kitchen – A great way to teach children about healthy eating is to involve them in the cooking and baking process. While chopping vegetables is probably not an option for your child, there are plenty of ways that kids can help prepare a meal; think measuring, pouring and scooping! If you are struggling to find healthy fall foods your kids will actually enjoy, look no further. Your little ones will love helping with this yummy Alphabet Soup, and for dessert, these delicious Apple Pie Turnovers.

Nature hike – With winter quickly approaching, Midwesterners know all too well that our days for carefree romps through the woods are numbered.  Thankfully, Columbus is full of amazing Metro Parks and trails that are perfect for a fall, family hike. Bring a “nature bag” so your child can easily collect items such as acorns, pinecones, sticks and leaves to construct this great Autumn Mobile once you’re done.

Visit a pumpkin patch – For many families, fall would not be complete without a visit to a pumpkin patch. Hayrides, donuts, apple cider and, of course, the hunt for the perfect pumpkin.  No matter where you live in the city, there is a pumpkin patch not too far away. As for what to do with those pumpkins once you return home–check out this great idea for a child who is still too young to carve. This one is fun too!

Halloween – Both kids and parents love Halloween. From parties, to costumes, to trick-or-treating, there are so many ways to celebrate this fun holiday. Unfortunately, preparing for Halloween can be overwhelming for some parents. Check out this helpful guide for making this year’s Halloween happy and safe. Need some great ideas for homemade Halloween costumes? How about 25 to get you started!

We hope you have a wonderful, relaxing fall with plenty of time to create some precious memories with your children.

A Conversation with Jerzell Pierre-Louis, Founder

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Why did you decide to open an early education center?

Since I was 19, that was the career path I set for myself. Growing up in Jackson, Mississippi, I understood the value of education at a very young age. I appreciate that children have to be in an environment where they feel nurtured and where they trust the individuals who are helping them create a lifelong learning path. I know that was important for my development and for my own children’s development, and I want to offer that to the community.

You have said that early education is a journey and not a race. Can you explain this? 

We live in a time when everything is about results and easy access, and I think it’s important as parents and as a community to understand that learning is a process. Much like an accomplished violinist or athlete spends years training, practicing and studying, learning does not happen overnight. And, the process is not without failure. I think we should have a healthy amount of respect for failure because it allows us to investigate and resolve issues within ourselves in order to become refined. Education requires refinement, patience and nurturing–not just so the child can understand how he or she learns but also so the parent can learn how best to support the child.

What are you most passionate about when it comes to working with children?

Providing them with a safe, nurturing environment that places them on a path of discovering their world. I think that is at the crux of learning. It’s okay for children to make mistakes and discover their environment; at Sprout we are here to assist and guide them in that discovery.  As working parents, our children spend 8 to 10 hours of the day in someone’s care.  I want to make sure their care is quality care. I want parents to know that when I partner with them, I am assisting in setting a good trajectory and helping to establish a strong foundation for their child.

What is your favorite memory with your own family?

A white-water rafting trip last summer. It was challenging, and we all had to work together; it was an experience we all enjoyed.

What is a favorite memory from your own childhood?

Spending summers in the country with my cousins. We hiked and explored for hours, often leaving the house at 8 in the morning with a packed lunch and not returning until it was time for dinner. I loved being in an environment where we could explore–digging for worms or learning to identify snake holes because we accidentally ran across a few on our own. We learned to find our way by tying strings to the trees, and that helped us navigate our way home.

What do you love most about the Central Ohio community?

I love the diversity of the community. I was born and raised in Jackson, Mississippi where there is not much diversity in thought or religion, and actually not a lot of diversity in social economic class. Columbus is different. It’s a progressive city with a small-city feel.  It’s a city of opportunity. I think my kids are better for it. I am better for it.

What are some of your favorite children’s books?

Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown.

A Fish Out of Water by Helen Palmer

Fancy Nancy by Jane O’Conner