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Get Ready for Sleep-Away Camp

By Denise Yearian Residential camp a wonderful, growth-filled experience that provides your child with invaluable life lessons on how to be independent, responsible and make diverse friendships. So how do you go about choosing the right sleep away camp? First talk it over with your child and discuss his interests. Finding a camp with activities he will enjoy is important, but it’s also great place to try something different. Encourage your child to try new experiences. Just because he likes soccer doesn’t mean he might not enjoy learning a new skill, such as arts and crafts. Next explore the options. Find out about programs each camp offers and ask questions. Sometimes parents find out whether there is quality instruction and enough time for their child to participate in the said activity and stop there. Take time, however, to learn about other segments of the program too. What concepts or philosophy does the camp espouse? What will my child do through the course of a typical day? If the camp has a brochure, read it carefully, then match it to your agenda and the experience you want for your child. To determine if your child is developmentally ready for residential camp, do a trial run. Send him to visit a relative for the weekend. How did he do? Did he sleep well? Was he able to care for himself (brush his teeth, taking a bath, change his clothes)? Did he adjust to new or different foods? These and other questions will help you decide if your child is ready for the residential camp experience. On the first day of camp,...


  By Christa Melnyk Hines   Whether you want to become a stronger, more intuitive communicator or you’re trying to raise one, free time spent unplugged can make a big difference. Here’s why: Increased self-awareness. Time alone or unplugged helps us pursue personal interests and develop more clarity about who and what we want in our lives. That sense of self-reliance, confidence and independence comes through in how we interact with others. We’re better able to advocate for our needs and for others because we’ve taken time to contemplate and clearly understand those needs. Better sleep. We can’t focus on others when we’re sleep-deprived. According to the National Sleep Foundation, 72 percent of children ages six to 17 sleep with electronics in their bedroom. The lights and sounds these devices emit disrupt quality sleep and can result in up to an hour of lost sleep per night. Remove electronics from your bedroom and your children’s bedrooms. More attentive connection. A 2013 study in the journal of Environment and Behavior suggests that by simply having your phone sitting on the table or in your hand during a conversation, you reduce the quality of your interaction. Stash your phone away during face-to-face conversation. And consider choosing one day a week where the whole family takes a “Digital Sabbath,” or a 24-hour break from technology. “The [Digital] Sabbath increases your ability to concentrate on cool intricate tasks, to experience and appreciate the uniqueness of particular moments, to focus more on the people around you,” writes Alex Soojung-Kim Pang in his book The Distraction Addiction: Getting the Information You Need and the Communication...


By Christie Silverstein   Spring has arrived, which means we’re already nearing the end of another school year in Arizona. It’s time again to find out what students have learned and whether they are on track and prepared for the next step in their education. A measurement of student proficiency in math and English language arts, AzMERIT provides valuable insight for parents and educators by detailing how their students, schools and districts are faring academically. The testing period can be an anxious time for both students and parents, but it doesn’t have to be. Here are a few ways to ensure that the annual test doesn’t put undue stress on you or your children. Be prepared. You can practice at home and encourage critical thinking skills, which are an important part of the test. Ask your child to explain how they solved a math problem, or about a recent book they read and what they think about it. For more specific ideas, talk to your child’s teacher about what they are learning and how you can reinforce those skills. Find out whether your child will be testing on a computer – if they are it can be beneficial to spend some time with sample questions provided by the Arizona Department of Education. It’s also helpful to ensure you know which days the test will be given so that you can talk things through with your child and let them know what to expect. Create healthy habits. Sleep, diet and physical activity can all play a role in academic performance. Obviously, young kids need more sleep than adults. Leading up...

Keeping Little Eyes Healthy

  By Dr. Meehan Healthy eyes are a critical component to a child’s development. The conditions most frequently affecting a child’s vision are uncorrected refractive error, amblyopia and strabismus. Uncorrected refractive error may include near/farsightedness and astigmatism. Amblyopia, commonly known as a lazy eye, occurs when one eye has better vision than the other. Strabismus is the condition in which in one eye is misaligned or turned. These conditions can be addressed and treated during your child’s routine eye examination. If not adequately corrected, they may cause significant vision loss, affecting both the quality of vision and your child’s overall development and learning. When should I schedule my child’s first appointment? It may surprise you to know that a child’s first eye examination is recommended at six months of age by the American Optometric Association (AOA). If your child has no family history or personal risk factors – which can include pre-term birth, an eye turn, or lack of interest in following objects – other exams are recommended at the age of three and again prior to starting school. InfantSEE® is an AOA program providing free eye examinations to children under the age of one. As early as six months, your child’s visual acuity, eye alignment, refractive error, and ocular health are checked to help ensure a strong foundation for development. Check with your local eye doctors to find out if they are participating InfantSEE providers. Aren’t vision screenings as good as an annual eye examination? Vision screenings within schools and the pediatrician’s office are helpful in identifying children at risk, but are not equivalent to a comprehensive eye...

Family Day-Tripping

By Judy M. Miller Are the kids restless? How about you? It might be time for a change in routine or scenery. Day trips are a wonderful and often inexpensive option to family vacations, and the possibilities are endless and abound everywhere, no matter where you live. Plan On It: Make getting out of the house and away a priority. Part of making day trips happen is commitment. Set aside one day of the month that you can regularly stick to, like the last Saturday of every month. Don’t work? Consider a day during the week, when destinations might not be as busy. Discuss it with all family members and add it to the calendar. Brainstorm Ideas: Explore the options. Be sure to consider and include your children’s preferences and interests. Consider indoors and outdoors options. My kids range in ages of n19 down to 10, two girls and two boys. Their interests are vast and ever changing as they age. We’ve traveled a few hours to explore zoos and museums, fish or kayak, ski or sled, walk through an auto show, ride a train into a large city for the purpose of seeing a specific exhibition or enjoying a cultural festival, learn about the Thoroughbred horse, watch cows being milked and cheese being made, walk and roll down the hot sand dunes into a cool wet Great Lake on a hot day, and much more. Keep a Binder: You’ll likely find that you travel within a few hours radius, as we do. I keep a binder with section dividers so that I can include information about the areas...

Science Tots

  By Veronica Hunnicut   The early years of a child’s life are consumed by a desire to explore and experiment with objects. Well-known developmental psychologist Jean Piaget fittingly called young children “natural scientists” because of this inclination. By tapping into children’s tendency to explore and discover, parents, teachers and other adults in children’s lives can actually help nurture and extend their learning.   From the moment babies enter the world, their curiosity sparks a need to observe and classify objects and actions. Their brains actually change as a result of the new things they learn. As children continue to grow and explore, new discoveries help them enrich, modify, reorganize – and sometimes replace – their initial theories with quite different ideas. This type of hands-on learning explains why a child may scrutinize a new object in an effort to figure out how it works, or experiment with sound and movement as she learns how to use her body to communicate.   Children need safe environments where they can experiment freely and take risks without the fear of being told “That’s not how you’re supposed to do that.” When we support children’s natural tendency to try things out, we are cheering them on to discover and tackle new challenges creatively. This is an important step in helping them build determination and confidence in their own abilities.   Adults can encourage infants and toddlers to explore and learn in simple and fun ways:   Give your baby colorful, safe objects that he can examine by looking, feeling, tasting and smelling. Talk to your baby, providing a play-by-play of everything he...

Preteen Dating

Trivial Terrain or Timely Talks? By Denise Yearian   Boys and girls have always been attracted to one another. But the age attraction begins varies tremendously from one person to another. For some, those feelings of attraction start in late elementary school. For others, it’s not until high school. Although the age gap varies, experts agree when a child of 9- or 10-years-old begins showing interest in the opposite gender, parents need to sit up and take notice.   “Kids this age may have a boy- or girlfriend, but still not know what dating means,” says Shaunti Feldhahn, relationship researcher and analyst and author of For Young Women Only. “They are mimicking what they see played out on TV or by teenagers, but they don’t have a full grasp of how a relationship works.”   Parents, she says, may have a tendency to dismiss these early relationships as trivial, but they should be taken seriously.   “It’s an advanced signal of what is to come and needs to be addressed by Mom and Dad while they still have a major influence in their child’s life,” Feldhahn suggests.   Jane Bowen, director of a statewide parent education organization, agrees. “Parents should take the lead in facilitating age-appropriate discussions with their preteen regarding friendships, dating, decision making and sex. If your son says he has a girlfriend or is ‘going out’ with someone, ask what that means,” she says.   But according to Bowen, talking about it shouldn’t be a one-time deal.   “These conversations need to happen frequently so parents know where their preteens are in relationships and preteens know...

Career Ready

CTE courses across the Valley prepare students for college, workplace By Nora Heston Tarte   CTE stands for Career and Technical Education, a type of education that puts emphasis on learning concepts that prepare students for post secondary education or immediate entrance into the workplace. It achieved mass acceptance in 1926 after World War II, but the program has come a long way since then. It’s no longer limited to those interested in auto mechanics or cosmetology; today CTE includes everything from culinary courses to health science. The goal is to provide students with a range of high-wage career opportunities that will satisfy the future job market, and according to national statistics, 94 percent of high school students are taking advantage of the opportunity.   Peoria Unified School District   When school districts develop CTE programs, they often look for gaps in the local employment pool—areas where there aren’t enough qualified candidates to fill open positions. That’s one reason PUSD offers courses in fire science. After all, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Arizona could use more first-line supervisors of firefighting and prevention workers. While students interested in fire science get early exposure through the program, the effort they put in while in high school also jumpstarts their careers. “Peoria Fire Captain Danny Comella provides students with stackable credentials, meaning college credit and various industry certifications,” explains Danielle Airey, director of communications and public relations at PUSD. And the certifications are as varied as the CTE course offerings. “The PUSD Fire Science program prepares its students to transition to the Firefighter Academy by introducing the students to all...

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