May is Child Month

May Child month Jamaica

Today May 1st is the start of Child Month.  We, along with over twenty other organizations in Jamaica, will be celebrating our precious children.  What will you do this month to celebrate and improve the lives of all children?  Of course your own children but I venture to say that we have a responsibility to all children, especially Jamaican children.

An article in today’s Observer TEENage section March for May: Shatter the Silence asks the question “What can we do  to make our children’s world safer and let them feel special in a world where others lessen their importance?”    They offer three steps to answer this question:

  1. Pay attention and be in tune with their school and social activities
  2. Be firm and fair-discipline the child without abuse
  3. Listen openly-allow children to feel safe expressing their thoughts, feelings and ideas

I encourage you you read the entire article and make your way around our posts here on Kid ‘N’ Play JAfor some other suggestions on engagement with your children.

What are you doing for Child Month?  Share with us in the comments below.

photo credit: iz4aks via photo pin cc

 

Do your kids do chores?

children doing chores

I have been wanting to write about children doing chores for several weeks now, and finally the day is here.  So what do you think about children doing chores?  I am actually quite excited about my son doing his chores.  This is new for our family so we are still working out a little resistance, but all in all it is going well.

My older son is 8, and I really believe he is at the age when he can contribute to the family with his “skills”.  So what can an 8 year old do?  Plenty!  He is supposed to make his bed in the mornings, clean out his lunch pan after school, put away his clothes after they are washed and folded (I am working on him folding the clothes too, so that will be soon), help to  unpack and put away the groceries from the supermarket and tidy his room.  I think these are reasonable.  They are simple tasks that just take a few minutes for him to do and frees me up to do other things.  Of course the corners on the bed he makes aren’t square nor is the sheet pulled tightly, but you know what, I’ve let that go.  It’s his bed anyway, so I ‘m not going to be too picky about the quality of the work.  I believe it’s the responsibility of having to do chores that is more important than how perfect it turns out.  Of course I am not talking about accepting a “slap-dash” job, but if the effort is honest, I am fine with that, and we can work on improving the result.  What you say?

Does my son want to do his chores-definitely not!  I have to remind him EVERYDAY to empty the lunch pan, to make up the bed etc.  Surely he tries to get out of it, but if he doesn’t do it, it’s not done, because I am not going to do it.  I have waited several mornings for him to clean out the lunch pan so I can pack the lunch.  I think that is key.  If you always pick up the slack, then why would they bother?  They have to know you are standing by your guns.

Even if you have help at home, I feel it’s important for children to help around the house.  Apart from learning to help themselves and learning some basic life skills, doing chores builds a level of responsibility and also helps them feel valued about their contribution to the family. Oh, and I don’t pay money for chores.  We explain that for our family each person has and important contribution to make, and helping around the house is just one way to contribute.

I figure if Sacha and Malia (Obama) have to make their beds, then my kids can do the same!

What do yo think?  Do your children have household responsibilities?  Do you pay them?  I would love to get your thoughts!  Leave your comments below.

Photo attribution: clogozm

 

Our Black River Safari

As I  mentioned in the previous post, Our Journey to Jamaica’s South coast, we were only able to spend two days in St. Elizabeth.  One of the activities we were able to enjoy was the Black River Safari.  Truth be told, our “Safari” was really more like a “boat ride” up Black River.

St. Elizabeth, Jamaica

Our hotel arranged for us to do the Black River Safari, with “two men and a boat” (my words).  I really thought this little boat/canoe was taking us to the bigger Safari boating outfit we had seen on our way to the hotel.  However, we soon learned that this small boat would be doing the Safari!  (Much to my husband’s sudden unease and agitation).  We were consoled frequently by the boatman that we would be OK.  Hubby’s concern was that  ”Alligators can jump” and didn’t like the idea of possibly becoming their dinner!  He just would have felt safer in a bigger boat.  Little did be know he had nothing to worry about.

St. Elizabeth, jamaica

St. Elizabeth, Jamaica

Black River is quite long, we didn’t even go all the way to Miss Lou’s crab shack, as we understood it was quite a way up the river, and we really didn’t want any crab.  I think the ride was about an hour.  Along our “Safari” we saw lots of Egrets, marshlands, some very interesting mangroves and a quick glimpse of ONE Alligator, who headed quickly into the water.  I have to say  I was disappointed!  We were expecting to see several alligators (hence Hubby’s apprehension) and other animals all along the ‘Safari’, but we didn’t!  I don’t suppose the boatmen can guarantee what we’ll see as there are so many variables.  Needless to say, my husband was quite OK with just glimpsing one Alligator, who I might add, was a good distance away from the boat. :)

We did see another Alligator, on the dock by Charles Swaby Safari.  Honestly on our trip out we saw the Alligator but thought it was a fake.  It was in the same position, not moving for several minutes.  We argued with the boatman as to its status, as we thought he was teasing us that this was real.  Lo’ and behol’,  on the return leg, what do you know?   The Alligator nuh turn ‘roun’ and was walking!!!!  We were shocked.  We were led to understand that he is tame, nothing to worry about, because his “owner” feed him chicken back!!

 

Black River safari
Alligator on initial leg

 

St. Elizabeth, Jamaica
Alligator on return leg

Overall, I am glad we did it.  We had never been on a boat on the river before, our kids experienced something new, and the scenery was quite beautiful.  If you are planning on taking in the Safari, just know beforehand that you may or may not see Alligators.  If you see them, consider it your lucky day!

 

Raising Fearless children

Children self-esteem

How will you know if you have been a successful parent?  What kind of people are you nurturing for the next generation? I have thought about these questions for some time now and when I strip my answers down to the core, I always come back to the same answer.  I want my children to be fearless!  Fearless in every sense of the word (except me of course, they need to fear me)!  :)   I want my sons to be critical thinkers, challenge authority and status quo, be confident in their decisions and not be afraid to ask questions or to be different.  Wow, that was a mouthful!  I think many parents have some of the same goals for their children, so how do we accomplish this?  It really comes down to  their self -esteem.  For children to grow into adults equipped with these traits, we have to build their self -esteem.

  • Love- Children need unconditional love.They have to feel secure in your love for them, and know that nothing they do will change how much you love them.  You may be disappointed in a particular behaviour, but that  doesn’t make you love them any less.  Frequent hugs and kisses and special time together also goes a long way in showing your love.
  • Provide opportunities for success-Allow children to “put themselves out there”.  Encourage them to get involved in school, church, extracurricular activities.  Have them sign up /try-out for leading roles and/or responsible positions.  Taking a swing at something new, meeting new people, making new friends, basically stepping outside of their comfort zone, develops a “can-do-anything” mentality.
  • Failure is OK-The flipside of putting yourself out there, is the possibility of failure.  You won’t be successful or win at everything you try.  A huge lesson for children, and adults for that matter, is the fact that failure is OK.  We learn much more from our experiences failing that we do when we succeed.  Children need to experience failure to prepare for the real world.  Failure gets us back to the drawing board to find a better solution, to come back better the  next time around.  Our older son is a swimmer, and at one of his swim meets he didn’t win and came to us at the end crying.  He was upset that he didn’t win.  I felt so badly for him, and was coddling and consoling and started the argument that “winning isn’t everything”, “it is about just doing your best” etc.  Then his father looked around and asked what he was crying for?  He told him because he didn’t win.  His Dad just matter-of- factly told him, “Look, stop the crying, if you want to win you just have to swim faster!  You need to practice more and swim faster.  There is no reason to cry!”  At the time I thought that was a little harsh for my little 7 year old “baby”, but honestly this was some good advice.  That in a nutshell is life!  (My husband surprises me sometimes:))
  • Be present-This is a work in progress for me, but so important.  Starting a new business and social media and trying to keep up with all the information that comes from all angles, it is so hard to disconnect.  You know it is bad when my1.5 year old cries when I sit down in front of my laptop, and my 8 year old says Mummy you are always working on your computer!!!  That gets you right in the gut.  He asked me, “Mummy, who you do like more, the computer or me?”  I have really had to set some limits for my working hours and give my children the time they deserve and just unplug.
  • Empower them to make choices- I learned this from a session on Positive parenting with Amy McCready.  Children feel that they have no power.  We decide their food, their clothes, bed time etc. so give them back a little power.  Explain your expectations and then let them know the consequences.   The outcome is totally their decision.  Or they have a choice between two options (that you are ok with).  Let them decide which route to take.  Along with helping with decision making, it also allows for discussions on consequences for every action.

Fear is just so limiting.  Your world is such a small place when you are fearful.  We have to raise children who are willing to step outside of their comfort zone and conquer new horizons.  How do you encourage fearless children and build their self-esteem?  Share your comments below.

 

More reading

10 Self-Esteem Boosters for your child

Photo: www.photographybyjoelle.com

 

Journey to Jamaica’s South coast

We are always going to the North coast for our family trips.  Always Ochi and St. Mary, and of course Portie, but we have never ventured to the South coast.  So in my quest to enjoy more of our beautiful island Jamaica, we decided to head to St. Elizabeth.  With a little research on the area,  I realized there is quite a bit  to see and do- we were excited!  Unfortunately, we could only spend one night.  I would try to squeeze everything into our two day trip!

The plan was to visit YS Falls, do the Black River Safari, visit Accompong to see how the Maroons live and also check out the Appleton Estate tours.  Quite ambitious to say the least!  I definitely underestimated the distance and travel time.  It took us a good 3.5 hours from Kingston and we stopped a few times.

We spent the night at a really nice boutique hotel, “Idler’s Rest“.  Absolutely fabulous!  Located just outside of Black River (town) in Parrottee.  Let me tell you, if you are looking to get away and rest, Idler’s Rest is a great option.  The hotel is on the beach and  tastefully done.  They incorporated the huge trees in their design and utilized  local crafts persons for their wooden furnishing and decor.  There are bikes to use if you wish,  parrots and other birds to enjoy,  hammocks all around for just relaxing, an on site kitchen to prepare your meals, of which breakfast was included in our room rate.   Mr. McDonald and his staff  tried their best to ensure we enjoyed our stay.

Black River hotel

Parottee Jamaica hotel

Needless to say we didn’t get to all the “attractions” as we had planned. We really wanted to spend another night.  Travelling with kids, you need a second night to not be rushed and to take in all that St. Bess has to offer.   We enjoyed the beach, my son loved digging for Cockle and building sand castles, we visited YS Falls and did the Black River Safari.  So stay tuned for my posts of those experiences.

 

Black River beach

St. Elizabeth beach

St. Bess we’re coming back!  We have to visit the Pelican Bar, take the kids on the Appleton Estate tour and definitely visit Accompong.  I encourage you to get a change of scenery, visit the South coast and share some new experiences with your kids.

 

Shaggy Parrot is back! Book review and giveaway

Reggae Pickney Shaggy ParrotWe are big fans of Reggae Pickney and Shaggy Parrot, so we are happy to be able to  review their latest edition, “The Reggae Band Rescues Mama Edda Leatherback.” Even happier that we are  giving away a copy of this fun, colourful and engaging CD storybook to one of our lucky readers.  Thanks Reggae Pickney!

The Reggae Band Rescues Mama Edda Leatherback is a whole lot of fun!  The Reggae band and Shaggy Parrot are back to try to help Mama Edda leatherback, a sea turtle, get to shore to lay her eggs.  Through this journey to shore we learn about the environment, and the steps children can take to protect and preserve it.  How to dispose of garbage properly, reduce, reuse and recycle and about respecting our oceans and the animals who call it home.

I enjoyed it as much as my 8 year old and 18 month old sons.  Of course, the baby didn’t get the environmental messages, but he was surely jigging to the music.  The Reggae music and the lyrics are catchy, you can’t help but  move and dance to the beat.  We listen to the CD in the car which gives us a chance to discuss some of the environmental messages presented.  My older son follows along with the CD. I think this CD/book combination is  brilliant, as it would definitely help children who are a little younger who are developing their reading skills.  If they struggle with words , they can see and hear the pronunciations.

Kid ‘N’ Play JA loves items like this CD storybook.  Educational with a high fun factor!  True edutainment.  Learning doesn’t have to be boring textbooks.  When we make learning fun, children want to learn.

The Reggae Band Rescues Mama Edda Leatherback is available in bookstores across Jamaica and online at Amazon.com. Age group-2-8 years.  Kid ‘N’ Play JA APPROVED!!!!

To win your copy see the contest rules below:

Contest Rules

1) Sign up for Kid ‘N’ Play JA’s newsletter on the home page of our website
2) In the comments section below, tell us why you want a copy of  “The Reggae Band Rescues Mama Edda Leatherback”
3) Fill out your name and email information correctly, so we can notify you if you win
4) Contest dates February 6th-16th 2012
5) Open to Jamaican residents please

*** Extra entries, Tweet or Facebook that you have entered the contest.  Leave a comment below for each one done.  Our Twitter handle is @kidnplayja***

 

 

 

Help your child develop an enthusiasm for learning

Curious kids

 

As I was reading this article Gifted children-Steve Jobs advice from parenting.com several points resonated and I wanted to “put them 0ut there” as “simple” actions parents can take to increase the learning of our children.

As parents we all want our children to be successful, some even more than that… wanting their children to be the BEST!  So we have our kids in all kinds of extra lessons from grade 1, second languages in kindergarten, (which I think is a great asset and improves their overall learning) etc.  Getting 90 on the GSAT isn’t good enough anymore, children getting 95 may not get a spot at the school they want to go to.  I get it… we want to give our children every opportunity to be successful, however, their success in life is much more than their scholastic aptitude. Learning is more than what is covered in school or in textbooks.  While all those activities are important, here are some  thoughts, that we  can incorporate into our everyday interactions with our children.  They can help develop an authentic appetite for learning and build children who are resilient problem solvers not afraid to question the status quo.

1) Talk to your children- Talk about everything, current events, school, friends, goals, thoughts on a situation, solutions to problems etc.  Ask them lots of open-ended questions so they have to explain their thoughts and make their points.  Use challenging words with them.  Don’t “dumb down” your conversations.  Expose them to words or phrases and help them to use the context of the conversation to deduce the meaning.  A great time for talking is on the car ride to and from school.  If you  are working on something, explain what you’re doing, show them your steps, engage them in your activities.

2) Read to and with your children-  Anyone who follows us here, knows we are strong proponents of reading.  Reading to and with your children.  Reading exposes children to the great wild world.  They can travel the world through books.  Let your children see you reading, share your stories with each other.  Reading is the foundation for all learning.  My 8 yr old, is an avid reader.  He amazes us daily with new facts and hearing him make a point or talk with other 8 yr olds, you can  certainly hear a difference in his logic, reasoning and vocabulary.

3) Encourage their curiosity-Encourage the questions!  I know this one can be a little tiring at times, but I just love to see children ask adults/authority figures questions-respectfully of course.  This was never encouraged when I was growing up, basically children were “not to speak until they were spoken to”.  Even in school, you just sat in class while the teacher taught, and you weren’t really encouraged to ask questions or challenge the thoughts or ideas presented.  Children’s ideas really weren’t valued or respected.  We should also engage them, ask them questions about their interests and allow them to express themselves.

4) Teachable moments-Utilize daily occurrences as life lessons.  A simple trip to the grocery store can be scaled across a wide age range.  Identifying fruits and vegetables, counting out amounts of an item, writing grocery lists, comparing prices or nutritional content.  There are many other opportunities as teachable moments;  Banking , trip to the market, etc.

Overall,  as an involved parent you can help your children develop an enthusiasm for learning and become the truest form of themselves.

From Steve Jobs: Love what you do,  think different, get it right!

 

Photo attribution: ankakay

 

How do you interact with your children to foster and encourage their love for learning?  Leave a comment and let’s continue the conversation.

 

 

Hope Zoo Anew-a great family outing!

 

Guardsman group redo Hope ZooI was thrilled to hear Guardman’s Group was taking over Hope Zoo and bringing it back to it’s former glory days!  I have always lamented that children and families need a Zoo.  I know we have the Jamaica Zoo in Lacovia, St. Elizabeth, which is quite nice with several exotic animals, but I always yearned for the familiar Hope Zoo I grew up with.

We visited last week and really were very impressed and happy with our experience.  From the beautifully landscaped grounds, the addition of new animals, the petting Zoo, bird feeding and so much more, the New Hope Zoo is a definite must do for the family.

 

We saw Crocodiles, Jamaican Iguanas, Flamingos and  monkeys.  There is a lovely exhibit of Macaws and a Cockatoo, an Ostrich and Emu, Deer, all kinds of Snakes, Turtles, Wild Pig (Pecarrie) and all kinds of birds.  We enjoyed it as much as our children, Jordan 8 and Braelan 1.5.

Macaws

 

Hope Zoo Iguana
Iguana

 

Hope Zoo Aligator
Crocodile

 

Hope Zoo Ostrich
Ostrich

One of the neatest experiences was the bird feeding.  You pay $J50 to get bird seeds and you enter the cage to feed the birds.  My eight year old really enjoyed this.  You just open your hands with the food and the Budgies come to you and eat from your palms.

Hope Zoo Jamaica
Feeding the birds

The bigger animals are on the way.  By about April this year you should also see Lion(s), Tiger(s) and Zebra(s).

Here are a some of our pictures, but you really need to experience it for yourself.  The kids will have a great time.  If you want the Petting Zoo, you will have to request it beforehand, so they can get the animals ready.

When you visit share your experience with us in the comments section below.

Admission: Adults $500,  Children $300

Thank you and Congrats to Guardsman Group for saving our Zoo.  The children of Jamaica thank you!  This is job well done and I know you’re not finished yet!

 

5 tips for choosing great toys…solving the toy shopping puzzle

Play timeIt’s that time of year again!  The time of year children look forward to all year long. ..TOYS! GIFTS! SHOPPING!  As parents we want to make good decisions on how we spend our money and the value we receive in return, especially when it comes to toys.  If your house is anything like mine, the new toy can become “old” very quickly as the toy is no longer interesting or the kids have mastered or outgrown it.

Play is super important in children’s development.  Many times though, a trip to the local toy store or an online shopping visit, especially over the holidays, can be quite overwhelming, for us parents.  There are thousands of toys available, and each year more are added, how do you know what to look for? Which toy will be right for your child? Will you get good value for your dollars? What should you expect from the toy?  Will your child be just as enthralled with the box the toy came in, the TV remote control or the pots and pans in the kitchen?

Here are a few quick tips to keep in mind as you boldly and confidently “solve the puzzle” (sorry, couldn’t help it) of finding the perfect toy this Holiday and always.

  1. Determine the age-appropriateness of the toy- Every age and every stage of development requires different challenges and support.  Evaluate the “fit” for your child in terms of age, maturity, developmental level and where their interests lie.  It is usually suggested to get toys a little ahead of where your child is currently, so they have a toy to “grow into”.
  2. Evaluate the educational component/value-I think this is the most important consideration, apart from safety.  What is the toy teaching?  Look for toys that teach more than one thing and can be used in several different ways.  This is referred to as “open-end” toys.  This is why I love building blocks which teach ABCs, colours and spatial relations and are also used to build unlimited structures.  Similarly, construction sets also support this open-end play concept of allowing unlimited creations and activities.
  3. Can the toys grow with your child? You want toys that have utility across several different age ranges.  My one year old uses blocks which help with his grasp.  They are colourful and visually exciting, and my eight year old is building forts with the same blocks!  I think that’s good value for money.
  4. Look for problem solving opportunities-This is why I love, love, love puzzles!  The best way for children to learn is with puzzles, and they are fun.  Puzzles help to develop the all important logical and abstract “out-of-box” thinking.  Puzzles, sorters and stackers are great options.
  5. Encourage imagination-Creative play is another important consideration. By about three years old, storytelling, dress up and make believe are a big part of playtime.  These activities help formulate their ideas and build literacy skills.

In a nutshell, you want toys that support and augment the learning process with high fun factor.   Happy shopping!  What other tips do you have for selecting great toys? I would love to hear them.  Share them in the comments below.

 

Easy Christmas shopping!

‘Tis the season…well almost.  The time of year children look forward to all year long.  The excitement and anticipation of choosing their gifts and making their lists is upon us. But wait, I know, excitement for children can mean stress for us parents, as we manoeuvre the Christmas parties, family gatherings, shopping for the “perfect” gifts and everything else that’s involved with celebrating the season.  Kid ‘N’ Play JA Toy Box makes your search and shopping for the perfect children’s gifts easier, quicker, less stressful and more fun.

Kid ‘N’ Play JA Toy Box is the new addition to the Kid ‘N’ Play JA family.   We have done the “heavy lifting”.  Reviewed the Holiday gift guides, compiled industry reviews, researched the award winners and HOT items, to offer a selection of fun, educational and engaging toys.  We are proud of our collection of stimulating “Baby and toddler” toys, brain teaser and strategy “Puzzles”, challenging “Construction” and cool Science kits!   Our “Creative play” section encourages imagination and storytelling which is an integral part of children’s development.

November is our launch month, so we  have special promotions planned to kick off the Holiday shopping season.  Our first promotion is FREE SHIPPING on purchases $US50 and more!!