Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Kentucky State Parks “Get Spooky With It”

Kentucky State Parks “Get Spooky With It”
Belinda @ Kids Matter
What’s a great combination? How about Halloween and Kentucky State Parks? That’s right; Kentucky State Parks are “getting spooky with it”! All over the state, parks are hosting Halloween events. We are invited for hayrides, crafting, reptile presentations, cookouts, trick-or-treating, haunted trail adventures, ghost hunting, and costume contests to give a few examples of what’s in store. Who can resist such great temptations? Spending time with nature and exploring the activities for Halloween. Yes, that’s a great combination!
Why is nature such an important part of our lives? "Nature is fuel for the soul," says Richard Ryan, lead author and a professor of psychology at the University of Rochester. He says, "Often when we feel depleted we reach for a cup of coffee, but research suggests a better way to get energized is to connect with nature.” Nature restores the harmony between mind, body, and soul. I think Gautham puts it best, “Everything we as humans have created has been derived from this harmony: anything from simply utilizing it efficiently to downright trying to copy its intricacies. Whenever we see the world around us becoming more and more chaotic we can look to the harmony that is nature to guide us back. The harmony that allows the whales and the sharks to live in the same ocean, the harmony that allows the wind and the trees to roam in the same fields, the harmony that allows the body and mind of all living beings to function as one.” Nature is literally the path to inner peace.
Walk hand in hand with your loved ones, steadfast into the great hope of a beautiful park covered in fall foliage. Inhale the essence that is purity in its simplest form. Disconnect from the technology that has you plugged in the majority of the day. Exhale the anxiety and tensions that have you in a choke hold. Open yourself to the possibility of enrichment and fulfillment through the anticipation of nature. Add in the excitement of celebrating Halloween in such an atmosphere and there you have it… a great combination!
Explore Kentucky; infuse yourself with the harmony found in its state parks through the essence of nature. Visit the Kentucky State Parks website to see information on Halloween events taking place in a state park near you. Have a Happy Halloween and a spooktacular time getting back to nature while you celebrate!

Monday, October 27, 2014

Five Crafty Halloween Ideas for Children

Five Crafty Halloween Ideas for Children
Belinda @ Kids Matter
As I am all about family time, I can’t imagine a better way to kick off the holiday season than by getting “spooky crafty” with the kids. Children absolutely love to do crafts. We will take a look at five crafty Halloween ideas that will put those creative little minds to work. Craft ideas are just that… ideas… add your own little twist to them. You will be surprised what children come up with while creating their crafts. Halloween is a holiday that sticks with you throughout your lifetime. Every Halloween you remember characters you became, the fun of going door to door, haunted houses, candy, and all the decorations. Create memories with your children by participating in as many fun filled activities as possible throughout October.

Creepy spiders
Materials: Styrofoam balls, black spray paint, black pipe cleaners, wiggly eyes, orange felt, glue, scissors, and gum drops. Make different sizes and create families of spiders.
1.     Paint the Styrofoam balls black and allow them to dry thoroughly.
2.     Insert eight pipe cleaners into the ball for the legs.
3.     Cut two small circles of orange felt for the eyes and glue them onto the ball.
4.     Glue two wiggly eyes onto the orange felt.
5.     Stick a gum drop on the end of each leg for the feet.

Materials: One large oblong shaped pumpkin, one lime, stapler, black and green paint, white, black, and green felt, two bolts, toothpicks, scissors, glue, and dark green marker.
1.     Paint the pumpkin green and dry thoroughly.
2.     Paint black hair on top of pumpkin and dry thoroughly.
3.     Cut the lime in half and insert two toothpicks into the sides of the pumpkin where the ears will go.
4.     Place the lime halves onto the toothpicks.
5.     Paint a long black eyebrow across the forehead of the pumpkin.
6.     Cut out two oval shaped white pieces of felt for the eyes and glue them onto the pumpkin.
7.     Cut out two circles of black felt for the eyes and glue them onto the white felt.
8.     Cut out two half ovals of green felt for the eye lids and glue them on.
9.     Paint the mouth and nose with black paint and dry thoroughly.
10.  Insert a bolt toward the bottom of each side of the pumpkin.
11.  Using the green marker, draw a line a couple inches long across the forehead of the pumpkin.
12.  Using the stapler, insert several staples across the green line.

Mummy cup
Materials: Plastic cups, medical gauze, wiggly eyes, candy, scissors, and glue.
1.     Coat the plastic cup with glue around the sides leaving the top and bottom uncovered.
2.     Wrap gauze around the cup going several layers deep around the cup.
3.     Cut the gauze and glue with a drop of glue to the back of the cup.
4.     Glue on two wiggly eyes.
5.     Fill cup with your favorite candy.

Spooktacular necklace
Materials: yarn, white glue, parchment paper, scissors, and black marker.
1.     On a sheet of parchment paper, using the glue, draw an outline of several ghosts.
2.     Allow them to dry for one minute.
3.     Fill in the outline with more glue.
4.     Allow the ghosts to dry for two days.
5.     Gently peel the ghosts from the parchment paper.
6.     Using the black marker, draw eyes and a mouth on the ghosts.
7.     Punch a hole at the top of each ghost large enough to insert yarn.
8.     Cut strands of yarn long enough to make a necklace.
9.     String ghosts onto the yarn creating a necklace and tie to appropriate size.

Cup of worms
Materials: One small box of instant chocolate Jell-O pudding,  two cups of milk, one package of Oreo cookies, one package of gummy worms, and four clear plastic cups.
1.     Make the chocolate pudding according to the directions on the box.
2.     Crush Oreo cookies and sprinkle some in the bottom of each cup.
3.     Pour a ½ cup of pudding into each cup.
4.     Sprinkle more Oreo crumbs on top of the pudding.
5.     Insert a couple worms into the Oreo pudding mixture (dirt) burying them about half the length of the worm with the remaining half sticking out the top of the cup.
6.     Chill for an hour in the refrigerator and then eat.

But don’t stop here... keep that Halloween momentum going and search for other creative crafts and projects to do for the holiday. Spend quality time with your children doing things to spark their creative juices while having fun. With all projects, make sure you have a wet cloth and dry towel handy to clean up messes. Prepare the working surface before delving into a project. Make certain that any furniture near the activity is covered for protection. Dress the children in old play clothes in case of accidents. Most importantly… be patient with the children as fun can be very exciting and may lead to distractions and failure to follow instructions. Allow the children to be as hands on as appropriate for their age. During the tasks where the adult must do the work, remember to talk with the children and describe what you are doing so they learn as you work. Explain to them why an adult must do that specific task and why they should not attempt it on their own. Crafts are great teaching tools! Discuss colors, shapes, textures, counting, letters, sounds, and safety rules as you work. Have a great time with your projects and create beautiful smiles and memories as you go!

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Halloween: A Night for Treats, Not Tragedies

Halloween: A Night for Treats, Not Tragedies
Robin @ Kids Matter
Twice as many kids are killed, while walking on Halloween, as on any other day of the year.  Kids usually trick-or-treat when it is dark which makes it more difficult for drivers to see them.  Because they’re excited about getting candy, children may not be watching for cars.
Parents and drivers need to do their part to help kids stay out of the emergency room on Halloween.
Top tips to keep Kids safe on Halloween
For parents and children:
·        Emphasize safe pedestrian behaviors to kids before they go trick or treating.
·        Cross the street safely at corners, using traffic signals and crosswalks.  Look left, right, and left again before crossing the street.  And, keep looking as you cross.  Walk; don’t run across the street.
·        Walk on sidewalks or paths.  If there are no sidewalks, walk facing traffic as far to the left as possible.  Children should walk on direct routes with the fewest street crossings.
·        Slow down and stay alert.  Watch out for cars that are turning or backing up, and never dart out into the street or cross between parked cars.
·        Costumes can be both creative and safe.  Decorate your children’s costumes with reflective materials and, if possible, choose light colors that can be seen in the dark.  Masks can obstruct a child’s vision, so choose nontoxic face paint, makeup and wigs instead.
·        Carry flashlights or glow sticks.  These will help trick-or-treaters see and be seen by drivers.
For drivers:
·        Slow down in residential neighborhoods and school zones.
·        Be sure to turn your full headlights on between 5:30 and 9:30 P.M., the most popular trick-or-treating hours.
·        Be especially alert and take extra time to look for kids at intersections, on medians and on curbs.  Children are excited on Halloween and may move in unpredictable ways.
·        Slowly and carefully enter and exit driveways and alleys.
·        Reduce any distractions inside your car, such as talking on the phone or eating, so you can concentrate on the road and your surroundings.
·        While pedestrian safety is a main concern on Halloween, parents and kids should be careful when dealing with candy.  Remind children to only eat treats in original and unopened wrappers.
This information is provided by Safe Kids, Fayette County.  Visit their website to learn more about how to keep our children safe.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Bonfire and Spooky Story Season

Belinda @ Kids Matter
I stepped out the door to a nippy 60 degrees this morning. Suddenly, I was reminded of the season. I’ve always been quite fond of autumn. I look forward to the beauty of the leaves changing, the nip in the air, shorter days longer nights, and most importantly… those fabulous bonfires with the grandchildren. You haven’t truly experienced the wonder of fall until you have sat bundled in a blanket, surrounded by loved ones, with a marshmallow blazing on a stick. Oh, the great fun of the bonfire!
Fun, yes, but for a worrying Nana like myself, I spent a lot of the time creating a barrier between the children and the fire. I took into account the clumsy and tired and exerted extra effort to keep them safely from the fire. The first few bonfires with the grandkids, I have to tell you, I was a nervous wreck! I spent the majority of the time circling the fire instead of enjoying it. Escorting children back to their seats instead of teaching them. I was yelling, “blow the marshmallow out!” instead of delighting in the essence of the rich gooey toasted marshmallow. Finally, it occurred to me there was a way to bring a little peace to the Indians circling the fire preparing for war in our backyard.
Spooky stories!!! This was the answer to recapturing my sanity and inspiring great adventures in my grandchildren’s minds! They are young, so the stories can’t really be too scary. It’s the build of the story that captures their attention. The whispers, the sudden scary noises thrown in, and best of all including their names into the story, pull them into the story with intensity. It’s not so much the words of the story, but the drama you bring in telling it. Using different voices create characters that go on great adventures and pull in things your children love like a favorite doll or toy. The more creative you get with the story the closer to the edge of the seat you will have the child.
I have told many a scary story around the bonfire. Besides the marshmallows, that is the children’s favorite part of the bonfire. Before Grandpa even has the fire blazing, I hear, “Tell us a spooky story, Nana, but not real spooky and with a funny ending!” Yes, that is one of my great accomplishments… the spooky story with the funny ending. Nothing makes me happier than watching my babies faces light up as they get into the story. The look of anticipation is heartwarming. This is the kind of excitement you want to see in a child; inspiration, the desire to learn and grow. I see spooky story time as an opportunity to inspire, motivate, and encourage great adventures in growing minds.
THUMPS in the Night: A Spooky Funny Story for the Bonfire
The children were playing in the yard beneath the porch light when suddenly they heard a THUMP. After the thump, a SQUEEAAAKKK, then a SLAM! The noises repeated over and over each time growing more eerie. The porch light began to fade slowly until it was no more. The children crept around the yard holding hands… eyes wide as flashlights in search of the thump. Something swooshed by them touching them ever so slightly on the legs then vanished into the darkness. The children screamed! They clasped hands tighter and tighter as they made their trek through the jungle that was the backyard. THUMP! SQUUUEEEAAAKKK! SLAM!... THUMP! SQUUUEEEAAAKKK! SLAM! Over and over came the noises… louder and LOUDER until the children realized the noises were coming from right above their heads. THUMP!!! The children froze where they stood; too frightened to even look toward the sound. Their tiny bodies shook… their teeth rattled… their knees knocked. SQUEEEAAAAKKK!!! “Don’t move,” whispered the little girl. The little boy, slightly clumsy, fell over something leaning against the tree and made a loud crashing sound. The frightened little girl screamed, “AHHHHHHHHH!” Then the boy screamed, “AHHHHHHHHH!” Then they screamed together, “AHHHHHHHHH!” Fear crept in like a cat on the prowl on a dark, dark night in a big, dark jungle. THUMP! SQUUUEEEAAAKKK! SLAM!... THUMP! SQUUUEEEAAAKKK! SLAM! The little boy looked up toward the sound. With each squeak he saw a light. With each slam the light disappeared. The little boy looked to see what had made him fall and he saw, there in the shadows, a ladder, a very tall ladder that went all the way up to the top of the tall, tall tree. THUMP! SQUUUEEEAAAKKK! SLAM! The children stepped up the ladder… step by step they came closer and closer to the sound. Finally they could see the THUMP… it was a knock. It was a squirrel knocking on the tree. SQUUUEEEAAAAKK! It was a door opening in the top of the tall, tall tree. The squirrel raced in. SLAM! The door closed. They reached the tiny, tiny door in the top of the tall, tall tree, in the middle of the dark, dark night. They knocked on the door. The door swung open with that same familiar SQUUUEEEAAAAKK! There, standing at the little tiny door was a big… fury… grey… squirrel who screamed out in this big high pitched squeal... “Happy Birthday!!!! It’s about time you guys got here! What’s a birthday party without the guest of honor? Happy Birthday to you, happy birthday to you, happy birthday…” The squirrels sang and danced and shook their big fluffy tails. The little girl and the little boy were no longer afraid of the thumps in the night because they knew… somewhere in the yard it was somebody’s birthday party.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Meet the Child Care Council Staff

Introducing Casey G.

Belinda @ Kids Matter

Please say hello to Casey. She has been employed with the CCC for the past five years and is an Eligibility Specialist serving Scott County. Casey said she loves her job because, “… it allows me to reach families that need the childcare assistance the CCC provides and guide them to additional useful resources. I give them comfort when they need it, a shoulder to cry on, and ears just to listen to them when needed. I try to go above and beyond for all of my families every single day. I just love my families in Scott County.”

Casey is married to her wonderful husband of three years, Shane. In May, to celebrate their third anniversary, they took a trip to Gatlinburg (where they spent their honeymoon). They made this trip on a motorcycle. “Thank goodness for good weather,” she said. They rode the Tail of the Dragon, which is a “tourist thing” for people who have motorcycles. It’s an 11 mile stretch of road with 318 curves. Casey declared, “It was fun and scary all at the same time!” After venturing on to Nashville and back home, the whole trip was 1400 miles.

Casey and Shane love anything outdoors. She said, “We love to hunt, mostly for deer, during firearm and archery season, but each of us would love to go turkey hunting or bear hunting someday. We do lots of fishing, out of our kayaks, in the creek near our house. We show antique tractors and farm equipment all over the states of Kentucky, Indiana, and Ohio. We love to go camping as well; either while we are showing our tractors, or at the horse park with family. We love anything and everything we can do outside!”

Casey is a proud wife and dotes on her husband, “He is currently a volunteer firefighter for the community of Stamping Ground and is in the process of trying to become a career firefighter in Georgetown.” She went on to tell me about the sweetest thing he ever did for her, “He spent all week writing me a poem. On Friday, when I came home, I saw the poem with hand-picked wildflowers from our own land. The poem told me to get all dolled up as he was going to pick me up, like on an actual date. We had a very nice dinner and then he took me dancing.”

Oh, but that’s not all! Casey’s love for Shane shines in what she considers her greatest achievement in her life. She said, “It may not count to some people, but it counts for me. Marrying my amazing husband has to be my greatest achievement. He is a wonderful man, husband, protector, and provider. Not only does he promise to serve and protect me, but he also promised to serve and protect an entire community that depends on him along with the rest for the Stamping Ground Volunteer Fire Dept. He rushes from our home whenever the radio sounds to save someone’s life. He comforts the loved ones of the lost after he desperately tried to save them. It is dangerous for him and absolutely terrifying for me, but it is something that he loves to do and people count on him to be there. He completes me.”

They don’t have children but, they do have a six year old Australian Shepard, who is like their child, Molly Ann (pictured above). She has a pretty amazing story that I have to share. Casey said, “Molly rescued my husband and me when she was almost a year old. When my husband went to the home, he was not expecting to rescue a dog. But, when he got there, she was chained to a fence along with four other dogs.  The only thing they had eaten was some table scraps divided between the dogs. She was shot with a BB-gun every time she barked. She was underweight, dirty, and flea infested. Shane paid for her and brought her home. She has been our baby ever since and we could not imagine life without her.”

Casey said her dad is her hero, “He is always there for me when I need anything. He took care of his family by any means necessary, but would always leave work or stop what he was working on to come to my softball games, cheer competitions, or just play with me. Dad was, and is, always a part of my life. He is strong, caring, and would give the shirt off of his back to help anyone. I strive every day to be just like him. I am who I am because of my dad. He taught me a lot of things that have come in handy for me. I can just about figure anything out mechanically and I have a passion for working on cars, trucks, tractors, or equipment. I love being able to get in there and get my hands dirty.”
Casey has learned, from life, that you should always, “Reach for the stars, but don’t forget about the ones that helped you to reach them.”

Monday, October 13, 2014

Help with LETTERS

Help with LETTERS

Belinda @ Kids Matter

Instead of throwing your hands up in despair, how about searching for fun ways to teach, those precious little ones, the letters of the alphabet? We have to remember that what works for one child, may not work for another. Children are like snowflakes; none of them identical. Sometimes teaching is more about the teacher learning, instead of the child. We always have to be willing to improve our teaching skills and that requires us to continually search for new, and better, methods. Below are some fun things to try with your child. Remember, patience is a wonderful virtue!

Hands on as We Grow – 50 great activities to try.

No Time for Flash Cards – 25 alphabet activities for kids.

Just Mommies – 10 creative ways to teach your child the alphabet.

Teach Mama - 10 fun ways of helping kids learn the abc’s.

I Can Teach My Child - 35+ Alphabet Activities for Toddlers & Preschoolers.

Your Child Learns – Alphabet adventures.

Fun-A-Day – Teaching children about letters.

Spoonful – 26 alphabet activities for kids.

My Life in Verbs - 21 ideas to help your child learn letters and letter sounds.

Ready-Set-Read - 14 ways to explore the letters in your child's name.

Make learning fun, not only for the child, but the teacher as well. There is plenty of time for worry, stress, and rush, later on in life. Brighten a child’s day by spending time teaching and playing with them.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Introducing Charity through a Book

Introducing Charity through a Book

Belinda @ Kids Matter

Do you remember your favorite book as a child? What about your child’s favorite book? Is there anything as sweet as watching a child’s eyes light up as a story is read to them? It’s like we are making a whole new discovery in the world. Reading opens doors to the most wonderful adventures in life. Imaginations soar upon the clouds chasing dragons and befriending fairies. Oh for the joy of freedom in our own little piece of the world.

I found the most awesome website. And beyond that, it inspires reading in a child… it is FREE and inspires charity and teaching your child to give and help others. I can’t think of a more worthy cause to support. Please go to We Give Books and start your journey with your child, grandchild, niece, nephew, student, or neighbor.

The books are laid out by age. There are so many to choose from. “Together with the Penguin Group, the Pearson Foundation has launched We Give Books, a digital initiative that enables anyone with access to the Internet to put books in the hands of children who don’t have them, simply by reading online. By reading one of the Penguin or DK books online, you are assisting the Pearson Foundation in donating a book to a child in partnership with one of the exemplary international, national, or local literacy organizations that the We Give Books program helps to support. Just think, by allowing your child to read online, you are helping another child who doesn’t have that opportunity. It’s a win/win situation.

The We Give Books site also offers parents the opportunity to:

Explain how a child can help people by his or her actions.

Speak about the volunteering and charity they do.

Talk to the child about how his or her actions make other people feel.

Discuss goals.

Encourage opinions.

Tell children that you are proud of them.

Explain the importance of giving to others.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Meet the Child Care Council Staff

Introducing Hygia P.

Belinda @ Kids Matter

Please say hello to Hygia (Gia). She has been an Eligibility Specialist with the CCC for the past two years. She serves the counties of Breathitt, Johnson, Knott, Magoffin, and Perry. I asked her how she came to work for the CCC. She replied, “I was looking for a job, and a friend sent a link to a job listing for an Eligibility Specialist with the CCC. I thought this was something interesting and applied. I started on my 28th birthday… it was a good birthday present.” What does she love most about her job? “I like to help families better their situations,” she replied.
Gia, is a fun, caring, and friendly person. She can be found at home, when not working, in her comfy PJ’s with her eight year old son, Zack. In her spare time she loves to catch up on all of her recorded shows. She is an avid Facebooker, Tweeter, and Pinterest user who uses social media to keep up with her friends and family. Her favorite hobbies are gardening, cooking, baking, playing with her cat Muffy, and riding motorcycles. Her least favorite thing is doing all those dishes from the cooking and baking. I think a lot of us can agree with that statement!

Gia received an AAS and AA from Hazard Community College and a BA in Criminal Justice from Eastern Kentucky University. She is an avid sports fan and is excited about the upcoming football season. Her favorite team is the New Orleans Saints. Her favorite vacation, thus far, was a week-long stay at Disney World.
I asked Gia for her best advice to parents on raising children. After sincere thought she replied, “Teach children respect, kindness, honesty, integrity, and values when they are young. It’s the parent’s responsibility to raise the children right. Raise your child right the first time because there are no second chances.” She also had advice for children in regard to understanding their parents, “Children should understand that parents do the best they can to raise their children with what they have. Parents will say no or give advice that the child is not wanting or willing to hear. Later, the child will realize it was probably the best advice.”