(BPT) - Ready or not, the holidays are fast approaching. While it’s a season known for celebrating family and friends, the stress of gift-giving and holiday planning can make people lose sight of what’s really important.
Here are five ways you can easily connect with your family without breaking the bank.
Take a family "staycation"
Making time for your family during the holidays doesn’t have to mean splurging on a trip across the world. Instead, opt for a cheaper alternative and spend time in your area. Take time to explore neighborhoods or attractions nearby. You never know — you might find a new favorite place right in your own hometown.
Not everyone can celebrate with family in-person over the holidays. Not to worry: a simple and affordable way to stay in touch with loved ones is just what you need. TracFone has you covered with amazing smartphone and feature phone deals, to help you connect for moments that matter this season. TracFone now offers a 30-day smartphone-only plan with talk, text and data for just $15 on
America’s largest and most dependable networks with 4G LTE nationwide coverage — so you can easily share photos, videos and more. For more great deals and information on affordable, no-contract plans, visit www.TracFoneSwitch.com.
Repurpose a recipe
The holiday season means lots of meals and entertaining — and one of the best parts of this time of year is also leftovers! Rather than simply re-heating, look up some recipes you and your family can make to spice up extras from your holiday meal. This way, you can not only spend time in the kitchen together, but enjoy the meal you made around the table.
This year, instead of buying generic (and expensive) decorations, get creative by making your own! Get the entire family involved and create decorations that will forever have a special meaning in your home. You can also get help thinking outside the box by turning to Pinterest, craft bloggers or YouTube tutorials for inspiration.
It can be easy to forget that the holidays are a time to remember to give to those in need. Take some time with your family to volunteer for an organization you feel strongly about. Volunteering is a great way to not only remind your family of what the holidays are all about, but a way for you to bond over an unforgettable experience.
(BPT) - Losing power at home is inconvenient. When it happens, the worst part is not knowing if the outage will last for a couple hours, or if it will stretch on for days. But if you take a little time to get organized and round up a few items today, you will be ready to keep your family comfortable when the lights go out.
"This time of year, a variety of causes can lead to a power outage and affect the length of the outage, as well," says Ed Del Grande, a home improvement TV host, author and syndicated columnist. "Ice storms, high winds and other winter weather can damage transmission equipment and cause an outage. A little preparation can help you get through it safely and comfortably."
Experts like Del Grande recommend grabbing an oversized plastic bin and loading it with the essentials so you're ready when the lights go out.
Pull together some non-perishable, ready-to-eat foods. A couple jars of peanut butter and some boxes of crackers can go a long way in keeping your family happy and fed. Also, include some canned goods, like meat, fruits and veggies, along with instant hot cocoa and coffee. Include energy-dense foods like protein bars, dried fruit, peanuts and nuts. Finally, don't forget the goodies, like fun-size candy bars and chips and salsa. Keep your camp stove or grill in a place where you can easily pull it out, but remember, do your cooking outdoors.
Make sure you have the right supplies to get you through those long nights and brief days of winter, safely. Round up all the flashlights in your home, pull out that battery-operated camping lantern from the garage and get them into one convenient place. Then, the next time you're at the store, pick up extra batteries so you can keep those lights going throughout the duration of a power outage.
Keep a stack of quilts, old comforters, woolen blankets and even sleeping bags handy so you can all snuggle in. Along with these, gloves, scarves, sweaters, fleece and stocking caps can also ward off the chill that will creep in.
Electronics and entertainment
It's the immutable law of the power outage: It always hits when your device has less than 20 percent battery power. Pick up a couple of rechargeable power banks to keep smartphones and other electronic devices powered up. And don't get rid of older devices such as MP3 players and personal compact disc players. Use them to play music or an audio book when the lights - and the Wi-Fi - are knocked out. Finally, have some low-tech entertainment at the ready. Books, board games and even a deck of playing cards can help pass the time and maybe even help with family bonding.
Consider investing in a standby generator
A great way to ensure you have safe, reliable backup power in the event of an outage is to invest in an automatic standby generator like those from Kohler. These generators are installed right outside your home, much like a central air conditioner. Once the power cuts out from your utility provider, a standby generator kicks in within seconds, even if you're not home. That's because standby generators connect to your existing fuel lines, whether it's natural gas or propane. So the next time the outage hits, your family won't be without the furnace, water heater, refrigerator, stove, or anything that runs on electricity, including smartphones and computers.
If you're interested in learning more about standby generators, KohlerGenerators.com has several resources to help you explore the many options, including videos and sizing calculators, so you can find one that's right for your home. For additional tips on how to prepare your home for a power outage, visit the Federal Alliance for Safe Homes at FLASH.org.
(BPT) - With new game consoles, mobile devices and interactive experiences arriving just in time for the holidays, video games are certain to make the "most wanted" list for gamers of all ages. With so many choices, parents can sometimes feel a little overwhelmed trying to decide which games are appropriate for their children to play.
The Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB), the non-profit organization that assigns age and content ratings for video games, is an excellent resource for helping parents navigate both the real and virtual game aisles. The familiar ESRB ratings including E (Everyone), T (Teen) or M (Mature) are now also assigned to downloadable games and apps in Google Play, Microsoft's Xbox Live store, Nintendo eShop and the PlayStation Store.
ESRB offers the following tips for parents looking for the console games or mobile apps that are perfectly suited to their family:
1. Check the rating. Start with the recommended age rating. ESRB assigns E (Everyone), E10+ (Everyone 10 and older), T (Teen), M (Mature) and AO (Adults Only), which are clearly labeled on video game boxes or on the game's page prior to downloading from an online or mobile storefront.
2. Review the content descriptors. ESRB uses about 30 different content descriptors for depictions involving violence, suggestive or sexual themes, language, controlled substances and other types of content to help parents understand what may have triggered a particular age rating.
3. Look for interactive elements. Interactive elements describe certain aspects of a game or app that may be of interest to many parents and consumers, and can be assigned to downloadable games and apps. These include the sharing of the user's location, if the game or app enables the purchase of digital goods, if users can interact and/or if unrestricted internet access is provided.
4. Set parental controls. Today's gaming devices have parental controls built in, which allow parents to block titles by age rating, ensuring children can access only age-appropriate games and apps. Depending on the device, parents can also control specific features like with whom their children can play online and whether in-game purchases can be made. Just make sure you never reveal your password or PIN!
5. Do your research. Check ESRB rating summaries at ESRB.org, which provide a more detailed explanation of content in many packaged games. Forget to check the rating summary before you set out on a gift-getting expedition? No problem - you can find rating summaries for packaged games on the ESRB app as well! If you still want more information, online reviews are another great resource. These often include screenshots, videos and other details that parents may find helpful in making a final purchase decision.
You can also always talk to your local video game retailers - they're often staffed with experienced gamers who can help guide parents toward the right games for their family. For downloadable games and apps, parents may want to review the details on the product's page and some of the user reviews before downloading.
Perhaps most importantly, have fun! If you're not already a gamer, try it - you might like it! Not only is it a great way to bond with your children, it allows you to share and better understand one of their passions. Never underestimate the value of playing as a family; enjoying games together enables you to engage in an ongoing conversation with your children about the games they want and love to play.
The secret to easy gift-giving
(Family Features) When gift-giving has you stumped, turn to what you know: the characteristics and interests that make your recipient unique. A thoughtful gift that shows you recognize and care about the qualities that make your loved one or friend special is a sure winner every time.
For the Adventurer
For the Creative One
For the Techie
When it comes to giving meaningful gifts, focus on personal traits and you’ll quickly transform an empty list into one filled with possibilities for making this holiday season joyful and bright.
Family passing out gifts image courtesy of Getty Images.SOURCE:
Yes! Screen time can be good for young kids: Experts agree digital education may help young kids learn
(BPT) - For years, parents and pediatricians fretted over how much screen time was too much, especially for very young children. Many child health experts advised minimal screen time for elementary-aged kids and none at all for children younger than 2. New research, a revised policy from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), and the personal experience of millennial parents who grew up in the digital age, have changed the way parents view screen time for youngsters.
"Research now shows us that not all screen time is equal," says Barbara Peacock, managing director of School Zone Inc., a recognized leader in creating innovative multimedia learning tools to prepare children for a lifelong love of education who recently launched AnywhereTeacher.com, a "Digital Educational Playground" for kids 2-8. "Everyone agrees it's important for children to maintain healthful levels of physical activity, but studies also show educational screen time can be an effective way to supplement children's learning. As the American Academy of Pediatrics recently noted, 'the effects of media use are multi-factorial and depend on the type of media, the type of use, the amount and extent of use, and the characteristics of the individual child."
The AAP and other child health experts have long counseled parents against allowing very young children to have much screen time. However, the AAP recently revised its stance, citing "evidence regarding health media use (that) does not support a one-size-fits-all approach" to media use by children.
Rather than keeping young children off devices entirely, the AAP now advises parents to develop a Family Media Use Plan that takes into account children's developmental stages, and uses that information to create an appropriate and individual balance for media usage by each child. The AAP encourages parents to establish boundaries for how and when children may use digital devices, ensure they understand the importance of not sharing personal information online, and openly talk with children about media use.
In revising its recommendation, the AAP looked to a growing body of research that shows digital media use can help facilitate learning. Writing in the Hechinger Report, a highly regarded watchdog media outlet that covers inequality and innovation in education, Lisa Guernsey, director of New America's early education initiative, and Michael H. Levine, founding director of the Joan Ganz Cooney Center, a nonprofit literacy and digital media research organization, explained the shift in thinking.
"Literacy rates and toddlers' media use may seem unrelated, but they are inextricably tied," the co-authors noted. "The important connections between media and reading must be brought to light in schools, households, and in the public's imagination ... children at very young ages can gain important skills in literacy and language development if the content on the screen is designed for learning and if they have a parent or educator who talks with them about what they are doing and seeing."
Making media work for learning
Parental involvement in media use is the key difference between programming that benefits children's educational development, and valueless screen time, research shows.
The National Head Start Association recently stressed that "family engagement is integral" to successful learning. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Department of Education agreed in a joint policy statement issued in May 2015: "Families are children's first and most important teachers, advocates and nurturers," the statement said, calling family involvement in kids' education "critical" to their long-term success.
Busy tech-savvy parents recognize how easy technology can make it to access high-quality supplemental learning tools for their children, but finding a trusted source of curated content is not always easy. Speaking to her company's newly launched site, Peacock comments, "AnywhereTeacher.com features content that has been developed exclusively by School Zone based on decades of research and broad-based experience working with educators, dating back almost 40 years when our founders, James Hoffman, Ed.D and his wife Joan, MA, recognized the need for at-home learning materials." The subscription-based AnywhereTeacher.com is an easy to navigate site for youngsters that combines the power of video with traditional learning tools such as flash cards, games, interactive worksheets and printable activities. Original episodic programming like Charlie & Company engages children with educational messages in a fun, familiar way.
The service, which starts at just $6.99 per month, allows parents to manage their children's activities and view their progress, creating an opportunity to talk about learning goals and improvement. The service is compatible with most devices and you can buy a subscription through iTunes, Google Play or PayPal to gain access from any device. There's no limit on the number of devices families can simultaneously use to access the site. Visit AnywhereTeacher.com to learn more.
Skillfully balancing an entire family’s demands from school, sports, activities and careers leaves little down time, but keeping family values front and center may be easier than you think when you make a commitment to carving out meaningful moments to share. It’s east to start enjoying more family time with these tips for unplugging from the digital word, bonding and baking together, sharing stories, setting aside a weekly family night and creating traditions.
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