Family Files Facts for All Ages Sun, 15 May 2005 13:02:08 -0500 Break from School Wed, 22 May 2019 15:07:00 +0000 Break from School

It's close to the end of the school year for my household and we are already gearing up for all the summer activities. For most parents and children, there is a shift in routine. It becomes a challenge whether you are figuring out how to balance the hustle of taking your child to sports camps, band camps, additional educational classes, livestock shows, and/or games. There are benefits for the change in routine but, taking a break from school doesn't mean to forget about challenging your brain. Encouraging reading is a great way to keep your child on track with academics. According to an article by Marlene Gunlach, "Summer Reading Statistics; Is Summer Brain Drain a Reality?" states, "reading just 4-5 books during the summer can prevent a decline in a child's fall reading scores." Research shows that reading loss is cumulative. Teachers spend 4-6 weeks re-teaching material that students have lost during the summer. So, here are some tips to keep the positive momentum going so that your child doesn't get behind:

• Join a Book Reading Club. Most of the time your public library has a summer reading program. Sometimes even your school has a program set up prior to summer break.

• Be creative and encourage your child to research vacation locations. If you know where you plan to go on vacation have your child look for suggested sightseeing stops. This is a wonderful way to have your child invested in the trip.

• Help with the meal preparation. Having your child read the recipe and sharing the responsibility can build relationships.

• Select magazines, books, or newspapers of interest. Having the reading material available prior to the break will help keep you and your child on track.

• Read driving direction out loud. If you are traveling and your child is in the car have he/she read the directions from your phone or map. This also helps prepare your child is being prepared with understanding how to read signs, and distance when they are old enough to drive.

• Take pictures and write an article when you have a family reunion. Several families have their reunions during the summer. Volunteering to write the article for the newspaper benefits your child as well.

Again, it great to take a break but, it is more important to have a balance so, your child doesn't fall behind.

Creating Healthy Eating Habits Wed, 15 May 2019 06:30:00 +0000

Given the choice between a cheeseburger on the grill and a plain old salad….I would choose the cheeseburger. There is nothing wrong with that, but finding a healthy balance is what is key in trying to live a healthier lifestyle.

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) gives us ten tips to use to make better food choices.

  1. Find Out What You Need: Get personalized nutritional information based on your own height, weight, gender, etc. through SuperTracker.
  2. Enjoy Your Foods but Eat Less: Use a smaller plater at meal times to control your food intake. Enjoy what you're eating as well.
  3. Strengthen Your Bones: Choose foods and drinks that are filled with calcium and vitamin-D. Choose foods like fat-free and low-fat milk, cheese, yogurt, or fortified soymilk.
  4. Make Half Your Plate Fruits and Vegetables: Put these as your main or side dish. Choose bright colored foods.
  5. Drink Water: This is so important! Make sure you always have a bottle of water with you, and you are consuming water throughout your day. I personally keep a reusable water bottle with me at all times and make a conscious effort to drink it throughout my day.
  6. Eat Whole Grains More Often: Brown rice and whole grain pasta and bread are a healthier choice that can easily be made. These foods with higher fiber can help you feel fuller longer while providing key nutrients.
  7. Learn What Is In Foods: Read the Nutrition Facts label on the foods that you are eating to see exactly what is in them.
  8. Cut Back On Some Foods: Limit the number of foods that are high in solid fats and added sugars. Foods such as ribs or bacon. It is okay to indulge in the occasional sweet treat but just try not to do it very often.
  9. Be a Better Cook: I will be the first to admit, I am a terrible cook. But, with a little effort, we can try to make healthier recipes. Eating at home can enable you to be in more control of what you are consuming. For example, don't make fried chicken but instead, try baked chicken. If you find yourself eating out, go online and check the nutrition facts on the restaurant's website.

10. Be Active Whenever You Can: Make a conscious effort to get more physical activity into your daily schedule. Include friends and family to make it more fun!

I am human too; I struggle with all of these. The daily life struggles get to us, and we just don't have time or don't want to do it. Let's try to make a more conscious effort to improve our eating habits and this will, in turn, improve our overall well-being!

This information was retrieved from,

Written by: Emily Bane, Family Life Intern, Eastern Illinois University

I Can Do It!!! Helping Preschoolers learn Self-Help Skills Fri, 10 May 2019 10:17:00 +0000 Preschool children grow and learn at an amazing pace. They can't
wait to feel busy, successful, grown-up, and independent. They begin practicing self-help skills at age two during the "me do it myself" stage. Even though this is annoying to adults at times, it paves the way for their development of essential skills for school success.

What are Self-Help Skills?

Self-Help skills are those skills that help a child gain control over his/her body over time. They include:

  • Performing simple two and three step tasks (put your things in your cubby and come sit down)
  • Taking care of personal bathroom needs (wearing easily maneuvered clothes)
  • Cleaning up after snack and play
  • Dressing oneself with limited help from adults (putting on coat, tying shoes)
  • Learning to concentrate in a group setting for fifteen to twenty minutes
Learning and reciting personal information such as name, address, phone number, birthday,and names of parents

Adults need to take the time to teach preschoolers how to do a job or task. Children will take more responsibility over time as they practice these skills. Eventually, adults will supervise and help only when needed.

Tips for fostering self-help skills:

·Watch for signs of readiness to learn a new task. Have your children watch you do a task. Then, allow them to help you complete it.

·Switch roles and help your child with the task.For example, give children child-sized pitchers, cups, and plates with which they can use to practice pouring and serving themselves.

·Provide many opportunities to practice the new skill. Give occasional reminders. Soon the child will do the task on his/her own. Occasional reminders may still be needed.

·Resist the urge to redo a task once a child has done it. If necessary, returnto a "re-teaching" stage to demonstrate and
improve skills.

·Play the game, "What Can I Do By Myself?"Ask your child three things that he wants you to do for him. Then ask her to pick one thing she can do herself. Be available to help if needed, but urge your child to do the task alone. Tasks may be anything from pouring their own cereal and milk to putting a movie into the TV. Make a game out of it and see how easily your child cooperates with you. Chances are this will cut down on your doing things for your child that he can do for himself.

FromNibbles: Ideas for Families, Fall 2006, University of Illinois Extension.

The Importance of Stress Relief Wed, 01 May 2019 06:35:00 +0000

Stress is an unavoidable part of life, but it doesn't have to overwhelm you. While you are sure to encounter your fair share of stress from various aspects of your life, it is manageable with the right approach.

We have all heard about the importance of managing stress, but why exactly is stress so bad for you? The answer is a hormone called cortisol. Cortisol is a hormone that is responsible for "fight or flight" responses, and too much of it can be detrimental to your body. Too much cortisol can result in symptoms such as weight gain (specifically gain of fat and loss of muscle), muscle weakness, anxiety and depression, and other health issues.

When it comes to limiting stress, there are several surefire ways to do it that you can put into action right now. To name a few of the biggest ones we have:

  • Exercise daily
  • Get more sleep
  • Unplug from your devices more often
  • Eat more Omega-3 fatty acids
  • Healthy diet
  • Practice mindfulness by not dwelling on the past or worrying about the future, but rather enjoying the present.

All of these have been scientifically proven to reduce stress. For a more detailed explanation, you can check out

Reducing your stress levels can help you to lead a more enjoyable and healthy life, both now and in the future. It only takes a little bit of effort towards relaxation each day to have a noticeable impact that lasts. As a general rule, try not to spend more than 5 minutes worrying about something that won't matter in 5 hours.

Written by: Kyle Dickey, Family Life Intern, University of Illinois

Generations Can Learn From Each Other Fri, 19 Apr 2019 10:50:00 +0000  

Since Older American's Month is coming up in May, wouldn't it be great to get our younger generations involved with our older generations in fun and meaningful ways? When children, teens and younger adults spend time with older adults, there are many benefits to everyone involved. Older adults can be great role models for children, while also passing on family stories, historical information and teaching the rituals and traditions of earlier times. Children can also improve their practical living skills and ability to problem-solve when applying the wisdom and life experiences gained from those that have lived for many years.

Older adults can also benefit from their interactions with youth. They too can learn new skills, like technology, and often feel rejuvenated and energized after spending time with young ones. The more time spent with each other can also bring greater understanding and appreciation of each generation – their beliefs, values, and behaviors.

There are many activities that are ideal for various generations to do together. Some of these activities include: genealogy, storytelling, scrapbooking, art, gardening, music, community service projects, technology, cooking, crafts, games, traveling, fishing, nature walks, movies and sports. Many of these provide opportunities for lessons learned and taught for everyone involved.

There is a wonderful 4-H project called "Walk in My Shoes" that teaches aging awareness to youth. Check out the website and see some of the activities that youth can participate in to learn more about getting older.

Also check out Penn State Extension's Intergenerational Activities Sourcebook                and the Generations United website at for programming and activity ideas.

Screen Time and Young Children: A Q& A from the Illinois Early Learning Project Fri, 12 Apr 2019 00:10:00 +0000 Screen Time and Young Children
A big thank you to the Illinois Early Learning Project located at the University of Illinois for their partnership, support and permission to share this information on our blog!

"Screen time" refers to time spent using a device (e.g., television, game console, tablet, computer, smart phone). Increasingly, children are spending more time using a screen for learning and entertainment. Adults also are using screens both at work and home. Some children and adults find it difficult to "turn off" their devices. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) is concerned about the impact that large amounts of screen time may have on children's growth and development. There is a concern that increased screen time means children are missing out on time playing with real objects and toys and are less actively involved with others. In 2016, the AAP publisheda set of guidelinesfor parents that addressed the use of media with young children.

What does research tell us about screen time and very young children?

There are only a few good research studies on mobile devices and young children's development. More work needs to be done to help parents, teachers, and caregivers make informed decisions about the amount of time that young children should be exposed to screen media.

Lerner and Barr (2014) report the following statistics about screen time:

  • Children from birth to 23 months old are watching 55 minutes of TV per day
  • Children ages 2 to 4 are watching 90 minutes of TV per day
  • More than a third of all children under 2 years old have used a mobile device
  • 80% of children ages 2 to 4 have used a mobile device
  • Smartphones are the most frequently used device among children 8 years old and younger

How can adults make the most of screen time?

Parents, teachers, and caregivers can enhance young children's experiences with screen time by closely monitoring content, responding to the content, and connecting the content with children's lives and surroundings:

  • Limit children's attention to screen content that is positive, engaging, and relates to their experiences. Young children should not be exposed to violent screen content.
  • Help children connect what they see on the screen with items in the real world (e.g., go outside to look for birds after playing "Bird Riddles" on Starfall).
  • Interact with children while reading stories on a tablet or watching a video online. Ask them to make predictions about what might happen next (e.g., a parent can ask, "What do you think might happen when Little Bear opens the door?").
  • Watch responsive, child-focused TV shows and limit the amount of time the TV is on when children are present. Responsive children's shows include characters that encourage children to repeat a word or answer a question.
  • Avoid background TV noise, which can distract children from focusing on important learning. This can interfere with young children's development in several important areas (cognitive, language, and executive functioning).

What can adults do to model appropriate use of screen time?

Children notice when the adults they love and respect consciously limit their screen time. Children value undistracted attention from the significant adults in their lives.

Limit your screen use when you are with young children. Take advantage of time with children to build relationships. Engage in conversations while riding the bus, waiting in line at the store, and eating meals together. Turn off the TV when no one is watching it. Leave the phone(s) in the house and enjoy being outdoors with your child.

For more research-based tips visit the Illinois Early Learning Project website  It is a source of evidence-based, reliable information on early care and education for families, caregivers, and teachers of young children in Illinois.
Helping Your Child Make Decision for Higher Education Mon, 25 Mar 2019 16:25:00 +0000 Helping your child make decision for higher education

Decision making While I was attending a dual credit meeting for my daughter, I was thinking about all the decisions that high school juniors and seniors are making. High school students are planning and thinking about their future; if they want to attend a trade school, work at a local business, start their own business, attend a junior college, or enter a four-year university. So, the classes they are required or choosing to take has an impact on their future. For those who are looking at attending a college or university, it is important to look at tips that will help make your child's decision easier.

We all know that trying to figure out where to attend college can be a stressful process. Information is at our fingertips with the use of our electronic devices so, make sure you are taking advantage of having access. Here is just a little advice for parents as you are watching your child navigate their decision making with selecting college or university. It is a good idea for your student to keep track of his or her school activities, out of school activities, classes, organizations, and certificates so, he/she can build their resume. A student needs to make sure they are honest about what will make up the most fulfilling college experience based on his/her interest and personality. This helps when your student goes to match his/her style with what colleges have to offer.

There are many suggestions on how to find the best fit for your student. Students should be mindful of these tips in making a decision on where they want to attend college.

  • Review websites a variety of colleges.
  • Examine your own interest, goals, and plans for the future.
  • Take a look at the online College search at
  • Contact schools of interest so, you can ask recruiters specific information.
  • Catalog the brochures you receive in the mail from colleges or that you pick up at school.
  • Visit with a guidance counselor and see what suggestions they might have for you.
  • Make sure you know what dual credit classes' transfer to which college.
  • Attend college tours.
  • Don't rule out private schools because of the cost. There are several scholarships available. Make sure you have explored this area.
  • Explore schools that give you opportunities to look into your interest further.
  • Determine the type of academic environment that will suit you the best. Be aware of how you prefer learning, such as a large group or small group.
  • Recognize if you are a recluse person or an extrovert. Also, identify if you are ready to be far away from home or want the comfort of being a little close.
  • Budget what school will cost you. This is a factor that needs to be figured out and agreed upon by those who are supporting the student. Keep in mind to consider potential scholarships.
  • Consider what makes you happy outside of classwork. If you are an athlete and you want to still play competitively then you need to explore this route. You might find a scholarship or play intramural sports. Also, if you are one to take part in specific organizations, make sure you explore what each college has to offer. This can nourish your happiness.
  • Explore the study abroad programs. You might find specific programs that appeal to you more than others.

Remember you are not alone so, don't forget to ask others about their personal experiences and weigh your pros and cons list to help with you making where you plan to attend school a less stressful process.