Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Encourage Your Child to Volunteer This Summer

Now that school is out, parents will likely find themselves asking Now what?

You might travel as a family, or sign your child up for a summer camp, but you will want to consider how to make summer educational and meaningful as well as fun for your child.

As far as enriching summer options, the choices are endless. If you really want to bring meaning and growth to your child’s summer, encourage your child to volunteer.

Giving Back to the Community

Volunteering is all about giving your time and talents. For kids, the act of giving is vital for developing strong character qualities, including the ability to recognize and empathize with the needs of others and to give freely and without expecting anything in return. By developing these qualities, kids actually experience more personal success and do better in school – as well as build greater confidence and stronger friendships.

Growing as a Person

While some students may find comfort in the stable predictability of the school day, others may experience the burnout that comes from too much repetition. A summer volunteering experience is a perfect way for your children to break the routine and explore something out of the ordinary. Some students simply don’t learn best while confined indoors for long stretches. Volunteering will give students the opportunity to learn and explore while standing up, moving around and interacting more freely than is often the case at school.

In addition to getting out and about, students will grow from interacting with people from different generations, socio-economic backgrounds, and general life circumstances. They are likely to cross paths with people they otherwise wouldn’t have met if it hadn’t been for volunteering. They might learn about what life was like a long time ago from an elderly person they are helping, or perhaps, about customs and culture in another part of a world from an immigrant in the community.

Learn New Skills or Perfect Existing Ones

Although volunteering is about giving, you often receive more than you give in the end. This receiving may come in the form of new friendships, new-found inner strength, and in learning new skills. Some such skills will be tangible like learning or improving a musical talent, while others will be a little more abstract, like a stronger sense of self, better communication skills, and the ability to work better in a group setting order to achieve a common goal.

Help your kids get the most out of their summer break by giving back. Volunteering is the perfect way to grow, learn, and - yes - have fun. Not only that, but they’ll get plenty of practice for their school fundraisers!

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Helping Kids Finish the Year Strong!

With less than 60 days to go in the school year (cue the dancing), there are still many weeks of lessons to get through, experiments to try, and projects to complete. So how do we make sure that students (and teachers) stay focused and stay hard-at-work through the spring?

Reassess Goals

How has your student been progressing toward their goals for the year? Even though there are months behind us, the weeks ahead are a perfect opportunity for striving to reach those goals, whether they’re academic, social, or behavioral. Hint: this goes for teachers and parents too!

Materials Check

Those crayon boxes are probably in tatters and those poor notebooks are likely a mess. Now is a good time to replace anything that needs it, even if it’s simply getting a new stock of freshly sharpened pencils. New goods can give a fresh bolt of energy to any classroom or student that’s feeling dull.

Get to Bed on Time

Although the sun is going down later and later, it’s important to stick to your routine and get kids to bed on time to be fresh and alert in school. The good news? Those earlier sunrises will help your kids wake up with a little less grumbling.

Go Outside

Do you remember the joy and gratitude you felt for any science project, book discussion, or field trip that took you out of the school when you were younger? Being in nature and soaking in some sun and fresh air is rejuvenating and can help get creative juices flowing. Whether classes are taken outside, playtime is extended, or kids (and adults) walk or bike to school, it’s a great time to take advantage of the nicer weather.

Set Expectations

Although everyone may wish they could check out for the summer in April, make it clear that there is still a lot to cover and accomplish during this school year. So crack open the windows, crack open the books, and keep the momentum going through these last few weeks!

Monday, March 19, 2018

5 Grand Ways to Show Your Appreciation for Teachers and Volunteers

Teachers and volunteers work tirelessly for our kids, spending hours putting together everything from quizzes to crafts to spelling lists. Try these creative and heartfelt ideas to show your appreciation.

1. Thank You’s from the Kids

All the work and effort these people give is because of the kids. Package the kids’ cuteness and gratefulness to make a special message that goes straight to the heart. Have the kids create a thank you video, interview them to see what they appreciate about that person, or have them recreate a scene or a skit that illustrates their feelings. Kids can also work together to create a gratitude flower with petals from each child, or a large handprint or fingerprint craft as a handmade gift.

2. Gifts They Can Use in the Classroom or Take Home

We all know that teachers often use their own money to get things for their classroom. Many teachers purchase craft supplies, decorations, or organization items like bins. Ask them to write out a wish list that you can distribute to other parents so their wishes can come true! Or invest in some great fabric or transparent bins that they can use in their room or take home if they wish. Practical, money-saving gifts can really make an impact while improving the classroom.

3. Decorations that Surprise Them

Sneak into their space and decorate like mad! Decorate their classroom door with a theme and their kids’ contributions, or dedicate a hallway to your volunteers or teachers by hanging items from the ceiling and decking out a bulletin board. If you have access to their classroom or the PTO/PTA room, transform it into something surprising and fantastic, like an underwater party, a royal castle, or a magical forest.

4. Options for Choosing Their Own Gift

Instead of another mug or pen, combine efforts with other parents to purchase a gift card so that they can purchase whatever they’d like. Another option is for schools that sell scrip — take donations from families and let teachers or volunteers choose the scrip gift card.

5. The Cute Gifts

Sometimes you have to just let the cuteness flow. Themed snacks, decorated gifts, and puns galore (like “Thanks a latte!” or “You are a tea-rrific teacher!”) will still bring a smile to the teacher or volunteer’s face. Pair your sentiment with a nice gift card, coffee, or flowers, and that person will surely feel your appreciation.

If you’re a school volunteer, a teacher, or a parent who is looking to thank others, please accept our gratitude for all you do for kids in your community. If we could send you all gratitude flowers, we would!

Friday, February 23, 2018

A Guide to Holiday Shop Volunteer Appreciation

Santa’s eaten all the cookies, selfies & group photos have been taken with loved ones, and your Holiday Shop is completed - Now it’s time for you to show the right appreciation for your volunteers!

We’re sure you noticed that volunteers keep the world spinning during the days of your holiday shop, so here are a few tips on how to keep them wanting to come back next holiday season while expressing your gratitude.

They’re Rockstars – Show Them

Your holiday shop probably had a few lines that felt longer than Santa’s naughty-or-nice list this season, and your volunteers brought their A-game to make it work. One way to show your appreciation is to break out that list of volunteer names, put them on cut-out stars, and hang them in the lobby or cafeteria. Inviting a few ‘lil helpers will teach them a valuable lesson in showing they care, express creativity, and also be a total blast.

Have an Awards Night

Everyone likes to get a pat on the back or a nod of a hat for a job well done. What better way to show you care by hosting an awards night for volunteers? Order some pizza, and send out an invitation to families that participated after getting your creative juices flowing for awards. Use your sense of humor and have the volunteers participate. A fun family outing is a great way to show the kids that hard work gets recognized.

3 Words: Volunteer Survival Kit

A sense of humor can go a long way and can be an excellent way to relieve stress after the weeks of planning and hectic execution. Start your kit by gathering pens, sticky notes, candy, highlighters, coffee shop gift cards, etc. Put them in a storage bag, label it, and include a small personable note expressing your thanks to the parents. The secret here is creativity, becoming an incredible investment towards participation in next year’s event.

The Classic Thank You Note

Different ways to show thanks come and go like fidget spinners & rompers. The handwritten thank you note is a timeless classic that never goes out of style. Be personal in your letter and create a narrative of the fundraiser. Frame any struggles in a light-hearted sense of humor and celebrate victories comprehensively. Send feelers out in your PTO meeting when you recap the event to get the whole picture. This will give you items to improve next time and showcase your competencies to use for next year, while also making a great outline for an amazing thank you note. Your group will be grateful for tackling 3 birds with one thank you note to express gratitude to your volunteers.

We hope that you can take some of these pointers and give them your own spin to show your volunteers how much you care. With a little creativity, these mementos can make a world of difference in volunteer participation, just like they’ve made a world of difference to your holiday shop and community.

If you found this helpful, be sure to follow us on Facebook to stay up-to-date on pointers and your holiday shop!

Monday, January 29, 2018

At-Home Winter Activities for Kids – Without Devices!

During the winter months, it’s difficult to find activities to keep the kids busy, learning, and having fun without sending them to devices or screens. For something new you can do at home this winter, try these indoor and outdoor activities.

1. Snow Isn’t Just for Snowmen

If you’re looking longingly out your window and wishing for outdoor activities, you could build two snow forts for an epic snow battle, paint the snow using an emptied ketchup bottles and dyed water, or put on a backyard Winter Olympics, complete with long (snow) jump, best snow angel, or a backyard luge (sledding).

2. Go for a Winter Walk

The next time it’s snowing, bundle up and go for a stroll. Notice how quiet it gets when it snows, catch snowflakes on your tongue, and compare the shapes and sizes of the flakes that fall into your hands. It’s a good time to admire nature’s beauty while getting some fresh air. If there’s no snow in your area, kids can enjoy finding nature’s treasures and examining how nature changes during the cold months.

3. Read Your Favorite Children’s Book

Remember your favorite children’s book—perhaps The Chronicles of Narnia, The Little Prince, Where the Red Fern Grows, or Hatchet? Pull it out or get it from the library, and read a chapter or two aloud each night. Older kids can take turns reading a page or a chapter as well to practice their skills.

4. Have a Family Talent Show

Requirement: everyone has to perform! Choose a talent – from playing an instrument to telling bad jokes – and take turns showing off in the performance to remember! You can even take the time earlier in the day to create your own trophies for the winners.

5. Indoor Blanket Forts

Does this ever get old for kids? Help the kids hang up the biggest blankets you can find, and climb in with them! Read stories, pretend you are outdoor scouts in your tents, or just snuggle and tell stories.

6. Put on a Birthday Party—for Your Favorite Stuffed Animal

It’s someone’s birthday! Young kids will adore the chance to celebrate a favorite fuzzy friend. They can decorate with streamers, make a sign, wrap up a “gift” for them, and make them a birthday card. It’s up to you to decide if there’s a cake!

7. Have a Snack Taste Test

This activity is good for young kids to tweens and everyone in between. Set up an anonymous taste test of your favorite snacks and foods and let everyone rate their favorites. It’s a chance to talk about taste, texture, put a name to flavors, and discuss respecting others’ opinions. Plus, you may discover your family has a strong preference for one brand or snack over another. Set out foods like applesauce, noodles, condiments, bread, or cookies. Older kids can take part by being the organizers and may enjoy being on the inside track of the activity.

As the saying goes, “The days are long but the years are fast.” Enjoy these long days of winter, for the years with children go all too fast.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

How To Get Organized After The Holidays

The holidays are a joyous time. All of that prep work and celebrating during the holidays brings joy and warm feelings to families all over the country.

Once they’re over, however, you might feel a little differently about the holidays. Remembering the organization and budgeting it takes to get your family back on track can bring feelings of a very different kind.

Getting back on track isn’t impossible, however. Follow these top tips for how to get organized after the holidays.

1. Clean out Your Refrigerator

After the holiday fun, you may have a lot of leftovers in your fridge. Not only do leftovers take up extra space in your fridge, holiday leftovers take the place of healthier foods. Instead of letting them take up space or ingesting the extra calories, take the time to clean out your refrigerator.

2. Ditch the Sweets.

They’re everywhere during the holidays so this one will be difficult to do, especially for
the kids. Although they (and maybe even you) may protest ditching them, your teeth and
health will thank you later.

You don’t need to throw spare sweets away. You could bring them to the office to share with coworkers. Another option is to teach your kids about community giving by creating care packages for those in need. 

3. Get Back on Your Exercise Routine

You might not have had time to exercise during the holidays. The season keeps many of us busy helping with school events and planning and hosting your own holiday parties. Now that the holidays are over, start again by making small goals, then gradually increase your goal until you’re back to your pre-holiday workout routine. Get your family involved by visiting local rec centers or gyms to play family-oriented games together.

4. Get Plenty of Sleep

With most holidays, you may begin to lose sleep. You and your family have so much fun, you don’t follow your normal bedtime routine. Your kids may protest at first, but getting everyone on the same bedtime routine as soon as the holidays are over will benefit everyone, including yourself.

Now that you have these great tips to get organized, you and your family will feel like your pre-holiday-selves in now time.

When it comes time to fundraise for your school or prepare spring events, contact Gifts ‘N Things. We have everything to keep you organized, no matter the season.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Simple Ways to Get Your Kids Involved in Holiday Gift-Giving

We want our kids to be generous, kind people. At this time of year, we peek around the mountains of holiday gifts and shout: “The joy is in the giving! It’s not just about getting presents!”

During a time when the gifts and treats abound, let’s not forget to turn the tables and encourage kids to participate in their own gift-giving. Kids are naturally generous, so enjoy these ways to incorporate children into the joy of giving this year.

1. Kid-friendly Shopping

With a few dollars in their pocket, children thoroughly enjoy picking out thoughtful gifts for those they love. Whether they’ve earned it themselves or parents give them some money to spend, it can be a novelty that allows them to finally give back. Organizing one of our Lil’ Shopper’s Shoppes puts everything in one place and fundraises for your school at the same time! Gifts are affordable for children to buy (down to $1) and the experience is geared toward kids; the whole process is easy to set up and operate. View some of our gifts and find out more!

2. Homemade Treasures

From handprints in clay, to decorated mugs, to special drawings, sometimes the arts and crafts are the most treasured gifts (and some of the only ones kept for posterity). Take an afternoon and try these brilliant crafts your kids can create as gifts.

3. Photo Gifts and Ornaments

Kids and adults alike love to see how kids change and grow from year to year. Begin a holiday tradition that captures that year’s memories. Photo calendars and photo books are a collection of the year’s special moments. Kids can choose the photos and even lay them out with some of the easier-to-use services. Fill out a funny end-of-year survey to capture what makes them tick. Or give the gift of annual ornaments; your family can collect them year after year and look back with fond memories each time they trim the tree.

4. Home-baked Treats

We dare you to show us a Grandpa who wouldn’t love a tin of homemade cookies! Get baking with your kids with easy recipes, then wrap up some of your treats in pretty boxes or tins for a yummy gift. Just be sure to do your baking right before the gift will be opened to ensure freshness.

5. Experiences

Part of making the holidays (and childhood) special is by creating lasting memories. Doing special activities with loved ones can be a memory-making gift – one that could easily turn into a tradition. Try ideas like a Sled-a-thon, where you test out all the nearby sledding hills, go to see A Christmas Carol on stage, plan a fancy tea party complete with gloves and petits-fours, or just sit back and let the kids decide!

From shopping for the perfect gift at a Lil’ Shopper’s Shoppe to creating a homemade masterpiece, kids will not only enjoy giving gifts, they will get to cultivate their natural generosity and holiday spirit.