Category Archives: Holidays

Happy Father’s Day

Happy Father’s Day from GCP! Although we frown slightly at these marketing holidays designed to get you into the card and department stores, we do cheer for a chance to celebrate dads. Great dads are wonderful role models for all of our children, but especially for our sons. Growing up with a father who shows you right from wrong, who teaches you how to be loving but strong, who makes you feel protected and cared for and shows you how to protect and care for others…this is golden for a young man. So to all of you GCP dads out there taking care of business for your sons and your daughters, we salute you, thank you, and ask that you keep up the good work. Today is your day, and we hope that you spend it being celebrated by your families.

And to the single moms, please take this opportunity to thank the father figures in your sons’ life. We know that you hold it down as Mom and Dad so much of the time, but if there are men in your sons’ life who take on any of the roles of a father (and we hope that there are), take some time today to thank them for being there, and as importantly, have your sons thank them as well. It takes a village to raise a child, and there are surely some fathers in your village whose work and caring is truly appreciated. So let them know that you are thinking of them and appreciating them today.

A HUGE shout out to all of the fathers, here and smiling down from above, who have supported and guided and loved their children, both those they sired and those in the village that they helped raise. We are all the better for you!!!

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Hit the Road! Vacationing with Kids

As summer approaches, thoughts turn to family vacations. We at GCP love hitting the road with the kids, and have been doing so since they were tiny tots. Family vacations can provide some of the best times of your life. Whether it is a road trip of a few hours or a journey to another part of the world, introducing your children to different places and cultures at an early age helps hone their powers of observation and understanding, and gives them great memories of family fun.

Here are a few tips culled from a variety of sources (including our own GCP wisdom) to help make your family vacations into fun adventures:

1. Start with a Positive Attitude: Some parents refuse to consider taking their little ones on the road for fear that the children will be terrible travelers. One of the best ways to avoid this fear is to start traveling with them early, so that they grow up understanding how to behave on the road. Sure, you will have to plan long trips carefully and bring lots of fun activities to distract them on a lengthy trip. But be sure to believe in your children’s ability to be good travelers!!

2. Keep Them Busy On the Road: Bring lots of fun things on the road: books, toys, stickers, educational games, portable DVD and game players, books on tape, and music CDs to sing along with. Make age appropriate activity travel bags for each child. Be sure to include a few surprises in the bag. Save the bag for when the first signs of fidgeting appear.

3. Leave the Special Toy at Home: Rather than take the favorite bunny or lambie on the road, better to buy a special friend for the trip a few weeks before. Nothing threatens to spoil a trip more than discovering that Bunny didn’t make it out of the last hotel.

4. Bring the Medicine Cabinet: Be prepared for any emergency, big or small. Make a trip to the local drugstore and load up on everything you could possibly need for everything from a minor boo-boo to a major head or tummy upset. Here’s an unusual but useful tip: stick a packet of ground coffee in your bag. If the little one happens to throw up in an enclosed space (on the plane, in a car), coffee grounds mask the smell pretty quickly.

5. Plan Realistic and Flexible Days: Don’t try to fill every waking hour of a trip with activity, even if it is child friendly activity. Children tend to tire easily on the road, so take your cues on the length of the day from them. Maybe you won’t be able to hit every spot of interest in every port of call, but better to have a shorter day than have to drag a cranky little one around. And be prepared to make stops that your children request that you might not have included in the original itinerary. In the early days we visited more wax museums than I could ever have imagined (or wanted to imagine). But we had a blast, and still talk about those museums, so many years later!

You can take your sons and daughters on the road and have a great time! Start planning now.

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Interesting Christmas Gift Ideas

Incredibly, we are but a handful of days away from Christmas. If you haven’t finished your shopping for the young ones, you may want to consider some of the guidelines and gift idea suggestions below. (Please don’t tell us if you’ve already finished; we don’t want to hear how organized and together you are. But if you are that organized, you can start shopping now for next Christmas.)

Books: We know that not every child, and especially not every boy, is thrilled to find books under the Christmas tree. But we also know that reading for pleasure is a wonderful and important skill that we can and should encourage them to pursue at every turn. PBS Parents has compiled a list of the Best Books For Boys which is worth a good look. Not only does this link, found here, list books that are popular with boys in a variety of age groups (with middle school readers being the most advanced group), it also has tips for parents on how to encourage your son to become a more avid reader.

Holiday Books: Having those holiday books that you pull out and read at each Christmas can be a fun family tradition. Common Sense Media offers a detailed listing of holiday book offerings for children. The list, found here, is weighted heavily with books for preschoolers, so parents who want to start this tradition early will have the most books to choose from.

If you have older children, check out “A Treasury of African American Christmas Stories” compiled and edited by Bettye Collier-Thomas and “Christmas in the Big House, Christmas in the Quarters” by Patricia C. McKissack, Fredrick L. McKissack and John Thompson. Both of these books look at the celebration of Christmas from a historical perspective. “The Treasury of African American Stories (Vol.II)” features Christmas stories and poems originally published in Black newspapers, periodicals and journals between 1892 and 1939. “Christmas in the Big House, Christmas in the Quarters”, which was first published in 1994, describes the holiday celebrations of both slaves and slave owners on a pre-Civil War plantation. Its authors won the Coretta Scott King Award for this book in 1995.

Media and Games: Common Sense Media also has a Holiday Gift Guide to help parents navigate the age appropriate issues in buying media related Christmas gifts for their children. Their guide, found here, offers holiday gift ideas designed to inspire, educate, and entertain children of a variety of ages and stages. Their suggestions are arranged by age and media type, and they include movies, video games, books, music, TV shows on DVD, apps, and websites. If you are trying to figure out how to maintain your family’s policies on appropriate gifts for your children as they are showered with gifts from well-meaning but clueless relatives, you should check out Common Sense Media’s article “Spare Your Kids an Inappropriate Gift”, found here.

Up for An Historical Game? If you’ve got older children who love board games and history, sounds like they will enjoy “Steal Away”, a board game which allows its players to escape to freedom on the Underground Railroad. The object of the game for each player to reach freedom and then, as history dictates, reach out to help others left behind before time runs out. Per its website, found here: “In this action-packed game, players flee the plantation for freedom. Aided and challenged by outside forces, they must avoid being caught by slave-catchers with help from a network of safe houses. They may even meet Harriet Tubman along the way!”

Find anything really great out there for your sons? Let us know!! Happy Shopping !!

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Tips for Encouraging Thankfulness

With Thanksgiving but a few days away, we focus on gathering with our families and being thankful. In preparation for the holiday, children are encouraged in school to think about what they are thankful for, and often families will encourage everyone around the table to say what they are thankful for as they sit down to dinner. But what can parents to do help our sons (and daughters) be more grateful and feel less entitled on a regular basis? Here are a few Tips for Encouraging Thankfulness:

Explain Why Gratitude is Important. Children can tend to believe that people (especially their parents) are supposed to help them, rather than recognizing that they should be grateful for assistance. When you go out of your way for your child, make sure he understands that it is a choice you are making, and that he should be thankful for that choice. Explain that everyone who helps him (especially his parents) is doing it out of the kindness of his or her hearts, not because it is the law of the land. This message will be heard more clearly if you deliver it with lightness and humor, rather than in a tone which tries to make your child feel guilty for not saying thanks.

Stay Vigilant on the Hand Written Thank You Notes. As soon as he can write, insist that your son send a thank you note whenever appropriate. In the early school years, if your son has any big birthday parties with lots of presents, make sure he writes a thank you note for each present he receives from his friends. You can buy “fill in the blank” thank you notes if necessary. Sit with him (or on him) until he gets them done. It is important to get him into the habit of thanking people for their gifts and kindnesses. Resist the temptation, even as he gets older, to sanction thank you notes via email. Hand written notes take more time, and more effort, but it reinforces the importance of gratitude far more than a quickly dashed off email. Besides, people still really appreciate the effort of writing and mailing a note.

Volunteer with your Children. Working side by side with your children to help others brings out the best in everyone. Helping others makes you and your family feel purposeful and good, you experience the gratitude of the people you help, and your children are bound to be more thankful for what they have in their lives when they help others who are less fortunate. We at GCP know a mother and daughter who have been spending Sunday mornings delivering Meals-on-Wheels for many years. The daughter is now a teenager. We marvel that regardless of whatever friction may exist between them in any given week, their Meals-on-Wheels time together is friction-free. Investigate how you and your children can volunteer to help others in your neighborhood.

Model Grateful Behavior. Gratefulness begins at home, and it begins with parents demonstrating gratitude by thanking people (including our children) for their help. Showing your children that you are thankful motivates them to act and feel the same way.

Be Patient and Consistent. Vigilance is key when trying to grow grateful children. Do not be discouraged when despite your best efforts, your son demonstrates “ungrateful oaf” behavior from time to time. Just keep working with him, and remember to be grateful when he remembers to say thank you!

Happy Thanksgiving to you all from GCP.

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Veterans Day Activities for Your Children

Today is Veterans Day, a day to thank and honor all who served (or still serve) in the military. Whether your children have the day off from school is a function of your state or local school district (with no legal requirement that schools close on Veterans Day, individual states or school districts are free to establish their own school closing policies). Here in New York City, the public, Catholic, and many charter schools are closed, but independent schools are open.

If your son is in school today, odds are some Veterans Day activities will be included in his school day. But what if he has the day off? Here are some activities you can steer him to or do with him:

VA Kids: The Veteran’s Administration has developed a series of websites designed to teach children about veterans. VA Kids K-5 has games and “Cool Facts about Veterans” for the younger set. VA kids, 6-12th grades includes games, VA volunteer programs and scholarship information.

Veterans Day Crafts and Activities: Pinterest has collected Veterans Day classroom activities from hundreds of followers, and presents them all here. While many of these are just inspirational examples of what others have done, included are some activities that you can do with your children.

Punctuation Tip: Did you know that today is “Veterans Day”, not “Veteran’s Day”? According to the VA, this is because “it is not a day that ‘belongs’ to veterans, it is a day for honoring all veterans.”

All for now, GCP is still searching and will add to this list. Be sure to tell your kids to Thank a Veteran for his or her service today!!

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November is Hip-Hop History Month

Did you know that November is Hip-Hop History month? Whether you are a huge fan, a mild enthusiast, or would prefer to hear anything else when your kids are controlling the music, you can’t deny that hip-hop has had a significant influence on modern culture. Harvard University’s Hip Hop Archive, which is devoted to the serious study of hip hop music and culture, has recently announced the establishment of the Nasir Jones Hiphop Fellowship. This fellowship, generously funded by an anonymous donor, is named for the rapper Nas, a lyrical poet who is a widely recognized leader of hip-hop’s “Knowledge is power” movement. You can read more about the Hip Hop Archive here. And as you may recall from an earlier GCP post, hip hop artist GZA from the Wu-Tang Clan has joined forces with educators to use hip-hop to encourage children’s interest in science. (“Hip Hop Science Teachers Spreading the Word”, November 18, 2012)

Check your local papers and local websites to see how Hip-Hop History Month is being celebrated in your town. Consider attending an event with your son or daughter (provided they are fans, of course). If you live in the NYC area, the New York Public Library is offering a series of events celebrating Hip-hop History Month that night be of interest:

Hip-Hop Education Think Tank III: Legacy Building – Cultivating a Global Cipher from the Streets to the Classroom

Hip-Hop History Workshop for Teens: B-Boy & B-Girl Dancing with Kwikstep and Rokafella

Hip-Hop History Workshop for Teens: DJing with DJ Wiz

Hip-Hop History Workshop for Teens: Graffiti/Aerosol Art with James Top

Whether or not you like the music, it is a good idea to know something about it, especially if your son or daughter is obsessed with the latest hip hop hits. A secret weapon to understanding current hip-hop music is Rap Genius. Rap Genius gives you annotated lyrics to all the latest songs. They call themselves “a hip-hop Wikipedia”. We at GCP call them a fast and easy way to figure out what the rappers are saying and what it means. Do you really want to know, you might ask? Yes. Gives you insight as to what your children are hearing and thinking about and enables you to determine whether they are mature enough to handle the material. And it actually gives you a better appreciation of the poetry behind some of the songs. Check it out, and enjoy Hip-Hop History Month!

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Halloween Family Fun

Today and this weekend your children may be clamoring to watch scary movies. Since the network and cable channels generally load up on them this time of year, even if your children are not looking for them they are likely to run across them while flipping channels this weekend. Check out these links below to help guide you through letting your children enjoy Halloween offerings without scaring themselves to death.

Scary Movie Tips from commonsensemedia.org

20 Movies To Watch With Your Kids This Halloween from BuzzFeed.com

Q&A: How do I pick scary Halloween movies that won’t upset my kids? from commonsense media.org

Halloween Movies For Kids from parenting.com

And for a few laughs, check out this (for parents only) Funny or Die video from Samuel L. Jackson and Common Sense Media called “Everything is Samuel L. Jackson’s Fault”, in which Jackson helps spread the word to parents about making smart media choices for their children. You’ll find it here.

Happy Halloween!!

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Thoughtful Thursday: Independence Day Inspiration

Happy Fourth! Today’s first Thoughtful Thursday offering is a moving poem about our nation written by Claude McKay, a Jamaican American writer and poet who figured prominently in the Harlem Renaissance.

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America

Although she feeds me bread of bitterness,
And sinks into my throat her tiger’s tooth,
Stealing my breath of life, I will confess
I love this cultured hell that tests my youth.
Her vigor flows like tides into my blood,
Giving me strength erect against her hate,
Her bigness sweeps my being like a flood.
Yet, as a rebel fronts a king in state,
I stand within her walls with not a shred
Of terror, malice, not a word of jeer.
Darkly I gaze into the days ahead,
And see her might and granite wonders there,
Beneath the touch of Time’s unerring hand,
Like priceless treasures sinking in the sand.

Claude McKay
“America” from Liberator (December 1921).

The second bit of inspiration is a classic: the first stanza of “Lift Every Voice and Sing”, the Negro National Anthem. I recall singing this regularly while growing up and working hard to memorize every line. Do your sons know this song, at least the first stanza? If not, sounds like a summer project to add to your list!

Lift Every Voice and Sing

Lift ev’ry voice and sing
Till earth and heaven ring
Ring with the harmonies of Liberty;
Let our rejoicing rise High as the list’ning skies
Let it resound loud as the rolling sea.
Sing a song full of the faith that the dark past has taught us,
Sing a song full of the hope that the present has brought us;
Facing the rising sun of our new day begun
Let us march on till victory is won.

James Weldon Johnson

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Help Our Sons Learn Our History: The Civil Rights Movement

On Tuesday, the U.S. Supreme Court invalidated a key section of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. It is vital that we make sure our sons know the history of the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and the history of the civil rights movement in the United States. Unless we happen to live in a community in which voter suppression is being actively conducted, it is likely that our children may not understand the significance of the passage of this act in 1965 or the significance of yesterday’s annihilation of it by the Supreme Court. As Julian Bond noted in an earlier GCP post Help Our Sons Learn Our History: Advice from Julian Bond (February 17, 2012), the history of the civil rights movement is not well taught in schools. So it is up to us to make sure that our sons learn about this critically important chapter of our history.

A good first step is to review this earlier GCP post, found here, which lists several sites for parents to use to help ensure that our children know more about the civil rights movement and its history.

“How the Children of Birmingham Changed the Civil Rights Movement” is an article about the Children’s Crusade, a group of children who marched on Birmingham in May 1963 to protest its system of segregation. Children in Middle school and above are likely to appreciate the important role that the Children’s Crusade played in the civil rights movement.

GCP will continue to research and report on civil rights movement sites and articles which will help us make sure our sons (and daughters) learn our history.

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Summer Learning, Summer Fun

If school is not out already for your sons, they (and you) are counting down the days until summer vacation begins. As you are locking in their schedules, don’t forget to make time for summer learning. As we’ve noted in previous posts, research indicates that children lose learning skills over the summer, and summer learning programs can not only stem that loss but can also have a significant positive effect on reading and math skills.

Looking for ways to incorporate learning into your son’s summer? Here are some suggestions:

Common Sense Media’s Digital Fun for Creative Kids: 100+ Summer Learning Ideas– Common Sense Media has created a guide to more than 100 apps, games, and websites to pique the interest of children from 2 to 17. You can find the guide here. Storytelling, Building, and Coding are just some of the categories you and your sons can explore here. While some of the digital media reviewed in this guide is free, much of it is not, and if it is not the site tells you where you can buy it. I loved reading about the coding games and apps. This is a skill we’d be wise to encourage our boys to acquire, and playing games seems like a fun way to do so.

KIDS: Summer Planning 2013–The State of Connecticut’s website for children includes a “Summer Planning Guide 2013”, found here, which is worth perusing. While many of the links on this site are most relevant for Connecticut residents, there are several links from which all parents can benefit. Clicking on the “Summer Fun” link will lead you to articles like “I’m Bored – Summer Tips for Parents” and “Summer Tips for Parents of Teens”. Click on “Summer Safety” and you will be led to “Summer Safety Tips for Parents”. The “Summer Reading” link offers book lists as well as “Summer Reading Tips for Parents”. Lots of good stuff here, worth taking the time to find it.

Barnes and Nobles Summer Reading: Barnes and Nobles offers a summer reading program for children which gives them the opportunity to earn a free book over the summer. All they have to do is read eight books, record them in the reading journal provided on their site, bring in the completed journal to their local Barnes and Nobles, and they can choose a free book from the Barnes and Noble Reading Journal list of books. Check out the details here or visit your local Barnes and Nobles for more info.

Summer Reading at New York Libraries: This site, found here, is chock full of reading activities, games, and crafts suggestions for toddlers through teens, courtesy of the New York State Library.

Summer Reading 2013: The New York Public Library system has compiled a lengthy list (in English and Spanish) of great books to read for everyone from babies to adults. Click on the list here.

We’ll keep looking for resources and will pass any we find along. Let us know if you find any good ones. Happy Beginning of Summer Vacation to us all!!!

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