Tag: life skills

Family Adventures: Real-World Learning

Family Adventures: Real-World Learning

Are you thinking about a family road trip this summer? Our family believes in real-world learning, and travel is a great way to experience new things and build background knowledge with your kids. Family adventures don’t need to be expensive or complicated, either. Read on for our best budget-friendly tips for traveling with kids.

When you begin taking family adventures, you might want to start small with a day trip or overnight stay. Our kids are great travelers, but it’s taken years to build their stamina. (When they were very young, we would would drive overnight or during their nap time to make things easy on ourselves.)

Do your best to make the trip part of the adventure!

  • Pick out new activity books to do in the car.
  • Leave time in your schedule for short stops when the mood strikes.
  • Try geocaching for even more fun.

Want to read more tips about family adventures?


Budget-Friendly Family Adventures

You’ll be amazed how many free and cheap activities are available for families. Whenever we travel, we search for “things to do in — with kids” and pick two or three things that sound interesting. (Just last month, we found a fascinating airpower museum near the American Gothic House in Eldon, Iowa.)

In the last few years, we’ve toured the Nebraska Capitol Building, explored Fonferek’s Glen in Wisconsin, and marveled at the Sergeant Floyd Monument in South Dakota–all for free!

We also like to stop by the Chamber of Commerce or Visitor’s Center whenever we travel to a larger city. The staff usually have great recommendations, maps, and (sometimes) free items like posters or activity books.

Some of our favorite family adventures have happened by happy accident when we’ve followed intriguing road signs like Ship Rock (Wisconsin) and the Jolly Green Giant statue (Minnesota).


Free and cheap family adventures! {travel tips for parents}

Recently, we traveled to Omaha to meet up with some of our family members. Of course, Omaha is famous for the Henry Doorly Zoo, but we wanted to explore the city a bit more. We searched for the best kids’ activities in the area and got quite a few good recommendations!

Every one of these family adventures was FREE!

  • First, we visited the Lewis & Clark Landing near the banks of the Missouri River. We walked out on the Bob Kerrey Bridge and snapped a picture on the state line. We explored the exhibits in the Visitor Center, located within the National Park Service Midwest Regional Office. And then we walked out to find a geocache under a bench by the river’s edge.
  • We traveled out to Kenefick Park to learn more about the history of the Transcontinental Railroad and see two Union Pacific locomotives.
  • Finally, we stopped at Gene Leahy Mall to go down the big slides.

Every family adventure needs supplies! See what we keep in our adventure backpack.


Join the Parent Resource Room!Tell me about your favorite family adventures in the comments below!

 

3 Powerful Types of Play Every Parent Needs to Know

3 Powerful Types of Play Every Parent Needs to Know

It seems that no matter where we look these days, experts are talking about the importance of play. Doctors are prescribing it. Child development experts are advocating for it. Parents everywhere are clamoring for more play in the classroom. It’s no exaggeration to say there is an educational crisis in the world today, and it stems directly from a lack of play in our children’s lives. Play makes learning fun and helps our children build executive function skills for a happy and successful life. But did you know there are THREE different types of play that have a powerful impact on our kids?

Three powerful types of play every parent needs to know!

3 Powerful Types of Play Every Parent Needs to Know

1) INDEPENDENT PLAY

Sometimes called free play or creative play, independent play is critical to the emotional and social development of our children. When children play independently, they are in charge of which materials they want to play with and what the rules of their play entail. True independent play allows young children to develop and practice new skills, which is why you’ll see toddlers and preschoolers do the same action (dump and fill, for example) over and over again.

(Read more about kids and repetition here.)

Independent play builds these executive function skills:

  • making a plan
  • solving problems
  • self-monitoring

Learn how to teach independent play to young children.


2) CONNECTED PLAY

When a child and a trusted adult do an activity together, I call it “connected play.” This type of play can be kicking a soccer ball around in the yard, going for a bike ride, or working on a puzzle. The purpose of connected play is to strengthen relationships and spend time together.

Connected play can be adult-directed or a shared process between child and parent. It’s important to take turns choosing the activity, though it’s okay to give your child a few choices to pick if you need some variety. 😉

Connected play builds these executive function skills:

  • taking turns
  • regulating emotions
  • understanding different points of view
  • having empathy and recognizing the needs of others

Learn more about executive function skills here.


Learning through play is the best way.

3) LEARNING THROUGH PLAY ACTIVITIES

If you’ve spent much time on our Facebook or Instagram pages, you know that we are a BIG fan of learning through play. It’s worth mentioning that learning through play activities are not TRUE independent play, because they are often parent- or teacher-directed. They are fun and help reinforce important academic skills, for sure–but they cannot be the only play experience for our children.

If your child attends a preschool program, be sure to ask the director what percentage of time children are given for independent (child-directed) play. These are often called “centers.” A good program will give young children the freedom to learn through exploration along with adult-directed learning activities. 

Learning activities build these executive function skills:

  • paying attention
  • staying focused
  • completing tasks

Click here to see our full directory of learning through play activities.


Until our education system remembers how children learn best, the responsibility falls on parents to make playtime a priority. The ideal is giving your children all three types of play on a regular basis.

SMARTplay mini-class

Learn more about the types of play in our SMARTplay mini-class–absolutely FREE!

Developing Emotional Intelligence with Children’s Books

Developing Emotional Intelligence with Children’s Books

As I have mentioned before, our entire family represents the feeling side of the Myers-Briggs spectrum (ESFP, INFJ, ENFJ, ISFP). We have regular conversations about our emotions, identifying feelings, and working through conflict in a healthy way. And since we LOVE reading, we often jumpstart these discussions with our read-aloud choices. After all, developing emotional intelligence with children’s books is a great parenting strategy!

Click here to read more about our strategy for dealing with emotional outbursts.

image of books with text overlay: How to Develop Emotional Intelligence Using Children's Books

Developing Emotional Intelligence with Children’s Books

(Reminder: Rolling Prairie Readers uses affiliate links at no additional cost to you. You can see our full disclosure policy here.)

Recently, I connected with author and licensed marriage and family therapist, Leanne Richter, who has written two children’s books about developing emotional intelligence along with two of her colleagues, Shauna Havlina and Ceth Ashen. She sent us both books in exchange for an honest review.

Using picture books to teach kids about growth mindset, stress and anger management, and the power of positive self-talk makes parenting much easier! After all, books frequently become part of the family culture, a “shorthand” if you will. Both of our children enjoyed reading Jameon’s Closet and Maribel’s Rainy Day. These books will be treasured for years to come.

Jameon’s Closet is all about dealing with hard things (overall theme) and talking about feelings (specifically).

Jameon is a boy who lives with his grandma. He is asked to clean out his closet, but feels overwhelmed by the size of the task. His counselor Jon comes over to help him work through the process step-by-step (“little by little”) until he is done.

Since both of my girls are often overwhelmed by their feelings, I loved the message of Jameon’s Closet. Any book that features strong adult-child relationships is a win in my book!

Maribel’s Rainy Day is about asking for help and positive self-talk.

Maribel is a girl who lives with her foster mother Ana. She is trying to get to her friend’s house, but it is raining and she keeps getting soaked. The book goes through a few humorous scenarios before Ana helps her put on her rain gear.

The scene with the cat makes both of my girls giggle every time we read it. There are family activities included in the back to help develop growth mindset skills, like breathing, visualization, and calming techniques.

Each book starts with a relatable story before getting into the specifics of developing emotional intelligence. It is clear that the authors have spent tremendous amounts of time with children and respect the sometimes-difficult journey of childhood.

The books include:

  • diverse characters
  • non-traditional family structures (grandparents and foster parents)
  • and concise language that makes the point incredible clear (without being heavy-handed)

There are no religious overtones in either story, but it would be incredibly easy for families of faith to include verses and prayers into the techniques taught in the books. (The idea of Maribel’s “worry gear” definitely reminded me of the armor of God passage from the Bible.) Helping children write down positive affirmations from the book would be a simple, healthy activity.

If you are looking for books for developing emotional intelligence, I would recommend both Jameon’s Closet and Maribel’s Rainy Day for any family or classroom teacher!

What are your favorite books for developing emotional intelligence?

images of picture books with text overlay: Teaching Our Kids Emotional Intelligence Using Picture Books