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Meditations and Relaxations for the Whole Family

After the hustle and bustle of the holidays—parties, late nights, and road trips—adults and kids alike savor the opportunity to slow down. As normal activities resume, embrace the slower pace and spend time together as a family. Try these meditations and relaxations to create a calming atmosphere.

Intentional Breathing

The simple act of intentional breathing can go a long way in relaxing your body. Teach family members tricks for breathing. You can do five-finger breathing in which you trace the outline of your fingers with an in and out breathing pattern. Or try hot air balloon breathing where you breathe in through the nose and then exhale as much as possible as if you were filling up a hot air balloon.

 

Guided Meditations

Guided meditations are helpful to focus your thoughts. Some versions provide prompts to relax the body, while others offer positive affirmations that you can carry with you throughout the day. You can find guided meditations on YouTube or use a meditation app for your smartphone or tablet.

 

Classical Music

Listening to relaxing music has a calming effect on the body. Slower-paced music can relax your mind and body and cause you to feel less stressed. Classical, smooth jazz, or soft pop songs are effective, so turn on these tunes while cooking dinner or relaxing in the evening.

 

Yoga

The wonderful thing about yoga is that it can be done by just about anyone, whether you are a kid, adult, or senior. If you’re a beginner, start with easy poses that provide a great stretch and improve your balance and flexibility. Adjust the basic yoga moves to fit your range of motion.

 

Outdoor Time

Spending time in nature has a calming physical effect on the body. Outdoor activities can improve your mood and combat anxiety and depression. If you can’t find the time or it’s too cold to head outdoors, listen to nature sounds like a rainstorm or rolling ocean waves to reap similar benefits.

 

ATLC Holiday Closings

Dear Apple Tree Learning Center families,

Our centers will be closed on the following dates during the upcoming holidays:

  • Friday, December 24
  • Monday, December 27
  • Friday, December 31
Please be sure to join us for the following holiday events:
  • Live Facebook Christmas Program
  • Santa Visit
  • Christmas Parties

Family Gift Ideas That Won’t Break The Bank!

Gift-giving is a staple of the holiday season. It’s a way to show your gratitude and appreciation for your loved ones. However, buying gifts for an entire family can be costly. Simplify your gift-giving this year by choosing a budget-friendly gift that all members of the family can enjoy.

Specialty Food
A delicious treat is always a win. Up your game by gifting a food item with a unique twist, like gourmet popcorn seasoning, a sampling of real maple syrups or hot chocolate bombs. When in doubt, stop by your local bakery and gift your favorite cookies or cupcakes.

Games
Board games, yard games, card games, puzzles…the options are endless when it comes to choosing a fun activity-focused gift for the family. Group multiple games together to appeal to all members of the family or add special edible treats to kick family game night up a notch.

Matching Pajamas
Everyone in the family will be cozy this holiday with a new set of matching pajamas. Purchase PJs that reflect the family’s style: classic, fun, or over-the-top. You can even get a set of pajamas for the family dog!

Year-in-Review Video
While a year-in-review video may be time consuming to put together, it is an inexpensive way to give a gift. Compile photos and videos from throughout the year and set them to a fun soundtrack. Everyone will love looking back at the fun memories and appreciate the good times all over again.

Local Membership
Give the gift of year-long outings with a membership to a local attraction, like a museum, zoo, or waterpark. The recipients of your gift will have many fun-filled days throughout the year and will think of you each time they use their membership.

Cooking and Dining Items
Meals are a great way to bring the family together, so why not make it exciting? Gift your favorite family an ice cream maker, fun taco holders or a character-inspired waffle maker. The whole family will want to help in the kitchen!

Give Thanks By Giving Back!

During the weeks leading up to AND surrounding Thanksgiving, we are often focused on what we are thankful for, and to whom we wish to give thanks. But there are also other things we can give! November is a great time to look back on the year and determine who and what helped us throughout the months, but it is also the time to help others. Here are a few ways that you can give to others during the holidays:

Donations:
While you can donate to any organization year-round, the holidays bring more specific efforts give to children and families. Contact your local shelters, food banks and soup kitchens to find out what items they need at the moment. If you find your holiday schedule is too busy for local donations, many popular seasonal donation boxes for toys, canned goods or even spare change can be found at grocery stores and libraries for convenient drop-off.

Volunteer:
With all of those donations coming in during the holidays, organizations will need more volunteers to help with sorting efforts. If the volunteer roster is full at your local foodbank or soup kitchen, there are still plenty of ways to get involved- look for park cleanups, charity runs or animal shelters that always need extra hands.

Small Gestures:
Because we may tend to look for larger ways to give, we may forget about small gestures to help our friends and family during the holidays. Try bringing in treats to the office or your child’s teachers, or calling a friend who you haven’t spoken to in a while to check in. Sometimes the smallest acts can uplift and motivate those who really need it.

It’s Time For A Change: Setting Goals for the Whole Family

 

With the hustle and bustle of everyday life, it’s easy for family members to focus on their individual goals, like a big project at work or making the soccer team. If you’re looking to bring your loved ones closer together, try setting a family goal! Working together to achieve a goal will allow you to spend more time together and have something to look forward to completing. What’s more, parents can model behaviors that will allow their children to successfully achieve their own goals later in life.

 

Stumped on where to begin? Consider these family goals to get started:

 

  • Plan a “Family Fun Day” every month. Set aside a day each month for your family to spend quality time together. Set a budget, brainstorm ideas, and decide on an activity as a family unit. As tempting as it may be to invite along friends, keep this activity family-only to make it more special.
  • Participate in a community service project. Choose a cause your family is passionate about and research ways you can volunteer. Giving back to the community sets a great example for kids, provides help to those in need, and makes you feel good!
  • Start a new family hobby. Spend time together as a family by doing something you all enjoy. Whether it’s doing a nightly crossword puzzle, baking sweet treats, or going on a bike ride, as long as your family is together and having fun, you’ve succeeded!
  • Set up a family savings fund. If your family has big plans, like going on a vacation or purchasing the latest video game system, encourage everyone to contribute to the cause. Place a piggy bank in your kitchen and have family members add money to help reach the goal more quickly.
  • Live a healthy lifestyle. The foundation for a healthy lifestyle starts at home. Create family goals to eat more fruits and veggies, increase your physical activity and get enough sleep. Rely on family members to hold each other accountable.

Hello September! It’s Time To Start the New School Year

It’s back-to-school season! Getting back into the swing of things after a fun-filled summer can be hard, but an organized approach to heading back to school can make the transition easier for both parents and children. Follow these five tips to make heading back to the classroom a piece of cake.

  1. Fill out forms as soon as you get them. The paperwork or online forms that comes along with a new school year can often seem endless. Whether it’s a health form, t-shirt order, permission slip or other document, sign it immediately and return it to school. This will prevent an avalanche of forms from accumulating and you’ll feel accomplished with each signature!
  2. Set ground rules. With the lazy days of summer over, it’s time for a rule re-boot in September. Consider how much screen time your children should have each day, homework expectations and an ideal bedtime. Include older children in the conversation to set the rules; they’ll be more likely to buy-in and follow them.
  3. Make a meal plan. The rush of after-school programs, fall sports and homework can make mealtimes hard when kids first head back to school. Plan your meals and purchase ingredients in advance so there is no guesswork when it comes to cooking. And meal plans aren’t just for dinner—you can also plan breakfasts and lunches too.
  4. Check in on your child’s mental health. After a carefree summer, children may struggle with their mental health when they go back to school. Communicate with them regularly and take note of signs that indicate they may be having a hard time, like acting out or not sleeping well. If problems persist, talk to your school’s counselor or pediatrician.
  5. Know your school’s COVID protocols. COVID-19 is very much still with us and will likely impact the school year. Read through your school’s plan for dealing with COVID cases. Know what symptoms require a child to stay home and plan for childcare should your child need to quarantine.

Organize Your Home for Back To School

The new school year is just around the corner! In addition to purchasing school supplies and new clothes, parents can also get their homes ready for the change in season. With a little organization, you can make the back-to-school routine easier for both you and your kids.

Clothing

Sort through your child’s drawers and remove all clothes they’ve outgrown. This will make it easier for them to choose their own outfits. Lay out clothes for the next school day the night before or use a closet organizer to plan out clothes for the entire week. Store special clothing, like gym clothes or sports uniforms, in a designated area so your child will know where to find it each week. 

Lunches

If your children bring lunch to school, you know the tedium of packing lunch every day. Plan your meals in advance (for the week or month) to take the guesswork out of school lunches. Invest in lunch containers that will fit the food your child likes best—bento boxes for kids who like a little bit of everything or a thermos for those who prefer a hot lunch. Pre-pack fruits and vegetables for the week and store them in your fridge so you can grab and go when packing lunch. 

Backpacks

Define a space in your home where kids can hang their backpacks each day. Aim for an area that is out of the way and easily accessible, especially for young children. Label hooks as needed and personalize the space so your children will be more likely to stash their bag in the right place and not on the kitchen floor.

Homework Area

The best environment to do homework varies from child to child. Some work better in a quiet setting, like their bedroom, while others can work effectively in a noisy kitchen or living room. Regardless of the location, make sure your homework area is equipped with a desk or hard surface on which to write, pens or pencils, and other materials that your child might need.

Give Yourself Permission To Relax

Life can be a bumpy ride; work, family, and money issues—not to mention a pandemic—can all contribute to increased stress levels among adults. When things get tough, take time to recharge your batteries. Each person is different, so find what works for you and make it your mission to truly relax.
1.     Take a vacation. Whether you feel at peace in the mountains, at the beach or in the countryside, find a space where you can step away from your everyday obligations. Keep your itinerary light, without plans for every waking hour. Don’t be discouraged if you can’t take a whole week’s vacation; even a day or two away from home can help you slow down and unwind.
2.     Make the bedroom a sleep-only zone. A good night’s sleep is a tried-and-true way to recharge your batteries. Use your bedroom for sleeping only and you’ll be more likely to have a restful night. To make your bedroom more relaxing, invest in ultra-soft sheets, paint the walls a soothing color and add a scented candle.
3.     Find a screen-free hobby. Remember that activity you enjoyed doing so much you forgot to look at your phone? Do that more often! Sign up for a dance class, start a woodworking project or play a musical instrument. You’ll feel more in control of your life and will have fun while you’re at it.
4.     Spend time in nature. Research shows that spending time in nature can decrease stress and improve your well-being. Head to a park or hike on a trail to immerse yourself in nature, or simply take a stroll around the block to enjoy the sights, sounds and smells of the outdoors.
5.     Enjoy time with friends. When you really need to relax, call or get together with a friend with whom you can be yourself, share your problems and laugh until you cry. In these effortless friendships you won’t feel the stress of being the perfect host or finding topics of conversation and can simply enjoy each other’s company.

Celebrate Summer!

Summer is here, and it’s time to take advantage of the warm weather and let the summer sun brighten your days.

Feast on a summer dish. Enjoy the fresh fruits and vegetables of the season, like juicy strawberries, sweet cherries and perfectly buttered corn on the cob. Make good use of your grill with classic barbeque foods and eat outside as much as possible. Don’t forget dessert—nothing says summer like a big ice cream cone.

Select the perfect summer tunes. Certain songs just take you back. Create a playlist of songs that remind you of summers past or select an already created playlist from a music service. Search for top “songs of the summer” or turn on some reggae to go straight to the islands!

Get wet. The hot summer days almost beg for the cool relief of water. You don’t have to go for a swim to get wet, though. Have a water balloon fight with your kids, wade through a creek or head out on your boat. Research shows being near water really does make you happy, so go out and find some this summer.

Soak up the sun. We all know the importance of protecting your skin from the sun’s UV rays, but spending time out in the sun can also be good for you. Your skin produces vitamin D, which keeps bones healthy, fights diseases and reduces depression, in response to sunlight. Get out for a walk, read a book outside or have a chat with your neighbors and you’ll reap the benefits of the sun.

Relive your childhood. In a time when your previously planned summer activities may not happen, take time to enjoy the summer as you did as a child. Catch fireflies, drink lemonade, play card games, run through the sprinkler and roast marshmallows. Be thankful for the little joys in life that continue throughout time.

Smart tips for securing your Smart Home!

Nearly 70 percent of homes in the U.S. have at least one smart device—a speaker, security system or thermostat, for example—and about 12 percent of homes have multiple devices. While smart home technology has many benefits, it’s important to remember that these devices are susceptible to security breaches. Cybercriminals can use information from your smart home devices to determine when you are away from home or access your personal information.

To avoid being hacked at home, take the following steps to secure your smart devices.

  1. Change all usernames and passwords. When you set up a new smart home device, change the username and password, as factory-created settings are easy for hackers to access. Use different passwords for each of your smart devices and keep track of them with an online password manager if needed.
  2. Use a secure router. Many people use wireless routers that are provided by their internet service provider; however, it may be wise to purchase a router with enhanced security. Your router should have built-in anti-virus software or a built-in VPN to prevent cyberattacks and should be rebooted regularly for enhanced security.
  3. Utilize two-factor authentication on your smart devices. The two-step authentication process on your smart devices requires you to verify your identification by email, text or PIN number before any changes are made. Multiple steps make it harder for criminals to access your personal data on your smart home technology.
  4. Update firmware regularly. Firmware updates are pushed out to smart devices over the internet directly from the manufacturer (like when you update your phone with the latest features). Often firmware updates to smart home devices include security fixes; be sure to perform these updates in a timely manner.
  5. Set up multiple networks. Many routers allow for a separate “guest” network, so create two networks in your home for increased security. Connect laptops, phones, and other devices that store personal information to your main network and connect smart home technology to your “guest” network.

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