Tips of the Week

Here are all our 'Tips of the Week' to date. If you have any others you think our Smilefile followers would like to here about let us know by emailing info@smilefile.com.au

1. With the  start of the new school term now is the time to get organised before all the school memories begin to mount up again. Organise the material into these categories as soon as it comes home. This makes the sorting so much easier later.
Certificates & sports ribbons / Photos & digital / Paintings & drawings / Special events & memories / Report cards & special projects

2. If you can't bear to throw out your child's masterpiece or robot made from tissue boxes, toilet rolls and cereal boxes take a digital photo of it and either print it out or place onto a CD. This way there will be no tears later. Just remember to store photos in acid-free plastic pockets.

3. A great way to display your child's drawings before filing them is to choose 6 or so, laminate them, hang a piece of cord across a wall where you want them to be seen and using coloured pegs place the drawings onto the cord. Looks good and your kids will love it.

4. There is research around that suggests that by the time your child is 3 their behavioural patterns are already set. Therefore it is important that you show your child your organisational skills from an early age so that they can follow suit. For example, start by showing your kids how to keep their toys organised, so that things don't get lost. Always be consistent, this will pay off as they get older when these skills also become important for managing school work and study.

5. Use any spare large colourful kindy drawings as wrapping paper, especially with Father's Day coming up. Dad will love it! The masterpieces you want to keep forever can be stored in our A2 Paintings & Drawings Artwork Case.

6. I wish I knew this years ago - use a hot glue gun to seal bath toy openings to prevent mould from getting inside. You'll never have to clean out another bath toy!

7. Do you have any old style silver lunch boxes in the cupboard - I seem to have accumulated quite a few, like a Toy Story one and a Barbie one. These are great for storing small toys or collections of things, for example sea shells or my sons toy army collection.

8. If you are trying to teach your toddlers to clean up after themselves then you may be in for a hard time, unless you make a game of it. For example if they have blocks or lego everywhere then get them to sort them into colour groups. Set the alarm for 5 minutes on your phone and see how many they can sort before the buzzer goes off.

9. The earlier you can get your child to pack their kindy or school bag and make sure they have everything is a must, otherwise they will always expect mum to do it and not be responsible for remembering what is needed each day. For slightly older kids I've found it helps by putting a checklist on the wall next to their bag outlining what is required for each day of the week.  Everyday-Get Diary Signed,  Monday-Sports Uniform,  Tuesday-Guitar,  Thursday-Cricket Bag etc

10. A family calendar on the fridge outlining each child's main weekly activities can act as a quick reference point every morning to make sure each child hasn't forgotten anything. Updated every term it certainly helps to avoid getting half way to school before realising you’ve forgotten something.

11. Pocket money can be a great way to allow kids to develop a sense of responsibility. This can often remove the pressure off parents to buy the latest and greatest, as you can now let your child know that they can save for what they want or make a contribution towards it. What age do you think pocket money should start?

12. When it comes to doing homework, a designated study time often works best. This may not be directly after school as kids often need time to unwind first. Communicate with older kids to work out the best time. If you stick to the same time each day then your children learn quickly that this is when homework is done and it becomes routine, without argument. Do this from Day 1.

13. Australian's spent 1.5 billion dollars on computer games in 2011. So it goes without saying that our kids have or will add to the statistics. Always remember to look at the classification on the game, kids will often want older games. Limit playing time and choose games that can develop problem solving skills.

14. Looking for an fun kids website which has games, videos, worksheets, puzzles, jigsaw, stories etc for all ages. Check this one out: http://www.turtlediary.com/

15. How to de-stress at the dinner table: Turn off the TV, radio and no mobiles. Soothing background music can help. Table talk should be positive, good things that happened during the day. Avoid lecturing kids at the table, but reward good manners with positive comments. This way children will enjoy mealtime and look forward to it.

16. Make bedtime easier for kids: Don't use TV to help kids relax before bed as it often stimulates them. Make sure you establish a routine - bath, pjs, teeth, book. Set an early bedtime at the same time each night. Remove any electronic gear in the room. Exercise helps kids sleep better, but not right before bed.

17. The end of the school year often means exams and in some schools exams can start as early as year 6. This may help kids for later years, however it can also cause stress early on. It's important for parents to be there for their children emotionally and show understanding to help them feel confident at exam time. Find ways to help your child relax and to remain positive. Drawing up a schedule allocating study time and break time is essential. Provide positive feedback for effort and always be encouraging.

18. The newspaper stated this week that children's reading skills are dropping due to kids spending more time on electronic devices and less time reading. Forcing children to read never works, you want them to want to read. So how can you encourage kids to read: some families have reading time, kids who see their parents read often become good readers, give kids a book or magazine allowance, schedule visits to the library, don't force a child to finish a book if they don't like it and encourage reading out loud if they want to.

19. What do you do when your child asks - Is Santa Real? Everyone will probably answer this question differently. Make sure you really know what your child is asking - do they want the truth or reassurance that it's ok to keep pretending. Consider the age of your child and be prepared for their reaction. Some kids respond with relief while others may be angry. If you decide to tell them the truth explain how Santa is a symbol of generosity and goodness. Finally, even if your kids know the truth explain that keeping the magic alive for others makes you feel good inside.

20. Making Christmas magical for kids: build up the anticipation with an advent calendar, encourage them to make christmas cards and cookies, put together a family CD with all the groovy christmas songs on it, teach them that Christmas is a time for giving to the less fortunate, make 'magic reindeer dust' that will help guide Santa's reindeer to your home and don't forget to get the kids to put out a drink for Santa and a carrot for the reindeer. Remember to take lots of photos and store them in the Smilefile Pre-school to Year 12 Kit. PS- Don't forget the batteries for any toys that Santa might give the kids!

21. Caring for a real Christmas Tree: When you get your tree home cut about an inch off the bottom of it before placing it into a bucket of water. This helps it to absorb the water as sap may have started to seal the base. Some people say a tablespoon of sugar helps the tree to last longer. Keep away from direct sunlight or fans. With good care a tree can easily stay fresh for a month or more. I've just put my real tree up and it looks great!

22. Surviving road trips during the holidays: Portable DVD player or an iPad can provide hours of entertainment. Make sure all games are loaded before you leave. Travel around children's sleep times so that they will fall asleep for some of the journey. Have loads of food and drink on hand. Plan for rest stops. Think about the old games we used to play in the car like 'I Spy'. Audio books are also great or kids music CD's. Happy holidays and don't forget to take lots of happy snaps to put in your Smilefile Kit.

23. Surviving the holidays on a budget: Try your local library, museum or art gallery as they often have fun holiday activities. Swap play dates with other friends. Organise a special outing with the grandparents. Some local pools offer reduced fee entrance during holidays. Have cooking or dress-up days. Encourage kids to think up a play or magic show. Set up a treasure hunt in the garden, sleep outside in a tent, have a craft day, make a kite, or have a home movie night with popcorn.

24. Exercising for two: Research has shown that healthy exercise while pregnant can help your baby's brain development and health later in life. Just remember to talk to your doctor if you are unsure about what or how much to do. Some don'ts are to avoid raising your body temperature too high, don't work out if you feel sick, avoid lifting heavy weights and don't exercise to the point of exhaustion.

25. There has been a lot said in the media about kids eating habits and the impact on their health later in life. A new study shows kids who are given larger bowls for breakfast will ask for more cereal than when they are given smaller bowls, which can increase the likelihood of overeating or food waste.

26. How to help encourage fussy eaters to try new foods: Don't just give your toddler smooth pureed foods otherwise he may resist more textured foods. You may need to offer your child a new food several times before they accept it, so don't give up. Kids who help to prepare meals are more likely to eat it and encourage self eating. Meal times should be a positive experience.

27. Do you struggle to get your kids to do their chores? Try a weekly lucky dip! Write down and cut up all the jobs that need doing (try and include some fun ones like cooking dinner), and have a weekly draw. This way they are not doing the same jobs week in week out, keeping it fresh. One of the chores could be to file any precious items they brought home from school in their own Smilefile Box.

28. Some tactics to help you deal with tantrums: Determine what has caused the tantrum, distract your child, acknowledge your child's feelings, give them time out to calm down, be calm and consistent, reward good behaviour, remember children watch their parents' reactions. Praise your child when they control their frustration.

29. How to tell if your child is being bullied: Do they appear unhappy, do they have any unexplained bruises, has their school marks gone down, do they talk about hating school, do they have friends, are they teary, has their eating habits changed, are they getting into trouble at school, do they not want to talk about school, are they moody all the time. These are just a few signs that can point to your child being bullied. Try to talk to your child and seek help if you can't get through.

30. How to talk to your child about teenage drinking: Firstly ask your child for their views. Talk about the facts and risk factors of drinking and alcohol abuse. Talk about peer pressure and drinking and how to avoid it. Be honest about family history regarding alcoholism. Know your teen's activities and whereabouts and have an open line of communication. Establish rules about parties and drivers and set an example. Get help from your doctor if you think your child has a drinking problem.

31. How to motivate your child to learn: Do activities that interests them, always make learning fun, allow them to express themselves, create or get involved with music, experiment with hands on, visit places that may interest them like museums, don't always give direct answers so they can try to work it out for themselves, encourage reading, visit the library, exercise, eat well and be interested and excited in what they are doing at school. Any beautiful projects or work can be kept in our Pre-school to Year 12 Keepsake Box.

32. Do you struggle with your child's reading? There can be many reasons behind this, however there is help out there! It is very important to overcome this issue early. If a child struggles to read and interpret text, they can experience learning difficulties which can affect their development. Here is a link to a good article with some great tips to get you started.

33. Do you know what your kids are up to online? Did you know that a lot of sites and apps targeted at kids have live messaging features? There is a minefield of potential risks kids can encounter online, and as much as we would like to educate them on each and every one, the internet moves much quicker than this. Instead, by following a few basic rules you can increase awareness and provide protection for your kids.
• Have your computer in a public area of the home, such as the lounge room. This way you can keep tabs of what sites your child is using.
• Teach them about 'stranger danger' in much the same way we were taught as kids not to accept lifts from people, even if they pose as a 'friend of mum or dads'. Knowledge is power, and our kids need to understand that not everyone online is who they say they are.
• Spend time with your child online. Follow up the education with practical sessions. Help show them the tricks to look out for, such as grooming behaviour, identifying scams (if it looks too good to be true it probably is), bullying and harassment.
There is a lot of great material out there if you want more information.
Here is a good starting point http://www.cybersmart.gov.au/

34. Uses for Baby Wipes other than the obvious: They remove makeup or makeup stains on clothes, removes stains on upholstery or carpet. They clean shoes or the leather lounge or a blackboard. Great for wiping down toilet seats, removing hair dye off your face or stops frizzy hair with a quick wipe over. Use as a duster, or to clean down kitchen appliances or kids toys. Removes sunscreen, cleans the dogs feet, wipes crayons off walls. The list is endless.

35. How to de-stress yourself: Drink less caffeine and more water, find time to exercise more, eat healthy food, try to get good quality sleep, join a mother's group or catch up with mums where you can talk about common problems and your kids can play together. Don't sweat the small stuff, come back to it tomorrow, it may not seem as important a day later.

36. Nappy Bag Essentials: Things not to forget: Nappies, nappy sacks, change mat, baby wipes, baby bottom cream, hat, food, feeding essentials such as bottles, formula, boiled water, teaspoon, spare clothes, toy, dummy, sunscreen, socks, blanket, bibs, extra cloths or wraps and hand sanitiser. Always repack your bag when you get home so it's ready for the next time you go out.

37. Exam Survival: Help to reduce stress by ensuring your organised and have prepared a study plan. Create a comfortable study space that is quiet and well lit. Look after yourself, eat well, don't get hungry while studying. Build activities into you plan that bring stress levels down like sport or spending time with friends. Don't study for more than 40-60 mins without a short break. Relaxation and sleeping well is essential. When studying switch off your phone to avoid distractions. Ask for help if you need it.

38. What makes a 'healthy & happy' family? The old saying that a family that plays together stays together is as true today as ever.  Eating dinner at the table together whilst discussing everyone’s day, family game nights, screen/technology-free nights are all great ways to keep the family bond going in our busy lives.  Not only does it help create a strong family unit, you may find it the perfect way to escape your own stresses!

39. Composting is a great thing to introduce to your household:  It provides many environmental benefits, is great for your gardens and is a wonderful educational experience for the kids. You can buy compost bins from hardware stores, however a good school holiday project may be to build your own. Here is a simple way for kids to make their own compost bin. Happy composting! http://www.yates.com.au/kids-gardening/in-the-garden/how-to-make-compost

40. When it comes to baby food, fresh is best! But when you make a batch of food, storage in meal sizes becomes a challenge. A solution is to use silicone ice trays, which will allow you to store baby sized portions in the freezer.

41. Getting baby to sleep: Make sure baby's room is safe, quite and darkened with no stimulating surroundings. Try to avoid your baby relying on you to fall asleep, soothe baby if needed until calm and then allow baby to fall asleep unaided. A rocker, music or pacifier to get baby to sleep may help in the short term but if baby is woken he may always rely on these things to get back to sleep, rather than learning to sleep without them.