April Foolin’

April Fools is nearly here! As you prepare yourself to weather your kids’ jokes, pranks and tricks on April 1st, here are a few safe and easy tricks you can keep up your sleeve to fight back!

  • Short Sheet: Before the kids head to bead, sneak into their rooms and fold the flat sheet up from the foot of the bed so that there is a pocket that only goes halfway down the bed. When the kids hop in and try to slide their legs down, they’ll be shocked that their legs won’t move!
  • Bed Swap: If you have more than one child, wait till they are fast asleep, then gently carry them to the opposite bed. Make sure to call the kids by the wrong name in the morning to add to their confusion!
  • Condiment Call: Have a white phone? Spread a thin layer of mayonnaise across the back of the phone and ask your child to dial the phone for you. They’ll get a slimy surprise.
  • Sponge Cakes: Make “cupcakes” for your kids by taking small round sponges (use new sponges) and coating them with frosting. Tell your kids they need slice the cupcake in two before they eat it. Hand over a plastic knife and watch as your kids try desperately to cut the cake in half.
  • Fishin for Fun: Use a piece of fishing line and a bit of scotch tape to create a human fishing line! Simply take a dollar bill, attach the fishing line, and then place the bill on the ground. Cast the line out and hide around a corner. When your unsuspecting victim tries to pick up the bill, a quick flick of the wrist will keep them madly grabbing for the bill!

Treasure Hunts

Whether you celebrate Easter or not, spring is the perfect time to mix family and fun with a little friendly competition. With the grass finally reappearing and the clouds heading out, ’tis the season for treasure hunts!

Tiny Trekkers

For the youngest of explorers, you can create an exciting scavenger hunt by leaving a trail of photo clues. To get started, photograph some of your youngster’s favorite hiding spots in the house and yard. Then, arrange the photos to form a trail leading from location to location and eventually to the treasure (might I recommend a plate of cookies or a new toy?). For example, a photo of the dog house would lead your child to the dog house where she’d find a photo of the bathtub and head there for the next clue.

Medium Mountaineers

If you child is old enough to read, you can up the challenge factor by leaving a trail of riddles leading to the grand prize. Instead of “look in the kitchen cabinet”, try “the sweet treat that ends your lunch lives here” and so on. To make things even more fun, use your best spy skills to obscure the messages even further. For example, if you use the computer to type a message that is backwards (try using paint or photoshop to flip the image completely around), your young dectective will have to use a mirror to decipher the clue.

Or, of course, you could always hunt for treasure at JumpStart.com!

Magical Magic Tricks

As part of this month’s birthday celebration for legendary magician and escape artist, Harry Houdini, JumpStart Times is cooking up a little magic of our own. Magic is a great way to get your family working together to awe audiences while making magical memories in the process. Everyone in the family can play an important role when putting on a magic show and most of the items you need to make magic are already sitting around your house!
Before learning the tricks of the trade, it’s important to consider these simple tips for successful magicians.

Mandates for All Magicians:

  • Assisting Assistants: A lovely assistant always adds to the reality and suspense of a magic show. Plus, having a few extra hands handy ensures that your tricks go off without a hitch. An assistant also helps calm nerves and gives you someone to chat with to distract the audience during tricks.
  • Practice, Practice, Practice: Even Houdini started his career by practicing tricks in front of his brother. Select one trustworthy family member to watch and critique your show. That way they can tell you they saw what was behind your back or that your hidden wand was sticking out of your pocket. Do tricks so many times that’s it’s impossible to fail. Practicing in front of a mirror will help you perfect your tricks as well.
  • What’s That You Say: Don’t forget to practice what you’re going to say during a trick. Magicians must be excellent storytellers and plan a story to go with each trick. Many times this story distracts or misdirects the audience so much they never even see the magic coming, leaving them in awe over your abilities!
  • Absorb Your Audience: Involving the audience always make magic seem more amazing and realistic. Whenever you can borrow objects from the audience or let them check out your props first, they’ll be less skeptical and more impressed with your trick.
  • Shhh! Don’t Tell: A good magician never reveals his secrets! Even though they’ll ask questions and beg, resist the temptation to tell your audience how your tricks worked. If you keep them guessing, they’ll be even more impressed with your magical talents!
  • Cap Your Recaps: Never ever do the same trick more than once! Your audience will start to catch on and your magic won’t be as magical anymore.
  • Seating Chart: Finally, make sure you choose where your audience members will sit. Many tricks aren’t as tricky if someone is watching from behind or beside you. Set up chairs for your audience and make sure they stay seated the whole time.

Trick 1: Sticky Business
Props:

  • 1 Strip of Newspaper
  • Rubber Cement
  • Baby Powder
  • Scissors

Preparation: A day or two before the show, paint the middle portion of your newspaper strip with rubber cement. Lightly dust the glued area with baby powder. When your concoction dries, it should look just like an ordinary strip of newspaper. The glue and baby powder shouldn’t be visible at all. Now you’re ready for some sticky tricky business.

Performance: During your show, tell your audience you have a solid newsflash for them. Flash the strip of newspaper before their eyes. Fold the strip in half with your glued area on the fold. You can tell them this is the definition of breaking news as you (or your lovely assistant) cut the paper on the fold (in your glued area). When you open the strip of newspaper back up, the glue and baby powder will hold the paper together making the impression that it was never cut! Your audience will be amazed at your ability to put together breaking news!

Trick 2: Colorful Calculation
Props:

  • A pack of color crayons
  • An Audience

Preparation: Practice to make sure you’ve got the knack for this trick before your audience appears.

Performance: Get your audience involved by allowing them to select ten different colors from your pack of crayons. Then, instruct them to select one crayon from their group of colors. Turn your back to the audience while your volunteer shows the audience their selected color. Then, instruct your volunteer to place the chosen crayon in your hand (remain with your back to them). Tell them that simply using your sense of touch, you will tell them the color of their selected crayon. As you’re telling them this, secretly scrape off a little wax from the crayon using your fingernail. Give the crayon back to the audience member and allow them to rearrange the group of crayons in any order they wish. As they’re doing this, put your hands back in front of you and take a glimpse at the colored wax under your fingernail. The magic is complete! Turn around and awe your audience with your ability to select the correct color!

Trick 3: Read My Mind
Props:

  • One Magician
  • One Lovely Assistant
  • An audience

Preparation: Before performing this trick, you and your lovely assistant will have to get on the same page regarding the secret behind this mind reading trick. It takes a gifted magician to realize how easy it is to communicate without using words. This trick involves reading your lovely assistant’s mind with a simple trick. This trick takes advantage of the reflex produced by biting down with the back molars. When you bite down with your back teeth, it makes your temples flare.

Performance: To perform this trick, your lovely assistant will go out to the audience and ask one member to write down a number between one and ten. After the number is written, the lovely assistant will show the rest of the audience the chosen number. The paper will then be hidden somewhere among the audience. As the magician, you will announce that you will read your assistant’s mind. With your assistant in front of you, place your hands on his or her temples and begin your storytelling about mind reading. In the meantime, your assistant will begin biting down with his or her back teeth. Count the number of times his or her temples flare, and you’ve got the secret number.

Trick 4: Icy Impression

Props:

  • A small sponge
  • Non-transparent cup
  • Ice Cubes
  • Glass pitcher filled with water

Preparation: Stuff a sponge into the bottom of your cup. Make sure that it fits in there snug. If it’s not tucked in tight, the trick won’t work. Shortly before your magic show, place two ice cubes on top of the sponge and fill your pitcher with water.

Performance: Present the pitcher of water to your audience. Tell them a story about your extremely cold breath. Let them know that your breath is so cold that you can freeze water just by blowing on it! Hold up the cup with the hidden sponge and ice cubes, and pour in the water from the pitcher into the cup. Or, even better invite a member of the audience to do the pouring. Be sure to keep the rigged cup up high so your audience can’t see your secrets inside. Now, with your super powered freezing breath, blow on the sponge cup. Make sure you allow enough time for the sponge to soak up the water. Then, slowly turn the cup over and let the ice cube fall out. Your frozen magic will mesmerize your audience.

Moms and Dads Online

Just a nice sunny afternoon, hanging out with friends over a leisurely cup of coffee and catching up… Does this sound like your life? Probably not. If you are like most parents, between coaxing tangles out of hair, curing boo boos, shuttling kids to ballet and cooking up a tasty dinner, it’s nearly impossible to grab a few minutes to relax, let alone hang out with friends. But, luckily, with today’s technology, you can be in touch with the world on your own time, and from the comfort of your favorite slippers.

Facebook, Twitter and blogs may sound like havens for college kids, but today, more and more parents are turning to the web to rekindle old friendships, share stories and catch up on the latest gossip. Sounds good, right? But how would social networking fit into your life?

Let’s start with the basics. Here are some quick and simple definitions of the most popular social networking types and services:

  • Blog: A web log. Basically a virtual journal or diary
  • Twitter: A micro-blogging service that lets users send short and sweet life updates (tweets) of 140 characters or less.
  • Facebook and MySpace: Social networking sites that allow users to create profiles, share photos, schedule events and more.

Now that we are all on the same page, let’s get to the why? To find out why parents love connecting with others online, we checked in with some of our favorite mom bloggers. These ladies have a way with words, so who better to explain the top reasons for using these new online gizmos? Here are the top reasons they shared:

1. Connect:

In the words of Tracey from Just Another Mommy Blog, she blogs, “for the same reason that mothers used to throw Tupperware parties….to connect with other people who are willing to listen to me rant and rave about the miniscule details that parenting 3 children involves.” Tiffanie of Three Peas in a Pod offers similar sentiments saying, “Parenting is tough, but staying connected to other parents helps our job go a little easier. Many times you learn that you are not the only parent out there that is dealing with that.” For MaryTara of the Bon Bon Gazette, blogging offers a platform to share her own learnings about autism and special diets. She explains, “What started out as a project mostly for my own personal use started to really reach others and I began receiving more and more feedback from “strangers” about how my experiences and advice had touched or helped them in some way.”

2. Tips and Tricks:

As Angela of Nine More Months explains, “Moms are a wealth of information. And weird as it may sound, when I have a parenting question, the first place I turn to get an answer is the Internet. I trust what other moms and dads have to say, and with so many people having access to the Internet, I’m bound to find someone who has ‘been there done that.” Cecelia from Cool Baby Kid adds, “With the ability to collaborate with other parents around the world [online], we can exchange parenting tips, cool product finds and so much more.” Carissa of Good & Crazy People, harnessed the power of social networking just last week when her daughter came down with pink eye. She reports, “I got several different tips and ideas for how to combat it, from all three, my blog, facebook AND Twitter!” Some parents, like Amy from 1 Girl + 4 Boys = Paradise, have even found money-saving ideas through their social networking connections. She explains, “I have learned about a lot of special offers, coupon links, and sales that really help out our family budget.”

3. Creative Outlet:

For some parents, blogging is the perfect creative outlet. Shara of Mamalicious Finds says, “I just plain love to write. I always have. Blogging gives me that creative outlet that I crave and it keeps my mind working.” Heather, author of The Gift Closet, agrees, explaining that she started her blog, “as a place I could let my creative side flow. I like to share ideas, tips, recipes, funny or inspirational stories.”

But it is Tracey of Just Another Mommy Blog who offers perhaps the most compelling reason to connect with other parents online, “I can do it in my jammies or at 2 am once the monster in the closet has been banished!”

If you’d like to see what our panel of social networking moms are up to online, we encourage you to check out their blogs!:

More Tips for Learning Reading and Spelling

The following information is from a series of parent tips by Knowledge Adventure. The tips are meant to be used as fun ways of bringing learning into the home and everyday life. We hope you enjoy them!

Make learning fun by practicing spelling with the following tips. With practice, your child will become a better speller and reader.

  • Word Search: Create a word search puzzle for your child (write ten letters across and five down). Include words that have the following vowel combinations: ai, ay, ee, ea, ie, oa, ow. Ask your child to circle the words. If your child needs assistance, say the word aloud, then ask him or her to repeat the word and find it in the puzzle. Below is an example.

  • Tic Tac Toe Spelling: Draw a tic tac toe board. Instead of using an X or O to mark a square, create words that end with the following letters: ame, ake, ate, ave, ive, ice, ite, ine, one, ose, ail, eep, each, eat, oat, ain. Have your child write a word in one of the squares, and circle the word so you both know which ones belong to him or her. The first person who gets three in a row is the winner.
  • Magnetic Spelling: Give your child magnetic letters and ask him or her to spell words with long vowel sounds that end in silent e—for example, rake, kite, hope, mute. Set a timer and see how many words your child can put together in one minute for each vowel combination.

Fight Off Those Pesky Colds

It’s no fun for anyone when your child has to be cooped up inside all day waiting for a cold to pass. Plus, if that cold means your child is missing school, his learning could suffer as well! We caught up with Registered Nurse (RN) and Pediatric Nurse Practitioner, Joann Blum, to find out the best ways for kids to avoid colds and shake them off quickly!

According to Joann, kids tend to catch colds more often in the winter not because of the chilly temperatures, but because winter usually means more time spent indoors with other people. Spring and sunny weather are on the way, but to survive these last few weeks cold-free, Joann says that hand washing is the most important thing your child can do! Make sure your child understands the proper way to wash his hands – a quarter size dollop of soap, warm water, and lots of suds – and ask him to wash his hands even when you aren’t around to police.

Sometimes, even the best hand-washers can’t escape those pesky colds going around the classroom. If your child does catch a cold, here are a few things Joann recommends to speed up recovery and keep everyone else healthy:

  • If your child is suffering from an upset stomach, try the BRAT diet (no offense to your sweet little angel). BRAT stands for bananas, rice, applesauce and toast – foods that will go down easy and build up strength.
  • Tight, painful cough? The best way to loosen that cough and give your throat a rest is to find a humid location. Try running a hot shower and having your child sit in the steamy bathroom for a few minutes at a time.
  • Encourage your child to drink clear liquids, especially water, to keep well hydrated and more comfortable.
  • If your child has a cold, ask him to use paper towels instead of sharing hand towels with the rest of the family. Also, make sure he knows not to cough or sneeze directly on others – give him a small pack of tissues to keep handy.

And if your child needs some entertainment while he fights off a cold, we recommend you check out CJ’s Indoor Adventures for some fun inside activities.

Ask a Teacher: Writing Reports

Question:

My son is having trouble with writing book reports and I was never very good at it myself (he is in 2nd grade). Where can I get some help to help him?

Answer:

You might check with your son’s teacher for any specific instructions on writing a report. The teacher might have certain details that he or she is looking for. If there are no specifics from the teacher, here are some general suggestions:

  • Choose a book carefully. Make sure it is a book you want to read. If you enjoy the book, you will find it easier to write about.
  • Pick a place where you can read with as little distraction as possible. Of course, it is necessary to read the book at least one time, but if the book is not too long, it sometimes helps to read it more than once. If it is a long book that you need to read over a number of days, try to reread the important parts just before you write the report.
  • If you do not have a form to fill out, there are four important things to tell about a fiction book.
    • The setting – Tells where the story takes place. If the book doesn’t specify the setting, look for clues that tell where the story is unfolding.
    • The genre – What kind of a book is it? Is it realistic fiction, a fantasy, a folktale, etc?
    • The main characters – describe the most important characters. Give details.
    • The plot – What are the most important events that happen in the story. Did the character have a problem to solve? Briefly retell the most important events.
  • If you are reporting on a non-fiction book, you will need to write an initial paragraph about the general subject of the book. Then summarize the information you gathered while reading the book.

During writing:

  • Be sure and start every sentence with a capital letter and end with the appropriate punctuation mark.
  • Write complete sentences. Make sure that every sentence has a subject and a predicate.
  • Proofread for spelling errors.
  • Make sure a paragraph begins with a topic sentence and has supporting details.