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In Honor of Halloween: What Movies Scared You as a Child?

My family was recently chuckling about an overnight stay at The Curtis-a DoubleTree by Hilton in downtown Denver a few years ago where each of their 16 floors is dedicated to a different theme. Their 13th floor is “horror” and for Halloween they converted in into a veritable haunted house with a haunted elevator ride, hallways dripping with cobwebs, staffers dressed up in creepy costumes like a clown and Freddie Krueger, and redrum “murder” scrawled across our bathroom mirror with spiders and bugs all over the sink. One of the rooms had a bar with a creepy lady serving up treats and shots…in the head.

Sounds scary? It might have been for young kids but we had so much fun interacting with the playful characters that we spent our entire evening laughing!

I’m pretty careful about the shows our kids watch and they had never heard of any of the creepers we encountered in those hallways but I must confess we unintentionally traumatized our daughter a few years ago.

Don’t be spooked, let your little goblins eat the candy corn

Across the nation, parents like me are bracing for the annual sugar rush known as Halloween. I’ve got pounds of mini-treats to pass out to neighborhood goblins and ghouls. But many parents struggle to balance our kids’ mania for sweets with a nagging feeling that all that candy can’t be a good thing.

Everybody knows: Candy rots kids’ teeth. Candy ruins kids’ dinner. Candy makes kids fat. Any and all sugars will pitch the fragile child into a lifelong battle with diabetes, obesity and heart disease.

But a lot of this worry about children and candy isn’t about candy at all. It is about whether children have a right to their own pleasure.

Consider the lollipop, the ultimate symbol of children’s innocence. The sweet lollipop is a few licks from the illicit, and Lolita with her bright-red candy on a stick is just the beginning. Search online for an “all-day sucker,” and you may find a kid in a candy store — or accessories for an X-rated bachelorette party. Children’s candy pleasure is unabashedly sensual, and that is part of adults’ problem with it.

Activities To Teach “Thankfulness”

It’s the holiday season! What better time is there to teach and encourage thankfulness within your home or classroom. Kids and particularly preschool aged children are notoriously known for being self-centered. Thankfulness, empathy and sharing are all skills that crucial to nixing that preschool aged egocentric behavior, but these are also skills that aren’t inherent, they need to be taught and fostered.

Teaching a child how to be thankful doesn’t only result in a child with good manners, but a child who is thankful tends to be happier, more content and less stressed and depressed. Personally, I can say that is true as I feel much happier when I make a conscience effort to be thankful for all my blessings instead of focusing on all the challenges I’m facing.

So, what can you do at home or within the classroom to foster thankfulness in young kids? Below are five simple and fun activities that you can do with your children. While truly being thankful and understanding thankfulness takes years and repetition, it’s never too early to start!

As I mentioned before, toddlers and preschoolers are egocentric but children as young as 18 months can begin to grasp the concept of thankfulness. Age 2 and older can talk about specific objects or people to be thankful for – my mommy, my football, and so on. Age 4 and older understand being thankful not only for material things like toys or food but for acts of kindness, love, and caring. Take a look below and find an activity or two and book that works for your family. Have fun and Happy Holidays!

5 Activities to Teach Thankfulness

  1. Create a Thankful List- Talking about what your child is grateful each day is a great way to get your child thinking about the good parts of their day. Create a homemade journal (staple paper together to form a book) and have younger child dictate to you what they are thankful for at the end of each day and write it down for them. Older children of course can write it down themselves. If keeping a journal isn’t for your family, try Post-It notes! Have each family member share what they are thankful for and write on Post-It and place on a mirror window etc…Try and make sharing these thankful thoughts a habit and do at consistent times- at breakfast, dinnertime or before bed.
  1. Make Personalized Thank You Notes- Create homemade thank you postcards; this is a great snowy day project! Gather blank 4 x 6 or 5 x 7 index cards and have child “draw” or “scribble” pictures on one side of a to make thank you postcards. An adult can write on the other side a thank you message to the receiver. Just draw a line down the middle of the back of the card using one side for the message and the other side for address and stamp. By having these cards ready to go, it is easy to quickly send a thank you. Sit down with your child along with paper and crayons, to create a picture to give to say “Thank You”. This will lead to an older child naturally knowing to write a thank you note for not only material gifts but for acts of kindness too.
  1. Participate in a Service Project- Participating in an event with your whole family to help someone else makes you thankful for what you have. Perhaps a Canned Food Drive is happening at your church or school. In our city volunteering in food banks and soup kitchens, providing supplies for Homeless shelters, checking in on a Senior citizen, helping at an animal shelter, are just some of the opportunities. Go to volunteer and type in your city to find a way to volunteer. For young children, filling and decorating a shoebox of needed items for a child can help them become aware that not all children have toys, food, or clothes. Shopping and packing the box while chatting about how grateful we are to be able to share with others helps a child to feel like he is contributing. Check out or Military Moms Prayer Group Thank You Package for more information.
  1. Thankfulness Holiday Chain- Remember those red and green paper chains we would made as kids using construction paper about 1 inch wide and 5 inches long that we would glue together in circles and place on the Christmas tree? Make a “Thankfulness Chain” by cutting 1inch by 5inch strips out o construction paper or even old newspaper. Write something you and your child are thankful for on each piece and then see how long you can make your chain by looping circle through previous circle and tape or staple shut. You can also purchase Pre-Cut Christmas Paper Chain strips on Amazon if you don’t want to cut your own.
  1. Donate! Old toys in good shape can be a source of joy to someone else, and out grown clothing can be used by another family. Allowing your child to select a toy or outfit to share with others, is another way for you to share how thankful we are that our family has clothes and toys. Explain in an age-appropriate way that there are people who do not have toys, clothes, or food for numerous reasons – they are sick and can’t work, they live in area of the world that has no water to grow food, etc.

Books: check with your local library

  1. “How Full Is Your Bucket? For Kids by Tom Rath
  2. “The Blessings Jar: A Story About Being Thankful” by Colleen Coble.
  3. “Bear Says Thanks” by Karma Wilson

Elissa Sungar is the Co-Creator of If Not You, Who?  a free website that offers easy and fun in-home educational activities that help prepare children for kindergarten and life and has a 1.5 year old son!  Her passion for early childhood education grew out of her experience as a pre-school teacher at Stanford University’s Bing24 Nursery School. Elissa loves spending time with her family, hiking, running, tennis, yoga, cute workout clothes, good cheese, great baked goods and exploring Denver!   Twitter: @ElissaINYW

The tools every parent must know to keep your kids safe on the Internet

One of the parents from my daughter’s class, Chris Roberts, created this checklist for ensuring our younger “web surfers” remain safe. I think it’s a great list, so, with his permission, I am sharing it here for safe explorations.

 For the younger children – 12 and under:

1.    Create separate user accounts for each child on the home computer.

2.    Enable strict content filtering on the computer.

3.    Install anti-virus, malware software, etc.

4.    Establish a select list of sites they’re allowed to visit. (We talk about the sites they want to visit, spend time on them together, and then I go through the sites and click through as deep as I can to understand the site content, culture, links, and ads, if they have them.) If I think they’re okay, then they’re added to the list.

5.    Enable YouTube Safe Mode on all web browsers (no matter what the age of user). Remember, you have to enable the safe mode per child, per account set up.    

“I’m not good at Math!” How Engineering for Kids’ Fall Camps Can Help! (With Discount)

Is it Fall Break already?

 If you are completely caught off guard with Fall Break already here – worry no more.   We’ve got a great solution to keep your kiddos entertained.  It’s fun, engaging, and educational – and most likely, will fit your schedule.

What is it?

Engineering for Kids Fall Break Camps.   It’s art, engineering and everything in-between.   Kids will build, create, innovate and collaborate with other kids.  A team of engineers started Engineering for Kids a year ago and has since been blasting off, building, creating, making, and engineering with hundreds of kids in our area.   

Instructors care deeply about exciting kids about Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) and doing it in a deliberate way.   They have a laser focus on two things:  1) encouraging each kid to develop a strong STEM identity – which is helping kids believe that they are capable of learning Math and Science; and 2) helping kids develop a skill set to embrace hard subjects like Math and Science.  This skill set is perseverance, to not give up when things get difficult, innovating and thinking critically about how to solve problems, and confidence to see things through.

efkIn Engineering for Kids programs, kids are presented with hands-on engineering projects, video game design classes, robotics and demonstrations to practice using the Engineering Design Process – which is a process for developing solutions to relevant and real problems.

The best part of Engineering for Kids programs is that the kids are having so much fun building life-sized bridges and machines, tinkering with circuits and LEDs, launching bottle rockets and using real tools and advanced technology – that they don’t even notice how much they are learning.  Math and Science are simply tools used in making their creations come alive or successfully address an engineering challenge.

What will kids do in Engineering Camp?

Each Day of Fall Break at Engineering for Kids is different.  Kids have a choice of Engineering activities from Electrical Circuitry (Makey-Makey, circuitry projects, etc.), Rocketry (bottle rockets), Mechanical building (pumpkin chunking), Computer Programming for kids (Scratch), and playing with robotics (EV3 Mindstorms.)   No need for experience, all kids will have a great time learning about how Science, Technology, Engineering and Math play in our world! 

Fall Break Engineering Camps are available each week-day from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. starting October 13 through October 31st.  Families can choose between one and five days, and extended care is also available (starting as early as 7:30 a.m. and ending at 5:30 p.m.) 

So, give yourself a break and do something great for your kids.  Enroll them in a Engineering for Kids Fall Camp today!  You can receive a special discount of 20% off your next Fall Camp Enrollment – use promotion code:  new105. 

 Engineering for Kids is located at the Streets of SouthGlenn, 6972 S Vine Street, Centennial, CO 80122. 

 Enroll on their website: www.EngineeringforKids.Com/Denver or call 720-390-7972. Mile High Mamas has partnered with Engineering for Kids on this promotion. Be sure to to read our review of how life-changing this program can be!

“You poked my heart” cute kid video goes viral

In the latest kids-say-the-darndest things on YouTube, three young children argue whether it’s “raining” or “sprinkling.” 

The boy becomes increasingly frustrated until the culmination around the 1:30 mark when the girl emphasizes her point by poking the boy’s chest.

Here’s the thing, kids: you’re all correct. I’m thinking their next weather report should be a lesson in synonyms.

Watch video.

How worried should parents be about location and geotagging services?

Recently, while chatting with my sister about posting photos of our kids on sites like Facebook and Instagram, she told me that she’d heard that other people can sometimes divine the location where the photo was taken.

To prevent strangers and lurkers in the seedy underbelly of the Internet from figuring out where she lives while viewing pictures of her cute-as-a-button 3-year-old, she says she turns off the location settings on her phone when she’s not using it for navigation.

I vaguely remembered a news report on the same issue a while back.

Ironically, even though I’m all over social media – I have accounts on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Google+ – I still want to pretend like I have some control over my privacy. I disabled the location sharing setting on my various accounts so that followers and friends don’t see where I’m posting from. (Frankly, it’s always odd to know when an acquaintance has just entered the Starbucks down the road – do I need to know that?) And, of course, when it comes to my kids, I’d prefer to keep their specific whereabouts off the radar, so I, too, turned off the location settings.

But then I decided to do some poking around on the subject.

How worried should I be about geotagging and location services?

Snopes offers a great overview on the topic of geotagging on your photos.

Here are the basics:

Every time you snap a picture with a digital camera or your phone, a variety of information about the photo is stored with the picture. This information is called metadata, and includes things like the time and date the photo was taken, the type of camera you used, the settings and – if your device has a built-in GPS receiver – the location.

When posted online to a personal website or blog, this data attached to the photo might allow someone to track the specific location where photos were taken. But posting to sites like Twitter or Facebook is less risky because many social media sites automatically strip metadata like geotracking from a photo to protect user privacy.

To ensure this data isn’t attached to your photos, you can turn off the GPS feature on your device. You can also remove or change the information stored with your photos using an EXIF metadata editor or by using a photo editor or converter program to save pictures in a format that doesn’t support EXIF metadata.

So if you’re not careful, then yes, everyone who has access to photos you post online could figure out your whereabouts. And in the age of Edward Snowden, NSA metadata collection and general paranoia about identity theft and online criminals, this only creates more anxiety among parents about how to keep their kids safe.

Which is why I think it’s also important to read posts like this on Free-Range Kids. Author Lenore Skenazy bemoans over-reactive news media and overprotective parents for freaking out about phantom predators using location data from cell phone pictures.

“How GRATEFUL we must be to the TV reporters who dwell and dwell and dwell on the fact that now we parents must be even MORE vigilant, because so many predators are busy using GPS embeds to ‘cherry pick’ (TV’s word) and track down the ONLY kid worth taking: YOURS,” she writes.

The commenters offer a bit of levity as well.

“My Facebook feed is full of links to this and everyone freaking out,” one writes. “My life became a lot easier once I realized that my kids just aren’t that special and no one wants to kidnap them.”


-Susan Jennings

12 YouTube science channels to keep your kids learning this summer

YouTube is brimming with quirky, entertaining and educational science programs. As much of it is produced for a general lay audience, there’s plenty of appealing content for precocious kids and parents.  Here are some of the best YouTube science channels to check out.

1. AsapScience

Whiteboard illustrations explain every-day questions like if video games make you smarter and if plants think. During the Olympics, learn more with videos on topics like why Olympic records are always broken. Not all the content is kid appropriate though. For example, there’s a video on if sex affects athletic performance. The video merely acknowledges people have sex and focuses on non-titillating questions like how many calories sex burns and its effects on energy, anxiety levels and alertness, but parents might want to keep an eye out.

2. The Brain Scoop

From The Field Museum in Chicago, this channel explores science through the museum’s vast collections and exhibitions with host Emily Graslie.

3. DNews

Though not focused exclusively on science, DNews covers topical questions and current event issues like why zoos kill healthy animals, in reference to the euthanization of a healthy, two-year-old giraffe at the Copenhagen Zoo, and the physics of figure skating, in time for the Olympic game. There are more evergreen topics like how carbon dating works. Parental guidance strongly recommended as there are some not-for-kids content, such as a study that finds women who fake orgasms also cheat. 

4. DoctorMadScience

This channel is produced and hosted by a 12-year-old named Jordan, who also happens to have autism. Jordan uses every-day household items to perform simple science experiments, like making boiling water freeze instantly in cold air and creating a fruit battery. Caution to parents: Jordan’s experiments may instill in your children the desire to explode things in your microwave.

5. Minute Physics

The channel illustrates common physics questions via whiteboard. Learn what gravity is, how magnets work and  the science behind rainbows. The show occasionally touches on other science disciplines like evolution versus natural selection and the Schrodinger’s Cat thought experiment


Of course NASA has a YouTube channel — it has several, actually, including separate channels for their various research centers and even the Hubble Space Telescope. Keep up with discoveries, launches, profiles and more.

7. Bill Nye the Science Guy

This television series from the 1990s wasn’t produced for YouTube, but we’re including it anyway. See clips from the charismatic host explaining everything from static electricity to how an eyeball works.

8. The Periodic Table of Videos

This channel focuses on chemistry with a video for every element in the Periodic Table — hence the name. In addition to the elements, videos focus on science news and related topics, like boiling water and exploding hydrogen bubbles. Host Martyn Poliakoff literally looks like a mad scientist.

9. SciShow

This channel is fun,fast-paced shorts on science news, history, and more. Visit weird places like the Waitomo Caves. Meet great minds in science like Dmitri Mendeleev. SciShow also produces a talk show and a series on the fundamental forces of physics.

10. Sick Science!

Science educator Steve Spangler has three related channels. Sick Science! features simple experiments you can try at home (with adult supervision, of course). SpanglerScience TV has more advanced experiments that mostly require special equipment. And TheSpanglerEffect features crazy experiments you probably shouldn’t try at home but are fun to watch. Let’s just say fiery explosions feature prominently.

11. Veritasium

Veritasium covers everything from why venomous animals live in warm climates to the question, if we can really touch anything (don’t assume the answer is yes). Host Derek Muller performs expert interviews and science experiments, debunks misconceptions and even performs a few songs (seriously, you will never think of atomic bonding the same way again).

12. VSauce

VSauce is my 10-year-old’s favorite science channel, which means exactly what you’d think. The focus is on the weird and the mind-boggling. Find out what does human taste like and why we kiss. (That’s about as racy as it gets.) Sibling channel VSauce2 focuses on general craziness found around the Internet and VSauce3 is about gaming.

Once you’re hooked, you may even want to keep watching your favorite science shows even after spring finally arrives. Most of these are updated weekly, if not daily. Subscribe and you and your kids can get a regular dose of smarts.

Adriana Velez

Kids: You Say You Want a Revolution?

I’m beginning to understand why ideas and education are the first things to be controlled in oppressive regimes. Education leads to…thoughts. Ideas. Connections. Expression. Discussion. And yes, Revolution.

I, being the Head Mama around here, am in a position of Exalted and Sovereignly Great Dictator. Especially when the playroom and bedrooms look like they’ve been ransacked by a bunch of gremlins with a penchant for making cardboard box civilizations and scattering the contents of every toy container to the four corners.

Today is particularly oppressive for the kids, as I am leaving to take care of some business for a few days, and Head Daddy is large and in charge when I’m gone. He needs a clean and tidy house like I need Dove Chocolate and Cherry Coke. I have them on a strict schedule of 15 minutes cleaning with a 10 minute break. Must. Clean. Up!

After lunch, I sent them upstairs to clean some more. They both did their best to argue why they shouldn’t have to/needed less time cleaning/needed a longer break. I announced in my best Exalted and Sovereignly Great Dictator voice, that I was boss and what I said GOES.


What I wish someone would have told me before the emergency room

Let me first say that I am not a doctor, nor do I play one on TV, but if someone would have told me some of these things, it may have saved us some dough and my kids some trauma.

`Tis a Flesh Wound

My son was jumping on the trampoline at my brother’€™s house. Bless their hearts, they made the effort to put the safety net around their trampoline. But, it was the metal stairs that lead up to the trampoline that my son cut his head on during a mad, three-kid-scramble to climb out. I was at work, my husband was at school, my sister-in-law did the right thing by calling us. Of course, we hurried over to their house to attend to our son. Although the cut wasn’t deep, it was bleeding a lot.

We took our five-year-old to the emergency room. By the time we arrived, the bleeding had stopped. We weren’€™t concerned about a concussion because my son was lucid and his pupils were their normal size, but we thought that stitches might be in order. When we finally saw the doctor, he informed us that head wounds tend to bleed a lot because there are a lot of capillaries near the surface. He said that the cut wasn’€™t deep or large enough to merit stitches. The doctor asked the nurse to put Neosporin on my kid’s head and sent us on our way. That was the most expensive tube of Neosporin ever!

Don’t Leave Home without your Pharmacy

Our other son tripped a couple weeks ago in the backyard and broke his arm.