6 Tips to Start the School Year Right

School bells will soon be ringing. But before they do, mom and dad need to do some homework! Help get your child’s year off to a good start by following these tips:

1. Schedule a checkup. If your child hasn’t been to the doctor recently, this is a good time for a well-child visit. The doctor can check your child’s vision, hearing and overall health. If there are any concerns, this is the time to make a plan to address them with the school, particularly if your child is living with a long-term health issue.

  • More Help: Is your child on the autism spectrum? Attend our free parenting class “The Spectrum of Autism and Social Skills December 5 at Hawthorne Elementary School.

2. Adjust your child’s bedtime. Bedtimes often get later during the summer, but children need a good night’s sleep to be at their best. The National Sleep Foundation recommends setting your child’s bedtime incrementally a little earlier and getting your child up incrementally a little earlier each day in the two weeks before school starts. Be sure your kids will be getting the recommended number of hours of sleep for their age group by the time the first day of school arrives.

3. Review transportation safety rules. Whether your child will walk to school, ride a bike, take the bus or travel by car, it’s important to go over the safety rules for getting to and from school safety.

4. Create a “launch pad.” The AAP recommends establishing a regular place to keep backpacks, shoes, lunch boxes, mittens (though hopefully we won’t be needing them for a while!) and other items. It makes it easier to get your kids ready on hectic school mornings.

  • More Help: Attend our free parenting class “Smoother Mornings,” October 3 at Hawthorne Elementary School.

5. Help your child develop good study habits. Homework teaches kids responsibility and is often a key part of academic success. Setting up an environment conducive to studying and establishing rules for screen time and other distractions will get you started.

  • More Help: Attend “Helping with Homework,” a free parenting class, at Paxson Elementary School on October 25.

6. Talk often. It’s helpful for kids to know they have a place to turn to share their concerns, joys, disappointments and fears—about school and everything else going on in their lives. Let your kids know you’re there for them. And be sure to recognize and   acknowledge the good things they do.

  • More Help: Peer pressure can be one of the biggest challenges children face at school. Learn how to help them respond appropriately through our free parenting class “Helping Your Child Handle Peer Pressure,” November 29 at Paxson Elementary School.

Be watching your newsletter for details about the classes listed here and others in the weeks ahead!

When Summer Gets Too Long

When the summer doldrums hit, offer your kids these suggestions:

  1. Let’s bike, take a hike or dash to Splash (Splash Montana that is!) The idea is to encourage your child to be physically active. Twenty percent of school age kids are currently obese, and the numbers are even higher for adults. Too little physical activity is partly to blame. If you can encourage your kids to be active at a young age, they’re more likely to stay active as adults—and be healthier as a result. Be active together and you can enjoy some quality family time and set a good example—something that’s crucial when you want to change your child’s behavior.
  2. Let’s grow a garden! It’s not too late to plant some seeds and watch them grow—or even to put some seedlings in a container pot. Research shows kids are more likely to eat fresh produce (a key to better health!) when they grow it themselves! Gardening also provides an opportunity to teach your kids about basic science and the environment. Even math lessons are possible as you watch your plants get bigger. Added benefits: Evidence suggests gardening can be good for kids’ mental health (it may improve mood and decrease anxiety) and physical health (it’s possible getting a little dirty once in a while boosts kids’ immune systems!)
  3. Let’s read a book! Books are great for everyone, but especially youngsters. Reading to your child provides quality time together that pays dividends down the road. According to Reading is Fundamental, “Reading books aloud to children stimulates their imagination and expands their understanding of the world. It helps them develop language and listening skills and prepares them to understand the written word.” When the rhythm and melody of language become part of a child’s life, learning to read will be as natural as learning to walk and talk. “
  4. Let’s volunteer! There are all kinds of volunteer activities families can do together. Whether it’s taking care of an elderly neighbor’s yard, picking up trash along a trail or helping at the Missoula Marathon, volunteering teaches kids about community and helps them understand that they can make a difference in the world. What’s more, it helps kids develop a sense of responsibility and come to understand that there are more important things in life than themselves.
  5. Let’s show gratitude! It can be tough to teach kids gratitude, but it is important. Being grateful lessens feelings of entitlement and promotes empathy. Long-term, research suggests that when compared to less grateful people, those who are grateful have less stress and depression and more happiness and optimism. For a simple gratitude exercise, work with your child to write a thank you letter to a grandparent, teacher or veteran. While you’re at it, you might take a minute to tell your child why you’re grateful for him or her!

Need more ideas or help implementing them at home? Call us for information about an individualized parenting class, 406.721.7690.

Meet your new executive director!

Dear Families First Children’s Museum Supporters,

Yes, you have a new executive director!  I joined the organization in late April and have been hard at work learning about all of the people and programs that make our organization what it is today—24,000+ museum visitors and 455 community members served by our parenting classes in 2016 alone! My own family members have been patrons of the museum for years, and it is an honor to join you and lead this organization as it continues to grow and serve children and families.

Where did I come from?  Originally, from our sister mountains to the east.  I am a native East Tennessean but have lived in Missoula for nearly 12 years and now have my own roots here.  I care deeply about Western Montana and have been very fortunate to work for organizations that serve our people, our city, and our landscape.  Maybe our paths have crossed during my time with Missoula Food Bank, Community Medical Center Foundation, or the Flagship Program.  With a degree in anthropology and an entire professional life devoted to nonprofit and higher education leadership, I am eager to continue identifying community needs and shaping effective responses to those needs.  These efforts may or may not involve cheering on my son in little league baseball, watching my daughter ride her bike or paint pictures, or soak in live music whenever possible, but I’ll be doing these things, too.

I invite you to stop by the museum and be reminded how fun it is to immerse children in interactive play.  Or, if you need some help navigating your own ever-changing parenting waters, please give us a call and let us join you on your float.  We have programs and professionals ready, and we welcome all versions of “family!”   We are here to be of service to you, so please stay in touch.

Thank you for making us a part of your own family experience.  I’m grateful to have joined such an important organization and look forward to seeing you soon!  Feel free to track me down at 721-7690 or nick@childrensmuseummissoula.org

Nick Roberts
Executive Director