navy background with illustration of fireworks

Happy birthday, America! On July 4, we recognize America’s Independence Day. Here are a few fun facts to help you and your family celebrate.

youth showing a diary cow at the fair

Fair season is upon us! For 4-H families, this is an important (and sometimes stressful) time. Exhibiting livestock or other projects is an opportunity for young people to showcase their hard work and learning from throughout the year. But more than that, it’s an opportunity for young people to follow their passions, practice life skills, and build relationships. As a 4-H parent, you play an important role!

photo collage of people outdoors

June is Great Outdoors Month! And there are so, so many things that are great about the great outdoors. While I am truly grateful for the time you’re taking to read our blog, I implore you (just for today) to STOP. Stop scrolling down your screen or checking your news feed. It will be here when you get back. Instead, grab your family (or just your amazing self), slather on some sunscreen, and go outside to play!

You’re welcome.

sunset illustration

The pace of life at this point in the year can be extremely busy and it can seem like the end of the school is the finish line you just need to cross (and then collapse). However, for your children, it is the completion of a year of learning, growing and often a lot of hard work. It is important to celebrate the completion of another year with your children and to also get ready to switch gears into summer. Here are 3 simple ways to celebrate the end of the school year and get summer off to a good start.

photo of the palm of a hand with fingers spread

Take a deep breath…

Now take one more…

How do you feel? Do you notice any difference in your mind or body? Maybe you feel just a little bit more relaxed. Or grounded. Or ready to continue on with the task at hand. Deep breathing can have positive effects on our mental wellbeing by triggering a relaxation response in our minds and bodies.

Woman helping an eldery woman

Teaching kids about serving others often looks like donations to a food bank or collecting items to be shared with other children during the holiday season. While there is nothing wrong with those types of community service, it often leaves the young people removed from seeing the benefit of their contribution to the people who received it.  Research has shown that young people want to know they are making a difference and one way to do that is to allow them to see the faces of the people they are impacting.

woman drinking water out in the sunshine

May can be a crazy month for families. End-of-year exams, concerts, projects, planting, parties, recitals, graduations, summer planning, spring cleaning, UGH! – I get exhausted just thinking about it! This spring, as you’re trying to take care of all of your family obligations, be sure to take care of yourself, too.

Now, wait…Before you finish your “yeah, right!” eye roll and stop reading, try to remember that self-care doesn’t have to take all day. Here are some self-care ideas that only take two minutes.

mom and teenage son sitting on couch talking

As my children get older, one of the things I enjoy most is hearing stories from their day- their adventures, funny stories, and even the things they found challenging. I also enjoy asking them questions each year on their birthday trying to capture their thoughts and feelings at that moment in time. However, it is not often that my kids get the chance to ask me questions. But what fun that could be for the kids …learning a few things they might not know about their mom.

info graphic that says Celebrate Cinco De Mayo Respectfully

Cinco de Mayo is just around the corner on May 5. This holiday is a great time to learn about and celebrate Mexican-American culture with your friends and family. But as you do, it’s important to be mindful that some common elements of Cinco de Mayo celebrations (or really any holidays centered around specific identities) might play into hurtful stereotypes. Here are a few tips and ideas to help you and your family respectfully celebrate holidays that are from a culture different than your own.

little girl under an umbrella outside on a rainy day

Last month we shared some great outdoor activities you can do on sunny weather days. But what about those rainy days, which we seem to have had a lot of lately! Here are some fun rainy-day activities.

fancy photo of a glass marble reflecting the grass, trees, and sky

I had to work last Saturday. As a 4-H staff person, it’s not unusual to have to work on weekends, and I generally don’t mind. However, when I got up on Saturday, I admit that I wasn’t looking forward to it. I was scheduled to meet youth and volunteers from our Peoria County 4-H clubs at Sommer Farm.

little girl cleaning up clutter

Even though it doesn’t quite feel like spring yet, the faintest hint of warm weather makes me anxious to open my windows and doors to let the fresh air in. It also makes me itch to start going through closets, cleaning out the garage and sprucing up the outdoors! But with so many tasks and often little time, it can be overwhelming to know where to start. Here are three great strategies to help you get started organizing your home:

hands digging in a pot of dirt

One of my favorite gardening memories from my childhood is the small square patch of the garden that my grandma let me plant with marigolds in whatever design I wanted. While the rest of the garden had evenly spaced rows of beans, tomatoes, lettuce and more, my little flower garden was a kaleidoscope of fun colors in no particular design. Being able to come out and see “my corner” made it more fun to be in the garden to do the harder work of weeding and harvesting throughout the summer.

photo of a shamrock

Here in the United States, St. Patrick’s Day – March 17 – has become a fun way to celebrate Irish-American culture. You and your family can join in the excitement with these engaging and educational activities!

an adult woman and adult man talking to a young girl

The day after Russia attacked Ukraine, when I picked my 10-year-old daughter up from school, she asked, “Is it over?” I wasn’t sure what she was talking about, so I asked her what she meant. She said, “the war with Russia and Ukraine-is it over yet?” Knowing that we hadn’t talked about it at home yet, I knew I needed to find out what she knew and how she was feeling. 

a family being active in their living room with mops and brooms

I am done with winter. DONE! I’ve spent nearly a decade living in the Midwest – but having grown up in Florida, I still struggle with the idea (and actuality) of being cold for four months of the year. By the end of February, I’m at my wit’s end, too. However, when the overcast skies, chilly weather, or 8 inches of snow make it hard to get outside, I try to find ways to stay active indoors, and I’m always amazed at the difference it makes.

bulletin board with photos of friends taped to it

We talk a lot about relationships in February. Romance is front and center around Valentine’s Day, with hearts and flowers everywhere you look. Friendship, however, doesn’t get nearly the same recognition. And yet, few things have a greater impact on our mental and physical health than our friends.

an elderly man and a young girl holding a cutout heart around their face

These days we appreciate Valentine’s Day parties at school a bit more than we did in the past after realizing how much young children missed swapping cards with their friends and teachers when some couldn’t gather together during the pandemic. What is it about Valentine’s Day that kids love so much? My kids loved creating a fancy box, finding just the right trinket to attach to their cards, and yes, of course, there is the candy. But, also, I think they like getting to have a reason to show their friends and teachers they care.

red, orange, green stipes with words over black rectangle: Celebrat Black History

Have you ever watched a movie that was adapted from a book and thought, “Oh my goodness! The book was SO much better. I can’t believe they left that part out!”

I do it all the time. I leave the theater (or more often, get up from the couch) feeling indignant. The book had so much richness, so many important details – and the movie just ignored it. They’re leaving out so much!

family sitting at a table taking a selfie

Winter can be tough. It’s hard to get motivated to go out and do things when the sky is gloomy and the cold seems to make everything harder. But fear not! There are tons of fun, family 4-H activities that you can do from home to help get you through the grey months.

healthier happier family info graphic

Happy New Year! After the hustle and bustle of the holidays, I sometimes feel like January allows us to hit the refresh button on our lives. It’s a great time to start new routines or build habits that can make you and your family healthier and happier. And here at University of Illinois Extension, we always hope to provide you with the tools and information to help you live healthier, happier lives. So I’ve compiled just a few resources from my Illinois Extension colleagues that will help you and your family build habits towards some of the most common New Year goals. 

girl looking stressed holding wrapped gifts

Holidays can bring forth so many emotions and whether those emotions are happy, stressful, or sad, they often seem magnified during the holidays. Several of our Extension colleagues from across the country have shared tips on reducing stress this holiday season. Here are three of my favorite ones, along with some links to additional resources:

hands painting something gold

The old saying it is better to give than to receive is something that has always resonated with me. I love to give gifts and I especially love giving an item that I have created by hand. Making gifts can be time consuming, and with the holidays are upon us, time is running short to create any handmade items this season. To help, we have compiled some simple, quick ideas of gifts you can make for family and friends that don’t take much time at all to create.

practicing gratitude on Thanksgiving info graphic

What’s your favorite holiday? Mine is Thanksgiving…hands down. I mean, how could it not be? It’s a simple celebration focused on good food, time with family, and the harvest. And if that wasn’t enough, it celebrates a powerful way to encourage good mental and physical health: Gratitude.

man, child, and woman sitting on couch holding head in their hands looking stressed

I know as I enjoy the leaves changing colors and falling to the ground, I am also reminded of the busyness of this time of year. As with any busy time, it is common for people of all ages to experience stress. With all the factors that can lead to stress, it can sometimes be hard to pinpoint the exact cause of the stressor in our life or the lives of our family members. However, one thing is clear, it is important for all family members to have strategies to help cope with these stressors. Fortunately, a lot has been researched and written about positive ways to deal with stress.

Digital Citizenship Week info graphic

October 18-22 is Digital Citizenship Week! And if you’re anything like me, you might be wondering…

umm…so what?

adult woman playing with candy and a little girl

Each year, 4-H members across the nation celebrate National 4-H Week, joining 6 million other 4-H members of the country’s premiere youth development program. This year, the celebration runs Oct. 3 to 9.

University of Illinois Extension 4-H wants to use the celebration to connect with former members. Nationally, there are 25 million Americans who share this unique alumni bond.

It's Fall Y'all! info graphic

I don’t know about things in your neck of the woods, but here in Central Illinois, the indications of autumn are everywhere! The shorter days are marked with bright blue skies and a crisp breeze, mums adorn doorsteps, and there’s pumpkin spice everything! In case these tell-tale signs don’t ring true for you, last week also marked the Autumnal Equinox, a date when the day and night have equal timeshare and meteorologists make it official. It’s fall!

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The school year is here once again!  It can feel overwhelming to get all the school supplies ready and schedules organized, let alone take first day of school pictures, or any of the many traditions people have for going back to school!  However, it is important to take a moment and celebrate the little things – that your child is a year older and is changing and growing every day. One great way to celebrate the start of the school year and document how much they are changing is a “First Day of School Interview”.  Take a few moments to ask your children a few or all of these questions:

summer infographic

This week, the back-to-school shelves in every store I‘ve gone to look as though they’ve been ravaged. I’m struggling to keep up with my backyard garden harvests, and I just got notification that my favorite apple orchard will be opening for the season. And the children are “going to die of boredom!” The end of summer is upon us.

young man and old man with arms across shoulders

Father’s Day in the United State is celebrated on the third Sunday in June. This year it will fall on June 20, 2021. It is a time to celebrate the fathers or father figures in your life, which could include dads, step-fathers, grandpas, uncles, brothers, and other role models.

Taking time out to honor the father figures in your life can really mean a lot to them, so get started now thinking of ways you can celebrate together. Here are just a few ideas of ways you could celebrate this Father’s Day:

american flag info graphic

Memorial Day weekend is often seen as a time to get together with family and as the unofficial start to summer. However, there is much more to the history of Memorial Day than picnics, barbecues, and family gatherings.  Our colleagues at Michigan State University wrote a great article about the history of Memorial Day and how to teach your children about it. Their Early Childhood Development team shared some great suggestions of ways to celebrate Memorial Day with your children. These are a great combination of virtual and in-person types of activities.

family garden activities info graphic

The school year is coming to a close. And what a year it has been! We’ve all faced periods of isolation, bouts of anxiety, and tons of screen time – even (or especially) our kids. As things slowly return to normal, we have the opportunity to use summer break as a time for healing and re-connection.

infographic with graduation cap and stack of books

Those of you graduating in 2021 have achieved so much! You have learned to adjust your way of learning during a pandemic, found creative solutions to obstacles and challenges, and developed innovative ways to support and encourage each other. That’s a lot! 

In 4-H, we often talk about the three experiential learning steps: do, reflect, apply. These steps also apply to graduates who are finishing up one stage of their learning.  So, as you graduate, it is important to take time to do three important things:

Get your kids talking info graphic

We’ve all been there. The family comes together at the end of a long day at school or work and you’re looking forward to connecting with the people you love most. You ask about their days, eager to hear details about the part of their lives you don’t get to see. Instead, you are met with the frustratingly ever-present response: FINE.

Celebreat Women's History Month

Women’s History Month is a time to celebrate the contributions of women throughout history. It began as National Women’s History Week and was set in March to correspond with International Women’s Day on March 8. President Carter first declared March 2-8 as Women’s History Week in 1980.

Snow day info graphic

Is February making you feel gloomy or cooped-up? Take a snow day! You don’t have to have the day off work or school to have some wintery fun. Here are a few ideas to lift your spirits!

quote by Rev Dr Martin Luther King, Jr.

The civil rights leader, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “Everybody can be great because everyone can serve.” 

Many families and organizations come together on Martin Luther King Jr. Day (MLK Day) to practice service to others. Although there might not be as many community-wide activities available to gather together and serve this year, that doesn’t mean you can’t find ways to lend a helping hand to others! AmeriCorps has some great service ideas that children and families can do together, including:

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Things may look different this year and traditional holiday activities you normally do may not be happening in the same way. That doesn’t mean you can’t make your own holiday memories at home.