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Allowing children to be engaged in nature has long been known to have physical and emotional benefts (Children and Nature Network, 2014), however, one area less commonly discussed is the benefit to young people academically.

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“In case of emergency” is a phrase that we’re all familiar with. So familiar, in fact, that we sometimes just ignore it. That “emergency” seems so unlikely and far off – and we have stuff to deal with right now!

But – as the past weeks and months have shown us – emergencies happen all the time. As I write this, there are wildfires blazing out west, folks have begun to wade through the devastation of Hurricane Ida in the south, and there’s a resurgence of the pandemic everywhere. There’s never been a more important time to protect your loved ones by being prepared.

a family picking up trash in the park

Volunteering together can be a great way for families to spend time with each other.  Additionally, volunteering as a family has been shown to significantly impact the amount teens volunteers. America’s Promise found that 81% of teens who had one adult family member or role model who volunteered reported volunteering themselves (Child Trends, 2006).

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National Ice Cream Day is Sunday, July 18! In 1984, President Ronald Reagan issued proclamation declaring that, on the third Sunday of July (National Ice Cream Month), we would recognize this creamy, cool, sweet treat!

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Summer days can often go by so quickly and before you know it, the busy schools days return.  Here are three ways that you can slow down the pace of your summer, spend time in nature, and enjoy the world around you.

Cloud watching 

Lay a blanket out on the grass and look at the clouds above you.  Look for shapes (animals, food, vehicles) and point them out to see if others can see them too.  Notice how the clouds move differently whether it is a windy or calm day.  Notice how long it takes before your shape disappears or rearranges into something else.

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Each year on June 19, we observe Juneteenth, a day commemorating the end of slavery in the United States. It’s a great time for families to gather together, reflect on the past, and share hope for the future. Below are just a few great ways to help you and your family join in the celebration.

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:

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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.

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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.

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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:

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Mother’s Day is this Sunday, May 9, 2021. Do something special this weekend to show the Moms in your life how much you appreciate all that they do!

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There are many customs and traditions surrounding May Day going back to the Roman era, from decorating a May Pole to collecting cuttings from flowering trees. However, a favorite in our family is delivering May Day baskets to neighbors and friends.  We would make a paper basket and fill it with flowers. Then off to the neighbors to hang the basket, knock on the door and hide while we watched to see them find their surprise!  Do you have a neighbor or friend that might be cheered up with a basket of May flowers? Here are three ways you could spread some cheer this May Day:

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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.

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An “I Am” poem is a type of personal poem in which the author describes themselves through a series of prompts. Writing and sharing these are a wonderful way for the author to express themselves and feel known, and for readers or listeners to gain insights about their loved ones. Writing these may also help develop self-awareness, a core competency for social-emotional development.

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Give your pet some extra attention this week because April 11 is National Pet Day! And our fondness for our furry, feathered, scaled or finned friends isn’t the only reason to celebrate. Pets benefit our physical, mental, and social health in measurable ways. Here are just a few of the positives that pets bring:

Joy Project text on sunset with tree on horizon

Stop for a moment, take a deep breath, and answer the question:

What brings you joy?

After the year we’ve all had, this might be a tough question to answer – or at least one that you haven’t given as much attention as you might like. It’s been a year filled with anxiety and isolation, unrest and uncertainty. Though no one has escaped the effects of these turbulent times, they have been felt – perhaps most deeply – by our young people.

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April’s Fool Day!  What better day to talk about the importance of humor?

You have probably heard the phrase, “Laughter is the best medicine”.  History shows us that people have understood the healing benefits of laughter for a very long time. As early as the 1300’s, a professor of surgery, Henri de Mondeville documented the use of humor in post-operative therapy. Since then, numerous studies have highlighted the benefits of laughter in both physical and mental health (Psychiatric Times, 2018).

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The Search Institute has identified Service to Others as one of the 40 Developmental Assets that young people need to succeed. Service to others, in addition to helping better your community, can help young people feel empowered and valuable.

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As promised in an earlier post on the topic of conversation starters, we will periodically be sharing different conversation starters to encourage you to start conversations with your family or continue the conversations you have already started!

Here are a few more great conversation starters:

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Deep breathing is a great way to calm anxious minds and bodies. Plus, it can create a moment to be mindful. Mindfulness is the practice of focusing your attention on the here and now.

We spend so much time focusing on the future.

  • Can we finish our “to do” list?
  • Will I do well on tomorrow’s test?
  • How am I going to get the kids to dance and soccer and band and a play date?

We also often get stuck in the past.

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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!

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Relationship Fingers is another example of a mindfulness exercise to help youth intentionally focus on their relationships with people near and far, as well as themselves.

Start by holding out your hand with your thumb pointed towards yourself. Take a breath. For each finger, you will be focusing on a relationship we have with someone. There is no ‘right’ person so don’t worry about choosing who. 

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Valentine’s Day is a time to focus on love! But the joys of February 14 don’t have to stop with romantic love. It’s a great time to celebrate loving relationships of all kinds! One relationship that is sometimes taken for granted in the special connection between grandparents and grandchildren. This multi-generational bond is great for warm hugs and special treats – but can also be used to share wisdom and energy, remembrances of the past and hopes for the future.

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February is Black History Month –a month when we celebrate the achievements of present day African Americans, as well as their important roles in history. It is a great time to set the foundation for recognizing and celebrating the contributions of African Americans throughout the entire year. There are many online activities you can do individual or with others.  Here are just a few:

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"It’s almost February! Where did the month go? What happened to my New Year’s resolutions?"

Do you find yourself thinking this, too? If so, starting a journal is a great way to help keep track of your time and your progress. Plus, there are tons of benefits to journaling! Lower levels of stress and anxiety, increased problem solving, and fewer health problems are just a few.

There are many types of journals - so you can find something that works for you! Here are some ideas to get started:

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:

During this unique time in history, households are often spending more time together at home, yet may not be having as much interaction with other extended family members and friends. Some families are experiencing additional stressors, while others may be enjoying a slower pace with less outside activities.

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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.