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Social-Emotional Health


5 money-saving tips for traveling on a budget

I have wonderful memories of family vacations from when I was a child, but it wasn’t until I was a parent that I realized how expensive those special family moments can cost to create. Not all vacations have to be expensive, however. These five tips can help you stay within your budget while still...
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Managing emotions during the holidays

The holiday season is filled with joy! Well…usually. Except when it isn’t. The truth is, we experience all of the same emotional ups and downs around the holidays that we do any other part of the year. Some might argue that extra excitements and stresses of this time of year cause an even greater...
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Create a family recipe collection

When I was in college, my grandmother made me a book of her favorite recipes – it was a labor of love as each recipe was handwritten and it is one of my prized possessions. It was especially meaningful because my grandmother was a wonderful cook and family meals were a big part of our holiday...
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A grateful November family activity

November is national gratitude month and is a wonderful time to reflect on things you are appreciative of and to be more aware of the goodness around you. It seems like in recent years, there has been an increased focus on gratefulness during this month, and we see flurries of social media posts...
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Families that play together stay together

Play is important! For both children and adults, play can contribute to social, emotional, mental, and physical wellness. It helps young people develop motor skills, learn to share and negotiate, problem solve, and conquer fears. It helps adults decrease stress, spark innovation, and boost...
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4 tips to help kids observe the night sky

The night sky can be full of wonder for children. I can hear all my kid’s questions from when they were little… What are the stars made of? Why are some stars brighter than others? Why do they seem to twinkle? If you have never tried out star gazing with your family - now is the perfect time! The...
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Outdoor fall family activities

Fall is here, the weather is turning cooler, and it is a perfect time to head outside with your family to explore nature. However, it can sometimes be hard to think of activities that will encourage everyone to head outside. Not to worry - this summer our 4-H staff created some amazing outdoor...
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September 13 is Kids Take Over the Kitchen Day

Is it an officially sanctioned holiday? Well, not exactly…though it is observed annually in some circles. But despite its informal status, it is still a great day to celebrate. Why? Because cooking with your kids has more benefits that I can list in one blog post! (Literally...I had to edit out so...
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a woman holding a crying boy

How to help your grieving child

In 2016, August 30 was established as National Grief Awareness Day to raise awareness about the variety of ways that people cope with loss and to promote resources to support people who are grieving. Children who have lost a family member, friend, or pet can experience various level of sadness and...
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Capture moments at back-to-school time

Yesterday, a colleague showed me a picture that her daughter had drawn many years ago. She (my coworker) had found the picture while cleaning out her office and was moved by the memories it brought up. The picture - with its rough lines, uneven letters, and misspelled names - was an adorable...
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group of kids laying the grass reading a book

3 simple ways to encourage reading this summer

Summer is a great time for heading to the pool, exploring outdoors, and hanging out with friends. Summer is also a great time to encourage a love of reading! Additionally, research studies show that access to books can help prevent a decrease in reading skills over the summer (Journal of Education...
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Deep breathing for mental health

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...
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Giving back can be as simple as helping your neighbor

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...
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2-minute tips for self-care in spring

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...
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Tips for celebrating holidays 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...
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Celebrate Earth Day

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...
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little girl cleaning up clutter

3 tips to help you organize your home this spring

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...
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A womand and man lifing up a child by their arms as they walk in the woods

5 resources to help you get back to nature this spring

Spring has sprung! March 20 marked the vernal eqinox, the first day of spring – and I am SO excited! Every year I hold high hopes for this season, and (though the signs sometime arrive later than I hoped) spring never disappoints. The grass greens and flower buds poke their heads into the sunshine...
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Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with family-friendly activities

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! Catch a Leprechaun You’re probably already familiar with Rube Goldberg machines. You...
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an adult woman and adult man talking to a young girl

Talking to your children about war and difficult topics

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

Fight winter woes with indoor activity

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...
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Focus on friendship

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

3 ways to show you care this Valentine’s Day

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...
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Dive deeper into Black History Month with family activities

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...
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3 mindfulness techniques to help you reset

In my family, when interactions start to escalate or an argument is spiraling out of control, you can often hear one of us say the words, “Can we have a restart?” That’s a sign that someone has recognized this interaction isn’t headed in a good direction and we need to take a step back.  Being able...
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5 fun activities to keep kids busy this winter

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. This is a great opportunity for...
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Habits for a healthier, happier family in the new year

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...
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girl looking stressed holding wrapped gifts

3 ways to reduce stress this holiday season

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,...
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Exploring new cultures during the holidays

The holiday season is upon us. This season is marked by twinkle lights bedecking all the houses and festive songs playing on all the radios. You can see Santas and stars, reindeer and wreaths everywhere you look. Here in the United States, these things are customary signs of the winter holidays....
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Easy DIY gifts this holiday season

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

3 Ideas to help reduce stress for busy families

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...
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line of pumpkins with words Spooky STEM activities

Try these spooky STEM activities with your little goblins

I love Halloween! The costumes, the decorations, the candy, the jokes (Why did the ghost starch his sheet? He wanted everyone scared stiff.) – it’s all great!  But this year, why not take some time out from the spooky tricks and sweet treats to include a little learning amongst all the mayhem? Try...
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It’s fall, y’all – Time to create a fall family fun list

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...
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Prepare to protect the people you love

“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...
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a family picking up trash in the park

Encourage volunteering in your family

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...
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6 questions to ask your children as they head back to school

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...
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summer infographic

10 ways to savor the last specks of summer

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...
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field of poppies

3 ways to be more mindful this summer

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...
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6 ways to celebrate the fathers in your life

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...
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5 ways to celebrate Memorial Day with your family

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...
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Make the most of summer break with a family garden

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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3 things to take time to do as you graduate

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...
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4 ways to celebrate Moms

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! Brighten Up Her View – Whether she has a sprawling backyard vista or a simple window in the kitchen, giving mom fun and beautiful things to look at...
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3 ways to spread kindness this May Day

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...
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New questions to get your kids talking

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...
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Poetry can be a wonderful a way to express your feelings

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...
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5 reasons to celebrate your pet

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...
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Joy Project promotes mental, emotional, and social health

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...
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3 ways to encourage laughter in your family

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...
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Learn and practice box breathing technique

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...
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Celebreat Women's History Month

Celebrate 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. On the day...
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Make your own snow day

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! Play Tic-Tac-Snow: Draw a grid on fresh snow, and use pinecones and pine needles to create X’s and O’s. Make...
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Help children be mindful of others with Relationship Fingers

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...
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Valentine's Day Activity - Interview Your Grandparents

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....
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5 types of journals to try for yourself

"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...
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quote by Rev Dr Martin Luther King, Jr.

Honoring Martin Luther King Jr. Day with Acts of Service

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...
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Outdoor Winter Activities

Feeling a little stir crazy? It’s time to bundle up the family and head outside! Research shows that spending time in nature has huge benefits for both children and adults. Increased physical activity, decreased feelings of anxiety, improved family connectedness, and higher cognitive functioning...
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Conversation Starters for a New Year

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...
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Family Connection Kits

Connection Corner Kits Available

Social distancing during the pandemic, though necessary, has caused social and emotional side effects that have been felt by all of us – perhaps especially by our young people. University of Illinois Extension and 4-H serving Fulton, Mason, Peoria, and Tazewell Counties have created a new program...
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Hot chocolate breathing

The holidays can be stressful! The simple act of breathing deeply can help trigger a relaxation response in your body that will make you feel more clam and in control. “Hot Chocolate Breathing” is a fun, easy way for people of all ages to practice breathing deeply. Imagine you’re holding a...
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Holiday activities with your family

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. Check out the 4-H At Home Activity Guide,...
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