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How to Teach Your Kids to Be More Independent

How to Teach Your Kids to Be More Independent

All parents want their kids to be more independent. After all, independent kids can clean up after themselves, pitch in around the house, and be better prepared for adult life. However, teaching your kids to be more independent can be easier said than done. We don’t want to rush them, but we also don’t want them to stay in their comfort zone for their whole lives.

Here we discuss some methods for teaching your kids to be more independent now and into the future:

 

Set clear expectations

If you want your child to become more independent, they need to know what you expect out of that. When starting out, don’t aim your expectations too high. Instead, aim for something that’s just above what they’re already doing. For instance, if they already brush their hair by themselves, encourage them to dress themselves as well.

Create a routine

It’s easier for kids to learn what they’re supposed to do if there’s a routine in place. Establish a morning, after school, and evening routine so that your kids know what they need to do and when. Plus, the more times they do it, the more likely it becomes a habit. Eventually, they won’t even think about brushing their teeth or combing their hair!

Offer incentives

Everyone, no matter their age, performs better with a little incentive. With children, offering rewards after a week or month of good behavior will encourage them to stick to their new routines. Incentives can range from 30 minutes of extra screen time to a brand-new toy or stuffed animal. You can learn how to create an effective reward system by reading our blog post here.

A new stuffable animal can be just the thing to encourage your child to be more independent. To get started, look through our inventory today!

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Play Therapy: What It Is and What You Need to Know

Play Therapy: What It Is and What You Need to Know

From babies to full-grown adults, we all enjoy playtime. But did you know that there are actual, tangible benefits that come from playtime, too? Critical thinking skills, language skills, and mental health all improve from added playtime. It’s why many therapists have turned to play therapy to help treat their patients. Here’s what you need to know:

What is play therapy?

Play therapy looks a lot like regular playtime, and that’s because it is. It gives your child free, safe space to play in whatever way they want, all under the supervision of a therapist. There are no rules or limitations, so your child can express themselves how they please.

What are the benefits?

Children don’t have the same emotional knowledge as adults (of course, some of us are still working on this). While they can’t express themselves in words, they can express themselves with actions. Playing with their favorite toys can be a useful emotional outlet for kids, and the science proves it.

Up to 71% of children who have participated in play therapy see a positive change in their mental health. Here’s how:

  • Reduced stress and anxiety
  • Increased self-respect
  • Greater levels of empathy
  • Improved social skills
  • Greater ability to express and experience their emotions
  • Greater ability to cope with those emotions in a healthy manner

When is it used?

Play therapy is helpful when a child is struggling with trauma or mental health issues. Even so, it’s not for everyone. Talk to a license therapist first to see if play therapy is helpful for your child.

Stuffed animals can be a source of comfort for any child. Look through our website to see the many stuffable animals we have available today.
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4 Ways to Keep Your Kids Healthy Throughout the School Year

4 Ways to Keep Your Kids Healthy Throughout the School Year

We always want to keep our kids healthy throughout the school year, but with the coronavirus, it has become more important now than ever before. Schools have always been a prime place for children to pick up germs and illnesses, so it’s necessary to take extra precautions before your kids get onto the school bus. Here are a few ways to get started:

Keep them up to date on their vaccines

While the coronavirus is still a major concern, that doesn’t mean you should forget about the other infectious disease that your child could come into contact with. During the early fall months, take your child to their pediatrician to get them up to date on their vaccines, including their annual flu shot.

Make sure they wear their mask

For most school districts, wearing a mask is required when attending class. If you have younger children, make sure they understand the importance of wearing their masks throughout the day. Additionally, give your child two masks to hold onto just in case they lose the one they’re wearing.

Teach them proper hand washing techniques

Regularly washing your hands is just as important as wearing a mask. When your kids head off to school, they should go knowing how to properly wash their hands. You can follow the CDC’s guidelines for how and when to wash your hands here.

Keep an eye on their stress levels

During such stressful times, it can be easy for our kids to feel overly anxious. Not only does this compromise their mental health, but it can compromise their physical health as well. Indeed, anxiety and stress can actually weaken our immune system, leaving us more susceptible to diseases. Keep an eye out for common signs of stress to make sure your kids don’t get too anxious throughout the school year.

Here at The Zoo Factory, we want to make sure every child has a safe and healthy school year. For more tips, read more posts from our blog!

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How to Recognize Stress in Our Children

How to Recognize Stress in Our Children

We live in stressful times, and our children aren’t immune to this. However, it can be difficult, as parents, to recognize when our children are stressed out. Many children don’t have the proper words to express what they need or what’s bothering them, so it can be easy for parents to overlook their child’s stress.

It’s important, then, for parents to recognize the common signs of stress in children so they can get to the bottom of what’s going on.

Behavioral signs of stress

Children often display their stress and anxiety when they start acting out. Moodiness, aggression, even clinginess are all key behavioral signs of stress. This can happen at home, but it can also happen at school (especially if the source of stress is school). Teachers might complain that your child is getting into trouble or not paying attention in class. They might also start skipping school, withdrawing from their friends or family, and the like. If this starts happening with your child, try to get to the bottom of it before exacting a punishment.

Physical signs of stress

In addition to behavioral signs, there are also a few physical signs. Some of these include the following:

What to do

If your child is showing any of the above signs or symptoms, it’s important to try and find out why. Try talking with your child to see what it is that’s bothering them and what you can do to help. Once you know the reason, you can create a plan of action to try alleviating some of their stress. It’s also a good idea to teach your child better ways to manage their stress. This can be done through counseling or through regular mindfulness practices.

At The Zoo Factory, we believe our stuffable animals can be a great source of comfort for children during these times. To learn more, look through our inventory or contact us today.

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The Benefits of Mindfulness for Kids

The Benefits of Mindfulness for Kids

At its core, mindfulness is all about awareness. It means being fully present and noticing what’s happening around us. Most of us practice mindfulness in daily meditation practices that use our breath or our senses to keep us in the present moment. By staying present, we are able to enjoy a wide variety of benefits both in the short term and the long term.

While mindfulness can be extremely beneficial to adults, it can also bring a wide range of benefits to kids. Here’s how:

It strengthens cognitive skills

Cognitive functions such as organizational skills, attention spans, and remembering details can be strengthened by repetitive mindfulness practices. In fact, one study conducted over an 8-week period showed that a regular mindfulness program helped children better focus on the task at hand while also learning how to regulate their emotions.

Mindfulness can improve emotional health

In the modern day, stress, anxiety, and depression all seem to be commonplace. However, it doesn’t have to be that way. Daily mindfulness practices can actually ease symptoms of anxiety and depression, improving overall self-esteem and emotional health. This is accomplished by teaching kids how to be present, and to reflect on their emotions in order to better understand them.

There are social benefits too

By improving their cognitive skills and their emotional health, mindfulness can also help our children when interacting with their peers. Mindfulness allows for greater empathy and compassion, helping kids better understand the people they interact with on a daily basis.

How to practice mindfulness

Clearly, a daily mindfulness practice can be a great help to our kids, but how do we get started? Thankfully, there are a few ways you can go about it:

  • Download a meditation appmany popular apps such as Headspace or Calm offer special meditation plans for children.
  • Buy a book on children’s mindfulness – in addition to apps, there are also many books available to teach parents and kids how to practice mindfulness.
  • Practice Breathing Buddies – this is a breathing exercise uses stuffed animals to teach kids how to focus on their breath.

At The Zoo Factory, we believe a daily meditation or mindfulness practice can greatly benefit all children. So, if you’re searching for a breathing buddy, look through our inventory to find yours today!

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4 Tips for Giving Your Kids an Allowance

4 Tips for Giving Your Kids an Allowance

Many parents struggle on whether or not they should be giving their kids an allowance. However, allowances can be good teaching moments, helping your child learn how to better manage their money at an early age. If you’re planning on giving your kids an allowance, here are some tips to get you started: 

Make them earn it 

You shouldn’t just be handing out money to your kids every week. This will teach them very little about the rewards of hard work. Instead, have their allowance depend on the chores that they get done around the house. If they don’t do their chores, they don’t get their allowance. You can also add bonuses if your child does extra work around the house, or if they did particularly well on a recent exam. 

Give them one dollar per year of age, each week 

Once you have the rules set in place, the next thing you need to think about is how much you’re giving your kids each week. It’s recommended that you give them $1 per year of age, each week. In other words, if you have a 5-year-old at home, they should be earning $5 each week. Once they turn 6, they’ll earn $6 each week, and so on and so forth. 

Encourage them to save 

Kids have poor impulse control, so they will likely want to spend their money right away. If this is truly what they want to do, then let them, but you should try encouraging them to save their money for something else down the road. Help create an end-goal (such as tickets to an amusement park or a new stuffed animal) that they can build towards to teach them the benefits of saving. 

But let them spend their money how they want 

At the end of the day, your child earned that money fair and square, so they should be able to spend it on what they want. Even if it’s something silly that they won’t want in a few hours, buyer’s remorse can be a good teaching moment for your kids. The more they experiment with their money, the more they will learn how to better manage it in the long run. 

Once your child has saved up some money of their own, one of the many things they can buy for themselves is a stuffable animal from The Zoo Factory. Check out our inventory to get started! 

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How to Encourage Your Child to Read

How to Encourage Your Child to Read

Reading is one of the best things a child can do for themselves. Not only will it help them academically, but it will also help them throughout their entire lives, giving them access to a vast collection of knowledge and skills. Vocabulary, critical thinking skills, attention span, and more are all tied to reading. However, not all kids are keen to pick up a book right away. Thankfully, there are ways to encourage a love of reading in your child from an early age. 

Read with them 

Reading with your child sets a good example while also associating reading with something enjoyable (i.e. spending quality time with you, their parent). The more often you read with your child at an early age, the more likely reading will become a habit.  

Let them pick the books that they want to read 

One of the reasons why kids dislike reading is because they dislike the subject that they’re reading. If they’re given books to read that they think are boring, they’re less likely to crack open those books in the first place. Instead, take your child to the library or your local bookstore and let them pick out the book that they want.  

Make sure the books aren’t too easy or too difficult 

Even if your kids are reading books that they find interesting, if the material is too difficult for them to read, they might get frustrated with it. Conversely, if it’s too easy, they’ll likely get bored with it. Make sure that whatever book your child picks out is roughly at, or just slightly above, their reading level. If you’re not sure what they’re reading level is, consult your child’s teachers. 

Reading buddies 

Another technique that parents use to encourage reading is reading buddies. This is where stuffed animals are used to help children learn how to read. Children can read books to their stuffed animals, or parents can use stuffed animals to hook their kids into a particular book. 

Looking for a new reading buddy for your child? The Zoo Factory has you covered. We have stuffable animals of all shapes and sizes, so look through our inventory or contact us for more information. 

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Helping Your Child Return to School After COVID-19

Helping Your Child Return to School After COVID-19

School districts around the country are taking steps to safely return kids back to school. Some schools are bringing kids back completely, others are doing a hybrid model, and there are a few that are opting for completely digital learning. While schools are doing everything that they can to keep your children safe, there are some things that you, as a parent, can do as well to better prepare your child for the new school year. 

Talk to them 

Older kids likely understand the risks that are involved and the precautions they need to take when going back to school. Younger kids, meanwhile, may struggle to understand why they need to wear a mask or why they’re not going to school five days a week. Before the school year starts, take some time to sit down and talk with your child about why this new year will be different and how important it is for them to practice good social distancing.  

Check their temperature each morning 

One of the first signs of COVID-19 is a high temperature. Catching it early will help ensure that your child doesn’t spread the disease to other children and families. Check their temperature every morning to determine whether or not they should go to school. If their temperature is ever higher than 100.4 degrees, then they should stay home. 

Get them a mask and hand sanitizer 

It is more than likely that your school district will require children to wear masks. Even if they are not required, it is still a good idea to wear them. Be sure you have at least two masks for your child, as chances are, they’ll lose their first one eventually. You should also equip them with some hand sanitizer to further limit disease spread.  

If you can, avoid the bus 

Buses can be a prime spot for the coronavirus to spread. If you can manage it, try and drive your kid to school yourself, or have them carpool with a trusted friend. If the bus is your only option, then make sure your kid wears their mask and stays six feet away from other kids at all times.  

These are stressful times for both parents and kids. That’s why we at The Zoo Factory want to do everything we can to make things easier on families. Our stuffable animals can be a great source of comfort to kids, and our blog is an excellent resource for parents. Have further questions? Then don’t hesitate to reach out today! 

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How to Plan a Post-Coronavirus Playdate

How to Plan a Post-Coronavirus Playdate

We know how hard it’s been to keep your child at home these past several months. By now, they’re likely itching to get back to playing with their friends. However, with the coronavirus still spreading across the country, it is important to still follow social distancing rules when spending time with our friends.  

Planning a playdate in a post-coronavirus world can be difficult, so be sure to follow these steps to keep your child and their friends completely safe: 

Make plans with those who are practicing social distancing 

You can take as many precautions as you’d like, but if the person you’re spending time with doesn’t also take those precautions, they could be putting you and your child at risk. Only make a playdate with people you completely trust and who you know are practicing safe social distancing measures.  

Keep it outside 

In general, staying outside is safer than staying inside. Germs are less likely to spread, and you’ll be better able to stay six feet apart in someone’s backyard rather than in their living room. You can also spend your time in many outdoor public spaces such as parks, pools, and bike paths. 

Don’t forget the essentials 

Even if you’re staying outside, you should still bring a supply of masks, hand sanitizers, and wipes for you and your children. Additionally, while sharing is always a great quality to have, you should bring your own toys and snacks to keep germ spread at a minimum. When you come home, be sure to clean and disinfect the toys that you brought, too, just in case. 

Here at The Zoo Factory, we want to make sure our kids are still having fun even during the coronavirus outbreak. To learn more about how to keep your kids safe, read through our blog or contact us for more information! 

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How to Use “Breathing Buddies” to Encourage Mindfulness

How to Use Breathing Buddies to Encourage Mindfulness

Practicing mindfulness can be a real lifesaver. After all, our lives are hectic, so just taking a few minutes to slow down and pay attention to our surroundings can make a world of difference. This is true for adults, but it’s also true for kids. Encouraging our kids to be mindful will help them deal with stress today and later on. We can do this through one simple technique: breathing buddies. 

How to practice “breathing buddies” 

Breathing buddies, also known as Teddy Bear Belly Breathing, is rather simple. It’s about focusing on your breath by placing a teddy bear on your belly. Here are the steps you and your child should follow: 

  1. Lie down on your back and place a stuffed animal on your belly. 
  2. Inhale through your nose for three seconds, focusing on how the stuffed animal rises as you breathe in. 
  3. Exhale for four seconds, this time focusing on how the stuffed animal falls as you breathe out. 
  4. Repeat for at least another few minutes. You can increase how long you practice over time. 

What are the benefits? 

Having your kids practice mindfulness, even just for a few minutes a day, can have a variety of health benefits. Some may see the improvements right away, leaving the breathing buddies practice with an added sense of calm. Others may see a difference over time. Regular mindfulness practice has been proven to decrease anxiety, stress, and depression, while enhancing self-esteem. It can also improve cognitive skills such as memory, organization, and attention span. And these benefits aren’t just reserved for kids. By joining the breathing buddies’ practice, you’ll experience these improvements yourself. 

If you’re searching for a breathing buddy to join you during your next mindfulness practice, then look no further than The Zoo Factory. We have a variety of stuffable animals for you and your child to choose from, so take a look through our inventory or contact us with any questions today!