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5 Tips to Get Your Kids to Eat Healthy

5 Tips to Get Your Kids to Eat Healthy

Let’s face it, our kids don’t eat as healthy as they should. Instead of eating salad or broccoli, they’d rather have a plate full of chicken nuggets or macaroni. While these things are fine to eat every now and then, our children need a well-balanced diet in order to grow into healthy, fully functional adults. If you’re struggling to get your kids to eat healthy, here are some tips that may help:

Provide choices

Kids don’t like to be told what to do. If you tell them they have to eat that plate of broccoli no matter what, you’ll be in for a world of disappointment. Instead, offer them choices. Instead of having only that plate of broccoli, have them choose between broccoli, salad, or celery. This way you’re giving your kids some form of autonomy while still controlling what they put into their bodies.

Start small

Just as with any lifestyle change, it’s best to start small. Changing too much too quickly often ends in failure. If you want healthy eating to become a lifelong habit, then introduce new foods gradually and don’t eliminate sweets or junk food completely.

Include your kids while cooking

Many of our kids are suspicious of new foods, but they’re often more willing to try new foods if they had a hand in making them. Of course, you don’t want them doing anything that is too difficult for them, but even young children can handle basic tasks such as measuring or stirring ingredients.

Set an example

If you encourage your kids to eat healthy but don’t do so yourself, you will have a hard time getting them to commit. Set an example by making changes in your own diet as well as your children’s.

Have goals in mind

Does your child eat too much chocolate or drink too much soda? Then set goals to try and cut back on those unhealthy habits. Once again, start gradually by cutting out unhealthy foods a little bit at a time. If your child drinks too much soda, for instance, try cutting back on one can of soda each day first. After your child has done this for a few weeks, reward them, and then move the goal post to two sodas.

Here at The Zoo Factory, we want all our kids to live happy and healthy lives. To learn more, look through our blog today!

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What Is Positive Reinforcement?

What Is Positive Reinforcement?

Kids misbehave. Even the most docile, angelic children will do something wrong at some point. How are you going to respond? Increasingly, parents and teachers are turning to positive reinforcement to teach their kids what is right and what is wrong. Here’s how it works:

How positive reinforcement works

Positive reinforcement is all about rewarding good behavior and ignoring the bad. For some caregivers, this may seem counterintuitive. After all, if we don’t punish bad behavior, how will our kids know what they’re doing is bad? Yet, studies have shown over and over that punishing bad behavior does little to prevent that behavior from happening again. Kids typically misbehave to get attention, and by punishing bad behavior, we’re giving them attention (however, not all bad behavior can be ignored, which we will address later). That’s why it’s best to turn our attention to the good things that they do instead of the bad.

How to practice positive reinforcement

Practicing positive reinforcement is all about praising and rewarding good behavior. This can range from verbal praise to offering gifts for a job well done. What you do to reward that good behavior will depend on the behavior. For example, if your child put their dishes away without you asking, acknowledge this behavior by verbally praising them or giving them a thank you hug. On the other hand, if your child has improved their grades over the past semester, consider giving them a bigger reward like a new toy or stuffed animal.

Be careful not to reinforce negative behavior

As we said before, punishing bad behavior simply gives your child the attention they’re seeking. As such, they’ll learn that this bad behavior is a good way to get your attention. While you’re practicing positive reinforcement, it’s important that you don’t also reinforce negative behavior. Positive reinforcement only works if you pay attention to the good things your child does and ignore the bad things.

However, not all bad behavior can be ignored. If your child got into a fight with another child, this needs to be addressed. When these incidents happen, make sure there are consequences such as loss of privileges or other logical consequences.

If you’re child has been behaving well recently, show them how proud you are with a new stuffable animal from The Zoo Factory! Look through our site to get started.

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Gift Ideas for Kids Going Off to College

Gift Ideas for Kids Going Off to College

Our kids are graduating high school, and before we know it, they’ll be heading off to college. As we well know, college is a huge step, provoking a lot of emotions like excitement, curiosity, and even anxiety. We can help our kids by getting them the perfect gifts to start their new life. Here are a few ideas to get started:

The Practical Gifts

College isn’t like high school. Our kids will have new responsibilities from cooking their own meals to preparing for tough final exams. As such, they’ll need a helping hand to get situated and used to their new life. You may not be able to look after them all the time like you used to, but you can still help them out even if you’re miles away. Here are some practical gifts that your kids can use every day to keep themselves afloat:

  • Programmable alarm clock: Some kids have a hard time getting up for that 8am lecture. Make sure they don’t miss out by getting them a programmable alarm clock.
  • College cookbooks: There is a plethora of cookbooks out there geared directly to college students. Many of these contain recipes that can be cooked inside a dorm.
  • Eye mask and ear buds: Sharing a single room can be tough. Give your kids something to block out any disturbances with eye masks and ear buds.

The Sentimental Gifts

While practical gifts are all well and good, don’t forget the sentimental ones too. College can be a rough transition, and most kids feel some sense of homesickness. A few sentimental gifts from their parents and family members can mean all the difference.

  • Framed pictures: Find a few sentimental photos of the family that your kid can hang in their dorm room.
  • Care packages: While your kids are away at school, be sure to send them care packages with gifts from home.
  • Stuffed animals: Stuffed animals aren’t just for little kids, they can also be for big kids who are making the tough transition into adulthood.

Are you looking for the perfect stuffed animal for your kids who are going off to college? Then look through our inventory here at The Zoo Factory today!

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Family Summer Activities for 2021

Family Summer Activities for 2021

In a little over a month, our kids will be out of school and starting their summer vacations. But COVID-19 is still a concern. While most of us adults will be vaccinated during the summer months, kids under the age of 12 likely won’t be. That’s because the FDA has not yet authorized any of the current vaccines to be administered to children, and that likely won’t change before the beginning of summer.

However, that doesn’t mean you and your family can’t enjoy themselves this summer. Here are some fun and safe summer activities the entire family can enjoy in 2021:

Go camping or to a secluded getaway

If you’re eager to get away from home, camping is a great bet. Unlike other types of vacations, you won’t be interacting with too many strangers. Plus, you’ll get to enjoy the great outdoors. Even if you don’t want to spend your time in a tent, cabins or an Airbnb are still safe alternatives. They’re at least better than hotels where you have to share eating areas and stay in close quarters with other guests.

Visit friends or relatives

Chances are that the kids haven’t seen grandma or grandpa in quite some time. But the CDC has updated their guidelines, saying that fully vaccinated people can interact with unvaccinated people from a single household. This means that even if your kids aren’t vaccinated yet, they pose little threat to their grandparents or other elderly family members.

Start a new project or hobby

If you’re not comfortable traveling yet, there is still plenty for you to do in the comfort of your own home. Encourage your kids to pick up a new project or hobby. Plus, thanks to online resources like YouTube or Udemy, it’s easier now than ever to learn new tricks in the comfort of your own home. They can start gardening, drawing, painting, or anything else that may interest them.

Take a virtual tour

Many famous sites around the world are now offering virtual tours for families who can’t travel. Gettysburg, the Louvre, and the Smithsonian are just some of the many sites that offer online tours. So, settle down with the kids and get ready to experience some of the world’s greatest wonders.

If you’re looking to get your kid something special this summer, look through our inventory here at The Zoo Factory today!

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How to Encourage Your Kids to Get Better Grades

How to Encourage Your Kids to Get Better Grades

We all want our kids to do well in school. While some kids are intrinsically motivated, others not so much. They may need an extra nudge or two to truly put their best foot forward when it comes to schoolwork. If your child needs that extra encouragement, here are a few ideas to get you started:

Provide help with homework

Everyone needs a helping hand at least once in a while. Our kids are no different. When our children struggle in school, their motivation to do well takes a hit. They may believe that they will never understand a subject, thus believing that there’s no point in studying. If your child is in this position, consider providing them with some extra help either from yourself or from a tutor.

Set realistic expectations

Some kids will never be straight-A students. And that’s ok! Grades don’t always correlate with intelligence. Your child may struggle in math and science, but they may excel in art or music. Nevertheless, we still want our kids to do their best. So, instead of pushing your kids to get straight-As, encourage them to get grades just above what they are currently receiving. For example, if your kid has a C in Math, encourage them to bump it up to a B-.

Offer incentives

Incentives can be a great way to motivate kids who simply do not care about school. But make it an incentive that they truly care about. For instance, if your child loves soccer, tell them you’ll let them go to a summer soccer camp if they get their grades up. For young kids (such as kindergarteners or first graders), give them a special treat like new books, toys, or their favorite meal.

Here at The Zoo Factory, we offer plenty of stuffed animals for your child to choose from. To get started, look through our inventory today!

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How to Teach Your Kids About Vaccines

How to Teach Your Kids About Vaccines

Vaccines can protect our kids from deadly diseases such as measles, mumps, and, of course, COVID-19. Currently, more and more people are receiving their first shot of the COVID-19 vaccine, and before we know it, our kids will be receiving their shots as well.

While we understand the importance of taking the COVID-19 vaccine, our kids may not be. That leaves it up to us, their caregivers, to explain the importance of not only the COVID-19 vaccine, but all other vaccines as well.

Keep it simple

Explaining how vaccines work is a good way to convince your kids of their importance. Nevertheless, you need to keep it simple. If you start talking about mRNA, white cells, and antigens, your kids won’t understand what you’re saying (most adults won’t understand either). Instead, explain how vaccines are like a practice run for your body—they teach the body how to fight against a virus so that they won’t get sick in the future.

Emphasize that the vaccine will help them protect others

Vaccines are never enjoyable to receive, and this can make your child reluctant to receive one. Emphasize that while vaccines may hurt, the little bit of pain is worth it to protect other people (specifically people like their grandparents or other elderly family members). Once again, keep the explanation simple by pointing out that if you don’t get sick, other people won’t get sick.

Use characters and toys

Sometimes kids respond better to vaccines when they see characters, role models, or even their favorite toys take part. For example, you could show them this video of Elmo and the Surgeon General explaining the significance of vaccines. You could also use your child’s toys or stuffed animals to demonstrate how vaccines work (this is the method behind many teddy bear clinics).

Be a role model

Just like characters and toys can be a role model for your kids, so can you. If your kid is nervous about getting the vaccine, take them with you when you go for your own shot. Seeing you get the vaccine will ease their anxieties and help them realize there’s nothing to be afraid of. As you’re receiving your shot, be careful not to flinch or appear scared (even if you are nervous yourself), as it’s important to put on a brave face and show that vaccines are no big deal.

For further parenting tricks and tips, read through our blog today!

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How to Get Your Kids Interested in Art

How to Get Your Kids Interested in Art

Art is a great way to teach your kids creativity and fine motor skills. Plus, art can come in so many different forms. From drawing to painting to Papier-mâché, your kid can try their hand at any art form that takes their fancy. But how exactly do you get them interested in art in the first place? Here are a few ways to start:

Let them do what feels right

For kids to truly enjoy themselves, they need to do what they feel is right. For instance, don’t force them to paint if they don’t like painting. Instead, let them explore the different types of art forms and do what feels right for them.

Take them to a museum

Art museums are a great way to introduce your kids to art. We don’t recommend dragging them through every exhibit, ignoring their pleas to go home. Rather, let them wander and explore the museum on their own accord (while being supervised, of course). That way, they can see artwork they’ll truly enjoy rather than what you think they’ll enjoy.

Join in

Art doesn’t have to be a solitary activity. It can also be an opportunity for some bonding time. Kids love spending time with their parents and caregivers, and making artwork together will leave a lasting impression. If you’re not an artist yourself, don’t worry. Your own work will show them that it’s ok if their artwork isn’t perfect.

Encourage a project that coincides with their interests

Does your kid love the Avengers? Or maybe they’re a fan of Mario? Whatever their interests, try to find some way that those interests can coincide with their art. For example, you can give them an Avengers coloring book, or you can encourage them to draw their favorite characters or stuffed animals.

Here at The Zoo Factory, we want to encourage every child to flex those artistic muscles. For more parenting tips, read through our blog today!

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How to Make Learning Fun at Home

How to Make Learning Fun at Home

We don’t have to sit our kids in front of a blackboard all day, every day, to make them learn something. Learning can be fun, both in the classroom and out. To further encourage our children’s love of learning, try some of these tips to make learning fun at home:

Encourage their interests

We mostly associate learning with books or the classroom, but children can learn from almost anything they do. Sports can teach them cooperation and coordination, while art can encourage creativity and fine motor skills. If your child expresses a special interest in something, then invest in that interest. You never know what lessons they might pick up.

Play games

Playtime may seem like silly games, but they actually have concrete benefits. Pretend play, for instance, can enhance critical thinking skills, social skills, and language skills. Even video games (something many parents complain about) can have an impact, improving coordination, memory, problem-solving skills, and more.

Put on some tunes

When you were taught the ABCs, did you also learn the song? If so, there was a reason for it. Music has plenty of cognitive and emotional benefits, and those benefits are ten-fold if a child learns an instrument. Put another way, you learned the ABC song because the music would help you memorize the actual ABCs.

Turn on the TV

We don’t want our kids spending all day in front of the television, but TV shows and movies can be educational. Even if they’re not specifically an educational show, kids can still glean some information from their favorite show or movie.

Are you looking for the perfect stuffed animal for your child to play with? Then look through our website today to get started!

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How to Encourage Your Child to Wear a Mask

How to Encourage Your Child to Wear a Mask

As adults, we understand how important it is to wear a mask. Our kids, however, might need more convincing. If you’re struggling to get your child to wear their mask, then read over these helpful tips:

Explain why they need to wear one

Simply telling your child to wear a mask isn’t enough. You need to explain why they should wear one first. As you’re doing so, it’s important that you don’t scare your child. Instead, focus on the positives of wearing a mask, such as how they can help protect ourselves or family members.

Get the right mask

Even if a child understands the importance of wearing a mask, they may not wear one if they don’t like the mask they have. To further encourage them, get a mask that’s comfortable and easy for them to wear. Additionally, consider getting one that is stylish, or has their favorite color, sports team, or character on it.

Be a role model

Children do what their parents do; they also don’t do what their parents don’t do. If you’re not wearing your mask, then don’t expect your child to wear theirs. Be a good role model by always wearing your mask whenever appropriate.

Give masks to their toys or stuffed animals

You can be a role model to your kids, but so can their toys or stuffed animals. Having their favorite stuffed animal wearing a mask will further encourage your child to wear their own mask. Plus, getting a mask for their stuffed animals is easier than you think. The Zoo Factory carries face masks that fit our stuffable animals, as well as other stuffed animals your child may already have.

Read through our blog for more tips on how to protect your kids during the coronavirus pandemic.

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Pandemic Pods: Everything You Need to Know

Pandemic Pods: Everything You Need to Know

The majority of schools around the country have some form of online learning. Unable to sit in a classroom with their peers, many kids and parents are turning to pandemic pods to fill the void. Here is everything you need to know:

What are pandemic pods?

A pandemic pod is like a bubble. A small group of families get together and only interact with the people within the pod. They will provide childcare, educational assistance, and playdates to everyone in the group. By interacting only with the people within a pandemic pod, families can allow their kids to socialize without putting them at risk of contracting the coronavirus.

How to set up a pod

With cases starting to rise once again, you want to keep your kids safe, but you don’t want them to become isolated. Pandemic pods act as a great compromise, allowing children to socialize safely with a low risk of infection. But how do you set one up? Here are a couple of steps to get you started:

Talk to parents of your children’s friends

When forming a pod, look for families you trust and who are good friends with your children. You can also stay within your family, asking cousins to join in. The key is to provide your kids with similar-aged peers to hang around with.

Set the rules

Once you have a few families who have agreed to the pod, it’s time to set some ground rules. These include the following:

  • Determine who, outside of the pod, families can interact with (ideally, only those within the pod should interact with each other, but you can add in close family members as well)
  • Make a plan for if anyone gets sick
  • Determine if you’ll wear masks and social distance (you should do this if you interact with people outside of the pod)
  • Figure out which days you will meet and who will supervise during these meetings

We at The Zoo Factory want our kids to have fun but also stay safe. For more tips on protecting your child during the coronavirus pandemic, read through our blog here!