10 iPhone Apps for Kids that Support Montessori Based Learning

The Montessori approach to education was developed by Maria Montessori, an educator and physician in Italy. Estimated to be practiced in upwards of 20,000 schools around the world, this approach emphasizes freedom with reasonable limits, independence, and a Constructivist model that allows kids to learn basic concepts through a hands-on approach, rather than through lectures and direct instruction. These 10 iPhone apps can help you teach your child the educational basics in accordance with the methods prescribed by the Montessori approach, supporting his education with the assistance of your mobile device.

  1. Montessori Letter Sounds HD – Based on the Montessori method of teaching, this $2.99 app is broken down by age, helping kids ages three and under play “I Spy” to understand letter sounds, four year olds to begin working on letter sounds and their shapes, and then progressively bringing all of those concepts together in a cohesive way. The end goal is for kids to be able to write their first words with a movable alphabet all by themselves by “sounding it out.”
  2. Montessori Crosswords – Spelling With Phonics-Enabled Alphabet – Kids learn that words are made from sounds with this $2.99 app. Once they learn this, they then learn how to make those words themselves by memorizing the phonic sounds associated with each letter. Eventually, even preschoolers are able to play a simplified version of this crossword game, thanks to the lessons they’ve learned.
  3. Montessori Matching Board – Learning about shapes, letters and numbers is fun and easy with this $0.99 app, which helps kids learn with a small-scale matching game. The simple interface and clear graphics are easy enough for even an older infant to manipulate, while toddlers and young preschoolers will be able to confidently navigate the app, matching and learning in no time.
  4. Alpha Writer – Learning to read, write and spell phonetically are the building blocks of literacy, and are the fundamental skills taught by this $2.99 app. Identifying consonants and vowels, creating and spelling their own words, and focusing on early reading skills are all among the tasks that your child can master by using Montessorium’s Alpha Writer.
  5. Montessori Geometry – Give your little one a jump start on Geometry with this $4.49 app, which helps him learn to identify shapes in both 2D and 3D. Activities are self-correcting, emphasizing autonomy and self-confidence, and allow kids to learn independently and be motivated by the earning of reward medals.
  6. Montessori Numberland HD – Featured in Apple’s New & Noteworthy and rated five stars out of five by Common Sense Media, the $4.99 Montessori Numberland app is a highly-rated and powerful one, teaching kids to write and recognize the shape of a number, hear its name, and then count objects to reinforce those concepts. You can even help kids learn to count in more than one language by changing the in-app preferences!
  7. Montessori Alphabet Maze Free – Improving fine motor skills, learning visual tracking, and extending a child’s attention span are all among the claims made by this free app, which also helps a child master the alphabet through exposure and repetition. The app also contains no ads, does not work with social networking sites, and does not enable in-app purchases, making it a safe one for kids to use with minimal adult direction.
  8. Montessori Counting Board – Kids learn to count in ascending and descending order with this app, which offers a variety of formats and counting options. Marketed to kids from infancy to six years old, the $0.99 Montessori Counting Board is highly rated and reviewed by App Store users.
  9. Intro to Math – Kids learn the fundamentals of math, how to read, recognize and understand the numbers between 0 and 9, symbols and units, sequence, spatial relationships and problem solving skills with this $4.99 app. Rods, numbers, tracing and counters are among the virtual tools used by Intro to Math, based on proven Montessori methods.
  10. Intro to Letters – Learning to read and write begins with understanding and recognizing the letters of the alphabet, a skill that this $4.99 app helps to teach. Learning to draw, read and pronounce letters phonetically gives your child the competitive edge she’ll need to excel academically from an early age, inspiring a love of reading and writing.

While your iPhone will allow your child to learn through exploration independently, the Montessori approach is dependent upon parental involvement as well as independent learning. These apps are great ways to keep your child entertained in an educationally-worthwhile way during long delays or car rides, but they work best when you’re there to direct and offer your assistance as needed. For the best results, set aside some time each day to work with your child as he uses these apps.


10 Things to Do With Kids in Houston

With an array of museums to choose from, a burgeoning culinary culture and a reputation for being a relatively low-cost vacation option, Houston is becoming a favorite vacation destination for families. Kids love the slight eccentricity that results from Houston’s long-standing lack of zoning laws, and the replica of presidential busts visible along the I-10 freeway unofficially dubbed “Mount Rush Hour” by local residents. These, among other attractions, make the Houston area worthy of your vacation consideration.

  1. Downtown Aquarium (Houston, TX 77002) – Everything really is bigger in Texas, as proved by this mammoth restaurant, aquarium and amusement park in one sprawling setting. Replicas of a Louisiana swamp, a rainforest and ancient Indian ruins feature alligators, piranhas and white tigers, respectively. Kids also love the train ride through the center of a 200,000-gallon shark tank, which houses several varieties of shark.
  2. Houston Museum of Natural Science (Houston, TX 77030) – Ranked one of the most highly-attended museums in the United States, the Houston Museum of Natural Science boasts four levels of installations and exhibits. Native American history, astronomy, space science and paleontology are only a small sampling of the subjects covered, ensuring that there’s something to inspire every little scientist in your family.
  3. The Company Onstage (Houston, TX 77035) – In addition to the classic plays directed at a grown-up audience, the Company Onstage also mounts a full season of theatrical productions aimed at kids. Reservations are recommended for children’s shows, as they do tend to sell out relatively quickly.
  4. Nature Discovery Center (Bellaire, TX 77401) – Kids are encouraged to explore the life inside a log, examine a crystal cave and reconstruct the skeleton of a turtle at the Nature Discovery Center. Microscopes, puzzles, books and drawing supplies are available for further research, and one Discovery Room that changes one to two times over the course of each year. There’s also a Storytime offering that features a related craft project for kids between the ages of two and five, held at four o’clock each Wednesday afternoon.
  5. Lunar and Planetary Institute (Houston, TX 77058) – A nod to Houston’s contribution to the American space program, the Lunar and Planetary Institute is dedicated to the solar system and any new discoveries within it. Collections of lunar and planetary data, image processing facilities and a research library make this a great destination for both kids and adults, with a Free Family Space Day held on the third Saturday of each month. Kids between the ages of five and eight are encouraged to learn about space and planetary science through interactive exhibits, hands-on activities and telescope viewings.
  6. Glazed Over Ceramic Studio (Houston, TX 77079) – Kids love selecting their own pieces of pottery to decorate with brushes, sponges and stencils, which are then fired by the Glazed Over staff. It’s best to plan this activity early in your vacation, because the glazing and firing process can take up to seven days to complete.
  7. Kemah Boardwalk (Kemah, TX 77565) – Forty waterfront acres of shops, restaurants and a carnival area make the Kemah Boardwalk an ideal destination for summer fun, with a variety of activities to keep kids entertained. Ride a miniature train and a speedboat, play in the main plaza’s dancing fountain and enjoy a low-key day free from the pressure of adhering to a tight itinerary on the shore.
  8. Moody Gardens (Galveston, TX 77554) – The wide variety of activities and themes within Galveston’s Moody Gardens makes this destination feel like several. An aquarium, white sand beaches, replicas of the pyramids and a 3D theater with six-story screens are all available at Moody Gardens, along with a Discovery Museum to provide a bit of educational fun.
  9. Houston Zoo (Houston, TX 77030) – Sprawling over fifty-five acres and home to more than 4,500 animals, the Houston Zoo includes a section called the John P. McGovern Children’s Zoo. The area features a petting zoo to allow hands-on interaction with a variety of animals, a large carousel featuring sixty-four animals for kids to ride and a playground with water installations ideal for cooling off in the Texas heat. There’s also a butterfly pavilion, which is shaded from the sun and hosts shows and demonstrations.
  10. The Grand 1894 Opera House (Galveston, TX 77550) – Listed in the National Register of Historic Places and named “The Official Opera House of Texas” by the state Legislature, The Grand has survived several devastating storms since it was built in 1894. Three tiers of seating and opera boxes satisfy adult sensibilities, while the Children’s Series Performances introduce youngsters to the joy of live theater.

In addition to these attractions, Houston is also the headquarters of the United States’ manned space program. As a result, there are a vast array of space-themed attractions sure to wow any budding astronauts in the family.

10 Things to Do With Kids in San Francisco

The city by the bay is definitely an accurate description for San Francisco.  Many attractions are on or near the water including the city’s biggest attraction, the Golden Gate Bridge.  There are many more things to see and do in San Francisco though and many are kid friendly.  Check some of these sites out the next time you and your family are in San Francisco.

  1. The Exploratorium (San Francisco, CA 94123).  An amazing new concept in museums and perfect for kids.  The Exploratorium is located inside the Palace of Fine Arts.  The concept of the Exploratorium is to give kids and adults a hands-on learning experience in many different areas.  There are cow eyeballs in an exhibit where everyone can touch an actual cow’s eye and learn about the parts of the eye.  There’s a planetarium and a place you can make your own petroglyph and the list goes on and on. 
  2. Paramount’s Great America Theme Park (Santa Clara, CA 95054).  Meet your favorite Nickelodeon characters at Nickelodeon Central or ride one of the family friendly rides like the Rip Roaring Rapids.  There are also 11 roller coasters and thrill rides from which to choose.  Top off your trip with a ride on the world’s tallest double decker Ferris wheel. 
  3. Raging Waters (San Jose, CA 95148).  The largest water park in Northern California and home to the Dragon’s Den and a 350,000 gallon wave pool.  Stay cool in one of the many water slides or other wet and wild attractions.  This park is only open May-September.
  4. iFly SF Bay (Union City, CA 94587).  This is an indoor sky diving facility that is a tunnel of wind that gives you the same feeling as free-falling from an airplane.  Kids as young as 3 can do it.  Your first time you will get instruction, a jumpsuit, goggles and other things that you will need to have a successful experience.  There is no upper age limit, but they want you to be in good physical shape and not weigh more than 230 lbs. if you are less than 6 feet tall.
  5. San Francisco Chinatown (San Francisco, CA 94108).  Immerse yourself and your family in another culture for a while by strolling through San Francisco’s Chinatown.  This is the largest and oldest Chinatown in North American.  Enjoy a tea tasting or some authentic dim sum.  This is a sight to behold because it is so different than the rest of the city.  Don’t plan on bringing a stroller through though because these shops are small and cramped.
  6. Golden Gate Bridge/Park (San Francisco, CA 94118).  The jewel in San Francisco’s crown has to be the beautiful red golden gate bridge.  You can walk across or rent bikes and ride across the bridge.  If you go to Golden Gate Park you will be able to capture some fabulous iconic pictures of the bridge.  No trip to San Francisco would be complete without a visit to the Golden Gate Bridge.
  7. Koret Children’s Playground and Carousel (San Francisco, CA 94118).  This is one of the oldest and biggest playgrounds in the city.  It’s located in Koret Children’s Quarter in Golden Gate Park.  The kids will love sliding down the giant hillside slide and riding on the 1912 Carousel.  There’s also a huge climbing structure where kids can play for hours.  This playground is geared for kids over the age of 3.
  8. Golden Gate Ferry Ride (Larkspur, CA 94939).  Take a ride on the ferry and get a view of the bridge from the water.  Riding on the ferry will allow you to feel the wind off the water and the enjoyment of riding on the boat with or without your car. 
  9. Cable Car Ride (San Francisco, CA 94115).  You must ride a cable car while you are in San Francisco.  These cable cars have been around since 1873 and will truly give you the full experience of how hilly San Francisco truly is.  You can buy a ticket for a single ride for $5 or by an all-day pass which will give you time to enjoy the cable cars and the city.  You can even get off at the Cable Car Museum for free and learn the history of the cable car.
  10. Land’s End Trail (San Francisco, CA 94121).  Probably one of the greatest hiking trails in San Francisco.  The trail runs right along the water and if you go far enough you can actually go under the Golden Gate Bridge.  Along the trail you will see the Sutro Baths and Mile Rock Beach.  To reach the beach you will have to go down about 100 steps, but the views are worth the effort.

How Nannies Can Write an Effective Online Profile

Online nanny job sites can be an effective way of finding a nanny job, if you know how to make yourself stand out from the crowd. There are a lot of nannies out there who will have the same idea, so it’s critical that you create a profile that immediately grabs the parent’s attention and makes her want to read your profile. Your profile also needs to give her all the key information she needs to decide if you’re a nanny she want to connect with. Here are some tips for making that happen.

Start with a catchy headline. Your headline is the first thing a potential employer will read. Read what other nannies are writing and make sure your profile stands out from the rest. This is a great place to showcase your creativity, sense of humor or what you can offer that others don’t.

Include a head shot. Your picture helps parents connect with you on a personal level. That personal connection is important when you’re trying to get your portfolio to stand out from the crowd. Use a clear picture that is cropped to spotlight your head and shoulders. Make sure it’s appropriate for a job search and not something you’d use for a dating site. You want to send the right message to parents.

Tell them about your experience. Parents want to know what kind of experience a candidate has. Make sure to include not only how many years you’ve worked with children, but also how long you’ve worked as a nanny and in other childcare settings. Also list how much experience you have with each age group and if you’ve worked in unique care giving situations, such as with multiples or with children who have special needs.

Spotlight your education and training. This is becoming more and more important in nanny care. If you’re a college graduate, list your degree even if it’s not directly related to childcare. If you have a nanny or childcare certification, make sure to highlight that in your profile. You should also list some of the recent continuing education classes you’ve taken. Parents are often looking for nannies who show they have a real commitment to ongoing learning.

Let them know why you love working as a nanny. This is a standard interview question and is the perfect way to introduce yourself to prospective employers. Share how you became a nanny and what you enjoy most about it. Parents are looking for nannies that truly have a genuine love for children, so make sure your passion for the job comes across in your profile.

Outline your discipline approach. This is an important piece of information parents need to know so they can decide if you’re going to be a good match to their parenting style. Give specific examples of your approach. If you’re interested in working with a specific age, gear your information to the discipline issues that often come up with that age group.

Give a description of yourself. Let readers know what your personality is like, what you do in your off time, and what your hobbies and interests are. Remember parents hire nannies they connect with, so make sure to give them a glimpse of you outside of your role as nanny.

List the responsibilities you’re willing to take on. Every family has different needs and every nanny job description is different. By including what you’re willing to do in a job, you help the family know if you’re a good match to their needs. If you offer a lot of flexibility in your schedule or if you’re happy to work with a stay at home or work from home parent, make sure to include those details too. The more willing you are to consider different situations, the more job possibilities you’ll have.

Include what you’re looking for in a family. Detail what ages you’d like to work with if you have a preference, the location you’re interested in, the type of family that you’d get along best with, and any other details that will help parents know if they’d be a good match for you.

Give enough information, but don’t overwhelm the reader. Offer enough information that potential employers will get a real sense of who you are, but don’t write a novel. Your online profile should be a snapshot of your personality, your qualifications, and what you’re looking for in a job. Once the family is interested, you can answer any additional questions they may have. Putting too many details in a profile makes it hard to spotlight the important pieces and can be too time consuming for parents to read through.

Make sure you check your spelling and grammar. It’s easy to get used to writing in shorthand on the internet. However, first impressions count and parents will judge you based on your online profile. Having spelling and grammar mistakes sends the wrong message and could make a parent dismiss you as a possibility based only on your writing.

By writing an effective profile, you greatly increase your chances of connecting with the type of families you’re interested in and getting a job you’re happy with.

10 Things to Do With Kids in Dallas, Texas

Everything is bigger in Texas, including things to see and do.  When you think of Texas you might think of cowboys and cattle, but Dallas is far more cultural and metropolitan.  When you come to Dallas there are lots attractions for families including many festivals throughout the year.  Check out these 10 things to do with the kids in Dallas.

  1. Museum of Nature and Science (Dallas, TX 75210). The Museum of Nature and Science encompasses several buildings with something for every age group.  The Children’s portion has an area where kids can experiment with water, a section where kids can do real farm chores and a backyard area where kids can explore.  Other buildings house scenes from the Ice Age, a paleontology lab, a planetarium and an IMAX theater.
  2. Cowboys Stadium (Arlington, TX 76011).  Newly completed, the Cowboys stadium is a marvel in technology.  Take a behind the scenes tour into the player locker rooms as well as the famous Dallas Cowboy Cheerleader’s locker room.  This tour lasts 75 minutes and they often sell out so it’s best to buy your tickets ahead, (817)892-4600.
  3. Dallas Zoo (Dallas, TX 75203).  The zoo features a monorail through the African territory which includes a stork area, crocodile isle, gorilla research center, and chimpanzee forest.  Zoo North has tortoises, elephants and tigers.  Inside the zoo is a toddler friendly area called LaCerte Family Zoo where the kids can ride a pony, meet other animals and help in the bird exhibit.
  4. Six Flags Amusement Park (Arlington, TX 76010).  Six Flags over Texas has wild and exciting rides with new rides being built and introduced almost every year.  Toddlers and younger children tend to love to meet the Looney Tunes characters and their favorite super heroes from The Justice League.  There are family friendly areas with go karts, carousels and the river ride.
  5. Pole Position Raceway (Frisco, TX 75033).  In this suburb of Dallas you can experience the thrill of go kart racing.  Some of the karts get up to 40 mph.  Kids 48 inches and over can drive their own kart and smaller kids can ride along with an adult.  Races are held every day and you can show up and drive with no reservation required.  This is an inspired option on a rainy day.
  6. Medieval Times (Dallas, TX 75207).   If you love jousting and sword play then this is the place for you.  The experience is enhanced by being served food in the way it would have been served back in king Arthur’s day.  The plates are metal as is the cup and you eat everything with your hands.
  7. The Sixth Floor Museum (Dallas, TX 75202).  The Sixth Floor Museum is in Dealey Plaza in Dallas’ West End historic district.  The Sixth Floor Museum is where Lee Harvey Oswald shot John F Kennedy from and now houses historical pictures and information about the event.  The West End has a lot of other shops and restaurants and can be accessed from the Dart rail.
  8. Frontiers of Flight Museum (Dallas, TX 75209). Walk through the history of aviation at the Frontiers of Flight Museum.  Starting back in the 20’s with how inventors came up with their flying machines to planes from the war and finishing with modern day marvels of jets and rockets. 
  9. Dallas Arboretum (Dallas, TX 75218).  The gardens at the Dallas Arboretum are 66 acres of beautiful plants, flowers, trees and displays.  The children’s area has staff on site to answer questions and to explain specific exhibits throughout the year.  There is a sunken garden as well as teepees and covered wagons for the kids to explore.
  10. White Rock Lake (Dallas, TX 75218).  Close to the Dallas Arboretum is the White Rock Lake where you can swim and fish.  There are many different species of birds at the lake and it has been designated as an official site by the Audubon Society.  There are over 9 miles of hiking and biking trails around the lake.  This is a large lake where you can water ski, canoe and kayak with your family.

Next time you are in Texas you can head into Dallas and have some fun with the family.  There are thousands of restaurants in the area and many things to see.  The Texas State fair is held every year in October and is one of the largest fairs in the country so if you’re in Dallas in October try to check it out.  Many other festivals go on all year round so it doesn’t matter what month you go you will be able to find lots to do.

4 Reasons to Let Your Toddler Help Around the House

By Marcia Hall

You child will naturally want to help you do things around the house.  At times, this insistence can be seen as a nuisance because it is generally easier and quicker to do the job by yourself than to have little, clumsy hands help.  However, there are a lot of reasons we should encourage children to pitch in.

It builds independence

Encouraging your child to do things on her own will promote a positive sense of self which will in turn help your child to gain her own independence.  This is a very good thing; even if at times you wish that she did not have so much independence.

Among the many jobs parents have, one is to help create a person who will be able to survive on her own.  This movement toward independence starts at a very young age.  As soon as a child is able to understand how to get her body to do what she wants it to she will begin to crawl and walk away from you, feed herself, and play on her own.  This is also a great time to begin teaching her to clean her own things up.  She will need lots of help and encouragement to learn this task, but constantly encouraging her will help it become commonplace for her to do small tasks.

It creates connection

Just like any new habit you help your child develop, while you are teaching her to help around the house you will get to spend time with her.  This naturally creates a connection between you and your child.  She wants nothing more than to be near you doing what you are doing.

Create that connection by using the phrase “Let’s clean up your toys!”  When it’s said with excitement in your voice your child will naturally want to do it too.  But she will also be drawn to the task just because you are cleaning with her.

After a while that “good” feeling she gets when cleaning the toys with you will be transferred to the act itself.  She will then get a “good” feeling cleaning up the toys, even if you don’t always help her do it.  To insure this “good” feeling continues, be sure to continue to clean up with her from time to time.

It develops a great work ethic

You want your child to grow up and have a job that he loves and does to the best of his ability.  That is what it means to have a good work ethic.  School is one of the first places we see the level of work ethic our child has.  Does he do the bare minimum of what is expected in his class, or does he work hard to learn and improve his skills.  There is no better way to teach your child to work hard and always try than having him help around the house.

In order to help your child build this strong work ethic you need to ask him to participate in household chores from a very early age, explaining to him that everyone in the family works together to keep the house beautiful and safe.  By giving your child, even when he’s a toddler, certain responsibilities, helping him learn to do those jobs on his own, and then encouraging him when he’s done a job well, you will help him develop a great sense of satisfaction in the job he did, even when it is very hard to do.

It develops positive self-esteem

Nothing builds a better work ethic than helping your child feel the satisfaction of doing a job to the best of her ability.  To do this you will want to avoid harshly correcting your child for chores that are done improperly, especially at first.  Remember that she is still learning, and that almost no one does everything right the first time.  If you criticize the job even a little bit when it is not perfect you will find that it is very difficult to get him to do that task again.

Praise the fact that your child is trying hard.  Give him a chance to see and correct the error himself.  “You worked so hard to wipe off that table!  Mommy sometimes misses spots too.  Do you see any spots that did not get wiped?”

If you feel the need to go back and finish or fix the chore, it is important to do so later and not in front of your child.  There is nothing more discouraging than having a person fix the mistake you have made.

Taking the time to encourage your children to help out around the house does more than just keep the home tidy, it instills lifelong lessons that will help him to develop into a responsible and caring adult.