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Community Treasures


This  43,890-acre wildlife area in southern Illinois includes three man-made lakes totaling 8,700 surface acres and is one of the largest refuges in the Great Lakes/Big Rivers Region. What is it called?  Click here to find out!

Kids Eat Free... or close to it

Top Five Tips to Choose Education Apps This Holiday Season

If your child has drafted their holiday wish list, it’s likely that some type of tech item is at or near the top. And there’s a good chance that you’ll purchase it—or  another tech gift.
A recent survey of parents with kids between the ages of 2 and 10, found that more than half (54%) of parents plan to purchase or give a tech device to their children this holiday season. At the top of the list for all parents planning a tech purchase this holiday season are tablets. With all those tablet purchases, nearly 7 in 10 parents say they currently purchase or plan to purchase apps for their children.
To help parents navigate successful selection and use of apps for their kids, PBS KIDS is offering the following five tips:
Think about what your child is passionate about.
Look for content that builds on your child’s excitement. Media should engage kids and spark their curiosity about the world around them.
Distinguish what is truly educational. Consider whether the content of the app is curriculum- and research-based. Mobile platforms can amplify learning gains for children.
Develop a media plan for your family. A balanced media diet includes setting limits. This is also something for parents to keep in mind, too, as kids often model their parents’ behavior.
Play together. For kids two and up, apps are another opportunity to explore with your child. Talking with kids about the game or activity as you play offers both the opportunity to bond as a family and also identify teachable moments.
Avoid apps that try to sell: Select apps from trusted, reliable sources, and make sure that they are not trying to market to your child.

Children &Media: Tech Trends You Can Use

Keeping up with the latest technology trends can be a challenge for parents. As soon as you get used to the camera on your new phone, your daughter insists on an even newer one because it can run the latest Facebook app!

And it’s not just the gadgets that are multiplying; what you can do with e-readers, smart phones, netbooks and other digital devices is ever-changing, too: communicating with sound and video; keeping up with friends and relatives regardless of location; playing games with hundreds if not thousands of other players; following the thoughts and opinions of people you’ve never met. The list is endless! At times, it can also feel confusing, especially when trying to raise well-balanced, healthy kids.

Worry not.

Although part of technology use is technical — knowing what button to push or what settings are needed — much more of it is developmental. Media habits and technology interests follow developmental needs. For example, in their quest for identity, teens are looking for ways to define who they are. Online spaces can be very useful in helping them do just that. Some websites are outlets for individual self-expression while others are meeting grounds of like-minded peers.

Adolescents, on the other hand, may be wrestling with ethics and or sorting out what it means to be part of a group vs. remaining loyal to a best friend. How they text and their online encounters will likely mirror these discoveries of right and wrong and social loyalties. And very young kids, because they’re just learning about basic behavior, can seem to have an limitless appetite for repetition. Watching an online video over and over again is their way of studying scripts and getting down how characters — and therefore people — are supposed to act.

Raising children is never going to be easy. But using technology to support your child’s development is a much better than being overwhelmed or intimidated by it.

FromL pbskids.org


When to Introduce Your Child to a Smartphone or Tablet

By Laura Lewis Brown , courtesy of pbskids.org
ts-girlwithtabletpcFrom the time they can grasp an object in their hands, children reach for electronic gadgets of all kinds, particularly our cell phones and computers. When you start noticing more child-size fingerprints on your iPad than your own, it may be time to consider introducing your child to a handheld wireless device. 
A smartphone is a high-tech cell phone that runs its own operating system, allowing the user to talk, email, surf and take high-resolution photos and videos. A tablet computer does everything your laptop does but in a small, portable flat form with a touch screen. Here are some helpful tips on when and how to introduce your child to one or both of these technologies. 

Read more: When to Introduce Your Child to a Smartphone or Tablet

Royal Family Kids Camp

royal familyI have had the privilege the past two summers to be a volunteer counselor at a camp for foster children.  Royal Family Kids Camp (RFKC) is a weeklong camp designed to create positive memories for abused and neglected children.  During the week of camp, each counselor is assigned a camper and a cabin.  When campers arrive, they decorate their cabins and make it like their homes for a week.  Every day the campers go swimming and boating at the local lake, play games at the campsite, and do crafts.  Each night there are different activities; for example, Monday might be fishing for the boys and make-overs for the girls, and Tuesday might be a birthday party for everyone.  Campers also perform in a talent show, play games at a carnival, and make s’mores at a bonfire.  

Throughout the week, each camper experiences new activities. Most importantly, the staff offers love and compassion and demonstrates positive relationships that campers carry with them throughout their lives.  It was such a great experience and the relationships we made with our campers will last a lifetime.  Based on my positive experience at Royal Family Kids Camp, I encourage everyone to get involved!  There are several ways to volunteer to help with the camp, such as:  being a staff member or guide relief for the staff, cooking, cleaning up, or just donating to the camp will do so much!  If you would like to help with camp, please go to the locator and mentor page to find a camp near you.  If you would like to hear campers’ stories, you can go to the RFKC newsletter  page and learn more about RFKC


rechelle smaller rachelleThe author of this article is Rechelle Patton, a junior from Salem studying social work at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale.



Preschoolers and Video Games

siblings playing video gamesAs screens become ever-present in our lives, especially ones that are small and portable, young children are spending more time playing digital games. Though it's not always possible to be engaged with your child when he's absorbed with a screen full of images and sounds, the greatest learning will take place when he’s interacting with you as well as the game.

Asking questions, giving him a chance to show you what he's mastered and letting him describe a game as he sees it are all ways to help him get the most out of his playtime. (Don't be surprised, by the way, if he sees a game quite differently than you do!)

5 Ways to Make the Most of Digital Games

  1. Ask your child questions about the digital games he likes.
    Your questions will get your child thinking about what comes next: What are you trying to do? What happens if you push that button? If you feel unsure of a game, join in and get to know what's involved.
  2. Ask your child what he discovered about a new game or level.
    Find out what your child understands about his screen play. Because what he has accomplished is not the same as what he has discovered, you may need to ask guiding questions: What did you do that was new? Have you ever done that before? What would you have to do to make the same thing happen?
  3. Limit how much time your child plays digital games, even those that have physical movement built into them.
    Physical games outdoors, interacting with friends and family, making arts and crafts, and exploring other kinds of play are all key to his development.
  4. Familiarize yourself with game ratings and take advantage of rating summaries. 
    The Entertainment Software Rating Board assigns the age and content ratings displayed on all computer and video games. For parents that want more specific information, they also offer rating summaries.
  5. Go beyond the ratings.
    Game review websites like Common Sense Media offer parent-focused reviews for popular video games, along with screenshots and other helpful information. After reading a few reviews, rent or borrow a game and try it out before you decide to buy it.

Read more: Preschoolers and Video Games

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