How to Transform Your Backyard Into a Kid’s Play Zone

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Is your backyard truly kid-friendly? I don’t mean in terms of safety, but in terms of fostering play and imagination. Maybe you have just moved into a new home, or your young child has finally reached that age where they’re ready to start exploring the outdoors independently. Whatever the case, it doesn’t require much time or money to transform your backyard into the perfect kids’ play area. If fact, with a few adjustments, you can make your backyard the envy of all the kids in the neighborhood. Here are just a few things you might need:

Some Ideas That Every Child Will Love

Swings. If you feel inclined to go out and invest in a full-sized swing set with all of the best swings, slides and monkey bars, that’s great. However, if you don’t currently have the budget, space or interest in such a build, you may want to invest in a simple tire swing. It costs very little, it takes up virtually no space at all, and it connects effortlessly to any sturdy tree. Many toy manufacturers — like Super Spinner — are designing kid-safe tire swings in bright colors, so you need not worry about any ugly old tires compromising your children’s safety.

A Chalkboard. Backyard chalkboards are becoming increasingly popular, as they’re easy to build and enable your children to foster their creativity while outdoors. You can build the chalkboard over your existing fence using salvaged wood, and then paint over it with chalkboard paint. It really is that simple.

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A Child’s Garden. This is another simple and inexpensive addition to any yard, and one that is as educational and edifying as it is fun. You can purchase kids’ gardening kits at any toy store, or simply set up your own creative garden using planters, your favorite seeds, and a few colorful crafts (to add decorative touches). Your little one will experience tremendous excitement as he or she watches the garden grow.

What Does Your Child Love?

Beyond the basic essentials, it’s important to stop and consider the specific kinds of activities that are important to your child. After all, if you want to get them away from their video games and out into nature, you must tailor your outdoor playspace to their needs. Does your child love sports? Consider adding a simple basketball court or tetherball court, both of which require very little installation. Does your child love to splash 

around in the water? You may want to invest in a fun kiddie pool, or any one of countless water games that kids love (who remembers the Slip n’ Slide?).

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A Few Helpful Tips

  • When building the ultimate kid’s play zone, make it a family affair. If the kids are old enough, get them involved not only in the planning, but also in the the assembly. It’s a great way to build memories and teach your child to truly appreciate the great outdoor toys at their disposal.
  • Portable play items allow you to easily transform your yard from a kids’ play place to grownup wonderland in a matter of minutes, so if you also like to use your backyard to entertain your own friends, focus on items that can easily be moved as needed, like kiddie pools, tire swings, and portable sports equipment. Items like sandboxes and swing sets aren’t so easy to transport.
  • Safety first. Whenever purchasing a new outdoor item for a child, make sure to check the age recommendations, and follow all safety instructions. For younger kids, close supervision is always critical.

Stay Safe and Have Fun

While you’re making your backyard into the ultimate playground for your kids, it’s important to ensure their safety above all else. With some careful planning and common sense, it’s easy to make sure your little ones have a safe space in which they can create and play.

  • If your home is surrounded by lots of vegetation, or is located in a wooded area, it’s likely that a few of those plants around your backyard may be toxic to small children or pets. According to Healthy Children, an online organization promoting pediatric health, the leading cause of poisoning among pre-school age children is from common backyard plants. Do some research on which plants are safe to have in your backyard, and which should be removed. For instance, naturally growing plants like poison ivy can be found in a variety of places throughout the country. If you’re unsure about which plants in your backyard are poisonous, consult a landscaping professional.
  • All child safety should begin and end with proper supervision. Talk to your children about what to do in emergency situations, or what to do if a stranger approaches them. If you plan on being away or have to run errands, always make sure your kids are supervised by a babysitter or neighbor.
  • Always ensure a soft landing. If you have installed a play structure or swingset, you should make sure that the surrounding area has some kind of soft, or shock-absorbing padding. This can be as easy as laying down wooden or rubber mulch to prevent any serious injuries kids can get from falling down.

Remember, there are no hard or fast rules for building the perfect kids’ play zone. You know your children better than anyone else, so get creative, and make it something truly special!

 

7 Easy Ways to Beat Summer Cooling Costs

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Each summer, Americans spend about $22 billion on air conditioning. With the average electric bill during the summer totaling almost $400 in 2013, and with energy costs consistently rising year after year, American families often look for ways to save on summer cooling costs.

When the weather is milder, it can be hard to think ahead to when the heat will rise and air conditioners will work overtime, sucking down your annual energy budget faster than you can say “fry an egg on the sidewalk.” Fortunately, the average family can make plenty of changes that will drive down those electric bills while allowing them to remain in relative comfort.

  1. Adjust Your Thermostat

You’ve likely heard this advice before, but did you know that changing your thermostat by just one degree can save you as much as four percent on your cooling costs and using a programmable thermostat can save you as much as 10 percent? The best way to utilize this tip is to start at a temperature of about 74 degrees.

If this is uncomfortable for your family, you can always turn it down a degree or up a degree and see how the change feels to everyone in the family. While it is important to save money, you don’t want to be miserable in the summer heat.

  1. “Summerize” Your Home

Well before the hottest days hit, you should replace caulking around windows, add insulation, and test and seal your air ducts. In addition, if you know that there are areas of your home that let out heat and air, add some additional weather stripping or window coverings. Even adding drapes that cover a sunny patio door can help keep in cool air and reduce the sunshine that heats up a room.

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  1. Change Your Cooking Habits

A number of cooking tricks can keep your home cooler. First, limit the times you use the oven. Ovens heat up your home and take a long time to cool down. Instead, opt for dishes that require little to no cooking and that you can prepare on the cooktop or grill outside. You can also use your crockpot in the summer as it will heat up a room far less than an oven will.

Another idea is to cook larger batches when you do have to heat up the oven. Making lasagna for dinner? Why not cook a second one and eat lasagna several days in a row? It is far easier and more cost-effective to simply microwave leftovers. Plus, it will save you time and stretch your grocery budget further.

  1. Swap Out Your Light Bulbs

Swap out your regular incandescent light bulbs for energy efficient ones. Choosing lighting that is Energy-Star rated means you will have light bulbs that put off 75 percent less heat. Light-emitting diode (LED) lights are known to be much more energy efficient than incandescent bulbs. On top of using 75 percent less energy than regular bulbs, they also last up to 25 times longer.

All of this not only puts off less heat and thus reduces your cooling costs, but earns you additional savings both in energy usage and in replacement costs.

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  1. Make Your House Feel Cooler

You can make your house feel cooler by reducing the humidity in it. There are many ways to reduce humidity. Take short showers, cover pots with lids when cooking and even purchase a de-humidifier. Running a de-humidifier and exhaust fans is more cost-effective than running your air conditioner.

  1. Change Your Air Filter Regularly

Changing the air filter on your heating and cooling unit should be one of your regular maintenance tasks. Swapping out a dirty air filter for a clean one keeps your unit running at maximum efficiency and thus reduces the strain on your system and helps save money.

If you don’t change your air filter regularly, your unit may even freeze over, requiring a service call from your heating and cooling professional.

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  1. Trees and Awnings

Adding some strategic shade to your home can also reduce cooling costs. While a tree might not offer immediate savings, over time the tree will grow and shade your home. If you have a particularly sunny room that heats up and is uncomfortable, try adding some awnings or even room-darkening shades or thermal curtain liners. Small changes can make a big difference in the overall comfort and energy efficiency of your home.

This summer, spend more money on making fun memories your family will keep forever, instead of spending that money on energy. Even small changes like the ones outlined here will make a difference in the amount of money you spend on air conditioning this summer.

9 Important Characteristics Of The Best Stimulating, Fun Toys + Triple Toy Giveaway

Note: This post contains a giveaway including three remarkable toys from The Learning Journey. Read below to learn how to win one of these great toys for your child and don’t forget to return daily for additional entries.

When you are shopping for toys for your child, it is important to find the most engaging toys possible, which will enhance your child’s learning, in many ways without them even realizing it. You want to get the most bang for your buck, and that means finding toys from brands who consider these needs in every product that they make. The Learning Journey does just that, with high quality toys that include qualities that kids love and parents seek to help their children learn and grow.

I’d like to share with you some of the characteristics that I feel make the best quality, stimulating, educational and fun toys, as well as some toys that I feel fit these descriptions.

1. Enhances Motor Skills


Toys that enhance a child’s motor skills are extremely important, especially at a young age when these skills are developing. Puzzles like The Learning Journey’s Dirt Digger floor puzzle are great for accomplishing this goal. With their large, sturdy pieces and beautiful illustrations, these toys will help kids with their motor skills as they fit the matching pieces together to create the final image. This also introduces them into the world of jigsaw puzzles, which may become a fun hobby for years to come.

When kids finish the puzzle, they can either take it apart and put it back together again or you can use puzzle glue to put it together and frame it for them to proudly display on their wall. These puzzles make great decorations for kids to display their completed work.

Any toy that helps with motor skills is a big plus for parents, and The Learning Journey has many more to choose from.

2. Promotes STEM Learning


Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics have become a popular focus of parents and teachers lately, but there are still a lot of toys which don’t fit into this category. These toys generally help your kids learn, even if they don’t realize they’re learning, and make them think outside the box. The benefits of such toys will last for years to come, long after the child has stopped playing with the toy.

STEM toys stimulate a deeper mode of thinking in children, and encourage them to creatively problem solve. Construction toys are great for this reason, as they help children build an understanding of how things work as they build their toy and use it. They also meet the above quality of improving motor skills, as children manipulate the parts. While toys like the Techno Gears Aero Trax Plane are not meant for smaller children, given that they are composed of many small parts, once your child is old enough to manipulate these small parts and keep them away from their mouth, they can have a great time putting together their new toy and having the satisfaction of playing with something they themselves constructed.

The Learning Journey has a lot of other toys that support STEM learning as well, from learning mathematics with number and shape learning toys to manipulating construction sets and even building marble runs and observing how the different configurations affect the way the marble rolls. They are definitely a great brand for STEM learning toys.

3. Is Age Appropriate

As parents, it is important that our kids are playing with toys that are suitable to their age range, as well as their maturity and developmental level. Most 5-year-olds won’t be playing with things you have to program, and most 10-year-olds won’t play with infant activity tables. It is important for great toy companies to make toys that suit all age ranges, and for people shopping for kids to make sure they are getting the right range.

When I was a kid, my grandmother regularly bought me toys that were meant for children well below my own age range, and I almost never played with them even brand new, because they were not appropriate. What I like about The Learning Journey is that they not only make toys for various age ranges, but you can sort the toys on their site by age range for ease of finding something appropriate and age ranges are clearly stated. No more buying a shape sorter for a 12-year-old. Okay, that might be a bit of an exaggeration, but the point remains.

4. Encourages Creativity

Toys that encourage creativity are always a lot of fun and stimulate a child’s mind. The Learning Journey has a lot of great toys, like their marble run sets, which do not necessarily have to be set up a specific way. Although the instruction manual may show you how to set it up the way they envision, the sets are flexible enough for kids to get creative in their designs, and even mix and match. Who knows what kind of wacky tracks your kids might come up with when they have that kind of flexibility?

5. Teaches Following Instructions

Following instructions is a skill that all children need to master, no matter what age they are. Whether it is a marble run or construction set in which they follow instructions to complete a design or a game in which they must follow instructions in order to learn how to play, this is a vital skill that all children must learn. Instructions should be clear and easy to follow. If a parent has difficulty understanding them, how can they expect a child to do so? Look for toys with clear and concise instructions that guide your child to completing their task, whatever that may be.

6. Is Interactive


Interactive toys are great for learning, especially when kids want to play independently or parents are busy with household chores and can’t necessarily be right there. While I try to make sure my son doesn’t have too many electronic toys, I do like Telly the Teaching Time Clock, a talking clock toy which teaches both digital and analog time. You can move the hands to different times and learn what they are, and play a game where Telly tells you to point the hands to a time, also displayed in digital form below the clock. The only drawback is that you cannot move the minute and hour hands independently, and must move the minute hand all the way around to advance an hour, but I still like how this toy includes an interactive game to teach kids how to tell time.

Interactive toys like Telly are great to keep kids entertained as well as to teach them if they are right or wrong and what they need to do differently. They are a great supplement to their everyday learning, and may even give them a bit of an edge over their peers academically.

7. Keeps Your Child’s Attention

Many children, especially younger ones, have incredibly short attention spans. Parents get excited when they find a toy that holds their child’s attention for more than five minutes. It is always great when you can find a brand that makes toys that appeal to a wide variety of interests, and that can hold your child’s attention to such a degree that they don’t even want to put it down.

If you think about it, kids are no different from adults in that way. If something doesn’t hold our attention, we get bored and stop it. Maybe we’re watching a television show that we just can’t get into. Change the channel. Kids do the same thing with their toys, but when you can find a toy that really grabs their attention, they can get hours of entertainment out of it. If it’s educational on top of that, it’s icing on the cake. Your child is enthralled in a stimulating toy and learning great new things that will be with them for years to come all at the same time. Only the best stimulating toys can accomplish this goal.

8. Includes Interdisciplinary Learning


So we’ve already established that educational toys rock, right? Well, what if that educational toy can teach multiple things at once? SCORE!

What if I told you I knew of a toy that taught colors and shapes, improved language acquisition, and even taught additional languages? What if that toy also helped with motor skills, as the pieces fit together like a puzzle? Enter Trilingual Match It! Colors and Shapes. This awesome game consists of cards split into two sides which fit into each other like jigsaw puzzle pieces. On one side is a shape or color and on the other is the name of that shape or color in English, Spanish, and French.

Whether your child is a native English speaker hoping to learn new languages at an age when they are even more receptive to language acquisition or an English language learner who could benefit from seeing the words in their native language as well, this set is great. They also have another Trilingual Match It! set for first words which is also great for language acquisition.

Toys which include multidisciplinary learning are always a big bonus, and well worth every penny to see how beneficial they are to your children.

9. Prepares Children for the Real World


Toys that prepare children for the real world are important as well. It is important for kids to learn how the world works before they grow up and enter it on their own. Learning how to count and manage money, for example, is a valuable skill, and The Learning Journey also makes a great play money set, which includes realistic looking bills and plastic coins that resemble real money. Unlike Monopoly play money, these bills and coins actually prepare kids to handle real money. This is also a great way to set up a reward system for your kids, to have them be responsible for keeping track of artificial money that they can eventually trade for real money to spend when they hit a certain threshhold, but if they lose it, it’s their responsibility, easy enough and inexpensive enough to replace, but with so many of each bill, not necessary to replace right away unless they lose a lot of it.

The above characteristics all contribute to making some of the best stimulating, fun toys for kids to enjoy and parents to appreciate for their educational value, and The Learning Journey makes some of the best toys I have ever seen that meet these criteria.

Learning Journey Triple Giveaway Telly the Teaching Time Clock on top, Trilingual Match It! Colors and Shapes in the middle, and Techno Gears Aero Trax Plane on bottom
I was sent three of the afore mentioned toys to review, as well as to give away to a few lucky readers, Telly the Teaching Time Clock, Trilingual Match It! Colors and Shapes, and the Techno Gears Aero Trax Plane. Enter using the form below to win one of these awesome toys for your child.

What do you think are the most important qualities of great toys? What is your favorite toy from The Learning Journey and why? Please share your thoughts with all of us and good luck on the giveaway.

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29 Powerful Tips On Internet Safety For Kids

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When I was a kid, computers were only just starting to be used in schools, and almost no one had them in their homes yet. However, now that we are firmly entrenched in the digital age, computers and the internet are a central and integral part of our daily lives. Whether it’s for studying, socializing, streaming music and videos, playing games, or any of a number of other uses, the internet is now commonly used in many homes in the United States and around the world.

However, with the coming of the digital age, certain risks are also present which were not seen before. A lot of these risks may have been seen in a different way, physically instead of virtually, but the internet has also introduced new dangers that we need to be aware of.

That’s why I have put together this essential list of tips on internet safety for kids, which all parents should know and use to keep their children safe online. It is vital to ensure that our kids know how to use it responsibly, and internet safety for kids is an important subject which must be addressed.

Some of these tips may not fit into your personal parenting style, and that is understandable, but the more of them that you utilize, the safer your kids will be online. I hope that you find this list beneficial.

Internet Safety For Kids Tip #1: Never give out personal information.

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Most of us have seen them before, webform after webform asking for name, email, physical address, phone number, and who knows what else. Sometimes these are necessary to create new accounts on websites, but if your child wishes to create an account, they should consult with you first. Otherwise, their personally identifying information needs to remain private.

Internet Safety For Kids Tip 2: Do not allow your kids to use personal information in usernames, passwords, or screen names.

Just like you shouldn’t give personal information to websites, you also should not use them in usernames, passwords, or screen names. This makes it easier for people who know these things to hack your accounts, or for people to piece together information about you, even if you don’t outwardly share it with them. For example, if you create a username of katherynhoward1987, other users that can see your username will figure out that your name is Katheryn Howard and you were born in 1987.

While the above example may not necessarily be true, it’s too much of a starting point for potential stalkers. In order to maximize internet safety for kids, it is advisable to use something less identifying. If your child loves koalas and they have three cats, you might make their username something like koalaholic3, which is much less identifying but easy enough for them to remember.

Internet Safety for Kids Tip #3: Do not allow your kids to join sites with age restrictions above their age.

Many websites, including social media sites, dating sites, paid survey sites, and a number of others, specify a minimum age to join their site. Often they will specify this on their sign up form, or disallow the signup if the date of birth doesn’t place the person at the minimum age, but sometimes it’s a matter of reading the site’s terms and conditions or frequently asked questions to find the age restrictions. Regardless, these restrictions are put in place both to protect the website in question as well as any individual who may use it.

Do not allow your child to create accounts on these sites despite the age restrictions, or to lie about their age to get around them. Many of these age restrictions indicate when a child should be on average old enough and mature enough to use it safely and responsibly and are meant to support internet safety for kids. Even if your child is more responsible than others, they should not be permitted to create accounts that violate the website’s terms.

Internet Safety for Kids Tip #4: Friend your child on all social media channels.

This one is considered highly controversial, and some consider it an invasion of privacy, but others consider it important, even if it is an invasion of privacy, as a means of monitoring a child’s online activities. Some kids would willingly have their parents and other family on their social media accounts, while others would be extremely reserved about this idea, but if they have nothing to hide, then it shouldn’t be a problem.

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Does this mean I think parents should spend all of their time spying on their child’s activity? Certainly not. However, in the interest of internet safety for your

kids, it might be advisable to poke around from time to time and check things out. The degree to which you do this may well depend on your child’s age and maturity

level as well.

Internet Safety for Kids Tip #5: Be sure to have your child’s passwords on all accounts.

Even more than having access to a child’s accounts through being their friend, possessing your child’s password can allow you to gain access and ensure that they are

not abusing their priviledge of internet use. This is another controversial topic, but I believe that as long as you aren’t overbearing about it, it shouldn’t be an

issue.

Retaining your child’s password for online accounts is definitely a good idea, but the degree to which you use it will depend on your child’s age, maturity, and past

history. Maybe you have a 13-year-old who has been online for five years and you trust them to practice safe habits. I would still retain the password, but not use it

unless there was a reason for suspicion. On the other hand, if your 16-year-old is spending a lot of time on pornography sites and sending inappropriate private

messages through social media, this would be cause to strictly scrutinize every account they have.

Internet Safety for Kids Tip #6: Do not allow your child to share their password with anyone.

Apart from parents possessing the passwords of their kids, and being a backup for password recets when necessary, children should absolutely never ever give their

password on anything out to anyone else, no matter how much they think they can be trusted. There are people who can’t be trusted, people who would abuse the

priviledge or just use it to make your life miserable. While this isn’t the majority of people, there are people out there who sit online just waiting for an

unsuspecting innocent to pop up and give them the opportunity to hijack anything they can get their hands on.

Internet Safety for Kids Tip #7: Teach your child about cyberbullying and online predators.

Two of the biggest internet safety concerns for kids, and in fact for anyone, are cyberbullies and online predators. Cyberbullies use mean, threatening, and hateful

words and actions to belittle and instill fear in others, and a number of suicides have resulted from cyberbullying. It is important to teach kids about cyberbullies so that they can be avoided and reported when encountered, to protect the safety of your own kids on the internet as well as prevent tragedies for others.

Online predators, be they cyber stalkers, sexual predators, or extortionists, hide out on the internet just waiting for an opportune moment to strike. They are a bit of everywhere and it is important to be aware of this to avoid not being taken in by them. My grandmother met one on a dating site who was using a false name and address to extort money out of her, but fortunately did not succeed. The person he impersonated was real and did live at the provided address, but was not the same person who was on the website. Teaching kids the tactics that sexual predators, extortionists, and stalkers use to lull you into a false sense of security and then strike will protect them from becoming victims.

Internet Safety for Kids Tip #8: Don’t respond to uncomfortable messages and report them right away.

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When we use the internet, we can often receive harassing, flaming, or otherwise uncomfortable messages via email and private message. Be sure that your kids know not to respond to such messages and to report them to a parent or teacher right away. Responding will most likely only encourage the person to continue, potentially jeopardizing the safety of your child. Blocking and reporting these users to the websites they are using, if possible, is also a good way to minimize exposure to them. If I accept someone on Facebook, for example, and they start sending me inappropriate messages, they are promptly blocked.

Internet Safety for Kids Tip #9: Do not send harassing or abusive messages.

Just as you should not respond to harassing or abusive messages, and should block and report them immediately, one should never be the sender of such messages. If it was my own child doing that, I would promptly revoke all of their internet priviledges, and strictly supervise them if using it for academic assignments. Don’t let your kid be the one to contribute to the scary people online, and sacrifice the internet safety of other kids.

Internet Safety for Kids Tip #10: Use parental controls to make sure your child cannot visit inappropriate websites.

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There are a number of parental control apps and services out there, so it is important to browse them and determine which ones are the most appropriate for your needs, but blocking pornography sites, gambling sites, dating sites, and anything else that is not kid friendly is a good start. Be sure to find one with the flexibility of adding your own domains, so that if you don’t want them visiting social media sites, for example, you can blacklist those as well. Make sure that you need a password to access the list of off-limits websites, and be sure that the password is strong and secure.

Internet Safety For Kids Tip #11: Check your computer’s history files to track what websites your child visits.

We can’t watch our kids every minute, so chances are that there will be times when they visit sites that you are unaware of. By checking history files, you can ensure that they are only browsing to acceptable sites and if you find sites you don’t want them revisiting, you can then blacklist them in the parental controls. Check here to learn in detail how to check browsing history.

Internet Safety for Kids Tip #12: Closely supervise your child while on the internet.

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The strictness of your supervision will vary by age, but it is important to carefully supervise your children when using the internet. When they are younger, less mature, and new to the online world, you will want to watch them very closely. Likewise, if they have a history of irresponsibility on the internet at any age, you will also want to keep a sharp eye on their activities.

For some children, simply checking what they’ve been doing online after the fact is enough, but for others, watching them while they use it and stopping them from doing inappropriate activities as it is happening is the better option. Use your best judgment to determine the level of supervision that is necessary for the safety of your kids and others on the internet.

Internet Safety for Kids Tip #13: Set strict time limits and encourage offline activities.

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The world today has become far too reliant on technology for entertainment, among other things. We’ve become lazy and complacent, preferring to sit around on the computer instead of getting out and playing ball or climbing a tree. While it is important for kids to learn to use the internet for a variety of purposes, they shouldn’t be spending every waking minute on it. Building and maintaining online friendships is great, but don’t let them sacrifice their in person friends, or their health for that matter, by allowing them to spend lots of time online.

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Encourage your kids to go to the park, walk around the mall, have a day at an amusement park, climb a tree, play ball, or go for a swim. There are plenty of things you can do that don’t require the use of a computer, and these activities should be an integral part of everyone’s lives as well.

Internet Safety for Kids Tip #14: Do not allow your child to post photos and videos of themselves online.

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Posting photos and videos of oneself online can be dangerous, especially with the stalkers and predators out there. It can be even more dangerous when one of these people lives near you, and especially if you also share personal information, to make it easier for them to find you. Of course the risk is greater the more of these activities you do, but eliminating all of them will lessen the risk considerably.

I post photos of myself online on occasion so that my readers and friends can have a more personal connection with me as a person, but children should never be allowed to do this, and I never post photos or videos of my son, or his name, because it is uncommon. I don’t enter contests that ask for pictures of my kid either. You may be slightly more lenient on this rule if the accounts they are posted on are completely private, but even then I would be extremely reserved about allowing this.

Internet Safety for Kids Tip #15: Search the internet for your child’s information.

This may be something you can do for yourself as well. A lot of online people search sites collect information from a number of different sources and compile it into listings for each individual. They are technically not supposed to create listings for people under 18, but it is a good practice to check just in case, and to check for yourself as well. These sites are required to have an option to remove the data, and must take it down upon request, so if you do find something by searching for your child’s name and location, take it down right away. If you can find it, chances are a cyber stalker can as well, and they may have a lot more experience at digging up the info than you do.

Internet Safety for Kids Tip #16: Do not give your child administrative priviledges on your computer.

Administrative priviledges on a computer allow a user to make critical changes to the system that other users would not be able to gain access to. Kids are smarter than we often think, and may be able to figure out how to manipulate the system in ways that you wouldn’t want them to modify, or to modify something that could cause serious damage to your system. Be sure that your child’s account on the computer is not set to administrator status to prevent such changes.

Internet Safety for Kids Tip #17: Secure anything you don’t want kids to access.

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Parents undoubtedly have things they don’t want their kids to access, so whenever possible, be sure to secure these things. Use complex, alphanumeric mixed case passwords, with symbols whenever possible, fingerprint scanners, or voice prints to secure everything kids should not have access to. Be sure not to store your passwords anywhere that your child may find them.

Internet Safety for Kids Tip #18: Strictly monitor software downloads and installation.

Do not allow your children to download or install anything without your permission. Such software may contain malware, be of a mature nature, or otherwise be unsuitable for use by a child. If your child wishes to download and install anything, they should consult with you first for permission. Carefully decide whether to allow the install or not, and if uncertain, either don’t allow it or minimally research the software in detail before allowing the installation.

Internet Safety for Kids Tip #19: Be careful who receives your child’s email address.

It is advisable to have access to your child’s email address, as with other accounts. Some would say this is an invasion of privacy, but others would say that a child has to earn the right to privacy online. While I believe it would be ideal for everyone, children and adults, to have privacy online, I believe that lack of privacy online is a small price to pay for internet safety for kids. They have not yet developed the knowledge, understanding, and discretion to act responsibly and appropriately, or to recognize when someone else is not doing so.

Be sure to advise them not to give out their email address to anyone without permission, and absolutely never to put it into web forms anywhere. Often times they will receive spam, companies can sell their address so they receive more spam from other companies, and in some circumstances scammers and creeps can harvest the email addresses to try and trick people into giving them more information, sometimes even money.

Make sure your kids know this and are careful about distributing their email address. If necessary, have them change their email address periodically if it gets

cluttered with unwanted messages. Only redistribute the new address to trusted friends and family and don’t give it to the same places that were spamming the old address.

Internet Safety for Kids Tip #20: Teach your kids about spam, viruses, email scams, and malware in attachments.

Spam is extremely common nowadays, unsolicited emails that are acquired through harvesting from a variety of sources. This could be bots that crawl forums looking for someone that dropped an address, the buying and selling of email lists, or a number of other means. One way or another, the messages are unwanted, and generally try to trick you into giving more information.

This leads to email scams, many of which are worse than simple unsolicited email. Scammers may pretend to be major recognizable companies like PayPal, Amazon, Microsoft, Sketchers, or a number of others, trying to get you to click a link and enter personal information for them to harvest. There are a lot of ways to recognize these scams, and if you suspect any email is not legitimate, you should report it to the real company if possible. Sites like PayPal and eBay have specific spoof email addresses you can forward spam to that is in their names.

Old lady
Then you also have the scams where someone is pretending to be a rich old lady that wants to transfer a bunch of money from a foreign bank account into yours and give you a large percentage of the money as a payoff. These are always fake and should be avoided. There are countless other forms of scams, and your kids need to learn the difference, especially before they can be allowed to use the internet independently.

Kids should also be aware not to open any email attachments without consulting a parent first. Viruses, spyware, and other forms of malware which can do serious damage to your system can be transmitted by way of attachments, and they should only be opened if you know and trust the source. The same applies to file downloads. Teach your kids about antivirus and antimalware software, and let them watch you use it to clean your system periodically, but have them always ask you if they want to open anything they receive via email.

Internet Safety for Kids Tip #21: Teach your children about website scams, in addition to email scams.

Email scams aren’t all you have to look out for. A lot of times you’ll see a website with an ad or a pop-up window or a number of things that say something like ‘Congratulations, You’ve Won!’ or something to that effect. Sometimes they’ll say you’re the one millionth visitor. These are scams as well. Most legitimate sites do not use tactics like this, and it’s another way to collect personal data. Even if they actually give you something, their terms and conditions might say in the fine print that there is some sort of catch. Kids should simply not respond to these at all, and everyone should always read the terms if they are uncertain.

There are also a lot of work-at-home scams which may be appealing to teenagers, but ask for money to join or get access or learn how to do it. These are not real and the only one who benefits is the person collecting your money. There are legitimate ways for teens to make a little extra money, but these are not among them.

Internet Safety for Kids Tip #22: Don’t trust everything you read.

Anyone can publish anything they want on the internet, and often times they do not cite any sources. You can’t believe everything you read. Whether it’s a wiki that can be edited by anyone giving you so-called facts on a subject or someone in a Facebook group telling you they are a lawyer, you can’t always believe what you read and you can’t always confirm it. Be sure to take everything with a grain of salt and make sure your kids do too.

Internet Safety for Kids Tip #23: Compile a list of safe academic websites.

Encyclopedias
School projects are one activity that the internet is relied upon heavily for, especially nowadays. It used to be that you had to visit the local public library and check out books on your topic, and then comb through them, but now you can search for what you want and have it right at your fingertips. That said, and especially because of the previous tip, it is important to compile a list of safe and trustworthy academic sources for your kids to use to complete assignments. This will ensure that they don’t visit anything questionable while doing academic research, and will increase the chances of them finding actual factual data.

Most of the time, sites that end in .gov or .edu are considered reputable academic sources, as you must be a school or government institution in order to get these addresses. Those that end in .org and are associated with well known organizations within the niche of the assignment can be considered good academic sources as well. Typically .com addresses, wikis, personal addresses such as those that end in .me or .info, and other addresses that are not maintained by a school, government entity, or well-known organization are considered to be unacceptable sources, and should not be used for academic research.

Internet Safety for Kids Tip #24: Never meet online friends privately.

This one is extremely important for all internet users, kids or otherwise. As I always tell my son, there are good people and bad people out there, and most of them are good, but you can’t tell by looking at someone if they’re good or bad. Even if you see a picture of the person, bad people in the real world aren’t always tall, dark, ugly, bearded men or haggard old women. In reality the sweet old lady with the candy or the single mom with four kids or even a police officer can be bad, so it’s important to be careful.

If you do allow your children to meet online friends in person, be sure to go with them and ensure that it is in a very public place for at least the first several meetings. Do not give the person your personal address under any circumstances until you have gotten to know them well, and do not meet in a place where there aren’t other people around.

There is no entirely foolproof way to protect yourself from kidnappers, stalkers, and other undesirable people, but by taking steps like this, you can significantly minimize your risk and the risk to your kids. Remember that internet safety for kids extends to the physical world and isn’t just limited to cyberspace.

Internet Safety for Kids Tip #25: Turn off smartphone app stores.

Smartphones
This one doesn’t necessarily protect your child from danger, but it does prevent them from running up an enormous bill from downloading paid apps. Consult the manual or do a Google search for instructions on how to disable the app store for your specific device. Having a strong and secure password is important, but disabling the app store altogether while your child is using your device, or disabling it on their devices, will help prevent unwanted purchases.

Internet Safety for Kids Tip #26: Don’t forget about in app purchases.

Even for free apps, in app purchases are a popular way for the developer to make money and players to earn bonus items either early in the game or that are not available in the game at all. This can be enticing to kids who don’t realize the value of money and just want the features. You can use a strong, secure, mixed-case alphanumeric password, but it is recommended to simply disable in app purchases altogether. If your child wishes to purchase something, make sure they know they must consult with you first and you will decide whether to allow them to have it or not and make the purchase yourself.

Internet Safety for Kids Tip #27: Do not allow your child to use electronic devices independently until they are both old enough and mature enough to do so.

Samsung Galaxy tablet
I can’t stress this enough. Too many parents give their kids an tablet or a smartphone to occupy them even when they are very very young, and do not properly supervise them. This can lead to all sorts of problems, from physical problems like damaging the device or injuring themselves to online problems like falling for tricks and scams or otherwise getting into trouble. Be sure to very closely supervise your children with electronic devices until they are both old enough and mature enough to use them independently.

There is no fixed age for these things, as you may have an unusually mature eleven year old and an incredibly immature sixteen year old, but on average for age I would say about thirteen, assuming that they are also responsible. If they demonstrate irresponsibility, whether with the devices or otherwise, remove the priviledges until they can once again prove responsibility.

Internet Safety for Kids Tip #28: Frequently discuss online safety with your child and be sure that they know the rules well.

You can never discuss internet safety for kids enough. Drill it into their heads until they can repeat the rules by heart, as well as describe them and explain why they are important. Make sure they closely follow them and remove priviledges if they cannot use the internet within the rules you lay down for their own safety.

Internet Safety for Kids Tip #29: Make sure your kids know they can come to you when they have a concern.

Last, but most certainly not least, always be sure your kids know they can come to you. If they have a question, concern, fear, or anything else, be sure they know they can bring it to you and you will do your best to help them without judging. Be there for them when they feel nervous or unsafe, a helping hand when they need assistance or advice, and just generally an all around support system. This rule is important for all aspects of parenting, and will help to keep your kids safe on the internet.

There are lots of things to keep in mind when it comes to internet safety for kids, and many of these internet safety tips apply to adults as well, but if you keep these guidelines in mind and make informed decisions on internet usage for both yourself and your child, the internet can be a wonderful place to spend a little time with a wealth of information and doors to get to know great people from all over the world. Make sure you and your kids practice safe habits, and enjoy the diverse world we now have access to in the digital age.

Are there any important tips on internet safety for kids that you think I might have missed? How do you keep your kids safe on the internet? Please share your ideas with all of us in the comments.

Images courtesy of Wikimedia and Pixabay.

Gardening Tips: How to Make the Garden More Children-Friendly

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gardening

gardening

It is a great idea to let your children play outside whenever possible. However, in order to do this safely you will want to think first of all about how to keep your garden safe. There are lots of hazardous things lurking in your backyard like bugs and toxic plants, dirt, and even tools left lying around the garden.

There is no reason to have a garden that is filled with danger and risks, as there are some easy safety tips you can follow. Doing this will give your kids a great place to enjoy where they can play and bond together in the fresh air without you worrying that something bad might happen. This way you’ll also get to enjoy some quiet, adult time while the kids are playing outside.

Fence It In

Possibly the biggest potential danger for any kid is that of an open garden that doesn’t have any fencing or gates around it. In this case, there is always going to be the risk that they just wander off, or that a stranger or dangerous dog enters your garden. You never know what could be passing by your garden when children are outside, playing.

By simply fencing in your property you can then let the kids play outside without any worries. If you don’t like the idea of using fencing all around the garden then you could try using plants or trees in some parts of it, to form a more natural barrier. This way, you’re not only creating a beautiful green space, but you’re also filtering the dust and noise coming from the street.

The most important thing is that you don’t need to keep a close eye on the kids every single second while they are there. If it is a completely secure area then they will have a wonderful place in which to play safely whenever they want to.

Use a Shed

If you work with power tools or have lots of gardening tools around then these can be extremely dangerous for the younger members of the family to come across. Of course, you don’t want to give up working around the house if it is a hobby that you enjoy carrying out.

The simplest solution to this problem is to just start using a good garden shed to store anything in when you aren’t using it. This means that once you finish each job you just need to store everything away until the next time you need it.

This will also give you the added benefit of keeping all of your tools safe and free from damage when you aren’t using them. Just put a good padlock on the door and you will have the perfect place to store your stuff away from the elements as well as away from curious children.

Take Out Possible Hazards

hazards

Each garden is unique, so there is the chance that you have some hazards in there that need to be considered on an individual basis. The best way to do this is to try and look at your property from a child’s point of view, which could mean getting down on your hands and knees to assess the possible dangers there.

For example, is there a swimming pool, a toxic plant, or a giant cactus that could be dangerous for a toddler who is wandering about there blissfully unaware of the risks? Just a few minutes of looking around the garden should be enough for you to identify the main risks that need to be taken out as soon as possible.

Don’t forget that things that are completely innocuous for an adult can be potentially extremely very dangerous for a little kid. Just because you don’t immediately see the risk doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist. Always think twice before placing that large flower pot on a higher place where it can be easily knocked down by children playing around it. Everything must be secured and all heavy objects must be placed on the ground.

Remove temptation

Children are tempted to climb trees, fences, jump over holes and do all sorts of things that seem out of the ordinary. By adding toys specially created for the garden (a house for playing, a sand pit, trampolines, and so on) you remove the temptation of doing things that are not safe. Kids will still get to jump and run around, but in a safe environment where they are protected from falling too hard.

Also, if kids still want to climb the trees, you could always consider a tree house. You can add steps that lead to the house so kids won’t fall off the branches.

By making your garden a more child-friendly place you can relax while the little ones have a great time playing out there. 

 

5 Excellent Tips For Choosing The Best Workout Routine

Do you have a hard time getting motivated to work out? You’re not alone. When you decide to work out, you don’t want it to be something that you dread. It is important that we listen to our bodies and participate in the workout that excites us, motivates us, and makes us feel great. If you have always hated running, then doing something that involves running probably isn’t the best choice. Try to take an activity that you enjoy (swimming, biking, etc.) and turn it into a workout! I have found that if I do a workout that is too much out of my comfort zone or I don’t feel good doing it, then I don’t enjoy it as much as I should. Working out should be your time to work on you, your body and your health.

Check out some tips below to help you find the best workout routine to match your lifestyle.

Best Workout Routine: woman fitness

Image courtesy of PourquoiPas at pixabay.com

  1. Define your goals

As Winston Churchill once said, “He (or she) who fails to plan is planning to fail.” First before beginning any type of fitness or workout routine, you need to define what goals you want to achieve. If you’re running a marathon, then you should define that goal from the beginning so you can follow a workout plan to succeed!

If you want to focus more on your well-being and health as a whole, then a yoga program might be the best choice for you. It’s all about what you want to achieve. That’s what I love about fitness – you can do whatever you set your mind to. Our bodies are so amazing and are capable of so much!

  1. Start small

If you haven’t worked out in a while or you feel like you may be out of shape, it is important for you not to overwhelm yourself with a hard workout right away. If you do too much on the first day of your workout routine , then you may be too sore to work out in the next few days and that may cause you to lose motivation altogether.

If you need to take breaks during your workout, don’t feel bad. Listen to your body! Just imagine how great you will feel when you don’t have to take those breaks later on in your workout routine. I always feel awesome and so motivated after a workout. If you ever lack the motivation to get started, just think of that awesome feeling you get after those endorphins are released. Sometimes getting started is the hardest part.

  1. Stick with your routine

The best workout routine is the plan that you actually follow through with. You may find that you need more variety in your routine and want to switch up your workouts every other day. However, you might find a workout that offers a total body workout that you can’t get enough of!

Best Workout Routine: fitness gym

Image courtesy of markusspiske at pixabay.com

  1. Pack a workout bag in advance

If you have a busy schedule and have to get your workout in before or after work, then pack a workout bag the night before. This way you won’t have any excuses for when it comes to working out. I will admit I have definitely used this as an excuse before but I have found that when I hold myself accountable by packing a bag I am more likely to do the workout I have planned.

Some people don’t have time before or after work, so they work out during lunch and eat a light lunch when they get back.

  1. Stay motivated

Along the fitness journey, you might hit a plateau and feel like you are not seeing improvement in the areas you had hoped. If this happens, just keep pushing forward and stay motivated to accomplish what you have set out to do.

I have a group of friends who I stay connected with through a text message group that we call “Fit Friends”. We use this to stay motivated, share our workouts, and sometimes even schedule our workout sessions together. I am very competitive so when I am working out with a friend, I will usually push myself harder than I would when I am alone. I am a big fan of group fitness classes for this reason.

When you are beginning a new workout routine, the best advice I can give is to stick with it and stay motivated. Think about your end goal and what you want to achieve! Now, let’s get fit!

By Guest Author: Lauren Byrd

Lauren is a contributing writer for Orangetheory Fitness. She regularly produces content for a variety of lifestyle and fitness blogs. She loves to spend her free time traveling and being active.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How To Identify Hidden Danger And Health Risks in Your Home

One of the most important things in the life of every parent is making sure that their child is safe and healthy. This is why most parents take very seriously the issue of childproofing their home and taking appropriate precautions and safety measures that would ensure the wellbeing of their children.
But what most people are not quite aware of is the fact that danger lurks everywhere, even in the most unexpected places. Certain house plants that are perhaps held in the living space for decoration, or even as an air purifier are known to carry a lot of health risks with them. Also, some foods, which are seemingly safe and are consumed on a daily basis, could cause a great deal of damage to your children’s health. This is why it is crucial to be informed about all the dangerous properties of said foods and plants, the health risks they carry, but also about the ways to overcome these obstacles.

What Are The Most Dangerous Foods?

junk food

Image source: Wikimedia.org

When talking about the dangers of certain foods, it is important to define what the term dangerous actually means in this context. The foods which are labeled as dangerous are mostly the ones that promote an unhealthy lifestyle, do not hold any great nutrition value and could cause some severe health conditions. This food is commonly called junk food and is one of the leading causes of obesity in children. Not only this, but there are also some foods which are risky for small kids and toddlers as they could present a choking hazard like hard candy, popcorn, seeds, whole grapes, nuts or any large chunk of food that could cause asphyxiation. Food allergies are another thing which could propose a great health risk if not noticed in time.

Possible Health Consequences of Certain Foods

food allergens
Image source: Wikimedia.org

According to a study conducted in the US, it is now considered that nearly one-third of all children and adolescents are overweight and obese. This is a consequence of consuming junk food on long-term basis. Not only this, but these foods are known to increase the cholesterol levels in the body, clog the arteries, contain enormous quantities of sugar, artificial sweeteners and other preservatives which slowly poison the body. This is mostly damaging for children as it prevents them from fully developing and it creates a good foundation for future heart failures, strokes and other severe health conditions. This issue should be addressed on time by creating a balanced diet so your children would be able to get all the essential nutrients needed for a fully functional organism. Also, it is a good idea to test your children on different foods so you would be able to prevent common food allergies and their consequences which could sometimes be fatal. Problems with asphyxiation could easily be prevented by giving children small portions of foods, in a moderate manner and making sure to cut their food in small pieces, especially while they are still quite young.

Dangers of House Plants

dangerous house plants
https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/9/99/Dieffenbachia_bauseii_a1.jpg

While most houseplants that people keep in their living space are considered to be perfectly safe, there is certain plant life that could propose a health risk especially for young children and even your pets. While some are more toxic than others, for those who are not aware of what kinds of dangers lurk behind these seemingly harmless objects, the consequences could be severe. Sometimes, even the slightest touch of leaves, petals, berries or even sap and juices could create a big problem. Some of the most harmful plants are the philodendron as it could cause some severe skin conditions; oleander which is extremely toxic and can cause dizziness, arrhythmia and can even be fatal if eaten; pothos which can cause various skin conditions, vomiting and even diarrhea and all kinds of ivy and lilies as well which are known to cause some severe swelling, skin irritations, headaches, burning sensations and stomach issues. Quite logically, another plant species that proposes a great deal of risk for children are of course cacti, because of their thorns. Most of these plants are quite easy to grow, have different positive properties and are also used to beautify the space. Not many people think about the dark side of these colorful plants which are known to cause some serious health conditions if not handled carefully. This is why these plants represent a great risk for small children, as they could easily be distracted by the beautiful leaves, vivid and bright colors and would not even consider that something as beautiful as that could harm them in any way.

How to Address the Issue?

The best way to address the issue of safety concerning these specific plants is to keep them out of reach of children and pets. The best solution is to grow these plants in specific parts of the house where children will have no access. Also, it is a good idea to try and educate your children about the harmful properties of certain plants if it so happens that they encounter them somewhere else. Not only this, but things like fertilizers and potting soil should also be handled with care and kept away from small children. It is not uncommon for small children to try and eat whatever they encounter, so it would be best to keep harmful substances out of the house. Teach your child to always wash their hands after approaching plants. What is also crucial is to learn how to handle all of these plants properly but also to always have a number of the 24 hour emergency care nearby, so you would be able to act quickly in a case of urgency.

 

Most people are not even aware of all the possible health hazards we are surrounded by every day. This is why the best way to avoid certain conditions and possible health problems is to become informed about all the negative properties of the things that encircle you. This can become quite overwhelming at certain times, especially when you are a parent, as suddenly you have to become cautious about every little aspect of your life in order to keep your children safe. But once you learn how to handle these issues and how to properly address them, it will become much easier to lead a healthy and safe life, without worrying too much about all the negative aspects of everyday problems.

How To Find The Best Hair Donation Charity

Not so long ago, I shared a post about easy ways to donate to charity that don’t actually involve money. There were a number of options listed there, but now I would like to focus on hair donation in particular, as I myself have recently done so as part of my usual biennial routine.
Before Hair Donation, Front ViewBefore Hair Donation, Rear View
Before I had my hair cut, it had grown to about halfway down my back, about the same place it is every two years when I donate. I usually get ten to twelve inches cut off to where my hair is about halfway down my neck. As my hair is a renewable resource for me, this is a great way to contribute that many people don’t even consider.

I used to donate to Locks of Love, until the rumors started going around about them charging for their wigs which are supposed to go to sufferers of severe illnesses such as cancer who lose their hair due to radiation treatment. After further research, it is clear to me that while they do give some free wigs to needy families, they charge on a sliding scale for most of them. They also sell any hair that is sent to them which cannot be used. I have mixed feelings about the practice of selling the usable hair on a sliding scale, but have chosen not to use them any longer.

After Hair Donation, Front ViewAfter Hair Donation, Rear View
I had my hair cut at the Milan Institute of Cosmology, but was extremely disappointed with my experience. My hair was cut at least an inch too short, leaving it at the top of my neck instead of halfway down, and it was left extremely uneven, but I don’t want it any shorter so will have to fix this issue when next I cut my hair elsewhere. This might have been partially excusable if it were a student cutting my hair, but it was actually one of the instructors. I don’t recommend this school.

In addition, they asked me if I wanted to leave my hair with them to be picked up, but they said that they give it to Locks of Love, so I declined, and will be sending my hair to Pantene Beautiful Lengths instead. They are a charity for adults instead of children, but in my eyes are a bit more trustworthy, and for those who are uncertain about hair requirements, theirs are less strict. For example, they’ll take a minimum of eight inches compared to ten for Locks of Love and others. You can find the submission guidelines for all charities mentioned at the end of this post.

There are several hair donation charities to choose from in the United States, so the best suggestion is to view their submission guidelines and find the one that fits you best. If you color your hair, some won’t take it, although Pantene Beautiful Lengths will take it provided it is not bleached. Most will not take chemically treated hair, dry or brittle hair, gray hair, or hair that is too short.

If you are not in the United States, I know very little about hair donation in other countries. However, it is definitely worth investigating if you want to donate a renewable resource for a worthy cause. Keep in mind it usually takes 8 or more ponytails to make a wig, but the more people donating, the more wigs they can make. They have to work hard to match the thickness, texture, and other factors, so the more they have to choose from, the more people can benefit from our contributions.

Have you ever donated your hair to charity? If so, which one? Why did you choose that organization? Share your thoughts with all of us in a comment. If you haven’t, would you consider it? Hair donation is a great and unique way to help those in need, especially children.

See the following links for hair submission guidelines for several organizations. Keep in mind that these organizations often have to dispose of hair donations that do
not meet these criteria, so be sure yours follows them before cutting off your ponytail to donate.
Wigs 4 Kids Hair Donation Guidelines
Locks of Love Hair Donation Guidelines
Pantene Beautiful Lengths Guidelines