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Archive for March, 2016

Helping Kids Understand Divorce

Posted on: March 31st, 2016 by Angela Ardolino No Comments

By Angela Ardolino

Divorce can be one of the most stressful things a person can go through in life, and although oftentimes older kids have an easier time handling it, divorce can shake every family member up. According to a recent study, nearly 45% of marriages end in divorce, leaving quite a few kids confused and upset.

Regardless of the nature of your divorce, there are ways to help kids cope with the fact that mommy and daddy won’t be together anymore.

Tell the Truth About It

Often times this is difficult when the divorce is tumultuous, but it’s imperative to talk to your kids about it rather than let them draw their own conclusions. Dr. Hammond of Hammond Pscyhology says that kids need to be comforted and informed that even though the situation is sad or rough right now it will pass and no matter what you love them.

It may not be appropriate to share all of the details of the divorce with the kids, but having an honest talk with them will help them understand that the divorce is not their fault. They don’t need specific reasons why you are divorcing, especially when they are little, but keeping them informed will help them more easily navigate the scary terrain of divorce and will help them to feel comfortable enough ask questions they may have.

Address Changes That Will Result from Your Decision

Imagine that you are being told out of the blue that you will have to move away and see one of your parents far less. That would be pretty scary, right? So don’t do that to your kids. Divorce expert Ned Holstein advises that one of the best options is to tell your kids from the start that things may change. Explain in a way that doesn’t scare them that you may have to move, or that they may see one of the parents a little bit less but that it doesn’t mean they are any less loved or safe.

Make sure that when you are addressing the coming changes, you try to answer their questions as best as possible. It is okay to tell them if you don’t exactly know what will happen, but encourage them to remember that both parents will still be part of their life.

Break the News Together

For many families, co-parenting after divorce comes naturally. For others, not so much. But no matter which end of the spectrum you fall on, it can help kids understand more easily when they hear the news coming from both parents. Divorce expert Dr. Samantha Rodmansays that when your child feels caught in the middle, it can lead to disaster, so when you break the news show the kids that you are still both united in your commitment to parenting them.

Is is also important not to fight in front of the kids or talk negatively about the other parent to your child. In a lot of instances, things will just slip out, however it can lead the child to having more anxiety. If they hear you saying how horrible their father is, they won’t want to go see him as much which can damage their relationship. Conversely, if they hear daddy say how mean mommy is, they will go home feeling confused and angry. But, when you refrain from placing blame on each other and present a united front, your children will feel more secure and safe.

by Angela Ardolino for DaytimeTV 


Posted on: March 30th, 2016 by Angela Ardolino No Comments

Widely referred to as the “love” hormone, oxytocin is an indispensable part of childbirth and emotional mother-child bonding. Psychologists at Florida Atlantic University are conducting a novel study to determine how a mother’s levels of oxytocin might be different in women with depression. The goal of this study is to look at how breast feeding, oxytocin and face-to-face interactions between a mother and her baby are impacted by depression and the mother’s oxytocin levels.

“We already know that pregnancy escalates oxytocin levels and that breastfeeding releases oxytocin, which have anti-depressive effects,” said Nancy Aaron Jones, Ph.D., associate professor of psychology in FAU’s Charles E. Schmidt College of Science and director of the FAU WAVES Emotion Laboratory located on the John D. MacArthur Campus in Jupiter. “In this new study, we are looking at oxytocin levels in pre- and postpartum mothers who suffer from depression to see how they differ from mothers who don’t have depression. Another novel aspect of the study is that we also are examining the oxytocin levels of the infant once they are born and how these levels change across development.”

Higher oxytocin levels in mothers may indicate higher oxytocin levels in infants, which occurs during breast feeding and interactive touching.

“We are really trying to understand how these varying levels of oxytocin affect the mother-infant emotional relationship as well as the baby’s emotional development and their emotional bond with their mother,” said Jones.

New evidence shows that maternal mental illness is more common than previously thought and is estimated to occur in approximately 10 to 20 percent of new mothers. An independent panel of experts appointed by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recently recommended that women should be screened for depression during pregnancy and after giving birth.

Using a multi-pronged approach for the study, Jones and her lab team follow moms-to-be from pregnancy through the first six months after delivery. They use surveys that address depression, breast feeding and bonding, conduct home visits, and collect urine samples from mothers and their babies to test their oxytocin levels. They also look at changes in the babies as they develop using a specially designed EEG or electroencephalogram cap that gauges brain wave activity. They do the EEG when the baby is 2 weeks old, 3 to 4 months old, and again at 6 months old. Jones looks at the asymmetry in the baby’s brain to see how the left and right sides of the brain are communicating, which has been associated with emotional experiences and learning.

“In our previous studies on breast feeding versus bottle feeding and depression, we found similar patterns of brain asymmetry in the baby and the mother,” said Jones. “What appears to be happening is that these babies are either inheriting or developing a pattern that is similar to their mother’s depression. They focus on the negative emotions and withdraw from stimuli as if they are withdrawing from the world.”

Jones has enrolled close to 50 participants in this current study and hopes to increase that number to approximately 250. Comparison groups in the study include depressed and non-depressed, breast feeding vs. bottle feeding, different levels of feeding (breastfeeding at first or exclusive breast feeding), different levels of depression, and different levels of bonding.

“If depression in mothers-to-be is not addressed and treated, these mood disorders can negatively impact the child’s well-being and the important mother-child bonding process,” said Jones. “So many women don’t want to talk about depression in pregnancy or postpartum because they think that it’s saying something about their inability to parent, and it’s not. There are a lot of factors that are contributing to mental health including hormonal, cultural or just the stress that’s associated with being a parent. And all of these things can be helped.”

The FAU WAVES Emotion Laboratory is focused on understanding the factors that contribute to the development of socio-emotional wellness during infancy and childhood. Funded in part by the National Institute of Mental Health, research in the laboratory is designed to explore and understand the contributors to optimal infant and child development.

Extraordinary Woman: Marilyn Reynolds

Posted on: March 29th, 2016 by Angela Ardolino No Comments


Although born in Fort Stewart, Georgia, Marilyn Reynolds’ family moved to Tampa when she was just 1.  Other than four years at Loyola University in New Orleans, Reynolds has always lived in Tampa Bay.

Being the youngest of five children, Reynolds grew up enjoying the traditions, excitement and the chaos of a large family. “I always knew I wanted to have a large family myself and fortunately, Roy, my dear husband of 10 years, wanted the same,” she says. “We have been blessed with three of the most precious daughters in Isabella (8), Bailey (5) and Bianca (1). The older two attend Admiral Farragut Academy where I teach, and each had me as a teacher. Some days that was more of a blessing than others, but I do treasure those memories. I entered the teaching profession 16 years ago in an untraditional path, but now I can’t imagine working outside of education.”

Although she may come across as an introvert, Reynolds’ PreK students know her as the teacher who sings and dances around the room excited about bugs, fish, the solar system, Dr. Seuss, vowel sounds and the use of sign language for everything.

Recently, Reynolds was selected to create an Americanized curriculum called “Little Captains” for Chinese students in first grade. The first module, which features two puppets named Captain Kai and Captain Coral, is set for completion in May and is going to be piloted to three schools in China.  Future modules will follow for other grade levels.

“I believe that after I become a mom, I became a much better teacher all around.  I understand the students better and I give parents the respect that I want as a parent for my own children.  From texting pictures of students to my parents throughout the day or writing notes of encouragement in my students’ agendas each night, I do my best to keep the parents and students informed, assuage fears, and bring smiles to their faces.  I want to be the kind of teacher that I want my kids to have, so I work hard to accomplish this.  I am happy when my students accidentally call me “mom” and when I am able to tuck them in at nap time and tell them that I love them.”

What do you think is the secret to your family’s success? 

We are always on the go, but most often we are together.  My wonderful husband Roy is always up for attending a birthday party or participating in a family event at school.  We recently added to our family’s bicycle collection with an addition of a baby trailer for Bianca so we can all enjoy family rides and picnics at nearby parks.  We’re always up for exploring new nature paths as well as enjoying our favorites like the Pinellas Trail and the Courtney Campbell bike trail.  One thing I have instilled in my own family is the tradition of eating and spending time eating together at the dining table each evening. We listen to each other’s stories about our day and then snuggle up together on our reading couch where we listen and read to each other each night. We also compete in game nights, plan adventurous trips to local beaches and parks and, of course, laugh a lot.  Our family also stays very active with clubs and sports,including gymnastics, soccer, Legos Club, horseback riding and Girls on the Run. I recently started helping coach our Lower School’s Girls on the Run program with my daughter, Isabella. I want to inspire her to be happy and confident while integrating running into her lifestyle.  Best of all, it allows us more time to spend together.

We try to stay as positive as possible.  The outside world can be negative enough.  Before going to sleep each night, the girls, Roy, and I each say three positive things about our day, ourselves or each other before going to sleep.

What is your biggest fear?

Time is moving so quickly.  I wonder with such a demanding teaching career, am I giving enough time to my own children?

What advice would you give to other women?

Focus on the positive.  When someone gives you a compliment, say “thank you” and accept it rather than dismiss it entirely or redirect it into a “this old thing?” or other type of belittling comments. It seems simple enough, but it’s interesting how difficult this really can be to accept a compliment and be truly thankful.

I would also say give yourself credit for all that do and all that you are.  Women take on so much as care-givers, house cleaners, taxi-cab drivers, and all around workers inside or outside of the home.  We need to love ourselves and see the good in all that we are doing rather than focus on all of the chores that aren’t done or the missed opportunities.

What is your proudest moment?

Holding each of my newborns in my arms over these past eight years has made it clear to me why I am here on this earth.  My children make me whole; they make me want to be the best person and the best mom I can be.  They inspire me to be the best in everything I do and try, and I attempt to instill that same inspiration back to them, as well as, the students in my classroom.

What is your biggest achievement?

Little Captains Summer Camp at Admiral Farragut Academy, which started as a one-week K-3 camp with 20 campers and has grown over the last four years to a 4-5 week program for PreK4 – 8th grade students with about 100 students attending each week.  It has opportunities for older students to volunteer and work with younger students.  I offer an educational and fun-filled camp utilizing all the amenities of our waterfront campus, sports fields, swimming pool and the STEM and science labs. This camp is now open to the public.  It has grown so big that I have added a creative and talented teacher, Cate Taylor, who helps me run the camp, too. We develop daily lesson plans and activities for the campers to enjoy that go with the theme for the week. We both go crazy with Pinterest!  Last year, for animal week we had a pet parade in which the campers brought their own pets to school.  We even taught our campers how to fish for our “Water, Water, Everywhere” themed week.  One year, in one of my themed weeks, I coordinated with USSOCOM at MacDill AFB to develop an outreach program focusing on military appreciation.  USSOCOM came to my camp and provided our campers with the opportunity to see and try out body armor, night vision goggles, tactical medical kits, and biometric devices. The people in charge of logistics also came out and set up a mobile field center for the campers to experience.  All of this culminated with a Robinson R22 helicopter landing on Admiral Farragut’s football field. Each of the campers was able to hop inside and talk with the pilots!  The campers were thrilled!

What makes you happy?

I am happy when others around me are happy.  To see my girls happy brings me such joy.  My students are excelling at school, which make me happy and proud.  They are so smart and buy into the magical world that we create together.  I love seeing my students and my girls’ eyes light up when we bond, act silly and laugh.

How do you relax and take time for yourself?

Each morning I wake up for an early morning run to get my day rolling and listen to music to clear my mind and get prepared for the busy day ahead. I also enjoy the opportunities I get to go out with Roy on date night or to meet friends for dinner. My guilty pleasure is to sneak away for a pedicure (when I get the chance).

What is your biggest inspiration or role model?

Besides my mom, my dad, my big sister Carolyn, and my wonderful brothers David and James, my big sister Kim has always been my biggest inspiration and role model.  When anything good or bad happens, she is the first person I call.  She, too, is a mother and teacher and is an amazing one at that.  When I am up late, working on Pinterest gifts for my students for an upcoming holiday, I can rest assured that she is up late doing the same thing for her students because she teaches middle school in North Carolina.


Posted on: March 29th, 2016 by Angela Ardolino No Comments


All Children’s Hospital Johns Hopkins Medicine wants to educate parents and families about blood clots. The hospital is sharing a new article on frequently asked questions about blood clots with families, highlighting the symptoms, causes and research being done in the area of blood clots.

Each year, up to 900,000 Americans suffer deep vein thrombosis — when a blood clot forms in a large vein and blocks circulation. Although rare, pediatric blood clots affect one in every 10,000 children in the community. However, hospitalized children can become more susceptible to blood clots for various reasons including complications from central venous catheters which are used to give medicines, fluids, nutrients or blood products over long periods of time. Sometimes certain medications or lack of mobility can also cause blood clots in children.

All Children’s Hospital is continuing its effort to learn more about blood clots in children and treat these conditions. The hospital is leading the multi-center Kids-DOTT (Duration of Therapy for Thrombosis) clinical trial. With nearly 40 children’s hospitals participating in the trial from around the world and more than 230 children enrolled to date, researchers hope to determine whether children with venous thrombosis — a blood clot in a vein — can safely and effectively receive only six weeks of treatment with anti-clotting medication, called an anticoagulant, instead of the current conventional treatment duration of three months.

Neil Goldenberg, M.D., Ph.D., director of research at All Children’s Hospital Johns Hopkins Medicine and associate professor of pediatrics at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, leads the pediatric thrombosis program at All Children’s Hospital in St. Petersburg, with hematology physician Irmel Ayala, M.D., and at the Johns Hopkins Children’s Center in Baltimore, directed by hematology physician Clifford Takemoto, M.D. Dr. Goldenberg is also helping to lead a national effort on blood clot risk assessment and prevention and hospitalized children. In the next few months, All Children’s Hospital Johns Hopkins Medicine will become one of the first children’s hospitals in the country to implement a systematic approach, powered by the electronic medical record and family-centered rounds, which will assess blood clotting risk and take steps for deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolism prevention on each child admitted to the hospital.

“All Children’s Hospital is advancing our understanding of blood clots in children with investigations to discover clinical and molecular predictors of outcome in this health problem that is becoming more common in children,” said Dr. Goldenberg. “In addition, the hospital serves as a participating or lead center for pharmaceutical company developed pediatric clinical trials of new anticoagulant medications. Furthermore, the multinational Kids-DOTT trial led by All Children’s Hospital will help to define the standard of care in anticoagulant treatment for venous thrombosis in children and young adults.”

About Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital

All Children’s Hospital Johns Hopkins Medicine in St. Petersburg is the most advanced children’s hospital on Florida’s west coast and a U.S. News & World Report Best Children’s Hospital. As a 259-bed teaching hospital, All Children’s provides compassionate and comprehensive care while training the next generation of pediatric experts and leading innovative research to cure and prevent childhood diseases. A network of 10 outpatient centers and All Children’s Specialty Physicians at regional affiliate hospitals provide care closer to home. Founded in 1926, All Children’s Hospital continues to expand its mission in treatment, research, education and advocacy to help children from Florida and around the world. For more information, visit


Posted on: March 28th, 2016 by Angela Ardolino No Comments

Too Much Fluoride

Fluorosis is a cosmetic condition caused by overexposure to fluoride during the first eight years of life.

Teeth become discolored, and sometimes the effects are so subtle— faint white marks laced around each tooth— that only dental professionals can say for sure.

Sometimes it’s not so subtle. Sometimes fluorosis means yellow stains, brown pits, strange variations taking the glow away from a dimpled smile. Physically, fluorosis won’t hurt those who have it. But psychologically, it can cause social stress or low self-esteem.

Becoming a parent is becoming a silent, underpaid superhero— we protect our children from villains they have no idea exist. The threat of fluorosis hides in the beauty of most modern toothpaste. Maybe it’s the taste of fresh bubblegum or the glittering pink of the paste itself, but children are prone to swallowing and eating this product that protects them from plaque, cavities, gingivitis.

Unbeknownst to them, there can be too much of a good thing— children who swallow toothpaste are increasing their fluoride intake, exposing themselves to the very real possibility of spotted teeth. Preventing fluorosis in children can be as simple as heavily supervising them, making sure they spit their toothpaste out when they’re done. Children who haven’t been taught to spit yet shouldn’t use toothpaste with fluoride at all.

For some parents, weary of fluoride, the answer may lie in an alternative product.Dr. Sharp’s toothpaste, for example, is vegan, alcohol-free, gluten-free, non-GMO, and yes, fluoride-free. The Wild Berry flavor is made specifically with kids in mind and is not artificially flavored or colored.

When it comes to our children, it is always important to be an informed consumer.

Read more about teaching kids good oral hygiene here.

Read about non-toxic personal care here.

Financial Easter Eggs

Posted on: March 25th, 2016 by Angela Ardolino No Comments

Financial Easter Eggs

With Easter around the corner, many families are eyeing places to hide plastic eggs, candy and toys for kids to discover on Sundaymorning. Anyone can relate to the  elation of finding goodies in unexpected places, but few of us take the time to seek them out. Now that spring is upon us, there’s no better time to review your budget  and hunt down financial Easter eggs of your own.

Consider these eight areas where you might free up extra money and use it more wisely in the coming year.

Recurring expenses.
Autopay is incredibly convenient but also potentially dangerous since the set-it-and-forget-it system may lead to overages, redundant charges and other financial  missteps if you fail to review them regularly. Take a comprehensive look at all the payments automatically deducted from your bank account or charged to your credit  card, and determine if you still need these expenses in your life. While traditional bills like utilities and mortgage payments are necessary, subscriptions to magazines  or Internet memberships can likely be cancelled for big monthly savings. Make it a point to review these automatic charges regularly so you can catch incorrect billings  in a timely manner.

Missed deductions.
One in five filers overlook valuable deductions and end up overpaying their tax bill by an average of $460. Among the most surprising and commonly missed deductions:  the cost of a hobby in which you occasionally make money; and summer camp or after-school activities for your kids. If you’re rushing to file a complicated return, file  an extension to give yourself time to review every detail so you don’t leave money on the table. Otherwise, download the  Ask a CPA App for basic tips regarding the  latest tax changes, including approved expenses and deductions. The app also gives you the opportunity to ask specific questions to which CPA’s in your local area can  respond.

Free service alternatives.
Your budget may be filled with services you can get for free. Instead of that $40-per-month landline, opt for free Internet home phone service from companies like Ooma.  ATM fees are a waste of money since you can often receive cash for debit purchases from grocery stores, free of charge. If you’re paying for access to your credit  report, know that you can receive one free report per year from Avoid checking accounts that charge annual fees, as local banks and credit  unions likely offer free alternatives. Even fitness classes can be streamed for free through YouTube and other free Internet platforms, making your pricey monthly  membership potentially unnecessary.

Everyday expenses.
It’s easy to fall into the habit of mindlessly spending money on everyday expenses such as fuel, groceries, cleaning supplies and medicine without thinking about ways  to reduce costs. In truth, there are a myriad of ways to save money on these purchases. Mobile apps likeTarget Cartwheel make it easy to save an extra 10 to 20% on  items you buy regularly, while Amazon coupon codes from sites like Coupon Sherpa help you save extra money on everything from fashion to pantry goods. Then, always  compare prices using the ShopSavvy app or Invisible Hand browser tool to make sure you’re getting the lowest price available.

Household clutter.
Spring is the best time to clear your household of the clutter that’s accumulated during the cold winter months. While it may be tempting to donate what you no longer  use, there are a bevy of online sites where you can sell turn your unwanted items into cash. Specifically, you can sell used gadgets at Gazelle or NextWorth; old clothes  at Tradesy or thredUp; and unused gift cards at or through a Coinstart Exchange Kiosk at your local  grocery store.

Insurance plans.
When was the last time you reviewed your insurance policies to ensure you were getting the most competitive rate? Call around or surf the Web for new quotes on car,  home and life insurance policies. When it comes to car insurance, many consumers focus on the final premium, but it’s important to check coverage selections, limits and  deductibles before considering the final price. Many insurance companies offer reduced rates when you purchase more than one policy, so be sure to ask about these  discounts during your search.

Reward and loyalty programs.
According to reports, nearly 16 billion worth of reward points and miles go unredeemed every year. If you’ve been collecting points across your accounts, take the time  to review what you’ve accumulated and note expiration dates so you don’t miss out. This may be the perfect time to redeem those rewards to cover the cost of airfare for  a summer vacation or to go towards gift purchases for an upcoming wedding, baby shower or birthday celebration. Moving forward, maximize rewards by registering for  retail and restaurant loyalty programs and consolidate accounts with the CardStar app so you never miss a reward.

Credit card debt.
The best way to save money on debt is to pay it off completely, but that may not be an option for you right now. While you should always pay double to triple the  minimum due on each account to save on interest fees overtime, take a moment to call your credit card providers and find out if you qualify for an interest-fee  reduction. Otherwise, save money by consolidating to a low-interest personal loan from a local credit union. Compare rates using sites like

Andrea Woroch is a money-saving expert who transforms everyday consumers into savvy shoppers by sharing smart spending tips and personal finance advice.  As a sought-after media source, she has been featured among such top news outlets as Good Morning America, Today, CNN, Dr. OZ, New York Times, MONEY Magazine,  Consumer Reports, Forbes and many more. In addition, Andrea’s stories have been published among leading publications and sites such as Yahoo!, AOL Daily Finance,  CNN Money, Huffington Post, LearnVest and New York Daily News. Check out Andrea’s demo reel or visit her  website at for more information about booking an interview or requesting an original written article. You  can also follow her on Twitter or Facebook for daily money  tips.


Posted on: March 16th, 2016 by Angela Ardolino No Comments

As part of the U.S. Department of the Interior’s leadership of First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! Outside initiative to engage the next generation of outdoor stewards and inspire millions of young adults to play, learn, serve and work in the great outdoors, Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn joined Gayle Hazelwood, Senior Urban Program Manager for the National Park Service, and Tom Looby, President & CEO of the Tampa Metropolitan Area YMCA today to announce that Tampa has been selected as one of the first 50 cities to participate in the nationwide movement.

The initiative, funded through a $2.5 million national commitment by the American Express Foundation, will provide two years of funding for the Tampa YMCA to help coordinate efforts, facilitate collaboration, grow resources, and increase participation in outdoor programs on all public lands – from local parks to federal lands and waters.

“Engaging people of all ages, especially youth, in enjoying and caring for parks and public lands builds a sense of stewardship and fosters deep connections to nature that will last a lifetime,” said U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell. “Tampa is blessed with amazing public parks and a strong network of public and nonprofit leaders committed to getting kids outdoors, active and connected to nature. Through this new partnership with financial support from the American Express Foundation and community connections of the YMCA, we are nurturing a movement to foster the next generation of outdoor enthusiasts, stewards and leaders, while helping young people connect to the public lands in their community.”

“I’d like to thank Secretary Jewell for recognizing the parks, bay and open spaces that make Tampa special and unique,” said Mayor Buckhorn. “By joining the First Lady’s Let’s Move! Outside movement, we are not only getting our kids active, outdoors and connected to nature, but we are also investing in the next generation of leaders for the City of Tampa.”

“Many people in our urban neighborhoods don’t always have the chance to experience all that our public lands in and around the city have to offer,” said Tom Looby, President & CEO of Tampa YMCA.  “This initiative will help us bring together leaders in conservation, education, recreation and service to provide opportunities for children and families to have fun, deepen connections to the city’s natural and historic sites, develop important skills, and engage in activities where they can give back and strengthen our community.”

“Community service and historic preservation have a long heritage at American Express,” said Timothy J. McClimon, president of the American Express Foundation. “Since our founding more than 160 years ago, American Express has seen how America’s parks and public lands contribute to our sense of national and local identity, and we are proud to lead an effort to mobilize a new generation of volunteers to protect, conserve and revitalize America’s public lands and treasured national parks.”

The Department of the Interior is leading First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! Outside initiative getting millions of young people to play, learn, serve and work in America’s great outdoors. In March 2015, Secretary Jewell announced this partnership with the American Express Foundation and kicked-off the first cities across the country to be a part of this movement. Tampa joins 26 cities announced in 2015. The remaining cities will be announced throughout 2016. For more information about the initiative, visit:

This work is part an overall strategy by the Obama Administration to connect young people to the outdoors. Other efforts include the “Every Kid in A Park” program to provide all fourth grade students and their families with free admission to national parks and other public lands and waters for a full year. These complement the National Park Service’s Find Your Park campaign preparing for this year’s centennial of the National Park System.


Posted on: March 14th, 2016 by Angela Ardolino No Comments

As the kids are out on Spring break, it is important to make sure that they are still reading. Literacy will instill confidence in your kids and will give them skills that will last far beyond childhood.

Kids become lifelong readers for all kinds of reasons. Sometimes there’s one key book that captures a kid’s imagination and opens him or her up to the exciting world of fiction. Other times, a teacher who assigns great books in class sparks a hunger for more fantasy-based ideas and fine writing. In some cases, parents influence kids’ appreciation of books by sharing their own love of literature and modeling reader behavior — always having a book to read, taking books on vacation, reading before bedtime, making regular trips to the library and bookstore, etc. Planting the reading seed in your kids will not only provide a lifelong hobby, but also reading is extremely instrumental in expanding vocabulary in a person of any age.

Here are Common Sense Media’s and Judy Kent’s best tips for nurturing a love of reading that can last a lifetime:

Read aloud: This comes naturally to lots of new parents, but it’s important to keep it up. Kids will enjoy it longer than you think. For babies, toddlers, preschoolers, and kids in early grade school, it’s wonderful to have a kid on your lap, snuggled next to you on the couch, or drifting off to sleep in bed as you enjoy picture books together. You may have to read your kid’s favorite a hundred times, but just go with it. Your kid will remember the closeness as well as the story. And try nonfiction for those who are curious about pirates, Vikings, robots, castles, history, sports, biography, animals, whatever. For second through fifth graders, read those rich and meaty books that might be missed otherwise, maybe classics like Treasure Island orAlice’s Adventures in Wonderland.

Many parents think that as soon as their kids learn to read on their own, they no longer need to be read to. But kids still love it and benefit from it as they hear the rhythm of the language, learn correct pronunciation, and get to relax and just take it all in. Kids will get the idea that there’s something worthwhile in books and that there’s something special about time spent with a parent.

Start Young: The gift of literacy begins at birth. Infants respond to many elements of the read-aloud experience: the human voice and its expressiveness, the touch, smell, and color of books and the attention that is part of the endeavor.  Start the reading habit early by reading aloud daily. Experiment, using different voices and creating different sounds with words.

Savor the series: It’s common for kids to become book lovers for life after getting hooked on a series. And there are lots of good ones that keep kids hungry for the next installment. Some reliable prospects: Ivy and Bean, Judy Moody for beginning readers; Harry Potter, A Series of Unfortunate Events, and the Percy Jackson series for middle graders; and Hunger Games, Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, and Twilight (unless you think vampires are too creepy) for older kids.

Establish a Routine: Humans love routine.  We form habits simply by creating routines.  To instill the lifelong habit of reading, make it a priority each day. Each family must find a convenient time for reading each day. This may be snuggling and reading together just before bed or taking a few moments while dinner is cooking.  With younger children, it may be before naptime or the first activity after a nap.  It is also important for children to see the adults in their life reading. Create a time when the entire family reads – even though a child may not be an independent reader yet, he will happily “read” books with the rest of the family.  Modeling reading for pleasure and for information is vital.

Print Is Everywhere: Stop for a moment and think about the world we live in.  Print is everywhere! We are surrounded by words – street signs, billboards, grocery stores, the aisles at Target.  Parents may open this world to children simply by talking about what is seen, hunting for letters, finding words together or having children read signs at the grocery store.

Grab onto a genre: Kids go through phases of genres they’re passionate about, fromgirl detectives to science fiction and fantasy. Don’t get hung up on whether it’s considered great literature (although some genre books are). Be happy that your kid is devouring books one after the other.

Feed the favorite-author addiction: Once your kids finds a writer they love, they may want to read all of his or her books — a great excuse for a trip to the library or an opportunity for book swapping among friends and classmates. Here are some good bets for favorites. Younger kids: Dav Pilkey (The Adventures of Captain Underpants), Beverly Cleary (Beezus and Ramona). Middle grade: Kate DiCamillo (Because of Winn-Dixie), Neil Gaiman (The Graveyard Book). Tweens and teens: Judy Blume (Are You There God, It’s Me Margaret) and Sarah Dessen (Just Listen).

Count on the Classics: Books are called classics because they continue to engage readers generation after generation. There are no guarantees, but you could try introducing your kids to books you loved as a kid and see which ones click. Some good ones to try are the Dr. Seuss and Narnia books, Charlotte’s Web, and The Secret Garden. Check out our Classic Books for Kids list to find more.

Find Books About the Things Your Kid Loves: If your kid adores horses, try Black Beauty or any of the titles on our list of best Horse Books. If he’s wild about cars, trucks and trains, check out our list of Vehicle Books. Librarians, booksellers, and Internet searches will help you find books on any favorite topic.

Create a Space for Books: Books are appealing. They call you to worlds unknown; they are a source of information; they are friends waiting to happen. Books deserve a special place in a home. Work to create a home library. The library could be as small as a special crate with a place of honor in the family room or a closet transformed into a book nook. If possible, include cozy pillows, cushions or chairs that will accommodate at least one adult and one child. Fill the library with reading material – a variety of selections to meet the interests of the child.  Take advantage of the local library to keep the home library fresh and appealing.

Reading is an important activity for individuals and families. It may not be the easiest task to fit reading into your family’s lifestyle, but once each member finds a book they truly enjoy, it will be tough to get that book out of their hands! Make sure you set aside time for reading only — turning off the TV, computer, and cell phone. Encourage focused reading time, either for independent reading or reading aloud. Take preschoolers to story time hours at libraries and bookstores. For older kids, a parent-kid book club can be fun. Read to kids at bedtime. Provide time and space for your kids to read for pleasure in the car (if they don’t get car sick!), on vacation, after homework is done, on their own before bed. Warning: It could be habit-forming!

For more information visit



Posted on: March 14th, 2016 by Angela Ardolino No Comments

Is there anything better than Spring? The flowers and trees are in bloom, the days are growing longer and baby animals are everywhere. But one of my favorite things about it is kids spring fashion. Not only is it a time for kids to play outside in all of the sunshine glory, but they can look stylish and adorable while they do!

Your child’s fashion can be more than just character tee-shirts. It can be fun, adorable, and comfortable.

Some of our favorite trends this season are:

New and Improved Bib Front Dress

Although every mom adores a classic bib front dress, there’s a new version worth trying out: the new and improved bib front dress. This dress is a modern twist on the original bib front dress, making it more stylish and practical. It comes with underarm side panels, giving your daughter more arm room to run around and play. They come in a variety of different patterns, such as floral.

One of our favorite brands for adorable dresses is Lacey Lane. They have the new bib front dresses, adorable patterns and prints, and are a great place to get all of your child’s fashion inspiration.

Nature/Animal Graphics- tropical patterns

There are a ton of popular graphic trends for kids this spring, but the top two winners are nature and animal graphics. When it comes to nature, we see a lot of zoomed-in patterns of leaves, flowers, fruit and bugs. Tropical patterns, which are great for Florida, are also seen a lot. In terms of animal graphics, sea creatures, such as sharks and seahorses, are a big trend in children’s clothing.

We love this sibling collection from Tea. It combines fun prints with classic style that each of your children can enjoy.

Bandana Headbands

Headbands have always been a hot trend for little girls, but this spring is all about the bandana. Due to the bandana’s bad reputation, some parents might not like this trend as much as the others. However, these bandana headbands are a lot less rugged looking and much more tasteful. They come in a variety of different colors and patterns, giving them a more feminine look.

Pastel Colors


Pastels are great for the spring because they’re bright and fun! According to designers, color spectrum in kids fashion should be chosen depending on the age group, due to the abnormalities of the nervous system. Nevertheless, kids are encouraged to wear pastel colors during the spring, especially around Easter time. In fact, Pantone’s Colors of 2016 (Rose Quartz and Serenity) are pastels. Designers have been incorporating the two colors into children’s fashion clothes this spring.

We love these spring colors from Lacey Lane.

Mom/Dad Inspired Sneakers-

Kids love to dress up like their parents, so of course they would be ecstatic to rock a pair of shoes that resembles that of their parents. Men and women sneaker collections are the inspiration for children’s shoes of spring 2016. These sneakers, much like the GGDB Children Shoes collection, offer a variety of unique designs, as well as quality support.


Pants-transformers are the perfect spring trend for young boys. They look like regular cargo pants from a glance, but they actually unzip at the knee, turning them into cargo shorts. They’re classy looking, as well as lightweight. Pants-transformers are great for transitioning into the spring and summer, especially in Florida.


Posted on: March 9th, 2016 by Angela Ardolino No Comments

Most of us live in very diverse communities, surrounded by people who speak a language other than English, whose homes emanate lovely aromas of their ethnic foods and whose families practice different traditions. We live in a very global economy where knowing a second language is no longer a luxury. According to the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL), it is easier for young learners (usually in elementary school) to fully learn a new language than it is to teach older kids and teens (like high schoolers), and knowing a second or even third language can greatly benefit their lives and job opportunities in the future.

What better gift can we give our own children than the gift of second language instruction? Providing this learning in the first 5-10 years of life not only makes it easier for the child to be wired for all future language learning; it also opens up their heart and mind to accepting those who look, speak, and even act differently than their immediate circle of family and friends.

Why is it important?
According to Beth Butler, an expert in teaching Spanish, recent research suggests that many benefits are derived from learning more than one language early in life. A majority of children in various bilingual learning studies demonstrated enhanced cognitive development (what some refer to as a boost in brain power), increased problem solving abilities, a richer cultural awareness, higher standardized test scores in both math and verbal sections, a keen ability to block out potential outside interferences, and these children read sooner than their monolingual peers.

You might be thinking as you read this, “No way! I want my child to concentrate on learning English before he gets all confused with Spanish.” The myth that exists about children learning two languages can become language delayed and/or confused is just that – a myth. Children are hard-wired from birth through about ten years old to learn several languages. Young children will learn the new language more quickly, retain it better, and speak it with native or near-native pronunciation. In fact, Newsweek and Time both ran feature articles suggesting that second language instruction should be begin as early as possible in a child’s life, and these major publications stated that the “window of opportunity” to introduce a child to a second and third language is between birth and age ten.

How to bring in a new language
Many parents deliberate over how to bring a new language into their child’s life – particularly when they as the adults speak only one language. Many experts agree that the bilingual approach for the very young child is best. Teach the new language alongside the native language. It’s as easy as pointing to a cat and saying “cat” then “gato.” Linguistic experts agree that it’s just as easy to teach a baby two words for one item as it is to teach only one word.

This bilingual method provides continuing education in the child’s native tongue while acquiring skills in the new one. Language experts agree the strong sense of pride, higher self-esteem, and long term retention associated with this bilingual approach is reason enough to choose this route for the younger years. According to many experts immersion programs, where the child will hear only the targeted new language, should be reserved for those in middle school years and beyond.

You can find excellent DVDs and programs to help teach another language. Some of my favorites include Little Passports, which sends monthly packages to your child to help them learn other languages, Little Pim, which gives your child exciting activities that they can do on any computer, tablet or mobile device, and Early Lingo which teaches children through DVDs.

Practice makes perfect
Aside from using educational programming on television to help your child practice, the ACTFL suggests that parents should get involved in the learning process and try to engage children in speaking in multiple languages. It may also help you as a parent to learn a new language with your child. It is also important to practice reading in the language that your child is learning to speak so that they are used to seeing the words and translating them in their heads.

You can also visit one of your local Children’s Board of Hillsborough County Family Resource Centers to connect with other kids and families learning a new language and to practice together.

Our world is increasingly bilingual, and we need to prepare our children for it. Students of second language instruction have access to a greater number of career opportunities later in life, are wired to learn multiple languages, and tend to be more creative than monolingual students. The benefits of second language instruction have been proven, and it’s time to begin the instruction now – when the child is young, when the language acquisition part of the brain is more accepting and while the child is excited about new languages, new cultures and new people.

For schools and learning facilities to help your kids learn new languages, visit:

Tampa Language Center– 813-988-7900
Kumon Learning Center– 813-831-9495

You can also find a list of school