Finding the Right Summer Camp
Parent Tips

The Happy Student #69: Finding the Right Summer Camp

Summer Camp

We are getting so close to summer vacation! For a lot of kids this means going to summer camp – which can be super fun or not so fun if you’re not into it. Finding the right summer camp can be a bit tricky. Fireborn’s got 5 tips to help you find a safe, fun, camp that your kid will love! In the episode, we reference a few things for you to check out: The American Camp Association How to Raise a Creative Child. Step One: Back Off by Adam Grant.

Finding the Right Summer Camp




How to find the right summer camp for your child…

We know safety is probably a number one concern since you are entrusting your child to these people. So, how do you find something safe?

  1. Look at the American Camp Association’s list of camps. You can find it at They certify camps for safety and then they also have loads of recommendations and descriptions of tons of different camps.
  2. Check out online reviews. How do they respond to any negative feedback? That could really indicate how they will react to you if you’re worried about something going on at camp.
  3. Check a few references ahead of time.
  4. Make sure there is enough supervision. The typical classroom has a ratio of 1 teacher to over 20 students. You want your child to have time to shine this summer and not get looked over, so a ratio of 1:10 would be great.
  5. Take a look at their mission statement and philosophy. How well thought-through is it? Is it pretty generic or really specific? Do they go into specifics about how they achieve their goals? The more focused and clear they are, the better.
  6. Look for some red flags, like
    1. How well organized are they?
    2. Can people answer all of your questions?
    3. Are they excited about the program?
  7. Ask a lot of questions about things such as:
    1. Hiring practices, training, and screening.
    2. How they deal with discipline and conflict between campers.
    3. You can also look at the ACA’s recommended list of questions to ask.

Okay, once you make sure you have a safe space for your child, you may want to think about what you want children to get out of camp.

  • Camp is a really great opportunity for children to learn a lot of great skills that can be left out of a traditional school curriculum, like empathy, communication skills, and a can-do attitude. These are things that can get overlooked during the school year when the focus is on grades, but these are hugely important skills that help children succeed later in life.

The third thing I look for in a camp is FUN!

  • Fun is really important just for its own sake, but if you don’t think that’s enough, well, it also helps children with developing internal motivation, finding purpose in life, and building their communication and interpersonal skills. When children are having fun, that’s when they do a lot of really great learning. Fun actually primes the brain to want to learn.
  • You just can’t be doing academics all day long. Some parents want to send their children to math camp because their child is behind in math. And that’s fine, as long as the child has fun at camp. If no fun is being had, it will just make your child hate math even more. But if your child is having fun, he’ll be more open to learning.

The fourth thing we suggest when picking a camp is making it your child’s choice.

  • Children don’t get a lot of opportunities over the school year to make decisions about their lives. Summer is a great chance to let them make decisions.
  • No matter how cool the camp is, if your child will be annoyed that you picked it, she’s not going to like it even if it’s the best camp ever.
  • If you need to narrow down some choices for your child, you want to think about what will your child enjoy doing?

Finally, you want to think about (with your child) what any other goals you have for camp are. Some things you may want to consider are:

  • What kind of activity is your child interested in?
  • How much time does your child really want away from the family?
  • How many other campers does your child want? Some children thrive in smaller groups, while others love a crowd.

Don’t worry, it’s not too late to sign your child up for camp! There is probably a camp out there looking for your kid. Camp attendance has been decreasing recently, so some camps are still looking to fill spots.


I would love to hear your thoughts on this episode!


Want to be the first to know when a new episode is released? Click here to subscribe to The Happy Student on iTunes!

Podcast reviews are important to iTunes and the more reviews we can receive, the more likely we will be able to get our podcast and important messages in front of more parents! I would greatly appreciate if you clicked here and left a review letting me know your thoughts on this episode!


Summer Basics to Keep Your Kids Active and Learning this Summer
Parent Tips

Summer Basics to Keep Your Kids Active and Learning

School is almost out for summer! What will your kids be up to? TV? Video games? Yes, definitely some of that, but hopefully not only that. Summer is for fun, playtime, and yes, some of that traditional learning so kids don’t get the “summer slide” and lose any knowledge they gained during the year. Here are a few guidelines for keeping your kids active and learning this summer.

  1. No TV, iPad, video games, or even PHONE before 5 pm. Yes – you have to do something else, go outside, play a board game, read, swim, play with sticks or Legos, take the dog for a walk, do a puzzle – it’s the summer! Do something! After 5 pm, you’ll have done so much great stuff, you can relax with that TV, phone, video game, whatever for the rest of the evening knowing you racked up a lot of great screen-free time during the day.
  2. Read once a day. For younger kids, you can read to them. (Great options for young kids are picture books. They are excellent at teaching empathy because kids have to look at the pictures to understand what is going on with the characters.) Start with 10 minutes a day. As kids get older, up it to 30 minutes.
  3. Write in your journal once a day (or at least say what you would write out loud at dinner). You could either write about three things you are grateful for or you could start a question journal. Then start doing some research and answer the most interesting questions.
  4. Do a little math. Incorporate a little math into your daily life, perhaps at bedtime with Bedtime Math problems (there’s an app for that!). Or make a double or even triple batch of cookies! Build something – like an elaborate castle cake. Yum!
  5. Learn other skills – not just reading and math. For instance, learn to code with Kodable, Lightbot, or Scratch programming (Lightbot and Scratch are free. Scratch is created by MIT). Use them to make your own video game! Or learn about electricity with LittleBits and invent robots that can detect walls and navigate around them! Or use Pixton to create comics for free!
  6. Make time for art projects. Art is a great way to learn a ton of important skills – critical thinking, creative problem solving, mental contrasting (where you see how impossible a task is and yet you also see how amazing it could turn out to be), communication, and empathy. The National Gallery of Art’s Kids Art Zone is full of fun art projects. Fireborn also sells an art summer activity packet, included are some thought-provoking engineering projects that really get kids thinking!
  7. Volunteer. Volunteering isn’t only good for the resume – it helps kids learn empathy, compassion, and citizenship. It can also help them build other specific skills depending on the volunteer activity they choose.
  8. PLAY!!  Stick-lets are our new favorite toy. They are connectors that help kids tie sticks together and build stuff outside!

So have fun this summer playing, reading, writing, and Instagraming!


Educationally Beneficial Apps for Your Kids

Educationally Beneficial Apps for Your Kids


Technology is like a disease; it spreads throughout the world manifesting itself on people and their livelihood. This disease, however, is not necessarily a bad condition. What would life look like nowadays without computers to answer all our questions or smartphones to communicate instantly with other people? Technology has advanced our world in ways people could not have imagined 100 years ago.

Children are now growing up surrounded by all forms of technology. Therefore, it is important that this advancement not have a negative impact on our children. The applications that children use on their devices should promote academic success in a fun manner.

Here are some educationally beneficial apps:

Color by Numbers

This app moves coloring worksheets into the world of technology. With this app children solve mathematical equations then color in shapes based on the answer. These answers correspond to specifics color that when completed produce a masterpiece! For young children it can help develop number recognition by matching the number in the shape to the number on the color. There are many different themes for children to color to help maintain their interest.

Pizza Fractions

This math app is helpful for children learning about fractions. On this app children match
the fraction to the correct pizza amount. It is a fun and tasty way to reinforce the concept of fractions.

Stack the States

This takes geography class to a different level. This application quizzes children on their knowledge of states. It helps them learn the shape of the states along with features of the states. It adds a fun spin by having children stack the states to a certain line every time they get an answer correct. Students at Lakeview Elementary School love this game! I have watched as they all work together to try to answer the questions correctly.

Disney Story Central

Bedtime stories get a technology spin with this app. This app allows children to read Disney stories or have stories read to them. They can find books about their favorite characters. Children earn points as they read; the more books they read the more points they earn. Everyone in the family can have an account which allows them to track the stories they’ve read and get suggestions based on their level and liking.

*Parents should be aware that there are in-app purchases for subscriptions on this application

Little Alchemy

This is a fun game for all ages! The object of the game is to combine two elements to make another element. For instance, when the player mixes air and Earth they create dust. This game helps show how things are created on a basic level. Other elements, however, are more creative in that they are not physically made from the two elements, but make sense together like when a human is combined with an airplane, it makes a pilot.


Fitbits, the latest trend in fitness trackers, have become popular not only with adults, but with children as well. Children in the class I volunteer in are obsessed with checking the amount of steps their teachers and peers take each day; an obsession also shared by many other children. This app helps teach children about health and fitness. Children can log in the amount of food or water they intake daily to learn the healthy amount they need. They can also monitor their steps to ensure they are meeting the daily recommended goal of 10,000 steps.This is a fun way to keep children active and raise their awareness of the importance of health and fitness.


These are just a few apps your children may find appealing. In the app store on your device you can search under the education category to find more educational apps. There are sure to be many that suit your child’s needs and interests. Since school is right around the corner, apps are great tools that children can use to practice what they know and keep their brains primed for learning.


Written By: Emery Tedesco

Emery Tedesco is heading into her second year as a college student at the University of Delaware. She is studying Elementary Education with a concentration in Special Education. Emery continually dedicates her time at Lakeview Elementary School aiding in a second grade general education and special education integrated co-taught classroom, assisting in summer reading/math camp, and volunteering in any classroom in need of support so she can continually spend time with children and refine her craft. At the University of Delaware, Emery dedicates her time to helping children through Project Sunshine whose mission is to bring joy to children in the hospital. In addition, she is a member of the Association of Pre-Professional Leaders in Education (APPLE). APPLE helps inspiring educators learn about the best steps to take as future teachers.

Use Your Summer Wisely

Should my child play Pokémon Go?


 For the past two weeks all people can talk about is Pokémon Go. The news is exploding with stories of people getting hit by cars, finding dead bodies, and getting lured to strangers all while playing this game. So, is this application truly safe for children?  

bigstock-Kuala-Lumpur-Malaysia--th-Jul-138386768.jpgThe 1990s craze of Pokémon has switched from trading cards to an app for smartphones. Pokémon Go is a game where players can catch virtual Pokémon in specific real-life locations. Players are called trainers. The mission for the trainer is to find Pokémon around various cities or towns, battle in locations known as gyms, or hatch eggs to make more Pokémon. Pokéstops are another place where players travel to to receive free items to promote their gaming experience. On the surface it seems like a way to force children to take their video games outside, but it can also put children in dangerous situations.

Continue reading “Should my child play Pokémon Go?”

Easy Action Items, Great for All Ages, Parent-Child Communication, Use Your Summer Wisely

Life Long Learners

As an adult, you know that learning never stops, despite what you may have thought as a child, such as, “When I grow up, I’m going to be an expert and know everything”. While that mindset is cute in a child and that desire is praiseworthy, we actually do not want our children to think that learning stops after school. If learning stops after school, how will they ever learn new skills and progress at work? If life becomes a bit monotonous, how will they start a new hobby without learning? How will they keep their brain active and alert as they age if they stop learning? How will they advance society if they think they already know everything?

Being a life long learner is clearly important. And we want to promote that in our learners.


To do so, show your learner that you are a life long learner.

  • Challenge your child to a game of Sudoku.
  • Learn how to play Pokemon Go and (be careful on the privacy settings with both to make sure people you do not know are not “friending” you).
  • Learn a new skill together, like cooking, photography, or even floral design. 
  • Practice a new sports trick together.

Showing that learning new things is still important for you, an adult, will help your children realize that learning is a life long (and hopefully fun) endeavor!

Summer Art Projects
Parent Tips

Summer Art Projects

It’s easy to get distracted by iPads, TV shows, and video games – pretty soon your entire summer has gone by and you (or rather, your kids) have spent most of it sitting watching a screen. Vow to spend some time this summer with your kids away from the screen. Outdoor games are always a great suggestion, but you can find those ideas anywhere. Instead, I am going to suggest some more activities you can do inside that promote that skill I mentioned loving: mental contrasting.

Material Experiment

Experiment with the materials you use to create something beautiful, scary, or ‘simply interesting’. The challenge is to make sure it does not turn into a big mess that does not look like anything. 

Steps: Provide your child with supplies and experiment together!


Using charcoal pencils, Q-tips, rubbing alcohol, and vellum (while wearing clothes that can get dirty), draw something on the vellum with the charcoal. Alter the way the charcoal looks by dipping the Q-tips in the rubbing alcohol and applying the Q-tips to the vellum.


Any basic art supplies of your choosing, plus a smock or clothes that can get dirty. Here are a few specific suggestions:

  • Tools for Drawing:
    • Crayons and colored pencils
    • Felt tip pens
    • Glass of rubbing alcohol
    • Kneaded eraser
    • Q-Tips
    • Sharpies
    • Sponges
    • Watercolor pencils and the Pentel Medium Aquash Brush (can be found at
  • Mediums for Drawing
    • T-Shirt
    • Tiles
    • Vellum

Difficult Drawing

Do this with your child to laugh over how hard it is, and use it as an opportunity to exclaim over how well your child is doing! This is really great practice for developing good self-control muscles!

Steps: Using your non-dominant hand:

  1. Write your name.
  2. Write the alphabet.
  3. Draw a picture.


  • Standard paper and pencil.
Difficult Drawy
My attempt to write my name and the alphabet with my non-dominant hand. The writing at the top is a comparison to my writing with my dominant hand.

Beautiful Oops!


  1. Read Beautiful Oops! by Barney Saltzberg to learn about turning mistakes into clever additions to your work. (The book is recommended for children in Preschool to 2nd grade).
  2. In the book, a tear in the paper becomes an alligator’s mouth. Therefore…
    1. Rip a piece of paper.
    2. Try making that tear into something else.

Possible Extension:

  1. Discover what other “accidents” you can turn into a masterpiece.


  • Beautiful Oops! by Barney Saltzberg
  • Standard paper and writing utensils
Beautiful Oops
When your little sibling ‘ruins’ your picture with sticky peanut butter fingers, you can turn the blobs into bumble bees, birds, and lady bugs. Any other ideas?

Interested in more art ideas for the summer?

You can purchase Summer Fun with Sisu, Fireborn’s summer edutainment packet filled with tons of ideas like these for summer learning and fun.

Summer Fun with Sisu can be purchased on Etsy for $30.

Summer Stem Activities
Parent Tips

Summer Stem Activities For Kids and Teens

Summer is the perfect opportunity to help your kids develop what author Paul Tough calls “mental contrasting”, one of my favorite skills which means “concentrating on a positive outcome and simultaneously concentrating on the obstacles in the way” (Tough, 2012, 93). Without mental contrasting, how would you achieve your goals? And yet it is easy to understand why (and that) kids give up on tasks that appear too hard or impossible.

Often this tendency to give up results in taking an easier, less risky path at school. During the school year, students are strapped for time, so if something is too hard and is therefore taking too much time, they are inclined to scrap it. If they have a creative idea, but it’s risky and could cost them a good grade, grades are too important, so they go with the less risky project.

But in the summer, the consequences of risk taking are much lower and kids have more free time, making it the best time to practice mental contrasting.

And what better way to practice mental contrasting than engineering and art projects? In both you have a goal (your vision for your project) and yet in both you run across challenges – how do I portray this in my picture? what can I use to keep this building stable? 

Summer Stem Activities

Here are a couple of art and engineering project suggestions for you to do with your kids this summer specifically to promote the development of mental contrasting.

Engineering Project – Build a Catapult

  1. Provide your child with supplies. You can make the activity harder or easier depending on which supplies you choose to provide your child. Choose and add options as you wish. However, you may think that by providing certain objects that your child will build the contraption one way, but that is not necessarily the case. Therefore, the exact materials you choose are not too important.
  2. Tell your child to build a catapult given the supplies provided. They will need to build something to put in the catapult and perhaps something to knock down with the catapult.
  3. Ask your child, can you knock something over with your catapult? OR can you catapult a blueberry into my mouth with your catapult?

Some potential supplies:

  • Balloons
  • Bottle caps
  • Cotton balls
  • Duct tape/Masking tape
  • Egg carton
  • Flexible drinking straws
  • Glue
  • Marshmallows
  • Newspaper
  • Pack of gum
  • Paint brushes (small)
  • Paper clips
  • Paper plates
  • Paper towel rolls
  • Pencils
  • Plastic grocery bag(s)
  • Plastic water bottles
  • Popsicle sticks
  • Q-Tips
  • Rubber bands
  • Scissors
  • Shoe strings
  • Streamers
  • Tin foil
  • Tissue box

Parents, if you need to help your child, you can watch this YouTube video for inspriration, but I do not recommend letting children use hot glue guns or X-Acto knives.


Art Project – Self-Portrait Mask

Explore your identity by decorating and playing with masks. While the masks are self-portraits, they could still portray an animal or a movie character as long as you can explain how that animal or character represents you.


  1. Using a piece of cardboard (any shape), cut out eye holes. (It may be a good idea to cut the eye holes out for your child depending on her age and fine motor skills).
  2. Decorate your cardboard mask in your image using whatever supplies you would like to use. For instance, you could paint your mask or you could glue objects onto your mask.


Several children enjoy playing Minecraft. By searching online for “Minecraft cubes” you can find printable cutout blocks. Use the Minecraft cubes you put together to decorate the mask.

  1. Once complete and dry, attach a popsicle stick to the back of the mask with masking tape so that you can hold the mask to your face using the popsicle stick.
  2. Explain to your family why you made the choices you made for your mask.
    1. What do your choices say about you?
    2. What story do you want your mask to tell about you?

If your child is stuck, try to ask questions such as “What if you did this?” and “What happened when you did that?” to inspire further thoughts and solutions instead of showing your child how you might solve the problem.

Interested in more art ideas for the summer?

You can purchase Summer Fun with Sisu, Fireborn’s summer edutainment packet filled with tons of ideas like these for summer learning and fun. Summer Fun with Sisu can be purchased on Etsy for $30.