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Creating memorable family moments together

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Educational activities ideal for making memories together

(Family Features) Educational activities and plans that allow kids to flex their brain muscles in fun and creative ways can be ideal ways to spend family time that makes lasting memories.

While children typically gain invaluable knowledge and experience in the classroom, purposeful activities done outside of that setting can help encourage kids to keep learning and make family moments more enjoyable for everyone involved.

From planning trips that celebrate animals and the great outdoors to rainy day activities at home that inspire creative expression, these ideas can produce some family moments worth remembering.

1. Go on a scavenger hunt. From native species of plants, animals and insects to neighborhood landmarks, there are plenty of interesting things that can be found right in your own backyard. Organize a scavenger hunt and work together in teams of family members to search for each item on the list, then do more research on the things you found once you return home. For a real challenge, expand your hunt to the city limits of your hometown and make a day trip of the adventure.

2. Hang out with wildlife. Learn about different species of animals, how to help protect them and the importance of eco-friendly everyday practices by visiting a destination like an Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA)-accredited zoo or aquarium. You can explore the challenges facing endangered species, discover how community programs are spurring positive change for conservation and learn more at aza.org. After learning about animals that need help, you can visit zebrapen.com/aza for fun kids games, coloring pages and other activities that encourage creativity. Many animal sanctuaries and wildlife recovery centers also have endangered species and offer educational information about them.

3. Visit a national park. Many park ranger programs provide opportunities to interact with the animals that live in the area, as well as information about any endangered animals and how you can help with conservation efforts. While in the park, you can also enjoy a nature hike, have a picnic lunch and view the different species of plants in the region.

4. Enjoy an arts and crafts day. Spending time doing an art project is a hands-on way to help introduce kids to new ideas and ways of learn­ing. Engage the entire family by creating crafts with different subjects of interest. This can help create conversations and opportunities to further explore what your children are interested in.

5. Organize a game day. A play day can be just as fun as it is educational. Choose from a variety of games that can allow players to get extra creative. Options like Pictionary or charades tap into different types of creative skills, which can keep everyone engaged while they’re learning to express themselves effectively in new ways.

Capture Moments That Matter

Make your family’s learning adventures more memorable by encouraging kids to capture their experiences on paper. The practice of communicating on paper can help lock in memories, plus it’s a clever way for kids to practice practical skills in an engaging and productive way.

Adjust these ideas as needed to match the ability level of each child so the whole family can participate.

1. Write about experiences in a journal or diary. For older kids, encourage them to use words to describe their adventures. Ask younger kids to draw a scene or image that captured their attention or excited them the most.

2. Design a diorama about your family’s adventures to display in your home to show extended family and friends. Make it a conversation piece by asking kids to think about an endangered species and depict its living environment. Available in standard, glitter, neon, metallic and pastel colors, tools like Zebra Doodler’z® allow little designers to explore the nearly endless possibilities for color coding, sketching, journaling and embellishing.

3. Take photos to share with friends and family both online and in-person. Get creative with your photo-taking by encouraging kids to think about the story they’ll tell through the images. It might be a series of selfies tackling exciting new activities or documenting a sibling’s first experience at the petting zoo. Another way to capture photographic memories is a photo treasure hunt, where kids have a list of items to search for and photograph during each outing.

4. Create a family calendar to plan your summer activities together. Anticipating upcoming adventures is part of the fun. Let kids help you keep track of what’s coming up and build excitement with a personalized calendar. Make it a work of art by asking kids to draw icons or small images that depict upcoming activities with an option like Zebra’s Sarasa® Fineliner Pens, which are available in 12 vibrant colors.

5. Share experiences on social media. Let friends and family in on the fun by sharing your photos, drawings, dioramas and other creations online. Seeing the positive interaction and praise-filled comments from loved ones can help reinforce the value of creative expression to impressionable young minds.

6. Create scrapbooks to help remember family moments. Keep the pace of life from fading those precious memories by assembling scrapbooks to commemorate family adventures. Make the scrapbook a family affair with everyone contributing their own creations.

Find more ideas for capturing and sharing experiences at zebrapen.com.

Photo courtesy of Getty Images (children at aquarium)

SOURCE:
Zebra Pen

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Supporting your pet’s health during summer

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(Family Features) As a pet parent, you know your pet’s needs are continually evolving. That’s true during different stages of growth and even as the seasons change.

Part of supporting your pet throughout the year is understanding the specific risks that come with changing weather and special seasonal events. Supporting pets this summer can be easier with these tips:

Summer Health Concerns
It may be an exciting time of year for humans with all the extra activities, seasonal celebrations and travel, but those summer pastimes can add up to a whole lot of stress for pets. In addition, environmental factors like allergens and heat can affect them more than you realize.

  • Allergies: Pets can be affected by many of the same allergens as humans, including grass, pollen and other vegetation that is more prevalent during warmer months. Watch for signs of trouble such as scratching, chewing, watery eyes and general discomfort. Veterinarians can offer advice on allergy support and supplements appropriate for your pet’s age, breed and size.
  • Fireworks: Summer tends to bring more loud noise and commotion in general, but this is especially true around the Fourth of July when explosions become the norm. If pets are fearful, it’s especially important to ensure they stay in well-secured areas since fireworks are a common cause of pets running away. If possible, find a safe spot within your house where outside noises are muffled. Provide some comfort items and check on them regularly. If they seem extremely distressed, vet-recommended anxiety treatments and supplements can help promote relaxation and soothe their nerves.
  • Travel: If your pet suffers from separation anxiety, summer trips can be especially problematic. One solution is to take your pet with you, but that’s not always practical or even possible. When pets with separation anxiety stay behind, it’s a good idea to leave them with someone they know, and even better if that person can stay in your home so pets are in familiar surroundings. If that’s not an option, introducing pets to their caretaker or doing a trial run at the kennel can help ease their nerves. In extreme cases, you may need to consult with a vet about supplements that can help soothe pets in your absence.
  • Dehydration: Just like humans, hotter temperatures make it easier to get dehydrated, which can lead to myriad health concerns. Ensure pets have access to fresh, clean and cool water at all times and be sure to alert your veterinarian if you notice any changes in their interest in drinking, as that can signal an issue. Also watch for signs of dehydration, such as weakness, less energy, changes in appetite and panting.

Managing Activity Levels
During the summer months, pets may be tempted to take it easy in the heat, or you may have the opposite problem: a pet that’s a little too active for the elements. Monitoring their activity level is important to ensure they don’t get overheated but also get adequate exercise to maintain a healthy weight and keep muscle tone strong. This may require getting creative about bringing playtime indoors or shifting your routine to accommodate walks early or late in the day when temperatures tend to be more forgiving.

Introducing Health Supplements
Monitoring pets’ health isn’t a one-size-fits-all effort. In fact, different breeds have distinct needs when it comes to exercise, behavioral training and even nutrition. Supplements, from multifunctional solutions to those targeting specific issues, can help complement regular food to ensure pets are getting all of the nutrients and preventative support they need to thrive. One comprehensive option is NaturVet’s Breed Specific Soft Chews supplement line, which is made up of five products that provide proactive support for distinct dog breed categories, including toy/small, bully, sport/working, doodle and giant.

The vet-formulated soft chew line was designed to offer a streamlined and personalized supplement approach for breeds with particular health needs. To support pets precisely as they are, each product offering is formulated for pure and mixed breed dogs alike, delivering tailored, wholesome ingredients to address joint, allergy, immune, heart, gut, anxiety and dental issues.  

Find more advice for supporting your pet’s health this summer and beyond at naturvet.com.

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock (woman hugging dog)


SOURCE:
NaturVet

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7 ways to reduce energy bills during summer heat

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 (Family Features) With temperatures forecasted to run at least 2 degrees higher than historical averages across more than half the country, according to projections from AccuWeather, heat waves may lead to soaring air-conditioning bills this summer.

“The summer is when we see homeowners strategizing about how to keep their homes cool and comfortable while sticking to their household budgets,” said Michael Williford, HVAC service manager at Hiller Plumbing, Heating, Cooling & Electrical. “We work with customers to keep their current HVAC systems running smoothly or upgrade to more efficient systems, which can make a huge difference in their utility bills. In addition, there are many other ways homeowners can keep their energy costs down during the hot summer months.”

Consider these smart, practical, cost-cutting tips for dialing down your energy bills.

Service HVAC Systems Regularly
To ensure the best cooling performance and efficiency possible, find a licensed contractor to keep your heating and cooling system well-maintained and serviced throughout the year. There are some tasks many homeowners can handle on their own, like keeping outdoor units free of debris and changing air filters. However, bringing in a professional 1-2 times a year for maintenance and to ensure proper function of ductwork and electrical components is also essential.

Use Appliances During Non-Peak Hours
Rather than using stoves, ovens and clothing dryers in the afternoon hours, consider doing so early in the morning or late in the evening. Peak time for many electricity providers is noon-6 p.m., meaning using appliances that heat up your home outside of this timeframe when conventional heating and cooling systems are likely running full throttle can help lower energy costs.

Upgrade Your Systems to an Energy-Saving Heat Pump
The Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) incentivizes homeowners who opt for energy-efficient HVAC upgrades, including qualified heat pumps, which can boost seasonal energy efficiency ratios and increase efficiencies. For example, Mitsubishi Electric heat pumps provide more energy-efficient cooling that may equal cost and energy savings as well as a reduced carbon footprint for homeowners. These systems are equipped with inverter or variable-speed technology that allows systems to automatically ramp up or down the required amount of energy depending on the room’s capacity. Although annual savings vary, some homeowners can save as much as $1,000 per year by switching to an all-electric heat pump.

Fire Up the Grill
When temperatures soar, use the grill for cooking to help lower energy usage and save on air-conditioning costs. Alternatively, toaster ovens, air fryers and slow cookers use less energy than larger conventional stoves or ovens. Get creative by cooking a pizza in a chiminea or smoking favorite meats as alternatives to using your oven.

Stop Cooling Empty Rooms
One mistake many homeowners make is forgetting to adjust their temperature settings when leaving the house. Whether you’re headed to the beach for the weekend or just headed to work for the day, blasting the air conditioner in an empty house can result in unnecessarily high utility bills. Multi-zone, all-electric heat pumps like those from Mitsubishi Electric allow homeowners to set the comfort level and adjust the temperature in each room, so you don’t have to waste energy cooling unoccupied rooms. With a smartphone app, you can even adjust the settings remotely.

Install a Smart Electric Panel
Installing a smart electrical panel alongside an all-electric heat pump enables homeowners to monitor and control energy consumption on-site or remotely using a smartphone for better overall efficiency and utility cost savings.

Harness the Sun’s Energy with Solar Panels
According to the Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy, the amount of sunlight that strikes the Earth’s surface in 90 minutes could power the world’s total energy usage for a full year. Investing in solar panels can help decrease energy bills and increase your home’s sustainability. Additionally, some utility providers and government entities, including the IRA, offer incentives to help reduce installation costs. Plus, solar-sourced power pairs well with all-climate heat pumps, which require minimal electricity to operate.

Find more ideas to dial down energy usage (and bills) this summer at MitsubishiComfort.com.

Photos courtesy of Shutterstock


SOURCE:
Mitsubishi Electric

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Practical presents: Father’s Day gift ideas for hard-to-buy-for dads

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(Family Features) Shopping for your dad on Father’s Day each year can be a challenge, especially when he says he doesn’t want anything or claims he already has everything he needs. However, focusing on the things he enjoys such as music, exercising or hobbies like woodworking or metalworking can send you down the right path toward finding a gift to say “thank you” for all he’s done and show him how much he means to you.

To help make the experience of shopping for your father less complicated, consider these practical options, and find more gift ideas to make his day at eLivingtoday.com.

Help Dad Transform His Workspace

When home projects abound, the right tools can help dad work smarter, solve problems and get more done easier and faster. With unprecedented adaptability and flexibility, the IQ Vise System by Work IQ Tools features a ball and socket design that allows articulation and 360-degree rotation at any angle for optimal work positioning while complementing task-specific jaws create the perfect grip for an extensive range of shapes and materials. Plus, IQ Connect plug-and-play accessories provide hands-free assistance on the vise and around your work area via three additional mounting options. Find more Father’s Day gift ideas to help dad work smarter at workiqtools.com.

Give Dad the Gift of a Great Workout

If your dad is looking to get (or stay) in shape, skip the gym membership and give him the equipment he needs to complete his workouts at home. From strength training equipment like dumbbells to cardio equipment such as running shoes, a jump rope and more, plus essentials like a yoga mat and resistance bands, there are plenty of options available to help your dad create a fitness center in the comforts of home.

Let Dad Listen to His Favorite Tunes in Peace

The right set of wireless, noise-canceling headphones can be a gamechanger when it comes to listening to music or podcasts. Replacing those old, wired headphones with a pair of in-ear or over-ear Bluetooth-connected ones – whichever style he typically prefers – with an extended battery life can serve as an upgrade whether your dad is hitting the gym, walking the dog, taking a phone call on the go or just watching his favorite show on his phone while lounging at home.

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock (father and daughter)

Photos courtesy of Unsplash (headphones and workout equipment)


SOURCE:
Work IQ Tools

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