Friendships are an important part of a child’s development. When children are paired with others, they share bonds and learn new experiences. In the fall 2015 issue of American Journal of Play, scholar Thomas Hendricks explained the importance of relationships in his Play as Experience article: “During play time, behaviors like personal needs, urges, desires, and understandings are expressed.” Hendricks added that when child friendships develop, “emotional skill sets are sharpened.” Read on for tips on fostering Tallahassee Friendships that could last a lifetime for your children, and even yourself!

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Making friends is not an easy task for all children, however. Many kids do not have a built-in social network in their lives. When children are small, friendship fostering becomes the responsibility of the parents. Three methods have been helpful in developing positive companions for my two kids. My successful strategies include observing in their classrooms, reaching out to other parents, and arranging a public meet-up or time-limited home play dates.

OBSERVE IN THE CLASSROOM

At the early start of a new school year, spend an hour volunteering in your child’s classroom. Talk to the teacher about selecting a good time to come in for a visit. My oldest daughter has a birthday in October so I typically ask if I can bring in an educational game along with treats for the students around her birth date. I observe and assist in a fun activity. I am amazed at what I witness in that short duration – monitoring the good listeners versus those who are not following directions or who may be acting out. I also notice the children who are being sweet or attentive to my daughter. After sixty minutes of classroom time, I’m able to pick out a few students who I think will make potential friends for my child. I also confer with the teacher about the different classroom behaviors, something that has proven to be incredibly insightful. This strategy has worked well in finding pals for my daughter during the past two years.

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REACH OUT TO OTHER PARENTS

After you monitor classroom activities, reach out to the parents of the children who show good friend potential. My child’s teacher was kind enough to pass along my name and contact information to the parents I wanted to meet. One parent sent me a text stating how her daughter really enjoyed playing at recess with mine. That prompted me to ask if she’d like to have a play date. We made arrangements a few weeks later and a budding friendship soon formed among all of us. Another tactic is to seek out friendly folks during school assembly programs or open house events. Talk to other parents and see if a connection occurs. I have experienced great conversation with other moms and dads, even when I didn’t know anyone in the room. After a few exchanges, I hand the other parent my personal card with contact details on it. Or I may ask for the other parent’s information. I say, “Let’s schedule a time for our kids to play,” and I follow up.

ARRANGE A PUBLIC MEET-UP OR A TIME-LIMITED HOME DATE

Parents may be more comfortable meeting in a public space while they first get to know another family. Great options for a meet-up include the park, library, a kid-friendly museum, or an indoor play area with slides. Use this as a way to be a local tourist in your community and discover new locations to explore. When you’re ready or comfortable to open up your home to a play date, make it time-limited to start. Keep in mind the age range and plan around naps or hours when children may be more irritable or hungry. My favorite times are either 10 a.m. to noon or 2 to 4 p.m. so I can avoid planning extra meals. Talk to the other parent and children to learn their habits, preferences or anything notable such as allergies or fears. I stay with my children at least three times before I am willing to leave them alone or drop them off for a visit without my supervision. Determine your own comfort level and safety rules for play dates.

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WORTH THE EFFORT, TIME AND MESS

Even if toy squabbling, crying and messes occur during a play date, remain optimistic about the effort spent on the occasion. Although it involves both time and effort, and often a lot of patience, I am grateful for the memorable moments my children spend with others. They are happy to have friends over and I love hearing their creativity and laughter coming from the next room while I do chores or simply have a little “me” time, always on call of course.

Do not underestimate the value of early friendship fostering. Camaraderie and connection is important at every stage in life. Take steps to develop companions for your children. Well-managed playtime with friends will assist families in the intellectual, emotional and social understanding of the world around them.

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If you’re looking for some Tallahassee Family Fun, what better way to expose your children (and yourself) to nature than at the Tallahassee Museum for a year full of fun experiences for all ages.

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For over 58 years, the Tallahassee Museum has been engaging and inspiring children to develop a sense of wonder, and a better understanding and appreciation for their natural and cultural world. Providing educational experiences and immersion activities has always been core to the museum’s mission. The settings for their efforts include school break and summer camps; daily museum visits and programs for families, school groups and home school audiences; and workshops and presentations to community, youth, teacher and parent groups.

With the increase of screen time for even the smallest children, it has become imperative that parents get outside and expose their children to nature. Parents used to be able to say to their kids, “Go play outside,” but with worries of safety, today it’s not always that easy. The demands of work, reduced leisure time, and in some cases, not knowing where to begin — are all factors of not being able to adequately help our children be engaged in the outside world.

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The cumulative and harmful impact of this trend is becoming abundantly apparent in the growing body of research that shows the lack of direct contact with nature is negatively affecting childhood development and the physical and emotional health of children as well as adults. Issues of obesity, attention deficit  hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), self-esteem and many other troubling problems have been linked to the lack of quality time in nature. The term “nature-deficit disorder” has been coined to describe these problems.

However, the Tallahassee Museum is a great resource here in Tallahassee to help slow these trends. Museum enthusiast and member Melissa Nelms said, “We love the museum because it’s a safe outdoor space, and we have enjoyed it for the several years we’ve been in Tallahassee. It’s a place that grows with you. We’ve been going for three years and my children are still excited every single time.”The Tallahassee Museum continues to enhance its efforts, programs and partnerships to get more families to participate in fun and engaging nature-based activities — museum sleepovers, nature-based field trips, programs on healthy lifestyles and the challenging obstacles and zip lines of the museum’s Tallahassee Tree to Tree Adventures.

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“I think it is imperative for the future of our children and our communities for us all to embrace and promote the importance of getting both children and adults
regularly into nature for their physical, emotional and developmental health,” said Russell Daws, president and CEO of Tallahassee Museum.

If you’re looking for a way to better expose your children (and yourself ) to nature, look no further than the Tallahassee Museum for a year full of fun experiences
for all ages.

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If you’ve got kids, of course you want to make sure they grow up fit and healthy. But you also know it’s hard to juggle work, family, and physical activity. Still, setting a healthy example is a good start; research shows that parents who are physically active increase the likelihood that their kids will be active as well. So if you’re looking for ways to get your kids involved, check out these tips. And if you don’t already, follow my personal Instagram @emilyachandler where I post videos of my workouts, my struggles of trying to stay as fit and healthy as possible in a world full of cakes and couches (can I get an Amen?) and of course, the obligatory photos of my furbabies.

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Plan outdoor activities

Set aside one day a weekend to do something active as a family: swimming in the summer, sledding or hiking in the winter, or biking in the spring and fall. Taking along a picnic lunch—and splurging on some healthy snacks after a good workout—will help the day go by without a complaint.

Take classes together

Ask around at fitness clubs and community centers in your area about yoga or aerobics classes offered to parents and kids together. If your little one is too young to participate, look for classes that help you burn calories with your baby by incorporating them into your yoga moves or pushing them along during stroller workouts. No kids? Check out partner yoga or even doga—yup, yoga for you and your dog.

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Redo your family room

Too often, family rooms are the center of laziness in a home: a comfy couch, a video-game console, a shelf full of DVDs, and nothing to encourage fitness or physical activity. There are ways to add in subtle reminders, however, without overhauling your entire room or dragging in a giant piece of workout equipment. Set a time limit on weekly television viewing and incorporate these Skinny House essentials to keep your whole family moving.

Make chores fun

Instead of relegating each member of the family to doing separate chores by themselves, turn chores into a game you can all do together. Race to see how fast you can get the house cleaned, and then try to beat your old time the next week. Play music while you’re doing laundry, and enlist the kids to sing and dance while helping to fold and put clothes away. Take the dog for walks together, and squeeze in some running, roller-skating, or jump rope while you’re at it.

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Make over your meal plan

This isn’t necessarily a fitness tip, but it’s also worth mentioning: Families that eat healthier also tend to have other healthy habits, such as regular physical activity. If you want to slim down after having a baby or just want to eat better overall, get your entire family involved and you’re more likely to succeed. Take kids to the farmers’ market, let them pick their own fruits and vegetables, and involve them in the food preparation. They’re much more likely to enjoy their meals—and to clean their plates.

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Let’s face it, most families don’t have portraits done every year because just the idea of it seems daunting and overwhelming. Perhaps you’ve had a couple experiences in the past that weren’t exactly picture perfect? See what I did there? Photo pun! Moving on. Maybe baby was crying the whole time? Big sister didn’t want to smile? Baby brother wanted to play in the dirt and when you told him “absolutely not” he got grouchy? It happens. It’s called life. But there are some things you can do to help guide your experience toward a more pleasurable one. So without further ado, here are 8 tips for you to take into consideration before your next family photo session.

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1.  Choose your clothing carefully

Have your clothing chosen way in advance and make sure that your outfit choices are comfortable and attractive.  What do your dream family photos look like?  If they are soft and elegant?  Chose neutral colors with soft, flowing fabrics…. think creams, very soft pastels, oatmeals, light browns, tans, grays, and slate blues.  Want to showcase the fun and spunky side of your family?  Choose coordinating colors (but not matchy, matchy) with bold accent colors, such as hues of gray with yellow or bright red accents.  Adding fun accessories like scarves, headbands, hats, etc. can add a modern twist and sassy flair to your images.

2.  Be well rested and well fed

Be certain not to schedule your photo session around your child’s nap or bedtime.  The best time for lighting is the two hours before sunset and after sunrise.  If this is a bad time for your children, talk with your photographer.  Good photographers will be able to shoot at any time of day by utilizing areas of open shade that will give your skin a beautiful hue and put a sparkle in your eyes.  Don’t show up to a photo shoot on an empty stomach.  I meet many families who come to a photo session with dinner scheduled at the end.  If this is your plan, be sure to give everyone a healthy snack before the photo shoot.

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3.  Leave plenty of time to get ready.

Moms are often rushing around before a photo shoot, making sure that their family is dressed and ready.  I always encourage mothers to have their hair and makeup professionally done.  This will prepare mom for her pictures and when mom is feeling pretty and confident, this will reflect on the rest of the family as well.  Leave plenty of time for showers, baths, dressing, and grooming.  When a family shows up to a family photo session rushed and disorganized, it sets the tone for a rushed and disorganized session.  Give yourself extra time so that you are ready before it’s time to head out that door.

4.  Dads! Be cheerful participants.

Dads, please cheerfully participate.  I know that many dads dread the family photo session, but fathers, please understand how important capturing your family is.  These images will be left as a legacy, when your children are grown, with families of their own some day. Family photos are treasured forever and they are so important.  Please, please, dads… cheerfully participate in your family photo session.  Once you see your happy wife and amazing photographs, you will be so glad that you gave this time to your family.

5.  Cheese is for crackers.

Please, parents… leave the “cheese” at home.  Cheese is for crackers.  So many times I have found parents who stand behind the photographer and scream, “Say cheese to the lady kids!”  Yelling and demanding young children to look at the camera to smile will only stress your children out (not to mention the photographer) and will result in strained, unnatural and often unflattering photographs.  Step back, and allow the photographer to naturally interact and talk with your children.  This will result in natural, gorgeous smiles.  Help the photographer capture the true essence of your child’s personality by talking with and coaxing out those smiles naturally and easily.

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6.  Have fun with your family.

Don’t be afraid to pick up your children and toss them in the air.  Give your wife a sweet kiss on the check.  Tell your husband how much you love him and appreciate him for being there for your family.  Have fun.  Laugh. Giggle. Joke. Embrace.  Kiss.  Snuggle.  Play.  Doing these things will allow the photographer to capture the emotion and true beauty of your family.  Leave the stiff “cheese” faces for Aunt Marge at the next family reunion.  Show your photographer who you really are, so that she has the opportunity to capture your love through her lens.

7.  Bring an activity that you enjoy doing together as a family.

My most successful family sessions have incorporated an activity that the family loves to do together.  This gives you something to do with your hands and feet, engages the little ones, and brings an authentic smile to your face.  Do you love to read together?  Bring some books.  Is your favorite dessert ice cream?  Bring some ice cream bars or drumsticks to your session or better yet… hire an ice cream truck to come to your session.  Love to play board games or cards?  Plan to play a round of Uno or Monopoly during your family photo session.  Other ideas include: football, piggy back rides, races, bike riding, hiking, singing, picnics, the ideas are endless.  When families are engaged in doing something that they love together, the photographer will have the opportunity to take some beautiful and authentic photographs.

8.  NOT everyone has to be looking and smiling at the camera at the same time.

The best photographs are often the ones where everyone is engaged or interacting with each other.  Understand that not every picture needs to have everyone looking at the camera and smiling at the same time.  If you are engaged as a family and loving on each other, your eyes will be on your family members and your smile with be natural.  These are the photographs that you will cherish most because they depict your family connection and your love.

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You’ve already put so much thought into the details of your wedding — from your dress to your flowers to your vows — so don’t let the bar become an afterthought. Keep the beer and wine flowing, but when it comes to making a real “just married” statement, it’s all about the signature wedding cocktail. With clever names and seasonal flavors, these cocktail recipes might just be the personal touch you and your groom have been looking for.

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1. Watermelon Refresher: If you’re hosting summer nuptials, think about using seasonal fruit like watermelon in your cocktails. This recipe calls for a strawberry-watermelon combo, healthy splash of vodka and hints of basil, ginger and lime. (via Style Me Pretty)

2. Drink Tags: “If you liked it, then you shoulda put a tag on it,” said all smart DIY brides everywhere. Once you’ve made your signature drink, bottle it up and add festive “Just Married” tags that describe the drink of choice. (via Wedding Chicks)

3. Champagne and Fruit: Sometimes a signature drink is more about the garnishes than the booze, like in the case of this champagne cocktail with slices of soaked pears in glass and skewered blueberries on top. (via We Tie The Knots)

4. Margarita Madness: Throw the fiesta of all fiestas by making you and your grooms’ signature drink the ultimate in tequila-infused sippers — a margarita. We can’t think of one guest who could complain about that! (via Style Me Pretty)

5. Blueberry Mojito: If you’re not into blue shoes and jewelry for your “something blue” make it about your drink instead. This twist on a classic mojito is fruity from fresh blueberries and just as refreshing as the minty classic. (via A Crimson Kiss)

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6. His and Hers Drinks: Just because you got hitched doesn’t mean you suddenly adopted his passion for a good Scotch on the rocks. Make the bar just as much about you and your main man as the rest of the wedding with two go-to drinks, his and hers style! (via Wedding Chicks)

7. Personalized Glasses: Whatever you decide your signature drink is, like this berry-infused lemonade, serve it in a glass guests can take home. To make yours, have your calligrapher write names on each glass. (via Brieowmi Films)

8. St. Germain: Give this St. Germain cocktail, made with lime, white cranberry juice and vodka, the name it deserves — The White Wedding. (via Style Me Pretty)

9. Lavender Infusion: Getting married in the spring? Infuse your champagne with floral lavender by adding a sprig of the purple stuff to each flute. If those lavender sprigs match your bridesmaids’ dresses, bonus points. (Bridal Musings)

10. Champagne Mojitos: This is one of those two-in-one cocktails you’ve been dreaming about. The maid of honor and best man can now make their toasts to raised glasses of sparkling mojitos instead of boring ol’ champagne. And those cute umbrella-topped straws are just the best. (via Style Me Pretty)

11. Pineapple Rum Tea Punch: Southern belles, this one’s for you! Go punch bowl style at your wedding with this tropical concoction, served in pretty glass tea cups, of course. (via The Daily South)

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12. Mini Rum and Cokes: Rum and Coke might not be the most original of cocktails, but you and your groom can make it all yours by serving them up in mini glass Coke bottles. How sweet! (via The Knot)

13. The Menu: After you’ve decided on what drink is yours and what goes to your groom, make a fun menu to stand at the bar. This way guests can choose sides. (via Buzzfeed)

14. Black and White Martini: Throwing an elegant affair? Go all black and white with your drinks by serving martinis straight up with black olive stirrers. (via Merriment Events)

15. Rhubarb Raspberry Fizz: Feeling fruity? This pretty pink cocktail will have your guests double fisting. It’s loaded with fresh rhubarb, raspberries and vanilla bean. (via Golubka Kitchen)

16. Grapefruit Mimosas: This one’s for those daytime weddings — or for a bride who really likes her brunch drinks! Instead of orange juice though, use grapefruit juice and make those mimosas pink. (via Jelly Toast Blog)

17. Sparkly Stirrers: Give your drinks some flair by adding pom-pom topped stirrers to your glasses. Just think how cute all those sparkly raised glasses will look come toast time. (via Style Me Pretty)

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18. Pineapple Peach Vodka: How about a custom drink they can drink at the party or on the go? Pour fruit-infused vodka into airplane bottles (or go larger!) for an on-the-spot indulgence or a party favor. And don’t forget the cute labels. (via Burnett’s Boards)

19. Blushing Kiss: This grapefruit gin martini has all the makings of a fun night — and judging by its name, it should be drank immediately following your first kiss as husband and wife. (via Bakers Royal)

20. Lavender French 75: Your guests have probably tried a French 75. Light and refreshing, it’s made with gin, lemon and champagne, but they probably haven’t had one infused with lavender. In honor of your “something new,” introduce them to this fantastic drink. (via Love and Lemons)

21. Pretty in Pink: This is the kind of drink that should be served at an outdoor summer wedding: Refreshing from the fresh lemon juice, bubbly from sparkling wine and booze-infused with gin, it’s a hands-down winner. (via Apartment 34)

22. Bathtub Gin: If you and your groom love all things old school and retro, you’ll love this nod to the prohibition era. Bottle up “bathtub gin” (just make yours by infusing gin with fruit) in mason jars. Then, throw it in a bathtub for guests to grab from. (via Wedding Chicks)

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23. Strawberry Cachaca: This drink is almost too pretty to sip! It’s mixed like a caipirinha with cane sugar, muddled strawberries and cachaca, a liquor similar to rum, made from sugar cane. (via Wedding Chicks)

24. Elderflower White Cosmopolitan: We’re fans of anything that adds flowers to the mix. Put them in a cosmo, and you’ll find us at the bar all night! (via Brides)

25. Orange-Gin-a Cocktail: This citrus and gin cocktail is infused with rosemary, making it the ultimate in balanced flavors and an elegant addition to your wedding’s bar. (via Ruffled)

26. Caribbean Mist: Consider this a cocktail for a destination wedding, inspired by the crystal blue oceans of whatever beach you and your man decided to escape to. And if you’re having a homegrown wedding, you can serve this as your something blue or in honor of your honeymoon. (via Something Turquoise)

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Already have a drink of choice? Tell me what signature cocktail you and your groom are serving at your wedding in the comments below or on FaceBook!

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