Fool Proof Father-Son Experiences in 2014

Now that Father’s Day has passed and your family has showered you with the appreciation every dad deserves, it’s time to start planning the next father-son outing to return the favor. Planning unique activities with your kid is about much more than just finding fun things to do. It’s a chance to share valuable bonding experiences and and even pass down skills they can use in the future.

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Getting Your Kids to Cooperate without Losing Your Cool

Rona Renner, RN., author of Is that Me Yelling?
Getting your kids to cooperate without losing your cool.
Issues: becoming aware of yourself; understanding everyday triggers; adapting your parenting style to your child’s temperament; dealing with the yeller in your family; dealing with difficult situations, disorders, and differences.

How to Keep Your Teen Safe and Insurance Rates Down

Every year, around 14,000 teens between the ages of 16 and 19 are killed in car crashes. It’s no wonder that parents are afraid of letting their children hit the road on their own—and that they take every possible precaution to keep their children safe. It’s also no wonder that insurance rates for teens are incredibly high. Fortunately for parents of teens everywhere, there are programs in place that can help keep kids safer on the road, and keep their insurance premiums as low as possible.

Safe Driving Courses
There are a number of safe driving courses out there that go above and beyond the training that traditional driver’s education courses offer. Most of them are aimed at young adults 15-25. They usually last about four hours and teach young drivers about:

  • How to avoid underestimating risks on the road.
  • The danger of driving with knees (something young drivers—and plenty of adults—commonly do).
  • Dealing with peer pressure, as well as texting and other handheld distractions.
  • State and local laws.

According to the National Safety Council, these safe driving (sometimes called “defensive driving”) courses reduce the risk of car accidents for young drivers.

And here’s your bonus: Many insurance companies discount the cost of young driver insurance for those who complete the course.

Good Grades
As an added incentive for students to do well in school, good grades = lower insurance premiums. Research shows that students who do better in school are less likely to get into accidents on the road. Young drivers will generally qualify for a good student discount if they:

  • Have a 3.0 (B average) GPA or better or are on the honor roll/Dean’s List
  • Are under age of 25
  • Are enrolled full time in high school or college/university.
  • Can provide proof of academic performance (generally a report card issued by the institution)

Teen Driving Contracts
American Automotive Association (AAA) developed a parent-teen driving contract in coordination with various insurance companies, and the idea has really taken off in the last five years. These contracts aren’t legally binding; they’re simply an agreement between parents and teens that lays out in writing what the expectations are for the teen before he or she takes the keys and hits the road alone. Contract can be altered to fit individual needs, and are auto-filled with recommended guidelines for each category. The categories are fairly extensive, and include:

  • Privileges such as curfews, number of passengers allowed in the vehicle, and weather conditions that would limit driving.
  • Rules the teen is expected to follow, such as basic road rules, keeping in contact with parents, and potential risks.
  • Consequences for irresponsible behavior and driving while the keys are in the teens control.

Teen driving contracts help teens gradually step into the responsibilities of driving, make them aware of the consequences for not following the rules, and still allow them to have some freedom. In some cases, insurance companies offer discounts for parent-teen driving contracts as long as they are kept on file with the company.

Financial Responsibility
One great way to keep teens responsible behind the wheel is to require that they bear some of the financial costs. They’re much more likely to be attentive and cautious behind the wheel if they know that consequences for their failure to do so will come out of their pockets. At the very least, you should make sure your teen knows that he or she will be financially responsible for:

  • Any tickets, whether for moving violations or parking.
  • A set dollar amount or fixed percentage of the cost to repair the damaged vehicle if the teen is at fault.
  • The cost of insurance on the vehicle. The teen should pay the difference between your old insurance rate and your new rate with the teen driver added.

Giving your teen a financial stake won’t reduce the cost of insurance, but it will help keep your teen safer on the road.

Keeping Kids Occupied in the Kitchen

If you’ve got little kids, you know that making meals can be one of the toughest times of the day. The kids want all of your attention—right now—and you want to keep them clean and occupied so they don’t become a danger to themselves or anyone else. One of the best ways to keep kids busy in the kitchen is to let them “help” you with meal prep and cooking. You could give them an actual pot full of water, but your toddler or preschooler will turn that into a slippery mess in 30 seconds. A better (and far less messy) option is to set your child up at the kitchen table with some pretend food to “slice,” “dice,” and “cook” while you do the real thing at a nearby counter. Here are some very realistic kids’ cooking sets that will make your little one feel like a real grown-up.

melissa & doug sandwich makingCooking and Kitchen Sets (Melissa & Doug)
Melissa & Doug have a pretty broad selection of cooking and kitchen sets that are made of either wood or felt. The Sandwich Making Sets come with everything your child will need to make a delicious sandwich, including bread, rolls, lunch meat, pickles, hamburgers, and more. If you go for the wood set, the pieces stick together with bits of Velcro; the felt pieces stick together on their own. Both come with a wooden knife (that isn’t sharp, of course). To make sure your child gets the recommended daily allowance of pretend fruits and veggies (and, maybe to encourage him or her to eat the real thing at mealtime), check out the Cutting Fruit Set. You get seven pieces of various fruits and veggies that can be sliced into a total of seventeen pieces, which can be reassembled into some really weird combinations that will get you and the kids giggling. The food makes a fun “crunch” noise when kids “cut” it with the included wooden knife. Comes in a wooden storage crate. $20 on

Alex Toys Tea Set Sticker PartyTea Set Sticker Party (Alex Toys)
Here’s one that combines two kids’ favorites: tea and stickers. This 13-piece, ceramic tea set comes with more than 100 stickers that your kiddo can use to decorate and customize. Then, all he or she needs to do is send out the invitations, make sure there are enough chairs for the guests (which may or may not include stuffies), and start pouring tea while you get your Alton Brown on. The Tea Set Sticker Party comes with four cups, four saucers, a sugar bowl, and creamer, and let’s not forget all those stickers. $19 at

b Toys Let's DishLet’s Dish (B Toys)
A lot of kitchen toys are aimed at girls, but B Toys, makers of all things awesome, has a completely gender-neutral kitchen set made of brightly colored, durable plastic. It comes with a green tray that’s perfect for serving hors d’oeuvres to special real or imaginary guests, breakfast in bed (or on the couch) to mom or dad, or chips and dip on game day. The dishes, cups, and (safe) silverware can be used with pretend foods or real foods, something the kids will get a real kick out of. Best of all, everything in this set can be washed clean with soap and water. This well-made set will last for years. $20 at Target

Is That Me Yelling? + The Sense and Nonsene of Alternative Medicine

Rona Renner, RN., author of Is that Me Yelling?
Getting your kids to cooperate without losing your cool.
Issues: becoming aware of yourself; understanding everyday triggers; adapting your parenting style to your child’s temperament; dealing with the yeller in your family; dealing with difficult situations, disorders, and differences.

Paul Offit, author of Do You Believe in Magic?
The sense and nonsense of alternative medicine.
Issues: What is “alternative medicine”?; megavitamins actually increase the risk of some cancers and heart disease (something well known to scientists but not to the general public); celebrity spokespeople (Like Jenny McCarthy and her anti-vaccine campaign) who have no medical background and are doing more damage than good; alternative medicine treatments that actually work.