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Let your kids plan Christmas?

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If you’re hosting your family’s holiday party this year and you want your kids to be involved, why not let them plan Christmas dinner? If they feel like they’re in charge, they won’t even realize they’re helping. Here’s a suggested itinerary to help orchestrate the event from conception to execution.

One month before
Have your kids look through cookbooks and decide what to serve on the big day. Don’t worry if they choose something unconventional—it could be a hit and become your family’s favorite new holiday tradition.

Three weeks before

Put your Christmas tree up, string it with lights and let the kids go hang the ornaments. Bring out the rest of your decorations and let them decide where everything goes this year.

Two weeks before
It wouldn’t be Christmas without the smell of gingerbread in the air. Have them bake and decorate cookies to give to their teachers as gifts.

One week before
If your kids are old enough to use scissors on their own, teach them how to wrap gifts, and make it their job. Just be sure they don’t tell grandma what you got her.

Five days before
Let them create a centerpiece for your holiday table. Even if you end up with a Star Wars themed Christmas, it’ll be unique and they’ll love it.

Three days before
Write a list of everything you need to make the dishes the kids picked and head to the market as a family. Give each child one or more ingredients to look out for.

The big day
Let your kids pick the holiday music, set the table and greet your guests.

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What to expect from your child’s kindergarten orientation

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The start of kindergarten is a big event in a child’s life. To make the transition easier, many schools organize an orientation or visit the school before the year starts. Here’s what you can expect.

For kids
New students typically visit their classrooms and teachers. They’ll get a tour of the school, meet their future classmates, and participate in activities like crafts or storytime. This positive first experience will set them up for success.

For parents

While the little ones have fun, parents will get to meet with the principal and school administrators to receive information about the following:

• Schedules
• Bus service
• Daycare service
• Supply lists

The kindergarten orientation ensures all students get off to a good start. If you have specific questions or concerns about your child, it’s best to schedule a private meeting. Most schools hold orientation in the spring. You’ll be informed of the date when you register your child.

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How to organize a home renovation project

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Are you ready to take on a major home renovation but don’t know where to start? Here’s how to organize your tasks and ensure everything goes smoothly.

Make a list
Renovations should be done in a logical order to avoid wasting time and money. For example, you shouldn’t paint the walls before you open them up to install insulation. To ensure you have a clear idea of what’s involved and don’t miss a step, make an extensive list of all the tasks that need to be done.

Establish a schedule

Once you know what your project entails, you can determine a logical sequence in which to complete tasks. In general, you should start with any necessary demolition and tackle large structural projects first. This may include repairs to the foundation, support beams, and subfloor. After you’ve addressed all plumbing, electrical, and insulation concerns, you can hang the drywall and proceed to the finishing touches.

Depending on the scale of your renovation, you can more or less follow these 10 steps:

1. Demolish, starting with the upper floors
2. Make structural repairs
3. Install electrical wiring, plumbing, and HVAC ducts
4. Clean and upgrade the exterior
5. Add or replace insulation
6. Replace the windows
7. Close up the walls, ceilings, and floors
8. Paint the ceilings and walls
9. Install the flooring
10. Clean up and furnish

If you plan to live in the house while it’s being renovated, remember to update only one bathroom at a time. This way you’ll ensure you always have one that can be used.

Evaluate constraints
If you can’t afford to complete all of your renovations right away, determine the cost of each project, and identify your top priorities. You can either do one room at a time or start with small tasks throughout the house while you save up the money.

Additionally, be sure to schedule your timeline around seasonal weather that could affect your renovation projects. For example, it’s best to avoid upgrading the exterior during winter or painting the interior in the summer.

For optimal results, consider hiring a contractor who can ensure the work gets done to code.

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7 signs your home’s insulation needs to be replaced

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Insulation is essential for keeping your home warm in the winter, cool in the summer and dry all year long. Here are seven signs it’s time to replace yours.

1. Sounds travel
The insulation in your walls, floors, and ceilings should muffle all but the loudest noises in your home. If you can hear ambient sounds like the clicking of a keyboard or the dripping of a tap from another room, the insulation isn’t doing its job.

2. High energy bills

Inadequate insulation forces you to turn up the heat in the winter and air conditioning in the summer. A higher-than-usual energy bill is often the first sign that you need to replace your insulation.

3. Uneven temperatures
The temperature in your home should be consistent from room to room. If you have areas that are cooler or warmer than others, it’s an indication that there’s a problem with the insulation.

4. Cold surfaces
Walls, floors, and ceilings shouldn’t be cold to the touch. If yours are, it’s a sign that there isn’t enough insulation.

5. Condensation and mold
If you have mold on your ceiling, condensation on your windows, or damp walls and floors, it’s a sign that there’s too much humidity in your home. This may be due to poor insulation.

6. Pest infestations
Animals and insects can get into your home through gaps in your insulation. Additionally, they’re often attracted by mold and damage caused by water infiltration.

7. Freezing and ice
It isn’t normal for pipes to freeze or for icicles to hang from the edge of your roof. Both are signs that your insulation isn’t doing its job.

While it may seem like a big undertaking, replacing your insulation is a surefire way to make your home more comfortable and lower your energy bills.

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4 apps that will make school easier for your child

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School will be back in session soon. If you’re worried that your children won’t be able to keep up with their schoolwork, here are four apps that can help get them into the swing of things.

1. Khan Academy Kids
This app has fun characters and engaging books, videos, and games that teach reading, writing, math, and problem-solving skills.

Available for Android and iOS devices. Free.

2. Pili Pop
Your children can have fun learning French or Spanish using this engaging app. Kids will learn their second or third language alongside the Pilis, curious aliens visiting Earth.

Available for Android and iOS devices. Free trial.

3. Math Heroes vs. Dragons
Your kids can capture dragons by solving math problems involving addition, multiplication, division, and fractions.

Available for iOS devices. Purchase required.

4. Quizlet
This flashcard app can help kids study almost any subject. Students can create their own flashcards or use ones generated by others.

Available for Android and iOS devices. Free, with in-app purchases.

With these apps, your kids are sure to be ready for the school year ahead.

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Is your child ready for kindergarten?

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If you’re wondering whether your child is ready for kindergarten, here’s what you should know.

The basics
Children should have certain physical, social, and cognitive skills before starting kindergarten. For instance, they should be able to:

• Wait their turn

• Play and share with others
• Put on and remove their clothes
• Go up and downstairs
• Recognize a few letters from the alphabet
• Follow directions
• Hold a pencil
• Use the washroom

There are many ways you can foster the development of these skills. You can, for example, encourage them to form connections with other children their age, progressively let them get dressed on their own, and encourage them to express their emotions in constructive and non-disruptive ways.

If you feel your child isn’t quite ready when the time comes, ask the school to put you in contact with someone who can help, such as a psychologist or special educator. They’ll be able to provide advice, evaluate your child’s needs, and devise a plan to address concerns.

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Beautify your backyard

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If your backyard is in need of an upgrade, here are some ways to give it a makeover.

Install outdoor lighting
Enjoy your backyard both day and night by installing smart outdoor lighting that turns itself on when the sun goes down. You can even choose a system that allows you to match the intensity and color of the lights to the situation. This way, you can create the perfect atmosphere for every evening, from quiet nights at home to festive barbecues with friends.

Incorporate natural materials

Natural materials like wood and stone are ideal for most landscaping projects and complement design aesthetics ranging from traditional to modern. For a more contemporary look, pair wood and stone with corten steel, which can be used for fireplaces, garden edging, and flowerpots. Additionally, plants like vines, grasses, and succulents enhance wood and stone features.

Create a natural pool
In a natural swimming pool, water is filtered using oxygenating and purifying plants rather than chlorine and other chemicals. Besides being kinder to the environment, these pools are often designed to imitate natural bodies of water and therefore blend into your yard more than traditional pools. If you don’t have room for a swimming pool, consider enhancing your outdoor space with a water feature like a fountain or small pond.

Rethink outdoor cooking
Outdoor kitchens are increasingly popular. Consider upgrading from your basic barbecue to an integrated grill with a counter and sink. Other features you may want to include are a bar, a smoker, and a wood-burning pizza oven.

To get started on your backyard makeover project, be sure to get hold of a reputable landscaping company or general contractor.

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