Finding Competent and Affordable Childcare

Professors Brower and Davis (2021) recently reviewed the need for parent self-care on USU Extension’s Relationship website. They reminded readers that when we experience mental and emotional fatigue, it is hard to provide quality care to our children that show love and support. Obtaining a babysitter to care for your children while you take time to recharge may be necessary. So, how does a caregiver make sure they hire someone who is a good fit for their needs and family?
Let’s discuss how to find someone you believe to be competent in the care of your child and the affordability of care. 

Finding Competent Providers

  • Ask family and friends for referrals. Ask them who they trust and why. 
  • Take the time to call and talk to referrals from friends and family. What may work for them might not for you. 
  • Interview care providers. Think about how you would want someone to handle child behaviors or safety concerns. Ask questions based on your desires and concerns.
  • If CPR and first aid certification are important to you, verify that the individual has current training and certification. They should have a card confirming what training they received and when it will expire. 
  • Please note that childcare does not include housekeeping. Informing your chosen caregiver that you expect toys to be put away is advised. However, if you expect more to be done, then an additional fee should be arranged for in advance for those services.  
  • Take time before you leave home to talk with your children and the sitter about home rules to be followed. That way, everyone is on the same page, and the sitter will have less trouble getting children to follow home rules.   

Finding Affordable Care

  • Ask friends and family what they pay per hour for babysitting. Consider the number of children you have when calculating what you are willing to pay them.
  • Have an open conversation about the cost per hour of care with your babysitter prior to hire. Think about what you can afford; if their price is too high, then be honest with them about what you are willing to pay per hour. 
  • Ask friends and family members with children if you can do a babysitting swap. 
  • Talk with those you know and trust about the possibility of watching your child if ever you find you need time for self-care. You can always make a treat and deliver it later as a thank you. 
  • If you have a child with disabilities, some Utah counties have programs designed to give parents a few hours of reprieve. See https://kotm.org/programs/respite-care
  • Here is another resource for those experiencing crisis or feeling overwhelmed. This center will provide respite if you need a break. See http://www.utahvalleyfamilysupport.org/how-we-can-help/crisis-services/. Be sure to call ahead if using this resource. 


Brower, N., & Davis, E. (n.d.). Becoming a better parent through self-care. Utah State University Extension: Relationships. Retrieved February 1, 2022, from https://extension.usu.edu/relationships/faq/becoming-a-better-parent-through-self-care

By Eva Timothy, Extension Professional Practice Assistant Professor

Tips for Raising Responsible Children

responsible children

As a parent, what would you say is your top goal to accomplish with/for your children?

A common response is that parents want to help their children grow into responsible adults— which may include smaller goals such as helping them have skills necessary to be productive members of society, be healthy, happy, and able to take care of themselves.  To encourage and direct parents toward achieving this goal, Cornell University Extension (Jefferson County) has created a parent guide that identifies and breaks down 7 parenting tips. Let’s take a closer look.

Tip 1: Don’t do things for your children that they can do for themselves.

  • Even young children can help with chores and get themselves dressed in the morning.
  • Resist the urge to take over and solve all your child’s problems. Instead, help children learn to help themselves.

Tip 2: Be clear and consistent about your expectations.

  • Make sure your children understand the rules of the household.
  • Be consistent with your messages. If the rule is that children must finish homework before watching TV, then stick with it.
  • Give children advance notice if you expect certain behavior. This is helpful when taking them to the grocery store or on a family vacation, for example.

Tip 3Teach skills and give positive feedback.

  • Don’t just tell your child what to do—include how to do it. For example, a young child may need to be told to clean up their toys but showing them what you mean may work best.
  • Older children may benefit from written step-by-step instructions. For example, to clean the bathroom they may need to know: spray down the shower walls and floor with “X” cleaner, leave for 5 minutes and then rinse with warm water and use a squeegee to dry.
  • Positive and specific feedback for a task or assignment done well. For example: “I love the way you folded your clothes so neatly before putting them in the drawer.”

Tip 4: Create a home that helps children act responsibly.

  • Work with children to organize their space and belongings. This might mean providing bins and shelves they can reach.
  • Make sure children know where to find cleaning supplies to do their chores and clean up spills.
  • Set up an area for homework that is comfortable, well-lit and that minimizes distractions.

Tip 5: Teach children that mistakes are an opportunity to learn.

  • Everybody makes mistakes, so your children are likely to as well. Try not to over-react. Instead, view mistakes as a time to make new plans and better actions for the future.

Tip 6: Let children experience the natural consequences of their behavior.

  • When children don’t act responsibly, don’t be a “helicopter” parent who always rushes in to fix the mistake- unless it is dangerous to their personal safety.
  • Instead, let children experience the results of their actions.

Tip 7: Be a positive role model.

  • Speak positively about your work and chores. Don’t complain about all that you have to do. Instead, take pride in the things you do well.
  • If (When) you make a mistake, admit it—and then show children how you will correct it.

These statements summarize most of the excellent information found in this on-line publication found at: http://ccejefferson.org/parenting ,under “Resources for You”, “Raising Responsible Children”

A few take-away statements for parents included in the document include:

  • Children do best when they know what to expect.
  • Letting children know when they do well encourages responsible behavior.
  • Remember- you are in charge of your home.
  • Keep in mind, when children “choose” their behavior, they are also choosing the consequences.

Kathleen Riggs is the Utah State University Extension family and consumer sciences professor for Iron County. Questions or comments may be sent to kathleen.riggs@usu.edu or call 435-586-8132.

Four Reasons to Get Your Teen in the Kitchen

Teens in the Kitchen.jpgNot all teenagers want to help out in the kitchen. But encouraging them to do so is a worthy goal because of the many benefits.

Why get your teens in the kitchen?

Promotes conversation – When you cook with your children, you can model good communication.  Studies have shown that the more teens communicate with their parents on a daily basis, the less likely they are to participate in risky behaviors.

They’ll be more likely to eat It – Do you have picky eaters?  Teens will be more likely to try new things if they are able to help prepare the meals they are eating. They will also be getting a more balanced diet when meals are prepared in the home.

Promotes confidence in the kitchen – As teens grow into adulthood, the task of feeding themselves becomes their own. We need to prepare our kids with skills for the future to help make the transition into adulthood more successful. And the likelihood of them having to feed a family of their own one day is pretty high!

Reinforces science and math – What a great way to “trick” kids into doing math and science.  They have so much fun in the kitchen, many times they forget they are learning new skills and applying many math and science concepts. Help your teens develop a love of cooking and at the same time, they will be making connections to other aspects of their learning.

USU Extension’s Youth Can Cook Program

Do you have a teen looking for more cooking experience? Here are five reasons they should join the Youth Can Cook program.

1. Be part of a group!

Come and make friends with other teens who don’t attend your school, who view the world differently than you do, and are excited to learn! Youth Can Cook brings together teens from all over the county, giving them a chance to learn and grow in different and distinct ways.

2. Master Food Preserver Course – kitchen skills

Do you have a favorite salsa your grandma makes every fall? Or have you ever broken out a bottle of canned peaches in the middle of winter and had flashbacks to summer time? Food preservation gives us the ability to enjoy our favorite foods all year round! Teens will learn food preservation techniques from community Master Food Preservers. These skills will later be used  as part of their Youth Can Cook paid apprenticeship as they assist in future food preserver courses.

3. Food Safety Managers Certification

Jobs available to teens are likely to involve food, and working in a food establishment requires a food handler’s permit. As a part of the Youth Can Cook program, teens are guided through the Food Safety Managers course (ServSafe equivalent). Youth will participate in hands-on activities that help solidify the concepts learned. This is an $80 course that is free to program participants.

4. Job, life, and relationship skills

In a survey conducted by the National Association of Colleges and Employers, the data collected showed that teamwork/collaboration, oral and written communications, and critical thinking/problem solving were all identified as “absolutely essential” to be career ready.

Teens will leave the program with a fresh resume, interviewing and communicating skills, and the ability to navigate relationships in the job sector.

5. Paid apprenticeship & job reference

Teens will apprentice community educators to get a feel for what it’s like to work in the professional world. They will be given responsibilities and tasks to demonstrate the skills they learned throughout the program. The apprenticeship lasts 50 hours, and teens are paid $9.50 an hour — more than $2 over minimum wage.

Learn more about the Youth Can Cook program here.

Information for this article was submitted by Ashlee Christiansen, Youth Can Cook program coordinator, Washington County, and Katie Kapp, Youth Can Cook program coordinator, Salt Lake County



Cooking with Kitchen Staples

Kitchen Staple GraphicWith a few basic cooking skills and some common kitchen staples, you can cook a variety of foods in your kitchen. Try some of these basic recipes using flour, and learn more about the Youth Can Cook program.

Youth Can Cook

The Youth Can Cook program is a multi-tiered life skills and job-readiness program. Eligible youth will be provided with food-related education, healthy relationship tips and be connected to career opportunities, by completing the Food Safety Manager Certification and through a paid internship. 

As part of the Youth Can Cook program, teens learn about basic cooking skills. With the combination of basic cooking skills and staple ingredients, the options are endless. Staple ingredients are ingredients commonly used for a variety of recipes. Today we are focusing on the staple ingredient, flour.

Cooking with Flour

Do you have a lot of flour but are not sure what to do with it? Flour is a kitchen staple that many people have on hand. It is a diverse ingredient used for making sauces, desserts, and tortillas. Here are a few recipes that don’t take long and might have you thinking outside of your normal routine! The following recipes call for whole wheat flour; feel free to use half whole wheat flour and half white flour, or just white flour for these recipes.

Homemade Tortillas


  • 2 ½ C. whole-wheat flour
  • ½ C. oil
  • 1 t. salt
  • 1 C. water heated in microwave for 1 minute


  1. In the bowl of a heavy-duty mixer set with a dough hook, pour in the flour, oil, and salt. Beat with the paddle until crumbly, about 3 to 5 minutes. Scrape the sides as needed. If your hand-held mixer comes with dough hooks, those can be used as well.
  2. With the mixer running, gradually add the warm water and continue mixing until the dough is smooth, about 3 minutes.
  3. Take out the dough and divide it into 12 equal-sized pieces. I do this by making the dough into a big log shape that is about 8 – 10 inches long. Then I cut it in the middle. Then I cut each of those pieces in the middle and so on until you have 12 pieces.
  4. Using the palms of your hand, roll each piece into a round ball and flatten it out on a baking tray or board. Cover with plastic wrap and let rest at room temperature for at least 15 minutes or up to one hour.
  5. Heat a cast iron skillet, griddle or 12-inch skillet over med-high heat. The pan should be fairly hot before you begin cooking the tortillas.
  6. On a lightly floured board or counter top, use a rolling pin to turn each ball into an 8-to-10 inch flat circle (measure against your recipe if printed on a 8.5 X 11 sheet of paper). Be careful not to use more than a teaspoon or two of flour when rolling out each ball into a tortilla because too much excess flour will burn in the pan.
  7. Grease the pan with a touch of oil (or ghee) and then carefully transfer each tortilla, one at a time, to the pan and cook until puffy and slightly brown, about 30 to 45 seconds per side. Set aside on a plate to cool slightly. Eat within an hour, refrigerate or freeze.

Recipe from: https://www.100daysofrealfood.com/recipe-whole-wheat-tortillas/

Homemade Pizza Dough


  • 2 C. whole-wheat flour
  • 1 ½ T. yeast
  • 1 t. salt
  • 1 ½ t. sugar
  • ¾ C. water
  • 1 t. canola oil (optional)


  1. Preheat oven to 425 F.
  2. Mix dry ingredients in a bowl.
  3. Add water and oil and mix well to incorporate flour mixture. Form dough into ball. Let rise 10 minutes while covered with a clean towel.
  4. Turn dough onto a well-floured surface. Using a rolling pin, roll out into a pizza crust shape.
  5. Place on prepared pizza pan or baking sheet. Cover with your favorite sauce and toppings and bake in preheated oven until golden brown, about 15-20 minutes.

Recipe from: Food $ense program

Homemade Pretzels


  • 1 1/3 C. warm water
  • 2 t. salt
  • 1 package fast acting yeast
  • 2 ¼ C. all-purpose flour
  • 2 ¼ C. whole-wheat flour
  • 4 T. butter
  • ¼ C. honey
  • Vegetable oil, for pan
  • 10 C. water
  • 1/3 C. baking soda (for boiling water)
  • 1 large egg yolk beaten with 1 T. water
  • Salt


  1. Combine the water, salt, yeast, flour, butter, and honey.
  2. Using the dough hook attachment, mix on low speed until well combined. Change to medium speed and knead until the dough is smooth and pulls away from the side of the bowl, approximately 4 to 5 minutes.
  3. Remove the dough from the bowl, and prepare a second bowl by rubbing vegetable oil along the inside.
  4. Place the dough in the bowl, cover with plastic wrap and sit in a warm place for approximately 50 to 55 minutes or until the dough has doubled in size.
  5. Preheat the oven to 450 F.
  6. Line 2 half-sheet pans with parchment paper and lightly brush with the vegetable oil. Set aside.
  7. Bring the 10 cups of water and the baking soda to a rolling boil in an 8-quart saucepan.
  8. In the meantime, turn the dough out onto a slightly oiled work surface and divide into 8 equal pieces. Roll out each piece of dough into a 24-inch rope.
  9. Make a U-shape with the rope, holding the ends of the rope, cross them over each other and press onto the bottom of the U in order to form the shape of a pretzel.
  10. Place onto the parchment-lined, half-sheet pan.
  11. Place the pretzels into the boiling water, one by one, for 30 seconds.
  12. Remove them from the water using a large flat spatula.
  13. Return to the half sheet pan, brush the top of each pretzel with the beaten egg yolk and water mixture and sprinkle with salt.
  14. Bake until dark golden brown in color, approximately 12 to 14 minutes. Transfer to a cooling rack for at least 5 minutes before serving.

Recipe from: http://honestcooking.com/honey-whole-wheat-pretzels/

This article was written by Katie Kapp, Youth Can Cook Program Coordinator with Utah State University Extension Salt Lake County


Safety First During the Holidays

Holiday Safety Graphic.jpgThe holiday season can be the most wonderful time of the year, but it’s important to keep safety in mind so you can avoid accidents and injuries. Consider these tips. 

Toy Safety

According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, about 260,000 children were treated in emergency rooms in the United States for toy-related injuries in 2016 and 2015. Tips for selecting toys:

  1. Consider the age recommendations on the toy, combined with the child’s skill set and interests.
  2. Check out all safety labels to see if the item is flame retardant, flame resistant, washable, non-toxic, etc.
  3. Be sure to check warning labels for choking hazards and other concerns. The toilet paper roll test is a good one to use. If the item fits through a toilet paper roll tube, it is probably a choking hazard.
  4. Inspect all toys for sharp points, edges, materials used (glass, metal, brittle plastics) and any removable parts that may pose a hazard if lost or removed. Before giving toys with these hazards, carefully consider the child’s age, as well as the ages of younger siblings. This can be a particular problem with game pieces and parts that are safe for older family members, but could be dangerous if left around for babies and toddlers to find.
  5. Provide proper safety equipment such as helmets and knee pads for bikes, scooters, skateboards, etc.
  6. Are there strings, cords or ribbons that have the potential to cause strangulation? Long cords on pull toys could be a problem, as well as hanging mobiles in cribs and playpens.
  7. If paints, crayons or art markers are on your list, look on the packaging for “ASTM D-4236.” This means the product has been properly reviewed for potentially toxic contents.
  8. Inspect toys for damage and make repairs if needed. Keeping toys, play equipment and protective gear in good repair will also help protect children from injury.
  9. To receive notices of recalls, visit www.recalls.gov. If you think you may have a toy in your home that has been recalled, check the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) website at www.cpsc.gov/en/Recalls.

To report a dangerous product or a product-related injury, go to www.SaferProducts.gov or call the CPSC’s Hotline at (800) 638-2772. You can also obtain news releases and recall information on Twitter @OnSafety or by subscribing to the CPSCs free email newsletters.


Electrical Safety

This time of year, there are far too many house fires associated with electrical mishaps. When buying and using decorations with electricity, consider these reminders:

  1. Only buy electrical equipment that displays a label showing a nationally recognized safety testing laboratory such as Underwriters Laboratories (UL), Intertek (ETL), or Canadian Standards Association (CSA).
  2. Be sure to buy decorations and extension cords according to your intended use, whether outdoors or indoors.
  3. Do not overload extension cords and multi-plug power strips, and do not chain them together.
  4. Check for cords that are worn out, frayed or split.
  5. Make sure that cords are not pinched in doors, windows or under heavy furniture, which could damage the cord’s insulation.
  6. Do not remove the ground pin, use a converter to make a three-prong plug fit a two-prong outlet.
  7. Keep outdoor extension cords clear of snow and standing water.
  8. Send warranty and product registration forms to manufacturers in order to be notified promptly in the event of a product recall.
  9. Keep decorations and cards away from fires and other heat sources such as light fittings.
  10. If you have old Christmas lights, consider buying new ones. Newer options will meet much higher safety standards.
  11. Don’t let children play with lights, as they could swallow the bulbs, and remember to switch off the lights when going out of the house or to bed.
  12. Consider LED lights. They generate less heat — which translates into greater energy-efficiency, but they are also less of a fire risk. LEDs are made with epoxy lenses rather than glass and are much more durable.
  13. If you have an artificial tree, choose one that is tested and labeled as fire resistant.
  14. Be wise and cautious when using space heaters, and make sure smoke alarms are working.


Food Safety

While our food supply is one of the safest in the world, some 76 million people a year get sick from food-borne illness, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Consider these food safety tips:

  1. Clean – hands, cutting boards, tools, etc.
  2. Separate – keep raw meats away from other foods, and use separate cutting boards for raw food.
  3. Cook properly – cook foods to the right temperatures, and use a thermometer. Reheat leftovers to 165 F.
  4. Chill – chill food promptly and properly. Illness-causing bacteria can grow in perishable foods within two hours unless they are refrigerated. Quickly cool down large batches of soups, stews, etc., and store them in shallow pans. Thaw meats in the refrigerator.
  5. Be especially careful of higher risk foods, such as raw eggs. Eating cookie dough is probably not a wise idea, and neither is drinking homemade eggnog if the eggs used have not been pasteurized (find more tips on safe eggnog).

For further information, visit www.foodsafety.gov.

This article was written by Teresa Hunsaker, Utah State University Extension family and consumer sciences educator, 801-399-8200

When Is Enough, Enough? Planning for the Holidays

When is enough.jpg

Take a moment this holiday season to check in as a family and eliminate excess in your life.

We all know it is easy to get a little carried away with “decking our halls,” and the concepts of excess, over indulgence and over scheduling come to mind during the holiday season more than ever. In general, however, there is a trend toward excess in our lives.  

What messages are we sending to our children?  When is enough, enough for them, and for us?

Here is a checklist of questions to ask ourselves:

  • Are we spending a disproportionate amount of family income on any one category…i.e., clothing, entertainment, child enrichment (lessons, sports, etc.)?
  • Are we spending a disproportionate amount of time and energy in any one or two activities? Sports, screen time, cell phones, social media? William Doherty, in his book, The Intentional Family, warns that many families are over scheduled outside the family and under scheduled inside the family.
  • As a parent, are you keeping your child from learning age-appropriate developmental tasks by doing things for them, or taking care of things for them that they should be learning to do themselves? Examples include: picking up their own toys, doing their own laundry, paying for some things with their own money, learning to cook, etc.)

A few signs of over indulgence include: trouble learning to delay gratification; trouble giving up being the center of attention; trouble being competent in everyday life skills, including self-care and relationship skills; trouble taking personal responsibility – feeling like it’s always someone else’s fault; and trouble knowing what is normal.

As a result of over indulgence, kids have come to regard overload as normal, and anything less is boring. In contrast to this is a term coming to the forefront called “creative deprivation.” Parents are coming to understand that kids can have too much of a good thing, so they place limitations on it.

An example from an article in “The Tightwad Gazette” outlines this concept nicely. On a recent trip to the mall, children ordered junior ice cream cones and consumed them in complete silence, savoring every bite. Many parents, seeing their children appreciate junior cones, would start buying them cones on every trip to the mall. Then, seeing their kids’ enthusiasm waning, would assume they must “wow” them with banana splits. When those no longer produced the desired effect, they would move up to the jumbo deluxe sundaes, and on and on, until the kids become impossible to please.

When there is diminished appreciation, it is a sign that children have had too much of something. Instead of moving up to the banana splits, we need to, instead, decrease the frequency of the junior cone. We have habituated a certain level of expectation without appreciation. Another example of this is how frequently we go out to eat. It is no longer a treat, but a norm.

Here are four rules of creative deprivation to consider as we move into the holiday season:

  1. Limit things your kids don’t need, but do not limit the things they do need, such as good nutrition and parental attention.
  2. Provide them with creative alternatives to substitute for passive entertainment and “no brainer” play.
  3. Limit screen time, including cell phones, TV/video time and gaming. This will decrease the stimulation overload in their lives.
  4. Set boundaries, and provide rules and limits in all aspects of your child’s life.

Maybe it is time for all of us to take a step back and evaluate our own lives. Are we needing increasingly more expensive gadgets, clothing, vacations, foods or other stimulating events to keep us happy?

Creative deprivation may be just the ticket. Not only will it save money, but the simplification will also reduce stress levels and increase quality of life.


This article was written by Teresa Hunsaker, Utah State University Extension family and consumer sciences educator, 801-399-8200, Teresa.hunsaker@usu.edu


Clarke, J.I.; Dawson, C.; Bredehoft, D. How Much is Enough?  Marlow and Company.  2004.

Tightwad Gazette article by Amy Dacyczyn


Nine Tips for Fostering Gratitude – During the Holidays and Beyond

Fostering GratitudeThanksgiving may be over, but we can still foster gratitude within our families through the rest of the holiday season and beyond. Try these tips to get started.

What did you get for Christmas? This question is common for young and old alike. While it may be a way of showing genuine interest and sharing in the holiday excitement, it’s important to make sure gratitude for gifts and kindness is part of Christmas day and beyond.

Gratitude is a character trait based on a genuine sense of caring. It usually goes beyond a simple thank you, although that can be a good place to start. Genuine thankfulness requires thought and action in order to be mutually beneficial to the giver and receiver.

Gail Innis from Michigan State University Extension, states that real gratitude or a sense of thankfulness begins when we are able to recognize and point out small things that make us thankful. Adults can model the behavior through daily words and actions, starting early with young children. For example: “Dad works so hard for our family. Why don’t we make him a special meal to show him how much we appreciate him?”

Innis provides additional ways to develop an attitude of gratitude by citing references from The Random Acts of Kindness Foundation website: (https://www.randomactsofkindness.org/kindness-ideas ).

  1. Discuss a gift your child received during the holidays. Ask what the child liked about it. Talk about the gift giver and how nice it is to be remembered and appreciated by someone.
  2. Have your child draw a picture or write a note of thanks. Share how good it feels to get a note or letter in the mail. Assist your child, depending on age and developmental stage, in addressing and mailing the note. Putting feelings on paper can make them more real for a child.
  3. Make a thank you phone or video call to the gift giver. Encourage your child to talk about the gift and share how he or she will use it.
  4. Involve your children in local charitable events. Stay informed about community endeavors that help those less fortunate. Discuss upcoming events and brainstorm ways your family could assist. Include your children in a discussion about the charity you’d like to support and why. Even a very young child can assist in choosing a toy for a holiday toy drive.
  5. Read stories about generous people and characters. The book, “The Giving Tree,by Shel Silverstein, might be a way to open a conversation about the attitude of gratitude. In “Have You Filled a Bucket Today?” author Carol McCloud tells of an easy way to teach children the power of affirming words and actions.
  6. Take advantage of winter days by helping your children clean out old toys, books and clothing they no longer use. Talk about how much other children will appreciate these items. Some local thrift stores, pantries or organizations will even deliver donations. Be certain to check ahead for rules on what the group will take for distribution.
  7. Have a Saturday family baking day and prepare packages of homemade items. These can be shared with elderly neighbors or a service provider such as the mail carrier, a bus driver or teacher.
  8. Pay attention to people who display generosity and kindness. Point them out to your child. For example, “Wasn’t it nice of daddy to help grandma on with her heavy winter coat?” Or, “Did you see that man pick up the litter someone dropped in the park?” Say thank you out loud when someone opens a door for you, lets you cut in front of them in the check-out line or does any other kind act.
  9. Take time each day at dinner or bedtime to mention one thing you are thankful for. (See:http://msue.anr.msu.edu/news/teaching_an_attitude_of_gratitude_to_young_children )

Creating a feeling of gratitude that lasts beyond the holidays takes effort but is well worth it. Repetition and guidance from parents and loving adults are important keys to instilling gratitude in children.

This article was written by Kathleen Riggs, Utah State University Extension family and consumer sciences professor, Kathleen.riggs@usu.edu, 435-586-8132

Quick and Easy Reading Pillow

Reading Pillow GraphicSnuggle up with a good book and a pillow.  Make this quick and easy pillow with a built-in pocket to hold a favorite book and maybe even a few toys and a snack.  Use it at home or on the go.  It makes the perfect personalized gift.  This is a great beginner’s project.  

Materials Needed:

  • ½ yard of fabric for front and back
  • Fat quarter of fabric for pocket
  • Matching thread
  • Iron-on letters, fabric for applique or embroidery machine for the letters
  • 16” x 16″ pillow form

Cutting Instructions:

(1) 16 1/2″ x 16 1/2″ fabric for front

(2) 16 1/2″ x 11″ fabric for back

(1) 16 1/2″ x 20″ for pocket

Sewing Instructions:

  1. Fold pocket fabric in half so that it measures 10″ x 16 1/2″.
  2. Apply letters by method of your choice — applique, purchased iron- on letters or with an embroidery machine.   Choose a word that you want on the pillow.  It can be “READ,” a name or whatever you want.
  3. The word should be approximately 3″ from the bottom edge and 3″ from the right edge.READ Pillow Image 1
  4. Hem one 16 1/2″ edge on both back pieces.  Fold over 1/4″ and press.  Fold over 1/4″ again and press so that the raw edge is enclosed.
  5. Stitch along each edge.
  6. Baste pocket piece to the bottom of the front fabric piece.READ Pillow Image 2
  7. Lay the front pocket piece right side up.
  8. Place the two back pieces right sides down onto the front piece so the corners and edges match on the top and the bottom and the hemmed edges overlap in the center. Overlap the two back sections.READ Pillow Image 3
  9. Pin in place.
  10. Sew 1/4″ seam on each side.
  11. Turn right sides out through the back enclosure and put pillow form inside.

Tips for a Safe Halloween

Today we’re sharing some Halloween safety tips for you and your little ghouls and goblins. Keep track of these tips by pinning them on Pinterest.


This article was re-published from October 2015, with information taken from cdc.gov.

10 Tips to Help Your Kids Do Better in School

Help your kids.jpgNow that the kids are back in school, here are some tips that may help promote a greater enthusiasm for learning this new school year.

  1.  Set an Example:  One of things we know, from years of observation, is that the family environment makes a huge difference in forming good attitudes toward school success in youth.  Let your kids see you involved in learning and reading.  Take a class online, go with them to the library, read to them at night, study their topics with them or learn a new language.

  2.  Promote Study Time:  Have a quiet place and perhaps set time to study every day.  Make sure youth are taking a short break during their study time.  Provide a simple snack or divergent activity for them during the break.  Be as consistent as possible about when it is study time.  Work with them on being as organized as possible in their homework and studying.  Have bins and shelves for completed assignments to make the process as systematic as possible.  It is also helpful to teach your children about keeping their school papers and assignments organized before they get home with them.  Help them learn how to break assignments and studying down into more manageable tasks.

  3.  Let Them Talk:  Studies have shown that children have higher IQ’s when given the opportunity to talk often about many different topics.  Provide a chance around the dinner table to discuss events of the day, concerns they have, or something they heard on the news.  Ensure that there is emotional safety in expressing themselves.  Let them tell you about their ‘high’ and ‘low’ points of the day.

  4.  Support a New Interest or Enrichment Activity:  Children who have a love of enrichment activities have a release from the doldrums of school.  These activities provide an added purpose to their studies and to their day.

  5.  Remain Supportive When They Get Low Grades:  True achievers seldom get perfect marks all the time.  Unconditional acceptance is the rule.  When your children are getting low grades, do your best to work with them, beside them, and for them.  This may mean getting tutoring help, working with the teacher more closely, and talking to the child about his or her roadblocks on the subject.  Be willing to hear them out, and do not compare them to their other siblings or peers who may be doing well in that subject.  Be sure to find the balance of encouraging better grades and putting undue pressure on them.  Be as constructive as possible on ways to do better next time.

  6.  Set Standards of Expectation and Goal Setting:  There is nothing wrong with parents defining a level of expectation for school performance.  Parents are to be parents, which sometimes means taking a proactive stand when children are not striving to do their best in school, which may mean disciplining for laziness, lack of hard work, and effort.  Encourage your kids to set their own performance goals for the school year.  Have them put them in writing and evaluate with them on a frequent basis.  Checking on their progress toward goal accomplishment shows them you care and are playing an active part in their success.  This also means attending back to school nights and parent/teacher conferences.

  7.  Engage Your Student in Learning, Not Just Reading:  It is really easy for us to read something, but do we remember the idea or concept before moving on to the next paragraph?  To help bridge the gap with your children between reading and learning, have them explain the concepts to you every few paragraphs.  Quiz them at breakfast the next morning. Help them realize that employers in later life do not want to have to repeat things over and over again to their employees.  Now is the time for them to understand they are responsible for their own learning.  Just as parents go to work every day, their job for now is learning.  Observe and encourage different learning styles. Are they visual learners, auditory learners, etc.?

  8.  Let Them Figure Things Out on Their Own:  Sometimes, in our goal to get study time over with, we jump in too quickly with the answers.  Encourage youth to look things up on their own, to read something again, or to learn from their mistakes.  Set up scenarios where they have to use some aspect of what they are studying to solve a problem.  Driving my kids to and fro was a great time to pose a math problem to them, or throw out a social studies issue that is current today for them to think on, or ask them their opinion on the life of some person in history.  Often as parents we are too quick to offer our advice on life’s problems to our kids.  We want to prevent them from making mistakes rather than letting  them learn the art of figuring things out.

  9.  Volunteer at the School:  Not only do teachers and faculty appreciate help at the school, but volunteering helps you get to know the teachers, the administrative staff, the lunchroom staff, other parents, AND it also sends a message to your children that their school experience is important to you.  This can also be helpful in having conversations with your child about things at school generally.  Maybe you will see why your child is less than impressed with a certain teacher, or that there are issues with others in the school setting.  Even if you work full-time outside the home, contact the PTA/PTO President and let him or her know you are interested in helping plan and implement activities at the school when you are not at work.  (As a working mom myself, I know how difficult this can be, but it has paid off so many times throughout the years, that I cannot omit mentioning it.)

  10.  Eat Together as a Family at Least 5 Meals a Week: Studies show that the more times a week children eat together with their family, the better they do in school, the more they stay clear of anti-social behaviors, and the more articulate they are in their communication skills.

Being actively engaged in the overall school experience does take time, thought, and energy.  But the rewards are worth it, for both them and you.

This article was written by Teresa Hunsaker, USU Extension family and consumer sciences educator, Weber County