These 8 Books Can Help Your Teen Choose a Career

You can help guide your teen to a career path by exploring their interests and aptitudes with them. These books can supplement that as well.

Teenagers often have a tough time finding their passion and choosing a career path. Their options are endless, and the choice can be very overwhelming. You can help guide your teen by exploring their interests and aptitudes with them.
What are some of the things they enjoy doing? What strengths do they possess? Are there certain areas in school where they excel? The answers can help steer them in the right direction.
From there, books make an ideal supplementary navigational tool. These eight books can help your teen choose a career:

What Color Is Your Parachute?

by Carol Christen

This special teen version of “What Color is Your Parachute?” draws from the principles of the adult book with the same name. It is designed to help high school and college students zoom in on their favorite skills, and learn how to choose a major or career based on those abilities. The book includes interview tips, how to leverage social media to find a job, internships, and more.

Now What?

by Nicholas Lore

Only 30 percent of college graduates report satisfaction with their careers, often because they’ve chosen the wrong field. “Now What?” removes the guesswork by guiding your teen through the process of designing a career that gives them the best chance for both high-level success and satisfaction.
“You can write yourself into this book as the hero in your own life, on a quest, a high adventure to find a career you love,” says the author.

Careers: The Graphic Guide to Finding the Perfect Job for You

by DK

“Careers” reaffirms that it’s never too early for your tween or teen to start thinking about a career. The book is filled with charts and diagrams that help young people learn more about individual careers. At-a-glance summary panels shed light on salary, working hours, and training for specific fields, while cross-referenced job matrix tables offer another way to learn about all the options. “Careers” will help get your child thinking about the future.

The Success Principles for Teens

by Jack Canfield

Author Jack Canfield is an award-winning speaker and an internationally recognized leader in personal development and peak performance strategies. His book “The Success Principles for Teens” is inspiring, encouraging, and practical. The book includes 23 of the most important success strategies used by thousands of exceptional young people throughout history.

You Got This!

By Maya S. Penn

“You Got This!”, from entrepreneur, animator, eco-designer, and girls’ rights activist Maya Penn, helps teens unleash their awesomeness. Maya shares her incredible journey to business ownership, along with a creative blueprint and all the tools she used to achieve success – whether your teen dreams of becoming the next Maya S. Penn or would like to pursue a more structured career path.
“The tone is fun and conversational as Penn identifies common modes of thinking (for example, the flip-flopper), with suggested activities for those feeling unfocused or overwhelmed (dream boards, idea books),” says School Library Journal.

Doable: The Girls’ Guide to Accomplishing Just About Anything

by Deborah Reber

“Calling all girls: ‘Doable’ gives you everything you need to know to take actions to find your power, live your dreams, and then dream bigger,” says Denise Restauri, author, “Forbes” contributor, and founder and CEO of GirlQuake.
This is the only book on the list devoted entirely to young women. Overcoming anxiety, letting go of fear, and transforming negative thinking into goal pursuing, actionable energy is what “Doable” is all about. The book outlines strategies for success and includes profiles of young women who have already found it in areas like activism, entrepreneurialism, philanthropy, and more.


Do What You Are

by Paul D. Tieger

Teens can discover their perfect career by first understanding their personality type based on the Meyers Briggs (MB) personality tests. Once identified, the book reveals occupations that are popular with each type, provides helpful case studies, and offers a rundown of each type’s work-related strengths and weaknesses.


The Art of Work

by Jeff Goins

“‘The Art of Work’ accomplishes the next to impossible, providing clear, relevant, useful guidance on finding your calling while being enormously enjoyable to read. It is required reading for anyone who is asking, ‘What should I do with my life?’” says Pamela Slim, author of “Body of Work.”
The path to your child’s life work starts with discovering what they are meant to do. From there, their interests should connect with something the world needs – in essence, living for a larger purpose. Through personal experience, compelling case studies, and current research on the mysteries of motivation and talent, author Jeff Goins can show your child how to discover their perfect vocation and make a difference in the world.
Which career book or inspirational guide for teens would you add to this list? Share in the comments!
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It's Okay for Your Graduate to Be Undecided

It’s even more acceptable to start college “undecided” today than when I was there 30 years ago.

As our kids end their high school careers, the constant question is “What’s next?” Not only are they asking this question themselves, it seems that everyone else is as well. As they answer the question “What are you going to do next year?” with what college they plan to attend, you can sometimes sense the apprehension. They know the next question: “What are you going to major in?” While it’s often meant as a conversation starter, this seemingly innocuous question makes some teens squirm. Some 18-year-olds don’t know what they want to do for the rest of their lives and, in today’s world of four year degrees priced at six figures, not having a clear focus is sometimes seen as being irresponsible.

I disagree. I think it’s even more acceptable to start college “undecided” today than when I was there 30 years ago. I understand that, especially with costs being disproportionately higher today, many parents are reluctant to fund four years of their teen “discovering himself” without a clear objective in mind, but I believe it is shortsighted to expect that such an objective can really be formulated at age 18.

Having worked with young adults for more than a decade, I also see the effects of parental and societal pressure on them in the form of depression, anxiety, and an overwhelming sense that they must succeed at all costs. For too many, failure at anything is simply not an option. The few students I have encountered without a clear answer to the common question “What do you want to be when you grow up?” seem to be distressed that they don’t yet have it all figured out.

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Around the time my oldest entered college, I saw a sign in an airport: “The top 20 jobs 10 years from now have not even been invented yet.” This made me pause and gave me a new way to look at the purpose and methods of higher education. In the 10 years since, the truth in that statement has been obvious.

Those over 50 browsing job listings will likely see many positions that have them scratching their heads. What exactly is a “performance marketing wrangler” or a “course mentor?” Other job descriptions are easier to decipher, but somehow don’t seem like “real jobs.” Technology has, in some ways, complicated our lives, creating the need for positions such as social media manager, content marketer, influencer, mobile app developer, and virtual assistant. Technology moves at such a fast pace that it’s likely that students graduating college may start jobs that were not needed or even conceived when they first walked onto campus as an undergrad.

Especially when you consider the ever-changing nature of business in the world today, it’s okay to be undecided. You don’t have to know at age 18 what you will do for the rest of your life. While some professions do require an early commitment (for example, careers in some fields such as teaching, nursing, and accounting involve certification tests before you can be employed), many of today’s jobs are flexible regarding what field of study you pursue. Even those planning on going to medical and law school have flexibility in what major they choose.

Up to 50 percent of students start college undecided. As one who started college with a clear path that changed dramatically after my first semester, in some ways I envy them. When I realized what I’d thought was my career path was not going to work with the life I discovered I wanted, I was lost. I had no reason to stick with the demanding major I’d chosen and had no idea what I wanted to study instead. I dabbled and ultimately found my way, but the interim was challenging. I felt like a failure.

I am seeing similar feelings in young adults today. Those who have a plan seem to have the next 10 years of their life planned out. Those who are undecided tend to mutter and avoid all discussion of college courses. When I ask what classes they are taking for fun, they look at me quizzically. The reply is generally that they have no room in their schedule for “fun” classes, they have to work on their major. Many of them seem to be hyper-focused on the goal and missing out on the wonderful learning opportunities in the interim.

Today, the pressure to have it all together is even greater. The level of anxiety and depression seen in teens and young adults has been on the rise; they seem to see uncertainty or the possibility of failure as a fatal character flaw. When college proves to not be “the best years of their lives,” many young adults assume that they are the problem. Too many are wasting the cherished opportunity of this age: to try something new with the possibility of failure (which is nature’s best teacher). We should encourage our kids to take the random class that “counts for nothing.” This may be the class that opens their eyes to new possibilities, that helps them find their place in the world, or at least provides four stress-free hours of classroom instruction.

This is the time they should be taking chances, stretching to see how far they can reach, and learning how to pick themselves up when they fall. Allowing them the luxury to explore new interests without the pressure of committing to a single topic not only reduces stress, it can also give them confidence to try new things. After all, isn’t that how the innovators of the world get started?

Career Ideas to Harness Your Kid's More Challenging Behaviors

While our kids still let us pretend we have any control over their lives – let’s imagine some bright futures for our (occasionally difficult) kids.

[su_dropcap style=”simple” size=”5″]E[/su_dropcap]very parent loves the “my baby is so smart maybe one day she’ll grow up into a…” game. The tot who hums along to your lullabies might one day be a musician; the older sibling who loves helping his younger sister tie her shoes might grow up to be a teacher.
But occasionally, our children possess qualities that are not exactly the ones that we brag about on the playground. Some of these traits might be exactly the ones that end up serving them best later in life.
So – just for fun, and while our kids still let us pretend we have any control over their lives – let’s imagine some bright futures for our children.
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If your kid likes to: Yell “That’s not fair!”

They might be: A Social Activist

Does your kid have a keen sense for inequality? Can she size up the pieces of cake that you served her and her brother and instantly tell if she got the smaller one? She might be a Social Activist in the making. Sure, right now her attention is focused on whether or not she has been slighted, but that’s pretty typical for children. Help nudge her energy to other people who might need some attention, like that kid standing alone on the playground.

Reading material for your future activist:

I am Rosa Parksby Brad Meltzer
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If your kid likes to: Refuse to get out of the bath

They might be: An Officer in the National Oceanic Atmospheric Association Corps

If your water-lover has a sense of adventure and a love for science, he might be interested in becoming a commissioned officer in the NOAA Corps. NOAA might be best known for its weather forecasting, and being the people who routinely tell us we just had the hottest month on record. But a select group serve in the NOAA Corps – the smallest uniformed service of the United States Government. NOAA officers sail ships and conduct research in areas such as oceanography and fisheries science.

Reading material for your future officer:

Far From Shore: Chronicles of an Open Ocean Voyageby Sophie Webb
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If your kid likes to: Snub new foods

They might be: A Famous chef

Maybe your picky little tyke just hasn’t found the exotic combinations of food that will whet his appetite. Blackened tilapia with a mango chutney and truffle-oil French fries, anyone? Perhaps it’s a stretch, but children’s tastes change as they grow older. Getting them involved in the cooking might make mealtime more enjoyable for everyone, and even inspire a new passion.

Reading material for your future chef:

Better Homes and Gardens New Junior Cook Book
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If your kid likes to: Pick up every bug she sees

They might be: A Forest Ranger

Do you have a budding naturalists who wants to you to identify every insect, worm, and spider that crawls across her path? Your backyard naturalist might soon set her sights on broader ecosystems. While this hobby might gross you out, if her fondness for creepy-crawlies combines with a love of sharing her knowledge, she might find joy teaching others about the natural world.

Reading material for your future ranger:

Peterson First Guide to Insects of North America
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If your kid likes to: Tattle on siblings

They might be: A Journalist

You don’t need to know exactly what type of candy your budding investigative reporter’s younger sibling was sneaking behind your back. All you want to do is read the latest headline from the Washington Post in peace. Muckraking is annoying when it’s in your own home, but when someone else is telling you about the inner-dealings of politicians and celebrities, it’s fascinating. The desire that everyone knows the truth might serve your tattler well one day.

Reading material for your future journalist:

The Daring Nellie Bly: America’s Star Reporterby Bonnie Christensen
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If your kid likes to: Overcoming every baby-proofing contraption

They might be: An Engineer

My littlest has always been fascinated with anything he can manipulate with his fingers. From unwrapping cough drops he finds at the bottom of drawers, to taking batteries out of flashlights, he always is looking for something to fiddle with. Being proud parents, we would find ourselves cooing, “Maybe one day he will grow up to be an engineer!” When our older son caught him systematically dismantling a carefully crafted Lego creation of his, he yelled out, “No! You cannot be an engineer when you grow up!” But we still hope he will.

Reading material for your future engineer:

Rosie Revere, Engineerby Andrea Beaty
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[su_dropcap style=”simple” size=”5″]I[/su_dropcap]t would be great if our children took our career advice. But for now, it might help to at least look on the bright side of some of their less endearing attributes. They might end up being what makes us the most proud one day.

Help Your Tween Develop Job Skills This Summer With a Simple Contract

To give your tween a sense of responsibility while learning valuable life skills, try setting up a “Summer Exploration” contract.

Now that summer is here, you face the challenge of finding constructive activities to keep your tween occupied, but not overscheduled. Often tweens don’t want to attend camp and find themselves too young for a job or internship. Here’s a solution.
To give your tween a sense of responsibility while learning valuable life skills, try setting up a “Summer Exploration” contract. Begin by discussing what your tween wants to do this summer beyond hanging out at the mall or playing non-stop video games. Here’s where it gets interesting. Ask how much money they need for back-to-school clothes in the fall. Next, make a list of “jobs” that your child completes in order to earn her clothing allowance.
For simple math, let’s say you decide $400 is an appropriate amount. Set a deadline for a two-week time period where they complete 12 out of 20 distinct tasks. It helps to have a very specific end date, such as July 15, 3 p.m. If the 12 tasks are completed, your tween gets handed $200 for school clothes. Take a few days break and start another two-week program to earn the rest of the money.
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The goal of this mock job experience is to increase your child’s awareness of community and family while gaining work skills. College counselors bemoan the fact that freshmen come to college without knowing how to budget, do laundry, or even complete a term paper on time. Your tween may complain, but he’ll gain “adulting” skills by completing the tasks. (Actual Adulting Camps exist so teenagers can learn these basic skills!) Simply explain to your tween that certain responsibilities and privileges come as they get older. “Earning” school clothes money is just such a responsibility.
So what will be on your child’s job list? Brainstorm together. Being able to choose 12 items out of 20 give tweens a sense of control. Here are 12 we had our daughter complete:
1 | Read a book on a new topic or genre and tell the family about it.
2 | Plan a family activity such as a picnic or game night.
3 | Take a class or workshop to learn a new skill such as bowling, painting, or drama.
4 | Find a free event in the community and organize the family to attend.
5 | Write an actual letter to a relative.
6 | Do at least three hours of volunteer work. This can be helping a neighbor with young children, walking the dog of an elderly person, or finding a community group looking for volunteers.
7 | Find a unique recipe and cook for the family. How about making homemade fortune cookies or barbecue hamburgers with ice cubes in the middle? (Look it up!)
8 | Write down your goals and plans for the future and seal them in an envelope. Give the envelope to an adult and open it in five years.
9 | Vacuum and “detail” the family car.
10 | Do a secret good deed for a family member.
11 | Invite a friend over and plan something unique to do.
12 | Watch a YouTube video and learn a new skill such as flower arranging, climbing a tree, or fixing a flat bike tire.
We used this program for three summers with our daughter. The first year, she completed only 11 items out of her required 12. According to our contract, that meant she didn’t receive the first designated portion of money. Yes, that may seem harsh, but it taught her to meet deadlines and complete tasks. She took a week break before completing her second half assignments. You can bet she completed those in record time! The following two summers she quickly finished her assignments on time. Today, she is an executive headhunter who tells me she always meets deadlines.
A Summer Exploration contract provides worthwhile activities for young teens to help them gain pride in their accomplishments as they earn money. After this program, hopefully they won’t have to go to “adulting” camp!

Should You Freak Out If Your Kid Wants to Major in Liberal Arts?

With college costs skyrocketing, parents want to make sure their children are able to get a return on the pricey investment. So how do you best guide them?

“So, do you want to be a Sunday school teacher or something?” my mom asked, confused but attempting to withhold judgment.
I had just told my parents my chosen major – Religious Studies. The degree was far from a theological one. It was more a comprehensive look at the history, development, and impact of world religions on culture. The study fascinated me, and I longed to take every course in the catalog.
I did not, however, want to be a Sunday school teacher. Or a youth minister. Or really anything working in a church. That is a special calling, and one I was not equipped for. I preferred to stay with my nose between books, deciphering Thomas Merton and the Bodhisattva.
Outside of Sunday school teacher and youth minister there are not many careers to which a Religious Studies degree naturally leads. The same holds true for many liberal arts degrees. My parents certainly were not the first to ask, “So what exactly do you plan on doing with a Philosophy/Classical Archaeology/Theater degree?”
This summer, millions of parents are having that exact same conversation with college students home on break. And with due cause – with college costs skyrocketing, parents want to make sure their children are able to get a return on the pricey investment.
Should a parent freak out when their daughter comes home and announces a plan to major in Global Studies? Probably not. But here’s a few questions parents can ask to help their children think through their decision.

What do you hope to get out of this degree?

What did I plan on doing with my Religious Studies degree? Nothing. At least, nothing directly. “This degree will teach you how to read and write,” my professor assured our class. While most people would assume that those are skills mastered before entering college, I found that I improved drastically in both areas. I learned to read a variety of texts, parse and compare opinions, and think critically. I learned how to research thoroughly, formulate arguments, and to defend my opinions. These skills have served me far better than any direct knowledge I acquired in the program.
Ask your child what she wants from the degree. “A high-paying job” right after graduating with a history degree might be unlikely, but “a better understanding of the world” is a reasonable goal and an important skill that will (eventually) help land that job.

How are you paying?

If your student has taken out loans to fund their education, a cold hard look at finances is in order. That doesn’t mean that your thespian must forfeit the stage in order to pursue a petroleum engineering degree. Contrary to many parents’ fears, liberal arts degrees do not sentence their children to a lifetime of poverty. Attending college – regardless of degree – pays off. Millennial college graduates earn $17,500 more a year than their counterparts with just high school diplomas. And between the ages of 56 to 60, liberal arts majors actually earn $2,000 more a year than workers with more “practical” degrees like business and nursing.
It’s important to remind students about the world after the ivory tower. If they have their heart set on a low-earning degree, remind them that they will do best to keep their college costs as small as possible before graduation. It’ll take a lot longer to pay off a spring break trip to Cancun on a Francophone Studies degree than on a Business one.

Will you go to graduate school, and how will you pay?

“A Master’s Degree is the new Bachelor’s Degree” my fellow seniors on campus quipped as we tried to decide our future plans. As much as I loved my Religious Studies degree, I knew I would need something down the road. So I eventually attended graduate school for a (slightly) more practical major in Medical Anthropology and Public Health. This move landed me a job in public policy, after which I eventually became a freelance writer.
I realized early on that my interests and talents were not especially lucrative. I knew I needed to keep graduate school costs low so I wouldn’t be paying off a massive debt for years. So I chose an affordable in-state school, worked and used savings to pay off my tuition as I went, and my husband I lived as frugally as possible.
Many students – even those pursuing degrees more likely to satisfy parents, such as biology or engineering – will end up requiring graduate school to pursue their chosen career. About 40 percent of students with liberal arts degrees end up pursuing a graduate degree. Even if this move makes the most sense for your child, it’s important to keep the total cost of education in the picture is important for students.

What do you envision for your future?

It’s not necessary to have your life planned out at 19, but helping your child think through what they envision for their future might help guide their decisions. Are they picturing a life in academia, researching obscure 4th century texts? Non-profit environmental conservation work? Waiting tables by day and auditioning for Broadway by night? If so, that might explain why they aren’t too concerned about your insistence they think through their future earning potential.
Even if they have envision themselves in a more profitable career, their undergraduate choice might not be the determining factor. If your child wants to become a lawyer, for instance, their choice of undergraduate major probably won’t matter much – as long as they learn those important reading and writing skills and do well on the LSATs.
Money, of course, isn’t always the key to happiness, but a fulfilling and interesting job that pays the bills certainly helps. Help your child figure out if their degree can set them on a path to finding that happy medium.

Are you sure?

Even if there is nothing wrong with pursuing a liberal arts degree, it’s a good idea to encourage your child to sleep on it for a night – or a summer. Switching majors midstream can be costly if it adds on an additional year or more or study. Taking six years rather than four to complete a degree can add on $58,000 in tuition and decrease lifetime earnings by $52,900 – a total loss well over $100,000.

What else are you taking?

Between my Hinduism and Middle Eastern music classes, I figured I needed to take some courses that were more practical, so my senior year I squeezed in a few economics classes. While the lectures were not as riveting as what I was used to, I was glad to have that knowledge in my arsenal when I ended up working as a public policy analyst. Encourage a few classes that will help your student gain competency in fields they aren’t initially drawn to.
I only ended up teaching Sunday school once post-graduation. Suffice it to say, four years of college did not prepare me for wrangling a room full of chatty first- and second-graders. But I’ve never regretted pursuing something I was passionately interested in. In the end, a college degree is not the determining factor for your child’s success. It’s what they choose to do with it.

4 Finance Lessons to Squeeze Out of Your Kid’s Lemonade Empire

Teach financial literacy through the time-honored tradition of the lemonade stand – tricked out and upgraded for the entrepreneur of the next generation.

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Most of us began our employment history in the home: our parents gave us chores and, in return, we received a small allowance. Vacuuming, washing dishes, folding laundry, and taking out the dog reaped the seemingly staggering reward of a few dollars stashed away in the old piggy bank for a rainy day.
Simple “jobs” for relatives, friends, and neighbors are the first taste of responsibility and accomplishment many of us get outside of our home. The sense of accomplishment and independence these first forays into the larger world of adult employment bring shouldn’t be underestimated.  
Not only do these first “jobs” teach children the importance of showing up to honor a commitment, how to satisfy an employer, and how to problem-solve on their feet- they also teach them important lessons about money.
Take the opportunity to introduce financial literacy through the time-honored tradition of the lemonade stand – tricked out and upgraded for the entrepreneur of the next generation.  A mobile lemonade stand can be an alternative way to bring in the Benjamins: set out on the sidewalk in the late afternoon sun, neighbors and children flocking to throw down cash for the quintessential summer thirst quencher. If the fish aren’t biting at this corner, easily pack up shop and wheel yourself to more profitable pastures. 
More than just a way to while away a long, summer afternoon, a lemonade stand can be their very own small business, teaching them the importance of capital investment, interest, savings, and budgeting with the four exercises below.  
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a better lemonade stand for your kid by keenz
The Keenz stroller wagon comes with a removable cooler bag, organized storage with shoe compartment, and weatherproof covers.

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teaching finance to kids, investmentLesson One

Takes Money To Make Money

Concept: Teach your kid about the capital investment it takes to get a business going.

Setup: In the infancy of your lemonade stand planning – before setting out for the store with your budding entrepreneur – ask your kid for ideas about their lemonade stand and brainstorm ways to make it more profitable.

For example, making the stand mobile is one way to increase traffic and visibility. Providing unique lemonade varieties might entice reluctant customers.

Exercise: Once youve purchased supplies, go over costs with your child. Refer back to this expenditure after theyre finished selling lemonade, and compare the cost to their gross earning. Now refer below to step two….

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Keenz logoKeenz Stroller Wagons have sponsored this post because they know your first set of wheels can set you on a road to sweet success.

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Nothing’s Free, Kidteaching kids finance, loan and interest

Concept: There is a cost to borrowing money, and it comes in the form of interest. 

Setup: Explain to your child that you have forked up the dough needed to create this glorious lemonade stand on wheels. Your kid can repay your generous investment in two ways:

1) Give you a percentage of their proceeds.
2) Pay you back over time in small increments with interest as a payment plan.

Exercise: If they choose to set up a payment plan, explain that they will end up paying more over time with this staggered approach. For example, if you (generously) decide to (only) charge them $2 to help cover the cost of supplies, they will pay you 50 cents once a week for six weeks, bringing their loan repayment up to $3.

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best lemonade stand to help kids make and learn about money

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teaching kids finance, savingsLESSON Three

It Pays To Save

Concept: This lesson teaches kids about the payoff of accruing interest on their savings.

Set it up: Explain interest to your child. Then talk about the benefits of setting aside a portion of their proceeds as savings. Your kid might enjoy identifying a special toy or treat as a purchase goal.

Simple example to assist your explanation


Start Account Deposit Deposit + Interest End Account
$0 $10 $10.00 + $1.00 = $11.00 $11.00
$11.00 $10 $10.00 + $2.10 = $12.10 $23.10
$23.10 $10 $10.00 + $3.31 = $13.31 $36.41
$36.41 $10 $10.00 + $4.64 = $14.64 $51.05

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Exercise: Each week, add 10, 25, or 50 cents for every dollar of their savings. Take time each week to count their savings together and document the growth so theyll better understand the compounding benefits.

If your child is old enough, show them a compounding calculator and get them excited about potential profits for the months and years ahead.

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teaching kids finance, budgeting

Create A Budget And Stick To The Program 

Concept: Money management is a crucial aspect of happiness and success in adulthood (*source needed). This skill, however, is still not a mainstream component of the curriculum in the United States.
Setup: Supplement your childs education by helping them create good budgeting habits.
Exercise: Allocate their funds into buckets reserved for specific purposes. For example: pocket money for after school treats, That toy I want for those larger special items, and Savings”, reserved for very special occasions.
Inevitably, there will be a day when your kid asks you to buy  X, Y, or Z. This is where its important to stick to the program. Use the buckets of their budget to help them find the funds themselves, come up with loan terms so they can borrow from you, or tell them to grab the sponge cause its time to earn some sweat equity.
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More ways to “hotrod” your stroller wagon


Keenz stroller wagon halloween costume or parade float for kids
Turn your wagon into your next parade float or Halloween costume.

Keenz stroller wagon as mobile magic show
Take the show on the road!

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Giving Girls More Hands-On Opportunities To Learn About STEM Can Help Close The Gender Gap

Although technology is entrenched in our kid’s daily lives, girls continue to lag behind boys in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and math.

Although technology is now entrenched in our children’s daily lives, girls continue to lag behind boys in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and math. According to the National Science Foundation, in 2012 women earned 43 percent of bachelor’s degrees in math and statistics, and 41 percent in physical sciences, 18 percent in technological fields like computer science, and 19 percent in engineering.
Why is this the case?
Cultural stereotypes in the United States imply that girls have lower ability in technological fields compared with boys. This causes girls to start believing they are not good at math, science, and even computers starting at a young age.
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Girls typically receive less exposure to technology-related activities. From an early age, girls and boys are directed to play with different types of toys. As early as elementary school, girls spend less time playing with computer games, technological toys, spatial games, and science-related toys and kits. By sixth grade, boys spend more time than girls playing with electric toys outside of school as well.
New research from the University of Washington’s Institute for Learning & Brain Sciences (I-LABS) explored why this disparity exists and what can be done to encourage more female students to become interested in STEM. The researchers wanted to find out if parents and educators gave equal experiences to boys and girls, would this change girls’ interest and success in STEM?
The study, published in the Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, involved 96 six-year-olds – half boys and half girls – who were randomly assigned to one of three groups. In the first group, each child programmed a robot and then answered survey questions. In the second group, each child played a storytelling card game and then answered the same questions. Those in the third group only answered the questions. The survey was designed to collect the children’s opinions about technology activities, like the robot, and their beliefs about whether girls or boys are better at computer programming and robotics.
For the robot activity, children chose an animal-themed robot. They first followed step-by-step instructions on a smartphone to direct the robot to move forward, backward, right or left. Then they input the instructions themselves to program the phone to control the movements of the robots.
The researchers found that both boys and girls enjoyed the experience of programming the robot movement. The most important finding is that this exercise brought the girls’ interest and motivation in STEM up to the level of the boys. In fact, when exposed to a computer-programming activity, 6-year-old girls expressed greater interest in technology and more positive attitudes about their own skills and abilities than girls who did not try the activity. The robot activity reduced the gender gap in technology interest by 42 percent, and the gap in self-confidence by 80 percent.
Unfortunately, the robot activity did not appear to change the children’s stereotypes about whether boys or girls are better at programming and robotics. While the girls who programmed the robot indicated greater confidence in their own abilities, that view did not change their stereotypes that were already ingrained in them from American culture. The researchers suggest that doing more STEM-related activities on a consistent basis may help the children overcome these stereotypes. One idea is to have the children meet female scientists, engineers, and computer programmers to hear about their work. The researchers hope to test this theory in future studies.
Overall, the study results suggest both a need and an opportunity for teaching STEM activities early on in elementary school. When young girls are exposed to these types of activities, they become more interested in them from a young age. The most important tip that the researchers provided is to make sure the activities are accessible to all children – both girls and boys – in a fun way to get them excited about STEM.
You can encourage your daughters to become more interested in STEM by signing them up for summer camps, after-school programs, and other activities. Try visiting science museums or theme parks like Legoland that focus on STEM activities. For more ideas, check out these 5 Picture Books to Help Get Little Kids Interested in STEM and 10 Simple Ways to Empower Girls to Love STEM.

When My Son Left the Nest and Took My Favorite Sofa

Just before entering graduate school at our state university, my son abandoned the nest and took our living room sofa. My wife, Shelley, had never liked the sofa — too big, too green, long as a bus, and twice as heavy — so, from her perspective, getting rid of it was an excuse to replace it with one of astounding beauty. On the other hand, I took my late afternoon power nap on that leather monstrosity with the dog curled at my feet, and I liked that both ends of the sofa sprung out as recliners when you wanted to sit back and put your feet up. But I wanted to be a benevolent dad willing to help our son furnish an apartment near the University. So I said, “You can have it if you can move it, but I think it’s too heavy.”

He said thanks, got a wrench and broke the sofa down into six modules that he then loaded into the bed of his pick-up truck. The sofa was soon put back together in his apartment.

Being an elderly dog, Maggie didn’t appreciate losing the sofa she’d slept on for so long. For a while she slept on the dents in the carpet that the sofa had left behind. When I began napping on the green leather love seat that had no space for her, she banged her butt against the side of it to let me know her feelings. When the kitchen timer beeped to wake me up, she reached up and tugged at my arm with her teeth.

Jesse had graduated from college with high honors and a special award in Computer Science. He had marketable technical skills and was nearing independence. Why then did he want to start over and get a second bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering? “It’s a prerequisite for getting a master’s degree in Motorsport Engineering,” he said.

So he began working on a second bachelor’s degree, while I paid for another round of tuitions and his apartment near campus. Almost immediately he complained about the large undergraduate classes, foreign instructors who spoke unintelligible English, and that the University was requiring him to take non-engineering courses instead of giving him more credit for those he’d taken in college. He said he missed the small class sizes of his previous college. But he had met engineering seniors who were building a race car and had let him test last year’s model, hinting afterward that he could be one of their drivers in the spring international competition in Michigan.

As Shelley and I began adjusting to the empty nest, I came across an issue of Good Housekeeping in which three authors wrote of their children’s departures. Elizabeth Fishel wrote about the joy of redecorating her house. When her husband asked why she had bought a plush chair for their bedroom (since they both read in bed), she said, “Just in case one of the boys is home and needs a place to sit and talk with us.”

Kim Barnes said she missed family discussions in their hot tub but that she and her husband could now drive off spontaneously for romantic picnics. “When we do return to the nest, it is Bob’s job to check the hot tub’s temperature, a silent gesture of seduction, a bit of unspoken foreplay. If the tub is ready, so are we.”

Ann Hood wrote, “It is hard to imagine that day when both Sam and Annabelle will be living their lives away from me. It is hard to imagine sleeping late, without the rush of making lunches, finding missing socks and notebooks and car keys…I admit this future sounds carefree, whimsical, blissful. But I know better. When that day arrives and my house is child-free, I know how loud that emptiness might sound…In that distant life, I will watch Sam and Annabelle grow from afar instead of from beside them. But for today, in the fleeting moments we have, I will keep knocking at their doors, hoping they will let me in.”

As with these writers and their spouses, Shelley and I knew we would enjoy more time together now but thought it impossible to deny the pain of missing a child who, for so long, had been an integral part of our days.

After a rocky first semester, Jesse came home for his Christmas vacation break and said he was unhappy at the University. He felt no enthusiasm for the mechanical engineering program and his initial idea of getting a second bachelor’s degree. He didn’t want to spend five more years learning Motorsport design when his true love was driving a race car. He wanted to finish school soon, get a high-paying job, and buy a race car.

I suggested his best chance for a high-paying job was to transfer into the Computer Science graduate program and get his master’s degree. If he e-mailed the head of the Computer Science Department, we might be able to drive there for an interview and possibly change his curriculum before he headed back to school for the spring term. So we did that just before New Year’s Day.

That February, Shelley and I took our first vacation without him. As interesting as the Florida Keys were for one week, the thought of never again hearing the little guy say, “Papa, what are we gonna do when the sun comes up?” made it seem as if conquering the empty nest would be like challenging the alligators we’d observed in the Everglades.

After completing his first semester in the master’s degree program, Jesse and a friend loaded a red race car onto a trailer in early August and towed it to the New Hampshire Motor Speedway for an event sanctioned by the Sports Car Club of America (SCCA), causing Shelley and me to anxiously imagine speed demons crashing in various airborne configurations. He’d purchased an older Mazda Miata sports car for $2500 and worked on it with his friend during the spring and most of the summer, converting it from a used street car to an SCCA regulation Spec Miata while slowly depleting his savings.

What do you say when your man-child asks, “Are you coming up to Loudon to watch me race?”

Do you say, “I’d rather watch finches at the bird feeder”? No. You say, “We’ll be there for one day. Which day do you prefer?”

The stadium bleachers that hold 100,000 during NASCAR races were empty, but scores of SCCA members, crew, and family were camped throughout the infield. Jesse’s old engine lacked the power to pass other Miatas on the straight-aways, but his driving skill allowed him to catch some on the corners. In his last race, two drivers spun in front of him, forcing him onto the grass. There was exhilaration in his face when the race day ended.

I still did not know what Jesse would become but hoped he would follow Apple Computer founder Steve Jobs advice to the 2005 graduating class at Stanford University: “Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”

With respect to the empty nest, it seemed ours would be a long transition rather than an immediate reality. Despite my anxiety about his racing, I was relieved he would still be inviting Shelley and me into his life occasionally.

Why Learning Is A New Procrastination

Learning has become a major trend of the 21st century. Sadly, it has also become a new form of procrastination.

Forward from Parent Co.

We came across this piece on Medium, and while it’s not explicitly about parenthood, we felt that these lessons could be applied to both adults and teens who may find themselves in a loop of learning.

The tremendous world of online courses, blogs, social media, free eBooks, podcasts, and webinars provides the best ever opportunity to broaden your knowledge in almost every sphere you can imagine.

Thanks to technological advancement and the instant access to the internet, everyone can now study from home. It seems like it would be foolishly not to seize this opportunity and improve your skills and knowledge.

Moreover, you are kind of forced to do so since the contemporary world has raised the bar higher than ever before. It literally invited you to gather the pace and accelerate even more.

It is not surprising that, ultimately, you try to be everywhere and do everything. No doubt, you do your best to constantly gather tiny bits of information from as many channels as possible, because you are afraid that you will fall behind if you stop.

After all, you enter a learning crunch mode. You do not afford to miss anything and try to read every book you could get your hands on. You listen to every single podcast your smartphone could download and take every online course your paycheck would allow to take.

All in all, you learn. As much as possible. As intense as you manage to.

You learn how to write and publish a new book. You learn how to launch a successful blog. You learn how to hit your goal on Kickstarter. You learn how to build the next “unicorn”. You learn how to land a job of your dream. You learn how to successfully sell thousands of items on Amazon. You learn how to make millions of dollars in passive income.

However, the problem is that you do everything except taking action.

All those activities do not take you closer to the things you want to accomplish. Better knowledge does not make you more influential, powerful, and successful unless you apply it.

The key secret to success is not excessive expertise, but the ability to use it.

Knowledge is worthless unless it is applied.

Needless to say that studying is crucial. However, the thing is that it should take the entirely new form now. You should stop learning from someone else`s experiences, knowledge, failures, and wins and start learning from your own mistakes, adventures, achievements, and bold actions.

Learning has become a major trend of the 21st century. Sadly, it has also become a new form of procrastination.

You consciously postpone the first step justifying this by your eagerness to broaden the knowledge and learn new things. You put the start date off justifying this by your desire to pick up new skills that would help you succeed faster. You procrastinate over chasing your own aspirations because doing the things on your own and creating your own story of success is far more complicated than reading about someone else`s one.

Meanwhile, no one would really reproach you for wasting your time. Moreover, you feel comfortable about staying within this zone of ease and convenience forever.

However, the point is that you already have and know everything you need to start off. In fact, there is nothing more you need to learn in order to take the first step.

Embrace the truth. No matter how good your theoretical knowledge is, you will face a lot of obstacles while applying it. You will have to deal with issues that have never been described or covered in any book. You will have to look for the solutions and make the spontaneous decisions that no one probably has ever thought of. You will have to design your own road to success.

Stop learning by consuming. Start learning by creating.

Stop learning by researching. Start learning by doing.

Stop learning by listening. Start learning by talking.

Stop learning by reading. Start learning by writing.

Stop learning by watching the game. Start learning by playing it.

Stop postponing. Start taking action.

Transform your learning process from the continuous the procrastination into an unstoppable process of absorbing invaluable expertise based on your own experience.

It might seem counterintuitive, but the old-fashioned way of learning is what holds you back. This is what makes your achievements suck.

Constant learning, evaluating of ideas, thinking, and visualizing your journey towards your major aspirations will not take you far from the place you are now. Actions will.

You can sit and research, and research, and research, while someone else is already reaping huge rewards for his or her fruitful and hard work.

Stop learning now. Become bold enough to take the first step and start learning from your own experience.

This piece was originally published on Medium


We Need to Stop Demeaning "Women's Work," for the Sake of Our Girls and Boys

The work that has been associated with women for years is still seen as less worthwhile than other more masculine pursuits, primarily paid employment.

My husband went fishing this morning. He came back earlier than expected, his reel having broken. He pulled it out of its bag to show me how the line had jammed, despite having used it without a hitch for the last fifteen years.
The bag is laying on the table still. It’s made of blue corduroy, with threads poking out at the corners, and the drawstring enclosure is simple but tidy. My husband’s grandmother had taught him to sew when he was a boy, and this was his first project.
Growing up, I was a voracious reader, devouring any book I could get my hands on. My favorites, however, were historical fiction novels featuring brave heroines. These books all had similar themes – a young girl, who was told she should sit still and practice her embroidery, would buck tradition and pursue unwomanly hijinks instead. I loved following their adventures, as they climbed trees and solved mysteries, all while pursuing their own path.
Underneath this theme, however, I heard another message: Women’s work is inferior. To be cool, interesting, and exciting – you should be more like a man. Staying in the kitchen is fine, sure, but only if you want to ensure no one ever writes a book about a girl like you. Like the heroines in my books, I loved climbing trees and jumping into puddles, but unlike those girls, I also loved baking cookies and playing with dolls.
The work that has been associated with women for years – raising children, sewing, knitting, cooking, baking – is still seen as less worthwhile than other more masculine pursuits, primarily paid employment. Despite the fact that many of these historically female tasks are highly skilled (have you ever actually tried to successfully embroider a pillow?), they have become cultural shorthand for mindless, unimportant toil. Despite trying to give women more options, we’ve also unintentionally continued the stereotype that women’s work is worth less than men’s.
The implications of this bias are real and measurable. Caregiving – a field primarily associated with women – is still grossly underpaid. For example, a woman working as a child care provider earns, on average $20,000 a year. A crossing guard (someone also working in a physical job that does not require higher education) earns an average of $37,000 per year. Paying women less because of the type of jobs they do causes a wage gap that harms women and their families.
Women have often been blamed for bringing the wage gap upon themselves, with critics claiming that they chose to enter into low-wage, female-dominated professions. The truth, however, may be that workers in female-dominated industries earn less simply because they are dominated by women. For example, when computer programming moved from a mixed-gender to a male-dominated profession, the pay of programmers increased. when more women start doing jobs typically associated with men – as is the case for park rangers – pay has gone down.
We do girls a disservice when we tell them that the only way they can be successful is if they become more like men. Doing so ignores the historical accomplishments of women, and their contributions to art, culture, and society that has too often been overlooked. We also do our boys a disservice. 
Twenty years ago, not many boys were learning to sew alongside their grandmothers like my husband, but perhaps they would have been better off if they had. Boys have been underperforming in school – lower grades, lower rates of college completion – for decades now. A 2013 report shows that boys actually do better in school when they are engaged in more “feminine” extracurricular activities, such as music, art, and drama, but boys often disparage these for being “un-masculine.”  
My four-year-old son often asks me when I will teach him to knit. “When you can sit still for more than five minutes at a time,” is what I think to myself, but I will cast on a few stitches and let him play around. I like that he doesn’t know this is a skill primarily associated with women, and instead just thinks of it as something neat mommy can do. I like that, if we had a daughter, teaching her to knit wouldn’t be a way of teaching her homemaking skills so she would be able to attract a husband, but rather a way to make art.
As feminists, we often parrot the line that feminism about women making their own choices – whatever those choices may be. In practice, our society still treats traditionally female work, primarily raising children, as a lesser path. Women are still punished in the workforce for having children. Mothers are less likely to be hired than men or childless women, and if they are able to get a job, they are paid less. Telling women that they have career options other than being a housewife is vitally important, but we also must start to recognizing that choices like being a stay at home mom are significant and worthwhile.
For both our girls’ and our boys’ sake, we need to stop denigrating traditionally female activities. It sends the message that although children today have more choices, the only correct choice is to pursue male-dominated interests. Instead, we need to finally start recognizing the important work that women have done for centuries and give women – and men – who pursue it the pay and recognition they deserve. All children should have the freedom to pursue their interests without fear of judgment, whether they choose to climb trees or sew, to play house or to build one, they deserve our support.