County's Project Relief wants seniors to help...

THE BALTIMORE SUN

County's Project Relief wants seniors to help children

Like children but don't have them around the house anymore? The Baltimore County Department of Aging is looking for you to )) be part of Project Relief, designed to help youngsters adjust to day care. Older volunteers will be working with children 2 to 5 in day care centers within their own communities. They would be trained in storytelling, arts and crafts and other day care activities so they could work with a group of children while the day care teachers help newcomers adjust, says Carol Barton, coordinator of the Retired Senior Volunteer Program. The first orientation of Project Relief will be held in late September. For more information on this new program, contact Ms. Barton at the office of aging, (410) 887-4141.

Are we there yet?'

Traveling with children isn't necessarily a vacation for parents, but it is part of many families' summer plans. Here are some more tips for making your family travels pleasant:

* Answer the "Are we there yet?" questions by linking your arrival to something your child understands: "We'll be there in time for dinner, and that's as long as watching two videos."

* Most children don't sleep well the first night in a new place, so don't plan a strenuous activity for that first day: You and your children may be sleep-deprived.

* Comfort the child who whines, "I want my real home" by telling him, "This is our home for our vacation."

* Think carefully about the time of day you drive with an infant. A baby who sleeps all day in the car may not sleep at night.

* For plane travel, help each child pack a backpack, not just with activities, but also with snacks: Most children get hungry long before the attendants bring out the food carts.

* On long trips, have surprises for your children. They don't have to be expensive, just something they've never seen before.

* For car trips, plan frequent stops -- not just for essentials, but to play in a grassy area and do something physical.

* It's hard for preschoolers to say goodbye to things they have to leave home. Make a ritual of saying goodbye to what must stay home. Never leave something that's critical for sleeping.

* Let your child choose the toys he brings.

* There's nothing wrong with trying new things with your child -- a guided tour or an art museum, for example. Just be prepared to leave if she gets bored, cranky or unruly.

* For school-age children, the absence of friends can ruin a vacation. If you can't take a friend with you, plan ahead to hook up with some.

* Always meet the needs of your youngest child, especially around sleep. She'll be the first to get cranky, and misery is one of the most contagious vacation diseases.

* Be prepared for rainy days with indoor activities and toys.

Planning for longer trips

And now for some activities to keep children occupied on long trips -- always a challenge. Books and tapes, crayons and paper are good time-passers. Here are some additional suggestions for travel toys (with approximate prices) from Joanne Oppenheim, editor of the Oppenheim Toy Portfolio, an independent toy-consumer guide:

* Travel Etch a Sketch, a mini-version of the classic draw and shake-to-erase screen. No loose parts! (Ohio Art, $7.)

* Colorforms, Magneforms and various other generic peel and stick kits. Wide range of prices and varieties. One worth looking for this Olympic season is Sports Arena, a collection of male and female athletes who can be arranged on playing fields and in all types of track and field events. Available in toy specialty stores. (UniSet, $8).

* Hip Pak, 100 microsized interlocking blocks that store in a zipped hip pack that's worn like a belt. A good time-filler once you reach your destination. For the price, it's not a crisis if you lose a few. (Mega Blocks, $5.)

* Travel Magna-Doodle, a magnetized drawing board that children draw on with an attached stylus. A dressed-up version of the old cardboard pads with acetate sheets that children write on and then lift to erase, which still make handy travel toys, too. ($12.95, Ideal.)

For infants and young toddlers, Ms. Oppenheim suggests a bagful of manipulative hand toys of various shapes that parents can keep pulling from "like a bag of tricks."

Worth noting

* A reminder: The Baltimore WIC (Women, Infants and Children) Food Program is holding a special enrollment day Saturday. WIC provides vouchers for baby formula, cereal, cheese, juice and other nutritious foods to needy families. The program is open to pregnant women, breast-feeding mothers and families with children up to age 5 who meet the income requirements. A family of four can earn up to $25,808 and still be eligible for WIC benefits. Applicants should bring proof of identification, address and income. Children to be enrolled must accompany the applicant. Appointments are necessary for families to apply from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday in Room 1139 at Mondawmin Mall or at the Dunbar Mayor's Station, 1400 Orleans St. For more information and to make appointments, phone the WIC office, 396-9427. Another special enrollment day will be held Aug. 22.

Family Forum welcomes items of interest to families. Send them to: Family Forum, The Evening Sun, 501 N. Calvert St., Box 1377, Baltimore 21278.

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