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Teaching Kids About Honesty

By | Learning & Development

Every parent wants to raise kids who tell the truth. However, as your child grows in independence and develops a mind of their own, you may notice that they start telling little white lies or even big whoppers. Beginning at the age of two, your child develops the cognitive ability to weave stories that fit what they want or need.

Some kids lie to avoid getting in trouble. Others fabricate lies to get something they want. You may be troubled by this dishonesty, but it’s important to know that lying is normal for young children. In fact, all kids lie. That doesn’t mean, however, that you should let it slide. Honesty is a core value that you can instill into your child at a very young age.

No matter how little you’re child may be, here are seven ways to begin teaching your children to be honest.

1. Make Honesty a Positive Focus in Your Family

While they’re still young, you can begin to tell and show your children that honesty is an important value to your family. By using age-appropriate language, let them know explicitly that lying breaks trust and that families need to be able to believe what they tell each other is true.

2. Set an Example of Honesty

To teach honesty, you must set an example of honesty. While it can be difficult, especially with sensitive topics, avoid lying to your child. It’s better to let them know that some things are hard to talk about — such as death, illness or divorce — than to try to cover these topics up. You are your child’s primary role model, so you can’t expect them to tell the truth if you’re not honest with them. That said, you need to keep your answer child-appropriate, and it’s okay to create appropriate boundaries around private matters.

3. Don’t Ask Questions When You Know the Answer

One way to deter lying is not setting your child up to lie. If you know they haven’t picked up their toys in their room, there’s no need to ask if they’ve cleaned up. Preschool-aged kids especially often lie out of a desire to avoid getting in trouble. Instead, let them know that you already know the truth — they haven’t picked up. This step avoids putting them in a position in which they feel the need to lie.

4. Avoid Labeling

It’s never a good idea to call your child a liar. In the short term, it puts them on the defensive. Over time, they may start to believe that they’re a liar and continue acting on that misinformation.

Instead, help your child understand that you don’t like their lies, but you love them. If something sounds untrue, let them know that you feel they may be speaking dishonestly, and give them the opportunity to explain why they lied.

5. Tell Them How Happy Honesty Makes You

Most little children are extremely motivated to please their parents and other authority figures. When you let them know that telling the truth makes you happy, your child may be more likely to practice honesty. It will also help them feel good about being trustworthy.

6. Practice Calm Discipline

While it may be difficult to keep your cool if you catch your child in a lie, some children are dishonest because they’re afraid their parents will have a big emotional reaction. If you tend to be harsh and punitive, they may learn to avoid telling you the truth.

Instead, approach the situation calmly when your child lies, even if that means taking a few moments to cool off. They need to know that it’s okay for them to come forward with the truth. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t discipline your kids — just make sure it’s done in a calm and loving manner.

7. Praise Honesty

Telling the truth takes a lot of courage, especially when a child is afraid of punishment. When your little one comes to you with the truth, reward them with praise. This reaction will help you child feel great about their honestly, particularly in situations where a lie would have been easier.

Find Childcare That Supports Your Home Values

Haymarket Children’s Academy is proud to bring an unparalleled early education experience to children in the Gainesville, Virginia area. Our caregivers have years of experience working with young children and are on hand to teach our organization’s intrinsic values, including honesty and integrity. Through love, patience and kindness, we help children explore their world and learn how to interact with others in it.

If you want to learn more, we invite you to contact us to speak with a friendly member of our team or schedule a tour at our state-of-the-art facility.

How to Help Your Kids With Separation Anxiety at School or Daycare

By | Learning & Development

The prospect of starting school or daycare can be daunting for parents and children alike. It’s natural for a child to feel nervous and a bit worried when it’s time to say goodbye, and no parent wants to leave their child in tears or otherwise upset. Anxiety at the idea of separation is a healthy reaction and a recognized stage of development in children, so it’s reasonable to expect some crying or clinginess in early childhood. However, if the nerves don’t get better or start to worsen, you may be dealing with a more serious issue: separation anxiety.

What Is Separation Anxiety?

As babies grow and develop into toddlers, everything in the world is so new to them that they aren’t able to predict what is normal and safe as opposed to what might be dangerous. Babies younger than 8 months old are usually comfortable with new people, places and things.

From 8 to 14 months, children are developing a sense of the familiar. They recognize their parents and home as a comfortable, safe setting, and anything new is also threatening. Within this age range, it’s perfectly normal for a child to feel anxious when they enter a new place with new people — especially when their parents are not around.

Separation anxiety as a development stage usually ends around 2 years old, as children start to realize their parents will come back later, even if they are currently out of sight. The anxiety can return temporarily at later ages, especially when a child is stressed. Persistent anxiety may indicate separation anxiety disorder, which studies suggest affects about 4 to 5% of children and adolescents.

Recognizing the Signs of Separation Anxiety

It often seems like kids are bursting at the seams with emotions, so it’s sometimes difficult to tell what’s a result of their developing emotional intelligence and what’s due to separation anxiety. Symptoms of separation anxiety in toddlers include:

  • Excessive clinginess
  • Crying when you leave the room, even if it’s just a bathroom break
  • Resisting bedtime
  • Waking up and crying throughout the night
  • Fear of strangers and even other caregivers

Separation anxiety and daycare go hand in hand, since toddlers are at the tail end of this critical developmental stage. Every child is different when it comes to growing out of daycare separation anxiety, and it’s common for them to act perfectly fine one day and have preschool drop-off separation anxiety the next. They may demonstrate their anxiety by grabbing onto your leg and refusing to let go, or they might feel the need to scream their head off to let you know about their worry.

Separation anxiety among toddlers in daycare or preschool may cause children to act uncharacteristically reserved and avoid interactions with peers and teachers. Alternatively, they might decide lashing out is the best way to show their distress, and end up causing conflicts with other children or antagonizing the teacher.

When kids get older and start attending kindergarten or grade school, things look a little different. These are some of the signs an older child is experiencing separation anxiety starting school or going back to school:

  • Recurring distress when having to go to school
  • Constant worry that something will happen to a parent or other loved one
  • Refusal to leave the house for fear of separation
  • Fear of being alone
  • Nightmares about being separated from parents
  • Complaints of physical ailments when away from home

It’s much easier to identify separation anxiety in school-aged children because they’re more capable of telling you what’s wrong and how they feel. They may not come right out and state they are anxious about being apart from you, but their behavior says it all. Their fear of separation often manifests in defiance, especially in the mornings before school or at your drop-off location.

Separation anxiety and school refusal are closely linked. About 2 to 5% of all school-aged kids display school refusal, and it looks different depending on the child. Some will outright put their foot down and say they refuse to go to school. Others might beat around the bush and fake being sick or insist they have a headache as a means of getting out of classes and staying close to you throughout the day. However they show it, school refusal is a huge red flag for separation anxiety.

Causes and Triggers of Separation Anxiety

A lot of parents can feel lost wondering what causes separation anxiety in kids, especially when their child has grown out of it for the most part. Causes of separation anxiety in preschoolers are pretty much the same as those in older children, and there are three significant catalysts parents should understand.

1. Starting a New Daycare or School

Entering daycare or starting school for the first time is a stressful endeavor for a little one. They’re suddenly in a completely new environment where adults expect them to play nice with others and follow a bevy of new rules, all without you there to provide comfort and guidance. It’s a lot for small minds to handle, and it’s natural for them to have a little trouble doing so. Preschool-age separation anxiety is often at its worst when toddlers are entering daycare for the first time.

For older kids, starting at a new school carries a lot of social expectations many children aren’t equipped to handle. While they’re learning the ropes at their new school, they might experience seemingly random episodes of anxiety or feel anxious throughout whole days. School separation anxiety in kindergarten is widespread, and shifting your child to a new school may emphasize that anxiety.

2. Going Back to School

Back-to-school separation anxiety is something we can all relate to. After a couple of months of hanging around the house and doing fun activities with you, your child probably isn’t too jazzed about the idea of going back to the structured setting of school. Kids who struggle with first-day-of-school separation anxiety may be reluctant to talk about the upcoming academic year, and might avoid the subject at all costs. If your child goes silent at the thought of the new school year or starts fidgeting with apparent nervousness, there may be separation anxiety at work.

3. Moving up in School

Graduating from one level of school to another comes with a whole host of new feelings, some of which may give rise to separation anxiety. A child moving from daycare to preschool, or preschool to kindergarten, will often be excited that they’re getting to do “big-kid stuff,” but that doesn’t preclude them from experiencing separation anxiety when it’s drop-off time.

Transitions of this kind come with so many new things that a child may feel overwhelmed and want to cling to you for safety and reassurance. They’ll be dealing with new teachers, subjects, kids and responsibilities, and it can all feel like too much in some moments. Transitioning from grade school to middle school is a significant source of separation anxiety in elementary school.

How to Help a Child With Separation Anxiety at School or Daycare

It’s not always intuitive to figure out how to deal with toddler separation anxiety at daycare or separation anxiety in kindergarteners. Dealing with an anxious child can make you feel like you’re doing something wrong, but it’s rarely a personal failing. Here are a few preschool separation anxiety tips for parents, which can help with easing separation anxiety in preschoolers and beyond.

1. Avoid Cold Opens

Fear of the unknown is the heart of separation anxiety. To your child, it feels like anything can happen to them in this scary new place, and it can be pretty frightening. To eliminate some of the perceived threat, it helps to do a dry run before the first day of school or daycare. Set up a time to tour the school or facility with your child, and point out the places they’ll be spending time.

Try and frame the new setting with a positive spin. If you walk by the cafeteria, ask something like, “I wonder what your favorite lunch will be?” If you swing by the playground, ask them what kind of games they think they’ll play there. Getting your child to engage with their new surroundings is a solid step in removing the scariness of the unknown.

2. Make Goodbyes a Ritual

Drop-offs are a frequent source of separation anxiety. Even kids who are old enough to cognitively understand there’s nothing to worry about and that you’ll be back at the end of the day may drag their feet when it’s time to get out of the car. Developing a ritual for saying goodbye can help soothe kids when it’s time to go to school or daycare.

Your ritual doesn’t need to be complicated, just consistent. Something like a secret handshake or giving a hug and high five before saying goodbye can be enough to put your child more at ease, and is one of the simpler strategies for managing separation anxiety at school.

3. Adjust Your Body Language

When you drop off your child and you know they have separation anxiety, it can be almost as hard for you as it is for them. However, it’s important to remember kids are often highly perceptive at picking up body language, even if they don’t do it on purpose. If you’re gripping the steering wheel, staring straight ahead and stiff when you hug them goodbye, your child may be able to sense something’s wrong.

To the best of your ability, try and relax when it’s time to take your child to school or leave them at daycare. It’s certainly easier to talk about it than it is to do it, but keeping your body language in mind can help you avoid the physical cues that might make an episode of separation anxiety even worse.

4. Develop and Follow a Routine

Life with kids is hectic at the best of times, but if it gets too out of hand, the instability can contribute to separation anxiety. If a child doesn’t know when they’re going to wake up or what they’re supposed to do before school or daycare, they have more time to get wound up before you even get out the door. Whenever possible, stick to a predetermined schedule.

It helps if you can squeeze in time to do things like packing lunches and setting out backpacks the night before. This kind of structure reduces chaos and helps kids get used to the routine of school or daycare more quickly.

5. Allow Some Agency

Here’s a crucial tip on how to help a school-aged child with separation anxiety: Give them some power over the situation. It can be something small like choosing their outfit or picking a special snack for the day, but letting your child have some influence over the situation can reduce the anxiety of going to a place where they have to follow rules and schedules all day.

It can also help to give your child a role in prepping for the day. For example, older kids can take some responsibility by completing a backpack checklist to make sure they have all the materials they need. Even toddlers can participate in preparing by doing things like putting their shoes and backpack by the door before bedtime. Allowing your child to take a role in getting ready to go can increase their sense of self-sufficiency and reduce the severity of their separation anxiety.

Don’t Forget About Yourself

There are a ton of strategies for separation anxiety at school, but one of the most important is to take care of yourself. School and daycare separation anxiety in kids is no walk in the park for any parent, but if you’re dealing with it frequently, you may be tempted to blame yourself or go all-out trying to fix your child’s anxiety. It’s critical for every parent to remember learning how to handle separation anxiety in preschoolers and older kids is a process that takes time.

It can help to reach out to other parents who have dealt with the same issue to see how they handled it and what their results were. Every child will respond differently to various strategies, but it doesn’t hurt to exchange ideas and expand your pool of ideas.

Above all, cut yourself some slack. Separation anxiety isn’t a result of bad parenting. It’s just something some kids are more prone to than others. As long as you continue to try to understand your child’s needs and take steps to make them more comfortable at school or daycare, it’s likely their anxiety will get better with time.

Consider a Different Environment

Some kids don’t feel comfortable in the average school or daycare setting. If you think your child could benefit from a more home-like atmosphere, consider Haymarket Children’s Academy. Our expert, personalized care is evident in our nursery program for infants to toddlers, our preschool and our private kindergarten with small class sizes.

Every child gets the personalized attention they need to develop a love of learning in a safe and welcoming environment. If you’d like to learn more about Haymarket Children’s Academy, our outstanding curriculum or how our setting can help with your child’s separation anxiety, contact us today.

Benefits of having kids read

Benefits of Reading & Why Your Kids Need to Go to the Library

By | Learning & Development

Few factors can influence your child’s life like a solid foundation of literacy skills. Reading to children and encouraging them to develop their literacy habits is one of the most important commitments a parent or a teacher can make because of the profound impact it can have on a kid’s mental health, academic abilities and thinking processes. In fact, with so many distractions and other forms of entertainment vying for people’s attention, the importance of reading with children has never been more evident.

Benefits of Reading for Young Kids

Although we often hear that reading is essential, many people don’t know specific reasons that kids need to read. Developing strong literacy skills helps prepare children not only for success in reading and writing but also in other academic fields. It also helps them become more able to interpret the world around them.

In an increasingly digital world, it’s crucial for us to keep our kids reading books for many reasons, including the following.

1. Increasing Empathy in Readers

Reading can increase a person’s empathy, helping them imagine others’ emotions and circumstances. Learning about different viewpoints or beliefs builds an understanding of culture and values outside of the reader’s experience. These experiences are integral in allowing children to imagine the lives and experiences of people from different places and time periods, enabling them to consider multiple perspectives or understand the greater impact of their actions.

2. Improving Literacy Skills and Performance in Various Subjects

It may seem evident that strong reading habits will help develop children’s language abilities. For instance, reading to kids at a young age makes them much more likely to recognize letters or write their name. These experiences can create a cycle of success in which students can build on these skills and continue moving forward as other children are just beginning to recognize their letters.

This process is one of the clearest indicators of reading being essential for young kids, giving earlier access to information and learning opportunities. What may be a less obvious advantage of reading for kids, however, is the effect positive reading experiences can have in other subjects.

To begin with, developing healthy reading habits opens avenues for learning about a variety of topics, such as science, history, social studies, and more. In much the same way early access to letter sounds and writing may provide a benefit in language, students with more background knowledge in these content areas will be able to make more connections and gain greater insight when they learn about new topics. They’ll also be capable of engaging in their learning paths, choosing to further their understanding of a topic beyond what other children around them do.

Reading opens children’s brains to different ways of processing information. In fact, research indicates that reading enhances students’ ability to perform in multiple subjects, even when the reading isn’t specifically tied to that subject, such as mathematics. This effect is likely because reading helps children learn to take in, interpret, comprehend, and store information, improving their ability to handle new concepts and situations as they arise. These comprehension abilities mold children into learners who are capable of considering complex situations and holding multiple pieces of information in their head simultaneously.

3. Enhancing Communication Skills

One of the common reasons parents and teachers promote developing reading habits is because it can help develop better communication skills in young language learners. As children read, they can expand their vocabulary through interacting with challenging words, and if they’ve selected the book themselves, they’re likely to try to understand the new words through context clues and phonics skills. This process helps children develop a wide vocabulary that they can use to more precisely articulate a thought or describe a situation. It also sharpens their vocabulary skills for the next challenging words they come across.

Reading can also help students develop better speaking or reading habits because they’re taking in well-formed sentences. As students interact with language and see a variety of sentence structures, they gain a better grasp of how words can be used more fluidly or in various arrangements, increasing their linguistic abilities.

4. Exercising and Expanding the Brain

Reading can expand a child’s brain ability in multiple ways. For example, exercising the brain through reading can help readers interact with various parts of their mind. While reading is widely known as a left-brain activity — processing language and organization — metaphors and non-linguistic representations occur in the right brain. Because of this multi-dimensional crossover, exercising the brain is very important to develop connections between various regions.

Another way reading can help exercise the brain is to present fictional scenarios that force the reader to question particular ideals. Readers can encounter fictional “what ifs,” which force them to prioritize values or concepts. Often, readers can be expected to make decisions between head and heart, love and money, or other internal conflicts. Such situations ask them to consider what’s important to them before they encounter the same questions in real conversations. That way, they’re more prepared to handle prioritizing these concepts when it’s essential in their lives.

5. Creating an Intrinsic Thirst for Knowledge

Reading is also crucial because it opens so many doors for new exploration. With nonfiction books, there’s a clear pathway for readers to not only learn about interesting topics but also ask questions that require further reading or study. This process creates a natural cycle of reading for children who have specific interests — such as a particular time period, favorite animal or sport — as they continually seek to find the answers to questions prompted through their reading.

Nonfiction books, however, are not the only way of reading stokes children’s desire to learn. Aside from the benefits of considering open-ended questions, fiction can also fuel a child’s ambition to learn by introducing new topics in the fictional world. When reading a historical fiction novel set in a particular time period, readers can come across intricacies that they never expected about that time and see how it affected the everyday lives of the people involved.

Similarly, though science fiction often creates futuristic versions of our current world, it can often play on current scientific trends based on current technology, meaning readers can question the application of the materials they see around them. Dystopian fiction often focuses on a policy or tendency in society and then extrapolates it out to its furthest reaches, asking readers to reconsider the world around them in new, interesting ways.

6. Providing Entertainment Value

With all the other benefits in play, it can be easy to forget that reading also provides a sense of entertainment for children. Developing an interest in reading at an early age can show children that reading is a valuable and endless source of entertainment. Getting kids hooked on reading at a young age is integral because they’ll become intrinsically motivated to continue their reading habits, which will naturally develop the other positive results that come with reading.

7. Reducing Stress

One of the most important and valuable aspects of reading is that it can help calm a reader who’s experiencing stress. In fact, reading can work better on these fronts than other typical stress relief methods — such as listening to music or drinking tea — that have also been shown to provide stress-relieving qualities. Helping students connect reading to a low-anxiety activity early in life can offer a powerful coping mechanism for dealing with stress later in life.

Why Kids Should Go to the Library

Reading itself is essential to a child’s success, but the role of libraries in child development should not be overlooked. With the technology and resources available in the world, some people question how libraries impact children today. These centers provide free resources, access to professionals, and a variety of other services that benefit children. Forming a close relationship with the local library at a young age teaches a student that these resources are available to them.

Here are several other important points to consider on why libraries are beneficial for children.

1. An Example Set by You

One of the key benefits of taking a child to the library is that you, as the parent, are establishing an example as a reader. By going to the library with your children when they’re young, you can make sure they develop a sense that reading is a natural thing for people to do. When children learn from an early age that reading is an essential part of life, they develop habits that make the decision to continue reading that much easier. Forming these habits early can be one of the most important factors in gaining early access to literacy skills.

2. Free Entertainment

One of the most overlooked values of the library is that it provides resources for free. This quality can be especially important during the summer months when keeping kids entertained with summer camps, family vacations, and other opportunities quickly eat into a family budget.

Libraries often offer events or get-togethers that offer educational value and cost no money. These free resources can even help save money on other types of entertainment. Taking a car full of kids to see a summer movie can get extremely expensive. Fortunately, many libraries offer films or other media for free or very little cost, providing a replacement activity at a fraction of the expense.

3. Freedom of Choice

Opening a child’s eyes to the innumerable reading options available can change the way they approach books. To begin with, it probably comes as little surprise that children are more likely to read when they’re able to select their own reading material. In addition, students often find similar books as they look for their preferred ones, meaning they’re exposed to more reading material than just the one book in front of them at that particular moment.

Educators have found significant improvements in motivation and student engagement when children are offered choice and can have some control in how they learn. In fact, researchers have found that student learning improves when options are provided, even if the options themselves have little relevancy in how a task is completed.

Providing students with options isn’t only about allowing them to choose a book on a topic they enjoy. It’s also teaching them that their voice and preferences matter and that they have many options in what they read and how they interact with the material. This developmental concept is a crucial one, teaching students that they play an integral role in forming their own education and seeking out materials or topics that interest them.

Choice provides students with a solid platform on which to establish their reading preferences and develop a sense of how they define themselves as learners and readers.

4. Librarians Who Help Them Find Books

One of the most classic reasons kids should go to the library is to receive help in finding materials. Though the freedom to choose their own books or other media is critical to developing consistent reading habits, having access to a knowledgeable professional who can help find materials on a variety of topics is key.

While particular websites can recommend books, the benefit of local libraries for kids is that interaction with a live person who can get to know the child better can often yield more positive results. A librarian can use personal preferences — specific likes and dislikes from a reader’s other selections — to make individualized recommendations. In some cases, librarians can even provide parents with resources on how to help kids read.

Librarians are terrific resources for children as they try to find more books about a particular topic. However, as the role of librarians continues to change, they act more as resource managers than book recommenders. Librarians can assist in using appropriate search tools or tracking down other research material. They often assist in using databases, magazines, newspapers, and other reading sources that might be of value for expanding knowledge on a topic.

A librarian will be on the lookout for materials for particular readers once they get to know these individuals, meaning reading material may be saved or recommended even without request, opening even more possibilities.

5. Development of a Relationship With the Library

Libraries are known for their collections of books, but contemporary libraries are much more than a warehouse for physical copies. Connecting children with the library early teaches them that they have access to valuable resources beyond traditional paper pages. Users depend on local libraries for a wide assortment of educational, entertainment, and communication needs. In addition to conventional books, most media centers allow users online access, providing critical job searching and connection abilities for many citizens.

Reading in Child Care

The importance of reading for kids has never been more apparent, and teaching kids to love reading is integral to any strong educational program. Reading early develops strong habits that will likely carry over to a lifetime of benefits.

Considering the benefits of libraries and how they can affect kids, access to these spaces should be a top priority when parents are selecting childcare options. Haymarket Children’s Academy recognizes the importance of libraries in early childhood education and the benefits of reading for kids, which is why we have a library on site. If you’re looking for childcare services in the Gainesville, Virginia area, contact Haymarket Children’s Academy to learn more about our belief in child literacy and development.

Two kids and their mom kayaking outside

Top Kids Activites in Gainesville, Virginia

By | Learning & Development, Summer

Northern Virginia is filled with fun and exciting summer activities for kids. With the nation’s capital in easy driving distance and historic battlefields surrounding the area, educational opportunities are always available. But learning isn’t the only activity Prince William County has to offer. The surrounding area is crammed with exhilarating ropes courses and trampoline parks, skating and hiking opportunities and a waterpark. The area also features a movie theater and a weekend BBQ with live music!

With so many things to do in and around Northern Virginia, Gainesville, VA, is an outstanding choice for a family summer vacation.

Educational Activities for Kids Around Gainesville

Virginia has no shortage of cultural experiences, especially educational activities, to do with kids. Between the historical sites, museums, and battlefields, visitors are always within driving distance of a fun and interactive learning opportunity. These kids activities in Virginia are not only educational, but they’re also exciting:

  • Smithsonian Museums: With Washington D.C. nearby, it should be no surprise to find the Smithsonian museums near the top the list of educational experiences. With free admission to most attractions and a range of subjects including art, culture, history, and aerospace, the Smithsonian museums are an easy pick for an enriching experience. To help visitors avoid crowds, the museum staff recommends coming during a weekday, which usually has fewer visitors.
  • Smithsonian National Zoo: While technically also a part of the Smithsonian Institute, the Smithsonian National Zoo in Washington D.C. gets a special mention as one of the top summer attractions for kids. Aside from the exotic animals and educational displays, the zoo offers a large selection of kid-friendly dining options that can also meet the needs of vegetarian, gluten-free, and dairy-free diets.
  • Mount Vernon: About 45 minutes east of Gainesville, Mount Vernon provides an entire day of interactive historical education. Home to the first president, his wife, and more than 20 family members, Mount Vernon has plenty of stories to learn and sites to see. Visitors can see the historically-restored buildings, Washington’s distillery and gristmill, the gardens and landscape as well as the inside of the Washington mansion. Visitors are also encouraged to see Washington’s family tomb, which he personally instructed to be built shortly before he died. Mount Vernon also has specially-selected activities that appeal to children, including live animal exhibits, story times, interactive crafts, and discovery time.
  • National Battlefield Park in Manassas, VA: The stage for two key battles in the Civil War, the Manassas Battlefield holds historical and educational significance. In 1861, the First Battle of Bull Run — the first field battle in the American Civil War — set an important precedent for what would become America’s bloodiest war. The Confederate army held off Union troops, and their victory made clear that this would not be a short or clean conflict, forcing the Union to reevaluate its plans and methods. Then, a little more than a year later, the Union attack again in the Second Battle of Bull Run, which resulted in another Confederate victory. This time, the South solidified an invaluable attack position from which they could invade the North and also deeply penetrated the morale of the Union Army. National Battlefield Park, a site open to the public for free, has many educational activities for kids. The park features guided walking tours as well as hiking loops to help visitors get a better sense of the historic land. The area also has several historic buildings, including the Brawner Farm Interpretive Center and the historic Stone House.
  • Cold War Museum: Though many of the area’s historical sites focus on preserving American Revolutionary and American Civil War-era artifacts, the Cold War Museum is less than 20 miles away in Warrenton, Virginia. The museum features articles from the end of World War II up through the collapse of the USSR in the early ’90s. Through the exhibits, visitors can expect to find artifacts, learn historical context, and view propaganda and art pieces that lend valuable insight to an escalating arms race and a series of wars around the globe.
  • Ben Lomond Historic Site: The Ben Lomond estate — a plantation built before the Civil War — provides an excellent chance to step back in time and see the effect the war had on the surrounding area. Visitors can see the farmhouse that Confederates initially converted into a hospital after their victory in the First Battle of Bull Run, then overtaken and vandalized by Union forces a year later. Visitors can see the farmhouse along with a restored version of the slave quarters, smokehouse and rose garden.

Indoor Activities for Kids in and Around Gainesville

Unfortunately, the weather doesn’t always cooperate. Luckily, there are plenty of fun indoor activities in the area. In addition to the previously-mentioned Smithsonian museums in Washington, D.C., it’s always easy to find things to do with kids in and around Gainesville, Virginia. Northern Virginia has an assortment of indoor activities for thrill seekers, as well as some more leisurely activities like movie theaters and libraries.

Even if the weather is nice, consider stopping in some of the best indoor attractions around Gainesville, including:

  • The Haymarket Gainesville Public Library: The Haymarket Gainesville Public Library is a beautiful and spacious branch of the Prince William Public Library System. Along with providing access to books, computers, and media, the complex hosts multiple groups such as toddler story time, craft sessions, and teen reading groups.
  • SkyZone Trampoline Park: For kids with lots of pent up energy on those rainy days, consider the local trampoline park. A quick 10-minute drive down the road, the Manassas SkyZone offers trampolines in addition to glow-time jumping, basketball hoops, foam pits, and dodgeball. Participants will be expected to sign a waiver, and then they can engage in any number of trampoline-related activities.
  • Summit Ropes Indoor Ropes Course: Another adventurous, indoor activity, the Summit Ropes indoor ropes course provides rock climbing walls, cargo nets, rope bridges, and an array of other challenges. Climbers wear a full-body harness that attaches to the belay system, ensuring visitor safety. Still, customers will be expected to sign a waiver before participating in the activities. The course is designed to accommodate all skill levels and experiences. One of the benefits of an enclosed, monitored climbing area is that staff is available to assist novice climbers. The challenges are also divided into a children’s area for kids ages 4 through 6 and an advanced course for ages 7 and up. Non-climbers can also enjoy a snack at the Summit Ropes coffee bar.
  • Regal Cinemas Movie Theatre: For a more relaxed activity, Regal Cinemas Virginia Gateway 14 and RPX Theater offers a premium movie experience. Viewers can expect comfortable seating and an impressive sound system, along with the usual movie concessions.
  • Skating and Laser Tag: For a multi-option approach, consider Skate N Fun Zone in Manassas, VA. Visitors can choose to skate in the full-sized rink, participating fun games and skating along to the music. Guests can also choose to play laser tag, placing them in a futuristic and interactive world where they must strategically outlast their opponents. Skate N Fun Zone also allows educational STEM field trips in which students participate in hands-on activities that reveal how science, technology, engineering, and math are relevant in every aspect of our lives before the teachers reinforce the lessons through a skating session. These interactive lessons help students build applicable knowledge that they can see affect the world around themKids ice skating
  • Ice Skating: Another skating opportunity, the Haymarket Ice Complex provides two possible skating surfaces depending on the need and availability. In addition to skating lessons and classes, parents can host a child’s birthday party at the rink. Public skating available on most days, but be sure to check their schedule for specific times.

Outdoor Activities for Kids Around Gainesville

With so many great indoor activities in the Gainesville, VA, area, it can be easy to forget that Northern Virginia has a vast selection of outdoor summer activities for preschoolers, children, teens, and adults. Hiking trails and water parks, not to mention live entertainment and smoked BBQ make it easy to get outside and do something fun with the family. Still, the mild weather and rolling hills make the Virginia area a perfect place for outdoor adventures.

Some of the best spring and summer outdoor features in the area include:

  • Conway Robinson Memorial State Park: State parks are always fun free summer activities for kids. Conway Robinson State Park serves as a nature reserve and environmental education center, making it a prime outdoor educational activity for kids. Hikers enjoy the four interconnected hiking and biking routes, which hold unique treasures for geocachers. Visitors can also use the covered picnic shelter to enjoy a shady lunch on a hot summer day. There is currently no camping available on the state park grounds.
  • SplashDown Water Park: One of the most popular summer activities for kids in Prince William County is a visit to SplashDown Water Park. Teens and fun-loving adults will enjoy the Pipeline Tower and Cannonball waterslides, and younger sliders also have their pick of smaller slides and activities. For a change of pace, visitors can soak in the sun lounging in the lazy river. The park also includes playgrounds, volleyball courts, and tennis courts, along with enough restaurants to fit any family’s needs.
  • Cox Farms: Visitors to Cox Farms can expect a different experience depending on the time of year. During the spring and summer, Cox Farms Corner Market sells seasonal produce and greenhouse plants. Kids love to play with the oversized checkers and visit the animals. Smoking Saturdays brings in live music and smoked BBQ to complement the other available concessions. In the colder months, the farm hosts an annual fall festival, the Haunted Field of Fear and a variety of Christmas activities, like Christmas tree shopping and visits from Santa Claus.

Visit Camp Blue Ridge in Gainesville

Kids camp blue ridge in Gainsville

With so many educational and enriching opportunities nearby, Gainesville, VA, makes an ideal location for summer camp. Haymarket Children’s Academy’s Camp Blue Ridge utilizes many of these kids activities in Northern Virginia. The all-inclusive, 10-week camp combines a unique blend of field trips, sports, crafts, and staff involvement to provide a one-of-a-kind experience.

Though there are plenty of activities over the summer, and it can be challenging to select the best option for your child, there are three key benefits to attending summer camp.

1. Experiential Learning

One of the reasons summer camp is such a valuable experience for kids is that they engage in experiential learning activities.

As campers tackle problems through crafts, gardening, science projects, and cooking, they don’t just learn the hands-on skills themselves. Experiential learning promotes essential soft skills such as communicative teamwork and reflective habits that encourage children to consider not only what they have done but the process they utilized. Moreover, they often undertake tasks that result in a tangible product, which is helpful not only for reflection and evaluation but developing a sense of pride in the accomplishment itself.

2. Physical Activity

Another reason summer camp is such an essential event for kids is that, on the whole, kids are not getting enough physical activity. Studies have shown that only 80 percent of 6-year-old children get the required hour of physical activity per day. Even more alarmingly, that number falls to just 20 percent by age 11, often showing little action during their downtime. This makes summer a critical time for children to get the exercise and physical activity their bodies need.

At HCA summer camp, children spend time at the playground, participate in archery, play in sports mini-camps, go on walking field trips, and stay physically engaged throughout the day. Because the physical activity is an integrated feature of the fun, getting active doesn’t feel like a chore that pulls them away from their screens, but an exciting opportunity to play with friends.

3. Child Autonomy

For some kids, summer camp is also a critical step in forming relationships away from parents. While it can be extremely difficult for both adults and kids, parents can make this an incredible independence-building activity. By showing enthusiasm about time at camp and having kids participate in selecting the events, adults can help kids learn that new adventures are fun and exciting, helping to develop a child’s autonomy.

Being so close to so many great attractions for kids makes Camp Blue Ridge’s Gainesville, VA, location a premier summer camp due to our ability to visit so many attractions. Our campers get a chance to visit Washington, D.C., and Splashdown Waterpark, as well as receive regular outdoor playtime and supportive encouragement for staff.

More than the location, though, children have the opportunity to engage with positive, encouraging staff who help with the process of building critical social skills and self-confidence.

Contact Us for More Information

Considering the fun things to do in and around Gainesville, Virginia, selecting Camp Blue Ridge serves as a way to provide your child with many of these opportunities in a supportive and professional educational setting, surrounded by excited peers and adults. Through the experiential learning environment, kids have the chance to challenge themselves and grow alongside friends through positive and reflective exercises.

If you have any questions about our summer camps or other services, be sure to contact us so we can discuss any specific thoughts you may have.

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