Summer Biz: Be the Best Baby Sitter on the Block!

Baby-sitting is one of the best summer jobs out there! But entertaining the kids can be a real drag when they’re bored and you can’t think of a thing to do. Try these fun activities -- and remember how cool it is to be a kid!

Kids’ Choice Awards
Wanna get on the kids’ good sides right away? Ask them to show you their fave toys, games and books … but do it like a red carpet–worthy awards ceremony! Have the kids announce their Best Activity That Involves a Paintbrush and Favorite Fairy Tale of All Time. It’s a fun way to find out what the kids are into and to seal the friendship.

Bag of Tricks
When your charges get tired of playing with their toys, whip something out of your own bag of goodies. Fill a cute tote with stuff from around your house, such as your brother’s old remote-controlled dinosaur or your My Little Pony collection.

Wear ’em Out!
Bring a few old pieces from Halloween costumes, like a plastic mask or feather boa, and play dress-up. Be sure to deck out all glitz-and-glam when conducting your fancy awards ceremony. (See our first idea above.)

Dance the Night Away
Put together a baby-sitting playlist on your iPod, and you and the kids can have a mini dance party! Just call it your secret weapon of mass fun-dom.

Which … Craft?
Break out the craft supplies! Here’s an idea: See how many alien characters the kids can make with various types of uncooked pasta, glitter and tacky glue. Just try to keep it on the less-messy end of the art spectrum by putting newspaper down on the work surface first and being sure to clean up afterward. (No one wants angry parents at the end of the night!)

Play With Your Food!
Continue the creativity into snack time! Turn gummy fruit bits into edible sculptures by molding them between your fingers (clean hands, please!). Record your creations on a digital camera for keeps.

Silly Story Time
Help out a kid who’s learning to read, and let her practice with you. Step it up a notch by having everyone make a funny voice for each character. Hit up the library before your baby-sitting gig, and show the kids that reading is fun!

6 Sneaky Ways to Stay Smart Over the Summer!

Just because school’s letting out, that doesn’t mean you get to stash your brain in a locker all summer. But keeping your brain cells sharp doesn’t have to be a drag. Right here, we show you how to have fun with it.

1. Play video games.
More and more studies are showing that playing action-based video games results in various levels of enhanced brain functioning, such as speeding up your ability to process information. Need a suggestion? A Game of Thrones: Genesis requires strategic thinking and not so much shooting and splatting. Really challenge your level of thinking by deciphering the symbolism and metaphors in the game’s storyline.

2. Make music.
Research also shows that music helps your brain develop, boosting savvy in language, reading, math and cognition. This includes singing, playing an instrument and even listening to music. So take a lesson this summer … or just crank up your playlist!

3. Read for … pleasure.
Tired of all that required reading? We hear ya! But don’t shy away from your local library or bookstore just because school’s out. Lots have summer programs with fun activities and freebies! Browse the shelves for something you want to read. Try picking up a few comic books. Or delve into something that’s more heavy-duty but still fun, such as The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel six-book series by Michael Scott.

4. Solve puzzles.
While you’re at the bookstore, pick up a few Sudoku or crossword puzzle books to toss into your beach bag. Word and number games are great for keeping yourself in check. Or try other brainteasers, such as search-and-seek games, scrambles and mazes. Old-school board games such as Scrabble and chess keep you on your toes too. And, yes, even jigsaw puzzles!

5. Play a sport.
According to the Women’s Sports Foundation, high school girls who play sports get better grades and are more likely to graduate. (Bonus: They also have higher self-esteem, lower levels of depression and more positive body images!) So sign up for a summer league or work on perfecting your swan dive at the swimming pool.

6. Be chill.
Up until now, we’ve talked about exercising the brain, but it’s also important to consistently take time-outs to still the mind for balance. And when school resumes in the fall, if you continue to practice plenty of quiet time, it will reduce test anxiety and improve test performance. (We can see those straight A’s already.) So find a spot in the park or even your backyard and do this exercise, recommended by the Institute of HeartMath, for getting centered:


a) Place your attention around your heart, putting your hand over that area of your chest.
b) Now pretend to breathe in and out of your heart, taking three slow breaths.
c) Think of something that makes you feel happy, and then shine that happy feeling to the whole world. Hold this feeling for as long as you like.

Photo: @iStockphoto.com/danez

Need Advice? Tap Into Your Intuition!

Are you desperately in need of advice? You could always bounce it off your BFF. Or your mom. Or your guidance counselor. Or … yourself! Here, we show you some tried-and-true techniques for following your own heart.

TAP INTO YOUR INTUITION: GUT-CHECK TIME

The Sitch: Your cousin is running with the wrong crowd, and she’s invited you to go to the mall with her and the crew this weekend. You miss your cuz; the two of you always have so much fun together! But you didn’t get such a good vibe from these kids the first time you met them.

Check Yourself: No need to answer your cousin on the fly! Thank her for the invite and tell her you’ll get back to her. Then take some quiet time to sort it all out. Sit down, close your eyes, still your mind and feel your truth. Would you like to give her friends a chance, or are you just not getting a good vibe about the whole thing? Follow that hunch.

TAP INTO YOUR INTUITION: WALK IT OFF

The Sitch: You were going after a starter position for the soccer team. You doubled up on practices and worked really hard, but you didn’t make the cut for first string. Coach is offering you a choice: second string for the super-competitive team or captain of intramurals.

Check Yourself: Decision-making can be challenging, especially when a ton of emotions are swirling around the issue. Instead of going into a woe-is-me fit, take a stroll. That’s right, a good walk can help you release negative feelings and shift your mood. Better? Once you’re centered, weigh the issue. Captain or second string? You can’t go wrong either way when it’s all about playing your game and having fun!

TAP INTO YOUR INTUITION: WRITE AWAY!

The Sitch: Your school’s mean girl has posted some pretty snide remarks about you on Facebook. It’s nothing major, but it’s clear she’s trying to rub you. And it’s working; you’re steamed! Ugh, everyone is texting you about it. You want to handle this without creating more drama, but how?

Check Yourself: If you’re looking for a specific answer here, sorry, not happening. Learning to read your intuition is about solving your own problems, especially in situations as sticky as this. When life gets complicated, it’s time to grab your journal and get writing. It’s OK to plan fantasy schemes of revenge, but once you’re done venting that bad juju, jot down as many amicable real-life solutions as possible.

TAP INTO YOUR INTUITION: CATCH YOUR DREAMS

The Sitch: Your two best friends are spatting, and you’re stuck in the middle. And you feel like you and your BF are drifting apart. Oh, and your parents are turning a bedroom into an office and making you double up with your sister. Plus, you’ve got exams coming up! Seems like it can’t get any worse.

Check yourself: Ruh-roh! When things pile on at once, do not go into freak-out mode. Give it a rest, literally, by solving problems in your sleep. Your dreams can be like a whisper from a trusted friend: your subconscious. Decoding your dreams provides clues to cracking your life’s little mysteries.


Quiz: Do You Fall Too Fast?

Sure, sometimes a boy is too cute to resist. And, yeah, we’ve all fallen for a fellah at least once. But when it comes to boys, is it always love at first sight? Answer the following Q’s to see if you need to slow down the crush craze:

Beat the Winter Blahs

It usually hits when you’re washing off the last of your sparkly New Year’s Eve makeup: the post-holidays slump. You’re staring down gray, icy weather minus all the fun, festive celebrations. Luckily, these pick-me-ups are proven to raise the temps on your mood thermometer -- stat!

Bundle Up
It’s important to get outside -- yep, even in cold temps -- to keep feel-good vibes flowing. Nature can definitely amp up your mood, but the key is to move while you’re outdoors. Even just walking around for five minutes works! So make snow angels with your sis or take Fido for his walk. By the time you step back inside, you’ll feel better.

LOL -- A Lot!
Good news: YouTube is good for more than just wasting time. Its hilarious clips can leave you ROFL, and research shows that laughter’s an awesome way to get in a good mood fast. We know what you’re thinking: “Duh!” But here’s the thing: You have to get to “this is so funny I can’t not laugh” territory. So search for your favorite “iCarly” clips and watch, laugh, repeat!

Hit the Mall
New research proves shopping is an easy way to feel happier fast. (So that’s why they call it retail therapy!) Bonus: The study found that pulling out your wallet when you’re feeling blue doesn’t necessarily make you buy tons of stuff you’ll later regret. Try this: Get a couple of besties to come with and have fun trying out crazy outfits you know you’d never really wear on a day-to-day basis. It’s cheap and it’s a blast!

Strike a Pose
Yoga is one of the best ways to get your chillax on, according to studies. There are tons of inexpensive DVDs available to walk you through the basics, and on-demand TV often offers them for free. Work on your tree pose and you’ll feel more blissful faster than you can say, “Ommm.”

Lend a Hand
Volunteering not only helps someone else out, but also gives you a boost. Surveys show that people who give to others typically have happier lives. First, find something you’re into. Love planning parties? Use those super organizing skills to kick a can drive into gear. Is amazing cupcake-making your thing? Whip some up and have a bake sale for charity. Are you practically the dog whisperer? Clock quality time at your local animal shelter. Just don’t blame us when you have a smile plastered on your face afterward!