Tips and tricks for making parenting FUN again!

Tips and tricks for making parenting FUN again!

Monday, July 14, 2014

Avoiding the Summer Slump- 4 Easy Ways to Keep Your Kids Learning This Summer

I promised when I started this blog that I would eschew the complicated and involved parenting advice and techniques found on other blogs. My goal is to provide you with easy, fun ways to be a great parent. So if you’re expecting today’s post to resemble a homeschool curriculum complete with crafts, reading assignments, and charts of some kind, you’re out of luck (and if you’re like me, also grateful).

Here are 4 simple things I do that help my kids keep learning reading, science, writing, and math during the summer without me even being all that involved:

1. Library Rules- Each week we take a trip to the library, and each child is allowed to choose 5 books for the week. But there are rules: 1 book must be nonfiction, 1 must be a “challenge book” (be at or slightly above their reading level) and the other 3 can be whatever they choose. For my rising kindergartener, her challenge books have been early reader phonics books. For my rising 3rd grader, thicker chapter books with fewer pictures. For my rising 5th grader, even longer chapter books with no pictures. They have all found nonfiction books that have piqued their interest, like the “Girls’ Guide to Glamour” or “Spies” or “All About Puppies”.

2. Journal Rewards- At the start of the summer I let my kids go to the dollar store and choose their own journals. I don’t make them write in their journals- it’s entirely up to them if and when they write. BUT there are sweet rewards for writing. For the older two, I place a Skittle or M&M on every correct capitalization and punctuation. My oldest loses 1 for every misspelling, and my second-oldest loses one for every reversal (she’s still struggling with those!). My littlest receives one for every letter she writes, with no deductions. We have had some very long and involved journal entries thanks to this motivation- and I did have to put a limit on just 1 journal entry per day. The best part? My kids are recording memories that will last a lifetime.

3. Summer Budget- Learn more about this here.

4. Math Games- My kids’ school has an account with the online math learning program called Dreambox. Their school is doing an incentive for kids to play during the summer, but my kids love it enough that they would want to play even without an incentive! It’s a great way to spend some down time and keep their math skills sharp at the same time. If your school doesn’t have a similar program, there are plenty of free apps & websites out there with fun math games for kids.

That’s it! Easy peasy, kids will be able to head back to school in the fall without missing a beat and you can pat yourself on the back for being an awesome parent. ;-)

Monday, June 2, 2014

Teach Kids About Money Using a Summer Budget

As much as we would like to think that we’ve taught our kids enough about money through allowances and such, it can be difficult for younger children to understand the world of money outside of the stuffed animals, dollar store treasures, and Lego sets they choose to purchase. 

Summertime is a great time to expand their financial horizons through a very basic Summer Budget:

1. With your spouse, choose an amount of money that you would be willing to spend each week or each month for any summer fun you and your kids want to have. Our family will be doing $25 per week (tight, but still room for thrifty fun).

2. Get your kids involved in summer planning, and explain to them the concept of a budget: you have a set amount of money, and as a family you have decide how to use it. 

3. Have the kids brainstorm ideas of things they might want to do over the summer and together find out how much those things might cost.

4.  Each week or month plan the activities based on the budget. It might help to make your budget physical- have actual cash in small bills for the kids to divide into different envelopes depending on what they want to do- or even have play money or just pieces of paper to represent the money that needs to be budgeted.

5. Keep track! It might be good to designate the oldest child as Summer Budget Treasurer, or to rotate the position if you have several children old enough for the responsibility. 

Kids will quickly begin to understand that big things, like theme parks or other trips, might cost more than they’re willing to blow on a single day. But they will also begin to realize that plenty of thrifty fun is within their grasp- $10 on craft supplies, for example, or $1 ice cream cones from McDonalds. They may also choose to save up some money for bigger things, like a trip to a zoo or museum. 

Once you have your budget in place and everyone is participating, you’ll eliminate the begging for expensive entertainment and whining when you say no, and kids may also realize that some of the best things in life really are free. 

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

One Word

One of my favorite parenting books is called, “How To Talk So Your Kids Will Listen and Listen So Your Kids Will Talk” by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish. One of my favorite, simple pieces of advice from that book has to do with nagging- we all do it. Some days I feel like a looped recording: “Pick up your shoes. Put your backpack away. Go wash your hands. Pick up your shoes. Set the table. PICK UP YOUR SHOES!” It can be just as annoying and exhausting for kids to hear it as it is for us to say it.

Faber and Mazlish suggest that after asking our child to do something once, rather than repeat ourselves until the task gets done, we can control our emotions and prevent our irritation from passing on to our children by simply using one word: “Mikey, shoes.” "Ella, backpack." "Candice, hands." "Kevin, table.”

Kids don’t usually need a lecture as much as they just need a reminder, and if you’re harried enough as it is, you don’t have time to give lectures. One word has the same impact, so keep the peace and keep it simple with just one word.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Roll It Clean!

Cleaning can be just as overwhelming for kids as it is for adults- even more so! Which is why I am always trying to think up ways to make it more fun and less painful. 

Today our game is called Roll It Clean! This is a great game to play with young children, as it is simple, gets them involved and helps them with their counting skills. Here’s what you need:

1. A messy room (the messier the better!)
2. A die with numbers 1-6 (we used an oversized foam die like the ones pictured above, but any die or game spinner with numbers will do)
3. Small candy, like Skittles, M&Ms, marshmallows, etc.
4. Paper & pencil


Take your paper and make columns for each player- this is where you’ll keep score. 

To Play:

The first player rolls the die. The player must pick up and put away the same number of things as the number they roll- ex: roll a 5, put away 5 things. IF they roll a 1, however, they get a piece of candy and do not need to put anything away.

After the player puts away the number of things (or eats their candy) add the number to their score (hint- this is a great opportunity to practice tally marks with younger kids or basic addition with older kids). 

Keep playing until the room is clean (with breaks, if necessary). Whoever has the highest score in the end WINS! You may want to offer a prize such as a whole bag of the candy, or something else, such as their choice of movie, or an extra book from the library. It makes the game more interesting because the kids want a piece of candy- but they also want to roll a higher number to get a better score. And the best part? Everyone wins because the room gets CLEAN!

I have been playing this with my just-turned-4-year-old this morning and she is doing AWESOME, which is a big deal because it’s usually like a tooth extraction trying to get her to clean anything. We’re about halfway through her and her sisters’ messy, messy room and she can’t wait to keep rolling and cleaning!


Tuesday, February 12, 2013

A Valentines Hunt

Valentines should be more about love and fun than about commercialism and presents (haven’t we already wrecked Christmas and Easter with those??) so this year we’re going to be doing a Valentines Hunt with love notes for our kids.

It’s kind of like an easter egg hunt, but instead of hiding easter eggs we will hide love notes. We’ll choose a single color for each child, and they can search for notes that are that color, and when they find them they can put them in their basket. Each note will tell something that we love about them- maybe we’ll even let the kids write some things they love about each other!

The love notes along with some Love Coupons, a sweet treat or two and a special dinner will make our Valentines Day just right. :-)

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

The Jelly Belly Solution

Me, about 6 weeks after giving birth wearing a top that cleverly disguises my post-4th-baby belly. Notice how the fitted skirt gives the illusion of slimness? 

So, you’ve just given birth and the thought of putting on one of the same tired maternity tops you’ve been rotating through over the last 6 months is enough to make you cringe. But that lovely jelly belly you’re sporting isn’t quite ready to squeeze into your pre-baby clothes just yet. What to do?

With every baby I’ve had, I take some time during my last agonizingly long month of pregnancy to do a little shopping (usually online as waddling about in stores where I look whale-like next to every article of clothing isn’t exactly my idea of a roaring good time). I treat myself to a cute, loose-fitting top that will make me feel pretty and, at the same time, hide all my jelly-like parts. If I pair it with a pair of jeans that fits through my hips and upper thighs, then I can give the illusion that no belly exists.

Every mommy needs something that will make her feel beautiful and confident- after all, you have to get out there and show off that adorable baby, right?

Monday, January 28, 2013

Conquering the “Clingies"

It’s that moment we all dread- we go to drop off our little one at preschool/babysitter’s/church nursery/Sunday School and suddenly they become a leech attached to our lower extremities. There are all kinds of methods to “conquer the clingies”, but here are some things I’ve found to be successful.

1. Prepare. Talk with your child about it beforehand and discuss how the drop off will go. The more specific and positive you can be about it, the better.

2. Help them settle in. Get them engaged in a fun activity, like building with blocks, coloring, or playing with toys. This helps distract them from the fact that you’re leaving.

3. Don’t sneak away! Give your child a hug and a kiss, let them know you’re leaving but you’ll be back soon.

4. Have special “goodbye traditions” or rituals that you do with your child when it’s time for you to be apart, like a Secret Kiss, a secret handshake, or a special saying, like, “See you later, alligator!” These positive things make the transition easier. I always ask my 3-year-old to save up her “biggest hug” for me for when she leaves for her nursery class.

5. If the transition is consistently tearful, try this: do all of the above, and if they are still crying after you leave, just go outside for a minute or two, then come back in cheerfully and say, “See? I said I’d be right back. How is that block tower coming?” Then sit with them and play for a minute, but if possible, don’t allow them to sit on your lap or cling to you. Once they are calm, then do #3 & #4 again, and then step outside for another few minutes- make it a little longer this time- and then come back, again cheerfully greeting them and sitting back down to play. This reinforces the idea to the child that when you leave, you will come back, and it helps them to know that the leaving and coming back are happy, easy things. After a few days of this, they are usually ready to be on their own.

Above all, remember that all kids are different, and what works for other children might not work for yours. You know your child better than anyone else, and so how you leave them in the care of others should ultimately be your decision.