6 Things You Should Know About Kids

Every once in a while I like to check in with my boys to see how they feel I am doing as a parent.  Seeing if there is anything I can do to better meet their needs.  I check in to make sure I’m not missing anything that is important to them.  Sort of like a performance review.  Recently, I asked my seven year old what he thought every parent should know about their kids, and this is what he had to say.

1. They might make a big mess.

Kids love to play!! They get really into it, and excited.  And because of this, they sometimes forget to clean, and it just becomes a big mess.  Parents will sometimes have to remind kids to clean up.

2. They are very active.

Kids have a lot of energy!! Sometimes it is hard to control and contain themselves.  So parents should make sure that they have an appropriate outlet for their energy and noise.  Make sure they get a lot of outside time, or that they have a place in the house (like the basement) where it is ok to be active and loud.

3. Playing can be loud.

When kids get excited about playing they can be loud.  And when parents want to tell them something, sometimes they don’t hear you.  It’s not that they are ignoring you, they just didn’t hear you.  It is best if a parent would come to where the kids are, get their attention, and then tell them something.

4. They want information.

Kids love to learn new things.  They ask a lot of questions, and want answers so they can learn.  Parents should answer questions honestly, and with as much detail as possible.  If parents don’t know an answer, you can look it up together with them.

5. Kids like to try new things.

But sometimes trying new things can be scary.  Parents should hold their hand to help them through the first time they try something so they know they can do it.  If you can’t hold their hand, just stay close and cheer them on!

6. They want to know they are loved.

Whether it’s hugs, kisses, high-fives, snuggles, or holding hands, kids just like to know they are loved.  Putting all distractions aside and really listening to your child is another great way to show them they are loved. You are important to your kids, and knowing that you love them makes them feel important too.

Cut Yourself Some Slack

Life gets busy. No matter what time of year it is, there never seems to be a break in events.  Between sports and activities, playdates and parties, family obligations and events, vacations, appointments, and other random things on your calendar, there is always something to do.  But there is also work and house work to fit in as well.  Sometimes it all seems like too much to do, and it is at that moment you need to cut yourself some slack.

It is ok to slack on the housework for a day so you can enjoy some quality time with your kids.  Sometimes slacking off is having frozen waffles for dinner; no one will care, and your kids will love it!  Or maybe it’s going out for fast food so you don’t have to cook or do dishes.  Maybe slacking is leaving the dishes and vacuuming for another day.  When someone calls you up for a playdate on the only free day you have, it’s ok to say no.  Relaxing, staying at home, and spending quality time with your kids is necessary sometimes.  Both you and your kids need a chance to unwind from hectic schedules.

More often than not, cutting yourself some slack is more of an internal process.  Social media makes it seem like every one of our friends has it all together.  However, we need to keep in mind that we are seeing pictures of moments, not hours or days.  We are seeing a split second of perfect.  No one can be perfect all the time.  No one can get everything done every day. Sometimes we feel overwhelmed, frantic or frustrated with all we need to get done.  But we need breaks every now and then; we need to cut ourselves some slack, and enjoy the moments we are in.  So cut yourself some slack.  You are doing better than you think.

Finding Better Sleep as Parents

As parents I feel like we’re continually worried about and discussing our children’s sleep habits and routines.  Parents know about the importance of a bedtime schedule and bedtime routines.  We read up on growth patterns and sleep regressions so we are prepared.  And we buy nightlights, cozy blankets and noise machines to help our kids fall and stay asleep.  But then, there is us.  We are tired, exhausted, but it’s rare that we look into helping ourselves find the sleep we need.  So how do we find better sleep as parents?

Helpful Sleep Articles

I recently came across two different articles on sleep as parents and adult sleep, and they were very interesting. Healthy Sleep for New and Expecting Parents deals more with being the parents of a new baby, and Helen Sanders’ article, How to Reset and Optimize Your Sleep Schedule, is just on adult sleep in general. Both are worth a read if your are tired of being tired. Many parents struggle with sleep, but it is important that parents get the sleep they need.

The Take-Away

One big take away from both articles is the fact that adults need sleep schedules and routines too.  Just as we give our children calming baths, cuddle close, and read stories to get them ready for bed, our bodies need some down time too.  We should begin to get our minds and bodies ready for bed by dimming the lights, turning off electronics, and just enjoying the calm and quiet.  We should eliminate distractions from our bedrooms in order to make it a more restful atmosphere.  Parents spend a lot of time creating and maintaining sleep schedules and routines for our kids, but as it turns out, we need to focus on ourselves too.

Balance

The night time is an interesting balance of things that should be done vs. things we want done.  As someone who stays home with her kids all day, I struggle between going to bed at a normal time vs. just having quiet time to myself when no one is climbing on me.  Sometimes I use the night to catch up on writing, reading, or chores that got put off during the day.  Other times, I use the night to catch up on social media and see what my friends are up to.  There are only so many minutes in a day, and fewer of those in a night.  It is important for us to put a little more focus and attention into getting ourselves some better sleep.

6 Family Road Trip Tips

In our younger days, road trips were a thing of adventure and glory!  Pack a bag, grab your tunes, and head out towards your destination, letting the breeze from the open windows blow your cares away.  However, times have changed, and now we have kids.  The thought of a road trip now seems more like being trapped in a loud, confined (maybe smelly) space.  However, if you plan well enough, you can get some of those care-free road trip feelings back. Here are 6 tips to help you have a better family road trip.

1. Snacks

You and the kids will inevitably get hungry, so snacks are a must.  But you want to choose the right ones.  Choose a snack that’s too sugary, and your kids will be bouncing out of their car seats. Snacks that are too crumby or sticky will leave your car a mess.  I suggest lots of fruits and some bite sized eats.  Fruits like grapes (as long as your kids are old enough for grapes not to be a high-risk choking hazard), apple slices, or even apple sauce pouches are low-mess!  Also, cups of Goldfish, Teddy Grahams, Cheerios, or other bite-sized crackers that kids don’t have to bite are ideal.  A fun snack could also be trail mix! It’s just sweet enough to satisfy their cravings, but healthy enough to keep their sugar levels in check.  Bring water as well, but make sure they’re not drinking too much!

2. Activities

You are going to want to keep your kids entertained for the duration of your trip.  Playing I Spy and the license plate game can only get you so far along in your trip. Get their tablets set up with a few movies and games that they can play offline.  Bring new books (or ones they haven’t seen in a while) for them to read.  The dollar store has a pretty wide selection of coloring and activity books that you can pick up for cheap!!  Don’t forget the crayons or colored pencils!  An activity tray that fits on their lap is a great addition to a road trip too!  It gives them a place to do their activities and eat.

3. Bathrooms

Planning for bathrooms with kids is hard. Depending on how much they drink, or eat, they may have to go SEVERAL times more than you do. Public roadside bathrooms aren’t always the cleanest, so it’s a good idea to be prepared.  You can buy disposable toilet seat covers, like this one, that can help make you feel better about your child using a public restroom.  But what about when there is nowhere in sight to stop and your child HAS TO GO?  It might be smart to bring a 5 gallon bucket (with lid), a roll of toilet paper, some trash bags, and a travel potty seat. It might not be ideal, but it will work in a pinch.

4. Music

Just because you have kids doesn’t mean you can relive a little bit of that road trip nostalgia.  Before you leave, have your kids help you make a playlist of their favorite songs!  Not every moment needs to be filled with activities.  Sometimes it’s just nice to listen to great music, check out the scenery, and talk with your family.

5. Comfort

Long road trips are great for napping, so make sure everyone has a little pillow and a blanket to keep them comfortable.  Seatbelt pillows are great because they don’t take up a lot of extra space in the car!

6. Planning

If your kids are old enough, get them involved in planning your road trip.  Have them look up the best routes to take.  Maybe even allow them to plan a sight-seeing stop or two along the way to your final destination!

Getting Kids Outside

As the weather breaks we can release our kids to the outdoors!!! For some, this is an anticipated event; after being cooped up all winter, they are ready to get out and play.  But for other kids it is more challenging because they would rather stay inside to play with their toys, or watch tv.  So how can we get our kids outside to make the most of this nice weather?

 

Get Them Involved in Yard Work.

Kids love to get dirty and dig, so let them have at it!! Let them dig some holes for new plants, or even dig up some weeds!  Maybe you don’t have digging to do, but you can always buy some pots and plant things in there.  Regular watering and weeding, raking and stick collecting are other good ways to get your kids involved in the yard work.

 

Start a Family Project.

Nothing is more appealing to kids than helping their parents do some cool stuff. Search project ideas together and have your child pick something to build.  Maybe it’s something as simple as a bird house, or maybe it’s something more involved like bench.  Working on projects with you will get them excited to be outside, teach them how to properly use tools, and it will give them a sense of pride and accomplishment.  You can also do small activities like making bird feeders!

 

Invest in Fun, Universal Outdoor Toys.

Bikes, sports equipment, chalk and bubbles are outdoor toy staples that every family should have.  Talk to your child to see what they are interested in so you get the right equipment to keep them interested and involved.  These are things that can be used with kids of all ages.

 

Close Down Inside Activities.

Make set Summer Rules about indoor activities.  For instance, you may need to only allow screen time during the breakfast and evening hours and not allow the kids back in unless it is raining.  Remember when we were kids?  My parents shoved us outside after breakfast and chores, and only allowed us back in for meals and bedtime.

 

Bring Inside Outside.

Maybe you have a child who prefers to color or read one day, and that’s great!! Allow them to bring a book and a blanket outside!!  Post up in a nice spot and just read!! Outside is a great setting to allow your kids to experiment with paints, watercolors, and even playdough!  Maybe you have the space to set up a projector and have an outdoor movie night as well.

Do Some Exploring.

Not every outdoor activity needs to be done in your yard.  Set some days aside to try out a new park, hike on some nature trails, walk around at an arboretum, botanical garden or zoo!  Kids enjoy doing things that are new to them.  Pack some snack, water, or even a whole picnic lunch to make a full day out of your exploration.

DIY Chore Charts

Previously I have written a blog about age-appropriate chores for your kids, and now I want to talk about how to delegate and keep track of those chores.  The best way to do that is with a chore chart!  There are several different kinds of chore charts, and you will have to choose which one will work best for your family.  Having younger kids, you will probably want a chore chart that is specific to each child and with set chores. While having older kids, you can probably get away with a more relaxed chore list that can be done by anyone and everyone. Here are some easy DIY chore charts you can make for your family!

 

Classic Paper & Sticker Chart:

We’ve all seen these; a drawn graph on a paper or poster board, and stickers at the ready to put on the chart as soon as a chore is completed.

Pros: This chart is very easy to make and use!  And stickers are fun for every kid to use!

Cons: Unfortunately this chart has a one and done life span. Once you have filled it up, it is not easy to re-use, and you will have to have an endless supply of stickers.

 

Magnet Chore Charts:

By using a magnetic white board, or simply cookie sheets from the dollar store, and some magnets, you can make a simple and fun chore chart to hang anywhere!! This magnet chart can be set up in a graph form, like the classic paper chart, or you can have a “To Do” and “Done” column.

Pros: This chore chart is reusable!! It is also fun and easy to use.

Cons: Depending on how in-depth/creative you want to make it, it could be a little time consuming to make.

 

Picture Frame & Dry Erase Chore Chart:

Of the three listed here so far, this is my favorite to use!  All you need is a dry erase maker, a picture frame, and a marker clip (all of which I got at the dollar store).  You can create a chore chart on the computer, print it out, and put it in the picture frame.  The marker works well on the glass to check off chores on a daily basis, and is easily erased!

Pros: Chore charts like this are reusable!! Dry erase makers last a long time (as long as the caps are on properly), and with command strips, the frames will stay on the walls securely.  They are also easy to adapt or change.  Simply go into your saved chore chart document, make adjustments, and reprint!

Cons: If you’re not doing a graph, it could take a little bit of time to put together.  For my younger son, I printed out pictures of chores and glued them onto another piece of paper for a more pleasing look.  Also, if  you are concerned about neatness, you may have an issue with child handwriting making all the checks or X’s on the chart.

 

Popsicle Stick Chore Chart:

You need a bunch of popsicle sticks and two jars (one labeled “To Do” and the other labeled “Done”).  Simply write the chores on the sticks and place them in the “To Do” jar.  Once the chore is done, you can move them to the “Done” jar. Another take on this would be to have one “Done” jar for each child.  This would allow you and your kids to keep track of who has done what.  If you give allowances to your children, you could even write a payment price on each chore stick (i.e.: Folding the Laundry = $1.00).  Then when your child completes the chore and puts the stick into their “Done” jar, you can easily add up what they have earned for the day (or week).

Pros: This chore chart is simple and inexpensive to make.  It is also very amendable; easy to add or remove chores.

Cons: This may not be the best for younger kids who can’t read yet, unless you can get pictures onto the sticks. I can see the opportunity for kids to get sneaky and “mysteriously or accidentally” make a chore disappear from the “To Do” jar.

 

For More Ideas:

When choosing chore charts, you will have to take into account the ages of your children.  Some chore charts will work better for your family than others, and you may have to go through some trial and error before you find the right fit.  If you would like even more ideas, you can follow this link!

Not Just Spring Cleaning

Spring has sprung once again, but the winter has taken a toll on our homes, so this is the time of year when we get into Spring Cleaning Mode and give our home a good deep clean to freshen things up. But do you usually do it alone? You shouldn’t. First of all, you’re not the only one who lives in your house, you don’t make all the messes, and therefore the others should pitch in as well. Even kids as young as 2 years old are capable of helping you clean your house. And I’m not just talking about Spring Cleaning either, I’m talking about daily or weekly chores that your children can do to help pitch in around the house.

Why are chores important?

When children are little, they genuinely want to help you do things, so take advantage of their eagerness; it will be beneficial for you and for them! Age appropriate chores are important because they help to build confidence in a young child, you’ve always got to set them up for success. When they are able to complete a chore, their confidence grows, and it instills a sense of accomplishment in them. You know how you feel when you’ve had a really productive day at work? That’s the same feeling your child gets when making a helpful contribution to the family. Having a list of chores is a great way to support feelings of value, worth, and connectivity within your family. Children like to know that they matter, what they do matters, and when  you put your confidence in them to complete some tasks, they just bloom!

2-3 Year Olds Can:

  • pick up their toys
  • put clothes in hamper
  • dust-bust after meals
  • wipe surfaces (cabinets, counters and baseboards)
  • help move laundry
  • Swiffer
  • carry light groceries

4-5 Year Olds Can:

  • all previous chores
  • make bed
  • put clean laundry away
  • wipe window sills
  • empty small trash cans
  • sweeping/mopping
  • vacuum
  • set/clear table
  • unload/load dishwasher
  • feed pets

6-8 Year Olds Can:

  • all previous chores
  • help with meal prep
  • get mail
  • rake leaves
  • collect garbage
  • clean shower/tub
  • hang/fold clean laundry
  • clean microwave
  • dust
  • help pull weeds

9-11 Year Olds Can:

  • all previous chores
  • do laundry
  • help cook simple meals
  • clean toilets
  • take garbage/recycling to curb & bring it back in

12-14 Year Olds Can:

  • all previous chores
  • cook full meals
  • make meal plans
  • clean fridge/freezer
  • mow the lawn
  • iron
  • help/supervise younger siblings with their chores

Spring Break on a Budget

Many of our kids will be let out of school for Spring Break soon. Some of us may have a getaway planned, but for others, it might not be in the budget. You want to make Spring Break memorable for your kids, but you also don’t want to break the budget. And you definitely don’t want them sitting around the house all break. So what can you do? Here are some Spring Break activities that are low-cost, or even free!!

Picnic in the Park

Kids love to do normal things in different place; it’s exciting for them! So why not pack a lunch and head over to the local playground? You can bring a blanket, a packed lunch, maybe even some books, and your sense of adventure! Your kids will love it, and be able to burn off their energy at the park!

Daily Bike Ride or Walk

Part of making memories with your kids is starting family traditions. Spring Break can be a great time to add a daily walk or bike ride into your routine, and the great thing is, you can keep it up all Summer long too! Choose your time wisely, I’d suggest heading out after dinner, when your kids are full of energy. Walks and bike rides can be a good quiet time together to talk, meet neighbors, and just wind down from the day. Every once in a while you can switch it up and walk, or bike, to certain destinations (ice cream store, library, a neighbor’s BBQ)

Local Library

Check out the kids activities and programs hosted by your local library. They usually have some interesting programs for kids during school breaks, and the sign-up fee is usually little to nothing at all! At the very least, you will be able to check out some new books to enjoy with your child!

Take a Train Ride

Do you have a local commuter train in your town, or near you? Check out the schedules and plan a little trip!! Depending on your schedule, you can go for a long ride, or just a few stops away! Many train stops or in the downtown area of towns, and are close to shops and restaurants. Make it a day trip, or simply a different way to go out for lunch! Many trains charge a nothing (or reduced fee) depending on how old your child is, and as an adult, it’s usually a pretty reasonable price.

Nature Centers and Forest Preserves

Kids love nature, and sometimes you just need to go for a walk somewhere other than your neighborhood. Nature centers and forest preserves are free to use, or have a small entrance fee, and can be fun and educational. Learn about your local wildlife, interact with nature centered activities, or simply utilize the nature trails for your own exploration. If you want to make it a real exploration trip, pack a backpack for each kid with a notebook and pencil for taking notes about what they see, some water and trail mix, and maybe some binoculars (real or homemade from toilet paper rolls) and/or a magnifying glass.

Creating Time for Peace

Our days, and lives, are filled with non-stop activities; school, classes, sports practices, sport events, parties to attend, parties to host, and other seasonal school programs. But among the chaos of the go-go-go, are you enjoying the moments? Are you allowing yourself to create time to enjoy the peace among the chaos? Are you able to focus on what’s truly important in life?

The Pinterest Hostess

Think about what happens to you when you host a party. What’s your focus? Do you get lost in the details of the presentation? Does your house needs to look spotless as if no one lives there? Do you stress over table settings, making sure every platter, napkin and table cloth need to match perfectly? Do you feel like all your food must be presented in a Pinterest worthy way?

Take a deep breath and find the peace. Sure you need to prepare food and straighten up a bit, but know that your guests come to your house for YOU. Your guests come to share in your stories and laughter. They come for good conversation, and even better company. They come to celebrate your successes, and comfort you in your sorrows. Friends come to seek their own peace and comfort in your embrace and knowledge. At the end of the day, you can find your own peace by letting go of the things that simply don’t matter. When you host, all that really matters is that your heart is as open as your home.

Sports and Activities

Think about your child’s sport or activities. How often do we put pressure on our kids, or allow them to put pressure on themselves to be perfect? Are their schedules overcrowded with activity after activity? Do we make them practice at home as well as at their scheduled practices? It’s very unlikely that your child will be headed to the pro’s in their sport or activity, so there is no need to stress over perfection. Is it good to practice a skill and become better at it? Yes, but when that practice starts to interfere with their happiness, or their ability to spend quality time with friends and family, then it’s worth reevaluating.

If your child enjoys having an activity, then allow them to choose one per season. This will allow them to explore their likes and talents without over scheduling them. When practicing at home, keep things light and short, especially for the younger kids; you don’t want to force practice so that they grow to despise the activity. By decluttering the activity schedule and keeping home practices light and fun, you will find peace in the fun of the activity, and in the extra time you get to spend with your children.

Daily Dinner Peace

On a daily basis, dinner time can be an easy way to squeeze in some peace with your family. However, our work or school schedules may cut into the time you would normally take to make a meal, but that is still no need to stress. Sometimes you need to call in some help. Maybe on days when you know you won’t be home in time to cook, throw some ingredients into the crockpot, let that cook all day and be ready when you get home. Or, maybe even order in some pizzas to ease your day.

But no matter what, sit down with your family and enjoy the peace of being together. Enjoy talking to each other and learning about each other’s days. Enjoy watching your children grow on a daily basis, watching them grow into their own people, but also watching their bonds with each other grow. This is the stuff that matters, these are the moments you need to seek out, and when you do, when you make the time do step back and see them and enjoy them, then you will have given yourself peace among the every day chaos.

Gift an Experience

Things and Stuff

Our lives and homes are overflowing with things and stuff. Things we hang on to, stuff we don’t need; material items that we buy because we want them, and then we never use them. The same is true for our children. They see a commercial for the latest toy or gadget, and they want it. And so, inevitably, we or someone else gets it for them. They play with it for a while, and then it just becomes part of the stuff we have, and they don’t remember who gave it to them or why. But we can change that; we can give them more of an experience.

Experience Over Presents

My husband and I decided a long time ago that we would ask our friends and family not to buy our children presents for their birthdays. Instead, if they wanted to get them a gift, they were to gift them an experience. We feel that our family and friends are important, and we want our children to grow up making memories and developing deeper relationships with all of them. We want our children to appreciate quality time and enjoy the company of others just as much, if not more than, they appreciate getting things. Our family was hesitant at first, having a long tradition of giving presents on birthdays, but after the first year, they were all on board. They too, were making memories with our children, and that was a gift for them as well. Here are five examples of experience gifts.

5 Experience Gift Ideas

1. Meal & a Movie- Pick the kid up and treat them to a special meal and a movie of their choice. You can get plenty of conversation in during the meal, and you’ll have something to talk about after the movie too! Plus, kids movies are usually pretty funny these days.

2. Activity- Do you have a mini golf, trampoline park, or other cool kid place near you? Take the kid to somewhere a parent might not frequent. A lot of times, these places are not every day experiences for kids and parents. Parents may have too many kids to take at one time, so if you could take just one, it would make it a real cool and special experience.

3. Museum or Zoo- Kids love going to museums and zoos! And whether you take them yourself, gift them a membership to go whenever, or even just a gift of a one-time admission, they will LOVE IT!! The membership or one-time admission option is an especially good idea if you don’t live close enough to take the kid yourself. Every time we go somewhere that someone has gifted us admission, we send them pics of our experience there to thank them.

4. Keeping it Simple -You don’t have to spend money to create an experience with a kid. You can schedule a day to simply go to their house and play with them. Or take them on a bike ride, or walk to the park. Maybe even schedule a sleepover at your house for them. Experiences are about creating memories and developing relationships, not about how much you spend.

5. Something to Read- Maybe you have a kid who likes to read and learn! A magazine subscription would be perfect! Not only do they GET MAIL, but you will have some interesting topics to discuss the next time you visit. Another option might be a gift card to the bookstore, or a trip to the library to get a library card and check out books.  Or maybe simply grab some books, and head outside to read with them!