It Takes a Village

We’ve all heard the saying, “It takes a village to raise a child,” but what exactly does that mean?  Yes, one person could raise a child alone with no help, but I don’t think that’s the point.

The Help

First of all, parents need help.  They need to have someone in their lives that can come in, care for the child, and allow them to take a break.  Parenting is exhausting, and breaks are needed.  Even a trusted babysitter who comes once a week is a help.  More so are the daily help a parent gets.  Whether it be a spouse who comes home at night, or a daily caregiver who watches and cares for your child while you are at work.  These people are part of your and your child’s village, and without them, things would be so much harder.

The Community

Branching out into a wider village, you have your neighbors, teachers, bus drivers, crossing guards, etc. who have an almost daily interaction with your children.  They don’t necessarily help you in a literal way, but they do have an impact. These people teach your children to follow rules outside of your home.  They teach them about being part of a community and helping one another out.  And they also may introduce your child to different interests and hobbies that they may not have been exposed to within your home.

The Family

Even further still, you have a village of extended family, aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents, and family friends, who may not see your child every day, but who have a great impact on their lives.  These are the people who love your child as you do.  They can tell stories of a younger you to your child.  They help to set your child straight, but also give them special attention.  These are the people you go on big family vacations with, have holiday parties with, and make life-long memories and traditions with.

Your village that helps raise your child is a little about assistance, but it is mostly about interacting with different people.  All these interactions help influence and teach your child about the world around them.  Every single one of these people will help to shape the person your child becomes.  Who is in your village? Who is impacting your child as they grow up?

18 Summers

“We get 18 delicious summers with our children.  This is one of your 18.  If that’s not perspective, I don’t’ know what is.” –Jessica Scott

The Math of Summers

We get 18 summers.  That’s it. After that, they will have other things to do, and you can’t force them to summer with you.

Each summer break is about 100 days.

That’s 1,800 days of summer. (give or take depending on your school’s schedule)

The Reality

Summers fly by, this one is almost done already!  Between the pool, activities, play dates, and vacations, it seems as if we blink and the summer is gone.

Some days seem never ending when the kids are fighting, and you are at your wit’s end.  But this thought of only having 18 summers always brings me back.  It seems like such little time to explore and make memories as a family.  Soon they will be grown, having jobs, and (hopefully) living on their own.

So now is the time to soak in the moments.  Watch them play. Watch their cannon balls 100 times a day. Listen to their giggles and belly laughs.  Make memories and open their eyes to the world around them.  Share your favorite summer childhood activities with them.  Make the most of this summer, you only have so many left.

Memories will last

And I’m sure it doesn’t need to be said, but don’t forget to take thousands of photos.  Not for your FaceBook or Instagram followers, but for yourself and your children.  Pictures of summers past are always the best to look back and reminisce over.  Take them becuase you want to remember the joy and wonder on their faces as they were making summer memories with you.

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.