Tips for Feeding Picky Eaters (I Used to Be One!)

I place the plate of food in front of my toddler daughter and she recoils in horror. The arms pulled back, the face twisted in disgust. It’s a look I know well. I admit that I was not a healthy or adventurous eater as a child. In fact, I was extremely picky! I dreaded eating at a friend’s house because of my food aversions. I had my picky food list in mind and hoped that the meal being served didn’t have something that I’d have to pick out, avoid or gag on! Only in my twenties did I start trying new foods. And it’s because I used to be so particular with eating that I’ve been able to come up with ideas for feeding picky eaters.

Dealing with a picky eater at home? These are the tips from a former picky eater with your practical tips for feeding picky eaters.

Tips for Feeding Picky Eaters

When my eldest son was born, I knew that I wanted him to develop good eating habits from the start. Today he’s an adventurous eater who loves to try new foods. When I married my husband, I gained a stepdaughter through marriage. She was a very particular eater who (with Autism) has some serious texture sensitivity. She now easily eats everything placed in front of her without any complaints! Keep reading for my tested tips for feeding picky eaters.

Picky eater at home? These are the tips from a former picky eater on how to encourage your kids to try new foods. With these practical tips for feeding picky eaters you can take the focus off them and encourage healthy habits.

Please note that I use affiliate links in my posts. Clicking through and making a purchase helps me in a small financial way, thank you!

1. Start Young

When your babies first start eating solids, offer a wide variety of flavors and textures. It’s tempting to want to keep with the smooth and sweet foods but it’s important that babies learn (once the doctor gives the go-ahead) about savory flavors and to get accustomed to textures. I started by adding herbs and spices to baby food puree to add a dash of flavor. I discovered that a tiny bit of cinnamon with the baby cereal, thyme in the chicken puree and curry in the butternut squash.

2. “You Don’t Have to Like it, but You Still Have to Eat it”

Enlist a family motto like this one, which knocks off the “I don’t like this” excuses. When I first married my husband, his daughter was 5 and had a very small meal repertoire. We knew that needed to change but he’d gotten accustomed to serving her the same foods. It was easier to give in than deal with a possible dinnertime meltdown. Upon giving her a plate of food and hearing, “I don’t like meatloaf”, I replied, “You don’t have to like it, but you still have to eat it”. Saying it flatly and without emotion, drama or any kind of pressure from me seemed to do the trick. She tried it and now meatloaf is one of her favorite meals!

Dealing with a picky eater at home? These are the tips from a former picky eater with your practical tips for feeding picky eaters.

3. Make the Meal Less About the Eating

Growing up, I was sooo stubborn about trying new foods. And that’s because during every dinner, the spotlight was on me to verify that I was eating what was served. My parents would make a big embarrassing fuss if I tried something new. So I stopped trying new things, just to be more in control.

We decided with our kids to take the focus off the eating and make mealtimes more enjoyable. We don’t obsess over every bite that our kids take. There is no big fanfare. It’s just food and meal time is not the place to pressure your kids. Push them and they’re sure to push back!

4. Keep Offering

So, they didn’t like it the first time you served it. That’s okay, keep offering. It may take quite a few times of seeing a food on their plate before children will try it, let alone like it.

Dealing with a picky eater at home? These are the tips from a former picky eater with your practical tips for feeding picky eaters.

My son requested sushi for his birthday dinner.

5. Limit Portion Sizes

How can you get picky eaters to try new foods? Don’t pile their plates! When serving a new food, all we ask is that our children try one or two bites and that’s all. Start with a very small portion on your child’s plate. When they finish it, offer seconds. There are certain foods that my daughter doesn’t enjoy, like black beans. We will literally give her three beans and ask that she finish them. Once she is done, she can request more or she can be finished, there is no pressure.

Consider a Compartment Divided Plate so that foods aren’t “touching” and portion control is easier.

6. Respect Their Lack of Appetite

How do I get my picky toddler to eat?! And why is my kid always telling me he’s not hungry? Kids truly do have small stomachs. Also their appetites peak and wane depending upon growth spurts. Repeat after yourself, “It’s just one meal”. They’ll eat when they get hungry. Kids should continue to sit at the table with you during meals. I let my kids know that THIS is meal time and that if they tell me they’re hungry in 30 minutes that what we’re eating at the moment is what they will be served!

Dealing with a picky eater at home? These are the tips from a former picky eater with your practical tips for feeding picky eaters.

7. Keep An Open Mind

You’ve just prepared a new dish and you’re already thinking, “There is no way my kid is going to eat this.” Get that thought out of your head right now, because your picky eater might just surprise you. Go into each new experience with an open mind. Simply serve what you’ve made without a big production and ignore the “I don’t like this, even though I’ve never had it” commentary.

Last year I offered my kids white canellini beans. We’ve eaten a lot of beans (pinto, black, refried, kidney) over the years but I’d never served white beans. My preschooler asked me what they were and then tried one (up to that point, he wouldn’t even TRY the beans we’d offered). He shrugged after eating the white bean and said, “I guess I like beans”. And he’s eaten every bean since!

Dealing with a picky eater at home? These are the tips from a former picky eater with your practical tips for feeding picky eaters.

8. Water is the Beverage Option

Though I do offer a small glass of milk with breakfast and dinner, for the rest of the day water is the only beverage option. Juice or caffeine-free soda is limited to special occasions, like at a party. I prefer that my kids get their calories from healthy, nutritious foods and not get filled up on beverages.

9.  Serve Well-Balanced Snacks

Nothing like that just-before-dinner snack to “ruin” their appetite for the main course! Limit snack time to twice a day and under 100 calories. Snacks should be well-balanced and include a little fat (like nuts), protein (like a lean piece of meat) and a carbohydrate (like a half of a piece of fruit). Make it easy for your kids by keeping fruit on the counter and prepped veggies in the fridge, where they are easy to grab on the go. We like edamame that kids can pop out of the pods (they are healthy and they take a bit of time to consume).

Dealing with a picky eater at home? These are the tips from a former picky eater with your practical tips for feeding picky eaters.

10. Keep the Choices Fresh

It’s easy to get stuck on serving the same fruits and vegetables. But it’s important to keep things fresh and continue to offer new flavors. My kids have just developed a love of yellow and green squash, which we lightly steam. It’s also essential that you keep mostly fresh foods in the kitchen and to eliminate most bagged or processed items that are heavy on sodium and saturated fat.

We recently tried Dinnerly, which gave us some new ideas for veggies and recipes.

11. Offer Sauces and Dips (or Not!)

My toddler won’t eat meat unless it’s smothered in ketchup. Totally fine by me, at least she’s eating it! What are the foods that your kids might enjoy more if they had a sauce or dip as an accompaniment? And then there are some kids, like my kindergartner who does’t like sauces at all! If it’s easy enough to leave off the sauce on a dish, try letting family members add it themselves so the picky eater can have it “plain”.

Dealing with a picky eater at home? These are the tips from a former picky eater with your practical tips for feeding picky eaters.

12. Remove White Foods

White foods are often the diet staples of a picky eater! Sub in colorful and more flavorful foods and skip the bland white foods. Avoid white bread and switch to a smooth tasting wheat. Once your child’s taste buds have gotten used to that, you can move to a nutty whole grain instead. Instead of white potatoes, try steamed sweet potato chunks. Use whole wheat pasta instead of pasta made with white flour. Switch out white rice for brown rice. Don’t think that eating healthier foods is more costly – see my ideas on how to save money on groceries.

13. Be a Good Role Model

Kids will totally notice if you are serving them lima beans and you don’t have any on your plate! Make sure you practice what you preach and that they see you eating healthfully as well. Are you ready to start your own healthy eating plan? Check out my review of Personal Trainer Food.

14. Make Meals Distraction Free

While you don’t want the focus on your picky eater during meal times, it shouldn’t be focused on the TV or device either. Make meal times enjoyable with light conversation by turning off the television, phone and devices. Click through to read about healthy breakfast ideas for kids.

Dealing with a picky eater at home? These are the tips from a former picky eater with your practical tips for feeding picky eaters.

15. Dessert Isn’t the Reward

I know we’ve all been guilty of encouraging dinner eating by the promise of a sweet treat at the completion of the meal. But that definitely gives kids the message that dessert is more important by making it a reward. In our home, dessert isn’t an every day occurrence. And it’s definitely not always a sugary treat. Consider fruits like strawberries with whipped cream or frozen grapes (cut in half before serving).

16. Don’t Let Them Frazzle You

When my husband and I were first encouraging our daughter to try new things, it was imperative that we not lose our cool with her. A large part of being a picky eater is the control that it brings (speaking as a former picky eater herself!) When parents act like food is no big deal, it frees the child to relax and open up to trying new things just a little bit more.

Offer foods without pressure or bribery. If there is a complete meltdown at the mere suggestion of taking one bite, remove the plate and calmly tell the child to leave the table. Do not offer to prepare a different meal. Kids will either choose be stubborn and go without or they’ll begrudgingly eat what is offered. Just keep your cool and pretend it doesn’t bother you one way or another to get the control issue out of the way.

Dealing with a picky eater at home? These are the tips from a former picky eater with your practical tips for feeding picky eaters.

7 Inexpensive and Lovable Valentine’s Day Ideas for Kids

Kids really do get into the Valentine’s Day spirit of love and friendship. Maybe it’s the classroom Valentine’s card exchange at school. Maybe it’s the warm and fuzzy feeling woven throughout the month. But more likely it’s the sweet candy and treats! Okay, let’s give children a little more credit. While the school parties and special desserts are fun, I think that kids just naturally love to LOVE. And Valentine’s Day is a perfect time to express that.

Valentine’s Day Ideas for Kids

I’m sharing some fun Valentine’s ideas for your kids. These 7 ideas will give you inexpensive and lovable ways to share the holiday with your kids. And so not to leave out the littles, I’ve included Valentine’s Day ideas for toddlers, too. There are also some real, memorable ways to create a deeper connection with your kids (with this holiday as the reason to begin a step in that direction).

Please note that I use affiliate links in my posts. Clicking through and making a purchase helps me in a small financial way, thank you!

Looking to make real, meaningful connections with your children this Valentine's Day? These inexpensive and lovable Valentine's Day ideas for kids are practical and fun tips help make your Valentine's lovely.

My son was SO proud of his handmade Valentine! I have it in my keepsake box 🙂

1. Family Card Exchange

So the kids have already exchanged cards and treats with friends at school. Creating homemade cards for family members is a great way to show off creativity and love (especially for little siblings that don’t yet go to school). No need to be perfect, just let the feelings fly.

A simple construction paper card with a sweet sentiment inside is so meaningful. A new box of customized Crayola crayons will encourage the creativity! Draw a picture or paste a photo inside for an added touch. These are the memories to hold in your heart forever. I still cherish the handmade card that my son made for me so many years ago.

Looking to make real, meaningful connections with your children this Valentine's Day? These inexpensive and lovable Valentine's Day ideas for kids are practical and fun tips help make your Valentine's lovely.

2. Valentine’s Day Breakfast

No need to go crazy – even just doing one thing out of the ordinary will make it a special meal to kick start Valentine’s Day. Doughnuts are always a welcome treat in my book! Sprinkle chocolate chips on the pancake batter in the shape of a heart. Add red food coloring to a glass of milk to make a “pink drink”. I love this idea of cutting fruit into heart shapes for the ultimate Valentine’s Day fruit salad!

Click the image to see more on Pinterest! 

Looking to make real, meaningful connections with your children this Valentine's Day? These inexpensive and lovable Valentine's Day ideas for kids are practical and fun tips help make your Valentine's lovely.

Watermelon Heart Salad from A Designer Life

3. Perform a Loving Act

Just like kids love to give presents at Christmas, they enjoy the giving of their affections on Valentine’s Day as well. This is a great time to show your kids different ways of loving. We can show our love for all people with service, including volunteering to help others. Start with your church or ask in your local community for ways that your children can help.

Here’s a super cute loving act that kids would enjoy – making a Valentine’s Day birdfeeder to hang in a tree. Bet the birdies would love it!

Click the image to see more on Pinterest! 

Looking to make real, meaningful connections with your children this Valentine's Day? These inexpensive and lovable Valentine's Day ideas for kids are practical and fun tips help make your Valentine's lovely. Valentine’s Day Birdfeeders from Wine and Glue

4. A Lovable Outfit or Accessory

Let kids wear their heart on their sleeve (literally!)

ShopDisney has some adorable Valentine’s Day tees. There are also sweet love-themed accessories that can be worn all-year round, like these cute socks and Mickey & Minnie Love Alex and Ani bangles (perfect for tween and teen girls!)

Before I had a million kids, I used to make them a special shirt for every holiday! They really loved wearing their handcrafted creations. If you have a sewing machine and basic skills, you can put together this adorable Valentine’s Day heart tee in about two hours. Click through for the DIY tutorial.

5. Valentine’s Homemade Crafts

Take the time to sit down and create something together with your kids this season. Okay, so I haven’t gotten into the make-your-own slime thing but I know that kids LOVE it! There are lots of other crafty things you can do with the kids during Valentine’s. This paper heart wreath is adorable (and what kid doesn’t love to wield the stapler!) Best part? Totally mess-free!!

Click the image to see more on Pinterest! 

Paper Heart Wreath tutorial from hello, Wonderful

6. Read a Loving Story Together

My littlest kids especially love to snuggle with mom and dad to read stories. Those are special memories for sure.

A Valentine’s Day themed book (like our favorite, Somebody Loves You, Mr. Hatch) is a great bedtime read-aloud for young elementary.

My baby daughter thinks that this book, Disney Baby I Love You This Much! is the best.

Tweens and teens may love having a journal for writing down their thoughts (since actually expressing them outloud might prove to be too challenging!) There’s a plain version (JAM Paper Notebook with Elastic Band) and also one with an embossed heart (Writing Journal with Gold Heart).

7. Give Your Child the Gift of YOU

Ever read about the The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love that Lasts? There are additional books in this series that help you to love children and teens more deeply. I can’t think of a better Valentine’s gift from a parent to a child than your time, your attention and a deeper and more connected love!

Looking for a few more ideas? You might like this post about Cheap Ideas for Valentine’s Day!

Looking to make real, meaningful connections with your children this Valentine's Day? These inexpensive and lovable Valentine's Day ideas for kids are practical and fun tips help make your Valentine's lovely.

The Great Kindness Challenge – Incorporating It Everyday

At the end of the year my family and I were recovering from a messy stomach flu. Messy as in projectile “stuff” from both ends for four out of six family members over the course of five days.

This stomach flu is not to be confused with THE FLU. You know, the one that has a death toll on the local news. The urgent care nurse set us straight when we brought our son in. With a lack of fever, his illness couldn’t technically be classified as THE FLU. After three Otter Pops (blue vomit, green vomit, yellow vomit), he whispered to the nurse, “No more popsicles”. Thankfully an anti-nausea tablet halted the vomiting and a four hour nap the following day had him feeling better.

My son was the last to get hit with the bug. Earlier in the week, we’d already been to urgent care with our toddler daughter (Otter Pops & an anti-nausea tablet did the trick for her too). Both my husband and I had gone through the ick and now, our 6 year old guy was getting hit hard. We’d debated going to the urgent care, but he’d been sick all day and wasn’t keeping down any liquids. We got grandma to stay with the other kids and put him in the car with a trash can, just in case (yes, he needed it).

My husband and I were worried. We were still recovering ourselves and feeling edgy. It was late in the evening, when we usually had the kids in bed and we were headed to sleep soon ourselves. Our minds were distracted with our son in the backseat, holding on to his trash can and saying his tummy felt okay right now. So when the car in front of us tapped his brakes after turning a corner, we were startled.

“What’s wrong with his car?”, I said aloud. “Who brakes like that after a turn?”

My husband shrugged. We went down several blocks behind the car until we both came to a red light. As my husband slowed to get behind, we saw someone open the driver side door and turn to face us. My husband immediately stopped our van about 20 feet back.

The man took a few steps towards our car and then stood for a moment, his body lit in our headlights and then he screamed, “TURN OFF YOUR HIGH BEAMS! YOU’RE BLINDING ME!” Then he turned swiftly, got back in his car and drove away through the green light.


My husband fumbled with the knobs and gears on the dash. He’d only driven our van a few times after dark and didn’t realize that the high beams had been bumped on. I was able to help him turn them off and we were on our way.

My husband was surprisingly calm. The shock of what had happened soaked in and he said, “I thought that guy was going to come to the window and punch me in the face!”

I was decidedly more livid. I could feel the anger of that man’s delivery bubbling to the surface.

“Why did he have to get so MAD?! Couldn’t he have handled that in a different way? Seriously, all he had to do was say, “Your high beams are on, buddy”, he didn’t have to scream like that”.

I was riled up. For weeks the memory of that man and his aggression for what was purely a distracted mistake bothered me.

The Kindness Challenge

My kids are all celebrating “Kindness Week” at their schools this week. Similar in tone to “Red Ribbon Week” there are organized activities, like “Crazy Sock Day”. The kids are working on classroom projects that revolve around kindness. There are assemblies and contests that focus on being kind. My kindergartener has a checklist of kind things he needs to accomplish this week including smiling at others and helping at home. I did notice that without prompting he cleared his dinner dishes and was helpful with his little sister.

The event is THE GREAT KINDNESS CHALLENGE.  I love the idea of incorporating more kindness. Naturally I encourage my kids to be more kind with each other, but spreading that ripple of kindness to others outside of the circle is more important. I like how the challenge gets kids to think of others in a positive way. Less of “what do I get out of it” and more of a “how can I help” attitude.

How can you adopt the kindness challenge to make big changes in your life everyday? Find out how to incorporate kindness into your life each day.

Another Test of Kindness

Yesterday morning I was driving my kids to their respective schools in the family minivan. It was just after 7 am and I stopped at a 4-way stop along with another vehicle. We’d both reached the stop at the same time and paused. I was turning right, so I turned around the corner and was met by a blaring horn.

I glanced back in my mirror at the owner of the horn, the man in the other vehicle. He’d just started moving straight through the intersection and was apparently peeved that I’d moved through the intersection first. He was gesturing and yelling (thank goodness we couldn’t hear what he was saying!)

I hadn’t cut him off. He was still 2 yards back from me. We’d both gotten to the intersection at the same time. Why was he so angry that I’d turned before him?

He was still posturing when we reached the next stop sign. I looked at his face in the side mirror, still hollering at me. I mouthed, “It’s not a big deal”. To which I was greeted with an inappropriate hand gesture when I turned the corner and he flew straight through the intersection.

My teenage son, in the front seat was witness to it all and I vented.

“What in the world is he freaking out about?! Seriously. It’s not like I cut him off, we both got to the intersection at the same time”. My son laughed and nodded. It was all stupid, that was obvious. A grown man having a temper tantrum because a woman in a mini-van with 4 kids went ahead of him.

Putting Kindness Into Play

It’s easy to be kind to someone when they are being kind to you. So easy to smile at someone when they hold open the door. Easy to say, “Thank you” when someone offers you a treat. Easy to compliment someone when they are clean and nicely dressed.

What’s hard is putting out kindness when it may never be reciprocated. Hard to be kind when someone flips you off in front of your children, though you’ve done nothing wrong. Hard to offer forgiveness when someone screams at you for an unknowing mistake. Hard to give a compliment when the person on the receiving end might say something mean back to you.

I realized that during both of the recent interactions my kids were present and watching. My reaction to those types of encounters are obviously shaping the children I’m raising. I needed to show them how we can deal with people in kindness. Yes, even people who are mean. Yes, even people who are inappropriate. Yes, even when you did nothing wrong and they’re mad about it. And yes, even when you just want to be mean and angry back. That’s the most important time to be kind.

Trying to get the kids to do housework? Here are the tips I use with my four kids.

Making a Choice to Be Kind

I could have had some choice words for these guys in their vehicles. I could have flipped them off too. I could have jumped out of my car to confront them, screamed back, freaked out. But instead I put kindness into play.

I said, aloud so my kids could hear, “He must be having a really bad day already! Maybe something is bothering him and he’s taking it out on us. All we can do is pray for him”.

I was able to take the strange, tainted experience and paint over it with empathy and kindness. I can’t say that I do that in every situation but it’s definitely my goal. I’d like to take the kindness challenge and make it more of who I am on a daily basis. Allowing myself to get swooped up in someone else’s anger only makes me angry. And I can honestly say I don’t need more anger in my life.

National Random Acts of Kindness Day

I had no idea there was such a thing, but National Random Acts of Kindness Day is observed on February 17th. The day is celebrated by individuals, groups and organizations nationwide to encourage acts of kindness.

So what random acts of kindness could you do each and every day to improve not only the life of another, but your own?



Top 7 Family Goals – Making New Year Resolutions with Kids

Raise your hand if you had a resolution to make a change last year. Yep. And if you’re like most people, you didn’t get through the month of January before your goals were long forgotten, right? Or maybe you just don’t even bother with making new year resolutions because you never can seem to stick with them long enough to make a difference. Yeah, been-there, done-that too. I’ve found that the only way I’ve been able to keep to my resolutions is by getting my kids involved in the goal making. Let’s talk about why it’s a great idea to make New Year resolutions with kids.

According to data pulled from Google by iQuanti, these were the most popular New Year’s resolutions for 2017:

  • Get Healthy
  • Get Organized
  • Live Life to the Fullest
  • Learn New Hobbies
  • Spend Less/Save More
  • Travel
  • Read More

For each of these categories that were searched, there’s a way to get your kids involved. I’m going to share some tips on how your kids can help you keep your New Year resolution goals (while making and sticking to their own resolutions as well).

Please note that I use affiliate links in my posts. Clicking through and making a purchase helps me in a small financial way, thank you!

My resolution? Little changes throughout the year!

Making New Year Resolutions with Kids

Start by sitting down with your kids and talking about the things they would like to accomplish in the new year. Even kids as young as four can come up with a few goals (however random and obscure!) When I asked my six-year old his goal, he said, “To spend the night at grandma’s more”. My teenager son would like to improve his basketball game. And my teen daughter wants to do more art.

We each jotted down our own resolutions and then shared how we can best keep each other on track. This is not about “nagging” but rather ways that kids can encourage their parents and vice versa, keeping the ultimate goal in mind. Here’s how you can tackle each of the top 7 New Years resolutions together as a family.

1. Get Healthy

Good health is more than just hitting the gym. Getting healthy is a balance of food, exercise, relaxation and well-being that satisfies the whole body. And it’s something that you can get the entire family involved in. If eating healthfully is a goal, then it’s best to get all family members on board with choosing better foods.

My older kids know that I’m choosing not to eat certain foods on my diet plan. When they ask me if something in particular is on my diet, it’s a good reminder to me that they are observing and encouraging me towards my goals! Truly, I need the reminder and if my kid says it, it’s not nagging.

In this past year, I kick started my weight loss goals (you can read about my journey here).

14 days on Personal Trainer Food program. Find out the food, plan and how much I lost after week 2! #spon #PersonalTrainerFood

Instead of sitting around watching TV after dinner, encourage family to go for an evening walk. Plan weekend activities that get everyone moving, like ice skating, swimming or even just kicking a ball at the park. We try to go out for a long walk as a family several times a month. It’s a great way for us to get exercise and connect, chatting while we walk.

Don’t forget to work in relaxation and fun, too! Schedule game nights on the weekends. Choose a family-friendly chapter book that you can read aloud to everyone. Get older kids involved in a family Bible study. Work out a crossword puzzle. Have a dance party in the living room!

2. Get Organized

If kids are great at anything, it’s the opposite of organized! But all is not hopeless. There are a few ways you can get kids to help with organizing. Have a conversation about how much easier it is to handle things right away than letting them pile up to deal with later!

I have a few great ideas on organizing small spaces on this post.

Start by being a good example. Begin with organizing small areas of the home that can be done quickly (like tackling that pile of mail by the front door or in a kitchen drawer). Give each child a daily task that helps with keeping organized, like having one child sort the mail when it comes in the house, recycling the junk right away. Or have an older child help with organizing drawers and using a label maker. Having designated bins for certain toys makes clean up easier.

Budget-friendly & Practical Organizing Solutions for Small Spaces

3. Live Life to the Fullest

Have an open conversation about what it means to live life to the fullest. For you, that might mean not missing any opportunities. Or it might mean taking chances and not shying away from all the good things in life. If you openly share your thoughts, worries and fears with your older kids, they can help to encourage you in the areas you struggle.

Ask your kids what they think living a full life means. Maybe they’ll come up with some ideas that will spur changes, like volunteering more or attending church. Encouragement from our kids can help guide us towards living a full and meaningful life.

4. Learn New Hobbies

While kids are usually the ones with the new activities, it’s important for parents to learn new things as well. Kids should see their parents trying new things, sometimes succeeding and sometimes with mixed results (Pinterest fail, anyone?) I want my kids to know that I’m never going to stop learning. And if there is something I want to do, I’m open to learning something new!

I even have a post about teaching yourself something new! There are lots of ideas and tips on where to start when choosing a new hobby.

5. Spend Less/Save More

When we’re tightening the budget at home, my older kids are able to understand (through, they aren’t always happy with it!) We’ve been able to explain why we’re spending less and over the years, have come to understand the reasoning. Even now when shopping with us, they’re able to determine which items are the better value and why we choose to spend our money on certain things and not others. Before making drastic changes, chat with your older children about ideas on where the budget could be cut. They may be more open to cutting expenses than you’d think and may have some creative ideas.

Little kids most definitely need to have a goal. Saving money just to save isn’t enough for them, they need something tangible to look forward to. Start saving change in a clear jar (where they can watch the money “grow”), with an end goal for where the proceeds will go. Even something like a quart of ice cream is a special treat that little ones would enjoy pitching in for.

This post has tips on teaching kids how to save, including a cute DIY for this vacation money jar.

Kids Can Save Money for Disney

6. Travel

I’m all in for more travel! And I love to travel with my children because the memories are always incredible. Whether it’s a quick weekend getaway or an extended trip, make it your goal this year to add travel to your life. While last-moment trips are fun, you’ll get the most out of planning ahead of time. This way you can involve the kids in the travel planning process and hear their input on destinations and possible activities.

If you think you can’t afford a trip, check out these tips for taking a family vacation on a budget.

Pre-trip purchase travel maps, books about the area and do your research online with the kids. Buy each child a travel journal in which they can jot down their thoughts during the trip. A camera is another great purchase so kids can capture memories from their point of view.


Our first time on a surrey bike while visiting Monterey

7. Read More

In order to make time for reading, you’ll need to cut the time from something else. Several years ago we cut out cable television. At the time I thought I’d really miss it but I don’t! Television watching only happens when we’re intentional about a particular show or movie, instead of just being background noise. With the extra time, we encourage reading. Sometimes I’ll read a family-friendly chapter book aloud to everyone. But usually everyone has their favorite book that they pull out in the evening before bed. Check out this list of 100 best books for kids.

I haven’t been able to get much into novels lately but I still read. I’ll choose to read my favorite blog posts online during my reading time!

Share your resolutions with us in the comments! I’d love to hear how you’re involving your kids too.

Considering setting family goals? These are the top New Year resolutions, with ideas on incorporating your children towards reaching the goals! Here's how to make New Year resolutions with kids.

7 Tips for Teaching Gratitude and Thankfulness During the Holidays

What better time to discuss thankfulness and gratitude than during the holidays? With four young ones to raise, I’m constantly worried that I’m raising unappreciative brats! Not that my kids aren’t well-behaved and courteous in public, because they are. But at home, it’s another story. There is a streak of entitlement running rampant and I want to nip that in the bud!

Thankfulness During the Holidays

My mom’s group at church recently discussed how to raise grateful children and it got my wheels turning. Am I doing enough with my four kids to teach them gratitude and thankfulness? And what about good manners? Don’t those go hand in hand? Of course saying, “Thank you” is important, but I think that true gratitude goes beyond good manners. And with the season of giving, there are so many beautiful ways to foster a feeling of gratitude. Here are a few key thoughts I have about teaching gratitude and thankfulness, especially during the holidays.

Please note that I use affiliate links in my post. Clicking through and making a purchase helps me in a small financial way, thank you!

1. Age Matters

Naturally I expect the best manners from my teenagers. And of course, my six year old knows how to properly behave…for his age. But I wouldn’t expect the same behavior from my toddler that I do from my kindergartner! Discuss with your partner ahead of time what behaviors you each expect from your children, with consideration for their ages.

This starts with teaching “please” and “thank you” from a young age. If your toddler receives a treat from someone, you can speak on their behalf to offer the “thank you”. Or if they are able to speak, remind them to say it themselves.

Elementary aged children can be expected to offer thanks without prompting. That doesn’t mean they don’t sometimes get wrapped up in the moment and forget though! Elementary aged kids do love to give, so make sure they have the opportunity to create something special for someone over the holiday (like a hand-drawn card).

Older children can show their gratitude in larger ways, both verbally and in physical action. Older kids and teens are able to think outside of their own small world and will often come up with their own ideas during the holidays. This may include donating their time volunteering.

2. Laying Out Expectations

Before we head out for a holiday-themed event, I run through my expectations for each child. When kids know what is expected of them, it’s easier for them to know their boundaries. I tailor topics to each specific child, depending upon their age and abilities.

Discussions might include:

  • Encouraging them to remember their manners during a holiday dinner when they are a guest (not wiggling at the table, using a napkin, etc.)
  • Chatting with the adult party hosts for a few minutes to say thank you for the invitation before running off to play.
  • Not whining about what foods they don’t like at the party.
  • Helping to clear their plate.
  • Offering to help the host to clean up.
  • Not asking for seconds of dessert, at least not until everyone else has had a first serving.
  • Saying “Thank you for inviting me” when leaving.

3. “I Want”

I told my mom’s group that I was having some issues with my six year old acting entitled to certain things around our house. Seems like the holidays brings out the sassy attitude even more! And what can we expect, when we ask our kids, “What do you want for Christmas?” With the focus on getting stuff so heavy during the holidays, young children can really get wrapped up in what they “want” and not what they can do for others.

Instead of asking the kids what THEY want to receive for Christmas, I’m twisting things a bit. I’ve been asking them what they think their siblings would like to receive. Instead of focusing on what they’re going to get, I can see that my kids are more excited to be involved in making decisions and helping choose gifts for others. We’re taking it one step further by making gifts instead of buying (easy things, like laminated bookmarks).

4. Role-Playing

What’s more cringe-worthy than a kid who receives a gift and says, “I hate this”. How embarrassing. And of course, hurtful to the person who gave the gift.

In our house, we do a lot of role-playing before parties and gatherings. It’s good practice for kids and a reminder of your expectations. Ideas for role-play is to ask, “What would you say if you received a gift that you didn’t like?” or “What if you received a gift that you already have?”

My son celebrated his sixth birthday recently and we did some role-play on the way to his play date birthday party. I asked him, “What if someone gives you underwear?!” His response was, “Thanks for the undies!”

So yes, the correct and easiest answer is always, “Thank you for the _____!” Even if you don’t like it. Even if you already have it. Even if it’s a weird present. Thank you is always the right comment to make.

5. Volunteer and Give

There are always going to be a lot of ways to volunteer your time during the holidays. Places like churches need extra help in the kid care area, which is usually something that teens can help with. Younger kids can assist with bagging up canned goods in a food bank.

There are also organizations that accept special items for donation during this season. When we donated food to our local food bank, I made sure that my 6 year old knew we were giving and explained where the food was going. He was so excited to tell everyone how many items he’d donated! We also made up boxes for Samaritan’s Purse this year. He helped me choose the items for the two boxes we filled and went with me when we dropped them off. He was able to see how grateful the volunteers were when we came with our donations and they prayed with us over the boxes. It was something he’s not forgotten and I know that it had a big impact on him.

6. Take the Focus Off Stuff

If you sense your kids are too focused on the stuff this holiday season, find ways to move the focus on experiences rather than things. That’s really what the holiday is, spending time with family and making memories. Things like baking and decorating cookies, watching a Christmas movie on TV, walking through the neighborhood to see decorations and singing along to songs on the radio are favorite ways to celebrate without spending a lot!

7. Keep It Simple

Figure out what things are most important to you and your family. From there you can decide what to do and what to skip this holiday. I find that when I try to cram too much good stuff into the season, it becomes not only stressful for me, it’s hard on the kids. And when the kids are having a rough time, it tends to come out in crabby behavior. And then we start to think, “Ungrateful brats!”

Be sure to work in plenty of downtime between holiday celebrations. Pick and choose only what you most love about the holidays and do those things. Don’t feel guilty about skipping over other things. Perhaps you can alternate years? Do what brings you and your family the most joy, incorporating gratefulness and thankfulness about being together!

Fed up with "ungrateful brats" during the holidays? These 7 practical tips can help teach you children about thankfulness during the holidays.

The Day I Gave Up Caring What My Kids Looked Like

Since day one with my eldest boy, I’ve cared about appearance. If he spit up on his onesie, it didn’t matter if there was nobody else home – I’d change his clothes. I didn’t spend a fortune on outfits or anything, but I always wanted him to look cute. Fortunately he’d wear whatever I bought for him and enjoyed being stylish. He rocked newsboy caps and coordinating Chuck Taylors. He had style and I loved showing him off.

Then my second son came and it was more of the same. Precious coordinating outfits down to the matching underwear and socks. Such a cutie-pie and a personality to match. I loved getting compliments on my boys, especially when they wore matching outfits. Weren’t they adorable?!

Ahhh, coordinating outfits! This makes my Type-A heart sing 🙂

I also have a stepdaughter. Up until about 2 years ago, I chose her outfits for her, buying the cutest things with coordinating accessories. Each morning without fail I’d do up her hair in elaborate styles with braids and bows. I loved seeing her dolled up and hearing the compliments on how pretty she looked.

Enter my baby daughter. She’s currently 19 months old and I’ve been so fortunate to receive a plethora of cuter-then-cute hand-me-downs. She loves to dress up too. After I’ve gotten her dressed in the morning and fixed her hair up into a bow, she checks herself out in the mirror and squeals with delight! She never pulls her bows out, not since she was a tiny baby. Naturally I absolutely adore dressing her up in sweet outfits and hearing all the buzz from passersby about how adorable she is.

I mean, come on…this outfit and that pose!! She’s a natural!

Letting Them Pick

Okay, so my eldest is now almost 14. My stepdaughter is 13. And my middle son is about to turn 6. Of course, though I’m still in charge of purchasing their clothes I’m beyond the point of being able to pick and choose their daily outfits (maybe Christmas outfits, being the exception!) These three big kids choose what they’re going to wear. And that’s both a good and bad thing. And I had the HARDEST time letting it go.

I started getting push back from my eldest, wanting to wear only basketball shorts and everything in black. He’s since added in more color to his wardrobe, but it’s still all pretty much basketball clothes. And the shirt that he wore on his kindergarten t-ball team? He only stopped wearing it last year – people, he was 12!! He has finally passed it down to his little brother (despite that it has older brother’s name silk screened on the back)..

Stepdaughter started asking if she could choose her own outfits and I obliged. At first it was cringe-worthy, the patterns and styles that came out of the bedroom in the morning. I sent her back to her room a lot to swap out either the top or the pants, because I just couldn’t let her walk out of the house wearing an orange striped shirt with red jeans, could I? I still did up her hair for a while though, until she took that over too, not wanting braids or bows any longer. Hair is usually pulled back sloppily into a regular ponytail.

Second son is probably the most eclectic of all. He’s incredibly creative and at 4, started resisting to the outfits I’d chosen. He now regularly walks out for the day wearing sweatpants, a tank top and knee socks pulled over the hem of the pants.

The Day I Gave Up Caring

I was going through a drawer filled with pictures at my mom’s house. The kids and I were giggling over the old photos, in particular the ones with the 1980s version of mommy. I was rockin’ copious amounts of blue eye shadow behind my enormous pink glasses. Permed hair with wild bangs that I never could get ratted up quite right. And the outfits. What’s funny is I know that I dressed even more wildly, there is just no photographic evidence. My wise mother didn’t capture those over-the-top moments when I was wearing four ponytails, layered socks and two skirts (yes, I remember layering a short skirt over a long one!) I certainly did dress funky, even though my excuse is that it was the 80s. Each outfit was my own personal style.

Not terrible but I am wearing a white sailor hat (why?!)

And then it hit me – I was stifling my kids from having their own personal style.

In not letting my kids wear what was their personal style, I was really putting a damper on letting them grow and develop into the unique person that God wants them to be.

I’d asked my mom about those wild outfits years ago, cringing at a particular photo of me with both blue eye shadow AND blue mascara. She told me that she’d always admired my fashion gusto as a child. She wanted to foster my creativity. And that if I wanted to wear three ponytails on my head or a half dozen hair clips, she’d let me. She said her only suggestion was that I not mix plaids, even if my kindergarten reasoning was that they had the same colors.

Letting Them Grow By Letting It Go

And so I stopped making suggestions on what my kids should or shouldn’t wear. I started turning a blind eye (literally) to what I was seeing them wear at the breakfast table. I changed my commentary to say things like, “That’s a cute top on you” or “What a colorful outfit today!” The self-confidence is rising.

If I don’t want my kids to wear a particular item anymore, I unceremoniously remove it from their closet and put it in the donation bin. If it’s not in the closet, they can’t wear it anymore.

People aren’t complimenting my eldest three on their clothes anymore. People just don’t say anything about their appearance. Nobody really cares that the oldest boy is wearing basketball shorts again. Or that stepdaughter has her hair in a sloppy ponytail. Or that little son is wearing neon green socks with orange sandals. I no longer think that it reflects poorly on me if my kids aren’t dressed to the nines.

But what I do hear goes deeper than that. I’m hearing how well behaved they are. How generous and how kind. What good friends they are. That’s what’s really important, right? Not that they’re wearing something mismatched.

You may see me out and about with the kids, or maybe you see a photo of them online. One of the kids is wearing a clip-on tie with their t-shirt, one is wearing a Christmas themed shirt in July and the other has spiked his hair with too much gel. Just smile and nod. And know that I’m dying inside to correct them. But that I’m choosing to let them grow by letting it go.

Confessions of a First Time Coach – 7 Ways I’m Shredding It!

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #BornToShred #ShredTheDay #CollectiveBias

Each day that I wake up, I’m thankful. I might not have received the best rest the night before (not always possible with a teething toddler!). And I’m still working through the chronic back pain that has plagued me since I was pregnant. But I don’t want to make excuses anymore! I’m thankful for the ability to do what I can. There are so many ways I still want to push myself to become a better mom, a healthier person, a more well-rounded me! And I was starting to see the disappointed looks on the faces of my kids when I’d tell them I was too tired or hurting too much to be able to play with them. Talk about the best incentive to get better, right?

First Time Coach Confessions

In late summer I signed up my kindergartner for soccer. There was a call for coaches and I immediately started thinking about who I knew in my family that could help. My husband works full time and also goes to night school, so as much as he’d love to volunteer I knew he was out. And then it hit me, “Why can’t I be the coach?”

This is new territory for me. I’ve never coached soccer before. In fact, I haven’t played soccer since I was 12. I used to be extremely athletic but have a back injury that I’m working through therapy for. However I really wanted to push myself into learning something new and being more involved with my kid’s activities. After some consideration, I registered as head coach. Way to jump in with two feet!

Here are a few tips and honest thoughts about being a first time coach. I’ve learned a LOT in the last few months of coaching and would like to share how I’m pushing myself to learn and grow as much as my players.

1. Build Up Stamina

There’s no way I could have just leapt into coaching without first getting into shape myself. I’ve been going to the gym several times a week and walking at least 30 minutes per day. It’s been all about moving more and sitting less to build up my stamina for playing soccer with these 8 little boys!

2. Get Help

As soon in the season as you can, seek out parent volunteers. I wasn’t unable to secure an assistant coach so it’s me, all by myself, on the field at practices and games. It can really be a challenge to set up drills during practice when you’re the only adult because with 8 players, I’m definitely out numbered! Having a “team parent” help with coach/parent communication is imperative. It’s best to have another parent available for collecting money for the team banner, arranging a snack schedule and ordering trophies.

3. Open Communication with the Parents

With texting it’s so easy to send a quick reminder to all my player’s parents about upcoming practices and games. In addition I send a weekly email with details about upcoming games, I go over the “game focus” and bring up anything that’s too long for a text.

4. Have a “Game Focus”

Each week at practice in addition to the usual drills like dribbling, passing and kicking, I have my players work on a predetermined “game focus”. Our focuses have been, “Corner kicks”, “Turning the ball around” and “Follow up”. After one week’s game when a player on the other team was taunting our players, our game focus was “Good sportsmanship”. We discussed how to handle things if another player is acting rude. Having a focus at each game reminds my players what we worked on in practice.

5. Move More, Talk Less

I try to keep my “coach talks” to less than 30 seconds each time. 8 boys tend to get pretty wild and they don’t listen much after thirty seconds of talk! Showing rather than explaining goes farther. I also find that if I’m silly their ears perk up and they’re more apt to listen!

6. Keeping It Fun

Let the game be a game and just have fun! Our division doesn’t keep score (though of course, each of my players has their own tally of the goals!). I always allow plenty of time at practice after our drills to just have a fun scrimmage against each other. Sometimes we even play 8 against 1 and the boys try to score past me!

7. Healthier Body for More Energy

Just as I always insist that my little players eat a well-rounded meal before a game, I’m setting a good example as well. I need good fuel for practice and games. For me, that’s Post Shredded Wheat Cereals.

These new Shredded Wheat flavors help me kick start my day. My son and I picked up Mixed Berry and Cinnamon Roll at Walmart. S’mores Bites is another new variety available. Just the right amount of sweet with the heartiness of the shredded wheat cereal. You can also earn $3 cash back on Post Shredded Wheat cereals on ibotta as well!

Before the Saturday game, my son and I make sure to take time for a bowl of cereal together. We chat a bit about the upcoming game, talk about the game focus and then pack up the mini van with our game ball and banner.

Pin this post to save for later and check out these Post cereal recipes on the Pinterest Page.

When Did We Stop Rooting for Ourselves?

This post originally appeared on my blog Painted Butterfly Studio on Sept 28th, 2010. I reread it this week and find that topic of accepting compliments and cheering for ourselves to be relevant. Kids are great at sharing their accomplishments but how can adults be better at accepting compliments?

Please note that I include affiliate links in my posts. Clicking and making a purchase helps me in a small financial way, thank you!

The Soccer Game

“At what point do we stop cheering?”

We were sitting on the sidelines watching our six year old soccer players celebrating after they’d just scored their uncontested sixth goal. The dad next to me posed the question. About 90 seconds later we got our answer when the seventh goal was scored. Parents didn’t cheer and just a small smattering of applause could be heard from our side of the field.

Later in the day, I got to thinking about that question.

“At what point do we stop cheering?”

Do we ever stop cheering? Or rather, should we ever stop cheering?

And I’m not just talking as parents, but just as adults?

“At what point do we stop cheering?”

Kids are great at sharing their accomplishments but how can adults be better at accepting compliments?

Shrugging Off Instead of Accepting Compliments

I was reading Sarah Ban Breathnach’s book Simple Abundance: A Daybook of Comfort and Joy this week. The section I happened upon was about how as adults we tend to downplay our accomplishments. We shoo away compliments and never really revel in them as we should. She suggested that we pull out our awards, something we’ve created, or anything that really makes us proud of ourselves and put them in a prominent place in our home.

Why, as adults, do we hide our light under a bushel? Why do we shrug off encouragements from others instead of just saying, “Thank you so much! I’m proud of it too!” This daily reminder of seeing visually what we have done should be a push towards what we can do.

I recall hearing about a baseball player who didn’t display any of his awards in his home. The announcer noted how humble the player was and that if you walked into his home you’d never have guessed he was a ball player.

This actually just seemed kind of sad to me. If this man was a sculptor or an artist, would he not decorate his home with a few of his own art pieces? Is it not appropriate because it wouldn’t be humble? Or even just to have an important plaque on the wall, or one special baseball on a shelf that was particularly meaningful, something that recognized his accomplishments? Nothing?!

I’m not talking about constantly tooting our own horn here to the point of rudeness or painting an entire mural on our living room wall with our likeness. But really think about why we stopped cheering…Because we didn’t want to come across to others as too confident? Because it might hurt someone else’s feelings? Because we’ve been taught as children to be humble and modest, that we shouldn’t be “too good”?


Kids Are Naturals at Complimenting Themselves

Now, back to the soccer game…7th goal was scored. The little boy who scored the goal had already scored 4 others in our game, but just the same he looked excitedly over to the sidelines for recognition. We put our hands together and clapped briefly and smiled back at him. He wasn’t ashamed or embarrassed in the least to have created such a lopsided score.

As we were leaving two players chattered boldly to each other, “We scored 7 and they didn’t have ANY!”

One of the moms said, “Shhh, not so loud”, to which one of the boys looked up at her and said, “Why?”

The unabashed pride of these six year olds was actually inspiring to me. Humility and modesty will come eventually, as it should. But at this age it’s refreshing to see the exuberance about each accomplishment. Whether it’s getting across the monkey bars without falling off, finishing an entire puzzle without help or scoring the final goal in a 7-0 game.

Kids are great at sharing their accomplishments but how can adults be better at accepting compliments?

Rooting Ourselves On

I’m going to root myself on. When someone pays me a compliment, I’m going to say a simple thank you and not follow it up with something that undermines the entire good thought (you know the kind, “That’s a pretty blouse!” and we say, “Yeah, too bad I’m so fat that’s too tight on me now” FROWN!). That completely diminishes the compliment (and is not very kind to the person complimenting you either). “Thank you” is the perfect reply to any compliment.

I’m going to make some pillow covers to put in the living room and if anyone compliments them, I’ll happily share that it’s my own handiwork. I will bravely admit that there are things that I’m really good at and I’m going to promise myself that I won’t be too shy or humble to admit it!

I hope that by my modeling this, my own children will pick up on the air of confidence and not be ashamed or embarrassed of their own accomplishments. Accepting compliments and sharing what you’re confident and strong about isn’t bragging, it’s knowing that you are worthy. Knowing your worth and can humbly accept praise is given to us by God. And that’s something to cheer about.

In what ways and areas of your life could you be more confident and assured? Please share with me below in the comments!

Kids are great at sharing their accomplishments but how can adults be better at accepting compliments?

Preparing Your Child for the First Day of Kindergarten

My 5 year old starts kindergarten in less than two weeks (cue Mom’s tears!) He’s crazy excited about school so that makes preparing him for kindergarten sort of easy. Not all kids are like that though – My eldest was terribly nervous and anxious about his first day of kindergarten. Getting kids ready to learn, choosing at-home school supplies and even cute photo ops can add to the excitement. Here are a few ways to prepare your child for the first day of kindergarten!

Please note that I use affiliate links in my posts. Clicking the links and making a purchase helps me in a small financial way, thank you!

1. “Play” School at Home

If your child has never been to school before the entire concept may be daunting and confusing. Outline what will happen throughout the day. Describe terms they might not know like work study, arts and crafts, recess, lunch period, quiet time and free play. Role play can help kids know what to expect and ease the jitters.

Home workbooks like these can get your kinder kid prepared for what they might be seeing from their teacher during school. (BIG Kindergarten Workbook and Reading & Math Jumbo Workbook: Grade K)


2. Read Books Together

Story time is a big deal in kindergarten! And of course you already know that about 30 minutes of reading each night is ideal to develop reading skills in kids.

These are two favorite books I know about the first day of school. They are sure to put a smile on the face of your nervous kindergartner. These books are must-haves! (The Kissing Hand and First Day Jitters)


3. Make Learning Fun

Teaching basics like letter recognition and how to properly hold a pencil will start kids off on the right foot. Supply your kindergartner with a few of these items to practice learning at home first. (Melissa & Doug On the Go Water Wow! Alphabet Activity Book and Gaobei Pencil Grip for Children)

4. Wait for a Supply List Before Making Big Purchases

I know that the kindergartners in my school district don’t use backpacks. Kids carry open-topped buckets to hold their over-sized paperwork. So I won’t be making a backpack purchase for my kindergartner this year.

That’s my son on the left with his LL Bean backpack in 3rd grade. He’s still using it in 8th grade!

However if you do need a backpack, I highly recommend L.L.Bean. I bought my eldest son his backpack from L.L.Bean when he entered 3rd grade. He’s starting 8th grade this year…with the same backpack! And it’s still in great condition (no wear, no tears and the zippers work perfectly).

LL Bean Backpack (same one I bought my son 5 years ago!)

Before you run out and stock up on pencils and crayons, wait for a supply list from your child’s teacher. Or consider buying a few small items to have at home to get your child in the “back to school mood”.

5. Teach and Practice Basic Manners at Home

“Please” and “Thank You” goes a long way. So does sharing, friendship and being a good friend. Practice with gentle reminders at home. A few good books can help to reinforce what you’re teaching. (365 Manners Kids Should Know: Games, Activities, and Other Fun Ways to Help Children and Teens Learn Etiquette and Say Please, Little Owlet)


6. Pick Out a Special First Day Outfit

My kids love having something special to wear on the first day of school. And I always shop Gymboree because the quality and pricing is fantastic. The clothes are durable and so cute too (perfect for picture day!)

At prices like these, you can easily stock up for the entire first month of school! (PS: These are all images of clothing that I’ve recently purchased for my own kids!)

If you’ve never ordered before, here’s a special link that will get you 25% OFF Gymboree with your first order!

Make the First Day Special

Now that you’ve taken care of preparing your kindergartner for the first day of school, here are a few more ideas to help make the first day really special!

7. Plan a Fun First Day Breakfast

Put away the cold cereal for the first day and give the kids something fun and filling! A Mickey waffle would surely put a smile on their face for back-to-school. And Amazon even sells Golden Malted waffle mix, the same kind used in the Disney parks! (Disney Classic Mickey Waffle Maker and Golden Malted Pancake & Waffle Flour)

8. The Obligatory First Day of School Photo

I love the idea of taking first day of school photos in the same place each year, just to compare growth from year to year. I try to pose my kids against the cute white fence at my mom’s house each year. From left to right, this is my son at kindergarten, first, third, fourth and fifth grade.


Another sweet memory is capturing your kindergartner exploring their classroom for the first time. I grabbed this shot when my eldest son sat down to look at picture books in his new class.

9. Write Down First Day Thoughts in a School Memory Book

You’ll look back fondly on these sweet memories! Having a dedicated school memory book keeps cute memories, photos and special awards and photos in one spot. My 13 year old son has the book mentioned here. I love looking back at it on the first day of school each year, remembering that adorable kid with missing front teeth! (School Years: A Family Keepsake of School Memories)

For more on this really awesome topic,
check out the other great posts from the Blogorail!

These practical back-to-school preparation tips will help ease your kinder kid into the first day of kindergarten.

Preteen Routine Daily Checklist Printable (So You Don’t Have to Nag)

FREE PRINTABLE - Preteen Routine Daily Checklist Printable (So You Don't Have to Nag)

Preteen kids have a lot to keep track of. With the start of junior high, puberty and a changing body, they also have intense emotions they’re dealing with as well (seen Inside Out?) I have two preteens in the house (my almost 12-year old son and my 11-year old stepdaughter) so my husband and I have a lot to deal with keeping them on track!

If you’re like me, the last thing you want to do is have to run down a laundry list of items as your kids are going out the door. They don’t like the nagging and neither do I…however, I also don’t want my kid smelling like an onion after P.E. because they forgot deodorant! Streamlining their personal routine and making it more routine for them is the key, but sometimes they need help remembering.

FREE PRINTABLE -Preteen Routine Daily Checklist Printable (So You Don't Have to Nag)

I created this quick, no-nagging-necessary free printable checklist for preteens. I have it in a plastic sleeve, posted in several places around the house so my preteens can handle their business privately on their own. This is all about creating good habits that your child will take with them through life. And about teaching them a routine so at some point these things will be second nature and they won’t have to refer to the checklist anymore. Parenting is about creating independent people (because you don’t want to be calling your college-age children to make sure they are using deodorant, right?)

Here’s my FREE PRINTABLE Preteen Daily Checklist.

FREE PRINTABLE -Preteen Routine Daily Checklist Printable (So You Don't Have to Nag)