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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.

Oh.

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?

 

 

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.


Get Ready for the Holidays – Dress-Up Guide for Kids

There’s only a few times a year when I have veto power on what my kids wear. One of those times is Christmas and you can be sure, I’m making sure the kids look great! Bye-bye sweatpants with holes in the knees – hello, adorable sweater with a snowflake design! Of course the baby never complains so she always has her hair and outfit on point. But during the holidays I can doll her up even more!

I have two teens and two littles, ages 6 and 20 months. My big kids are picking their own outfits, of course. But I still like to choose something special for  them to wear during the holidays. My six year old is in kindergarten this year, which means his first school holiday concert! He’ll need something nice to wear for that event. And then there are several cookie decorating parties, a few family events, a live theater show and a big Christmas party.  The kids will need something to wear for each event, ranging from Christmas casual to dressed up. This is my dress-up guide for getting the kids holiday ready!

This post contains affiliate links and I will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on my links. I was compensated for this post.

New Holiday Outfits

Every kid knows that the holidays are the best time of year! Delicious treats, fun activities at school and cozy new clothes. You want the kids to look cute but you don’t want them revolting because something is itchy or “feels weird”. That’s why Gymboree is my holiday clothing go-to. My kids dressed in coordinating Gymboree outfits last year and everyone from the baby to the big kids looked fantastic. And comfortable clothes for kids are important. If they aren’t comfortable, they aren’t going to want to wear it!

You’re going to find adorable and cozy outfits from Gymboree that are easy to wash and wear. Right now holiday styles are 50% off, while supplies last!

The girls in their coordinating Gymboree holiday outfits in 2016

I love these Fair Isle designs where little sister can coordinate with big sister. They are similar but not matchy-matchy.

And the brothers can’t be left out either. I’m a sucker for a holiday plaid shirt and my boys tend to wear one from Gymboree every year! Give them some cool accessories like boots or a beanie and the boys will be happy.

Don’t forget the pajamas! We give our kids a “Night Before Christmas” box with a new holiday book, cocoa and a pair of jammies. These adorable holiday-themed Gymmies are perfect for Christmas morning photos.

Beautiful Hair Care

If you want a head-to-toe look for the kids, start off with a good sudsing! We’re already a fan of Fairy Tales Bug Bandit. I was recently sent hydrating shampoo, conditioner and styling gel in the Fairy Tales Hair Care Curly-Q line. My baby daughter was blessed with amazing curls and I confess, that I’ve not really known how to properly care for them! She usually wakes up with a matted mess that I have to untangle. And then of course, she’s left with a frizzy halo instead of curls.

I have been washing, conditioning and using the styling gel spray on my daughter’s curls and wow, the difference is incredible. Not only are the curls more defined, her hair is also much softer, shinier and easily managed.

Curls by Fairy Tales Hair Care & outfit by Gymboree!

Ingredients like quinoa, rice amino acids, Mururmuru butter, aloe, and avocado butter combine to keep curls bouncy and frizz-free. Products are also sulfate, paraben, phthalate-free as well as gluten, soy, dairy and nut-free.

If you have a curly-headed kiddo, I can’t recommend these products enough. Or try the Tangle Tamers, Sun & Swim or Rosemary Repel hair care lines. Check out Fairy Tales Hair Care for all these products (and the must-have, Lice Good-Bye Survival Kit!)


Dressed Up Head to Toe

I’ve talked about how much we love Pediped shoes here before. My kids have been wearing them since before they could walk! Look at my cute squishy last year, wearing her elegant Pediped originals. They have big kid shoes too, from dress-up styles to cold weather boots.

Pediped shoes are high quality and a great value for how well they are made. Want to save money on Pediped shoes? If you enroll in Ebates, you can get 6% cash back when you shop through the link for Pediped Outlet and 5% cash back through Pediped.


Accessories Round Out the Look

If a full head-to-toe outfit overhaul isn’t in the budget, look to accessories that can dress up your kid’s holiday look. Things like a new hat, holiday themed socks, a neck tie or sparkling stockings can brighten up an older outfit. And kids love using accessories to personalize their style! Shop Gymboree for these on-sale accessories.

 

Best Games and Toys for Unplugged Kids

I was at the toy store recently, perusing the aisles and looking for something my toddler daughter would enjoy. I walked out of the store empty-handed. First off, I didn’t want to buy her anything that made noise, was electronic or needed batteries. Second, so many of the toys were waaaaay too pricey for what they were! Third, I didn’t want to purchase anything that she’d outgrow in a month or two. I was looking for toys she’d be able to play with for several years and games that weren’t one-and-done.

Toys That Don’t Need Batteries

I went home and looked at the toys that I’ve purchased for my kids over the years, the favorites and the classics. These are items that have proven their worth in gold. These are the toys and games that get frequently pulled out, played with and foster imagination. Some I bought when my teens were babies and my littlest one plays with them today!

This post contains affiliate links. Clicking through and making a purchase helps me in a small financial way, thank you!

Outdoor Toys

Ultimate Frisbee by Wham-O

My big kids are SO into playing frisbee with friends lately! They even play Ultimate Frisbee during P.E. at school. If the frisbee craze hasn’t started in your area, take one to the park and see how many kids ask to join in!


Things that Go

Brio Classic Deluxe Train Set

I bought a Brio train set for my eldest over 15 years ago and it’s still in perfect condition and played with weekly! These classic wooden toys are an investment but quite possibly, your grandchildren will play with them someday too.


Family Games

Apples to Apples Disney Version

Already own and love the original Apples to Apples Game? Try one of the other varieties, including Junior, Disney, Bible or Big Picture. This is a family favorite.


Fostering Imagination

Hearth & Hand™ with Magnolia Wooden Dollhouse with Furniture

My dad made me a dollhouse for Christmas the year I turned 8. We would make furniture together with tiny picture frames from magazine pages and food from clay. Those are special memories! This dollhouse is beautiful and simple, the perfect heirloom.


Crafts and Creativity

Crayola Rock Painting Kit

Our community loves to paint and hide rocks for others to find (see this post). And my kids would love this kit that gives them all the tools they need to paint their own designs.


Toys for Builders

Magformers Magnets

Think outside the LEGO box for other creative toys that your builder will love! These magnet sets combine building with movement for maximum creativity.


Water Play

B. Toys Fish & Splish

End the day on a wet note by encouraging water play in the tub. This set is particularly fun because it’s also functional – the toys are also a comb and nail brush.

No batteries needed! These are the best toys for kids that don't need batteries.

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.

5 Ways to Make the First Day of School Extra Special

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

It’s Back to school season! And either your kid is on-board or they’re not. 3 out of my 4 kids are now in school. My two oldest are in their final year of junior high. My five year old just started kindergarten. The teens were looking forward to the first day of school. They were excited to see friends and finish their last year before high school.

My kindergartner on the other hand was a bit nervous. Which wasn’t like him at all, really. He’s always been fairly independent. And so smart, he just loves to learn. I think he just had way too much fun this summer and didn’t want it to end! Right with you there, buddy…

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I wanted to make sure that the first day of school was something really memorable and special for him. While the teens got themselves motivated, my kinder kid needed a little encouragement. I created these fun and easy ways to make the first day of school extra special. These are particularly sweet for very young children (though secretly, my teens got a kick out of them too!) Keep reading for a free printable and a special offer from Windex® brand and Shutterfly®.

1. A Special Wake-Up

I’ll be honest. On most days, I wake up my kids by either snapping on the overhead light or opening the window to let in the sunshine! But on the first day of school (and maybe even for the entire first week), I’ll wake them in a special way.

Take a picture of them sleeping first. There’s nothing cuter than a sleeping kiddo!

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For my music-loving kindergartner, I put on his favorite dance song and placed the CD player in the hallway before waking him gently. He happily jumped out of bed!

Long ago when my eldest son was in kindergarten I’d wake him up with a finger puppet character. Seriously. For some reason he’d get mad if I tried waking him up myself. But if Madame Queen the finger puppet awoke him by bopping him on the head he thought it was hilarious! Hey, you do what you can to keep the morning routine from completely melting down from the start, right?

2. Breakfast To Start the Day Off Right

My five year old would eat waffles morning, noon, and night. I know that waffles will be his request for the first day of school breakfast.

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  • Take a breakfast request a few days before the first day so you can make sure to have all the ingredients on hand.
  • If morning time is tight, consider preparing as much as possible the night before. I tend to make waffles in batches and freeze them. Then I can just pop in the toaster to reheat in the morning.
  • Even if you only have time for cold cereal, make the meal more well-rounded by adding fresh fruit like bananas, blueberries or sliced strawberries.

3. First Day Photo Op

I’ll admit it, I’m a photo-taking-social-media-sharing-mama! I love to take a cute first day photo and share it across social for everyone to see.

  • Document each step in the morning process, from waking up your student, breakfast, outfit, to catching the school bus.
  • Take your first day of school photo in the same place each year. It’s awesome to see the growth of your kiddos!
  • Get inside the classroom and take a photo of your child sitting at their desk.

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4. Welcome Home!

When my kids come home from their first day, they’re always a’ bubble with things to share. They want to tell me all about so-and-so in their class, a strict new teacher or what they did at recess. This year I wanted to surprise my kids with a special “welcome home” window that celebrates the first day of school. In particular, I knew my 5-year old would love the decorations and fanfare for his first day of kinder!

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I needed a clean and shiny surface to work with, so first I picked up Windex® Original Glass Cleaner at my local Kroger store, Food 4 Less. Windex® brand is known for its famous streak-free shine, so clean up on the window was quick and easy.

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While I was in the cleaning mood, I was able to clean up the kitchen and bathroom quickly with the Windex® Vinegar Multi-Surface Cleaner. I’ve always liked how versatile vinegar is to clean with but I’ve never liked the smell of it. This special ammonia-free formula has no harsh vinegar smell. It leaves behind only a fresh, clean scent.

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Once the window was prepped, I was able to decorate it from the outside with a temporary glass marker and crepe paper announcing the first day of school!

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The whole thing went together in just a few minutes and the impact was great. Check out the happy face on my kindergartner! And the big kids thought it was pretty cool too. And when it was time to clean up, Windex® Original Glass Cleaner came to the rescue again and wiped the window streak-free again!

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5. A First Day of School Memento

I’ve created this first day of school certificate printable. My son proudly held his “award” for completing his first day of kindergarten so I could take a picture.

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FREE FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL PRINTABLE – Simply write in the name of your student and the date presented. After you take a photo of your student with their award, stow it for safekeeping in a school memory folder. I have a 3-ring binder for each child that holds awards and certificates.

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Once you’ve shared those adorable first day pictures on social media, it’s time to make a permanent memory of them. I’ve been using Shutterfly® since my teenager was a baby!

You can take those first day pictures and put them in a photo book. Or wouldn’t they look cute on the front cover of a spiral bound notebook? I also use the back to school photos that I take on my Shutterfly® calendar each year.

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Check out this amazing national offer with Shutterfly®. Buy 2 Windex® products and get $20 to shop at Shutterfly®. (Offer valid 7/15/17 – 12/1/17. Visit here for terms and conditions).

How will YOU make the first day of school special for your kids?

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Motivation for School to Keep Kids (and Moms!) On Track

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

My 3 kids are excited to be headed back to school, are yours? They can’t wait to see their friends, start in a new grade and yes, even learn something new (Self-discipline runs high in those first few weeks of school and I try to take advantage of that!) Stocked with fresh school supplies, the kids are organized with assignments. They’re on top of their school paperwork and planning new projects. I’m on my game too, keeping a tidy calendar of events and going through the paperwork like a pro.

And then sometime in mid-October, energy wanes. Interest drops and sameness sets in. The school supplies aren’t so fresh anymore and motivation for school is POOF…gone! With three kids starting school in the fall, I’m looking for ways to keep my kids resolute on their school goals. Motivation leads to strong habits for a lifetime. And truly, that’s my ultimate goal as a mom: Raising independent people who can stick to their goals with minimal reminder from me.

#ad Want to get kids motivated for school? Click through for these FREE printables including motivational posters and goal sheets.

Motivation for School

I have one child starting kindergarten and two teens in their final year of junior high. Setting goals and having small reminders help my kids stay motivated year-round. I find that I’m more likely to accomplish my goals when I write them down. There’s just something about seeing those goals day after day in my own handwriting that helps me stick to it!

This year I’m helping my kids get set for success by having them write down their goals before school begins. I’m encouraging them to stretch beyond the basics and truly extend and reach farther than they have before.

Coming Up with #BackToSchoolGoals

Keeping motivation high year-round is a challenge and kids need frequent reminders. Rather than the nagging “Mom voice”, I’m letting my kids come up with their own school goals. This is something they can foster themselves, with their own words and objectives.

Here are a few motivation goals for school that my kids came up with:

  • Clean out backpack each night after school
  • Prepare clothes, backpack and lunch the night before
  • Get to bed no later than 9 pm
  • Read at least 30 minutes each night before bed
  • Speak up in class and try to answer questions (even if we don’t always have the right answer)
  • Wake up early enough to have time for breakfast and getting ready without rushing
  • Aim not to miss any days of school
  • Remember to bring home physical education clothes at the end of the week
  • Complete extra credit assignments if offered
  • Organize folder and paperwork each week
  • Greet teachers and peers and make new friends
  • Limit free time at home with tablets and video games

#ad Want to get kids motivated for school? Click through for these FREE printables including motivational posters and goal sheets.

Writing Down Motivation Goals for School

Since I know that writing down goals helps develop good habits for a lifetime, I’ve created a FREE PRINTABLE: Motivation Goals for School. Kids can fill in their school year goals. This motivational worksheet can be referred to all school year. Use this free printable with your kids to help them write down their own school goals.

#ad Want to get kids motivated for school? Click through for these FREE printables including motivational posters and goal sheets.

In anticipation of the school year, I stopped at Walmart and I picked up the Scotch™ Thermal Laminator and Scotch™ Letter Size Thermal Laminating Pouches in a 50-pack. For some reason I always thought that a laminating machine would be really expensive, but it’s so reasonably priced (and now I can’t stop thinking about all the things in my house I want to laminate!) You can find these items in the back-to-school supplies section.

#ad Want to get kids motivated for school? Click through for these FREE printables including motivational posters and goal sheets.

I laminated my son’s school goals with the Scotch™ Thermal Laminator. After he was done with the goal sheet we simply slide it into the Scotch™ Letter Size Thermal Laminating Pouch. When the Scotch™ Thermal Laminator was warm and ready (a blue light indicator goes on), we slid the pouch in place and the machine did the rest!

We three-hole punched it and placed it where he’ll see it every day, in the front of his binder. This consistent reminder to my kids of their original goals is going to help them stay on track!

#ad Want to get kids motivated for school? Click through for these FREE printables including motivational posters and goal sheets.

More Motivation Reminders All Over the House

I have several motivational phrases in my home, including favorite Bible quotes. Seeing them daily and repeating them either in my head or out loud keeps me calm and centered. I like being surrounded by positive encouragements.

I created this trio of motivational quotes and printed them out. I’ve laminated them with the Scotch™ Thermal Laminator and will be tacking them on the walls of each of the kid’s rooms. With two of them in their final year of junior high, I want to fill them up with as much positive energy as I can before they start high school!

#ad Want to get kids motivated for school? Click through for these FREE printables including motivational posters and goal sheets.                      #ad Want to get kids motivated for school? Click through for these FREE printables including motivational posters and goal sheets.                           #ad Want to get kids motivated for school? Click through for these FREE printables including motivational posters and goal sheets.

FREE PRINTABLES: What Others Are Doing (orange), You Can If You Think You Can (blue)Motivation and Habits (green)

I frequently use Post-it® Notes around the house as motivational reminders. Seeing what I’ve written day after day really helps me soak in the affirmations. Strategically placed Post-it® notes with an uplifting message for the kids help keep them focused on their school goals.

I usually have my Post-it® Notes messages on the bathroom mirror. Consider placing motivation reminders where kids will see them frequently, like on a cereal box for the morning or inside their lunch box.

#ad Want to get kids motivated for school? Click through for these FREE printables including motivational posters and goal sheets.

Motivation Leads to Habit

Once kids are motivated, making something a regular habit will truly ingrain it into their routine. Since I was a child I’ve always taken a few minutes before bed to choose my clothes and prep for the next day. I have my kids do the same by getting outfits ready, putting their shoes and backpacks in the garage and we run through the next day’s calendar.

There are no last minute scrambles in the morning because we have a great habit of setting things up the night before. This daily preparation is now a habit that keeps me on track each day and sets up a calm and organized morning.

Another good habit is to keep binders and paperwork organized. Use of Post-it® Page Markers and Post-it® Flags Page Flags with crucial items tabbed saves time when trying to find assignments or important papers.

#ad Want to get kids motivated for school? Click through for these FREE printables including motivational posters and goal sheets.

What motivational goals are you setting up with your kids now in the hopes they will turn into habits? What #BackToSchoolGoals would you add to the list? Share with me in the comments!

Tips for Kids to Enjoy Walt Disney World Playgrounds

Working downtime into your Disney vacation schedule can benefit everyone in the family. When you’re not in the Parks, take time to enjoy the amenities like the pool, resort activities and the playgrounds. Allowing kids time to play lets them burn off extra energy. The various themed playgrounds available at many of the Walt Disney World resort hotels let kids do what they do best! Here are a few kid-tested tips to enjoying the Disney World playgrounds.

Disney World playgrounds and water play structures at the Walt Disney World Resort hotels in Orlando are another way for kids to play!

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!

Walt Disney World Resort Playgrounds

Playground structures are located at many of the resort hotels and are intended for kids aged 2-12. On my last Disney World trip I had my preschooler with me. I made sure we spent time at the resort playground each day. I found that he was much more cooperative about waiting in lines inside the Parks when he’d had the free play time!

Disney World playgrounds and water play structures at the Walt Disney World Resort hotels in Orlando are another way for kids to play!

Kids will love The Dig Site at Disney’s Caribbean Beach, with several areas to play.

Not all of the Disney World Resorts have a playground. Here’s a list of those that do:

  • All-Star Movies Resort
  • All-Star Music Resort
  • All-Star Sports Resort
  • Animal Kingdom Lodge
  • Animal Kingdom Villas – Jambo House
  • Art of Animation Resort
  • BoardWalk Inn
  • BoardWalk Villas
  • Caribbean Beach Resort
  • Coronado Springs Resort
  • Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground
  • Old Key West Resort
  • Pop Century Resort
  • Port Orleans Resort – French Quarter
  • Port Orleans Resort – Riverside
  • Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa
  • Walt Disney World Dolphin Hotel

What to Expect at Disney World Resort Playgrounds

Some of the playgrounds are more elaborate than others. Certain playgrounds are themed to the resort. Other playgrounds look like they’d be at your local park. Most will have some kind of climbing equipment, bars for hanging and slides.

Disney World playgrounds and water play structures at the Walt Disney World Resort hotels in Orlando are another way for kids to play!

The Disney World playground at Fort Wilderness is under a canopy of trees.

During my visits (late spring) the playgrounds didn’t have a lot of kids. I’d expect that during busier seasons, there might be more activity. If your kids are anything like mine, they prefer when the playground has other children to play with! Check the times posted on when the playground is open (they generally close at dusk).

Some play areas at Disney World are under shade and others are out in the open. Play structure equipment can get really hot in the sunshine. Be sure to check before letting your child play.

There seems to be a good number of benches and seating for adults around the playgrounds. But of course, sit where you can supervise your kids!

Disney World playgrounds and water play structures at the Walt Disney World Resort hotels in Orlando are another way for kids to play!

Coronado Spring’s Disney World playground is Mayan-themed like the resort.

Just Add Water!

A few of the pool areas at the Resorts also have interactive play structures. Kids can climb, splash, spray and stay cool. Many have height restrictions which limit use to preschool age or young elementary. These play structures are nicely suited for little ones who aren’t comfortable with full swimming pools or can’t yet swim.

Disney World playgrounds and water play structures at the Walt Disney World Resort hotels in Orlando are another way for kids to play!

Elaborate pirate-themed water play structure at Disney’s Caribbean Beach

Other Places to Play

No playground? No problem! Many of the resorts have areas for kids to play or simply run around. Always be considerate of noise (especially if the location is near hotel room windows and/or it’s particularly early in the day). And of course observe all rules, stay out of flower beds and take heed of signs that restrict access.

Kids can run and do cartwheels on the lawn at Beach Club.

Disney World playgrounds and water play structures at the Walt Disney World Resort hotels in Orlando are another way for kids to play!

No playground? Let kids run on the grass (so long as there’s no sign restricting it)

There’s a game of corn hole in the bus waiting area at Port Orleans Riverside.

Disney World playgrounds and water play structures at the Walt Disney World Resort hotels in Orlando are another way for kids to play!

A game of corn hole at Port Orleans Riverside

Many hotels, like Coronado Springs Resort have sandy beach areas.

Disney World playgrounds and water play structures at the Walt Disney World Resort hotels in Orlando are another way for kids to play!

Kids enjoy playing in the sandy beach at Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort.

Do you have a favorite play area at Disney World? Share with me in the comments!


For more play areas for kids at Disney,
check out the other great posts from the Blogorail!


 

Painted Rocks Project – How Rocks Get My Kids Active in Community

Want to start a painted rocks project in your community? See how painted rocks have fostered creativity and made my kids more active!

How can painted rocks make kids more active? And could painted rocks create a culture of kindness? My city started a painted rocks project that has everyone young and old getting out in the community to hide and find painted rocks of all styles and sizes. Find out more about how you can paint rocks or even start this project in your own area.

Painted Rocks Project #SanteeRocks

It started on a walk to the park. We found the painted rock on a park bench. One side of the rock had the word “DREAM”. The backside said, “Post a picture on #SanteeRocks FB page then rehide”.

Want to start a painted rocks project in your community? See how painted rocks have fostered creativity and made my kids more active!

Our first painted rock find!

The Santee Rocks Facebook page description states, “Santee Rocks began with the sole purpose of spreading joy, kindness, and a sense of community through creativity and was inspired by the Whidbey Island Rocks Facebook Group. The goal is to paint rocks and then hide them in various locations to bring joy to the finder”. 

 Want to start a painted rocks project in your community? See how painted rocks have fostered creativity and made my kids more active!

Getting Kids Active with Painted Rocks

Hardly a day goes by without my son requesting that we go on a walk to look for Santee Rocks. He knows exactly how many he’s found over the last few months (26).

And when my son does find a rock, he shows it proudly to anyone passing by before finding a perfect hiding spot. I’m seeing him be less shy and more conversational.

Want to start a painted rocks project in your community? See how painted rocks have fostered creativity and made my kids more active!

This patriotic rock was found (along with a Susan B. Anthony coin) on the Fourth of July!

While my daughter isn’t as likely to chat it up she’s enjoys showing off her artistic side by painting rocks to hide. All the kids love to see the rocks that they’ve painted being shared on the Facebook page.

Painted Rocks of Your Own – Host a Painting Party!

Ready to paint your own rocks? Gather up a few inexpensive supplies and get creative! Use your inspiration from anywhere. We’ve seen some incredibly beautiful rocks on our Facebook page. And we’ve found some rocks that were probably painted by 2-year olds! Doesn’t matter. Each time my son finds a rock, he’s thrilled, no matter what it looks like.

Want to start a painted rocks project in your community? See how painted rocks have fostered creativity and made my kids more active!  Want to start a painted rocks project in your community? See how painted rocks have fostered creativity and made my kids more active!

You’ll need rocks, of course. Smooth river stones can be purchased if you don’t have rocks in your yard to use. There were some issues in our community when people were taking rocks from in front of shops to use for painting. Don’t steal rocks! Use your own or buy them.


Collect a variety of acrylic paints and paintbrushes. Use big brushes for covering the entire rock with paint and thinner brushes for details. A paint palette is a mess-free place to hold and mix colors (or use a paper plate for quick clean up).


You’ll need a permanent marker, like a Sharpie to write instructions on the back. Sealant is a must otherwise your artwork will wash away if the rock gets wet. Extra items could include a painting smock and a table drop cloth.


Starting Your Own Painted Rocks Group

If you think that your own community would benefit from something fun like this painted rock project, consider starting it up in your own area. Start off by enlisting friends to create their own painted rocks to hide. Start a Facebook group and things should get rolling from there. Our community site has over 10K followers!

Want to start a painted rocks project in your community? See how painted rocks have fostered creativity and made my kids more active!

Dad found this painted rock and brought it home for my son to hide the next day.

Basic Painted Rocks Rules – (adapted from #SanteeRocks Facebook group)

  • If you find a painted rock that you can’t bear to part with, please keep it. Replace it with one of your own creations.
  • Coat rocks with a sealer for longevity.
  • Do not decorate rocks with glue-on accessories. These decorations will eventually fall off and become litter and a hazard to wildlife.
  • Be sensitive to the environment, stay on all trails, and do not hunt in protected habitats.
  • Do not hide rocks inside businesses
  • We encourage you to take rocks to other towns, states or countries to hide and share. This is a kindness project, and kindness has no boundaries!

  


For more on activities and ways to beat summer boredom,
check out the other great posts from the Blogorail!