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12 Secrets to Successful and Stress-free School Mornings

What are your feelings about school mornings? Maybe you and the kids are “morning people” and everyone jumps out of bed on time. But if you’re reading this, probably not! Your mornings are likely stressful and rushed. Start your day on school mornings without the stress with these 12 tips with ideas for a happier daily morning routine.

Making School Mornings Easier

I have the morning routine down pat! It wasn’t always that way…in fact, I have a decades-old history of oversleeping, scrambling out the door wearing two different shoes, hitting the snooze alarm 13 times and all those other not-so-fun ways to meet the sunrise! Just ask my mom, the poor lady who had the privilege of waking me throughout elementary school…boy, was I a groggy mess!

This is an update of a post originally published on August 28th, 2014.

Stressed out and rushed with the kids on school mornings? These 12 tips for streamlining the morning routine are easy and practical for getting kids in back to school mode for stress-free school mornings!

12 Tips for Stress-free School Mornings

I decided I didn’t want to spend my mornings stressed out, yelling or running late. Once my kids were school age and ready for school, I implemented these secrets to successful school mornings. I’m here to tell you that having a morning routine is key to household happiness. Nobody feels very excited about their day when it starts in a frantic rush. Read on for my tips to streamline your morning routine and keep yourself sane in the process. Ask me how many times my kids have been late to school and I will proudly tell you NEVER!

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!

No more stressful or rushed mornings! These 12 tips for streamlining the morning routine are easy and practical.

1. Prep for School Mornings the Night Before

Mornings don’t start in the morning, they start the night before! Prepare as much as you can the day and night before. This way school mornings are started off in a calm manner. There isn’t any wild rushing around in search of things or trying to get too much done in a limited amount of time. Here are 7 ways that you can streamline the morning routine by prepping the night before.

2. Plan Outfits Head to Toe

Ever since I was in Kindergarten, I’ve planned my next-day wardrobe the evening before. My son has no issues with getting up, pulling out a shirt and shorts and easy-peasy, he’s dressed. But when pressed for time, some kids will have trouble choosing their outfits for the day. They may also choose weather-inappropriate things (like a sweater when it’s going to be 90 degrees!)

I work with my kids to plan outfits for the week and stack them inside a closet organizer along with socks, underpants and hair accessories. All the kids have to do in the morning is grab the next outfit and get dressed.

No more stressful or rushed mornings! These 12 tips for streamlining the morning routine are easy and practical.

A hanging organizer for outfits.

I don’t stop wardrobe planning with the kids. Every night I decide what I’m going to wear and set it aside in my closet. I pull out my jewelry and set it on my dresser so in the morning I don’t even second guess myself, I just grab and go. Have your kids help choose their outfits on Sunday night and gather all parts (socks, underpants, accessories) so they have them together.

Stressed out and rushed with the kids on school mornings? These 12 tips for streamlining the morning routine are easy and practical for getting kids in back to school mode for stress-free school mornings!


3. Everything Has a Place

No mad dash looking for anything in the morning because it will have already been put there the night before. Teach your kids to prep the night before and get them in a lifelong good habit of organization and timeliness! Bedrooms are tidied up and toys and books are put away before bedtime. We have no morning scrambles for anything because it was already set in the right place the night before.

I recommend having designated hooks and/or storage bins for school morning items. I love using a label maker so there’s no confusion on where things go.

Stressed out and rushed with the kids on school mornings? These 12 tips for streamlining the morning routine are easy and practical for getting kids in back to school mode for stress-free school mornings!

Backpacks – Every afternoon after school, backpacks should be cleared out. Then return all paperwork, permission slips, library books and homework to the backpack in the evening so it’s ready to grab in the morning.

Shoes – Shoes should be sitting together where you can step into them going out the door.

Hair – Hair styling products like hairbrush, de-tangling spray and elastics/bows should be together so it’s easy to style in the morning. We keep all hair styling items in a bin under the bathroom sink so we can pull it all out and put it away fast.

Jackets – Jackets are on their own hook next to the backpacks.

Stressed out and rushed with the kids on school mornings? These 12 tips for streamlining the morning routine are easy and practical for getting kids in back to school mode for stress-free school mornings!

4. Lunches Made in Bunches

Buy in bulk and portion items out into plastic snack bags. Again individual bins are great for storage! Have separate bins for the fridge and another for the cupboards to hold school lunch items. I store cold snacks in a bin in the fridge (like cheese cubes, melon slices or carrot sticks). Dry snacks are in a bin in the cupboard (like chips and crackers, granola bars or a cookie).

The only thing I make the morning-of is the sandwich. Everything else has already been prepped so in the morning all I do is grab a few pre-portioned bags to make a well-rounded meal.


Stressed out and rushed with the kids on school mornings? These 12 tips for streamlining the morning routine are easy and practical for getting kids in back to school mode for stress-free school mornings!

5. Set the Stage for Sleep

Sometimes I have to remind my husband that a tickle-fest right before bedtime is not going to get our kindergartner in the mood for sleep! Shortly after dinner, we start the routine of quiet playtime, reading in bed, a light snack and teeth brushing before turning off the lights. A warm bath or shower and lavender essential oil in the diffuser right before bed can also help kids relax. Read more about using essential oils in the bedtime routine.

We turn off the television long before bedtime to keep stimulus at bay. The pace is slow and calm and our kids know what to expect, even the toddler (don’t try to skip story time!). Keeping the nightly routine the same every evening can help sleep come quickly and have kids sleeping all night in their own beds.

6. A Reasonable Bedtime

According to the National Sleep Foundation website, elementary school aged kids need about 10-11 hours of sleep each night. My kids wake up at 6 am Monday through Friday so that means they should be going to bed no later than 8:00 pm.

With a toddler, first grader and high school aged kids in our house, we have everyone in bed around the same time each night. Bedtime is between 7:45 to 8:15 pm and no later than 9 pm on the weekends. We aim for consistency on the bedtime and the kids show the consistency in their behavior and attitudes. They hop right out of bed in the morning, aren’t groggy in the afternoons and are sleepy enough in the evenings that they put themselves to bed on time each night.

No more stressful or rushed mornings! These 12 tips for streamlining the morning routine are easy and practical.

7. Put Yourself to Bed at a Decent Time, Too!

I’m the worst offender of this in my family. After everyone else is in bed and I finally find time to myself I find myself puttering around doing nothing, reading too many Facebook posts and starting projects that really shouldn’t be started at 10:36 pm. And then I’m kicking myself in the morning when I don’t want to get up!

I’ve pledged to start getting to bed at a decent time, one that gives me more than 5 measly hours of sleep each night. Even after just a week of this I’m feeling better, waking easily and am not “hitting the wall” at 2 o’clock each day any more.

8. A Restful Room is Conducive to Sleep 

A slightly cool room, comfy bedding, white noise (like a fan), darkness, and a soothing scent (like lavender) can all invite refreshing sleep. On occasion (especially during periods of stress), my kids have enjoyed listening to a relaxing story tape or soft music with the lights out.

I’ve trained my kids not to require a nightlight because if the lights are on, they are more likely to have their eyes open. If it’s very dark in the room then what’s the point of having your eyes open, there is nothing to look at…close your eyes and go to sleep!

I have more sleeping tips here from TravelingMom.


Good Morning Sunshine!

After a peaceful evening the night before and a good night’s rest, your kids will be in a better position to have a happy school morning routine. Here are my tips for nailing the morning routine and getting the kids out the door on time.

Streamlining Your Morning Routine

9. Awakening to an Alarm Clock 

If you have kids who struggle to get out of bed in the morning, get them used to waking with an alarm clock. Looking back, if I’d used an alarm clock as a kid instead of waking to my mom coming in to my room (over and over!) I would have gotten up the first time instead of the tenth. The alarm clock only goes off once unless you use the snooze button. But I’ve never taught my kids what the snooze button is (they assume that the clock goes off once and that’s it…tricky me!)

If you don’t get up you’re going to be late, easy as that. When MOM is waking you, as a kid you know that she’ll keep coming back in as many times as it takes and eventually the kids and mom are trained in the wrong direction!

Are a habitual snoozer? Try to break yourself out of the habit. It’s not good quality sleep anyway. Get up right away and either open the window to let in the morning sunlight or turn on the light in the room to get your body adjusted. Make your bed right away and you won’t be tempted to crawl back in!


10. The Most Important Meal of the Day: Breakfast

We never leave the house without breakfast. I’m surprised when my kids say that so many of their friends don’t eat breakfast in the morning. I can’t imagine trying to function for so many hours until lunch on an empty stomach. Leave plenty of time in the morning routine to fit in a good breakfast.

I get up early enough to prepare a quick and balanced breakfast for me and the kids. This could be scrambled eggs, toast and a slice of melon. Fruit smoothies with juice, milk or soy milk are a hit. Homemade oatmeal with diced apples and cinnamon is often requested. Or if we are more rushed, a simple bowl of cereal and a banana.

Stressed out and rushed with the kids on school mornings? These 12 tips for streamlining the morning routine are easy and practical for getting kids in back to school mode for stress-free school mornings!

I like a bowl of Greek yogurt with fruit, agave and a sprinkling of granola. I often take mine “to-go” and eat it when I get to work. Sometimes the night before I will make banana or apple nut muffins to include with breakfast.

On weekends when I have time to make pancakes or waffles, I make extras and freeze them to heat up for breakfasts during the week. Add some whipped cream and a few blueberries and voila, a fancy breakfast on a Thursday!

Streamlining Your Morning Routine

11. Final Brushing Call: Teeth, Hair and Out the Door!

I have the kids take turns in the bathroom brushing teeth and hair because mayhem and delays tend to ensue when they attempt to share the sink! I usually give my daughter’s hair a quick style and maybe pop in a bow. We keep a box under the sink that holds hair elastics, a brush and detangling spray so everything is in one place. If a fancier hair style is requested (like for picture day), we allow extra time by getting up earlier.

Give kids the 10 minute and 5 minute countdown. Ten minutes before you need them out of the house, call it out. Then repeat at 5 minutes till. We keep shoes and backpacks on a shelf in the garage so the kids grab their lunches off the counter on their way out and within a few minutes we’re in the car and on our way.

Streamlining Your Morning Routine

12. It’s Early…Know Your Limits

Don’t try and cram too many chores in the morning routine. I keep it simple by requesting that beds be made before we leave the house. My older kids also take turns emptying the dishwasher and reloading with the breakfast dishes. If complicated hair styles or made-to-order breakfasts are making your kids miss the bus, save them for the weekends when you have more time.

Do you have a slow-poke? Consider a timer. I’ve also been known to set the timer for my daughter when she dilly-dallies over her cereal bowl; when it dings she knows she has one minute to wrap things up and move on to the next task.

If you keep finding yourself running late, set the morning alarm clock for fifteen minutes earlier to allow a little extra time…there’s no harm in arriving early. Only you know where to draw the line so set the limits for your kids and it will set them up for morning success!

Stressed out and rushed with the kids on school mornings? These 12 tips for streamlining the morning routine are easy and practical for getting kids in back to school mode for stress-free school mornings! #School #BacktoSchool #Kids #Morning

 

 

16 Ways to Surprise Your Kids (and Tips for When a Surprise Goes Bad)

SURPRISE!! You’re plotting and planning out the perfect way to surprise your kids. Maybe it’s a surprise party with all his friends for a milestone birthday. Or you’re surprising a kid with their first cell phone. I bet it’s a surprise Disney vacation!! That’s always fun, right? Ehh, maybe? Kids can be surprisingly sensitive and emotional about things that aren’t a part of their usual routine. As I’m sure you already know, sometimes the slightest thing can set off a kid’s mood. And that goes for surprises, no matter how amazing that surprise is. Surprises can make some kids cry. Or get mad. Or even be embarrassed or disappointed.

I have the tested and tried tips to surprise your kids, how to handle things when a surprise goes bad and some simply sweet ways to surprise your children.

Please note that I use affiliate links in my posts. Clicking through and making a purchase helps me in a small financial way (without any additional cost to you). Thank you!

The Good and Bad of Surprising Kids

Last week, my daughter’s junior high school teacher sent me an email to let me know that my daughter would be receiving an award. My first question back to the teacher was, “Did you tell her she’s getting the award? We can’t make it a surprise”.

See, I’ve learned over the years that my daughter isn’t the kind of kid who enjoys surprises. Getting called up in front of her classmates to stand on stage and have the teacher offer a glowing review? That would be akin to facing the firing squad for this easily-embarrassed 14-year old. Several years back her 6th grade teacher insisted on surprising her with an award and the poor child stood in front of her schoolmates, crying openly. The teacher felt badly. And now we know: surprises just aren’t the best idea for this child.

Is there ever a good time to surprise kids? Should certain surprises be allowed? Is it a rite of passage to surprise kids and let them deal with it, even if it might upset them?

Is surprising your kids ever a good idea? These are the tips for how to plan a perfect surprise, what to do if a surprise goes wrong and 16 sweet surprises for kids!

Is a surprise birthday party ever a good idea?

WHY Do You Want to Surprise Your Child?

Whether is a surprise trip or a birthday surprise party, the temptation to plan a huge SURPRISE for kids is strong! The question you need to ask is “Why”? If you think that the surprise adds to the celebration, then go forward (after reading the rest of the cautions in this post!). But if the surprise is just your way of sharing the information then the actual event should stand on its own. Don’t diminish the celebration by tacking on the surprise beginning unless it’s adding that-much-more to the emotional punch. And if you think that your child can appropriately handle the surprise as well.

Who’s In On the Surprise?

Secret keeping. Little white lies. Sneaking. It can be hard to keep a surprise a secret. More often than not, the person getting surprised starts getting an uneasy feeling that something fishy is going on. If your surprise relies on being overly sneaky or telling your child a lie, you may want to rethink the surprise plan. No child wants that awkward feeling when the truth is revealed. And many kids won’t appreciate that you planned something special without them. They may have hurt feelings knowing that you were keeping secrets with their teacher/grandparent/friends behind their back. It won’t matter to them the reasoning, they may be upset all the same.

Is surprising your kids ever a good idea? These are the tips for how to plan a perfect surprise, what to do if a surprise goes wrong and 16 sweet surprises for kids!

A surprise trip to the beach after church was a welcome respite.

Know Your Child Before You Plan a Surprise

My 6-year old son is a go-with-the-flow kind of guy. I could surprise him with just about anything and he’d go joyfully right along with it. I’ve surprised him with a Disneyland trip and he was just delighted. But not every kid is like that.

In fact, most kids (and some adults) are the opposite. Many kids need ample time to process before an event. Only you truly know your child and how they will react to a surprise. There’s no point in planning what’s supposed to be a FUN event and then having the initial reaction put a damper on the celebration.

Easing Kids Into Surprises

Not sure how your child will react to a surprise? Start small with little surprises and see how it goes. Little changes in the regular routine can help your kids to be more flexible. Try something like, “Today we’re doing something different! We’re doing/going to….” and then surprise them with something that’s unusual for your normal schedule. Make it something that your kid usually enjoys, like the park, library, movies, play date, picnic, baking cupcakes, etc. See how your child reacts to the change in routine and you’ll be able to gauge how they’ll react to a bigger surprise.

Is surprising your kids ever a good idea? These are the tips for how to plan a perfect surprise, what to do if a surprise goes wrong and 16 sweet surprises for kids!

Everyone’s in the car, but the destination is a surprise!

Surprises That Involve Friends

The very essence of a surprise is the reaction that it ensues. The reaction from your child after a surprise could be a squeal of excitement. It could also be embarrassment or overwhelming emotions that can’t be contained. And no child wants to cry in front of their friends.

What to Do Instead

While a surprise birthday party with your child’s entire class might sound like a blast to you, this may be incredibly overwhelming for your kid. Instead of a surprise, involve your child in the planning process so they have more control over the events. If you REALLY want to create a surprise that includes friends, choose carefully. Invite only one or two very close friends that are more like family.

Some kids even feel awkward opening gifts in front of their friends. The uncomfortable feeling of not knowing “What’s inside?!” and then having to gauge a proper response in front of a crowd can make some kids upset. Consider opening gifts after the party if your child can’t handle the surprise element of opening gifts in front of their friends.

Is surprising your kids ever a good idea? These are the tips for how to plan a perfect surprise, what to do if a surprise goes wrong and 16 sweet surprises for kids!

Disneyland or Walt Disney World Surprise

Living just 90 minutes from Disneyland, I’ve had my share of Disneyland surprise vacations. I have a vivid memory of my parents surprising us with a Disney day instead of going to school. I was about ten years old and the surprise was great! I’ve also surprised my son on his birthday with a Disneyland trip. We go to Disney frequently so he was familiar and excited about the day trip. And I think that’s the key. He’d been to Disneyland before so the place, events, rides, etc wasn’t a surprise; just the fact that we were going was the surprise. But once I surprised him with the day’s plans, he was thrilled because he knew what to expect when we got there.

My friend and fellow blogger Jessica at The Happiest Blog on Earth suggests that parents Don’t Do a Surprise Disneyland Trip. Jessica brings up some great points, including my favorite – Kids should be involved in the Disney vacation planning. I’m totally against making your very first Disney vacation a complete surprise. I always cringe when I hear about parents taking their kids to the airport and getting on a plane to Disney when the kids don’t know where they’re headed. If your kids have been before a surprise may go over better because they know what to expect. But if it’s your first time, I recommend letting kids get involved in the planning before the trip.

A surprise birthday Disneyland trip for my son’s 5th birthday. It went over well because he’s been to Disneyland before.

Disney Vacation Surprise Twists

You can still make the vacation a surprise, if it’s handled in a delicate way. There are tons of cute ways to surprise the kids at home, several months ahead of your trip. If you’re planning a Disney vacation, I recommend ordering the Disney Video Planning Guide (it’s FREE!). Watch it together as a family and plan your trip.

CLICK THE IMAGE TO RECEIVE YOUR FREE DISNEY VACATION PLANNING VIDEO

Then check out these other tips:

Is surprising your kids with a Disney vacation ever a good idea? These are the tips for how to plan a perfect surprise, what to do if a surprise goes wrong and 16 sweet surprises for kids! #Disney #Surprise #TravelwithKids #DisneyWorld #Disneyland #FamilyTravel #TravelPlanning #Positiveparenting



Time to Let the News Soak In

Don’t think that you can’t EVER surprise your kids! Surprises are ultimately changes in what’s expected. Kids absolutely need to learn how to be flexible, how to roll-with-the-punches and how to adjust to change. But there are ways of doing a surprise that honors your child’s personality, doesn’t embarrass them and also builds their trust in you.

Make a Surprise Announcement

Instead of making the surprise happen right then and there, make the announcement the surprise. Avoid putting kids “on the spot” by making surprise announcements at home without an audience.

To Video or Not?

I know you may want to video the surprise but we all know kids act weird when we turn on the camera! Consider hiding the camera to show them the video later (and only share if you have their consent).

Is surprising your kids ever a good idea? These are the tips for how to plan a perfect surprise, what to do if a surprise goes wrong and 16 sweet surprises for kids!

Surprise, we bought you a new bike!

Allow Time Between the Announcement and the Event

Processing thoughts and feelings can take some kids time. Personally for my kids, I try to inform them several months before a trip. This allows us to discuss the plans over and over, to talk about our activities, meals and schedule. Fortunately we’ve never had any travel meltdowns and I know that pre-vacation prep is a big part of that reason. When we know what to expect, we can relax and know what’s going to happen next.

When a Surprise Goes Bad

So what happens if a surprise goes badly? Your son screamed when you surprised him with the announcement that he’s going to be a big brother. Maybe your preschooler cried when you said you were going to Disneyland? And your daughter had a total meltdown when you threw her a surprise birthday party.

Resist the urge to admonish a child for their poor reaction. It can be difficult to contain our own disappointment when things do go as we planned! But your child doesn’t want to hear about how much your trip costs, how much work you put into the surprise, etc etc. They just need your reassurance.

A silent hug goes a long way towards comforting your child. Consider pulling them away to a quiet area where they can process and calm down. Later, you can discuss what happened and talk about why you wanted to surprise them.

Fun Ways to Surprise Your Kids

Little surprises are a wonderful way to show love and playfulness. These simple and sweet surprises will surely delight all children.

  • Host a board game night
  • Serve breakfast in bed
  • Put loose change inside the pocket of their jacket
  • Get out the art/craft supplies on a whim
  • Print out favorite photos of you and your kids and tape them onto their bedroom wall
  • Send them a letter in the mail
  • Cook their favorite dinner without telling them
  • Make a treat for after-dinner dessert

Pistachio pudding is a special surprise treat for my kiddo

  • Have a spontaneous dance party! Put on music and just start moving.
  • Serve their after school snack on a fancy plate
  • Take the kids to the park after school instead of heading straight home
  • Leave a note next to their plate
  • Build a fort in the living room to greet them when they wake up on a weekend
  • Create a treasure hunt at home for a small prize
  • Build a reading nook (a pile of pillows in a corner with a stack of books will suffice)
  • Rent a new movie to surprise them with on a Friday night

Is surprising your kids ever a good idea? These are the tips for how to plan a perfect surprise, what to do if a surprise goes wrong and 16 sweet surprises for kids! #Surprise #PositiveParenting #Family #Kids #Parenting #SpecialNeeds

 

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.

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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