Why I Love Reward Charts for Kids!

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Reward Charts for Kids

My little princess has always been a bit…let’s say ambitious.  She loves to win at CandyLand, she loves to be the line leader at school, she loves to “teach” her little brother how to “correctly” play with toys, and she loves to keep us all in check at home.

For these reasons, reward charts work fantastic for her.  And, we have used reward charts for LOTS of things – potty training, learning to contribute to household chores, learning to read, learning to try new foods…you name it, you can make a chart for it.

I think that reward charts are a wonderful way to help your child stay focused, reach their goal(s) and nurture positive reinforcement.

Where to Find Reward Charts

I’ve seen them done LOTS of different ways.  From super cute, adorable handmade charts with artwork, to store bought magnetic charts, to simple handwritten ones on construction paper.  You can buy them at almost any teaching store…for us, the closest is Lakeshore Learning.  My latest creation was a cute reward chart from the “Dollar Spot” at Target.

How to Make a Reward Chart 

1.  If you choose to make one, start by picking your format.  I usually start with construction paper, markers and favorite stickers.

2.  Decide about the length of goal-setting for your little one.  If you’re using it for potty-training, then you’ll need to make one that fits within those parameters (for example, dry and clean milestones for a certain number of days).  If you’re using it to incorporate chores or try new foods, decide if you want to set daily, weekly or monthly goals.

3.  Stock up on small, itty bitty stickers – I personally use stickers, but you could also use crayons or markers to make check marks, shapes, etc.

4.  Once I figure out how I want to structure the chart, then I’ll decorate it with my little girl’s favorite stickers to snazz it up a bit.

Where to Post Them

Kiddos are all about instant gratification.  This means that when your little one earns a sticker, you need to make sure to let them put a sticker on their chart immediately (if possible).  I’ve found that the concept of a reward chart loses its luster when my munchkin adds a sticker hours after she’s earned it.  It just doesn’t mean the same to her.

So post them where they’re easy to see, easy to reach and convenient for you and your child. I keep the stickers where my daughter can easily reach them too.

Earning Their Reward

So you may be wondering what kind of reward is appropriate.  Honestly, I think it depends on the kiddo.  I’ve done simple treats like coloring books or little trinkets.  I’ve done big rewards like the Dora the Explorer swimming bath time mermaid doll.  It depends on the length of your child’s goal and determining what’s important to them.

I’ve heard of some of my friends rewarding small goals with a trip to the “treasure chest,” filled with Dollar Tree goodies.  Or earning tokens instead of stickers, having the child “save their tokens,” then having them redeem the tokens for a certain token-appropriate treat (for example, five tokens = a new book or 30 tokens = a new doll).

For my daughter, I’ve found that talking about her reward, what she has to do to earn it, AND letting her go to the store with me to buy it is the best way to ensure her success.

We always buy the toy first…I let her hold it in the store…then when we get home, she helps me find a “home” for it until she earns it.  That way she’s really invested in earning her treat.

You can do it whatever way you’re comfortable with and whatever works for you and your child – the possibilities are endless.

Last But Not Least…

Consistency is the name of the game.  Just like most things in parenting, I’ve found that consistency is just about the only way this type of positive reinforcement works.

Before you begin, talk to your child about what they need to do to earn their stickers, check marks, tokens, etc.  Then only give it to them when they’ve completed their task.  If you give in to an early reward, or give in to stickers without the child completing their goal that you both agreed upon, you’ve lost your street cred.

If your kiddo is struggling, gently remind them how proud you are of them, how hard they’re working, and how close they are to accomplishing their goal.  Remind them we all have tough days, even mamas.

Oh, and a quick note…I make it a point to never take away a sticker.  If she is behaving naughty over something else, I will absolutely will correct her and deal with the infraction. But if my little girl has earned a sticker, I let her keep the sticker on the chart for a job well done on her already completed task.

And, when they earn a sticker or token, verbally praise, praise, praise!  Reward charts are all about positive reinforcement and helping your munchkin stay focused on reaching a goal or milestone.  You want them to feel good about themselves…and who better to do that, than you?!

What works best for helping your children reach an important goal or milestone?  Do you use reward charts?  Or use other methods?  Let’s share ideas…please feel free to comment below!

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Family-Friendly Travel: Bacara Resort & Spa

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Bacara Review

Last week my family was invited to visit the Bacara Resort & Spa just north of beautiful Santa Barbara to share a firsthand Bacara review on its family-friendly offerings.

It’s a tough job. [Please don’t hate me!]

Santa Barbara is one of my favorite places on Earth, and I had always wanted to stay at this luxury resort in Santa Barbara, but to be honest, I would have never thought of taking my kids there.

To me, it seemed like a high-end property geared more towards adults and couples. Which it is, don’t get me wrong, but what I learned from our stay is that Bacara is also a fabulous family resort in Southern California!

Situated on 78 acres on the beautiful Pacific coast, it is an easy drive for a getaway, but far enough away to make you  feel like you are in a different world.

After a busy summer running around like crazy, we valeted the car upon arrival and didn’t leave. We didn’t have to, or want to. To spend two days relaxing was a much-needed family retreat.

Here is a view of the property from a nature walk we took. From where I am standing to take this photo, I am still on Bacara property.

ACCOMMODATIONS 

The property is expansive with beautiful green lawns, cheery flowers and curvy walkways nestled between Spanish-style villas. I loved the European flair of the architecture.  Each Santa Barbara hotel room at Bacara boasts its own private balcony or patio with views of the mountains, garden, or ocean.

We were placed in a Signature Suite – the ultimate accommodations for a family. This view off of our patio took my breath away when we walked in.

Our hotel suite consisted of two adjoining rooms, one king sized bed and bathroom on one side, pull out sleeper sofa with its own bathroom on the other side and a wrap around adjoining balcony. I love being able to put my kids to sleep in one room, and have another space to stay up later with my hubby.

This is a luxury resort in every sense of the word. Frette linens, robes, a Keurig coffee maker (my fave), DVD player for the kids (pack some DVDs or rent from the lobby), deep soaking tubs with separate showers. Everything designed with the guest’s comfort in mind.

THE POOLS!

If your kids are anything like mine, ALL they want to do when visiting a hotel is SWIM SWIM SWIM.

Bacara has three zero-edge heated saline swimming resort pools, one of which is an Adult Only Spa Pool (next trip), the other two were completely family-friendly and I was surprised at how many kids we saw swimming.

The upper level Cabana Pool is where we spent most of our time, as the Jacuzzi (or Shampoozi as my youngest calls it), was steps away from the big pool, so they spent lots of time going back and forth between the two.

Family Bacara Review

The second day we had a poolside Cabana reserved for us, which was AWESOME. I wonder if my girls realize just how lucky they are!?

The Cabanas had cushy lounge chairs, a dining table, TV, fridge stocked with waters, sodas and fresh fruit, and electrical to charge your phone or iPad.

My girls would swim, then come take a 20 minute break in the shade, watch a show or read, then go back in again. It was wonderful having lunch at the table inside and a place for little one to chill out after exerting so much energy on her new swimming skills.

And talk about Bacara being family-friendly, the oceanview Resort Pool also had an adjoining sandbox area with sand toys for the kiddos to play in!

THE BEACH!

The Bacara Resort & Spa is the only true beachfront hotel in Santa Barbara with the beach and sand only steps away. My oldest daughter loves the beach. Watching her play in the waves is the cutest thing ever to me.

Both days we took an hour to go down to the beach to explore and let them run around.  Bacara also has a beachfront snack bar called the Beach House as well as activities you can book through Bacara Adventures if you want to do any water sports, surfing, or kayaking along the Goleta coast.

Bacara Review Beach

To note: Santa Barbara is known to have natural tar on its beaches that will get on your feet. But not to fear, you can ask at the poolside restaurant for tar remover and it comes off easily.

DINING AT BACARA 

Bacara has five different fine dining options on property. After a full day of swimming the first day, the girls were so wiped out, we called In-Room Dining and ordered room service for dinner.

Oscar set up a nice white linen table for us on our balcony. My husband and I opened the complimentary bottle of wine included in the resort fee and we had a comfy dinner at “home” in our jammies and robes.

Room service with a view…

We also ate  lunch at the pool both days and had great food. A special shout out to Isaac who took great care of us all day at the pool – exemplary service.

The second night we dined at The Bistro, a casual Santa Barbara restaurant, which just opened after being closed for renovations. The Bistro has large outdoor patio dining with a beautiful view of the ocean.

The Bistro Bacara Review

The Bistro was fabulous. Completely family-friendly, including kid cups, crayons and activity books upon seating. Why doesn’t every restaurant do this?

We saw lots of other children dining at The Bistro, which made us feel right at home.

My husband and I started by sharing a fresh caprese salad, followed by their pappardelle alla bolognese pasta and halibut over pesto-creamed orzo which we both split again because we couldn’t decide.

Our food was excellent, as was the service.

If you go, this pasta dish is a must!

The Bistro Review

ACTIVITIES 

Bacara offers many fun activities including:

~ Star gazing every Thursday night during summer
~ Complimentary wine tasting in the lobby on Friday nights
~ Live music in the lobby on Friday and Saturday nights
~ S’more making on weekends in the summer
~ Complimentary weekend movies in their onsite movie theater with popcorn. Yes, an ONSITE movie theater. What!?

In addition, I don’t even have space to go into detail, but their 4-story Spa offers an array of complimentary fitness classes for adults, as well as full use of the facility without a treatment. Oh, Bacara Spa, I will be back to see you! I wish we could have met this trip, but I will think of you often until I return…

MONARCH KIDS’ CLUB 

On weekends (and some weekdays based on prior reservations – call for details), their Monarch Kids’ Club for kids ages 5 – 12 offers kids the chance to play and explore Bacara while parents enjoy the spa or just a few hours to relax.

Bacara Kids Club

 ENJOY THE NATURAL BEAUTY

Like I mentioned, Bacara sits on a vast area of land, once inhabited by a Native American tribe called the Chumash. Bacara is working on creating special self guided nature hikes, where you can walk and see markers of native plants and learn a little more about Chumash history.

My family took a nature walk on the last morning. One of the oceanfront trails goes up to a bluff where you can see the ocean and Bacara property.  The old tree at the top of the bluff was so beautiful.

Our family absolutely loved the Bacara Resort & Spa. Granted, it is a splurge. A location and the amenities found at Bacara come with a price tag.  But if you are wanting a luxurious getaway, and can save money by not flying, Bacara might be the perfect option for you.

Make sure to visit their website for Santa Barbara resort specials & promotions.

www.BacaraResort.com

Thank you Bacara for hosting our family and for the priceless family memories we will take with us!

[Disclosure: We received a complimentary room, dinner at The Bistro, and Cabana rental provided by Bacara Resort & Spa. All opinions in this post are 100% my own. I appreciated the opportunity to experience this special resort more than words can express. Thank you!]

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An Easy Way to Teach Kids Their Phone Number

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I have discovered an easy way to teach kids their phone number and I wanted to share it with you today.

It’s always been important for both of my kiddos learn how to recite important identifying numbers early in  life, particularily their phone numbers and address for their safety.

Just think – in an emergency, does your child know their phone number?

Now days, most people I know (myself included) operate with their cell phones, and very few seem to have the archaic “landline” anymore, so you have to determine the best number to teach them first.

Mine?  Daddy’s?  I chose my cell phone first…because…well, I’m mommy.

Sing a Song with M-I-C-K-E-Y

Now for the simple part.  Sing a song.  And not just any song…but the old school Mickey Mouse Club March.  Need a refresher on how that goes? Watch it with your kids here…

So here goes a sample verse:

“M-I-C-K-E-Y M-O-U-S-E
Hey! there, Hi! there, Ho! there
You’re as welcome as can be
M-I-C-K-E-Y M-O-U-S-E”

Okay, now that you have that tune in your head (and it might stay there), adjust the following lyrics to:

(Put your 10 digit phone number, including your area code, in for the “M-I-C-K-E-Y M-O-U-S-E” part)

“1-1-1(pause) 1-1-1(pause) 1-1-1-1 (hold out this number for two syllables to make it fit within the tune)

Mommy’s phone, mommy’s phone
Whenever you need help, call mommy’s phone!”

A little cheesy, I know, but it WORKS!

Like with any new concept, your kiddo is probably not going to pick up on it immediately.  Practice it every day with just ONE phone number. They will get it. Now I quiz my five-year-old at random times and have her recite it.

After a few months of practicing it every day (just to make sure it was drilled into her memory), we practiced her daddy’s number.  She now knows both without blinking an eye.

Note:  If your cell phone has a password protected lock screen, keep in mind that you’ll have to teach them that passcode too!  What if they have to grab your phone and dial 9-1-1 on their own?  Make sure they know how to use your cell phone, just in case.

Do you have any tips or tricks to share?  Any song(s) that work better?  How did you teach your child their phone number?  Please share below!

 Photo Credit:  photo©2013 Prepayasyougo, Flickr

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Recommended Summer Reads

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Good summer reads 2013

Last week I reached out to my personal and Tiny Oranges Facebook friends for recommendations on good summer reads.

So many people had good book recommendations, I had to share the list with you. I just finished Gone Girl, and it was SO GOOD. I couldn’t put it down. Highly recommend if you haven’t read.

Do you have some must read books to share? Please comment below!

Good Summer Reads 

War Brides

The Last Letter from Your Lover

Orphan Train

Someone Could Get Hurt

Gone Girl

Kite Runner

The Fever Tree

What Alice Forgot

Sarah’s Key

The Storyteller

Fly Away

Wild

Defending Jacob

Executive Orders

When She Woke

Moloka’i

Game of Thrones

Where’d You Go, Bernadette

Beautiful Ruins

The Fault in Our Stars

Truth in Advertising

Plunder

Punished for Purpose

Reconstructing Amelia

The Language of Flowers

The Night Circus

Never Smile at Strangers

The Pillars of the Earth

The Glass Castle

Me Before You

The Snow Child

Life of Pi

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

I Know This Much Is True

The Round House

Brooklyn Girls

Someday, Someday, Maybe

The Kitchen House

Your turn! Please share some favorite books of yours!

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How much sleep does my child need?

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The moment I became a mom I instantly became obsessed with the question, “How much sleep does my child need?

Every time my child is cranky or going through a challenging phase, I always find myself wondering if they are getting enough sleep. Nice to have something to blame it on, right mamas?!

If kids don’t get the sleep they need, things can get ugly. That can go for moms too. Just sayin’!

In the course of working with Serta as a brand ambassador for their amazing mattresses, I learned of their partnership with the National Sleep Foundation. Serta’s Perfect Sleeper is the official mattress of the National Sleep Foundation.

Since this organization is an expert on all things sleep related, I poked around to see what they had to say about children and sleep, and came across this great article I wanted to share with you.

What do you think? Would love to hear your comments below.

How Much Sleep Does My Child Need?

Information courtesy of the National Sleep Foundation.
Full article can be found here 

Newborns (Birth to 2 months)

For newborns, sleep during the early months occurs around the clock and the sleep-wake cycle interacts with the cycle of needing to be fed, changed and nurtured.

Newborns sleep a total of 10.5 to 18 hours a day on an irregular schedule with periods of one to three hours spent awake.

Newborns express sleepiness in different ways. Some fuss, cry, or rub their eyes.

It is best to put babies to bed when they are sleepy, but not asleep. They are more likely to fall asleep quickly and eventually learn how to get themselves to sleep. Newborns can be encouraged to sleep less during the day by exposing them to light and noise, and playtime. As evening approaches, quiet the environment with dimmer lights and less activity.

Newborn Sleep Tips

~ Observe baby’s sleep patterns and identify their individual signs of sleepiness.
~ Put your baby in the crib when drowsy, not asleep.
~ Encourage nighttime sleep.

Infants (3 – 11 months)

By six months of age, nighttime feedings are usually not necessary and many infants sleep through the night with 70-80 percent sleeping through the night by nine months of age.

(But those nine months can feel like eternity – right moms?!)

Infants typically sleep 9-12 hours during the night and take 30 minute – 2-hour naps, one to four times a day – the quantity of naps decreasing by age one.

When infants are put to bed drowsy but not quite asleep, they are more likely to become “self- soothers” which enables them to fall asleep on their own at bedtime and also put themselves back to sleep during the night. Those who have become accustomed to assistance to fall asleep from mom and dad at bedtime often become “signalers” and cry for their parents to help them return to sleep during the night.

Infant Sleep Tips 

~ Develop regular daytime and bedtime schedules and routines.
~ Create a consistent and enjoyable wind down bedtime routine.
~ Establish a regular “sleep friendly” environment.
~ Encourage baby to fall asleep independently and to become a “self-soother.”

Toddlers (1 – 3 years)

Toddlers need about 12-14 hours of sleep in a 24-hour period. When they reach about 18 months of age their naptimes will decrease to once a day lasting about one to three hours. Naps should not occur too close to bedtime as they may delay sleep at night.

Many toddlers experience sleep problems including resisting going to bed and nighttime awakenings, fears and nightmares.

Many factors can lead to sleep problems at this age. Toddlers’ drive for independence and an increase in their motor, cognitive and social abilities can interfere with their sleep. In addition, their ability to get out of bed, separation anxiety, the need for autonomy and the development of the child’s imagination can lead to sleep problems. Daytime sleepiness and behavior problems may signal they are not getting enough sleep.

Toddler Sleep Tips

~ Maintain a daily sleep schedule and consistent bedtime routine.
~ Make the bedroom environment the same every night.
~ Set limits that are consistent, communicated and enforced.
~ Encourage use of a security object such as a blankie, lovey or stuffed animal.

Preschoolers (3-5 years)

Preschoolers typically sleep 11-13 hours each night and most do not nap after five years of age.

As with toddlers, difficulty falling asleep and nighttime wakings are common. With further development of imagination, preschoolers commonly experience nighttime fears and nightmares. In addition, sleepwalking and sleep terrors tend to peak during preschool years.

Preschooler Sleep Tips

~ Maintain a regular and consistent sleep schedule.
~ Have a relaxing bedtime routine that ends in the room where the child sleeps.
~ Child should sleep in the same sleeping environment every night, in a room that is cool, quiet and dark and without a TV.

Grade Schoolers (5 – 12 years)

Children aged five to 12 need 10-11 hours of sleep. At the same time, at this age there is an increasing demand on their time from school, sports and activities.

In addition, school-aged children become more interested in TV, computers, the media and Internet as well as caffeine products. All of which can lead to difficulty falling asleep, nightmares and disruptions to their sleep.

Watching TV close to bedtime has been associated with bedtime resistance, difficulty falling asleep, anxiety around sleep and sleeping fewer hours.

Sleep problems and disorders are common at this age. Poor or inadequate sleep can lead to mood swings, behavioral problems such as hyperactivity and cognitive problems that impact on their ability to learn in school.

School-Aged Children Sleep Tips

~ Teach school-aged children about healthy sleep habits.
~ Continue to emphasize need for regular and consistent sleep schedule and bedtime routine.
~ Make child’s bedroom conducive to sleep – dark, cool and quiet.
~ Keep TV and computers out of the bedroom.
~ Avoid caffeine.

So, I want to know, are your kids getting enough sleep? Comment below with your thoughts!

[Disclosure: I am a part of the Serta blogger program and have received complimentary products to facilitate my reviews. I am also compensated for my time and participation in the program. All opinions are 100% my own.]

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