Posts by christy:

Healthy Homework Habits

homework

School is back in session.  Finally.  YES!!!!  (Okay, maybe I just “yelled” that too loud.)

We had a fabulous summer, but everyone (and I mean everyone) was ready for school to start. Our daughter has at least a half hour of homework every day now, so establishing good study habits is essential to her success, confidence and well being.  And my sanity.

So I thought this was the perfect time to talk about healthy homework habits, and establishing good study habits with your kids.

I’ll share what works for our family, and I’d love for you to share your tips, too!

1. Healthy snack time

I know what I send my daughter to school with for lunch.  I have no idea what (or how much) she actually eats!  So when I pick her up from school, I am armed with healthy snacks.  I always make sure she has a full tummy and some water before she starts her homework.

2. Homework comes first.  Then, play time.

For my daughter, this works best.  We’ve tried it all different ways – rest first, then homework.  Homework after dinner.  For us, homework right when we get home from school is the most successful.  She is the most engaged at this point.  If I let her rest or play first, I lose her. She mentally checks out, and it is a challenge to get her to focus on homework.

Every kid is different…and maybe your kiddo needs that rest first to re-energize.  Whatever works best!

3. Stay in school clothes

Since she does her homework as soon as she gets home from school, I ask that she stays in her school clothes until her homework is done.  Once complete, she’s free to change, play, rest, read…her choice!

I find that keeping her in her school clothes helps her to stay in “school mode.”

4. Set up a designated homework area

I bought cute little homework caddies from The Dollar Tree..and you can find them almost anywhere. I stock them with crayons, markers, colored pencils, glue sticks, kid scissors, tape, pencils, pens, erasers…and anything else that she may need for her specific homework assignment.

She does her homework at our kitchen table – ample light, room to spread out, and comfy chair.  I would suggest wherever your child is most comfortable – and being able to spread out all supplies and homework papers is key.

Here’s a great article on Dailymom.com that talks about creating the perfect homework station.

You can also check out Pinterest – always adorable ideas to implement on here!  And here is Jen’s adorable Homework Station she created for her daughters.

5. Consistency is key

Barring any sickness or kid crisis, she does her homework at the same time every day.  Just like she has a dinner time and bedtime, she has a homework time.  She knows what to expect.  Which means minimal (if any) whining.

6. Be present

Especially when they are little, it’s important to be available (or have someone be available!) during homework time. Yes, it is their responsibility to complete their homework.  But it is also our responsibility as parents to guide them.  Be there for questions.  Help keep them on task.  And teach them positive and healthy study habits.  If you get home after their homework is complete, take a few minutes and ask them about their homework…ask them to show you their work, if they have any questions for you, and praise them for a job well done.  It will go a long way!

7. Teach work ethic

This means emphasizing that neatness counts.  Taking your time counts.  Completing her day’s homework in its entirety counts. And asking questions is absolutely okay!

8. Communicate with their teacher

Homework shouldn’t be about meltdowns, constant frustrations, and daily tears.  If you notice that your kiddo is consistently struggling or getting easily frustrated with their homework, I suggest communicating with your child’s teacher.  Ideally, you and your kiddo’s teacher should work together as a team, right?  It’s worth a conversation – whether by phone, email or conference – to talk about how to best help your child be successful with their homework.

9. Give positive praise!!!

Praise, compliment and high-five your kiddo for a job well done…and for trying their best!

10. Consider a Homework Reward Chart

I am a big fan of reward charts for kids. If your kids are incentivized by a little “carrot” so to speak, consider making them a chart where they can earn a sticker each day they do their homework.  Then at the end of the week, month, or whatever timeframe works for you, reward them with a little something.  It’s surprising how stocking a paper bag with dollar store trinkets can be so motivating…

What are your best homework tips?  Study tips?  What works well for your child?  Please share below!

Sharing is Caring

Teaching Your Kids to Share

Sharing is hard sometimes.  If you’re little, then it can be really hard.  You have that favorite toy (okay, LOTS of favorite toys), and a sibling or a friend wants to play with it.  Or take it.  Cue the tears.  By the time my second kiddo came along, I had picked up a few helpful tips from friends and family for teaching your kids to share.  Here they are!

Acknowledge their discomfort

Have you heard the saying, “Little kids, little problems…big kids, big problems?”

I think it’s important to listen to your child…and have them know that you care about their feelings (even if they are being unreasonable).  I may not always agree with them, but I want my kids to know that I care.

I’ll say something like, “Mama understands that this is your favorite toy, huh?  And you love it, right?  I know that you want to play with it. (Wait for them to answer).

“But, you decided to bring it to our playdate, which means that we need to share it with our friends.  Can you be a good friend and let _____ have a turn?  Maybe you can take [insert any other toy within reach and hand it to them] and play together.”

No, my kids do not usually hand over the toy in question on the first pass.  But I feel like I’ve at least acknowledged their feelings.

Count

If there is a toy in sharing “question,” I many times default to the counting method.  I ask the child who wants a turn with the toy to count to 10 (or 20 or 30…depending on their age and counting ability) – once the counting is over, the other child must hand over the toy for another 10-20-30 counting sequence.  This teaches or reinforces counting, and also gives them something to do while they are waiting their turn.  Most of the time, this works well.

Positive reinforcement

Verbal praise every single time your child shares…especially when it is unsolicited.  By consistently praising your kiddie, you are teaching them that sharing is a GOOD thing.  Plus, I’m a big believer in positive praise.

Teaching kindness

Teaching my children to be kind is an absolute priority in our home.  And to be compassionate – empathetic – loving – humble.  To be thankful for what we have.  My husband and I work with our kids every day on this (and it is hard).  Hopefully, these values and skills will resonate and apply to sharing with others!

Lead by example

My kids (usually) want to be like mama and daddy.  So, we make a big show of sharing.  Yes, it’s a little obnoxious at times…but we say things like, “Thank you, honey, for sharing the last bite of your cookie with me!”  Or, “Thank you sweetie, for sharing the remote with mommy!  Look at how nice daddy is being!”

It sounds (and looks) silly, but our kids are watching us. So why not use this to our advantage?

And when all else fails…

First, I put the toy in question in a “time out.”  The rule in my house is, if you can’t share (or at least work out a resolution), then the toy goes into “time out.”  A place up high that the kids can easily see.  If that results in tantrums, then the offending kiddo goes into time out, too.

If we are out somewhere, and my kids are refusing to share or be kind (after prompting and a few tries), then we say goodbye and leave.

What do you do to help your kids share?  Any tips to add?  Please comment below!

Keeping it Simple with Kid Activities

Keeping it Simple with Kid Activities_1

This summer I have been making sure my kids are active, busy, learning, and social.  We’ve happily done park playdates, beach time, school camps, family vacations, arts and crafts, science experiments…and on and on. Guess what?  As much as my kids are enjoying these planned activities, I realized that sometimes the simplest games are often the most popular.  Go figure!  Here are my easy activity ideas for kids.

I was just talking about this in one of my mom’s groups.  Sometimes, getting back to the “basics” can bring the most joy.  Here are some of the favorites in my home:

Blowing bubbles

Tale as old as time, right?!  What is it about a bubble that makes kids go crazy?  My kids have LOVED bubbles since they realized what they were.  Go outside and just blow bubbles with your kids…and see their faces light up!

Making mud pies

Let your kids just play in the dirt.  Muddy, sticky, icky dirt.  They will love getting goopy.  Just hose them down after!

Playing with the water hose

Speaking of…turn on the sprinkler.  Give your kids the water hose.  Watch the smiles spread.  Good old fashioned water play at it’s best.

Building sandcastles (and jumping waves!)

You can do this at the beach (or play with sand at almost any playground)…grab a bag of your sand toys, let them dump them out, and watch them build roads, mountains, bridges, cakes, castles…they will always be thinking of something new to create.

Finger painting

Out of all of the experiments and crafts I organized this summer, the kids still love just dipping their fingers in multiple colored paint and splashing across white paper.  Easy enough, right?  Go for it, kids!

Coloring

I usually spring for a box of new crayons every few weeks, and my kids LOVE to color.  Give them paper, new crayons and let them go to town.

Play Doh

Play Doh, cookie cutters…and let the kids twist, roll, pull, and piece it together. Keeps my kiddos busy, and their little hands busy.

Living room dance parties

Turn up the music and rock out – impromptu style.  The sillier the better!  Kids will love seeing mama shake her booty – and they will love showing you some of their favorite moves, too!  It gets loud, it gets crazy…and it’s joyful.

Hide and seek

Oh my gosh, my kids LOVE this game.  It never gets old for them.  Too bad our dog gets excited and helps “find” the hider in our house.

Old school board games

Candyland, Chutes and Ladders, Uno, Life, Trouble, Go Fish, Old Maid…you name it.  There’s a reason these are considered classic games.  Put the iPads and phones apps and games away, and sit around the table to play a board game as a family.  Our newest favorite is Uno – the kids have so much fun!  And, so do mama and daddy.

I Spy

I spy with my little eye…my kids loving this game, especially in the car.  If you have the patience for it, let the kids play when you’re driving (although sometimes the kids get so excited, they tend to talk over each other).

Dress-up

You don’t need any fancy smancy costumes for this!  Whatever the kids want, goes.  Fancy dresses stuck in the back of the closet, masks, mommy or daddy’s clothes, hats, tutus, and any other costume or dress up stuff you’ve collected.  Have your kids do a fashion show for you…my kids get a kick out of this!

Swinging…at the park 

What kid doesn’t love to swing?  Pack a homemade picnic lunch, pack up the kiddos, and take them to the park to run, slide and swing.

Telling silly stories

My kids love when I start off telling a silly story…and they get to contribute.  They usually laugh themselves into uncontrollable giggles (my stories always start off with….On top of spaghetti….).

Ice cream dates

These “dates” are my favorite!  My children inevitably want the stickiest, messiest ice cream ever…and I love seeing their dribbling ice cream grins.

What are your favorite simple kid activities to do?  Please comment below and share with us mamas!

How to Make Cleaning Up Fun for Kids

How to make cleaning up fun for kids_1

Clean up, clean up, everybody, everywhere.  Clean up, clean up…who has this song stuck in their head 24/7?? Are your kids over it, too?!

Here are my tips for how to make cleaning up fun for kids.

Make it a friendly contest

My first go-to attempt is always, “Who can clean up the fastest?!”  My kids go nuts for this.  Both are highly competitive, so this tactic works well in our house.  If both stare at me with blank faces, I’ll jump in and start furiously cleaning, saying “Look, mama is winning!”  Boom.  That gets them up!

Or, I’ll set the timer for a few minutes and say, “Who can clean up before the timer beeps!?”  Then, I pick a “prize,” like a sticker, an MnM…whatever works for you and your kids.  Just something little.

Positive praise

Speaking of, positive praise goes a looonnnggg way.  Saying things like:

“It makes mama SO happy when you clean up.”

“Excellent job cleaning!”  Wow, you are so good at this!”

“How did you learn to do that?  Wow, mama is so impressed!”

While this usually isn’t the sole motivator, I find any opportunity to give my children positive praise…because heaven knows that I do enough correcting during the day.

Turn organizing into a learning game

Make cleaning a learning game with your kids.  Sort by colors.  Sort by categories (Let’s make a pirate toy bucket!  Who can find all of the dolls and put them in the same drawer?).  Sort by shapes.  Sort by size.

Depending on your child’s age, you can really play some fun “games” while you are cleaning.  Sneaky!

 “Work” hard, play hard

Pick a fun activity to do after cleaning.  Maybe it’s a park date.  Maybe it’s a bike ride around your neighborhood.  Or a trip to the library to pick new books.  Whatever makes you and your kiddies happy.

And explain that an important part of being in a family is helping take care of “our” home.  We all contribute.  We all clean.  We all take responsibility for taking care of our house.

When the chores are done, then we get to do something fun!!  Now, I’m not pretending that this concept is going to magically connect with your kids, and you’ll have happy little cleaning machines who want to help in the house.  But I look at it as a daily lesson to reinforce…and fingers crossed, one day, they will get it.

Dance party!!!

Turn the music up, and boogie while you clean.  If you are having fun, smiling, dancing, being silly…and encourage your kids to do the same…then it turns a mundane chore into a more fun experience.  We love to play (gulp) the “Frozen” soundtrack….let it go, LET IT GO!!!!!!!

What is your favorite cleaning up tip with kids?  How do you make it more fun?  Share below and let’s get some new ideas going!

1st Day of School Traditions

traditions

I am one of those mamas who cry on the first day of school. And, the night before the first day of school. I can’t help it.  Today, I’d like to share my special 1st day of school traditions.  The kids love it.  Their daddy and I love it.  And, I love having a way to commemorate and celebrate their new year in school.

Kid Interviews

The week before school starts, the kids and I pick up large (basic) poster boards (they pick the colors!) and stickers (whatever they are into at the moment).

We come home, and I “interview” them – and I ask the same questions every year.  I’ve seen friends do this on chalkboards…and although this is SUPER adorable…my kids like to see their answers and decorations year-round.  So I write their kid “interview” questions and answers on their poster board, we decorate it, and I tape it to their bedroom doors.  They LOVE this.

Here’s how I make the poster:

– My child’s name goes at the top of the poster board.

– Underneath their name, I write the full name of their school (including city and state) and the date of the first day of school.

– Then, I write down their interview questions and answers.  You can ask them anything!  Here’s what I ask my kiddies about…

1. My favorite color is

2. My favorite song is

3. My favorite activity is

4. My favorite food is

5. My favorite toy is

6. When I grow up, I want to be

7. I am most excited about [insert grade] because

– Once the kids get their classroom assignments, I finish the poster with their new classroom and teacher.
“I am in [classroom number] with [insert teacher’s name].

– Once I get my “first day of school” pictures printed, I’ll choose my favorite and tape it to their poster.

It is so fun to see what your kiddo loves, what is important to them…and to capture this special snapshot in time.

“The Kissing Hand” – The Night Before School

With their first day of school outfits all laid out, we snuggle up in bed and read “The Kissing Hand,” by Audrey Penn. (affiliate link)

This is a super sweet, super cute book about a little raccoon named Chester, and his mama…and the little raccoon is scared to start school.

The story goes on to share that the mama raccoon teaches her son about the “kissing hand.”  She opens the palm of his hand, kisses it, and tells him that if he gets frightened at school, to open his palm and lay his hand on his cheek.  And mama’s kiss will be right there.

(I’m tearing up as I think about this.)  It’s such a wonderful little story, and each of my kids have a copy.  It’s our tradition to read it the night before every new school year.

Pictures, Pictures (and More Pictures)

Not only do I take pictures of the kids on their first day…like every other parent in every country….I make note to take them in a specific place (it could be anywhere!).  Just pick a place, take their picture…and then on the last day of school, take a picture in that same spot.  It is so special to see how much your child has grown in a year.  Love.

I also make sure to take a picture in front of their “interview” poster.

My kids are still little, so I still get to walk them into their new classrooms.  After I get all of my pictures of my child (who am I kidding – I am lucky to get one picture of my kid in their classroom – they are too excited to stand still), I take pictures around their new room (without my kids in it!).  This way I have some great classroom pictures to put in their photo book at the end of the year.

Love Notes

I send little love notes in their snack bags, decorated with stickers and hearts (cheesy, but they love it!).  Just something simple like, “Mama and daddy love you!”  The kids always get so excited to find these notes, and I’d like to think that it helps them feel encouraged, especially on their first day.

After School Treat (and De-brief)

My older child is notorious for one word answers.  No matter how many “leading” questions I ask, I usually get “Yes.” “No.”  Oh, and my favorite….”I don’t remember.”

Here’s my strategy.

After the first day of school, I take my kids for a milkshake at Ruby’s, and while they are inhaling their yummy treat, I ask all of my questions. She seems to be much more excited and happy while guzzling ice cream (go figure), and I get more information from her.  It’s a tradition that the kids love in our house (okay, okay, I love it too).

1st Day of School Traditions

I’ve also been searching on Pinterest for new traditions, and there are countless adorable ideas.  I could literally spend hours planning!!  What are your special 1st day of school traditions?  Please share below – I’d love to get some new ideas!

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