Posts by christy:

Why I Love Reward Charts for Kids!

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!

An Easy Way to Teach Kids Their Phone Number

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

My Top Tips for Flying with Toddlers

This post is on my top tips for flying with toddlers.

Summer has arrived in full swing.  And that means some sort of travel for many families.  And flying. With your children. Did anyone else just gulp?

My hubby and I have traveled cross-country with our kiddos, as well as hopped one-hour flights. We’ve been delayed, changed planes twice (hmmm, maybe three times?) in one day, been diverted to different airports, had our luggage lost, and had our kids get sick en route.

I’m knocking on wood somewhere…but I think we’ve seen A LOT when it comes to flying with kiddos.

So, here are some of my top tips for flying with toddlers and preschoolers – I hope they help you and your family this summer!

1. Plan Ahead for Packing

Remember to sleep the night before.  I have traveled both ways…with sleep and without sleep (i.e. I left packing my entire family of four to the night before…after my kids went to bed).  No sleep = not worth it. Ask a friend, a parent, your spouse, or a babysitter to help with occupying the munchkins the day before so you can get your travel errands and packing done.  Better yet?  Start early.  Do laundry a couple of days prior, and instead of putting clothes away, start stacking them in suitcases.

2. Bring your Stroller (with Mommy Hooks)

I have a three and five-year-old who are perfectly capable of walking.  Of course they are.  But guess what?  My latest “it will only be a quick one hour hopper flight” turned into an hour and a half delay at the first airport…then, once we arrived…“the bags took an extra half hour to arrive at baggage claim and it took 15 minutes to walk to the car” issue.

Toddlers and preschoolers get cranky, drag their feet, want to be held, don’t want to hold their backpacks, try to make a break for it to the nearest gift shop (okay, that was my three-year-old), and whine when they’re tired.

3. Gate Check Your Stroller 

Gate check the stroller (make sure you check in at the counter to get a special tag)…and like magic, it’s there as soon as you leave the plane.  If you’re worried about it getting damaged, go buy a cheap $15 or $20 umbrella stroller.  Believe me, it’s worth the investment.

4. Carefully Pack Your Child’s Travel Backpack. 

And don’t make it too heavy for little ones to carry.  Here’s my list (concluded from trial and error):

New coloring book and a baggie of four or five crayons (you don’t need the whole box – takes up too much room and more opportunity for them to dump them).

– New (small) paperback book.

– Small portable (already charged!) DVD player.

– No more than two movies per kid (I usually try to pick up a new movie per kid, for $4.99 from Target so it’s new and more special.).

– I stock up on several small Dollar Store or Target “Dollar Spot” new toys or trinkets…it’s cheap, it’s new, and it makes it feel special for the airplane.  Just make sure to ration out the new items for your trip over AND your trip back.  Same goes for movies.

– One to two small toys (For my son, it’s trains or cars.  For my daughter, little dolls or figurines).

– If they’re old enough, flash cards, mini game sets, a deck of cards for Go Fish, etc.

– One set of snacks per kid – ideas include animal crackers, individual packets of Goldfish, fruit snack packet, raisin boxes, fruit slices in baggies, etc.

One (empty) sippy cup or small water bottle.  SO much easier to fill after you get through security.  You can even go straight to the water fountain!  Plus, my kids are known for their little “butterfingers” and easily spill those flimsy airplane plastic cups.  So just fill up their own cup!

Pack some of these musts in your diaper bag…

– First of all, try to wear a backpack versus carry a heavy diaper bag.  I use my husband’s laptop backpack.  The weight is evenly distributed and it’s SO much easier when you already have your hands full.

 – An easy to fold shirt for EVERYONE, including you and your spouse.  We always pack the kid a new shirt.  But what happens when orange juice or milk is spilled on you?  Take it from me.  Pack a shirt for yourself.

– An extra pair of underwear for each kid (if potty trained).

– If NOT potty trained, here’s my advice – stock up on overnight diapers in your favorite brand.  My kids used to freak out in those little airplane bathroom changing tables (is something that small really even considered a “table?”).  I changed them right before boarding…then depending on the length of the flight, I kept them in their overnight diaper unless there was a “number 2” incident.  Then, I changed them as soon as we get off the plane. So.much.easier.

– A new package of wipes.  You will use them for everything.

– An extra pair of socks for each kid.  Tootsies can get cold.

– An empty freezer Ziplock bag – dump the gross toys that fall to the ground and roll around in here.  Easy to separate them from the clean ones.

– Lollipops for the kids…reserved for takeoffs and landings.  Some moms I know use gum (with my kids, this would be disastrous), sippies/water bottles to suck on, pacifiers for little ones…really, anything that can help their ears pop in a pinch.

My last topic to discuss – car seats.

Ahhh, car seats.  And the endless debate – to check or not to check?  Again, we’ve done it both ways.  Here’s my two cents.

We have done it both ways.  Now that my kids are older, I definitely check both car seats.  I never rely on a car rental place to have car seats, even if they guarantee them.  We buy the car seat bags at Babies ‘R Us for $13.99, pop the car seats in them, and away they go.  They have a handle for easy pick up, and we find it really helps avoid car seat damage.

Now, when my babies were between a year-old and three-years-old, my hubby and I decided to bring the car seat on the airplane with us, strap it into the airplane seat, then strap our kiddo in.  We decided this for several reasons.

– I refused to correct my toddler every five seconds (on a cross country flight) to not play with their seatbelt and unstrap themselves.  I needed my sanity if I was going to get through whatever loooonnnngggg flight I was on.

– They felt more comfortable and secure in their own seat that they were accustomed to on a daily basis.

– Unless they needed to stretch or walk to the bathroom, their bottoms stayed strapped in the car seat.  Secure.  Safe.  And safely confined. 

I know lots of my friends who lap sit their one or two-year-olds.  And it works for them.  And they save airfare for an extra seat.  And their kid snuggles in and sits quietly and plays. I am jealous of those mamas.

For my husband and I, this buying the extra seat for our toddler has always been worth it if it’s more than an hour flight.  Because when my kids were one or two, they were their most wiggly, curious, squirmy and active.  Oh, and loud.  VERY LOUD when they didn’t get their way (and no amount of “time outs” worked for us since we were confined to the seat.  Ugh.)

And at that little age, they still didn’t quite understand the importance of sitting still and staying in their seat. Hence, strapping their cute little tushies in their own five-point harness.

Tip – call the airline ahead of time and confirm the size of their seats and discuss the type of car seat you plan on bringing.  I have never heard of an airline that does not allow a car seat on the plane, but it’s always good to double check.

 Okay, that’s all of my travel tips for now – please share your ideas below with us fellow mamas so we can all have successful, happy airplane trips with our kiddies this summer!

Photo credit 2011 Kuster & Wildhaber Photography, Flickr.

Find Some More Me Time in Your Day!

Find Some More Me Time in Your Day

As mamas, we give our kiddos everything we have – our unconditional love, our time, our patience, our nurturing, our advice, our many, many talents (chauffeur, nurse, teacher, monster-catcher, nose wiper…), and sometimes, our sanity.  And they deserve absolutely everything we have to give.

But sometimes, I find myself running on empty, completely drained.  Yes, I should exercise more.  Yes, I should eat healthier.  Yes, I should get more rest.  But sometimes, I just want more TIME.

And (gasp)…time for ME.

Here are some simple ways I’ve made some room in my life for more “me” time…and I hope these tips help you.  Us mamas have to stick together!

Early to Bed, Early to Rise…That’s the Saying, Right?

I am completely guilty of staying up late to get things done…then hitting the snooze button the next morning because I’m too pooped to get up.  So, I’m trying (emphasis, trying) a new routine.

Getting to bed earlier so (in theory) I can wake up and be happier and more productive.

Plus, is there anything better than sneaking down to the kitchen when everyone’s still sleeping, pouring yourself a nice cup of hot coffee and enjoying a few minutes of peace to collect your thoughts and plan out your day?  Or check your email and Facebook?  Whatever suits your fancy!

Goodnight Munchkins

It’s summer…which means longer days and lots of fun family and kid evening activities.

As easy as it is to let your kiddos enjoy this glorious time every night, my advice is to let them stay up as a special treat…or a couple of times per week…and not as the regular summer routine.

When my kids go to bed on time, they sleep better, they (typically) wake up happier, and I have more quiet time during the evening to get things accomplished.  A win-win for all, in my book.

Declutter Your Calendar

Sometimes balancing the 1,001 things we volunteer for, sign-up for, and promise to do can get overwhelming.  Add in work, kid activities, birthdays, doctor’s appointments, playdates…the list goes on.

I am a firm believer that a healthy, happy, balanced mama will be a happier, more patient mama for her kiddos (Yes, I am still a work in progress).

So take a look at your calendar and determine the most important things you want to accomplish in your day/week/month.

And make scheduling some “me” time a priority!

Make a Deal…With A Fellow Mama

Sometimes we want some “me” time more than anything…but logistically, who is going to watch our kiddos while we have that “me” time?

Call up one of your good mama friends and talk about exchanging a “mommy time out.”  You watch her kids for an hour or two while she can grab some alone time.  Then, ask her to return the favor. Voila!  No paying for a babysitter, your kids are with someone you trust, and you get your well-deserved me time!

Oh, and you’re helping another mama get hers – lots of wins!

Ask Your Spouse

Talk to your spouse about scheduling some time on the weekend for each of you to have some “me” time.  Hopefully, if you and your spouse don’t work over weekends, you can each squeeze in an hour or two each with childcare covered.

Keep Your Little Campers Busy

It’s summer – so if you can, take advantage of all of the little day camps available to kids out there!

Check your activity places (swim, dance, gymnastics, beach, soccer, the sky’s the limit!) for day camps they may offer, your church for Vacation Bible Schools or day camps, your local community center for classes, outdoor camps (Check out Inside the Outdoors.  We love them!)  Your kiddos will be busy, active and happy…and you get a break!

 How do you squeeze in your precious “me” time?  Have any secrets you can share with us fellow mamas?  Comment below so we can call benefit!


Menu Makeovers with Menu Therapy!

Menu Therapy Coupon Code

My family needs a dinner menu makeover. Does yours? 

Could you use a family meal planning service? I could, because I always seem to be stuck in the same weekly food rut, cooking the same things over and over again because…

1.) It’s convenient.  I default to comfortable when I’m busy.

2.) I always “pin” hundreds of recipe ideas on Pinterest and then don’t have time to shop or actually cook them.

3.) Many of the recipes I find look delicious, but then take 70 minutes to prepare and two hours to cook – who has the time?

4.) My cupboard full of all of the cookbooks we got for our wedding – with literally thousands of recipes – can be overwhelming when I want something quick during the week – seriously, I don’t need gourmet, I need a tasty chicken and veggie dish.

5.) I’m tired.  (Not lazy, just tired by dinnertime!)

Can any of you relate?

I was thrilled when I had the opportunity to chat with our newest Tiny Oranges sponsor, Menu Therapy, about their fabulous family meal planning services they offer. They are offering the first month free for all Tiny Oranges’ readers, make sure to read below on how to sign up so you can try it out yourself!

Picture this – a new week rolls around and you can log in to Menu Therapy’s site and have access to five delicious, healthy family-friendly recipes, complete with a grocery list organized by food group.  My favorite part is the grocery list, already planned out.  Be still my heart.

Once logged in, you can also peek at the past month’s recipes so that as a new subscriber, you are still able to see what they’ve been cooking up for the past four weeks.

My next favorite part is that the culinary pro behind these fabulous menus, Loryn, picks five meals that will use ALL of the ingredients she puts on your list.  No more recipes that call for a “pinch” of cilantro or a teaspoon of whatever…and then the rest goes bad because you don’t use it in another meal.

family meal planning service

Hmmmm, a planned menu, well-balanced, delicious recipes, an organized grocery list, and a way to be more efficient with my food budget.  What else could I ask for?

Oh, I know.  Access to the chef!

Loryn explains that she created Menu Therapy to share her passion for food, healthy eating, and an easy way to help mamas who love to cook.

And because of that, she gives all of her clients her personal email address.  She explains, it’s basically like having a “personal chef on speed dial.”  So when you run out of an ingredient and want to substitute, have a dietary restriction question, or even want to know what an ingredient is, just send her a quick email!

Here are her Menu Plan Options

For only $15 per quarter (that’s just $5/month), choose from one of her tasty menus:

Traditional Menus
Vegetarian Menus
Prenatal Menus 

Yep, you read that correctly.  She creates prenatal menus for all of you expectant mamas! (Disclaimer: Loryn writes – “I’m a chef not a doctor. Always consult with your doctor if you have any questions or concerns about your diet while pregnant.”) 

Check Out Menu Therapy’s Recipe of the Week!

Sign Up Now and Get One Month Free 

It’s your turn for a menu makeover!  New subscribers who sign up from this blog for $15 for 3 months can enter in the Menu Therapy coupon code “tinyoranges” to receive your first month FREE.  That means you are getting 3 months of this family meal planning service for only $10. Now, that’s a pretty sweet deal!

Disclaimer:  Menu Therapy is a new Tiny Oranges sponsor and we are so glad they are!  I personally can’t wait to enjoy their menu services, and hope you do too!

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