Tuesday, June 28, 2011

TODDLER TUESDAY! Fun and Free Activities for Toddlers (and beyond!)

It’s going to be the end of the summer and before you know it, we’re going to run out of ideas (and money) for what to do with the kiddos…

There are many things you can do with your children that will build memories for a lifetime and don’t cost a dime!  Remember, it’s all about presentation!! The majority of the time, if you enjoy it-they will too!! Also, take one for the team and remember that sometimes you have to get dirty or do boring things but spending quality time with your kiddo is what really matters! Here are a few of my ideas.

1. Go to your local library Whatever your child’s age, the library can be a great place if you make it fun! Enjoy story times, read books together, or play with the train sets or toys they have. Be sure to get down on your child’s level so they feel like you want to play WITH them (especially if they are shy around other children it helps to have you there!)
Remember-some area libraries are better than others (or offer different things) Check out more than one library in your area to change things up!! You can search on the internet for your area libraries!

2. Take a Walk – Taking a walk can be fun if you make it that way! Depending on your child’s age you can turn finding things on your walk into a game! For example “Do you want to go on a nature walk? What do you think we will find?” or “Should we go visit the stream or the horsies? You pick!!” Giving options is always helpful and makes children feel included and not just bossed around-even though you are still the boss!;)

3. Treasure hunt – This is always fun for ALL ages!  It takes some prep work but they LOVE it! Make a list of 10 places where you can hide little prizes (can wrap pretzels in aluminum foil or gold fish, a few candies, etc.) Give the child a list of 10 questions pertaining to the places where you hid the prizes. For example for a 9 year old you may say “I like to mix things up” for something hidden in a blender. For a 3 year old you might say “people lay on me and I often hear stories” for an item hidden in the bed. Obviously it should be much easier for the 3 year old. This game can take a while and be very fun!!

4. Go to a Park – Try a different park or bring different toys to the park. Maybe even meet someone new to mix things up a little. Many parks in the area offer very different things from sand boxes to a jungle gym that might just have a slightly different swing or monkey bars that they might love!! I used to bring different toys to a nearby park that had a sandbox and the 3 year old I was watching loved it!! I also would get in the sand and played with him which often helps when he would get bored. Check out parks using the Internet-there might be one close by that you have never seen!

Monday, June 27, 2011

I'm back!

I am so sorry the site has been down for the past 5 days but we are back in business and ready to rock!! Stay tuned for a fabulous week of great information and inspirational ideas for you and your family!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Toddler Tuesday! Teddy Bear Picnic

Teddy bear picnics can be great fun for kids of any age! Help your children plan the party and create items to go along with this fun theme. Plan at least a few days ahead to get the most out of the fun and build anticipation for your little ones. Here are some ideas to help you along!

1. Make bear foot prints out of brown construction paper and put them on the floor. You can use this for decoration or turn it into a musical chairs game by taking one away at a time.
2. Make a pretend (or real) birthday cake for the bear and sing happy birthday.
3. Make creative snacks with honey or teddy grahams.
4. Play a BEARY fun game! See who can make the scariest "roar". For some reason, babies LOVE this!
5. Read a bear book such a Bernstein bears.

TODDLER TUESDAY! Summertime Party

Today is the start of the summer solstice-marking the beginning of my favorite season!  Check out these cool party we threw last year for summer.
NOTE: This party can be any day during the summer!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Father's Day 2011-Enjoying the Moments

How to be a classy mommy

Are you the mom that looks sophisticated and has it all together?

Being classy is more than just appearance. It's about grace, elegance, and sophistication. Here are some things that come to my mind when I think about a "classy mom" and what I see from the moms I think are classy.

1. They show kindness. 
You will not look classy while screaming at your kid in Target! Use your manners with your children and discipline them appropriately. Explain to them what they did wrong and give consequences (of course consistency is key). Show them kindness by being respectful and courteous to others.
2.  They are good listeners.
If you talk about yourself and your experiences too much it can come off as pompous.  Most people think that they are good listeners but the best listeners really really pay attention and say, "what I hear you saying is___".

3. They are generous. 
Give back to those in need as well as your community. Donate money and/or time to a good cause. Remember that generosity doesn't necessarily mean giving "things". Sometimes, it's best to give someone support, love and resources.

4. They look good.  
Although being classy isn't just about how you look, lets face it...it helps! Everyone has days when they don't get out of their sweatpants or their comfy maternity shirt (that they should have given away after they had their baby!) Although this isn't necessary on some days, don't make a habit of it! If you're heading out to the store (or even if your not), put on nice jeans, a cute top and some high heeled boots. At the very least, curl your eyelashes (brightens up tired eyes), apply some blush, and throw on some lip gloss. SMILE!!! The truth is, when you look good, you will feel better about yourself.

4. They are genuine.  
Don't compare yourself to the mom that always looks like she has it all together in your playgroup. No one has it ALL together so give yourself a break and relax! Also, be genuine. The classy mommies in Hollywood (Jennifer Garner and Gwenyth Paltrow come to mind) are considered classy because they are real. They are often seen playing with their kids, getting dirty, and showing outward affection.
Enjoy your children and appreciate the joy they bring. Finally, if you truly feel good about yourself, others will think that they should feel good about you too!! Smile and enjoy the wonderful gift of motherhood!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Toddler Tuesday! Best Resources for Parenting Toddlers

Are you having some trouble with your toddler and don't really want to ask your parents or friends? Don't worry, your not alone! Toddlers can be very tricky and hard to figure out!  Check out some of these books!
I would also like to add The Happiest Toddler on the Block by Harvey Karp, M.D.  This is one of my favs and you can buy it through my online store!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Helping the 'Tattletale Child'

Let's face it, 'tattletales' aren't always the most popular children in school by their peers (or their teachers). Being a leader and a rule follower is a good thing; however, there are times when the 'tattletale' child will become the kid that gets involved in everyone else's business and seems to bring problems to the surface that may have worked out on their own.  They may seem helpful at times but other times they create more problems.
How do you teach the tattletale child to be helpful but not bossy or rude?  Sometimes, these children can be dependable and have a positive influence.  You can trust them to do what they are told and if there's a dangerous situation, you know they will step up and look for help.  The problem with this is that these children will often get consumed by care-taking and taking on other children's worries (or even the adult worries) instead of being a child and playing normally.  This can create social problems because peers may not trust their intentions or feel inferior when playing with this child.

Toddlers often go through a phase of being a tattle tale while they are learning right from wrong but they quickly grow out of this phase when they start to learn when it's acceptable to tell an adult and when they should keep to themselves.  This is simply a matter of social development.  As children get older, they start learning to focus on their own activities and challenges and begin to solve their problems without needing as much adult direction.

It's important that we remind ourselves that these children may be looking for attention from us and tattle tailing may be their way of feeling good about themselves.  If they are "supervising" too much and telling you what other children are doing wrong, say to them "thank you very much, but that is not your worry", and try to give them attention in other ways.  Help them to see that they can get your attention without being the "teacher".

Friday, June 10, 2011

Focus Friday! How to Get Stubborn Children to Not Push the Limits

Some children seem to "get it" more than others.  Why is it that some children seem to test the boundaries and fight the rules while others go with the flow? 

First of all, all children will test at some point or another (and in some way or another).  It's part of a child's development and how they learn what's going on around them.  Some children are more tenacious and will challange until they learn that the person telling them "no" will not give in.  This can be very trying for the adult who's trying to do the right thing at the end of a long day.  So, how do we muster up the patience and draw boundaries effectively with children? 

Choose your battles ahead of time as often as possible.  If you have decided that eating vegetables is a must (for example) then be prepared to not give in during dinnertime.  A recent study just came out stating that you should not say no to your kids often...sounds crazy, right? Well, the researchers pointed out that saying no using other ways is more effective such as saying, "You can eat your brocolli or your carrots", instead of saying, "No, you can't have dessert!"  What this is doing is eliminating the need to draw the line in the sand creating a power struggle.  Another way to say no (without saying no) is to simply say, "Ok, you can have your dessert but you must eat your peas first." 

My child is one of those tenacious children!  A few days ago, I got so tired of her crying, whiing, and not listening that I finally had to put my foot down.  I gave her 2 warnings then began the time out.  What an exhausting experience!  She came out of the time out spot over 50 times (and let me tell you that carrying a toddler back to the spot while I'm 8 months pregnant is quite an ordeal!)  However, she finally stayed and after 1 minute of her staying there, I called her to me and nicely talked to her about why she was in time out and gave her a kiss and a hug. 

I started giving Sienna timeouts when she was 20 months old and it was exhausting at first.  Then, she quickly started realizing that I meant business when it came to time outs and did not want to be there.  Children will test the waters again but being consistant really makes a big difference in how they respond to rules. 

Remember, stubborness is not a bad thing.  Tenacity is a good thing and the ability to not give up will give your child serve your child well when he or she is older!

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Simple Sundays! Do you Spend Enough Quality Time with Your Child?

It's often hard to figure out if you are spending enough quality time with your child and making time for quality time with your child can be a very difficult juggling act!  I have thought a lot of about this question and unfortunately, there’s no magic number of quality time hours that will make you a ‘good parent’.  Instead, it’s something you need to think about on your own…and I mean REALLY think about. 
Sometimes our children will let us know they need more attention by acting out (yelling or hitting for example).  Believe it or not, these children make it easier because they will let us know when they need more attention.  Other children are a little more difficult because they will play independently for extended periods of time and not always let us know in clear ways that they need more from us. 
Basically, it is simple.  If one of your priorities is spending QUALITY time with your child, your child will see that THEY are priority.  Do you think your child feels like quality time with his or her is a priority to you or do they think that cleaning, working, or another child is more important?  
I can hear you now…Toni’s a stay at home mom with only one kid, easy for her to say that I need to spend a lot of quality time with my child (if you are thinking this, please read my article, ‘Ode to working moms’).   I have seen many moms that work outside the home manage to spend quality time with their little ones.  Using some creativity, multitasking, and lots of enthusiasm-you can make it happen!  Here are some ideas:
1.        Take a walk while playing a game with your child.  Have a treasure hunt or play a game requiring finding things.  Even toddlers can find objects.  Sienna and I like to play a finding game on our walks.  I say, “I see a fire hydrant, do YOU see a fire hydrant?”  This is a great way to fit in some exercise while also spending quality time with your munchkin!
2.       Cleaning up.  Believe it or not children of all ages like to help!  Ask your toddler to help you put away laundry.  While taking clothes out of the dryer, have your little one figure out who the article of clothes belongs to and where it needs to go.  Then have them put the clothes in thei appropriate room.  For older kids, turn on some music and set a timer, ask your child to see if they can do a cleaning task before the timer goes off.
3.       Set aside a date night (or even an hour to the ice cream shop) with only one of your children to show them how special they are!
4.       Car Wash.  Believe it or not, kids think car washes are fun!  If you’re going through a car wash, your kids will love all the colors and hoses (especially if you show excitement too!)  If your child is older, they will love helping you at a do it yourself car wash or even in your driveway (although old clothes are a must!)
NOTE:  If you feel you haven’t spent enough quality time, let me first warn you that your child will probably resist when you do try to cuddle or play games with them at first.  But that’s o.k.  Maybe your child doesn’t want to cuddle on the couch but sitting next to them while watching TV and asking them about the show  THEY are watching is a great way to start the process of engaging with them and showing them that you are interested in what they like (even if it’s Barney!!)   

Friday, June 3, 2011

FOCUS FRIDAYS! What Grade Would You Receive?

A new bill is proposed in Florida called the Involvement and Accountability in Public Schools Bill.  This bill is supposed to make parents more accountable for their child's education by having the teacher give the parent a grade. 
First of all, I think it would be great if we could hold parents more accountable for a child's education instead of placing all the responsibility on the teachers, however, I don't think this particular bill is realistic.  I don't think that the majority of parents will agree to have their child's teacher give them a grade (especially if they can't give the teachers a grade!) But this does raise some interesting questions...

1.  What is REALLY expected of parents?
2.  Do parents know what is expected of them?
3. Aren't there already laws in place for truancy to hold parents accountable for tardiness and absenteeism?  If so, are these realistic?
4. Do parents know how involved they should be in their child's homework?  If so, do they have the skills needed to truly help their child?

When I was a nanny, I remember DREADING homework time!  Getting a child to complete their homework after a long school (and work) day can be exhausting BUT it's essential for a child's success in the classroom. 

Here are some tips to help get you through homework sessions...

1.  ORGANIZE, ORGANIZE, ORGANIZE!  Staying organized helps you be a better parent and also helps your child be more responsible.  Pick a place for your child to put his or her back pack every day and make sure that YOUR CHILD (not you!) places it there every day.  Depending on your child's age, have them tell you what they need to do, get their stuff out, and be accountable for their work.  Check things out before sitting down with them so you can get an idea of what's ahead of you.

2.  Be realistic.  If your child is exhausted, hungry, or overwhelmed...take a break and get a snack.  Also, be realistic about what your child can achieve and don't expect perfection.

3.  Give choices.  Children like having some control!  Let your child decide what snack they will have or what they want to do with their free time.  Allow them to create a cool spot to do their homework that they can decorate (but make sure it's within your eye sight!)

4.  Stick to a schedule.  Some kids do better completing their homework the second they walk in the door; others need some time to regroup.  Allow your child to have a little flexibility (such as having a 10 minute extension to their free time) but stick to your guns and use a timer!

5. Give warnings and consequences (without arguments).  You are the parent, you have control over this.  Avoid homework battles at all costs!  Do yourself a favor and make it as easy and fun as possible.  If your child is being disrespectful or not listening after warnings, then give consequences without emotional exchange.

6.  Get engaged.  This is the tricky part. There are times when you need to engage in your child's homework and other times when you need to let them do it on their own.  Deciphering between the two can be harder than climbing Mount Everest; however, if you follow your intuition and use some patience, you will be sure to do the right thing!  If you are unsure or extremely frustrated, reach out to the teacher.  This bill shows that teachers would rather a parent be over involved than under involved!

7.  Make it fun.  There are times when children do need to get to business and get their work done but remember that they ARE children and making studying fun can sometimes ease everyone's frustrations (including your own!).  Kids love quizzes (especially game show style)  When studying is becoming stressful, mix things up by changing rooms, having a game show, or play hangman related to the questions.