Tips and tricks for making parenting FUN again!

Tips and tricks for making parenting FUN again!

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

How to Pack Snacks for a Road Trip

I call it "Snacktopia".

It's road trip season, and that means it's time to think about road trip snacks. There are all sorts of posts out there about what to pack, but what about HOW to pack them?

Last month I delved into the world of decluttering and organizing using the KonMari method. While reading the book, I never thought I would apply it to road trips, but as I started working to organize the snacks I'd acquired for our 12-hour drive to Florida, the methods I'd been practicing just seemed to come naturally to the process, and this was the result:

Here is what is so great about this:

1. I used stuff I already had- no fancy organizers here! Most items stayed in their own containers, plus some help in the way of a big soda cup for the peanut butter cups, a small cup for hard candies, and a large cardboard box to contain it all. 

2. Lots of food in a small space- My goal was to give each item the smallest "footprint" possible so that they would all fit into this box, which would fit on the floor just in front of the center console under the dashboard in our van. Think New York City made with food. That's 10 different snacks in a single square foot.

3. Easily transportable- I loved that when we arrived at our destination, getting the food into our villa required picking up and moving a single box, and we could just place the items in the pantry the same way we would at home because they each still had their own individual containers. 

4. Everything is visible and reachable, which is essential when you're driving! Sometimes you're just not sure what you're in the mood for, and with this method you can see everything you've packed at a glance and grab it with no problem. I used a similar method for our cooler (that's where all the healthy snacks were...yeah...). 

Before we left, I gave each of the kids a gallon ziplock bag with their name on it. I let them choose 4 snacks to tide them over for the first leg of our trip. As the trip went on, I let them replenish their bags from the Snacktopia at rest stops. The hardest part was them choosing what they wanted! Having it all in sight allowed them to easily pick and choose- no digging or shuffling required! When my husband drove and wanted a snack, I could easily reach down and grab it and hand it to him, and he could do the same for me. Even as the snacks ran low, the "structure" of the Snacktopia remained intact, which meant we didn't have to worry about stuff sliding around or getting lost. Everything still had its own compartment, so everything stayed organized and accessible.

Next time you're ready to go road-tripping, try making your own Snacktopia. It's actually kind of fun to do- like a big jigsaw puzzle!

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Target Time

If your family is like our family, mornings are pretty crazy. Everyone is running in different directions and nobody can find their shoes, jacket, scriptures for church or library book for school.

One morning before church, in a flash of inspiration, I told the kids, “Okay- whoever is completely ready to go- hair done, shoes on, jackets, scriptures- the whole deal- and sitting on the couch at 8:30am will get a treat.” Lo and behold, all 4 of my children (the older ones encouraged and helped the younger ones) were sitting, all ready to go, on the couch at 8:30am. I gave them each 3 mini marshmallows.

It worked so well that I continued it the next week, and eventually adopted it into our daily morning routine for school days. For daily use, I utilize a sticker chart rather than a treat, and each child must be sitting at the kitchen table totally ready to go, just finishing their breakfast. At the end of the week, anyone who has 5 stickers gets to join me for a special fun activity, like making cookies (complete with bowl-licking privileges), doing a craft, or playing a game and eating popcorn.

Doing this has helped to significantly calm our mornings, and while not every child always makes it, it gives them a time to aim for, and it gives us a cushion to do things like find lost shoes, fix messy hair, or anything else that might ordinarily slow us down. On weekday mornings I use the extra table time to do our morning devotional (a song, prayer, reading, and brief discussion) and to fix the girls’ hair while they’re finishing their breakfasts.

On Sunday mornings, church starts at 9am and it takes 10 minutes to get to church so our Target Time is 8:30am. That extra 20 minutes gives us plenty of time to get everyone in the car and tie up any loose ends at home. If none of that is needed, then we get to church early! Woohoo!

On weekday mornings, the bus arrives at 7:56, and it only takes about 2 minutes to walk up to the bus stop, so our Target Time is 7:40. That gives us just under 15 minutes for our morning devotional and hairstyling, and of course any loose ends.

This is also a great way to teach kids time management and to have them monitor themselves rather than have MOM ushering them around!

Saturday, November 1, 2014

The Parrot Parent

I’ve talked before on here about being a referee for the many and varied arguments between my children, but to be honest, sometimes I just don’t have it in me to sort through their Battle of the Moment and pick sides. One particularly exhausting day I stumbled upon a surprisingly effective technique for excusing myself from referee duty: I rendered myself incompetent. The scene played out something like this:

T: “Mom, A took my truck and she won’t give it back.”

Me: “A, give T his truck back.”

A: “But he TOLD me I could have it!!”

Me: “T, you told A she could have it.”

T: “I did not!”

Me: “A, he did not.”

A: “He did TOO!”

Me: “You did too, T.”

T: “No I didn’t, I just let her paint it!”

Me: “He was just letting you paint it, A.”

A: “No, he said I could KEEP it!”

Me: “You said she could keep it.”

Finally they both glare at me as they realize I am completely useless.

Ah, it’s a beautiful thing. I simply wanted them to realize that there was pretty much no way for me to tell who was being truthful and who was right, so I just kept the argument going. They finally walked away and worked it out on their own. :-)

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Speak to the Angel

We all know that positive reinforcement is not only effective, but a much more pleasant form of discipline (for both parent and child) than punishment.

The book “Siblings Without Rivalry” shares a great technique that I like to call “Speak to the angel”. There is a popular saying that goes, “Inside every woman is a queen- speak to the queen, and the queen will answer.”  For children, I would change the saying to this: Inside every child is an angel- speak to the angel, and the angel will answer. The idea is that if you treat someone as if they were already the way that you hope for them to be, then they will act that way.

So how do you apply this to children? Well, here’s an example of the normal way we might handle fighting kids:

A: MOM! B won’t give me the toy!

B: I had it first and she just tried to TAKE it from me!

M: Guys, calm down. Can’t you just share?

A: It’s MY turn! She’s had it for forEVER!

B: Nu-uh, I just GOT it!

M: Okay, B, you have 1 more minute to play. Then it’s A’s turn.


A: UGGH! I want to play NOW!

(Can you tell I’ve heard this fight a time or two?)

Okay, now that we know that that’s not always the most effective way to do it, let’s try the “Speak to the Angel”:

A: MOM! B won’t give me the toy!

B: I had it first and she just tried to TAKE it from me!

M: Well, A, B is very kind and she is REALLY good at sharing. And you are also very kind and REALLY good at asking for things nicely. I’ll bet that if you asked very nicely B would be happy to share with you.

A: B, may I please have a turn with the toy?

B: Yes, you may. Here you go!

It is so simple, and yet works so well- I have used this technique with a great amount of success and I highly recommend it! Just speak to the angel.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Avoiding the Summer Slump- 4 Easy Ways to Keep Your Kids Learning This Summer

I promised when I started this blog that I would eschew the complicated and involved parenting advice and techniques found on other blogs. My goal is to provide you with easy, fun ways to be a great parent. So if you’re expecting today’s post to resemble a homeschool curriculum complete with crafts, reading assignments, and charts of some kind, you’re out of luck (and if you’re like me, also grateful).

Here are 4 simple things I do that help my kids keep learning reading, science, writing, and math during the summer without me even being all that involved:

1. Library Rules- Each week we take a trip to the library, and each child is allowed to choose 5 books for the week. But there are rules: 1 book must be nonfiction, 1 must be a “challenge book” (be at or slightly above their reading level) and the other 3 can be whatever they choose. For my rising kindergartener, her challenge books have been early reader phonics books. For my rising 3rd grader, thicker chapter books with fewer pictures. For my rising 5th grader, even longer chapter books with no pictures. They have all found nonfiction books that have piqued their interest, like the “Girls’ Guide to Glamour” or “Spies” or “All About Puppies”.

2. Journal Rewards- At the start of the summer I let my kids go to the dollar store and choose their own journals. I don’t make them write in their journals- it’s entirely up to them if and when they write. BUT there are sweet rewards for writing. For the older two, I place a Skittle or M&M on every correct capitalization and punctuation. My oldest loses 1 for every misspelling, and my second-oldest loses one for every reversal (she’s still struggling with those!). My littlest receives one for every letter she writes, with no deductions. We have had some very long and involved journal entries thanks to this motivation- and I did have to put a limit on just 1 journal entry per day. The best part? My kids are recording memories that will last a lifetime.

3. Summer Budget- Learn more about this here.

4. Math Games- My kids’ school has an account with the online math learning program called Dreambox. Their school is doing an incentive for kids to play during the summer, but my kids love it enough that they would want to play even without an incentive! It’s a great way to spend some down time and keep their math skills sharp at the same time. If your school doesn’t have a similar program, there are plenty of free apps & websites out there with fun math games for kids.

That’s it! Easy peasy, kids will be able to head back to school in the fall without missing a beat and you can pat yourself on the back for being an awesome parent. ;-)

Monday, June 2, 2014

Teach Kids About Money Using a Summer Budget

As much as we would like to think that we’ve taught our kids enough about money through allowances and such, it can be difficult for younger children to understand the world of money outside of the stuffed animals, dollar store treasures, and Lego sets they choose to purchase. 

Summertime is a great time to expand their financial horizons through a very basic Summer Budget:

1. With your spouse, choose an amount of money that you would be willing to spend each week or each month for any summer fun you and your kids want to have. Our family will be doing $25 per week (tight, but still room for thrifty fun).

2. Get your kids involved in summer planning, and explain to them the concept of a budget: you have a set amount of money, and as a family you have decide how to use it. 

3. Have the kids brainstorm ideas of things they might want to do over the summer and together find out how much those things might cost.

4.  Each week or month plan the activities based on the budget. It might help to make your budget physical- have actual cash in small bills for the kids to divide into different envelopes depending on what they want to do- or even have play money or just pieces of paper to represent the money that needs to be budgeted.

5. Keep track! It might be good to designate the oldest child as Summer Budget Treasurer, or to rotate the position if you have several children old enough for the responsibility. 

Kids will quickly begin to understand that big things, like theme parks or other trips, might cost more than they’re willing to blow on a single day. But they will also begin to realize that plenty of thrifty fun is within their grasp- $10 on craft supplies, for example, or $1 ice cream cones from McDonalds. They may also choose to save up some money for bigger things, like a trip to a zoo or museum. 

Once you have your budget in place and everyone is participating, you’ll eliminate the begging for expensive entertainment and whining when you say no, and kids may also realize that some of the best things in life really are free. 

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

One Word

One of my favorite parenting books is called, “How To Talk So Your Kids Will Listen and Listen So Your Kids Will Talk” by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish. One of my favorite, simple pieces of advice from that book has to do with nagging- we all do it. Some days I feel like a looped recording: “Pick up your shoes. Put your backpack away. Go wash your hands. Pick up your shoes. Set the table. PICK UP YOUR SHOES!” It can be just as annoying and exhausting for kids to hear it as it is for us to say it.

Faber and Mazlish suggest that after asking our child to do something once, rather than repeat ourselves until the task gets done, we can control our emotions and prevent our irritation from passing on to our children by simply using one word: “Mikey, shoes.” "Ella, backpack." "Candice, hands." "Kevin, table.”

Kids don’t usually need a lecture as much as they just need a reminder, and if you’re harried enough as it is, you don’t have time to give lectures. One word has the same impact, so keep the peace and keep it simple with just one word.