Tips and tricks for making parenting FUN again!

Tips and tricks for making parenting FUN again!

Monday, February 28, 2011

Finding Their Way Home

Cleaning up after ourselves is one of the biggest challenges in our household (and not just for my children...ahem...) so I am always looking for new and creative ways to make clean-up time not only easier, but also less intimidating and more fun!

For young children, I've found that a good way to explain the process is to tell them that each of their toys has a home. Toys that are left on the floor or anywhere they don't belong are lost, and the child needs to help them find their way to their home. If there are any toys that don't have a home, the child should make a home for them.

This little trick is a great way to teach very young kids about cleaning, and to explain the concept of, "a place for everything and everything in its place." It helps them take ownership over their things by giving them control over where they choose to keep them. It also makes clean-up time something of a fun experience as the children pick up each toy and say, "Hello Mr. Teddy! Are you lost? Here, your home is right here on my bed. There you go!" and "Oh, poor little block. You are sitting out on the floor all by yourself. Let's go get you back with the rest of your friends in the block box."

Now if only I could teach my husband to help his dirty socks find their way to their home in the hamper... ;-)

Friday, February 25, 2011

What Should You Do?

At church my children frequently play versions of the "What Should You Do?" game. In this simple game, a child chooses a slip of paper from a jar. On the paper, a fictional scenario is described and it is up to the child to decide what should be done in that particular situation. For example,

You are playing outside when your ball accidentally rolls into your neighbor's flower bed. What should you do?

The child would respond with something like, "I would go over to my neighbor's house and tell her what happened, then ask if I can get my ball and find out if there is a way I can make up for the damage the ball did."

Like I said, it's a simple game but it gives children an opportunity to practice their moral decision-making skills. I have discovered that I can use the format of this game to help my children make good real-life decisions as well. For example, if my son takes a toy from my daughter, rather than scold him and ask him to return it, I might pull him aside and say, "'A' has a toy that 'T' wants to play with. He asks her for it but she says no. What should he do?" By putting it in that format, my son quickly realizes the error of his ways and knows what he needs to do to rectify the situation.

This little game can defuse an emotional situation and allow the child a clearer perspective on their part in the disagreement by allowing them to see it from the outside. It also turns potentially negative conflict situations into a positive learning opportunity and invites a happier spirit into the home. :-)

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

A Fine Day For a Picnic!

Just because it's winter and you may have six inches of snow on the ground doesn't mean it's not a fine day for a picnic! Grab a tablecloth, blanket, or even just a few towels spread out on the floor and have an indoor picnic!

I did this with my kids last night because we just finished reading The Swiss Family Robinson and the movie was going to be playing on tv during dinnertime, so we decided to make an event of it. I spread out a tablecloth on the floor, made dinner as usual and just put the plates on the floor. We got to watch our movie, eat our dinner, and then clean-up was a snap! The kids loved the change of pace and I enjoyed it as well.

Go on, it's a lovely day for a picnic!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Love Bugs

For a fun (and super easy!) Valentines (or anytime you want to show someone some love!) craft idea, check out my other blog- The Beautiful Thrifty Life. :-)

Happy Valentines Day!!!

Friday, February 11, 2011

Love Coupons

Do you need a fun, free, last-minute Valentines Day gift for your kids? Make love coupons!! I made these for my kids for Christmas, and they were one of their favorite Christmas gifts. I kept mine very simple and made each child 5 coupons:

- 2 Free Room Cleaning coupons
- 2 Extra Treat coupons
- 1 Free Playroom Cleaning coupon

Whenever a child was asked to clean their room or the playroom, they could choose to use one of their coupons instead! The treat coupons are for whenever they want an unscheduled treat during the day or if we're having something for dinner that they just can't bring themselves to eat, then the coupon allows them to still get a dessert.

Here are a few extra tips for your coupons:
- Print them up on the computer to make them look official!
- Decorate them with stickers just for fun
- Add the child's initial to each of their coupons so they don't get mixed up
- Add an expiration date to make sure they use them!
- Present them in a special envelope that has their name on it. You can even decorate it with more stickers!
- Keep the envelopes in a safe place!
- After the coupon has been redeemed, be sure to tear it up and throw it away- no two-fers!

Do you have anything special planned for your kids for Valentines Day??

Mommy Playtime!

I ended up with the watercolors tray that was pretty much used up except for black, brown, and a little bit of orange...and so Mr. Snowman was born!

If you're a busy mom like I am, you probably don't often have time to yourself to pursue your own interests. Luckily, as your children grow, you can find ways to incorporate your own personal interests into the time you spend with your kids.

My kids love to paint (I think most kids do!) and I used to just sit down with them and paint random rainbows while I thought about the laundry that needed folding in the next room. One day I thought, Hey, I used to be pretty artsy back in the day. I wonder what I could create if I really tried? So when I sat down to do some watercolor painting I really thought about what I wanted to paint. It was fall at the time, and I was in love with the beautiful colors on the trees, so I painted a tree, trying to capture all of the lovely fall color. Not only did I get to spend time sharing a fun activity with my children, but I was able to tap into my artistic side and create something truly beautiful. It was a wonderful feeling- I was able to just slip into this world of paint and color and I got so involved with my painting that more than an hour passed without me even realizing it!

Since then, I have taken every opportunity to sit down and not just nurture my children's creativity, but mine as well. If you enjoy reading, then find a good chapter book that both you and your children will enjoy. If you enjoy sports, then get the kids outside with you to play! The best thing about being a mom is that you get to play like a kid!!

What is your favorite thing to do with your children that is also nurturing yourself?

Wednesday, February 9, 2011


Children are klutzy, it's a fact. This is another reason that I feel so connected with my children- I, too, am a complete klutz. Well, there are few things more painful and embarrassing then oh, say, running into a wall, tripping over one's feet, banging one's head on...anything... These things are just as painful for kids!

The next time your child has an unpleasant encounter with an inanimate object, blame the object. If they stubbed their toe on a corner, say, "What? That mean little corner tried to get you? Bad corner!! You leave my baby alone! Shame on you, picking on poor innocent children. What did he ever do to you? You need a time out!" Encourage your child to scold the corner as well. Their tears will turn to giggles in an instant!

Monday, February 7, 2011


I love surprises as much as the next person, but I think that there is also something to be said for anticipation, especially for children. Anticipating something exciting just makes your whole day/week/month better!

Sometimes it's fun to surprise my son by showing up for lunch at school, but I usually tell him the day before, because I know that way he will go to bed happy. The next morning he will wake up excited for the day, because he knows Mom is coming for lunch, and that's special. That excitement will carry him through the morning as he eagerly anticipates my arrival. Isn't that so much better than the few moments of surprise when I arrive?

So next time you have something fun coming up for your child, don't save it for a surprise- let them know so they can be excited too! If you still want to have an element of surprise, then just tell them that a surprise is coming and let them wonder what it might be. :-)

Friday, February 4, 2011

Rainy Day Jar Series: Imagination Jar

Welcome to the last post in my Rainy Day Series! I hope that you have found some great ideas for having fun with your kids on those stay-inside kind of days! Here is one that is sure to become a favorite!

For Christmas I made Imagination Jars for my kids and my nieces and nephews. I got the idea from a favorite blog, Penny Carnival. Find her post about these here. She calls hers "Story Starters." Basically, the children have a jar, and inside are little numbered envelopes (the numbers and envelopes are just for fun- slips of paper in a jar work just as well). Inside each envelope is a "story starter." For example, "You have been shipwrecked on a deserted island. You need to find food and make a shelter." The children then use that starter as the beginning of their imaginary adventure! You can pretend to go fishing to try to catch food, pretend to build a fire to cook it, and gather items you find on the "island" (or the couch?) to build a shelter. What a great way to spend a rainy afternoon and exercise the imagination at the same time!

Check out Penny Carnival's post about this to find more printable story starters for your own Imagination Jars!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Rainy Day Jar Series: Horse Jumping

I happen to be an equestrian, and when I was a little girl I loved to pretend to ride horses too! I would hold my hands in front of me like I was holding onto the reins, and then my legs would be the horse's legs and I would gallop myself around like I was riding the most beautiful stallion in the world!

Well, when I got older I wanted to share that fun with my kids, and let's face it- when you're stuck inside you need a little exercise! So I invented our Horse Jumping game. I let the kids take turns creating jumps for our "horses" to jump over, using blocks, pillows, toys, etc. Half of the fun is seeing what kinds of crazy jumps you can design! You can do them in a straight line or set up a jump course, depending on how much room you have.

Each child names their horse (Lightning is a popular name; sometimes the girls like Sparkle or Starlight) and the games begin! Everyone takes their turn on the course, and you try to see if you can do the jumps smoothly and without knocking them down. This can be even more fun if you add some sports commentary to it! Try not to make it competitive, just have fun with it and use your imagination. It's a great way to burn up some energy on a rainy day!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Rainy Day Jar Series: Finding Treasure

What kid doesn't love the idea of a good treasure hunt? The thing I love most about treasure hunts is that there are so many different ways to do them. Here are a few I've tried!

For Little Bitty Ones- Find a toy that you have a lot of, like blocks or toy cars. Take the toys and hide them around the house when your child is not watching. Give them a basket or bag and have them go in search of the toys, like an easter egg hunt! You can make this educational by sorting the found toys by color or shape, and by counting them. This is so simple and so fun!

For Little Ones- Make clues for your treasure hunt using pictures. For example, draw simple pictures of various places around your house, like a bed, lamp, table, couch, television, etc. Hide the clues in the various places- hide the picture of the lamp in the bed, then at the lamp hide the picture of the table, and so on. The children will go from place to place looking for clues until eventually a clue will lead them to the treasure, which can be a treat or even just items for your next activity, like paints and paintbrushes!

For Bigger Ones- You can do a hunt similar to that for Little Ones, only make the clues using riddles. For example, "Sometimes our food we like to save, then we heat it up in the ________." Or, "It gets dark when it is night. To see we must turn on the ________." These are pretty simple, but you could make it even harder for older kids!
Older kids can even make up their own treasure hunts for their siblings- and for you!

When was the last time you searched for hidden treasure? ;-)

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Rainy Day Jar Series: Super Easy Chocolate Cake!

Don't you hate it when you're in the mood to bake something yummy and you realize you have no baking mixes or you're out of chocolate chips or eggs or butter? Well, that probably never happens to you because I'm sure you're much more organized than I am and you always keep your kitchen well-stocked. But just in case you are like me, here is the recipe for you!

Busy-Day Chocolate Cake Recipe (from

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled)
1 cup sugar
3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
6 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 tablespoon white vinegar
1 cup cold water

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In an 8-inch square baking pan, whisk together dry ingredients.
Make a well in the center and add in wet ingredients; whisk until well combined.
Bake until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes. Let cool completely in pan on a wire rack.

My daughter and I were having a lazy day watching a cooking show one day (Mad Hungry) and we watched the chef make this. I was so surprised to realize I had all the ingredients on hand, and it looked really good, so we went in the kitchen and made it! Just like that! It turned out moist and delicious, and I loved that we didn't even need a bowl- we just mixed it all right in the baking dish! How awesome is that? Makes it a perfect rainy-day recipe!

What is your favorite thing to cook on a rainy day?