Well-being Wednesday – Just Do It

Happy Wednesday all! The quote we are sharing today reminds us not to wait for perfect conditions to begin. Whether that may in your home life, your relationships, your adventures (or in our case our blogging career), whatever it may be, remember to take chances and keep stepping as everyday is a new chance to do a little living, loving and growing. Weds Quote - 17

For a printable version of this quote, please click here: Weds Quote – 17

Board Games – A Fun and Simple Way to Foster Important Qualities in Children

Board Games Post Pic1

I think it is safe to say that in the current day and age we are more likely to find children playing games on televisions or devices than on boards with other people.  And while I feel there is room for all types of entertainment in the life of a child, I think we do ourselves a huge disservice as parents when we allow our kids to transition away from the latter.  By simply playing board games with others our children are given invaluable opportunities to learn critical life skills. Below I offer examples of the things our children learn when we push them to grab a board game over a device or controller.

Sportsmanship.  When a child plays a game with a device instead of with a person there is no need to be a gracious winner or loser.  They can throw a fit and act out in anger after a loss or gloat after a win and then simply hit play again and off they go with no ramifications.  Playing a game with another human does not allow that.  Lose at a board game and throw a fit or act egotistical after a win and you will lose the ability to play again because no one will want to play with you.  To keep human playmates you need to learn to regulate the feelings of anger, disappointment or self-centeredness and be gracious in victory or defeat. 

Patience.  When playing a video game a child is constantly stimulated.  They are involved in every second of play.  That level of stimulation does not mirror most of the situations in real life.  In real life a child will have to patiently wait their turn…to talk in a conversation, to get to use the play equipment on the playground, to order at a restaurant, etc.  The turn taking required when playing games with others is one of the best ways to learn the patience needed to successfully navigate all types of social situations. 

Perseverance. How many of us have watched a child playing a game on a device and when it isn’t going well they simply hit quit half-way through the game and start over?  This simple act erodes their ability to navigate through a situation that is not going their way. Having a child sit through the struggle of being behind or losing during a game can help encourage them to foster a can-do vs a quitter mentality.  Also, as we all know, board games like Chutes and Ladders, Sorry, etc. have circumstances where the tide can quickly turn and seeing that can help foster their sense of optimism in difficult situations.

Respect for Boundaries.  Board games have clear rules and boundaries given for participation.  Children have to learn and respect those rules to understand the game and they have to be able to successfully remain within the boundaries of those rules for the game to go smoothly.  This is great practice for staying within the boundaries they will encounter at school, relatives or friends’ homes, extra-curricular activities, etc.

Ability to Delay Gratification.  Psychologists have studied and stressed the importance of children having the ability to delay gratification.  There are so many board games that are great at reinforcing delayed gratification.  These are most likely for slightly older children playing games that involve strategy, but so many games like Chess, Risk, Stratego, etc. require you to think of a long term strategy and patiently put it into action instead of going for the first available move.  Also, the overstimulating games on screens can interfere with a child’s ability to appreciate the use of quiet, thoughtful moments to plan out and think ahead.  

As you can see from the above the benefits of playing board games are numerous, so every now and then reach over and turn off the Play Station or iPad and break out Candy Land or Sorry instead.  Your children’s development and behavior will thank you.

Tips for Introducing a New Baby to Siblings

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We have a very special (and very pregnant) friend who has requested our return from retirement to blog about a topic that is understandably feeling very important and timely to her – introducing an older child to a new sibling.  Since her request was so flattering and we have been feeling the itch to write a bit again we spent some time reflecting about those beautifully insane days when we had infants in our homes and complied our best tidbits of advice for introducing a new baby into the family and fostering the early connection between siblings.

Do some prep work before the baby arrives.  Talk, talk and then talk some more to your older child about what to expect.  Discuss how you will hold a baby, how they eat, how much they might sleep, reasons they might cry, what they will and won’t be able to do, etc.  Kellie found an easy way to spend a little time talking about the subject every day by incorporating a book about a new baby coming into a family into her daughter’s nighttime reading routine. She loved hearing about what to expect and enjoyed the relaxed time to ask questions about what was going to happen.

Try to keep your (understandably high) emotions in check when the big meeting takes place.  Now we all know that is no small feat when you are exhausted and flooded with hormones, but if you can remind yourself to try to do your best to not project your big feelings about or ideals for the big moment onto young children it gives them their needed space to process things in their own way.  We all have this vision in our head of this beautiful moment of connection between our children, but the moment itself will probably involve them feeling more overwhelmed by the hospital setting or unsettled because they may have just been away from you from longer then they have before.  Allow your focus to be on respecting and validating whatever feelings they might be having in the moment.  This will help them feel assured that you don’t want or need them to be anyone or anything different just because the baby is here.

Along those same lines, try to keep your emotions in check with their behavior that can sometimes accidentally be too rough or irresponsible.  I clearly remember the moment when I walked into the living room after a 30 second bathroom break to find my one-year-old son sitting on my infant son’s head.  I wanted to flip out and scream “GET OFF THE BABY HE CANNOT BREATHE” but I mustered all my parental self-control and calmly said “please get off the baby’s head”.  My one year old stood up…watched his little brother gasp for air and then said “Oh sa-See Bebe” before he patted his head and
ran off to play.  He only wanted to be close to the baby, but had I reacted with anger he could have associated his being around the baby with angry mommy or even the baby coming and mommy getting more impatient.  It is also very helpful to do hands on demonstrations of what is gentle versus rough touches.  Anytime one of my older children was rough with baby, I would take their hand in mine and rub it softly against my face and then their own face while repeating “this is how we are gentle…this is how we are gentle.”

Give them their own baby.  This is great for several reasons.  First, it can be used as a siblingpost3teaching tool both during your prep work mentioned above and when the baby is here.  For example, after said head sitting incident we spent a lot of time practicing the way we can hold, touch or play with a baby using my son’s baby doll.  Second, it can allow them to feel like they are “playing” with you while you are just trying to get through the endless hours of care a baby requires.  Ask them to feed, change and dress their baby alongside you while you do the same to their sibling.   Kellie even invested in a baby carrier for her older daughter so the two of them could each wear their own babies together each day.

Try to facilitate simple ways to make the older child feel like the baby already loves and enjoys them.  And I really am talking extremely simple.  For example, I used to put a slightly hungry and rooting infant up to their big siblings cheek because I knew they would turn and try to suck on it.  My older two used to squeal with delight when this happened and I would be sure to say something like “look he’s trying to siblingpost1kiss you…because he loves you.”  Or when the baby was fussing after a nap and I knew they would most likely soothe when I picked them up…before getting him I would ask my daughter to sing or talk to the baby and then I would pick him up and tell her “look he loves your singing/talking so much he stopped crying.”  These probably seem so basic, but think about how good it feels to you as an adult to feel loved and needed. Facilitating moments where the baby makes the older child feel that way helps root their connection in warm feelings.

Keep their routine as consistent as possible. Sure as adults we know that overall things are very different once a new baby arrives, but if you can keep most of what makes up your older child’s day similar that will go a long way towards keeping them feeling calm and secure through an unpredictable time. To keep perspective on that I used to try to focus on doing as many of the same things I did with my older children before the baby arrived…only now I had another little human along for the ride. For example, I used to play with them everyday on the floor, so I would try to do a feeding or two while sitting on the floor while they played.  When they did their daily music/marching time we would lay the baby down right in the middle on a pillow and they would march and dance around the baby.  When they had outside play time we would wear the baby or bring him with us in the stroller.  As we did those things we tried to keep language around it very relaxed and matter-of-fact like “look baby is here to sit with us while we play…or baby is going to eat with mommy while we read books.”  The point is to just take the focus off the baby making everything change so your older child does not use all the change as a reason to feel resentment.

A new baby is a huge transition and even armed with all the tips and ideas in the world there are going to be some big bumps along the road.  When you are feeling overwhelmed by those bumps, try to remind yourself that the main things all of your children need from you are a sense of security and a feeling of unconditional love and acceptance and in the moments when you crawl into bed at night exhausted and not sure if you even gave them those, remember that everyday is a new day and in the morning the biggest blessing your children can have is a mom who shows up ready to try again.

Well-being Wednesday – Simple Reminders

It felt like time to come back and share one of our favorite quotes. It is the one that we so often find ourselves turning to when we have that overwhelming feeling that too much is being asked of us by ourselves, by others or by our chaotic lives. It provides that necessary reminder that what is needed from us each day is pretty simple. So enjoy and remember that every day is a new day to show up and try again.Weds Quote - 16

For a printable version of this quote, please click here: Weds Quote – 16

Well-being Wednesday – New Year

In yesterday’s post we suggested holding a New Year’s family meeting to discuss what your family dreams to achieve in the upcoming year. We selected today’s Well-being Wednesday quote to provide additional inspiration as you reflect on what those dreams may be.WBW15

For a printable version of this quote, please click here: Weds Quote- 15

New Year’s Family Meeting

HNY2I love the idea of the “new year.” It is an awesome opportunity to regroup and refocus on what it is that you want for yourself and your family. Today I want to share a simple, yet powerful way that you can use this opportunity to foster unity, positivity and teamwork in your home – A New Year’s Family Meeting.

If you have read earlier posts on our blog you know we are big fans of family meetings because they allow families to come together and work on valuable life skills like communication, cooperation, planning and organization. A New Years family meeting is simply a big picture version of a regular family meeting. It is a time to discuss what your family dreams to achieve in the New Year, and to focus on what each of you can do to support making those dreams a reality. Below we have provided some simple suggestions on how you can hold a successful New Year’s family meeting in your home.

  1. Do something to set this meeting apart from all your other family meetings. Hold it at a coffee shop and let everyone get hot chocolate or have it at a restaurant your family really loves. If you want to keep it at home, have it after serving a special meal or arrange an ice cream sundae bar to enjoy afterwards.
  2. Select a person to write down all the items discussed at the meeting. That way, when the meeting has ended, you can use the notes taken to make a poster of your family’s goals, dreams, etc. for the New Year. This can provide a constant visual reminder of what your family is focusing on for the year.
  3. Start the meeting off in an exciting way so everyone is engaged. Ask each person to share some things they would really like to see happen for your family in the New Year. Where would they like to go on vacation? What would they like to do more of together around town? Are there things that they want to do more of when you are at home? This is a great time to give feedback to your children to let them know you are excited about their opinions and grateful for their input when making plans for your family. You strengthen your family’s bond when you emphasize that everyone in your home, no matter their age, is valued and an important part of the family.
  4. Talk about the special family traditions that everyone would like to see continue in the New Year. These could be things you have been doing for years or things you did in the past year that you want to now make a tradition. Putting an emphasis on continuing special family traditions is a great way to give children a sense of security. Use this time to remind them that even though life can be unpredictable, you will always have special things within your family that they can count on to remain consistent.
  5. Ask for suggestions on ways your family can grow together. Maybe it is by trying an activity or by visiting a location that is new to all of you. Maybe you plan to research and learn about a new charity you can support. Whatever you choose, this is a significant exercise because it allows you to stress to your children the value of remaining open to new experiences and the importance of being a life-long learner.
  6. TeamworkEnd the meeting by discussing any new expectations, chores or responsibilities that each family member will have in the New Year. This is an opportunity to emphasize to your family that teamwork makes a dream work. Remind them that in order to be successful you all need to work together, not just when planning your fun adventures, but when accomplishing the everyday tasks that need to be done so your home runs smoothly.

We hope the suggestions above help your family to feel a strong sense of connection, collaboration and optimism as you embark on your journey into the new year!

Gratitude Turkey Treat Jars

TurkeyJars

These adorable turkey jars are fun and easy to make Thanksgiving gifts. This craft is a great way for children to practice their attitude of gratitude by writing the reasons they are grateful for the gift recipient on the turkey feathers. It makes an ideal Thanksgiving teacher gift when you have kids write things they are grateful for about their teacher or class on the feathers. Please see below for step-by-step directions, a link to a delicious recipe you can use when filling the jars and a variation of the craft that works well with younger children.

Gratitude Turkey Treat Jar

Inspiration for this craft came from here: http://www.toddlerapproved.com/2011/11/gratitude-turkey-treat-jar.html

Supplies needed:

  • Tape or glue
  • Jars with lids – We used glass jars we found on clearance at Michael’s for .99
  • Colored cardstock
  • Orange & red felt
  • Scissors
  • Markers
  • Googly eyes

Directions:

  1. Draw an outline of a feather onto cardstock in 5 different colors. You can make these as simple or elaborate as you desire. We did a very basic shape.
  2. Cut out the 5 feathers
  3. DSC_0191On each of the 5 feathers have your child to write a reason they are grateful for the person they will be gifting the jar to
  4. Secure the feathers to the back of the jar.  We actually used tape for this step, but I think glue would work better because the tape was getting stuck to the lid of our jar.
  5. Cut a small triangle to be used as the turkey’s nose out of the orange felt
  6. Cut a small waddle from the red felt
  7. Use glue to secure the googly eyes, felt nose and felt waddle to the front of the jar so you create the turkey’s face
  8. DSC_0225Fill the jar with a delicious treat. We used an amazingly easy and delicious 4-step recipe to make pumpkin spice popcorn to fill our jars. Click on the link below to view that recipe: http://www.wineandglue.com/2013/09/pumpkin-spice-popcorn.html

Variation of this craft for younger children:

Since younger children don’t have the ability to write reasons they are grateful onto cardstock feathers, you can make the feathers of their jar using an outline of their little hand. You need the same supplies as the ones listed above, except you omit the 5 pieces of colored cardstock and use one piece of white cardstock instead.  Also, we liked the finished look of these jars better when a smaller glass jar was used.

 Directions:

  1. Trace the outline of your child’s hand onto a piece of white cardstock. Try to have your child stretch out and separate their fingers as much as possible.
  2. TurkeyJarColoringHave your child color the handprint
  3. Glue or tape the handprint to the back of the jar
  4. Cut a small triangle to be used as the turkey’s nose out of the orange felt
  5. Cut a small waddle from the red felt
  6. Use glue to secure the googly eyes, felt nose and felt waddle to the front of the jar so you create the turkey’s face.
  7. Fill the jar with a delicious treat. We used Reese’s pieces to fill ours.photo

Well-being Wednesday – Gratitude

The quote we are sharing today provides an important reminder – if we want to cultivate an attitude of gratitude in our children, we must lead by example, living each day with gratitude in our own hearts.
WBW14

For a printable version of this quote, please click here: Weds Quote- 14

 

 

 

Cultivating an Attitude of Gratitude in Your Home

Last week I wrote a post about choosing gratitude in our daily lives.  In that post I shared why I feel this is such a valuable practice and today I want to focus on 5 simple ways you can encourage and cultivate an attitude of gratitude within every member of your home.Attitude of Gratitude Printable

For a printable version of this quote that you can display in your home, click here: Gratitude Printable

  1. Work with your child(ren) to identify wants vs. needs. Ask them to help you list out the things they need to feel safe, comfortable and happy. Then take a few minutes to appreciate just how many (if not all) of their needs are currently being met.  Continue this lesson by asking everyone to be more conscious about using the word need when talking about a want. This is not intended to discourage your family from wanting things in the future. It is simply intended to encourage gratitude for needs that are met even when wants are not.
  2. Talk with your child(ren) about all the different ways they can show gratitude.  Examples could be saying thank you, saying other nice things, giving hugs and smiles, etc. The next time your child is in a situation where it would be appropriate to express gratitude, instead of prompting them to “say thank you”, which they can end up saying almost robotically, simply ask them to remember to “show gratitude”. This allows them to be genuine and thoughtful when figuring the best way to express their gratitude.
  3. Create a family “Lucky List”. In a notebook that you dedicate for only this purpose have each family member make a short list of the items they feel lucky to have in their lives. Take turns sharing your lists. Repeat this practice at an interval that works for your family. This activity is especially fun if you take care to note names and dates by each entry because it allows you to read back through old entries and be reminded of all the ways your family has been blessed through the years.
  4. Help your child(ren) to practice seeing the good. Discuss situations that might feel challenging or disappointing and ask your child to tell you things they could find to be grateful for in those difficult moments. Examples could be; their best friend is absent from school…but now they have the chance to make a new friend, rain cancels their sporting event…but now they get to stay inside and play their favorite board game or their favorite lego creation breaks…but now they get a chance to have fun building it again. Focus on the fact that they can always try to find something good to appreciate in any situation.
  5. Spend time as a family sharing the reasons you are grateful for each other. This works well as a dinnertime activity.  You go around the table and allow each person to state what they appreciate about all the other members of your family. This exercise is beneficial because it provides an opportunity for everyone to take turns expressing gratitude while also allowing the person receiving the compliments to feel grateful for the love and support of their family. Gratitude Text Box