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

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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.

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!

Share and Compare – Reasons for Participating in Youth Sports

MIAHAMMToday we have a Slow Down and Share Sunday idea that can assist you as you work to become a more relaxed and supportive sports parent. One way to better equip yourself to be more relaxed and supportive while your child participates in sports is to have a clear understanding of the reasons they choose to get involved in athletics. The simple exercise we provide below allows your child the opportunity to share those reasons with you. It also gives you the opportunity to go a step further and compare their reasons for playing with the reasons you have for wanting them to participate. With the insight and perspective this exercise provides you will be better able to relax, allow and support your child as they play sports for the reasons they choose for themselves instead of reasons you choose for them.

For a printable version of the questionnaires please click here: 

Child Questionnaire

Parent Questionnaire

Child QuestionnaireParent Questionnaire

 

Learning to be a Relaxed & Supportive Sports Parent

SportsFinalHeaderThis past weekend our family had our first sports competition of the new school year. As another season began I found myself reflecting on the recent growth I have experienced in my role as a sports parent. Now before you start picturing me red-faced and yelling – let me clarify. It’s not that I had trouble controlling my own emotions at my children’s sports events. It’s that I often found myself feeling stressed about their performance, success, and the experience they were having as they participated in athletics. In today’s post, I want to share the amazing article that helped me reduce that stress and simplify my role as a sports parent.

The article is titled “What Makes a Nightmare Sports Parent – And What Makes a Great One” by Steve Henson. It is a summary of the insights of two longtime coaches, Bruce Brown and Rob Miller. The two men used the information they gathered directly from youth athletes during the three decades they spent working with them and now, through Proactive Coaching LLC, they are devoted to helping adults become the best sports parents they can be. Please click on the link above to read the entire article. It is brief, clear and full of information that will likely impact you and your children positively as you navigate the world of youth sports.

Sports Post FINALAfter I read this article, I easily recognized myself as one of the well-meaning parents they mention who inadvertently make their child’s sports experience less than what it could be. While the article is filled with valuable pieces of information, there was one item in particular that really stood out to me. Specifically, they noted that when it comes to your children and their sports, your main focus simply should be to let your child know how much you enjoy watching them play. After some self-reflection, I wasn’t sure I had spent much time communicating that to my children at all so I made changes that have allowed me to better communicate this to them. Before games I simply tell them I love them and I am looking forward to watching them play. After their games I just let them know how much I enjoyed watching them. Embracing this one piece of advice has made my job as a sports mom so much simpler. I don’t need to feel any pressure to offer the pre-game pep talk or tips to enhance their play. And I can let go of my need to share constructive criticism or to uplift and motivate them after a disappointing performance. Knowing my main job is to show up and enjoy watching them is so much less stressful. It’s something that comes naturally and doesn’t require additional effort on my part. And even more than that, it’s something I know I will always be good at.

Sports Pic Post BbballMaking this change has not only benefited me, but has produced noticeable results in my children as well. I have seen a difference in their interactions with me both before and after games. Before, they would sometimes pull away from me or give me a rushed “I know I know” as I was reminding them to use good shooting form in their basketball game or to be “baseball ready” out on the field. Now, I enjoy warm moments with them as they come to me to hug away their nerves or to share their excitement about a big game. After their games, I have noticed a reduction in their frustration and disappointment when they didn’t play well or their team did poorly. Of course, those experiences are still difficult for them, but instead of doing things like sulking or walking slowly behind the rest of us when we go to leave, they will stay closer to me. I can see the comfort they take from knowing I am there with them as their unconditional supporter. By letting them know that my joy comes from simply watching them play, it doesn’t matter the outcome of their performance or the game. I have realized that they don’t need any additional pressure from me as they strive to be the best they can be for themselves.SportsWayneDyerPost

Brown and Miller’s article showed me that communicating to my children that I love watching them play is one of the greatest things I can do to be a supportive sports parent. If you would like some other tips for positively influencing your child’s athletic experience please see the suggestions below:

  1. Cheer without giving directions. A simple way to do this is to avoid using verbs. For example, try “great shot” instead of “shoot the ball”.
  2. Allow your child to create their own definition of success as it relates to their sports experiences. Talk to them about what their goals are for each season. Ask them to explain what they hope to learn and how they hope to feel when playing. Let them know you are excited to be there to watch them play and learn and work towards their goals.
  3. Remind your child that mistakes and struggles are a part of learning. Let them know they won’t be able to get better at the sports they are playing without taking risks by trying new skills and re-trying things that don’t go well the first time. A great way to do this is by teaching them that the brain is like a muscle that gets stronger with use. See our past post Slow Down and Share Sunday- Mistakes for some ideas of easy ways to talk to your children about this.
  4. Allow your child to discuss their games with you. Avoid giving unsolicited post-game analysis and wait for them to approach you when they are ready to discuss the game or ask questions about the sport. If you give them the space they need, they will come to you when they’re ready to listen which will allow them to gain much more from the conversation.
  5. If your child approaches you with negative feelings about their performance try using a “you’re the kind of person who….” statement. For example, if your child says to you “I missed all my shots in my game today,” reply with a statement like, “You did miss all your shots, but you are the kind of person who keeps trying.” Assist them in transitioning from focusing on the negative to seeing the positive.
  6. Avoid pushing sports on your children. Instead, let them push you to help them. An easy way to do this is to let your child know you would love to rebound for them so they can work on their jump shot. Or communicate that you would be happy to take them to the park and pitch balls to them for hitting practice. Let them know you are available and then wait for them to approach you.
  7. Finally, don’t lose sight of what is important. Only 1-2% of child athletes go on to get scholarships, but close to 100% of children play sports because they enjoy it and want to have fun.

DIY Family Meeting Bins

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As a follow up to our Monday post on Family Meetings, today we are sharing a simple idea that has helped us both to be more organized and prepared during our weekly meetings – family meeting bins. These bins serve as a central location for all the items we need during our meetings, and having them filled and ready alleviates the need for us to spend additional time and energy rounding up supplies or writing out an agenda before each meeting. As an added bonus, these bins only take a minimal amount of effort to make, and they are adorable enough to display proudly in your home.

Supplies needed

  • Storage bin (ours were magazine bins we found at Target in the dollar deals section for $3)
  • 3 Mason jars
  • One piece of 12×12 Cardstock
  • One to two sheets of 8×11 Cardstock
  • Craft tape
  • Double sided tape
  • Scissors or Paper cutter
  • Twine
  • Pens/Markers

Directions:

Family Meeting Agenda

  • Print (or handwrite) your family meeting agenda on a piece of 8 x 11 cardstock
  • If your agenda doesn’t take up the whole page, cut off the remaining blank part of the paper with scissors or a paper cutter.
  • Using craft tape, tape your agenda to the 12×12 cardstock.

Bin

  • Wrap a long piece of craft tape completely around the bottom of your bin

Jars

  • Wrap 2 pieces of thick craft tape around three of your mason jars
  • Write or print your desired text on a small piece of cardstock and tape it on top of the craft tape on the Mason jars (our family’s desired text included  “allowance” and “family fun questions” – but this can be customized however you feel works best for your family)
  • Cut a piece of twine and tie it in a bow around the top of the jar. Trim the bow edges as needed so they are even.
  • Using 2 strips of thick craft tape cover the lid of your jar

Assembly

  • Fill your jars with your supplies and place your agenda and mason jars into your bin
    • Note: For anyone interested the “family fun questions” jar is filled with slips of paper that have different questions printed on them. I found the questions I put in my jar by googling “family dinner questions”. For a simple bonding exercise during the family meeting, a question is pulled from the jar and each family member takes a turn answering it.

Variations

If you love the idea of having all your meeting supplies centrally located and stored, but are not interested in getting very crafty with this project, you can create a simplified version omitting certain steps such as the craft tape, bows, and/or stickers. Below is a picture of Christie’s simplified version of the craft.photo-87photo-86

We hope this craft helps set you up for success during your next family meeting!

Well-being Wednesday- Coming Together

For this Well-being Wednesday we are sharing the quote that Christie and her family read together during their weekly family meetings to inspire them to be productive and positive. We hope that today it will inspire you as well :).

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For a printable version of this quote, please click here: Weds Quote- 9

Cultivate Calm and Connection with Family Meetings

Family Mtg TextWeekly Family Meetings

Today we are going to discuss a valuable tool for increasing your family’s happiness and solidarity – the family meeting. In our opinion, making a commitment to gather weekly is one of the most valuable things you can do for your family. In this post I will highlight the benefits of these meetings, and explain what our family does during our meeting time. I will then leave you with some simple tips for making your own family meetings as successful as possible.

Benefits of Family Meetings

There are numerous benefits to holding family meetings. First, they are a wonderful way to teach children important life skills because each meeting affords them the opportunity to practice communicating, problem-solving, cooperating, planning, preparing, organizing, and effectively managing their time.

Family meetings also help nurture a child’s self-confidence by allowing them to feel that their thoughts and opinions are valued by everyone in the family – including you.   When you involve children in discussion about things such as the week’s activities, chores, and outings, it reduces the feeling that parents are simply mandating or dictating what and when things will be done. Children are more likely to comply with plans and decisions they feel included in making.

Finally, family meetings are an excellent way to build family unity. Working through problems, coordinating schedules, and dividing responsibilities together serves to confirm for your children that every member of the home helps control the success of your family.

Our Family Meetings

fm1Our family begins every family meeting by discussing the logistics of our week. We tackle the logistics first because they are the most time and thought-consuming. In our home, every family member (kids included) has their own calendar that they bring and fill-in as we go along. As we go through each day of the week, we discuss what activities each person has and we coordinate how everyone will get where they need to go. We also choose who will be cooking dinner each night and what they will be making. This exercise has been especially beneficial for our family. By figuring out meals and logistics ahead of time, we avoid the stress my husband and I would feel if we waited until we were in the chaos of the moment to figure things out. It is much easier to figure these things out in a calm and collaborative environment.

Meals and activities are not the only things we plan in advance. We also discuss and decide on a fun family activity and we make sure to plan for some family down time. Both of these things may seem like they would be automatically included in your week, but it is so easy to completely overlook them when life gets busy. To avoid this, we make sure to take the time to schedule them in. I have noticed that everyone in our family is much happier when we have taken some time to reconnect during a fun activity and we have ensured that everyone has had time to recharge in a way they enjoy during some downtime.

After all the planning is completed we move on to the problem solving section of our meeting. During this time, we invite everyone to share things they may want to discuss and we ask if anyone in the family needs help. We have spent this time discussing all types of topics from ways to address our issue with being tardy to school and ideas for improving our family communication to appeals to revise our screen time policy and a request for help on a difficult rainbow loom project. I have noticed that taking time for this type of connection and communication during our meeting has really helped our children feel supported, taken seriously and included in the problem-solving process.

Tips for successful meetings

  1. Meet weekly and make it a priority. Let everyone in the family know that you all are committing to consistency with these meetings and that everyone is expected to attend.
  2. Set a written agenda. This helps you to keep the meetings short and well-organized.
  3. Remain Realistic. Consider the age and attention span of your child/children and go into your meeting with reasonable expectation of how much they can successfully tolerate. Also, be prepared for chaos from time to time, especially if meetings run a little long or are held at the end of a very busy day.
  4. When holding meetings with very young children, make some activities available to them to keep their hands busy (i.e. paper and pens for them to draw pictures, a snack, etc.).
  5. End each meeting with something uplifting and special to your family. Our meeting always ends with a family hug and affirming statement. My sister’s family does a family cheer. Make it fun and something that solidifies your connection to each other.

Clarifying Chaos in the Kitchen

About 18 months ago Kellie and I found ourselves burned out by the amount of work that planning and preparing meals was requiring each week. We both knew we wanted to feel more organized, efficient and inspired when it came to feeding our families. We experimented with some simple changes in our homes and today we would like to share three things that have helped us to plan and prepare meals that are both effective and enjoyable. These three items are; having a posted weekly meal plan, getting kids into the kitchen and finding fun ways to challenge ourselves when cooking.

Posted Weekly Meal Plan

MealPlanningBenefitsI love having a meal plan that our family discusses and posts weekly because it allows us to save time and money and it helps reduce stress. We try to plan our meals during our weekly family meetings. By doing this we are able to choose dinners that make sense with our family’s upcoming schedule. For example, if I am out late for an appointment, we choose a barbeque meal that my husband can start grilling before I am home. Or, if our whole family will be busy at someone’s sporting event, we select a dish that is cooked in the crock-pot and can be ready right when we walk in the door. Having a plan also helps us save money. With our meal schedule prepared in advance we can write and use a shopping list of the exact items needed for the week so our food waste is minimal. By using the prepared list we also cut back the number of trips our family makes to the store. This helps save money on gas and reduces opportunities for impulse buys while shopping. Finally, posting our weekly dinner schedule has played a role in reducing some of the evening insanity. Having a prepared plan eliminates the stress of trying to make a last minute decision about a meal. When evening rolls around and everyone is starting to feel worn out and hungry, it is calming to know we have a plan in place.

Kids in the Kitchen

IMG_9432In the last two years I have made it a priority to start inviting my daughters to come and join me in the kitchen. Though cooking with my girls often requires more time and creates more messes to cleanup, there is so much we gain from the time we spend preparing food together. I enjoy all the learning opportunities my children have during their time in the kitchen. Cooking teaches math as they measure ingredients, reading as they follow along with step by step directions and chemistry as they watch things like water boil and butter melt. Another great benefit to having them cook with me is they have an increased openness to trying new foods. When they have helped me make it they are always interested in giving it a try. I love seeing them gain a genuine appreciation for the person who has prepared the food they are enjoying. It warms my heart to see my 5 year-old give unprompted thanks to the cook. Finally, my favorite thing about the time we spend in the kitchen is that it is a part of our day where we can enjoy conversation, have some fun, strengthen our bond and simply soak in some quality family time.

Challenging Yourself in the Kitchen

ChallengeinKitchenI have made a conscious effort to see cooking and meal planning as experiences to be enjoyed instead of chores I cram into my schedule. I did this by challenging myself to find ways to feel inspired, creative and empowered in my kitchen. To feel inspired I like to try to find one new recipe to make each week. Browsing food blogs or cookbooks at the local library or bookstore is something I have become so fond of that it is now a hobby to me. When expressing my creativity I enjoy putting together themed meals and treats during holidays and birthdays. I also appreciate using my imagination to think of ways to add personal touches to recipes. Cooking up new and creative dishes helps me to feel empowered in the kitchen. I experience a huge sense of accomplishment when I conquer a new recipe and I take great pride in presenting my family meals that they all enjoy.

Now that we have shared what has helped us to feel organized, efficient and inspired when planning and preparing meals in our homes, we would love to hear from you! Please feel free to comment below with what has worked well for your family either in the kitchen or at mealtimes!

Collaboratively Creating Morning and Evening Routines

DSCN49732Earlier this week we shared our love of routines and now we are excited to begin sharing the details of the ones we are most fond of with you! We knew we wanted to kick things off by discussing morning and evening routines. We feel that by implementing a basic structure for our children to follow when beginning and ending their day we have helped them feel comfort and security, seen them master basic life skills and become more independent. Even better, is the fact that this all came while we decreased battles and reduced chaos during what are usually two of the craziest times of the day. There is a lot to love about that!

When implementing these routines in our homes, we felt there were two things that really helped contribute to our success. The first was a visual, i.e. a chart or checklist, and the second was a plan to ensure our children knew their feelings and opinions were considered and included as the new systems were put into place. So today we are sharing a simple idea that incorporates both of these things…routine charts that you create collaboratively with your children. These are an easy and straightforward way to get the routines for your family established and displayed so you can start reaping the benefits we mentioned above. Below Christie wrote up 4 different variations of this activity based on the age of the child you will be doing it with.

Ages 0 – 24 months

I want to make sure we included this age group when discussing posted routines. Obviously children this young won’t be referring to the documented schedule, but I found it beneficial to have a written record of the sequence of events my babies relied on for comfort prepared and printed for the times I was away. I felt better knowing this would help them avoid unnecessary stress from having their routine interrupted while I was gone.

I also want to ensure the importance of considering and respecting the feelings and opinions of children this young is not over-looked. There are some simple and wonderful ways I feel you can collaborate with your baby as you move through your routines together. Consider asking their permission before doing things like massaging them or changing their diaper. Try calmly talking them through all the steps of your routine. For example, before placing your baby in a bath, simply let them know that is what is going to happen next. Finally, try to verbally acknowledge their different emotions. If they seem fussy while you change or dress them, let them know you hear their protests and are moving quickly so you can pick them up and comfort them.

Ages 2-5 years

photo-55For children in this age group, I have found a printed routine sheet with photos of the items they need to do each morning and night works best. By using pictures you create a chart that gives them the opportunity to see for themselves exactly what needs to be done each day. This eliminates the need for a grown-up to help read the chart so children do not feel they are being “told” what to do. The other thing that I feel is important for the routines used with this age is that they include a few basic and age-appropriate chores like putting clothes in the hamper and dishes in the sink. I really believe that the younger you begin to have children help with simple household chores, the better. It is never too early to begin to instill in them the message that it is required for all members of your family to help with the tasks that are needed for your home to run smoothly. It is also a great way to help them realize they are important contributors to your family.photo-56

There were several simple ways Kellie included her 2 and 5 year-olds in the routine making process. First, after discussing with them the tasks that they were going to be responsible for, she asked them to help demonstrate exactly how they would do each of them so she could take a photo. After she printed the photos she allowed the girls to tape them on themselves. Finally, she had them personalize the charts by decorating them however they chose. By having children help assemble and decorate the routines it helps them feel like this was something that you created together instead of leaving them to feel like this was a routine that you created for them.

Ages 6-11 years

For this age group I think a printed chart that gives a basic but clear description of items they need to complete is ideal. In addition to simple self-care tasks and daily chores, I feel children of this age are now ready to learn the skill of thinking ahead about what they need to do to be prepared and organized. It is beneficial to add a few simple things for them to do each evening to help better prepare for the morning rush.

DSCN4949While creating this year’s edition of our morning and evening routines with my 10, 9 and 8 year-old kids, I wanted to help them feel like the process was something they were a part of and not just subjected too.  I did this by providing the list of activities I felt should be included in their routines, but I had them decide the order in which they wanted to complete the tasks. They also really enjoyed getting to personalize their charts with stickers and markers.

Ages 12 years and up

This is an age group that neither of us have experience parenting just yet, but since I have only about a year until I get there with my daughter I put some thought into how I will want to help update her routines next year. Once children reach this age, it is important to focus on the fact that you are in the final stages of helping them prepare to completely care for themselves as adults. As they make more and more of their decisions independently from you, I feel that it would be advantageous to add some specific healthy habits focusing on sleep, exercise and nutrition to their routine. Simple examples of things that can be added are; specific waking and lights out times, monitoring daily water intake or fruit and veggie consumption, or getting some form of physical activity daily.

With children in this age group I think it would be beneficial to give them a large sense of ownership in establishing their routine. Instead of providing them a written list of the tasks you would like them to complete, you could sit down for a brainstorming session together on the items that each of you feel should be included. While you are meeting you could also briefly discuss what they hope to achieve for themselves during the year and the items that could be added to their routine to support this. By this age they can fully grasp the concept that they are really taking control of their own life, so it is important for them to realize their routine can help them accomplish the things they desire for themselves in terms of health, athletics, academics, etc.

We hope the information provided in this post has given you some age-appropriate ideas on how you can collaborate with your children to implement morning and evening routines in your home.