Last Updated May 28th, 2019

6 Ways To Encourage Your Children’s Creativity Over The Summer

6 Ways To Encourage Your Children's Creativity Over The Summer

Everyone admires a child’s creativity. It’s amazing seeing what they come up with, especially when they’re young and utterly uninhibited about expressing themselves. How can you encourage your children’s creativity over the summer?

Encouraging your children’s creativity is a great way to pull them away from electronic screens. These can be useful in coming up with ideas or learning a new skill, however. My kids love looking up how-to videos on things they want to learn to do, for example.

The other key is to have plenty of supplies waiting for them, of whichever sort your kids prefer. We have a craft cabinet which is full of paints, different types of paper, pens, crayons, crafting foam, and much more. They are also encouraged to use age appropriate tools.

1. Encourage them to read.

child reading

Reading is a great way to encourage the imagination, whether you’re helping your child learn to read or they’ve long since mastered it. Let your child pick the books he or she enjoys for the summer – time enough for required reading during the school year.

Take advantage of any reading programs in your area that may encourage your child. Many local libraries have summer reading programs. Barnes & Noble usually has a program over the summer where children in grades 1-6 can earn a free book by reading 8 books and writing the titles in a reading journal. The free book titles are listed on the reading journal.

Don’t push your child to read something they don’t want to over the summer, even if it means they read very little or at all. Do keep looking for what they want to read – even comic books have value as reading material.

2. Encourage them to make things.

kids painting

There are so many ways your children can use their imaginations while making things, and so many different toys that make it possible, from the long-popular Legos and K’Nex to programs such as Minecraft. You don’t want your kids to overdo it on the computer all summer, of course, but Minecraft and similar programs offer a great deal of flexibility and much less mess than toys which can be left on the floor.

Don’t forget traditional tools and materials as well. Once your kids are ready, they can learn to use a drill, screwdrivers, hammers, saws, and other such tools to make more challenging things.

For younger kids, you can check with your local hardware store, such as Home Depot, to see if they have any kids’ workshops available. Some do, some don’t. These are mostly geared toward younger children and are a great way for kids to learn some of the basics.

Arts and crafts are a good choice as well. You can get cheap crafting supplies at most dollar stores. Older kids and teens may want better quality supplies, of course, but younger kids can be so hard on them that cheaper markers and such can make a lot of sense.

3. Encourage them in music.

child guitar

Learning to play a musical instrument is good for kids in many ways. Let them choose the instrument they’d like to learn if at all possible – they will enjoy the lessons more this way.

Even if they don’t want to learn an instrument, you can encourage their enjoyment by having music play during the day. Turn on something they’ll enjoy – they might sing or dance along.

We keep a variety of musical instruments available. We have the inevitable recorders they learned to play at school, of course. But they can also play on a keyboard or a small harp.

You don’t have to spend a lot of money to let kids make music. Even if they don’t want to sing, you can teach them how to blow across the top of a bottle to make sound.

If your kids are really into music, you may want to encourage them to learn about electronic music production. This could be a great creative outlet for them.

4. Encourage them to play outside.


It may be hot outside in the summer, but your kids can play outdoors anyhow, just as you probably did. Have cold drinks and treats available so they can cool down as needed, but get them outside. Encourage them to catch bugs (at least the non-stinging sort), have water fights, climb trees and play with friends. Let them roam the neighborhood as they get old enough.

Bikes are a great way to get your kids out and exploring. My son love to go out riding in the wash near our house. I usually have him go with a friend, as there’s poor phone reception in that area. Usually, they’re so tired at then end that they text for a ride home, even though it’s less than a half mile back.

It is, admittedly, hard to get kids out when it’s miserably hot outside. You probably don’t want to leave the nice, cool house either. Just remember that playing outside in the evening is perfectly reasonable – plus you don’t have to worry about sunburn.

There are also lots of fun summer night activities you can do as a family. Get everyone out and have fun together!

5. Don’t overschedule them.

child dress mask

Don’t overschedule your children’s summer days. Give them time to just be themselves. Classes of various sorts can be good for your kids, but more important is that they have time to do whatever they want.

Free time is truly one of the best ways to encourage your children’s creativity, so long as you don’t let them sit in front of a screen the whole time. Let them be bored. Boredom is good. Kids who are bored are kids who will come up with something interesting to do.

This can be one of the more difficult things to avoid, as kids who are in activities are busy kids, and that means a nice break for parents. Also, many kids want to take fun classes over the summer, to learn things that are of interest to them.

You don’t have to deny them that. Just make sure that your children have a significant amount of time over the summer with nothing on their schedule. That downtime is healthy.

My personal suggestion for summer classes for kids includes swimming lessons. Even if they don’t have regular access to a pool outside of class, it’s a good idea. You never know when a friend will have a pool or you’ll have some other opportunity as a family to go swimming. It’s more fun when everyone knows how.

6. Spend time together as a family.

family climbing

You don’t have to do anything big, but do things as a family. Have game nights. Watch a movie together. Have a picnic. Go camping. Go on vacation. Have a water balloon fight. Read. Talk about things you’ve done and dreams you have. Big or little, do things together as a family.

You can also take on a family project for the summer. Work on a garden. Build a fort. Make it fun for everyone.

Volunteering over the summer can also be good. You don’t have to sign up for anything formal if you don’t want to – cleaning up the trash in a local park is always an option. But you can also see if any local retirement homes need volunteers, or animal rescues, or whatever you want to do. Get together and do something to make the world just a bit better.

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post may be 'affiliate links.' This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.

Last Updated March 22nd, 2019

25 Free And Cheap Online Tools For Moms

25 Free And Cheap Online Tools For Moms

Keeping up with all you have to do is not easy for a stay at home or work at home mom. No matter what you do, something will come up to use up all of your spare time. Fortunately, there are a lot of free and cheap online tools for moms which can help you get everything done.

Groceries And Meals


All Recipes is my favorite recipe site, mostly due to the user ratings. If I like a recipe, I print it out and file it in a binder. Much more effective for me than buying a cookbook. I write notes on changes I’ve made so I can keep track easily.



Yummly is another great way to find recipes online. You can select recipes and use them to create a shopping list for the week. The recipes come from blogs all over the internet, so the range of possibilities is amazing.


Amazon Fresh

Amazon Fresh offers grocery delivery to your door in certain areas. If it’s hard to get out shopping, this can be a huge help. You can get fresh produce, meats, prepared foods and more through Amazon Fresh. This is an addon membership – you must also be a member of Amazon Prime.

If Fresh isn’t available in your area, you can also get items delivered via Amazon Prime Pantry. You must be a member of Amazon Prime to use Prime Pantry.


InstaCart is a grocery delivery service available in many areas. You can get same day delivery, which is great for those times when you don’t want to drag the kids to the grocery store.





Ibotta gives you cash back on qualified purchases. The offers change regularly, and may include cash back on purchases from popular stores such as Costco, Whole Foods, Walmart and many more. It’s not just groceries, too. You may get cash back on travel, electronics, and more.

If you use my referral code – gflmbgj – I get cash back and you get a bonus in your new account too.


Checkout 51

Checkout 51 is much like Ibotta. Find deals on the app, then buy the items and scan your receipt. The great part is they don’t care which store you bought the product at.



One of the biggest problems with a lot of the money back shopping apps is that they don’t give money back on many healthy foods. BerryCart does. Their focus is on organic, gluten free and non-GMO foods.


Varage Sale

Want to get rid of the clutter in your home? The Varage Sale app can help you list things you’re ready to sell. They verify the identity of all users, so you know who you’re meeting up with when you make a sale or a purchase.



As your kids approach college age, odds are that scholarships are on your mind. Scholly can help you find scholarships for them to apply for. The monthly subscription is $2.99 as of this writing, but it could easily pay for itself if your child finds some good scholarships.


mom texting



Skype has become quite popular as a way to call family members who are far away. The company one of my sisters works for even uses it to keep all their home-based employees in contact. They just stay logged into Skype anytime they’re working, for meetings and so forth. For many uses it’s free, but other features require payment.

If you have Windows 10, you already have Skype on your computer.


Google Voice

You can use Google Voice to send text messages or make phone calls from your computer. It’s a great option for a free phone number if you have a home business.



Finding mom friends is hard, and that’s where Peanut comes in. It’s kind of like Tinder, but for making friends with other moms. You can chat and create group conversations, and make plans to meet other moms in your area.



Nextdoor is a way to keep up with what’s going on in your neighborhood. I honestly have mixed feelings about it, as some people can be awful on it – just check out the Worst of Nextdoor Twitter account. On the other hand, it can be hilarious, as seen on the Best of Nextdoor Twitter account – which still shows some bad behavior, but it’s the stuff you can see as funny.

In some neighborhoods, it works out pretty well. You can find out about local events or ask neighbors how to find a local babysitter. Your address has to be verified to join.


mom phone


Remember the Milk

There’s a great free version that will do for most people. It can remind you of tasks by email, SMS or instant messenger. You can even attach files in Google Drive or Dropbox to tasks.


Cozi Family Organizer

Cozi Family Organizer can help you keep your life organized in so many ways. You can help everyone in the family keep up on family activities and events, update your grocery shopping list, plan meals, and more. You can share appointments from calendars such as Google Calendar to Cozi.

The free version of Cozi is supported by ads, but you can pay for the Gold version to get rid of the ads and get some extra features.


Google Calendar

Yes, I enjoy a lot of Google’s free products. Google Calendar lets me input all kinds of important events, from birthdays repeating every year, to one time events. Then it can be set to email me and anyone else I choose in advance as a reminder. I’m terrible with birthdays, so I like setting reminders to about two weeks in advance. Makes me look like the organized one in the family.

Events can be set to public or private, so I can keep things to myself while sharing things that I want others to know.



Whose turn is it to take out the trash? Figure it out with Chorma! The app makes it easy to assign chores and give points for doing them. It syncs between devices, so everyone knows what jobs they need to get done.


When You Need Help

Task Rabbit

For those times when you need help getting something done around the house. You can use Task Rabbit to find someone to do general handyman work, assemble furniture, heavy lifting, and more.



Need a sitter? Bambino will help you find one, even if it’s short notice. You pick from sitters in your area who can then accept or decline the job. You can even pay with the app.


mom fitness



Wearing a Fitbit can be a great way to keep track of your physical activity throughout the day and track how you sleep. There are, of course, many other fitness trackers to choose from that will do much the same.

Windows StoreiOSAndroid


FitMama offers workouts that you can do in 5-10 minutes, with the goal of getting fit after having a baby. It allows you to choose a pace you’re comfortable with and tracks your progress.


Healthy Wage

If you’re really confident that you can meet your weight loss goals, you can risk some money through Healthy Wage. You can make an individual bet or join a team challenge. Obviously, this could get expensive if you lose your bets.


For The Kids

Playground Buddy

Finding a playground in an unfamiliar area is difficult. Playground Buddy makes it easier by letting you search a database of more than 350,000 playgrounds in over 170 countries. When the kids really need to get some energy out, that could be a huge help.

If you know of a park that isn’t in the database, you can add it. Share the features of the park to make it really useful.



Much like Playground Buddy, but Trekaroo helps you find all kinds of family friendly activities, including hotels and restaurants.


Happy Kids Timer

How long does it take your kids to get through their morning and evening routines? I have to be honest, sometimes even my teens go slow. And while a teenager isn’t likely to appreciate being timed by an app, younger kids may like how this app turns it into a game.


What Online Tools For Moms Do You Like?

Now it’s your turn. What apps and online tools for moms help you keep your life organized, save money or otherwise help you be the best mom you can be?

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post may be 'affiliate links.' This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.

Last Updated December 21st, 2018

15 Cheap And Fun Family Christmas Activities

15 Cheap And Fun Family Christmas Activities

The Christmas season is a great time to take a break and do some special things with your family. When you aren’t dealing with the rush to get the Christmas decorating and shopping done, it’s time to enjoy yourself. These fun family Christmas activities don’t have to take a ton of time and they’re nicely affordable for most budgets.

This isn’t about choosing a Christmas tree and decorating it – odds are you already know that one. It’s also not about moving the Elf On The Shelf, although I have some geeky ideas for that one elsewhere. Instead, this post is about fun family Christmas activities you may not have considered. No doubt some will be traditions you already enjoy, but hopefully some will be new to you or inspire further ideas.

Go See The Christmas Lights

All the houses decorated for Christmas are one of the great parts of this time of year. You don’t have to go far to see houses lit up for Christmas in most places. You can just take a walk around the block.

If you want to see the really amazing houses, however, you may have to do a little research to figure out which areas near you have coordinated to make a neighborhood display. These neighborhoods are fun to drive through, so long as you’re careful to watch for pedestrians and for other cars stopping suddenly.

Best of all these displays are generally free. All it costs is the gas to drive there.

Build A Gingerbread House

Making a gingerbread house with the kids can be a lot of fun. You can bake the gingerbread yourself if you like, buy a kit, or cheat like I do, and use graham crackers.

Most people use royal icing to hold the house together and to decorate. Chocolate can be used as well. Get some candy to bring in some color and flavor, and everyone can have some fun.

You can build a larger gingerbread house as a family, or have everyone make their own.

Watch Christmas Movies And Shows

There are so many Christmas movies and shows on television this time of year. It’s just a matter of finding out when your favorites are on.

Make up some popcorn and other fun snacks, and it’s a cheap and easy evening as a family.

Local movie theaters may also play Christmas movies.

It may cost a little more, but you may be able to find live performances of Christmas plays in your area as well.

Make Caramel Corn

Caramel corn is surprisingly easy to make, and so much fun to eat. It sounds really messy, but the cleanup isn’t bad at all once you realize that the stuck on caramel dissolves nicely in water. And the delicious caramel corn is well worth it.

If you want something a little fancier, drizzle it with dark chocolate and milk chocolate. It’s super easy and the results are worth it.

Bake Cookies

What cookies most say “Christmas” to you and your family? It’s time to make them.

Let each person pick a favorite cookie to make if you want a large supply of them. We keep it pretty simple and make a large batch of chocolate chip cookies, which we then decorate to give them a bit more of a Christmas flair.

If you like a large range of cookies, make plans with other families for a cookie swap. This way no one has to make a bunch of different types of cookies, but you all get a variety to enjoy.

Make Peppermint Bark

I have to be honest. My kids don’t seem to like peppermint candy canes that much. Of all the candy they may get at this time of year, they’re the most likely to be sitting around until the end.

Make them into peppermint bark, however, and they’ll disappear quickly.

Peppermint bark is super easy to make. You can do it with chocolate, peppermint extract and candy canes with very little difficulty.

Make Homemade Christmas Ornaments

Homemade Christmas ornaments can be a lot of fun to make. They also help create great memories of the year you made them.

There are many lovely Christmas ornaments you can make at home. Here are a few ideas:

Check Out Local Christmas Events

Have you looked for free holiday events in your area? You may be surprised at what you can find.

The town I live has a Christmas parade and a Winter Fest with tree lighting every year. Both are a lot of fun for the family. The people in the parade often throw candy for the kids, which gets them quite excited. The other towns in the area have similar events.

You can also look for places that have free Santa photos in your area. Many malls have Santas that you have to pay for pictures to visit, but sometimes you can find them for free as well. Bass Pro is one store that lets you get free pictures with Santa.

Donate Or Volunteer

Your family may be doing pretty well right now, but what about others? Christmas is a lovely time to start volunteering, although volunteers are needed year round.

It can be challenging to find volunteer opportunities that you can do with kids, but they are out there. Use sites such as VolunteerMatch to make this easier.

Many places are looking for donations as well. Homeless shelters and food banks may need food. Animal shelters need supplies for their animals. Children’s hospitals need toys for the kids who are spending the holidays there, and of course there’s always Toys For Tots. Sometimes your children’s school may have toy drives to donate to as well.

Use this as a start, but remember that charities need volunteers and donations all year. Don’t make this a one time thing if you can do more.

Christmas Scavenger Hunt

A Christmas scavenger hunt can be a fun way to change up the opening of the Christmas gifts. Find places to hide some of the gifts and give the kids clues instead.

Alternatively, you can make up a list of things that might be spotted in outdoor Christmas decorations and see who can fill out their list first as you look at the decorated houses in your area.

Family Game Night

This is a great time of year to make a little extra time to do things as a family. Playing games is one way to do this.

If there’s a game you’ve been considering for the family, this is the excuse you need to get that game as a special treat. Playing games together is a great way to get everyone talking and just plain having fun.

Make Homemade Christmas Gifts

Making Christmas gifts at home can be a lot of fun, and it really shows a lot of thought to others.

Just consider the things you like to make. I sometimes make chocolate truffles to share with family, as well as the usual cookies. You can also make ornaments, sew things, knit, or whatever suits your style.

Read Christmas Stories

Reading together as a family is a good idea in general, but reading Christmas stories together can be even more special. Classics such as The Night Before Christmas have been enjoyed for many years, but there are lots to choose from.

If you don’t have the stories you want on hand, head out to the library to see what they have, or see what’s available in an electronic version. Most libraries now have access to electronic versions of a wide range of books. You may have a little trouble getting the story if it’s popular, as they’re limited in how many electronic versions can be checked out at a time.

Go Ice Skating

This is a great time of year to go ice skating. In addition to indoor rinks that are available year round, some cities set up seasonal rinks at this time of year.

Have A Snowball Fight

Do you have snow in your area, or at least near enough to drive to? Take the family out and have a friendly snowball fight.

But if you’re like me, and snow is nowhere to be found for hours around you, you can still have a family snowball fight. You just need to get a little creative.

We usually use cotton balls for our no snow snowball fights. They’re cheap and not terribly messy. You won’t want to use them for anything else after they’ve been thrown around, but that’s okay.

If you don’t mind a mess, you can try this snowball toss game that uses shaving cream. Yes, it’s a lot messier, but mess can be fun.

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post may be 'affiliate links.' This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.

Last Updated December 14th, 2018

How To Help Your Children Understand Advertising

How To Help Your Children Understand Advertising

As grownups, we all know that what ads say isn’t always the precise truth. They always put the products in the best possible light. We understand what advertising is.

Little kids don’t think that way, of course. Many struggle with the idea that cartoons aren’t real. Do you think there’s any chance that they understand yet that commercials aren’t 100% true?

It’s a great idea to help your children understand advertising.

You can do this starting at an early age, and it’s a lot of fun once you start seeing results. There’s nothing like having a preschooler point out inaccuracies in advertising, especially when an ad is wildly unrealistic.

Why Do Companies Market To Kids?

Common Sense Media says that companies market to kids to build brand loyalty as early as possible. Also, the more platforms they can market on, the more chances they have that kids will see their products.

Children are more easily influenced than adults. If you spend much time with children, you know how true this is. That toy they never saw before the commercial aired is suddenly the thing they need most in the world.

Sometimes kids will express a strong opinion, but it won’t take much at all to make them change it. A toy they thought looked boring at the store becomes fascinating after they watch a YouTube video featuring it.

Now if it’s a meal you cooked that they just don’t want to eat, that’s another story. Kids can be stubborn about that stuff and it doesn’t matter that they liked the same food yesterday. That was then and this is now.

But convince a child that everyone wants a particular toy and they’ll want it too.

Common Sense Media also notes the problem with advertising to kids – it often makes them feel as though their self-worth depends on getting these things they’ve seen advertised.

child ads tablet

Why Should Children Understand Advertising?

It’s important that for children to understand advertising because they see so much of it. Worse, many ads give kids unrealistic expectations for toys and other products that they suddenly need above all else.

Advertising is everywhere. It’s on TV, the internet, apps, and just about everywhere kids go. Ads may be in the games they play. Shows they love may have products carefully placed to get attention.

Helping your children understand advertising makes your life easier too. When kids understand what ads are doing to them, the ads don’t work as well on them. With any luck at all, your kids won’t beg for as much stuff because they won’t feel the need for all the things they see in ads.

Understanding ads is also important for online safety. Clicking on an ad online can take your children to site you don’t want them on.

Explain Advertising to Them

Start out by explaining what ads are to them, and why companies advertise. It really helps if they understand why they’re seeing ads.

Use individual ads as examples. When the kids are really enthusiastic about a product ad they’ve just seen, ask them why. See if they understand how the ad gained their interest.

Talk about how the ads are making them feel and whether the actual item will make them feel that way. Ask if they really think the product will do exactly as claimed. Ask if similar products can probably do the exact same thing.

This is easiest with toys and can be very effective if they happen to have a few toys that they had seen advertised and were then disappointed in, or if the toy quickly lost their interest. Go over how the toy was advertised, and compare it to the real thing. You can also compare it to toys your kids already own.

child ads tablet

Help Them Understand How Language Is Used In Advertising

You know how devious promotional language can be. It’s usually true, but a truth stretched as far as the advertisers dared, and then exaggerated. Helping your kids to spot how this is done is not only good for their ability to understand advertising, it’s great for their vocabulary.

Talk to your kids about how individual ads make them feel about the product. This helps your children see the kind of power words can have, which may also help when discussing why some words are hurtful.

Don’t be surprised if the kids start to treat advertising as lying. It’s a pretty natural step. You can decide how to explain the difference between lying and what most ads do.

Be Aware of Product Placements

It’s not just ads during the commercial breaks you need to discuss. It’s the placement of products within the shows themselves.

This isn’t much of a problem during most cartoons, except in the sense that an awful lot of cartoons are all about selling the toys. Just look at the huge selection of toys available for some children’s shows.

But in other kinds of shows, you’ll see strategically placed and used products throughout the show.

Think about why their favorite characters are drinking a particular soda. Talk about the other brands that are clearly shown on camera. Explain that this is also a form of advertising, and the preferences shown on television have little to nothing to do with real life.

With the popularity of unboxing videos and such on YouTube, it’s even more important that children understand advertising. These videos are great at making children want things they didn’t know about before.

Ads and product placements may happen in the games your kids play too. Keep an eye out for these and talk about why the ads are placed there.

child ads phone

Discuss Alternatives

It’s helpful to remind kids that they don’t need everything they see advertised on television or online. Often enough, the reasons why are pretty simple.

Sometimes you already own the item advertised, or something similar to it. In this case, it’s easy to talk to your kids about why you don’t need more of that thing.

Other times, you can explain why it’s not worth it to spend money on the thing your kids saw advertised. If a fast food commercial makes your kids want to go out to lunch, you can talk about why it’s better to eat most meals at home, for example.

It can also come down to money. It’s okay to tell your kids that you know they want the thing, but you aren’t going to buy the thing. Children don’t need as many things as they ask for, no matter how much they disagree some days.

Ads try to make it seem so much like everything is needed, so teaching your kids that they don’t need it all is important. Help them learn that wanting and needing are two very different things.

child ads computer

It’s Not Just The Little Kids Who Need To Know

You may have covered this subject pretty well when your kids were little. But when was the last time you talked to them about ads as they’ve gotten older?

There are so many more places for kids to deal with advertising now than when my kids were little. Just think about it. Smartphones and tablets haven’t been a thing for that many years. Advertising has grown with these.

As kids get older, they may be influenced by what they think a favorite celebrity likes or by ads they see on social media. They see ads in the apps they use. Older kids are even tempted by contests to give away their email address for a slim chance at a prize.

Help your children continue to understand how these things are affecting them. If your child becomes interested in a particular brand, discuss why. Advertising may have something to do with it.

Teach your kids to think about the information advertisers are getting from them. If your kids do much online, it may be quite a bit, and that’s good for them to know.

It’s not just from filling out contest forms online. That’s a direct way for advertisers to get information, but not the only way.

It’s the sites your kid go to. The games that they play. The things they share on social media as well as the accounts they follow and the posts they like. Matter of fact, it’s pretty hard to keep from sharing information with advertisers, and that’s something kids should know.

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post may be 'affiliate links.' This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.

Last Updated October 5th, 2018

8 Ways To Brighten Your Child’s School Day

8 Ways To Brighten Your Child's School Day

Going to school can be stressful for kids. They had fun all summer, but now they have to focus on learning. It’s quite a change to make, especially when the kids are little. Fortunately, there are many ways you can brighten your child’s school day that won’t take a lot of time.

A little pick me up can do wonders for a child’s attitude toward school. It’s hard to have a good day at school when you’re hungry or under too much stress, for example. Doing what you can to help with these problems may help your child enjoy school far more.

1. Start with a good breakfast.

There’s a reason why “breakfast is the most important meal of the day” is such a cliche. It’s true. If your family consistently has trouble making time for breakfast in the morning, try getting up a bit earlier. It may be hard for both you and the kids to get used to, but it means you can get a decent breakfast into them. And maybe even feed yourself.

Breakfast doesn’t have to be fancy. You don’t have to make a meal that looks like a TV commercial. In fact, you may want to take some shortcuts. Here are some things you can buy or prepare in advance to make mornings easier:

  • hard boiled eggs
  • overnight oats
  • yogurt
  • smoothie popsicles
  • muffins
  • and many other make-ahead breakfasts.

The smoothie popsicles are super popular with my kids. They love to brag to their friends that they had a popsicle for breakfast, but it’s really the exact same fruit and vegetable smoothie made the day before as a healthy drink. Use as many vegetables as possible to keep the sugar level down, and find a good source of protein to keep the whole thing healthy.

And yes, lots of mornings the kids just grab the cereal. Breakfast doesn’t have to be fancy when you don’t have the time or supplies.

If money is an issue, as it is for some families, look into what meal options the school offers. They may offer breakfast as well as lunch.

2. Pack a note to be read at school.

Another classic, but very worthwhile. My oldest daughter’s first grade class actually had this somewhat formalized, with a “Write-to-Me Journal”. She wrote to us each Friday, and we wrote back to her over the weekend, to be read at school. But of course, notes at other times are also a good idea, such as the classic note in the lunch box.

If you have no idea what to say in a lunch note, there are lots of ideas out there. There are even printable lunch notes that make it super easy. But notes don’t have to be fancy or long. They only have to make your child feel happy.

If your child says they’re embarrassed by the notes or getting teased by friends about the notes, talk about alternatives. Teasing from friends can take away the good feelings the note brings. Together, you can find a compromise that works for both of you.

headed to school

3. Say “I love you” as they leave for school.

Younger kids love to hear this, of course. Older ones may play embarrassed or annoyed, but they need to hear it too. Say it, and don’t worry too much about their reaction. Kids may act embarrassed but it’s also reassuring, so long as you don’t do things in ways that are too embarrassing for them.

Of course, you can be a little playful as the kids head out too. A part of my dropoff routine with my kids is to growl “get out!” when it’s time for them to get out of the van at school. They know it’s a joke.

We combine affection with friendly teasing a lot in our family. It’s what works for us and keeps life a little more fun. Little family in jokes are a way to show affection when there isn’t time for more.

4. Tell them you’re proud of them.

Another thing kids need to hear. I’ve read that it’s better to praise effort rather than to say things such as “You’re so smart.” You want to be sure that your praise is about something your child is doing well.

Also be sure to let them hear you praise them to others. It’s a little extra step that has a lot of meaning when done right. Once again, you don’t want to praise just anything, but when an action is worth mentioning to others, do so and sometimes let the kids overhear.

After school activities can help with this. It gives kids something extra to look forward to during the school day and another way to accomplish something they’ll be proud of.

If you want your kids to do an activity that really encourages effort, take a good look at Destination Imagination (DI). My youngest is on a team right now, and I’ve appraised challenges for it in the past. It really encourages kids to be more creative and to be proud of the work they’ve put into their projects.

One thing appraisers for DI learn is to look at the process the kids use to complete their challenges, not only the results. Results matter, of course, but so do teamwork and creative thinking. We’re taught not to praise results, but to say things such as “I like the way you…” and to mention specific things each child has done in the challenge.

When you see what your kids can accomplish in activities like this, you’ll have a lot of things to praise them for beyond whatever they accomplish in school. Being a good student is great, but kids will be extra happy about the accomplishments they chose on their own.


5. Take the time for family fun outside of school.

The school year is a busy time, but don’t let it get in the way of all the fun you can have as a family. Get out and enjoy yourselves. Play games. Relax. Do something to relieve the stresses of school and homework. It’s good for you too.

Family fun doesn’t have to cost a lot or anything at all. There are lots of free and cheap ways to play with your kids. Family fun is a great way to bond and to get kids talking about any problems they have. It’s a much more relaxed atmosphere.

You probably can’t take time out for family fun every day. No one expects you to. There’s too much to get done for most families between work, homework, extracurricular activities and just basic living. Just remember that even doing little things can help.

6. Give the kids time to be kids.

There’s a lot of pressure to put children into a bunch of activities these days. While these can provide some benefits, too many simply lead to stressed out kids. Give them time to play on their own, no instructions from adults. Other than “No TV, no computer, no video games” perhaps. Get them outside.

Outdoor play has been shown to help with the symptoms of ADHD, and the exercise is generally healthy anyhow. It doesn’t matter your age, you should all get outside to have fun daily anyhow. Playing outside helps kids to focus mentally.

Time with friends can be a big help. Just think about how many great childhood memories you have of time spent with your friends and no adults. Your kids should have the opportunity to enjoy that as well.

This can be difficult if your kids and their friends have a lot of extracurricular activities, but do the best you can. This social time can be great for your kids. They don’t need you hovering over them when they’re playing with friends.

child at school

7. Talk about what’s happening at school.

Go beyond “So how was your day?” and similar questions. Open ended questions work better.

Younger kids can be asked about what they enjoyed most about their day. Older kids may be more willing to talk about projects they’re working on. Figure out what topics will get your child talking to you about what’s happening in school. Keep this as a habit and be positive about things so they’re used to discussing things with you, even when there’s a problem.

Kids won’t always want to talk about their school day. That’s okay, so long as they talk to you some of the time and are generally doing well. Accept the times the kids are willing to talk so they don’t feel pressured. The more relaxed your kids feel about talking to you, the better it will generally go.

8. Be supportive when they’re having problems at school.

Going to school has its hazards. Sometimes it will be problems with a classmate, other times it may be a topic that just isn’t sinking in very well. No matter what the problem is, be ready to help your child solve it.

Try not to solve too many problems for your kids, however. In many cases, you’ll do better to discuss possible solutions your child can do on his or her own. It’s good for kids to learn to talk to their teachers when they don’t understand an assignment. Someday they’ll need to talk to a boss or a coworker about a problem, and this way it can become a habit while they’re young.

On the other hand, some problems do require a parent’s touch, a meeting with the teacher or even the school principal. Be ready and willing to help.

Bullying problems, for example, rarely go away all that easily. Not all schools handle bullying issues well, no matter what the rules say. You may need to loudly advocate for your child to get a situation handled at all.

A problem with the teacher may also require a parent to step in. Talking to an authority figure about a problem doesn’t come naturally to every child, nor is it appropriate in every situation for the child to handle the problem. Be there when your child needs your support so they can learn how to handle these situations by watching you.

Having trouble in school can leave your child feeling stressed and frustrated. The better you help them handle it, the better their school days can go.

Remember That Your Child’s School Day Won’t Always Be Great

No matter what you do to brighten your child’s school day, it won’t always be enough. Stuff happens.

The important thing as a parent is to help your child learn to deal with these problems and keep them from becoming overwhelming. Being a kid is tough. If you can help your kids deal with their problems without solving every problem for them, they’ll learn a lot from you.

But also show them that it’s okay to have a bad day. We all do. How we handle those days is what makes the difference in the long run.

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post may be 'affiliate links.' This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.

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