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

AllRecipes

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.

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Yummly

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.

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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

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.

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groceries

Money

Ibotta

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.

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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.

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BerryCart

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.

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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.

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Scholly

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.

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Communication

Skype

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.

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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.

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Peanut

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.

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Nextdoor

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.

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Scheduling

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.

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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.

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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.

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Chorma

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.

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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.

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Bambino

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.

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Fitness

Fitbit

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.

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FitMama

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.

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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.

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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.

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Trekaroo

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Last Updated September 13th, 2018

How Much Independence Do You Give Your Kids During The School Year?

How Much Independence Do You Give Your Kids During The School Year?

Now that school’s in session, I get a little more time to work at home without kids underfoot. My kids are now at ages where I don’t have to supervise them all of the time. They’re better off doing a lot of things independently after school. The challenge, at times, can be deciding how much independence to give the kids during the school year.

Kids need to learn to do things independently of their parents. It’s hard to let go sometimes, but so necessary for your child’s development. When, how, all that depends on your child and your family’s situation – I’m not going to tell you when your kids are old enough to walk home from school or whatever else. You know your kids and your situation, so you get to decide. But there are plenty of other places to encourage your child to be more independent, even when you’re home.

Finding time for your kids to be more independent during the school year can be difficult. There are so many things that must get done. You may feel as though there isn’t enough time in the day. Fortunately, there are a number of things you can do.

Walking To School

As soon as it’s appropriate, I recommend having your kids walk to and from school on their own. When this is appropriate depends on a lot of factors, but it’s great for kids to walk to and from school on their own. Consider these issues when deciding whether to allow your kids to walk or ride bikes to school.

  • child’s age
  • distance
  • traffic
  • other kids walking to school in the area
  • neighborhood safety

It’s not always easy to decide when to let your children walk to school, but it’s a great milestone for them. You can walk them to school for a time while getting them used to the route, but once you think they’re ready, let them walk on their own. Consider participating in Walk To School Day at the very least.

walk to school

You may find that you disagree with other parents on when this is safe. I had a neighbor who couldn’t bear the thought of letting her daughter walk to school on her own, or even with my kids. The daughter was of an age that I thought was easily appropriate, especially with friends, but her mother wasn’t ready.

These things happen when you’re trying to let your kids be more independent. Other parents will disagree with you at times.

Don’t let that stop you.  Children do better when they can express their independence, and sometimes it’s hard to give independence to your kids during the school year. This is one of the best ways once it fits the situation you live in.

Homework

I encourage independence in homework. My kids get a short break after school, but they’re expected to start their homework after that without being reminded and with minimal assistance. They can ask questions, but overall it’s their responsibility.

I often check math, for example, but I do my best to help my kids find the answer themselves. They’ll learn more if they solve the problems themselves, after all. Most times the kids understand the mistake as soon as it is pointed out. As they get older, I check less and less, although I’m always available for questions.

Those big assignments that some parents get a little overenthusiastic about – you can tell my kids handle those with only advice from me, not the actual work. My youngest had to do a family tree already this school year, which was intended as something to be talked about as a family, but the family tree she made for her presentation was all her work with only some advice on layout.

Sometimes kids will be disappointed when they see the grand projects others turn in. You can usually tell when a parent did more work than the kids. I always make sure my kids understand that they can be proud of what they managed on their own. Handling these projects independently will benefit your kids far more than having you do most of the work.

Working from home may in part be about being there for your kids,  but it shouldn’t be about doing everything for your kids. Allowing them to take as much of the lesson from homework as possible is a big help. Don’t be afraid to help when it’s really needed, but also don’t get dragged into doing the assignment for them.

The ability to do their homework independently will be a huge help as they get older. You don’t want your kids expecting you to do too much of their homework as they go through high school or college. The sooner they’re comfortable handling their homework on their own, the more confident they will be about it. Just make sure they know you’re there when they really need help.

Do Kids Really Need To Do Their Homework?

The need for homework at all can be something of a controversy. While many parents demand homework for their children if teachers don’t already assign it, research shows that it may not be beneficial for early elementary students.

Worse, it might even be detrimental.

Consider the research and your individual child’s needs, and talk to their teacher if you disagree with their homework policy. You might change their minds or at least come up with a deal for your child.

Chores

Teaching kids to do chores well is a real pain. My kids can clean the kitchen fairly well and it is such a relief to be able to tell them that it’s time to clean up in there rather than always doing it myself.washing dishes

Teaching them to do it, as I said, wasn’t fun. Much harder than doing it myself. Many times I’d have to do the job over later. But if they don’t try, they don’t learn.

 

But now that they do that and other cleaning without direct supervision on my part, life is so much easier. They don’t like doing chores, but they know it’s a skill they need, so there is a certain degree of pride in their own abilities there too.

My kids first experienced cleaning the floor, for example, with an electric carpet sweeper. It worked great on hard floors too. Carpet sweepers are much easier than vacuums for small children, but they allow kids to quickly clean up those inevitable spills they make all by themselves. This gives them a touch of responsibility plus the pride of doing it themselves.

Playtime

Playtime should be one of the great times for you to give your kids independence during the school year. Children need play. It’s good for them. When they’re younger, it’s better for them than homework.

Kids love it when you play with them. They need the attention. But you should also encourage them to play on their own or with friends. They don’t need your help to have fun every minute.

Independent play at any age encourages your kids’ creativity. They can come up with ideas for things to do on their own.

creative

Make sure they have lots of supplies for fun projects. I don’t mean just toys. Encourage them to make things as well. Here are some of the things I keep on hand for my kids:

Get better quality and more challenging items as the kids get older. I even have a soldering kit for my older kids.

As your kids get older, you can encourage independence by having them arrange their own time to play with friends. You don’t have to arrange play dates all the time with the parents – encourage the kids to come up with their own plans and then confirm that it’s okay. You probably made plans with your friends when you were a kid – let your children do likewise.

Alone Time

My oldest is getting into time for herself in a big way lately, which is driving my youngest a bit up the wall, as she’d rather be with her big sister. While it’s something of an annoyance for her siblings, it’s very healthy for my oldest. She’s doing things on her own, in her own way, whether she decides to close herself up in her room or go up a tree outside. Who doesn’t sometimes need time to be alone with their thoughts?

This kind of independence can take some rules. It’s not a great idea to allow computers or other devices that can access the internet into the kids’ bedrooms, for example. You can figure out rules for your family while considering both online safety and giving your kids some independence.

The Benefit to Parents

Parents benefit tremendously from having children who are capable of doing many things independently. It means you don’t have to be the entertainment or the boss all of the time. For me and my family, that makes the times we choose to do things together all the more fun. We aren’t usually being pushed to do things together, as that’s not the only way we function.

It’s much easier for me to work at home this way. I can work while the kids play, do homework, chores or watch television. I’m usually around them still so that questions can be answered, but if they don’t need help and are generally behaving, they don’t want my interference, as a general rule.

Letting go is hard, I’ll grant that. It was hard when my oldest started to wander a larger range outside. Letting them go to where I couldn’t just yell for them and expect an answer wasn’t easy. Cell phones as the kids got older helped, as I can send a text when I need them home, but some of the places they like to play don’t have much reception, so it doesn’t always help.

You also need to consider how much your children will need to be independent later in life. The sooner you encourage them to be independent, the better they’ll be at it. They probably aren’t going to live with you forever, and you need to know that they can handle things without you. Helping them build up good habits now will benefit them later. Don’t let school get in the way more than necessary.

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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Disclosure: Home with the Kids is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com. I also review or mention products for which I may receive compensation from other sources. All opinions are my own.