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.

playground

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.

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.

Last Updated September 7th, 2018

Sibling Rivalry: How To Help Siblings Get Along

Sibling Rivalry: How To Help Siblings Get Along

How much do you dread sibling rivalry between your kids? It can be a real headache for parents when siblings see each other as rivals rather than as friends. Parents can make this worse if they don’t pay attention to each child’s needs. But there are also things you can do to reduce sibling rivalry and help them get along.

Now, all of this is just my own opinion. I’m not a doctor or anything like that. But these ideas work for us, and I hope they work for others.

Some sibling rivalry is natural. It’s pretty much a law of parenting. Kids can be greedy jerks, especially to their brothers and sisters. They’re much more aware of their own needs than the needs of others, especially when they’re young.

But sibling rivalry gets worse when kids feel that they’re being treated unfairly. When one child gets more attention, the other kids notice. Even if there’s a good reason to give one child more attention, the differences can create sibling rivalry.

I’m lucky. My kids have a nice, low level of sibling rivalry. Sure, they call each other names, but it’s mostly friendly. There’s a bit of “to drive each other up the wall” in there too, but it’s not at an unhealthy level.

Ok, maybe it isn’t all luck. As with many parts of raising a family, it’s a combination of parenting and the personalities my kids are born with. I firmly believe these things are a combination of nature and nurture, not one or the other.

Still, there are some things you can do to minimize sibling rivalry with your kids. Much of it comes down to knowing how to treat your kids fairly but differently.

Treat Them As Individuals

I’m sure you’ve noticed how different each of your kids are. I know my kids are similar in some ways but very different in others. Some differences are due to age differences but others are pure personality.

My son is the organized one, my youngest daughter the least organized, even with age taken into consideration. It has been challenging at times to deal with the differences

Let each child know you see them as an individual. Their learning styles and needs can be very different. Pay attention to those differences.

This won’t always be easy. In fact, it can be downright frustrating.

Let’s say your first kid is one of those kids who eats everything. Not a picky eater at all. You feel like a great parent. They even eat their vegetables and ask for more.

The next kid is a picky eater, and I mean picky! Ketchup is too spicy. If it’s not chicken, it’s not edible. And don’t even think about vegetables.

Times like this are when you find out that some things are out of your control as a parent. You can work with the picky eater, but if you’re always comparing them to the older sibling, they’re going to resent it.

You’re far better off figuring out what it will take to help your picky eater learn to eat a wider range of foods. This takes time and a lot of patience.

siblings

Treating your kids as individuals doesn’t mean you have to make separate meals to cope with different tastes, of course. It can mean finding a balance that works for both or coming up with rules that help both kids do well at mealtimes.

This happens with more than just food, of course. How well a kid gets up in the morning, how they do in school, and their attitudes, in general, all depend on the child as an individual. You’ll find that you can expect different things with each child. Treat them that way.

Equal Treatment Isn’t Always Fair

Do not treat your kids equally just because you think you have to. Help them see why things aren’t equal. Talk it out.

For example, older kids get a later bedtime because they don’t need as much sleep. Younger kids may envy the later bedtime but will be too tired if they don’t get their sleep. When younger kids get jealous of a difference in bedtimes, explain why they can’t stay up so late.

Explaining that many differences in treatment will disappear as kids get older can help. Younger siblings can be jealous of all the things older siblings can do, while older siblings can envy the few responsibilities of the younger.

When differences are age related, you can explain how these things relate to age. A younger child is not capable of many things the older does with ease. Treating them exactly the same all of the time wouldn’t be fair.

Respect Your Kids’ Feelings

Kids are just like adults. They get angry more easily when they’re tired. They get frustrated when things don’t go right. And they hate it when people don’t respect their feelings.

It happens a lot.

Think about it. Have you ever scolded your kids for expressing their feelings? Most parents have.

A part of that is teaching kids to control their feelings better. If we all expressed ourselves as loudly as toddlers, the world would be a much noisier place.

But you can teach your kids to control their feelings while still respecting those feelings. Don’t dismiss their feelings out of hand – they are real.

There will be times that it’s hard to control your own feelings when your kids are loudly expressing theirs. Parenthood is exhausting, especially if you’re running low on sleep. There will be times when you yell because you’re tired. Do your best to set the example, and admit your mistakes when they happen.

siblings

Be Consistent

Consistency is a big part of making your kids feel that they are being fairly treated. They like to know that the rules are the same for everyone, as well as why there are exceptions.

No parent can be 100% consistent – situations will make you change the rules sometimes. Sometimes this is due to the personalities of your kids – one may be more responsible and therefore get privileges the less responsible one can’t have yet.

But even these differences you can use to your advantage as a parent. When you can’t be consistent, explain why.

Give Individual Attention

Find time to do things individually with each child. This does not have to cost money. A trip to the playground is often enough when the kids are little. A hike or even a walk around the block can work well with older kids.

Giving each of your kids individual attention gives them a chance to talk to you about the things that are important to them. Sometimes it will be things their siblings know already; other times they only want to talk to you about it.

If you realize a big conversation is starting, just go with it if at all possible. My oldest and I almost spent the night chatting in the garage one evening because we just got talking. Our garage is a comfortable place, set up as the kids’ zone with a hammock, huge beanbag chair, video games and more. Chatting the entire evening into the night wasn’t what I had planned, but it sure worked out.

A ride in the car also works. Take just one kid along when you run errands if you can. They might just be up for a nice talk while you get things done. A treat along the way helps if it fits into the budget.

Encourage Your Kids To Have Fun Together

Find ways for your kids to spend fun time together. This is challenging when their interests are different, especially when it’s due to an age difference. My teen rarely likes having to do the same thing as my elementary school age daughter, but we make sure to find some things they can do together and have fun.

The right board game or card game can be a great choice. My kids love to play Exploding Kittens, for example. They’ll also play The Game Of Life together. Anything that isn’t so simple as to be boring for the older kids is a good plan.

Family hikes are another good option. Older kids may grumble when the younger move at a slower pace, but they also get the opportunity to be the teacher and leader, which most enjoy for reasonable periods. My older kids have had a lot of fun helping the youngest get more confident climbing rocks in Joshua Tree. Nothing terribly high or challenging for any of them, as they don’t have equipment, but there’s a lot you can do there with hands, feet, and a little encouragement.

On the other side of things, make sure you respect your children’s space. Sometimes kids need to be left to do their own thing. This is especially true as they get older. My teen likes to spend a lot of time on her own in her room. I did the same when I was a teen. If you force too much togetherness, the kids will have more difficulty having fun together at other times.

Listen To Your Kids

Listen to your kids, even when you think you know the whole story already. You might be wrong. Even if you aren’t, they need to know that you hear them.

If you have a child who often complains that things are not fair, find out why.

The movie Labyrinth can help you talk about fairness with your kids. Think about when Sarah realized that “it’s not fair, but that’s the way it is.” Sometimes that’s really the way it is. Spirited Away is another good one.

Sometimes you will have to insist your kids talk one at a time. You know how it gets when they want you to settle an argument. They each need to get their story out as fast as possible. You may have to tell one or another to wait their turn.

Even when it’s difficult, make your kids feel that you’re listening to each of them. Everyone needs to feel that way.

siblings

Encourage Your Kids To Explore Their Own Interests

Allow your kids to explore their own interests. They don’t all have to sign up for the same activities, even though that is probably easier on you as a parent. Doing this can also encourage your kids to be more independent.

Don’t assume boys will love one activity and girls another. They might surprise you.

If you’re lucky, their schools will have a lot of options as they reach that age. My kids’ schools have a lot of clubs, which makes it much easier for my kids to explore their own interests. What I need to know is the cost, if any, and what time to pick them up after. That and any competitions I have to attend, and if parent volunteers are required.

One activity I highly recommend is Destination Imagination. The great part is that it appeals to a wide range of interests, as you can choose from a variety of challenges, all of which encourage creativity. Two of my kids have chosen to join Destination Imagination various years, and both have loved it. The third has no interest in performing, and all of the challenges have some aspect of that.

If your kids’ school doesn’t do Destination Imagination or you homeschool, don’t worry. Your kids can form their own team together or with friends.

It can be more challenging when the kids are little or if there’s nothing that interests them in the extracurricular activities the school offers. Check with local community centers and children’s sports leagues to see what’s available.

One rule I recommend for children’s activities is that once you’ve paid for it or they’ve joined a team, they’re committed. I very rarely make an exception for that. This teaches kids to keep working on things even as they get difficult or weren’t as much fun as they thought. A lot of life is like that, so it’s a good lesson to pick up early.

My oldest daughter learned that lesson when she had me sign her up for soccer. She soon found out that it wasn’t as simple as kicking the ball around. But I made her stick with the team for the rest of the season. A few years later, she agreed the lesson had been good. It wasn’t that much of a hardship on her, and she learned that you don’t quit just because something is harder than you thought it would be.

Don’t Expect To Avoid All Sibling Rivalry

Even if you’re a great parent and treat your kids fairly while respecting them as individuals, you may have some sibling rivalry. This is normal, and you don’t always have to get into the middle of it. Sometimes they’re just having fun messing with each other.

My kids, for example, will sometimes call each other names. They get really annoyed if we stop them, as this is something they’ve established as a part of their relationship. What sibling rivalry they have is on a fairly friendly level most days.

That’s the kind of thing you want as a parent. Being siblings doesn’t have to mean they’re best friends. It should mean they like each other fairly well and can have fun together. Some of the arguing can just mean that they trust each other enough to do that.

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 August 3rd, 2018

Murphy’s Laws of Parenting You Can’t Escape

Murphy's Laws of Parenting You Can't Escape

Raising a family is a lot of work. Fun, but lots and lots of work. So many things go wrong no matter how carefully you try to make them go right. With the right attitude, it can be funny at times. You can certainly argue that there are Murphy’s laws of parenting.

These are the things that make your day to day life as a parent more difficult. Some of them also make for great stories when talking to other parents, because they all get it. They’ve been there too. And so…

Murphy’s Laws of Parenting

1. Never claim to be done with the laundry. Your children will generate more dirty clothes spontaneously.

2. Your child will outgrow that perfect outfit right before you want them to wear it. This is one of the few rules that applies as well to infants as to teens.

3. You will find that box of handmedown clothes after your child has outgrown that size.

4. Teaching your child to help around the house is harder than doing it yourself. It will pay off eventually, but not as soon as you would like.

5. No, your child doesn’t like their favorite food today. Unless you’re eating it. Then they’ll snag all of it from your plate.

6. That food they tried for the first time off your plate and loved it? They’re never eating that one again.

legos

7. A clean floor will spontaneously generate Legos or other small toys to step on.

8. Your child will discover the magic that is scissors and hair the day before school or family pictures are taken.

9. The length of your child’s nap is inversely proportional to how long you need them to nap.

10. Glitter is forever…. forever in your hair, forever on the floor, the counters….

11. The more important the phone call, the less important the thing your child insists on telling you in the middle of the call will be.

painting

12. Messy crafts are more appealing than ones that are easy to clean up after. Some kids can make any craft messy.

13. Silence is suspicious. They ARE up to something.

14. Your bathroom is no longer a private place. It doesn’t matter who else is around, your kids will want YOU when you’re in the bathroom.

15. The messier your clothes are, the more likely you are to run into someone you know when running errands.

16. That thing you swore your kids would never do back before you had kids? Yeah. They’re going to do it.

17. If you throw away toys they no longer play with, they will want them the next day.

18. The cuter the outfit, the bigger the diaper blowout.

19. Babies will always soil a fresh diaper. Especially when you’re in a hurry.

20. The more diapers you pack for an outing, the more changes your child will need. Usually at least one more change than you brought diapers.

21. The thing you forget to pack will be the thing your child needs most.

22. A diaper will always leak on freshly washed bedding.

23. The box is more interesting than the toy that came in it.

24. The more your child wanted the toy, the faster it will break or lose a piece.

sleeping child

25. A  child who naps in the car will not continue that nap at home, no matter how badly needed.

26. The sicker the child, the more they will want to snuggle with you.

27. A clean floor attracts spilled food and drink.

28. The more tired you are, the less tired they are.

29. A sick child will appear healthy at the pediatrician’s office, then be sick again at home.

30. Your child will tell people exactly what you don’t want them to say. Even if that person is a stranger.

Most of these relate to when your kids are small, no doubt because that’s when they have the least control over themselves. Many of these challenges go away as kids get older.

That doesn’t mean you get a break. Older kids mean new challenges.

frustration

Teens, in particular, can catch you off guard. They’re testing limits and getting ready for adulthood, but they still need you so much. And the more they need you, the less some of them want to admit it. Which is why they have their own, separate section here. It’s harder to come up with generalized laws for parenting teens because they vary so much!

1. The more supplies a school project needs, the closer to the due date they will inform you.

2. They will make the same mistakes you did, even if you try to help them avoid the mistakes.

3. Plus new mistakes that weren’t even possible when you were young.

4. Their biggest problems come when you are busiest.

5. Even more than when they were little, they notice when you do things you told them not to do.

6. Teens can sleep better than babies.

7. All that time you spent teaching your kids to dress appropriately for the weather when they were younger won’t matter when they’re teens. They’ll wear shorts all winter or a jacket all summer.

8. Some days everything you say to a teen will be the wrong thing to say. Even “Good morning.”

Fortunately, teens can also be a lot of fun to talk with, as they develop opinions of their own. They may challenge your rules, but they’re also learning to face the world on their own.

So many of the little frustrations that come with being a parent of kids at any age will be things you look back on fondly later. Enjoy what you can and don’t let the challenging parts get you too far down.

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 June 22nd, 2018

Keeping The Kids Busy When It’s Miserably Hot

Keeping The Kids Busy When It's Miserably Hot

Summer is a great time for children. School is out for most of them and it’s time to play. Running, climbing, building sand castles, swimming…

Sweating, sunburns, complaining.

It’s not easy keeping the kids busy all summer long, especially on those miserably hot days when no one wants to go outside. And while you can take advantage of summer nights to have a little more fun while it’s cool outside, that doesn’t entirely take care of those long, hot summer days. What can you do to keep them busy, short of turning the AC on full blast, driving up your electrical bill and letting them watch television or play video games all day? Plenty!

Make Cool Treats

First of all, have some cheap, cool treats on hand. Otter Pops or homemade popsicles don’t cost much. You may need to enforce a rule that they are eaten outside to limit the mess. If it’s really hot, these may only keep the kids out for a short time. Then again, they might find something fun to do outside. Sometimes getting the kids outside is half the battle.

I like to make homemade popsicles from fruit and vegetable smoothies. This way they’re a healthy snack, but the kids still adore them. They’ve even been known to have smoothie popsicles for breakfast, a fact which sometimes astonishes their friends. I wouldn’t hesitate to give a healthy smoothie for breakfast, so why not the same smoothie in popsicle form?smoothie before mixing

There are tons of smoothie recipes out there. Here’s my basic starter recipe. It varies depending on what I have available, and I really don’t measure quantities. Everything just gets thrown in.

Handful of spinach
One carrot
One banana
Celery
Single serving container plain Greek yogurt
Assorted frozen fruits to top the whole thing off
Fruit juice or preferred milk to make enough liquid for blending
Honey if needed for sweetness (to taste)
Squeeze of lemon juice to bring out flavors (to taste)

Mix the whole thing together. You can add cacao nibs, chia seeds and so forth to boost the nutritional content if you want.

If cherry season has been good, this chocolate cherry smoothie is really good as well. I have my kids pit and freeze lots of cherries whenever the price gets low enough.

Get The Kids Outside Early Or Late

Try getting the kids outside to play in the earlier and later parts of the day, when it’s cooler outside. Then you won’t feel so bad if they’re watching television in the hottest part of the day. Try to keep television watching/video game playing under two hours a day total.

If you can get your kids playing outside until about 10 a.m., the day won’t be too hot for some fun, unless it’s going to be one of those miserably hot days. If it’s already hot out, there’s nothing wrong with some early water play.

Encourage your kids to do things like ride bikes, roller skate, play tag, and so forth before the day gets too hot or after it cools down a little. Physical activity is so important, but it can be hard to get enough of it when they weather is so hot. These are also good for encouraging independence in your children.

If you all want to get out, first thing in the morning or in the evening is the perfect time for a family hike. We have hills in our area that have some very nice hikes… so long as it isn’t too hot out. Some of those trails have very little shade. Pick the right time, and it’s a pleasant way to get some exercise as a family.

water balloons

Have Lots Of Water Toys

If there’s one thing that gets kids outside even on hot days, it’s water. And while we can’t all have swimming pools, there are plenty of ways for kids to have fun with water on hot days. Be sure to remember the sunscreen!

For very young children, a water table is a lot of fun. Add in a few toys to move the water around, and they’ll be happy for a while. Some sandbox toys work great with water as well as sand.

If you have a big enough yard, a Slip n’ Slide is a lot of fun. Sprinklers are another great option, plus you get to water your lawn a little that way. You don’t have to buy the ones made for kids to play with – just about any sprinkler you own will do just fine.

Squirt guns and water balloons can be a lot of fun too. My kids have found Bunch O Balloons to be both fun and frustrating. They’re fun because they fill up so fast, but frustrating because the balloons don’t always seal up well, and tend to leak. And like most water balloons, they often bounce rather than break.

Squirt guns are a lot of fun so long as you get the right kind for your child’s age. Little kids find the larger ones too heavy, and the need to pump them up makes them too difficult. Big kids, on the other hand, rarely enjoy smaller squirt guns. They’d rather have a Super Soaker type, and the greater the range, the more fun.

Of course, if you do have a swimming pool, make sure you and your family follow all the water safety rules. So many accidents can be avoided with a little caution.

water table

Find Fun Ways To Keep The Kids Busy Indoors

Have fun things ready for them to do indoors that have nothing to do with electronics. Screen time has its place, but you don’t want it to be the only thing your kids do.

Board games work very well, depending on the ages of your kids. Choosing a board game can cause a lot of arguments, as do some games, but overall they’re a great choice. You may need to help your kids negotiate if there’s a big age or interest range, so they learn to balance these things out.

Subscription boxes for kids can be a great idea for the summer. My kids have had fun with Groovy Lab In A Box. You can do a subscription or choose single boxes to ensure you get something your kids will enjoy. Subscriptions are cheaper than single boxes, but you don’t know what you’re going to get. They’re pretty good, in my experience.

If you’re more creative, you can buy things locally or on Amazon to make your own versions of subscription boxes. Think of a theme and go for it!

I encourage my kids to pick up a new skill or improve an old one each summer. My artistically inclined kids draw or paint a lot. Using a computer drawing tablet doesn’t count as screen time since they’re working on a skill. Just about any skill will do, and it’s fun for kids to work on their own interests, rather than do whatever their school requires of them.

And of course, encourage your kids to just play with their toys. They don’t need to spend every minute doing something educational.

Sign The Kids Up For Activities

Many parents choose to enroll their kids in activities for the summer. This is good if not taken to extremes – kids need time to just be kids.

My kids do swimming lessons every summer until they hit the top level of the available classes. While they no longer have the regular pool access they had when they were younger, we never know when a friend will turn out to have a pool. It’s just safer to have all kids learn to swim, even if they won’t use that skill at home.

Check with your local community center for more activities you can sign your kids up for. Art, drama, martial arts, gymnastics, dance… the list goes on, most places. Make sure it’s something your kids want to do, so they enjoy the class.

There are a lot of free and cheap activities you can do as a family as well. Many of them don’t require any kind of signup, just show up and participate or do completely on your own.

Reading Time

Encourage your kids to spend some time each day reading for pleasure. You can take them to your local library for books, head to the bookstore, or get more books on Amazon, depending on what your kids want to read.

My youngest loves the Warrior Cats series, for example. She will run out of books in that series eventually, but for now, it has gotten my very reluctant reader to enjoy reading.

Your local library may have a summer reading challenge as well as summer activities your kids will enjoy. Earning a prize for reading is just one more incentive.

Don’t force your kids to read something they don’t want to read over the summer. Help them find something they will enjoy, whether it’s novels or comic books. They’ll have plenty of assigned reading from their schools as they grow. Of course, if your child’s school assigns summer reading, make sure they take care of that too.

Be Ready For Grumbles

Of course, just because the kids are complaining that it’s too hot outside doesn’t mean you have to give in and let them play inside. In many cases, it isn’t that it’s too hot to play outside, it’s that your kids are bored.

That’s why you need to have a lot of things for your kids to do. Don’t give your kids ideas for what to do every time… it’s better for them to learn to figure that out on their own as they get older. If they have options available, they will figure it out. Or you can always assign them chores. Whatever works.

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.