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 June 1st, 2018

11 Ways To Prepare To Work At Home Over The Summer

11 Ways To Prepare To Work At Home Over The Summer

School getting out for the summer presents some challenges for work at home parents. Suddenly the kids are home all day and want to do things with you. This makes it really difficult to work sometimes, while still being the mom or dad you want to be. It’s time to make plans and prepare to work at home over the summer so that you can continue to be productive.

1. Review your work routine.

Taking a look at your work routine is an important part of preparing to work at home over the summer. Is it going to work for you with the kids at home? If you’re used to getting all your work done when they’re at school, for example, how will you cope when the kids are home all day? When will be the best time for you to work now? How will you keep up with what needs doing?

Working at home during the summer often takes a bit more flexibility than when the kids are at school. Be prepared and think about what’s about to happen in your daily life.

If necessary, work more when the kids are sleeping. Pick late evening or early morning, whichever you prefer, and focus on work when the kids are in bed. Working when your spouse is home and able to be in charge of the kids can also help. Use daycare if that’s what it takes.

2. Talk to your kids about your work needs.

Hopefully, your kids are used to you working at home if you’ve been doing it a while. Even so, it’s a good idea to remind them that during the summer you still need to work even if they’re on vacation.

If you’re planning set work hours and a set location in the house, let them know about it and explain that they aren’t to bother you unnecessarily when you’re working. Lay down some rules so they know when they can interrupt. They may not get it perfect, being kids and all, but it should help.

This shouldn’t be much of a problem with older kids but can be challenging with younger ones. Your younger children may need more attention than you can afford with your work at home requirements. Consider if daycare is necessary. It can be better for all of you. Do what’s necessary to have a productive work at home day.

3. Encourage age and location appropriate independence.

climbing rocksI’m a big believer in encouraging my kids to do things on their own. When my kids were young, they could play out back on their own. They’re old enough now that they can play out front, ride their bikes around the neighborhood, or even go to the store for a treat on their own. The youngest can’t go to the store yet on her own, but with the prospect of getting some candy or ice cream, it’s easy for her to get a sibling to take her when she wants to go.

These are privileges they’ve earned. They’ve shown they’re capable, and it’s a generally safe neighborhood. They also have rules about how they can play on the computer and know the consequences of breaking the rules.

Children need time to play independently. They do not need their parents participating in everything they do. Participate some of the time, absolutely, that’s just fun, but remember how much fun you had just being a kid with your siblings and friends, and let your kids do likewise. Hopefully without getting into too much trouble. After all, if they’re happily playing you should be able to get some of your own stuff done.

4. Encourage outdoor play.

Summer’s hot, and sometimes it’s hard to get the kids to play outside. They’re too used to air conditioned buildings. But outside play is healthy and should be normal. Think about how much of the summer you spent outside as a child, despite the heat.

I usually push for my kids to go play outside first thing in the morning. The sun’s rays aren’t quite so strong then, it’s cooler, and they have energy. Sunscreen is still a generally good choice.

There are a lot of things you can do to encourage outside play. When my kids were younger, we would walk to the playground in the morning. That got the urge to go there handled at a time of day we all could stand. The walk would also tire them out a little, as it was over a mile and mostly uphill. Funny thing, no matter how tired they were on the walk, they always had plenty of energy for the playground itself.

Make sure you set up a lot of ways for your kids to play outside at home.  If you have a sandbox, make sure you have some great toys for it. A cover is also a good idea to keep any local cats from using it as a litterbox. If you keep your sandbox in a shady area, it can be used for much of the day.

diving

A Slip ‘n Slide, sprinklers, water guns and other water toys also help get kids outside and playing. Most of these won’t cost all that much money. Water play is the perfect way to get kids to outside and play no matter how hot it is. If you have a swimming pool or easy access to one, so much the better.

You may also want to set up a screen time rule for the summer. Have your kids play outside before they can watch TV or use other devices. No heavy buildups of screen time with the promise to go outside “soon” either. No carryovers to the next day. This rule keeps them wanting to play outside earlier in the day, with the promise of being allowed to relax indoors when the day is at its hottest.

One trick my kids tried early on was to each claim screen time separately, and watch the shows someone else had picked. They soon found out that it didn’t matter who picked out the show – if you watch it, the time counts as your screen time.

5. Know where their friends live.

You really want to know where your kids’ friends live, especially the ones who will be home during the day. That way, you can encourage them to all play together at one house or another. Don’t be the parent always sending your kids to someone else’s house; take your turn. Kids with friends over are usually too busy playing with friends to bother you other than for the occasional snack or when an argument breaks out. Hopefully, that’s less often than when your kids are home with just you.

If you’re lucky, your kids will have some friends within walking distance. That’s not something my kids have had often, but it’s such a help when friends have been that close to us.

Of course, the time it takes to drop kids off with a friend can be worth it if you get more work time.

6. Get the kids out of the house without you if possible.

When my kids were younger, we lived close enough to grandparents that we could send the kids off to see them. It was a huge help. These days, I have to come up with other plans.

While we don’t live close enough for daytime visits to grandparents, we sometimes send the kids to spend several days with them. This works pretty well, although the planning is difficult at times.

One alternative is to look at local day camps if that’s in your budget. While these can add up fast, it’s one way to get the kids out, doing something fun and still giving yourself the day to work. The big question is whether it will be worth it financially. Many camps are expensive. Of course, the kids will enjoy the experience as well if you choose the right camp.

As they get older, of course, expect your kids to do things on their own in the local area without you. It’s good practice for when they head out on their own.

7. Have craft projects available.

kids painting

Most kids love to do crafts, so have the materials for their favorites readily available. My youngest loves to paint, for example, so her supplies are often just right there on her table, although the water for rinsing the brush doesn’t stay out too much.

We keep better craft supplies for the older kids, as well as a soldering kit and other challenging activities. The craft supplies you need will depend on age. The older they get, the better quality the paints we get for them.

Make sure your kids understand the safety rules for crafting as necessary. My kids are allowed to use a glue gun, for example, and that gets very hot. They know that they can get burned by it and that if they ever leave it plugged in after use, they will lose all use of it.

Crafting sometimes means allowing them to use a computer, phone or tablet to look up ideas or instructions. So long as that’s what they’re doing, I allow it. Our screen time limits aren’t meant to limit their access to information, after all. They’re meant to limit the time spent sitting, staring at a screen and doing nothing else.

8. Be ready for “I’m bored!”

There are many ways to cope with kids who announce that they’re bored. For the most part, it’s a good idea to tell them to go figure out something to do. This is especially important when you need to work.

Children need to learn to entertain themselves, especially without staring at a screen. If you always give them ideas for what to do, they will keep relying on you for that rather than using their own creativity. The whole point of having a lot of things available to them is so that your kids can find things to do when they’re bored.

But there are times when it’s easier to give them ideas. That doesn’t mean your kids will like your ideas. My own favorite is to suggest a chore that needs doing, as there are always chores that need doing. Kids will usually think of something else they’d rather do, really fast. If not, the chore gets done, and the kid learns to not complain too often about being bored. That said…

9. Have kids do daily chores.

When school’s out, there’s no reason for kids to not help out more around the house. During the school year, chores depend on time left over after homework is done. If homework is heavy, there are fewer kid chores to be done.

During the summer, there’s no such excuse, and kids need to do chores so they can learn to cope with all the things a home needs to be done. Decide what’s age appropriate for your kids.

We have some chores that must be completed on certain days. Dishes are daily, of course. Some of their assignments alternate weekly, so the same person isn’t responsible for the same job all of the time. This keeps away arguments over whose chore list is the hardest. I found that alternating weeks saved arguments over alternating days. It’s amazing how easy it is to lose track of who did what when it changes daily. Change it weekly, and everyone knows who’s on duty. Keep it age appropriate, of course.

My kids get assigned weeks to either help make dinner or make it entirely on their own, depending on skill level. The kid on duty also has to help with the grocery shopping, with the oldest being responsible for planning almost the entire list. They also get to plan one dessert a week, which they really enjoy.

10. Plan.

Solid planning can help make a great summer for your family while still giving you time to work at home.

Start out with the things you absolutely must get done, such as the work time you need. Add in planned family vacations. Then take a look at the most important things you want to add in.

I insist on swimming lessons for my kids until they reach a high enough level, for example. While we don’t have a pool, another family member does, as do some friends. The ability to swim is a safety issue and a major part of water safety. You may have other activities for your kids that you consider a priority.

On the fun side, my youngest loves to go to Movies In The Park, a local event where they show a popular movie at the park one night a week. It’s great fun, and we make plans to meet with friends there so the kids can play before the movie.

Libraries may also have fun activities for the summer. Our local library has reading challenges as well as special events. The kids have been able to meet interesting animals there, watched magic shows and more.

carousel

11. Be spontaneous.

If your work schedule allows it, take the time to be spontaneous. Go to the water park on a really hot day. Play tag with the kids. Accept that invitation from a friend. Make a special treat. Have fun during your workday when possible..

It won’t always be possible to be spontaneous. That’s what happens when you work at home over the summer. You have responsibilities. Take care of those, and make time for fun when you can.

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 23rd, 2016

How to Teach a Reluctant Child to Cook

 

How to Teach a Reluctant Child to Cook

Some kids start out early loving to cook. My kids, not so much. While they all went through the “mommy’s helper” phase when they were little, they all lost interest in cooking and meal preparation early on. They have all been very reluctant to learn how to cook.

The solution, fortunately, has not been too difficult, although none are enthusiastic about the job most days. These are some of the steps I took to bring my kids from reluctant to cooperative and occasionally enthusiastic cooks.

Set Up a Schedule

Pick a day of the week that your child will help out with at least one meal. With three kids, this means I get help in the kitchen quite often. They know which day is theirs, and that if there’s a particular recipe they want to make, they need to tell me in time for grocery shopping. If I don’t know what they’d like to make, I may not have the ingredients on hand.

Start With Favorite Meals

What do your kids like to eat? Teach them to make their favorite homemade meals first. There’s a reason why all of my kids have helped make homemade pizza.

Don’t feel bad about allowing them to use premade ingredients. If you aren’t comfortable making homemade pizza crust, for example, buy a crust from the store. We have also used meatballs from Costco and other shortcuts in recipes.

Cooking doesn’t have to be dinner, although it has usually been the most convenient for us. If your child wants to make breakfast or lunch and there’s time for that, go for it.

Don’t Forget Desserts

If there’s one thing kids love to make, it’s dessert. Allow them to sometimes pick a dessert to make along with dinner. I don’t allow dessert to be the only thing they make that day, but it can be a part of the meal.

The great part about making dessert is that many of them can be made early, or even need to be made early. Many desserts need to cool before they can be eaten, which makes it easier to prepare the dinner that goes with the dessert.

Plan Fun Meal Days

The week that school started, I told each of my kids that their meal that week would be either “eat dessert first” or “breakfast for dinner.” They got to pick which one. They were also allowed to suggest their own ideas for a fun dinner, but to my complete lack of surprise, none did. Only one wanted to make breakfast for dinner – the others wanted dessert first on their nights.

My son was the one who chose to make breakfast for dinner, and he got a lesson on how complicated it can be to make a big meal where everything has to be warm at the same time. We made chocolate pancakes, scrambled eggs, bacon and fruit salad. Naturally, we started with the fruit salad, as that could just sit in the fridge until dinner. Making the rest took quite a bit of effort on both our parts to keep up. We both had fun, of course.

Be Flexible

I’m very flexible with my kids and cooking, especially during the school year. If they have too much homework or they’re just exhausted, they’re excused from helping. There’s time enough for them to learn about the occasional monotony of cooking a meal when they’re older and it has to be done every day no matter how they feel. If they learn to enjoy cooking when they’re younger, the monotony shouldn’t be as bad when they’re older. I hope.

Why Should You Teach Your Kids to Cook?

If you’re getting a lot of resistance from your kids about cooking, there may be times when you wonder why you should bother, especially with young children. Aside from the fact that they will need the skill as adults, there are excellent reasons to teach your children to cook.

1. They will understand food better.

Cooking is how kids learn about what goes into making a healthy meal, and what food looks like before you combine the ingredients to make a meal. There was that show a few years ago where children had trouble recognizing common vegetables. Getting them involved in food preparation (and including vegetables in your everyday diet) will help ensure that they know about a wide range of foods.

2. They will be more confident.

When my kids started cooking, they were very nervous about the heat from the stove and oven. They’re still cautious, but they get more comfortable every time, as they learn that it’s not that hard to deal with the heat and not get burned. The exception is my youngest, as she’s still small enough that it’s hard to reach things on the stove, never mind the oven.

It’s also important that kids get comfortable using knives. When their movements have been more tentative with knives, they have been at greater risk of hurting themselves, as they haven’t held things safely for fear of the blade. As they gain confidence and knowledge, they’re safer. That goes for a lot of things in life.

3. Kids are more likely to eat what they cook.

This is a real help if you have a picky eater. While it’s easier to start with foods they love, as your kids get more comfortable you can start challenging them a little. You can have them cook things that aren’t favorites, try new recipes or unfamiliar ingredients and get creative in the kitchen together. The pride of accomplishment can make kids more willing to eat things they might not have been willing to try otherwise.

4. It eventually takes stress off you.

Teaching kids to cook is not always fun. Sometimes it’s just a pain. But in the long run, as they get old enough to cook without your direct supervision, it makes your life easier. You don’t have to cook when you’re tired from a hard day – you can have one of the kids handle it. You might even save some money by not needing to eat out so often.

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 April 29th, 2013

How to Balance Working at Home and Parenting

How to Balance Working at Home and Parenting

Working at home doesn’t often fit into the relaxed image many people have of it. Not every parent can work and care for the kids at the same time, not all work hours are flexible from home, and sometimes the kids have to wait while you get something done. It’s not always what you thought you were signing up for, but it’s often the reality. It can make you feel like a bad parent or that you should be able to balance it all better.

This is a big part of the work-life balance work at home parents need to find. It’s not always a simple thing to do.

Stop the Guilt

First and foremost, don’t feel guilty for working at home. Whether you’re doing it because your family needs the money or because you’d like something more than parenting in your day doesn’t matter. Being at home doesn’t mean your one and only focus should be on the kids. You should be doing things for you too.

Just think about it. If you worked outside the home, you’d see even less of your kids, most likely. Your kids probably don’t get all your attention while you do laundry or make dinner, yet those don’t make you feel guilty, do they? Nothing wrong with giving your work the attention it needs too.

What Do Your Kids Need From You?

Take a good look at what your kids really need from you. Most won’t need your attention 24/7 all the time. Even babies will usually let you get a break sometimes. I’ve worked at home with a baby on my lap as I type. I’ve worked while breastfeeding. And I’ve worked really, really hard when the baby napped.

It can be harder to work at home with a toddler than an infant, but still, consider what your child needs from you. Toddlers are capable of some independent play. Encourage this.

What most kids don’t need is a parent right there in everything they do all day. Independence is a wonderful skill to encourage in children. This should increase as they get older. Take the time to play and enjoy your kids, absolutely. Just remember that they need time to be themselves, on their own or with other kids, and this is a wonderful thing for you when you need to work.

What Does Your Work Need From You?

Especially if your family depends on your income, you have to consider what your work needs from you and find a way to give it. Jobs and businesses can be much less forgiving at times than children. It’s very common for work at home parents to have times that they must work rather than have fun with the family. Not so different from an outside the home job in that respect.

As a matter of fact, you should treat your home based work as seriously as you would work outside the home. It’s the best way to succeed at it. Give yourself a schedule, work hard, be professional, and teach your family to respect the work you do.

Do what you can to schedule your work around your family, but understand that sometimes your family will have to schedule around your work. Sometimes that’s just the way it goes.

What Do You Need From You?

Your life shouldn’t just be work and kids, work and kids. Make some time for you in all of this. It doesn’t have to be much; just give yourself some time. The world doesn’t revolve around your kids, does it? You can be a great parent and a great you.

Find Your Balance

Between all these needs there is a point that works best for your and your family. It’s not going to be the same for everyone. I find the best balance in working some during the day, but mostly in the evenings after the kids are in bed, and one day each weekend, with the other day reserved for family time. Others will hate that schedule. Some jobs and businesses won’t work at all with that schedule. You have to make it all work out.

If things aren’t coming together well, consider your alternatives. Is there someone who can care for the kids so that you can work more during the day, for example? Despite the ideals many of us start with, using child care of one sort or another is quite common for work at home parents. Don’t feel bad if that’s what it takes; just make sure the expense is worth it.

You can also consider whether your schedule can be changed. That won’t be possible in all situations, but it might be in yours. It may take a few tries to get it right.

Plan Family Time

Include time for family in your schedule. You don’t have to plan everything you do, and if your work schedule permits, you can have spontaneous family time too, but do schedule in some time for your family to do something. Sometimes it might annoy your kids and be a bunch of cleaning around the house together, but other times can be fun. Plan for the big fun stuff, and let the little fun stuff happen.

That’s why I set aside one day a week where I don’t work on my business. I rarely know in advance what we’re going to do with that day, but it’s there, available for whatever. Sometimes we plan a hike or other outing, other times we all just stay home and do nothing in particular, and still other times we do a lot of cleaning and organizing, and everything in between. The point is to have a day that we are together.

It doesn’t take a constant focus on your kids to be a great parent. I think it takes balance, so the needs of your children are met, and you still get the things done you need to do. There’s really no harm in telling your kids that you can’t play at that moment, so long as you can play sometimes, and their overall needs are taken care of. The balance you make in your life will help teach them to have balance in theirs.

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 3rd, 2010

Help Your Children Understand Advertising

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

Kids don’t think that way, of course. Just look at how many struggle with the idea that cartoons aren’t real. Think there’s any chance that they understand yet that commercials aren’t 100% true?

You’re going to have to teach them.

There’s nothing like having a preschooler point out inaccuracies in advertising.

This can be done starting at a pretty 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.

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.

Build Their Language Skills

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.

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.

It’s not just ads during the commercial breaks you need to discuss.

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

Talk 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.

Discuss Alternatives

It’s helpful to remind kids that they don’t need everything they see advertised on television. There are a lot of better choices for them out there.

It’s helpful to remind kids that they don’t need everything they see advertised on television.

It could be something you already own. It could be a similar product you already prefer. It could be a discussion on why you don’t need everything you see advertised. It could be a discussion on the cost of the product and why you don’t need to spend the money.

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.

Have Them Make Their Own Live “Ads”

Once the kids are starting to understand advertising, have them try making up their own, right in front of you. Give them something simple and tell them to sell it to you, any way they can.

This encourages them to think about what goes into an ad and product claims. With most kids, it’s also pretty funny, as they’re great at coming up with wild ideas.

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.