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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mom texting

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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mom phone

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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mom fitness

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 March 8th, 2019

Quit Playing “Perfect Mom.” Just Be Yourself

Quit Playing Perfect Mom. Just Be Yourself

The pressures on moms to be perfect is just amazing. It doesn’t matter what you do, someone will say you’re doing it disastrously wrong. Maybe that’s why it’s such a habit for many moms to gloss over the problems they deal with and try to show a public face of being a perfect mom who can calmly cope with anything life and her kids throw at her.

Even tantrums and finding time for a shower.

I’ll admit some days are easier than others to be a stay at home mom. Keeping my sanity the day after the baby had cut a tooth and was up all night back when my kids were little was challenging. Especially if my feet found the LEGOS on the floor too early in the morning.

Many things are easier now that my kids are older. They rarely get me up in the middle of the night, and we have a playroom in the garage where they can make a mess if they want.

On the other hand, their activities are more demanding. The older two do archery, and competitions take up much of the day when they happen. Most involve travel. The youngest does Destination Imagination, which can also be quite time consuming and requires travel.

And of course, the emotional drama can be significant at times.

I’ve often felt that parenting doesn’t really get easier as the kids get older. It’s more that the challenges change. There’s still that pressure to be a perfect mom, whether you’ve decided to continue being a stay at home mom as your kids get older or not.

That’s why you should remember these things when you feel as though you aren’t the mom you ought to be.

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There Are No Perfect Moms

It can be difficult to remember that there are no perfect moms sometimes. You may read all these blogs where moms show off these great ideas they have and the wonderful things they do with their families. And of course most people’s social media posts make their lives look pretty good too.

Odds are that things rarely work out so smoothly for you. Or them.

Real life is full of challenges. Some days are much more difficult than others. And most of it is things that no one is going to share online for the world to see.

Don’t compare your life with what you see others post. You don’t know what else they’re going through.

I’ve had plenty of good times and bad times that I haven’t said a word about online anywhere. I think that’s true of most people. Even people who post frequently throughout the day don’t post absolutely everything that happens in their lives.

You Don’t Need A Perfect House

Keeping a clean house with young children can range from difficult to impossible. Little kids are messy, exhausting, and time consuming.

Not exactly ideal conditions in which to keep a perfect house, although some parents can manage it.

That doesn’t mean that you have to keep up. There will be times that your house is a mess. Laundry piles up. Toys are everywhere. It’s just plain hard to keep up at times.

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My own goal for keeping house has always been to keep it sanitary, safe, and comfortable.

Having older kids helps, of course. They’re generally less messy and more able to clean up the messes they do make, along with doing their shares of chores.

With younger kids, start them out helping you in age appropriate ways. Toddlers love to be helpful! They may slow down your work at first, but eventually kids become a real help around the house.

And of course, if you’re married or living with someone, expect them to help out. You both live there; you can both clean it up.

Don’t Stress About Different Parenting Styles

Have you ever talked to one of those parents who believes that their parenting style is the only way to go? It can be pretty annoying when they criticize all the things that you do differently.

The great thing about kids is that most of them will turn out just fine, so long as you don’t abuse them.

Breast or bottle doesn’t matter so much to babies as being well fed does. Occasional fast food isn’t going to make them fat. And there are advantages for your kids whether you stay at home or put them in daycare.

Remember to not sweat the small stuff. Lots of things can be called small stuff if you think far enough ahead.

Never, ever, feel bad for saying you need a break from your kids. You may have this goal of being the perfect stay at home mom who loves every minute, but you need your breaks. We all do. That’s why people who work outside the home get regular 15 minute breaks and a lunch break.

Breaks are a chance to clear your head and relax a little. They’re a bit harder to get for stay at home moms, but you can take breaks and you deserve them.

Get out a little in the evenings or weekends without the kids and without running errands. Read a book or play on your phone while your kids play with their toys. Do your own thing for just a little while.

Needing time for yourself doesn’t make you a bad mother. Taking time for yourself  can help you to be a better one, in fact.

Send The Kids Out To Play

As your kids get big enough, make sure you send them outside to play without you. There comes a time when it’s much better for them to play on their own without a parent watching them directly.

The right age depends on a variety of factors, such as where they’re going to play, the overall safety of your neighborhood, and your child’s personality.

If you have too many doubts about the safety of this, I suggest you start reading sites such as Let Grow. In most areas, your kids will not be in as much danger as you may fear. The evening news may make you feel differently, but when you look at the facts, you’ll learn how rarely most problems happen.

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Other parents in your area may be surprised when you first start letting your kids play out front on their own. I remember one time when my son decided to go for a run around the block when he was about nine or so. I had a neighbor knocking on my door almost immediately. He wanted to be sure I knew and was quite happy when I told him that it was routine.

Over time, my kids found the few other kids in the neighborhood, and started playing with them more, all because they went out on their own. They had more fun with the other kids than they would have had with me, and I got some peace and quiet. At least until everyone came running in demanding snacks.

If at all possible, let your kids walk themselves to and from school as well. That’s the biggest thing I miss about my old house was that it was an easy walk to school for the kids, while the current one is much farther. They still walk home sometimes, but only when I need them to, as it’s a pretty long walk.

Don’t Stress About Your Mistakes

And if you make a mistake with your kids, don’t be afraid to admit to it. We all make mistakes. You’re a better example for your children if they see that you can not only make mistakes but admit to them.

Forget perfection. Stop trying to be the mom who follows all the rules in whatever parenting style you prefer. Just do the best you can, be yourself and enjoy the ride.

There may be times that you yell. You might forget to bring your kids to that special events or to get a treat for their class. You could even lose track of time and be late picking the kids up from school when it’s too far for them to walk.

You’re not perfect. Don’t teach your kids to expect otherwise.

When you make a mistake, of course, apologize to them and try to do better, just as you’d expect your kids to do. That’s how they learn to do these things.

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 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.

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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.

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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.

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