Family Game Night

It can be difficult to set aside time to spend together as a family. But, a traditional family game night might be just what you need! Regularly spending time together can help improve communication with your kids, in addition to fostering a positive environment. Here are a few tips for making family game night fun for everyone involved.

Pick an evening that works for everyone.

This is probably going to be the toughest step for some families. It can be difficult to try to coordinate your teenager’s part-time job schedule with you or your spouse’s work schedule. And that doesn’t even take hobbies and the like into account. So, put it on the calendar far in advance and stick to it.

Tell everyone to pick a game.

It is important that all family members are involved in this step. Each week you can play a different game that a different family member suggested. That way, there is plenty of variety and each person’s preferences will be included.

Add food.

Every family event is better with food! Similar to choosing games, have every family member pick a favorite snack. Write all of the recipes on pieces of paper and draw one each week to make.

Include prizes.

Other than bragging rights (which can often be enough), consider creating unique prizes for non-first-place winners. Maybe someone could get a Good Sport prize or a Most Helpful Player award.

Get rid of cell phones.

While the first step may be the toughest, this step is probably the most important. Make sure that your family is actually spending time together by putting those cell phones away!

Start a new tradition in your home this week! Pick a family game night and get your kids involved in the planning process. It may be difficult to get everyone on the same page at first, but the effort will be well worth it in the long run.


Tips for Traveling with Teens

If you have survived the toddler years, you might think that your days of tiresome travel are behind you. However, teenagers are their own breed and often pose a unique set of challenges that can put any family vacation on a one-way track to frustration. However, with a little bit of planning ahead, you can keep your trip on track.

Plan with them.

Make sure that your teenager is part of the decision process when it comes to deciding where to go and what to do. He or she will feel more involved, and they are more likely to be aware of the bigger picture even in the midst of minor setbacks like a flight delay.

Be flexible.

Now is the time to bend the rules a little. Let them sleep longer or stay up late, for example. Yes, your teenager still needs discipline and shouldn’t be allowed to run wild, but it’s important to remember that they are on vacation too. If a major meltdown does occur, address the issue promptly and put it behind you. Don’t dwell on the situation or bring it up later in the trip. Instead, focus on making the most of the rest of the vacation.

Bring a friend.

If it is in your budget, offer the option for your teenager to bring a friend. For some families, this may detract from quality “family time,” while others will do better with the distraction. So, it really depends on what’s best for you.

Let them make decisions along the way.

You’ve incorporated them in the planning process, and you’ve been flexible throughout the vacation. It’s time to let them make a few decisions! Where do they want to eat? What do they want to do? As mentioned above, keep in mind that it’s their trip too.

In the end, teenagers really just want to be treated like adults. By incorporating their feedback and treating them with respect throughout the trip, you can increase the chances of everyone having a great time together.

This is the final post in a series of posts offering pointers for traveling with children during summer vacation. Whether you’re taking a trip with your newborn or you’re hopping in the car with young children, with a little bit of preparation, the whole family can have an enjoyable time!


Entertaining Your Child Over Summer Vacation

Summer vacation! Now there are two words that elicit images of sunshine and freedom in school-age children across the nation. They are also two words that invoke fear in the minds of many moms and dads. Without the daily routine of school, what are your kids going to do week in and week out? How do you keep them entertained? How do you keep them out of trouble? Thankfully, there are many options to keep your son or daughter busy and make
the most of this time away from the classroom.

Camp

Summer camp, day camp, week camp, horse camp, reading camp, computer camp – the list goes on. Depending on where you live, there are often several local programs for kids in a wide range of age groups. Visit your local library or YMCA for more information, if you can’t find resources online.

Fun

Amusement parks, swimming pools, water parks, fairs, science museums, and zoos offer great day-trip opportunities for kids. It is a good idea to plan ahead and decide whether or not to invest in passes and memberships in order to cut down on cost.

Art

Kids love to create! Foster their creative side by exposing them to opportunities to view other art and create their own. Some of the best experiences are those in which children are given a set of materials to work with and no final result is expected.

With a little imagination and effort, the opportunities for entertaining your children during those long summer days are virtually endless. However, it is important to keep in mind that it is not your job to fix the “I’m bo-ored” problem every day. Teach your kids to find things that they like to do and make choices to entertain and educate themselves. Before you know it, you’ll be shopping for back-to-school supplies again! So, enjoy those summer vacation days while they last.


Tips for Traveling with Young Children

None of us wants to be the exhausted and embarrassed mother with an out-of-control toddler. Luckily, there is a way to travel with small children that doesn’t involve losing your sanity. It often takes a lot of preparation and a little bit of work, but you can successfully travel with your toddler. Depending on the length of your trip, there are a number of different things you can do to develop a fun culture of travel within your family.

Short-term

If you’re just headed across the state to grandma’s house, make sure that you pack plenty of juice boxes, string cheese, animal crackers, and pre-cut fruit. We all know how cranky we can get when we’re hungry, and the same is true ten times over for toddlers.

Mid-range

If you’re flying across the country for a much-anticipated trip to Disneyland, you’ll want to pack the short-term items plus a few distractors. Crayons, small toys that don’t make much noise, bright paper, puppets, and other fun items can be brought out and presented one at a time through the trip. Enhance the excitement and distraction by wrapping them before you leave and your child will be even more impressed with the contents.

Long-haul

If you’ve decided to brave international customs and fly over the ocean, you’ll want to bring both short-term and mid-range items along with a focus on safety. Many families have a basic emergency medical kit with supplies for bumps, bruises, and scrapes along the way. It is also good planning to bring basic childproofing items, such as electrical socket covers, for the hotel or living quarters.

When traveling is stressful, most passengers around you, especially fellow parents, will be easy-going. If your child does act out despite your best planning attempts, don’t forget to apologize. Simple and sincere words can go a long way. And a little bribery never hurts either!


This is the second of a series of posts offering pointers on traveling with children during summer vacation. We’ve already covered tips for traveling with a newborn and traveling with teenagers is next on the list. So, keep your eyes peeled!

Tips for Traveling with a Newborn

It’s that time of year again! Families across the country are preparing to hit the road for summer vacations, but if you’ve got a newborn at home, you might be a little nervous about the idea of traveling with an infant. But, the good news is that it does not have to be a stressful experience.

Whether it’s a road trip across the state or an overseas flight, with a little preparation, it is possible to survive – and even enjoy – the journey with your new baby. Plan ahead to help reduce potential stress and make the trip memorable.

Keep Your Routines

A happy baby is safe and secure in his or her surroundings. Being able to predict what is going to happen next can help to establish a comfort level for them. While it’s not always possible to maintain the same routines that you have at home while you’re on the road, ensuring that nap times and bedtimes occur regularly can help to keep your baby rested and less fussy.

Plan Surprises

Depending on the age of the baby, distraction may be your most valuable tool. Circumvent fussy times by pulling out a favorite (or new) toy. Be sure to bring a few alternatives to swap out when your baby gets bored.

Bring Food and Water

Nothing can make a baby crankier than being hungry. And let’s be honest, the same goes for us. Make sure you have snacks packed for yourself and plenty of formula or breast milk for your baby. If you are traveling by car, you may need to pump ahead. For airplane trips, invest in a good nursing cover.

Relax

By planning and packing ahead, the actual day of travel should be relatively stress-free. Babies feed off our energy, and they can get very fussy if we are particularly nervous about missing a flight or where to stop next to fill the tank with gas. So, relax and enjoy the journey!

This is the first of a series of posts offering pointers on traveling with children during summer vacation. So, keep your eyes peeled for more tips on taking trips with young kids and teenagers in the coming weeks!


Summer Swimming Safety

For most of us, summer brings to mind visions of splashing around in the backyard, trips to the lake, and long, hot days spent figuring out new ways to cool off. It’s also a time to be extra aware of swimming safety. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, drowning is the fifth leading cause of unintentional injury death in the United States. But, there are steps that you can take to educate your family about the importance of
swimming safety this summer.

As parents, we tend to grow increasingly comfortable with extending boundaries for our children as they become more mobile. But, keeping a close eye on your little one around the water is critical. Whether or not it actually involves swimming, any activity around a pool or body of water should be supervised at all times.

Yes, even children who have had swimming lessons.
Yes, even children who are wearing flotation devices.

If your home has a swimming pool, block access to it with a locked and gated fence when you are not present. There are even alarms available to monitor pool access for added peace of mind.

Teach your children swim survival. This can be done at a very young age, and while it should not be used an excuse to defer supervision, swim survival may mean the difference between life and death in an accident.

Make sure that all older children and adult family members in your household can perform CPR. You can enroll in a class as a family. And even if you never have to use the lifesaving skill on your own child, you may be in a situation to help someone else down the line.

So, relax and enjoy your summer around the pool. But, take care not to let your guard down.


Tips for Nesting

As the second trimester moves into the third, many moms-to-be find themselves cleaning long-forgotten corners of closets and spending countless hours painting nurseries or putting together cribs. It’s important to prepare a calm, welcoming environment for your baby, and if you can get organized before your new addition arrives, it will be all the more helpful down the road. So, think about adding these items to your To Do list.

Stock up the fridge, fill the pantry, and load the freezer. Get rid of things that you can’t have during pregnancy (bye, bye unpasteurized cheese!) and cook a bunch of batch meals or casseroles that you can freeze.

Clean, clean, clean! Spring cleaning comes during any season for moms-to-be. Tackle those tasks that have been long neglected so that you can neglect them all over again. Dust picture frames, wipe baseboards, and vacuum behind the sofa so that you don’t have to worry about it once you have your hands full.

Get the nursery ready. After your baby shower, review the items you have and those that you still need in order to ensure that you’re fully prepared. Stock up on diapers, wipes, and pajamas for both of you.

Nesting takes time, and it is a constructive way to meditate on the ways your life is about to change. Enjoy this phase and all of the organization it brings. After the baby arrives, you won’t have the time or energy to dust the ceiling fans, reorganize your pantry, or clean out the deep freeze. And when your spice rack is alphabetized, your exhausted new mom brain won’t have any problem finding the cinnamon or cardamom!


How Your Child Can Help Prepare Meals

Cooking is a wonderful family activity that you can enjoy with even small children. It can help your child learn how to follow directions, in addition to creating quality time together. I still remember rolling out wonderful smelling dough to make cinnamon rolls with my grandma and stirring huge pots of family spaghetti sauce with my mom. Without realizing it, I learned lessons about wholesome nutrition that have shaped the way I eat today.

While it is important to keep basic safety in mind (keeping young children away from hot burners, for example), there are a number of tasks that children of all ages can help with in the kitchen. Choosing the recipe, shopping for ingredients, measuring, counting, cracking eggs, stirring, and tasting are all great ways to get kids interested and involved.

Choose the Recipe

From a very young age, children first learn their independence by making choices. This may become evident when your toddler only wants to eat crackers one day and applesauce the next. Encourage your toddler’s active participation in the family meal by giving them two choices for dinner and letting them pick. This idea extends to older children as well. They may even enjoy creating weekly meal planning menus.

Go Shopping

My two-year old loves grocery shopping. He is immensely interested in the list of things we are going to buy and will announce by memory what we get every week (milk, eggs, cereal, and juice!). He is always excited to point out the items and help me put them in the cart. When you are preparing a recipe at home, you can ask your child where certain ingredients are so that they can help, even if they aren’t old enough to measure or pour.

Follow the Recipe

Older children can learn valuable math and language skills by counting, measuring, and reading the recipe. Work at your child’s level and don’t be afraid to let them make a little mess. Practice makes perfect! The more your child is able to practice cracking an egg, the better he or she will be.

By following these relatively simple steps, you can enjoy quality time with your children in the kitchen. Buy kid-friendly cookbooks that can help improve their self-confidence and empower them to be great cooks one day.


Reading Recommendations for Girls

Helping your daughter develop both her reading skills and an appreciation for the written word at a young age is extremely important. A love of reading could help your child succeed in school, in addition to contributing to quality one-on-one time. There a few tips to keep in mind.

Activity
Toddlers are generally very active. This may mean that story time in your house is not exactly a quiet time of sitting down and reading together. Your daughter may prefer to act out the story or sing songs as you go along. It is important not to stifle this creativity. Instead, develop the story into a format that she enjoys.

Topics
As with toddler boys, it is important to choose books with topics that are engaging to your daughter. Does she love a certain cartoon character? Maybe she likes furry animals? Finding a book with colors and pictures that are in line with your daughter’s interests can be very helpful.

Favorites
Some toddlers have a particularly favorite book and will ask to have it read again and again. While it might try your patience, it is important to indulge them in this phase. Your attention now could pay off down the road.

Often, building story time into your daily routine is the best way to ensure that your child reads every single day. This may mean that your daughter gets to pick out a book each night before bed. Or maybe you have time together after lunch. Whatever you choose, build your routine around her and change things up if it seems like she is growing bored or restless. Reading is supposed to be fun, and at this age, finishing a book or reading every single word on the page isn’t the most important aspect. Instead, focus on providing an interactive and creative experience for your child.

Some of our favorite books for toddler girls include:

I Know a Rhino” by Charles Fuge
Slide Already!” by Kit Allen
Stephanie’s Ponytail” by Robert Munsch


Reading Recommendations for Boys

Toddler boys can be tough to keep up with. Running, jumping, exploring, and just generally being loud seem to be high on their priority list during any given day. While many of us are interested in fostering a lifelong love of reading in our kids, some parents may wonder how to get their little guy to slow down long enough to get through just one book.

There are a number of things parents can do to get active toddler boys interested in reading. Spending time with your son and a good book is a great way to promote family time while sneaking in a few quiet minutes in the midst of a crazy day.

Theme
Choose a theme that your son is interested in. Is he obsessed with trains right now? Does he go bonkers every time you drive by the hospital helicopter landing pad? Does he chase frogs around your backyard or seem particularly impressed in spiders or other insects? If you focus on a topic that actually appeals to your son, you’ll find it easier to select books with photos and information that will capture his attention.

Reading vs. Pictures
Many toddlers don’t need you to read all of the words in a book in order to help them enjoy the story. At this age, it is often more than enough to simply describe what is happening in the picture on each page. Or you can ask him to describe what he sees to involve him in active story time instead.

Lift-The-Flap
Along the same lines as active involvement in story time, a whole series of “hide and seek” books have been developed for young children. These can help keep your son engrossed in the story with active learning.

So, plan a field trip to the local library with your toddler and help them establish a love of reading now. Some of our favorite books for toddler boys include:

Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site” by Tom Lichtenheld
Freight Train” by Donald Crews
Cars and Trucks and Things That Go” by Richard Scarry

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