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Money Lessons Kids Can Learn By Going On Vacation

June 24th, 2014 - Category: Family Time



Thinking about a family vacation?  Family vacations aren’t just about a week at the beach or theme park.  They are an investment toward your child’s character, a great bonding time between parents and kids, and it builds memories that will last a lifetime. Vacation planning and budgeting can also be a wonderful time to teach your kids about money.

According to T. Rowe Price’s 2012 Parent’s, Kids & Money Survey, while almost half of parents (45%) report involving kids in deciding where to go on vacation, they are falling short when it comes to taking advantage of vacation related teachable money moments.

This year, instead of calling a travel agent, gather your kids around the table and have them do the footwork and planning for your family vacation.

Brainstorm.  This is a great time to find out what each child likes and what is important to them.  Find out what they would like to do and find out what their priorities are as far as places to go and things to see.

Formulate a budget.  Vacation is a great time for your kids to learn that money is not an infinite resource.  Setting a budget can also help relieve your stress.  One of the main reasons we take a vacation is to relax and escape from stress.  Wouldn’t it be nice to relax and enjoy your vacation and not have to worry every time you reached into your pocket or better yet, return home refreshed instead of worrying about the next credit card bill.

Plan the details.  Now is the time for your children to learn about choices and trade-offs.  Keep goals and budget  decisions in the context of the conversation.  Discuss accommodations, meals, flying versus driving, etc.  Make pro and con lists for hard to decide items.  Make sure they consider the impact a decision will have in the long run.

Save for a goal.  Vacation is a privilege, not a right.  Encourage everyone to chip in.  Put decisions in context of other family saving goals, for example college funds.  Be an example to them when you contribute to the pot.  Track and share the progress of the vacation fund regularly.

Prepare ahead of time to save.  Hit the dollar store for a cheap travel bag with all the necessities.  Get the kids disposable cameras for great memories.  Let the kids complete “Get Ready To Go Jobs” such as cleaning out the car, stocking the pet food, packing snacks and clothes, to earn extra spending money while you are on your trip.

Remember the souvenirs.  Depending on the ages of your children, consider giving them some spending money for souvenirs.  This will alleviate constant “can I have” requests and put the decision making into their hands.

Be ready for changes.  Let the kids have a voice if changes need to be made.  Extra stops, time changes, and price increases can all send your vacation into a tailspin if you don’t have a backup plan.  Empower your children by letting them in on some of the decision making and decision changes.








Observing Memorial Day With Kids

May 22nd, 2014 - Category: Family Time

Flag Girl

Many people, adults included, confuse Memorial Day with Veterans Day.

Veterans Day is a festive celebration of military service people who are living. While Memorial Day ceremonies are more reflective and somber as we honor those who have lost their lives in military service.

To help your child understand Memorial Day, start by explaining the sacrifices military people make for our country.  Younger children may be frightened by war and death, so keep your explanation age appropriate.

The heritage of Memorial Day is sketchy.  I actually found several different originations in my research. Maybe the observance of the holiday is more important than where or how it originated.  But, here is one story to share with your young ones.  On May 30, 1868, Union General John A. Logan declared the day an occasion to decorate the graves of Civil War soldiers.  In 1950, Congress passed a resolution calling on Americans to observe each Memorial Day as a day of united prayer for peace.  And in 1971, President Richard M. Nixon declared Memorial Day a federal holiday.

You can also help you child gain a deeper understanding of the holiday by honoring it in age appropriate ways.  Besides attending the local community events that honor our vetrans, here are several ideas to get you started.

Wear red, white, and blue.

Fly a U.S. flag half-mast until 12 p.m.

Say the Pledge of Allegiance.

Decorate the graves of loved ones with flowers and flags.

Visit monuments dedicated to soldiers, sailors, and marines.

Participate in a National Moment of Remembrance at 3 p.m.

Watch the speech and wreath laying of the President at Arlington National Cemetery.

Email, make a thank-you card, or make a care package to send to soldiers on active duty.

Visit a veteran or give them a gift and thank them for serving.

Support a veteran by donating online at Wounded Warrior ProjectFolds of HonorUSO, or another of your choice.

Take doughnuts or cookies to your local veterans hospital or retirement home.

Make a patriotic craft.

Learn about the veterans in your family.

Go online and read the names of fallen soldiers.

Post a social network message or video thanking our veterans.

Watch the Memorial Day Slideshow here.

Do a random act of kindness in honor of those who gave their life for our country.





Kids In Charge Day

February 13th, 2014 - Category: Family Time

Kids In Charge Day

If your kids ever complain about “too many rules”, or suggest that they want more independence, we’ve got an idea that may just help stop the groaning.

Around my house it’s an annual tradition or “holiday” if you will.  We call it, Kids In Charge Day, and my kids love it!

Here’s how it works.

Once a year, on a given date, the kids are in charge of a whole day.  I mean everything.  Including what, when, and where we eat, what we wear, what we do and where we go, even when we go to bed.  It’s a great time as parents to watch them spread their wings and be in charge.  It’s also a great time to see what’s important to them.  And you get to see how their interests change over the years as they get older.  Here’s more details to make your Kids In Charge Day a success.

Plan ahead.  Give them plenty of notice and have a planning day about a week before your Kids In Charge Day.  Give them a checkbox type of outline to help them map out their day.  Include specifics such as what they would like to eat for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, what crafts or family activities they would like to do, and if they have a special outing in mind. This gives you a chance to have everything they request ready as well.

Set your limits ahead of time.  Be up front with specific dollar amounts and maybe even a mile radius that you are willing to work with.  This will alleviate disappointments and arguments later.

And when the day comes…

Relax on the rules.  Let things slide.  You may cringe at the mess or grit your teeth at the junk food consumed but remember…it’s just 1 day.

Have fun.  Drop all the guilt and enjoy the experience.  Make yourself available and give the kids your undivided attention.

Capture the moments.  Keep a camera handy so you can catch all the wacky things that transpire.  Make a Kids In Charge Day book and flip back through it every year to remember favorite things from years past.

Next time the kids start groaning about how unfair life is, just remind them that their day in charge is coming up and the groaning will change to a discussion about what time they’ll tell you to go to bed.







The Present of Presence

December 13th, 2013 - Category: Family Time




I’m sure that everyone reading this right now has as many different circumstances impacting their life as there are stars in the sky.  But if you ask everyone what the most important thing in their life is, it would be the same…family. 

I’m sure I’m not the only one that would like a stronger, more cohesive family.   

Researchers at Brigham Young University analyzed results from 148 studies over the last century and found that social support (like that found in a strong family) can not only make us happier to be alive, but also literally adds to our longevity, increasing our survival by up to 50%.  

The time that we spend together is what defines a family. 

Right now, I have a captive audience.  My kids are all young and they don’t have anywhere else they would rather be.  The amount of time that I spend with my family is really up to me.  I decide how much time away from home I will spend with work and hobbies, and I also decide the quality of my time at home when I’m there.

Right now, my kids sit at the window, waiting for me to walk in the door after work.  However, not far down the road, my kids will be grown and will move out of “my” house and into their own.  And I will be the one anxiously sitting by the window awaiting their return…especially around the holidays.

I know that the time I spend with them now will dictate how often they will return later.  The fact that they will even want to return and spend time with family will say tons about my relationship with them.

The journey from here to there may seem long and difficult and at many times under-appreciated.  But one day we’ll be able to reap what we sow and our kids will be able to come home to a place that they hold dear in their hearts.

If a healthy, strong family is on your list this holiday season, here are some suggestions:


1.  Have dinner together as a family.  There is a growing body of research that shows just how significant this time can be for kids.  It helps them grow not only physically but also emotionally. 

2.  Use the time you already have by catching the time in between moments.  Like driving in the car, walking through the store, or those couple of minutes when you are done getting ready but you still have 5 or 10 more minutes until it’s time to leave.  Use those minutes to talk and catch up on what your child is doing in class or how their friends are doing.

3.  Check-in.  There are normal times of the day when it is easy to give your child a hug and say that you love them.  When they wake-up in the morning, when they get home from school, or right before they go to bed to name a few.  Take a minute at these “check-in” times to let them know that you care.

4.  Make memories.  Do fun things together.  Step out of your usual habits of watching TV, surfing the computer, or gaming and take the whole family out for some fun.

5.  Have routines or traditions.  Whether it’s a book before bed or a family campout every summer, come up with family routines and traditions that will glue your family together.

6.  Make the time.  If you still struggle to find the time to spend with family, put it on the calendar and actually schedule a time for family time.


With the hustle and bustle of holiday preparations upon us, it can be hard to balance life.  Remember to take time to just be there and spend quality time with your kids.  The precious present of each others presence is one of the best gifts we can give our family.


How to Get Kids to Exercise

October 30th, 2013 - Category: Family Time


Times have changed.  I remember playing all day in the ditch behind my house with my cousins.  We only showed up at home around lunch and dinner time to scrounge up some food and then we were off to build a fort, or climb a tree, or play hide-and-go-seek until it was too dark to see our way home.

Today, if there was one word that I’d use to describe my kids, it would be “couch-potato”.  My fear is that they aren’t just missing out on the experiences I once had, but they are also missing out on the exercise.

If you are concerned about the activity level of your kids, here are a few tips to keep them more active and more healthy.

 1.  Limit screen time.  The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no screen time for kids under the age of two, and kids over two years old, should watch no more than two hours a day of quality programming.

2.  Head outside.  Kids are much more likely to get moving when they are outside.  Plan a day at the park or go on a hike together.  You can even use playtime outside as a reward and see if that gets you anywhere.

3.  Get some outside toys.  You can’t play basketball inside.  Consider getting a few active toys for your kids and see where that takes them.

4.  Enroll them in a activity.  It isn’t for everyone, but maybe you could enroll them in an activity.  Try dance, karate, or swimming as well as the team oriented sports.  This will force activity at a specific time each week.

5.  Inspire them.  Kids want to do what their parents are doing.  So the more you are up and active, chances are, the more active they will be as well.  If you don’t feel like getting up for yourself, do it for your kids.



Stop the Morning Madness

September 11th, 2013 - Category: Family Time


Do you find yourself scrambling every morning and in the end yelling as your kids head out the door?  Here are a few suggestions that will make your morning smoother…and happier.


Get up earlier.  Be sure to plan for plenty of time in the morning and maybe even a couple extra minutes for that inevitable, “Mom, I lost my homework”, scenario.  Set your alarm clock with time to spare.  And if you’re one of those that loves the snooze button, try placing your alarm clock across the room so you are physically forced to get out of bed to turn it off.


Get ready before the kids.  We all love our “Z’s”, but according to Mary Belche, Ph.D., a clinical child psychologist in Cincinnati, “Children love their parents attention and a great time to give them that is in the morning.  If parents don’t slip out of bed until their kids are gone to school, they are missing some valuable time with them.”  Try rising before the kids and get ready yourself.  Then when the kids wake up, you’ll be ready for whatever comes your way.


Have a schedule.  If your kids wake up in plenty of time, but drag their feet and aren’t able to fit everything they need to do into the allotted time, try coming up with a schedule with them.  Do things in order of priority and set appropriate times for each task to be done by.  You can even make it into a game.  Use a stopwatch and create a chart to keep track of their times.  Try to beat their time the next day.


Prepare the night before.  Not everything has to be done in the morning.  What can be done the night before to alleviate some stress?  Daily baths, homework, lunches, setting out clothes, and getting backpacks ready are all thing that can be done ahead of time and leave time in the morning for things like a healthy breakfast.


Go to bed on time.  Waking up in the morning is always easier to do when you’re not tired.


Have a positive attitude.  Be happy.  If problems arise, deal with them calmly instead of sending the house into a frenzy.  Be an example to your kids of appropriate behavior and send them out the door ready for a great day.




Swimming Safety Tips

June 5th, 2013 - Category: Family Time

Along with warm weather reports come reports of accidental deaths by drowning.

The hard facts – drowning is the leading cause of injury-related death among children between the ages of 1 and 4.  And it’s the third leading cause of death among children.

With facts like that, we have to wake up and do our part so it doesn’t happen again.  Here are some water tips to help us beat the odds.


Be aware – Back yard pools aren’t the only culprits when it comes to drowning.  It only takes 2 inches of water and a couple of minutes for a child to drown.  So, be sure to supervise other sources of water like bathtubs, toilets, decorative ponds, and even mop buckets.


Be prepared – Parents have a million things to do, but learning CPR should be on the top of the list.  Being prepared can give you peace of mind.


Learn to swim – Teach your children to swim and if you don’t know how to, take lessons yourself.


Buddy up -  Always swim with a partner.  A buddy can help out in case there’s an emergency.


Know your limits – Don’t swim for longer or in deeper water than you are comfortable with.  If you are a good swimmer, keep an eye out for your friends that may be struggling.


Swim in a safe area – Look for lifeguards and watch out for dangerous water conditions.  If you do get caught becoming too tired, float until you can get help.


Be careful when diving – Always check for rocks or other hazards beneath the waters surface.  And pay attention to “No Diving” signs.  They are there for a reason.


Even though we stress to be safe around water we hope you still have a great summer in and out of the water and especially HAVE FUN!!!





Summer Fun Ideas

May 21st, 2013 - Category: Family Time

Summer time is here!  Are you excited about having the kids home for a couple of months or are you dreading the down time?

Does summer at your house bring fun and a time for the creation of wonderful memories or does it bring weeks of constant fighting, complaining, and “I’m bored” comments?

Well, here is a list of free or cheap things to keep you busy this summer and hopefully keep the kids smiling and working together instead.

Have a picnic under the kitchen table.

Take a hike.

Go fishing at a nearby pond.

Make fish out of foil and use a magnet to catch them.  (Works best with a magnet inside as well)

Make a scrapbook.

Paint with watercolors.

Tell ghost stories.

Put on a puppet show.

Have a water balloon fight.

Learn origami.

Make duct tape wallets.

Go to the dollar theatre.

Do service.

Have a pillow fight.

Make paper airplanes race them.

Play in the sprinklers.

Set up a lemonade stand.

Play charades.

Do make-over’s. (for the girls)

Make a masterpiece with sidewalk chalk.

Wash the car.

Have a hula-hoop contest.

Go roller skating.

Have a Harry Potter movie marathon. (or movie or your choice)

Camp out in the back yard, tent and all.

Blow bubbles, try making your own.

Fly a kite.

Present book reports to each other.

Play twister.

Do a puzzle.

Make a fort out of blankets.

Go for a bike ride.

Have a video game day.

Put on a mini Olympics.

Have a coloring contest.

Play with clay.

Tie dye something.

Do a treasure hunt.

Have an arm wrestling contest.

Make s’mores.

Play hide-and-seek.

Have a backward day. Wear your clothes backward, walk backward, eat dessert before dinner.

Learn to juggle.

Cowboy day.  Dress up, talk, and eat like a cowboy.

Superhero day.  Make capes, and fly around.

Jump rope.

Put on a magic show

Sports day.

Have a fashion show.

Feed the ducks.

Play board games.

Different culture days.  Learn about different countries, eat their food and try to dress like them.

Make homemade ice cream or popsicles.

Cake-boss day.  Decorate a cake or cupcakes.

Throw a frisbee.

Have a water-gun fight.

Mini triathlon.

Make something out of a giant cardboard box.

Have a no-talking contest.

Chocolate day.  (mom’s favorite)

Whatever you do this summer, have fun!  It doesn’t take much to spark your child’s imagination and have a great time.  Let us know some of your summer fun ideas.


Less Screen Time

October 23rd, 2012 - Category: Family Time

Is your television on from sun up to sundown?  Is that the first thing that gets turned on in the morning and the last thing to be turned off at night?  If it’s not the television maybe it’s the computer, or pod, or notebook?  Too much screen time can stunt the imagination and yield a loss of wonder.  Whenever the show is over or the game is done, your kids are back to being bored again.  With the glimmer and jazz that electronics have to offer,  it makes it hard for kids to focus on a book, or engage in imaginative play, or marvel at nature.

Encouraging our children to spend less time in front of a screen can elude even the best of parents.  Here’s some ideas of things to do instead of sitting in front of a screen.

Chores:  Chores teach responsibility, build self-esteem, and encourage spending time together.  It is a great way to give them something to do that will benefit them and the family.  At you can find many ways to teach and encourage your child to be more helpful with chores.  If someone says, “I’m bored.”  Have several chores for them to choose from to take up some time.

Books:  Books don’t have to be a lost past time.  Get a library card and spend the afternoon at the library.  Encourage your children to always have a book they are reading.

Use Your Imagination:  There is no limit when you use your imagination.  Play school, dress-up, or super-hero.  Have a tea-party in the back yard or pretend to fix the car.  The possibilities are endless.  The more extravagant the better!

Play With Friends:  Invite a friend over for a couple of hours.  When ideas can bounce off of two heads they are sure to find something fun to do.

Play Outside:  Ride bikes, play at the park, work in the garden, run through the sprinklers.  Take time to appreciate the weather and nature all around us.

Build Something:  Whether it is Lego’s, play-dough, or a fort built out of sheets in the living room, building something sparks the imagination and can keep kids busy for hours.

Crafts:  A couple of popsicle sticks and some glue can go a long way to fighting boredom and inspiring grand thoughts.

Hobbies:  There are so many hobbies to choose from for girls and boys.  To name a few there are model airplanes, scrap-booking, painting, sports, photography, the list is endless.  Take up a hobby with your child and you can both learn and grow together.

Experiments:  One of my favorite science experiments was mixing vinegar and baking soda and watching it foam.  From watching mold grow on fruit to which soap works better, find everyday household products and experiment with them.

Collections:  Start a collection of stamps, coins, baseball cards, or even leaves or rocks.

Board Games and Puzzles:  There are quick ones and long ones.  Games for young and old alike.  Take your pick and spend some time getting to know each other over a good game or puzzle.

Whether you plan to limit screen time to just a few hours a day or you just need some ideas to encourage your little one away from the TV, we hope some of these ideas will help.  Use your imagination and spend some quality time together.

Summer Activities to Beat the Heat and Get Kids Off the Couch

July 5th, 2011 - Category: Family Time

Summer can be hot. And long. And for kids…a little bit boring. As a parent, you don’t understand boredom. There are always chores that need to be done, food to cook, and jobs to go to. You could fill up an entire year just with the stuff that needs to be done right now. Unfortunately, it’s your kids that have the summer off. Not you. But that doesn’t mean you want your kids sitting around for the next few weeks doing nothing.

Here are some great ideas for getting kids off the couch and even getting them to do extra chores (without realizing it):

Start washing your car – if you put on your bathing suit, your kids will naturally wonder what you’re doing. Tell them to “come see.” Then, while you start hosing down the car, toss them a rag. Most kids love the water, and even if it means washing the car, they won’t be able to resist the temptation. You get a clean car. Your child gets outside for a while. And hey, if a water fight breaks out, it’ll be a great time to bond with your children.

Make popsicles or homemade ice cream – got a bunch of dishes in the sink? Then get your kids in the kitchen to help you clean them up. Entice them by asking if they want to make popsicles or homemade ice cream. Once you’re in the kitchen, you could say, “We’ve got to get these dishes cleaned up so we have room to work.” And with that, your dishes are done and you and the kids have a sweet treat to enjoy.

Play “night games” with the kids – remember when you were young and played Kick the Can or Ghost in the Graveyard? It was a lot of fun for you and it would be great for the kids. Because you play at night, you won’t hear any whining about how hot it is. This is also a good activity to get your yard cleaned up. After all, you’ll tell your kids how dangerous a bike, hose, or skateboard could be in the dark. Soon, the toys in the yard will be back in place. And once you get the kids going, you can always return inside while they continue to have some fun. Just be sure you’ve invited a few friends over to join in.

Clean out the closets and save a few dollars – how many shirts and pants with holes do your kids own? Probably a few, right? After all, clothes do wear out. Suggest turning old, holey pants into shorts and give your kids markets and paints to create their own style. Of course, they’ll need to clean out their entire closet to find all the shirts and pants they’d like to “remake” into summer clothes. Then get them playing outside in their “new” outfits.

Pull out the family photos – if you’re like many families, you have photos on the computer, in a box, and hiding in drawers all over the house. All you have to do is show your kids one or two baby pictures of themselves and they’ll be anxious to look at more. Get them to organize your stash as they go through them. This is a great indoor activity that keeps them cool and away from the T.V. And when they’re done, you’ll be ready to fill the photo albums or get the pictures uploaded to digital albums.

Kids don’t like the word chores. But if they haven’t got anything better to do, they’ll eagerly embrace just about anything. So learn how to engage your kids in activities you want done without mentioning work or chores. You’ll be amazed at how quickly the summer passes and how active your kids can become.

Forget the Chores…Go For the Moment

April 26th, 2011 - Category: Family Time

As parents, it’s not uncommon for us to stay laser-focused on the things that just “have to get done.” We have our own to-do list and we try to squeeze our children into that same mold. As you know, this can cause some tension. Kids want to do things on their own time. And the urgency to get things done can make you seem like an ogre.

But how do find a happy balance? What can you do to teach children responsibility, get the chores done, and not be the overbearing parent?

Here’s an idea: don’t focus so much on getting the chores done. They’ll get done; even if it takes an hour instead of 30 minutes. What is important is that you build relationships with your children as you help them develop skills and learn to possibly enjoy their chores.

Below is a list of 5 ideas for making chore time memorable:

Turn on the Radio – doing chores can be fun…if you want it to be. A little bit of music can act as a motivator. If you associate pleasurable things with less-than-fun activities, you can reshape how your children feel about what they are doing.

Interrupt Chores with Some Fun– for example, if you’ve asked your kids to wash the car, take advantage of that opportunity to bond. Sneak up as they work and turn the hose on them. They’ll remember moments like that forever. No, you can’t do it every time they wash the car. But when it’s completely unexpected, go for the moment.

Make it a Game– the chores have to be done. When children are little, we sing the clean-up song to motivate them. Older children don’t want to sing silly songs. But what if you were to set a timer and offer an extra incentive if they get their chores done before it goes off. Or, hide some cash that they’ll only find by doing an exceptional job with their chores (like moving the furniture when they vacuum).

Join Them– as your children grow, it’s easy to let them tackle their chores on their own. After all, you’ve got things to do. But once in a while, find some time to help your child complete their chores. They need to know you still recognize what they are doing.

Skip the Chores– when you see your child dragging their feet about doing chores, why not skip them? Take them to a movie or out to get ice cream. Skipping chores once in a while won’t hurt anything and your child will appreciate your willingness to make them happy more than getting things done.

Switch Things Up– if your child is old enough, offer to switch chores with them. Send them off to the grocery store while you tackle mowing the lawn. A little variety will go a long way in making chores less mundane.

Compliment Their Efforts –just letting your child know their efforts are appreciated can make a big difference. There’s a big difference between doing chores because you have to and doing chores because it makes your parents happy.

Some of our favorite moments are those we’ve spent working side-by-side with our children. It’s a good feeling to know that even “hard work” can be rewarding, memorable and enjoyable. Those are the real skills and feelings you’d like to leave your child with, right?

If you have other ideas for making the most of chore time with your kids, please feel free to leave a comment below. And if you are looking for a way to easily manage your child’s chores, be sure to check out our free online chore chart,

Activities to Keep Your Kids Busy During School Break

December 21st, 2010 - Category: Family Time

Although there are many family activities inherently connected to the holidays, there will most likely come a time during the school recess that your child utters the dreaded words, “I’m bored!” Many of us think how could this be after they just acquired all that new ‘stuff’? Yet it seems to be an inevitable consequence of time off from school. Here are a few activities that your kids can do without leaving home to keep them creative and active inside on a winter day- other than turn on the TV or the computerized games.

Make your own play dough: This is a two part activity because not only is it fun to make, but then they have something to play with afterward. Combine 2 cups of flour, 1 cup of salt, 2 cups of water, 2 tbsp vegetable oil, 2 tsp cream of tartar, and a few drops of food coloring in a large pan over low heat. Stir until combined and allow to cool.

Create a family newspaper: Talk to your children about newspapers and magazines and show them examples. Ask older children to create their own family newspaper featuring stories, advertisements, cartoons, and more. Newspapers can be written, feature pictures, or both. You’ll be surprised at the day-to-day family events that your children will turn into newsworthy articles!

Employ your older children: If you have a group of children of mixed ages, let the older children plan and teach an activity to the younger ones. Give the older children a selection of art or craft materials and ask them to come up with a project to teach. You’ll be surprised how seriously the older children take the responsibility of designing a project of their own, and the little ones who already look up to the big kids will enjoy working on a project with them.

Create a treasure hunt: This is another activity that can be designed based around your child’s age. A little guy just needs a simple map with some pictures whereas an older school-age child could use codes and clues to figure out where the treasure is. The treasure doesn’t have to be anything major. You could get something at the dollar store, or if you feel like there are enough new items in your home the treasure could be something like being able to pick what to have for dinner that evening.

Have a talent show: Another two part activity is to hold a talent show. First your child needs to come up with a ‘talent’ and practice his/her routine. Then there is the actual performance. You could even make invitations for other family or friends, or prepare special seating or snacks. You could have every member of the family participate. Make sure you have the video camera batteries charged.

Challenge their taste buds: The purpose of this activity is to make your child more aware of the sense of taste. Gather a variety of foods in small amounts. Have your child close her eyes while tasting each one. After each food, discuss the taste. Begin to distinguish between the main taste bud differentiation: sweet, sour, bitter and salty. Ask your child to say which are his favorite foods and why. Try combining foods of different tastes. How did the taste change when the foods were combined?

Make a collage: Save old magazines and catalogs and store them in a cabinet just for this purpose. Have the kids cut out pictures and paste them onto a piece of cardboard or construction paper. You can let them cut out whatever they want, or assign each child a letter of the alphabet or a theme to go by for a more challenging project. Keep a trash can close by for the scraps and be sure to keep a stock of glue sticks on hand!

Play Sardines (Reverse Hide-n-Seek): One child is the hider, everyone else is a seeker. The hider hides while the seekers seek. However, when a seeker finds the hider, instead of pointing him out, he joins him in the hiding place. Soon, the children will all be stuffed in one place, like a box of sardines!
The key is to not whine back to their whining, to try to think outside the box and search for an activity that you know would be great for your children’s ages and creativity. Taking a few minutes to plan an activity might lead to lots of great treasured memories. Enjoy!

Avoiding Holiday Stress

December 9th, 2010 - Category: Family Time

If holiday time is stressful for you as a parent, then it is possible that some of that stress is rubbing off on your children. Here are some ways to keep your children from burning out during the craziness of the season.

  • Don’t make your children feel that they have to be in the spotlight at performances or at relatives’ houses. Just let them be themselves and try not to show them off.
  • Try not to do too much in one day or one weekend. There are so many parties and events to attend at this time of year. Try to be choosy about which ones are really important to attend. Try to avoid visiting more than one party or event in a day.
  • Try to keep bedtime and eating schedules as consistent as possible. Allow them time to stick to their chore charts and their routines. This isn’t always possible, but the more routine the less stress, especially for little ones still requiring naps.
  • Try to keep them loaded with healthy snacks. It is easy at this time of year to load kids down with sweets and treats, but just as we hit a wall when all we eat is junk, overindulgence will lead to many more meltdowns.
  • Help them figure out their best relaxation technique. When it is time to settle down after a busy, high-energy stimulated day, figure out if music or stories work best to get them the rest they need.
  • Spend some time explaining your traditions – if you have a spiritual faith explain how your religion is part of the season. Or perhaps you have family traditions that have been passed down through the generations – explain to your children why these are important to you. It helps children to know why they do certain things at this time of year.
  • Find some time for fun with just your immediate family. Perhaps you could bake cookies, watch a holiday movie or read some Christmas stories.

There are some stresses that effect parents more than children – one of the big ones being the stress of added expenses. The first thing we have to do is let go of perfection. Try to see the holiday from your children’s eyes. Most of the time they are not as concerned with the things we think they “have to have.” Perhaps during this time you can give your children a few additional chores to add to their job chart in order to help you prepare for extra guests or celebrations. Express to them that their extra help will make the holiday more special for all involved. All the extra work doesn’t have to be on your shoulders.
Happy Holidays!

Fun Ways to Spend Quality Time With Your Kids

July 16th, 2010 - Category: Family Time

Time with Kids VS. Work

I think, for the most part, parents genuinely want to be able to have more time to spend with their kids.  Work schedules, school, housework, and travel (essentially our day to day routines) all tend to creep their way further and further into our lives until eventually we can end up suffocating ourselves with “to dos” and appointments. We don’t want these things to take over our lives, but somehow it ends up sometimes that we let the small things in life outweigh what is most important.

Family Comes First

If you’re wondering, the idea for this post came from the movie “Click It” with Adam Sandler. My wife and I just finished watching it and I couldn’t help but wonder if I might be letting my day to day routine and work rob some of the quality time in my life that I could be dedicating to those I love most, my family. There is a fine line that needs to be walked but no matter the circumstances, as Michael states in the end, “family is always first.”

I’ve Made the Time, Now What?

This in mind, I’ve decided to share some ideas on ways to spend quality time with your kids. When we do take that vacation, put away the chores for a night with the family, or ditch the 5th “can’t miss” meeting to pick up the kids early from school, it’s nice to have some good ideas up our sleeves to make sure that the time we spend with our kids and family is meaningful, fun, and memory creating.

This is simply going to be a list of brainstormed ideas. I debated breaking them down into categories but decided that it would be easier if you could just pick and choose which ones would work best for your family and your own kid’s ages since each family is different.

Ideas for Spending Time with Children

  • finger painting
  • face painting
  • build a lego city
  • read books
  • pitch a tent in the backyard
  • build a fort
  • Draw and color pictures of your favorite places
  • play marketplace (bank)
  • dress-up
  • put on a talent show
  • karaoke
  • build ginger bread houses
  • puzzle
  • fishing trip
  • play catch
  • go for a “walk n talk”
  • teach them how to cook their favorite meal
  • go to the park for a picnic
  • make cookies
  • visit grandparents

This list could be endless and I hope everyone can share some of their own ideas on ways to spend quality time with your kids. What do you do on your days off with the family? What brings a smile to your son or daughters face? We’d love to hear from you.

Easy Family Game Ideas

June 11th, 2010 - Category: Family Time

I’ve written a lot about family time and how important it is to make quality time for your family. One of the most entertaining ways to spend quality family time is to find fun easy games that the whole family can enjoy. Growing up in a small town, I’ve had to learn a lot of games. I have played a wide variety of  games throughout my life, as I’m sure most of you have, including board games, outdoor night games, card games, and any other type of game you can think of. We had to have SOMETHING to do in order to keep us busy on those long summer nights in a small town.

Playing games with your friends is no doubt fun. What we may not realize is that those same games can be played as a family in order to grow closer together and establish tighter bonds between family members. That in mind, I wanted to list a few easy family games. These are just some ideas, I’m sure everyone has their own favorites and I invite you to share those with us as well. I always love to learn a new game and try it out with the family. It’s fun when the game is new for everyone so all members feel like they are on equal playing fields and you can have fun learning together.

(Keep in mind that you may have different names for some of these same games in your own family)

Easy Family Card Games

  • Kings Four Corners: Each player starts with 7 cards with the deck in the middle and four cards face up around the deck. Draw one card per turn. A King moves to the corner (1 for each suit… hence 4 corners) and you fill in the line with the same suit from king down to ace. First person to run out of his/her hand wins.
  • Rummy: Rules of this game can be found here.
  • Spoons: Sit in a circle. The object is to get four of a kind. Each person starts with 4 cards. The person who starts draws a card from the pile. He can choose to keep the card or pass it. He must pass one of his cards to the person next to him and it keeps going around the circle. The first person continues to draw from the deck. When someone gets four of a kind, he/she grabs one of several spoons in the middle (there is one less spoons in the middle as there are people playing). After one person takes a spoon everyone is allowed to grad a spoon. The person who is left without a spoon at the end must sit out until the next round. Play the game until there is only one person left, the winner!
  • Go Fish: Rules here
  • Crazy 8′s: Rules here
  • Apples to Apples: This is a fun game where each person get’s to find out his personality type at the end by the cards that he wins throughout the game. For rules to this game, click here.

Easy Outdoor Games for Families

  • Hide and Seek: One person is the “seeker.” Everyone else hides and the seeker counts to a pre-determined number and then tries to find those hiding.
  • Cops and Robbers:You need two teams. One team are cops and the other are robbers. You also need to choose a jail area. The cops have to stand in the jail and count to five. When they get to five, the have to run and try and chase the robbers. If they catch any, they put them in jail. When the team is caught, the games is over and the teams swap roles.
  • Big Foot Relay: Have the children bring two shoeboxes with them. Tape the lids onto the boxes, then cut a one-inch-wide and four-inch long slit in each top. Have the contestants slip their feet into the slits in the boxes and race.
  • Giant Squid: This game came as a result of our family watching a movie where a giant squid terrorized a submarine… can’t remember the movie name. Have four or five bases spread out across the yard. One or two people in the middle are the squid and the others try to avoid the squid by running from base to base (ship to ship).
  • Pick Pocket Tag: Put a strip of cloth in each player’s back pocket. Have the players try to grab each other’s strips without having their own strip taken. The player with the most cloth strips wins the game.

Easy Family Board Games

  • Monopoly: a good game to teach kids about money.
  • Life: simulates a person traveling through his/her life. They encounter real life situations from college , getting married, having kids…etc. Good family game.
  • Settlers of Catan: The players in the game represent settlers establishing colonies on the island of Catan. Players build settlements, cities, and roads to connect them as they settle the island.
  • Chess: Protect your queen while trying to get the other player in “check-mate.”
  • Checkers: played on an eight by eight squared board (with sixty-four total squares) with twelve pieces on each side. These pieces may only initially move and capture diagonally forwards. Only when a piece is “crowned” or “kinged” may it move both backwards or forwards.

These are just a few of the games I grew up with and still play today with my family. What are the games that you play? Maybe you have games you or a family member have come up with yourself that you’d like to share. Happy parenting and maybe your kids will want to use some of those points from completing their chore chart to buy some board games or family game time.

10 Ideas for Spending Quality Family Time

May 4th, 2010 - Category: Family Time

Quality family time seems hard to come by when we’re driving in the fast lane in a world with fast cars, fast food, and the hope for fast fortunes. Quality time seems to be easily replaced with time spent working, cleaning the house, washing the car, rushing the kids to school, paying bills, and cooking dinner. The fact is, life can be super stressful and it is really hard to break out of the funk if we don’t MAKE time for our families.

I’ve asked some of our fans on facebook and our twitter followers for some suggestions on how they spend quality time with their families. I’ve also listed some of my own ideas in hopes to spark your mind or at least remind you of all of the fun things you can do with your family and that will allow you to take a breather from the hustle and bustle of everyday life and just hang out with the fam.

1. Search Your Local Information Website for Upcoming Events

This first idea comes from Julie in Arizona. She says, “We like to go to and see what’s happening that weekend in the kids and family section. They always have fun, free events and activities for young families to take advantage of: plays, puppet shows, museum tickets, kid fitness events. There is always something. You just have to want to find it!”

This idea is GREAT for families living in more urban areas that have a lot of events, but even in smaller communities you can check for upcoming events in the closest city to you and take the family on a day trip.

2. Take the Family On a Fishing Trip

Since the last one was more for the city folk, here’s one to bring out the “outdoorsman” in everyone. Grab a couple fishing rods, some powerbait, hooks, and sinkers, and load the family up on the SUV bound for the nearest fishing hole or stream. Sometimes it’s great to find a place where you have to hike a little ways to get to the fishing hole. This gives you more time to walk and talk as a family.

3. Sing Together

This is a great idea from Amandia in Washington DC. Amandia’s family likes to gather around the piano and warm up their vocal cords for a fun singing session. Some of the kids will bring their favorite instrument and they’ll all have a sort of “jam” session together. “It is such fun to see all the kids using and developing their talents,” says Amandia.

4. Attend a Sibling’s Sporting Event

There is some sort of power in supporting others. It not only helps them feel appreciated but it also helps you appreciate the accomplishments and talents of others more. As you take the other kids to watch a sibling play sports or participate in an activity or play, it really builds comradery and brings the family together.

5. Watch a TV Series Together

Find something that the whole family likes to watch. A lot of times reality and similar type shows are a favorite (Survivor, American Idol, Dancing with the Stars, Biggest Loser…etc).

6. Do a Service Project for a Neighbor or Close Friend

Find someone in the community that could use some help. Whether it be yard work, fixing up the house, or even just someone to come and keep them company, take the family and spend some time serving.

7. Go to the Movies

This seems a little overplayed but it can still be a good time. Especially if your family is not one to go out much, it can be a treat to take the whole family to the theater and watch a wholesome movie together. Talk about the movie afterwords, what each family member’s favorite part was, worst part, who was the best actor… etc.

8. Game Night

Board games and card games are a fan favorite for many families. Sometime it’s cool to break away from the norm though and try something different. Sherry from Wichita shares a cool story about one of her families successes with a new angle on game night. Sherry says, “One time we had a game night of clue and each person had to dress up as their character. We had a mystery dinner to go with it, too.” Awesome idea Sherry! Super innovative!

9. Pick the Meal Wheel

Make a spin wheel with the names of each family member. Spin the wheel and whoever the pin lands on that’s who gets to pick where you go for dinner that night AND what you eat (buckle your seat belt as you may be in for some exotic dishes). The next time you do it be sure to take the last person who won off the wheel to make sure everyone gets a chance.

10. Read Together

Find a good book that the family can enjoy. Pick a time each morning or evening when the family can get together for 15 minutes or so and site down to read together. You can talk about what you’ve ready during and after reading to get discussion from everyone.

11. Go For a Sunday Stroll

Chrysula from New York says, “One of our favorite family quality times is just going for a walk on Sunday afternoon. The kids get their bikes, which is a novelty after 9 years in Manhattan, and we stroll around the neighborhood.”

These are 11 great ideas for spending quality family time. I know there are a million more out there so I hope you’ll share some of yours with us. Feel free to comment below and let others know what your family does for fun. Don’t forget to sign up for the blog if you haven’t and assign your chores on your children’s online chart today.

Special thanks to our Facebook fans who helped contribute to the ideas for this post. You guys are awesome!!

Five Ways to Improve Family Mealtime

March 3rd, 2010 - Category: Family Time

With the hustle and bustle of our daily activities, many parents feel like they are always running behind. It is easy to catch yourself saying things like, “there just isn’t enough time in a day,” or, “Can’t I get just five minutes to myself?” It’s easy to stress about life when we are so busy and are running a thousand miles per hour.

Not only is it hard on us as parents, it’s also tough on children when we are so busy that we sometimes neglect finding time to spend with them. Family mealtime is not only a great way to wind down after a long hard day, it is also a very effective and meaningful way to spend quality time with your children and spouse.

An article on writes that, “Studies show that the more often families eat together, the less likely kids are to smoke, drink, do drugs, get depressed, develop eating disorders and consider suicide, and the more likely they are to do well in school, delay having sex, eat their vegetables, learn big words and know which fork to use.” This in mind, even when we take the time out of our day to have family mealtime, it often doesn’t go as planned and can seem like even more of a hassle adding more stress to our day. Here are some tips help smooth out family mealtime and make it as effective as possible.

1. Don’t Stress About the Meal Itself

Sometimes mothers can over-obsess about cooking an elaborate meal every single night. This is simply not necessary. What’s more important is the consistency of eating together. Less important is what you actually eat. Keep it simple to reduce stress and save the time consuming gourmet meals for special occasions. Though not recommended, if time doesn’t permit making a meal, even ordering a delivery meal and eating in with the family is better than no mealtime at all.

2. Be Consistent

Make sure your kids and spouse know that every night at a specified time, they are to be home for family dinner. Pick a time that will work for everyone’s schedule. Even if some members of the family can only be there for 30 mins, make sure that all members can be HOME for family dinner at a specific time each day.

3. Good, Bad, and Funny

Especially if you are new to family mealtime, it may seem awkward at first for everyone to be together at once and eating around the table. Break the tension and get everyone comfortable by having each person tell about their day. Go around the table and have each person relate something good, bad and funny about their day. You may get some “less than involved” responses at first but eventually, as it becomes routine, family members will begin to open up more and the time will become something to look forward to rather than dread.

4. Plan Out the Next Day

Because life IS busy and individual schedules are always changing, take this time together to figure out the next day’s schedule for each person. Find out whether anyone’s plans need to be altered in order to fit a change in someone else’s schedule. By doing this, everyone can be on the same page and you can avoid being overwhelmed by sudden shifts in your assumed schedule.

5. Relate Good Achievements of Family Members

If you’re a parent, hopefully you are recognizing some of the good things that your children are doing. It is good that you are doing this, but it is also important that you relate your acknowledgment of their achievements, not only to them, but to the other family members as well. Use family mealtime to talk about each family member and their achievements. Kind words like, “You guys should have seen Brett in his game today, he was the best one on the court,” or, “Tracy sure impressed Miss Webb today with her answers in history class,” can really help to bring a good mood into family mealtime.

What are some other ways that you and your family have used to help family mealtime be more enjoyable and less stressful? We’d love to hear your ideas.