Go Outside!

My boys playing in the sand

My boys playing in the sand

How much time do you spend outdoors? Do you make it a point to take your kids outside daily? Do you realize the benefits of a little fresh air and activity? I’m writing this from my favorite spot at Starbucks after walking here from my house. The minute we set foot outside the house, my mood changed instantly.

It’s too easy to get wrapped up in our indoor lifestyles, especially this time of year. When it’s raining or snowing outside, all we want to do is curl up in front of a fire with a good book. Even if we do get out, it’s from one indoor activity to another (piano lessons, gymnastics, grocery store, etc.). Our kids may be getting exercise through their sporty activities, but how much play time do they spend outside?

More than that, how much time are they given the freedom to truly explore our outdoor world? An indoor basketball practice pales in comparison to running through the forest, catching butterflies, handling bugs, finding that perfect stick, and soaking up some sunshine. Our natural world has so much to offer our kids.

This is true especially with boys. If you have a hyperactive boy on your hands, what do you do? Say he wont sit still during a meal, he tilts his chair back at school, or won’t sit still long enough to do his homework or listen to a story. Should you be more strict in your insistence that he sit still? Should you threaten to take away the toys that seem to distract him? Should you take away his prized park outing?

The first thing you should do to deal with a hyperactive child is to go outside! Set the homework aside. Piano practice can wait a bit. The amazing thing is if you give him that outdoor time, he’ll be able to focus so much more on the important work he needs to do. You could stay inside and slave away, with both of you getting frustrated. Or you could spend 15 minutes outside and get the work done in half the time it would have required if you didn’t go outside.

Having two boys has been such a growth experience for me. I’m a girly girl at heart. I do my hair and shave my legs every day (even in winter). When they were toddlers, I could tell that my boys needed outdoor time. I’m sure if I had girls, we’d be inside doing crafts all day, especially on our misty Seattle days. But my boys? They need to run around outside. We simply cannot let rain stop us.

I came across an article on the Growing Kids site that talks about ADHD and outdoor play. In it, the author talks about the “natural cure” of ADHD. She references a book that discusses the lack of time we spend outside, or the “nature-deficit disorder”:

Rickard Louv wrote Last Child In the Woods, which has the most interesting subtitle, Saving Our Kids from Nature-Deficit Disorder. In it, he shares recent studies that have been done concerning the effect of natural surroundings on kids with ADHD. These studies indicate that kids with ADHD tend to calm down and function better in a natural setting.

The article’s author talks about her days outside with her son who may have been diagnosed with ADHD if he had gone to a traditional school:

Lesson one: a large, open field and a butterfly net. I remember sitting on a towel and watching my son burrow through the tall grass in pursuit of the yellow “flutter-bys,” as he called them, experiencing the wonder of capturing them a putting them in a peanut butter jar for observation! We most often let them go, but “school” had happened in that meadow — and at least some of the “wiggles” had been released so that he was more ready to sit for a while and do traditional school when we got home.

I’m learning more about the value of outdoor play through my Charlotte Mason readings. (Charlotte Mason was an educator who has inspired a homeschool philosophy.) No CM homeschool is complete without nature study. We are to take our kids outside and let them experience nature, and we should do so for an hour or more every day. When we get home, the kids are to create a drawing or painting of whatever it was that caught their eye outside. This is beneficial even if you’re not a homeschooler.

Whenever you find yourself at your wit’s end with your kids, put on their coats and shoes and walk out the front door. The mere task of coats and shoes may seem insurmountable, but once you get out, you can relax a bit, and everyone will be happier when you come back in.

Set Up Your Environment for Success: Pre-toddlers and Home-Proofing

Source: safeslider.com

By Amanda, Planning On It

Home-proofing means “setting appropriate limitations” on your pre-toddler’s mobility, introducing freedoms only when your child is old enough and wise enough to understand how to handle them. Where does the difference lie between “home-proofing” your child and “baby-proofing” your home? It lies in philosophy. … In contrast, “baby-proofing” has parents rearranging their living area so the child is never placed in a situation where Mom or Dad would have to limit his freedom of exploration or confront him with the feared words, “No, don’t touch.”  –p. 129, On Becoming Pretoddlerwise

After reading the above description of home-proofing your child vs. child-proofing your home most Babywise parents will nod their heads in agreement. Then they will go their merry way thinking they can leave their home completely unchanged and surely they can train their pre-toddler not to touch any off-limits items. At least that’s what I thought.

And then my child actually became a pre-toddler.

I learned that maybe Ezzo didn’t mean that we should leave out the glass dishware on the coffee table, or that tube of medicated cream in the nursery, or all those DVDs on the low shelf right beside the toybox. Oops! Live and learn, right?

So how do you find that balance? How do you train your child in self-control and respect for others without either endangering their safety, causing irreparable damage, or just plain driving their mothers crazy?

Much like child-proofing, home-proofing your child starts with setting some physical boundaries. You will make use of baby gates and playpens, child locks and regular locks. But as above, the difference lies in philosophy. Your goal is very different. Your goal does not end with keeping your 15-month-old from throwing books all over the room; it ends with teaching him proper respect and care for those books. But in striving for that goal you also recognize he is just 15 months old and this will take time. You recognize that you can teach respect for books by keeping out a few paperbacks and then later reintroduce the rest of the books that usually reside on your coffee table or low bookshelf.

Here are a few tips and ideas on home-proofing your child while staying sane.

Put a physical limit in place if…

  1. An item is dangerous. All the moral training in the world isn’t much good if our kids don’t live to be 3, right? So first we make sure their environment is safe. This means put medications and even vitamins in very high medicine cabinets or locked in a toolbox or small safe. Put a child lock on that knife drawer. Put a latch on the front door that your child cannot reach. Make sure heavy furniture is secured, especially things like TVs and tall bookshelves. No need to go crazy, just do a few commonsense things as a precaution.
  2. An item is precious. If an item is very valuable, sentimental, or irreplaceable, do not leave it within reach of your pretoddler until you can rely on him to not touch it. The risk isn’t worth it for the emotional or financial distress it would cause you.
  3. Your child is driving you crazy. How do I define crazy? Well, if you find yourself yelling frequently, spanking frequently, or feeling exasperated or exhausted by the simple act of keeping your child out of trouble, then these are clear signs your child is outside his or her funnel! A pre-toddler can be brought back inside his funnel by putting a boundary in place to limit his activity. This allows you to keep an eye on him, and it allows you to focus on training him to one or two items at a time. Using a baby gate is not admitting defeat. It’s admitting that you have a healthy, active 12-18-month-old and need to scale back his freedoms so he can listen to your instruction better. By scaling back on the number of off-limits items you can really use your energy wisely to buckle down and enforce the “that’s a no” instruction with consistency, patience, and firmness for just a couple items. Once your child is reliable with those, expand the boundaries a bit again and work on training with a wider funnel and more off-limits items.

Keep in mind the foundational principle in Babywise, that you are welcoming your child as a part of the family, not rearranging the family to conform to his desires or asking him to tag along with your adult lifestyle. Do not rearrange your living room to look like a daycare or only decorate the top half of your Christmas tree. But also do not keep fragile vases on the coffee table and then lose your temper when your 15-month-old topples one over on herself in a mischievous moment. Welcome your newly walking pre-toddler into your home by making sure his needs of stimulating play and safety are met while also slowly but surely teaching him what is valuable in your home, what deserves more care and attention, and where his personal boundaries lie within the home.

Amanda blogs about her family and home organization adventures over at Planning On It. She’s a former teacher and nanny and currently a stay-at-home homeschooling mom to her three young children. 

Don’t Be a Slave to Your Schedule

Source: essentialbaby.com.au

I’ve been reading a lot more about Charlotte Mason’s homeschooling methodology lately, and I came across a little nugget of truth that I think has widespread ramifications. The book that I’m reading says to make living books the heart of your homeschooling day, but to not be a slave to them. If you find a book on Greek myths but decide that only one chapter educates the child in the way you deem fit, then there’s no reason to read the rest of the book. Move on to something else.

This applies to our lives with our children when we follow a schedule. Having a schedule (or routine) with your children pays huge dividends. A schedule keeps our children focused and out of trouble. It keeps them active and entertained, away from boredom and mischief. A schedule helps us ensure that they are learning and living their best lives.

But just as important as it is to set a book aside when it has served its purpose, we should treat our schedule the same way. We must realize when it has served its purpose. And rather than toss the schedule out the window once our kids start school or once they seem “old enough” and require less direction, we would be better off revising our schedule. Our schedule only works as long as it’s effective in achieving our goals. If we start to ignore our schedule for whatever reason and then become exasperated with our children, we need to look to our schedule first.

Coming back to the title of this post, we also need to realize when the schedule is ruling our lives. We cannot become a slave to our schedules. The schedule serves us, not the other way around. This is the same with living books in Charlotte Mason homeschools. The books must serve us, not the other way around. So rather than toiling away at the same schedule (or book) that has lost its effectiveness, we are better off setting it aside and considering what our schedule should look like given our current circumstances.

Another thing to consider when reevaluating your schedule is the type of schedule-follower you are. Are you the type that will follow your schedule to the minute? Or are you more inclined to not follow a schedule and let your day flow as it may? I think there’s a happy medium there that works best. We don’t to be a stickler and rigidly have roomtime when a neighbor comes to the door to play. Nor do we want to have a super-flexible day where there’s no time for enriching activities like roomtime and sustained silent reading.

Take a minute and reconsider your schedule or routine. Is it serving your purposes? Is it making you the best parent you can be? Is it enabling you to do more than simply make it to the end of the day? Whatever the reason, take a second look at your schedule. Revise it as needed. And here’s a little hint: rather than type it up on the computer or write it up neatly in columns, just scratch it out in pencil. Think of it as your first draft. Follow your schedule draft for a solid week before typing it up or writing it out in pen. Make a concerted effort to follow your new schedule, but keep an eraser handy so you can change it as you go.

How to Manage Screen Time

Lucas with remote, age 2

Lucas with remote, age 2

We all know that we are supposed to limit our kids’ screen time, right? Whether it’s TV, video games, the iPad, or our smartphones, a screen is a screen. It can be so nice after a long day to let our kids veg out in front of a screen and give us some much-needed quiet. But while we’re enjoying that quiet, we know deep down that our kids’ brains are rotting from the inside out!

So what are we to do to manage their screen time? Some would say we should eliminate screens altogether. I know of a couple families who have lived without a TV. I commend them for living a TV-free lifestyle. But ultimately, I think depriving our kids completely does more harm than good. When they hear friends talk about their favorite TV shows or hear about the latest Angry Birds app, these kids will feel like social pariahs. Not only that, but when they are finally introduced to TV and all its flashy goodness, they’ll want nothing to do with their former TV-free existence. As with anything in life, when we feel deprived of something (TV, food, etc.), we want it all the more.

For those of us who do have TVs, computers, and mobile devices in our homes, we are called upon to actively manage our kids’ exposure. (That TV-free life sounds kinda good in comparison.) But knowing that we don’t want to deprive them completely or let their brains rot, our only choice is to manage.

Fortunately for you, I seem to have found the answer to managing screen time: trade time.

By trade time, I mean that we trade our kids for the time they spend in front of a screen. I started this recently and it’s working wonderfully. I require my kids to earn minutes. For every minute they earn, they can spend it in front of a screen. Here’s the key to trading time: to earn minutes, they have to do something I want them to do. And when I think about how I want them to spend time that is completely different from zoning out in front of a screen, it involves reading!

Sometimes my kids will earn minutes by finishing their school work early or by having a good attitude. But mostly, they earn minutes by reading. Lucas is still learning to read, so I simply require him to leaf through a book. Any book is fine, and oddly enough, he will sometimes choose chapter books. My only requirement is that he tell me that he wants to earn minutes so I can time him. We have a simple digital timer that I use to track his time.

William is a fairly advanced reader, but he will still choose comic books and magazines over chapter books. But to earn screen time, this doesn’t cut it. He has to read a chapter book. I bought him a bookmark that has a digital timer attached, so he can easily track his own time. I know he would never lie to me about it, so I let him track his own time.

The beauty of this plan is that it puts all the power of screen time in their hands. If William has only 5 minutes, he will choose to read for another 25 before he asks for a device. And they get a sense for how time can fly when you’re in front of a screen, a skill that many adults haven’t mastered.

The other wonderful benefit is that they seem to spend much less time in front of a screen. They can make the choice to read and earn time or simply play with Legos or some other toy. It’s all up to them, and I’ve learned that sometimes Legos are just as attractive as screen time.

And one final benefit of this plan: no nagging required!

I can even get them to do their more difficult chores before I allow screen time. They will come to me with the number of minutes they have earned, and I will allow them to have their screen time. But before I do, I make a quick request for them to put away a few toys, empty the dishwasher, or any other quick chore. They do it without complaint since they know that device (usually my iPhone or iPad) is calling their name.

I will admit, there are still times that I allow screen time simply because I need the quiet. But I make the clear distinction when the TV is on for my benefit or theirs. If it’s for my benefit, they don’t have to earn minutes. I just use caution and don’t do this very often.

Set an Example

Source: followbarbsbliss.blogspot.com

Have you given thought to how you’d like your kids to behave, think, and believe? What qualities are important to you? Maybe you like a spotless house. Maybe you imagine your kids sitting around reading classic literature. Maybe you believe that they are piano prodigies. Whatever your ideals, do you make it a point to display these characteristics yourself?

I’ve been reading Charlotte Mason’s books lately. Charlotte Mason was an educator in the 1800s whose teachings have become a homeschooling philosophy. She teaches that children learn best from “living books” or stories that tell a tale about the subject. Dry textbooks written by many people are the antithesis to her beliefs.

One thing that Charlotte Mason emphasizes is that parents must display the characteristics they wish of their children. If we want our children to clean up their toys, we must clean up our own belongings. If we want them to read, we need to read. If we want them to play piano, we need to either play ourselves or be sure they have scheduled time to learn and practice.

The point is that we cannot expect these behaviors from our children if we don’t model them ourselves. This goes for everything from putting toys away to always telling the truth. The perfect Ezzo example is when someone calls the house and the parent doesn’t want to talk to that person, he or she will say, “Tell them I’m not home.” It’s a simple white lie, but it’s a lie nonetheless.

So many parents lose themselves in their children’s misbehaviors. They think that one more sticker chart or timeout method will be the cure-all to all of the child’s problems. There is no quick fix in parenting. I know a couple of parents who seem to really have their act together, and the characteristic I see most in them is that they run a tight ship. They have high expectations of their kids, yet the parents themselves are not hypocrites. The parents’ things are put away. Papers are filed. Books are stacked neatly on the shelf. Beds are made. An effort is made to educate themselves, and so on. It’s clear to me that these parents are able to run a tight ship because they live the ideals they expect from their children.

I remember when I first started this blog back in early 2009, I barely touched on discipline tactics. I even have a post called, “Where’s the Discipline?” If there’s one thing the Ezzos have taught me it’s that discipline doesn’t cure what ails us. There is a much larger foundation that must be laid before we can even think about disciplining our children. Once we set the stage for a harmonious household and model all of the behaviors we expect of our children, half the battle has been won.

I see this in my own children. If I’m messy, they’re messy. If I yell, they yell. They’re little mirrors or parrots, reflecting my behaviors right back at me. By the same token, if I work hard, they work hard. If I read, they read. If I have a clean house, they will keep their rooms clean. It’s so subconscious, but so powerful. We all adopt the behaviors and attitudes we see at home. We inherited a set of values from our parents, and in the same way, we are passing along values to our children, whether we choose to do so or not. So make it a point to live your best life and consciously model the behaviors and beliefs you wish to pass along to your children.

Find Your Inner Cheerleader

Source: fancydressball.co.uk

I’m amazingly fortunate to have a friend who is traveling the homeschooling journey with me. Her kids are slightly older than mine. All four went to the same school together last year. As luck would have it, before the school year was over last year, I took Lucas to a birthday party and overheard another friend say that Missy* was going to homeschool her kids. If there was ever a purpose for those crazy birthday parties, this was it.

I bring this up because Missy is an amazing cheerleader for her kids. She is so excited to be homeschooling her kids, and her excitement is infectious, both to her kids and me! While I’m rethinking my decision to homeschool, she plans to homeschool her kids the whole way through. She loves every minute of it. I think her attitude towards homeschooling completely sets the tone for their days. She is the ultimate cheerleader.

I’ll be the first to admit that I am no cheerleader. I’m a glass-half-empty kind of girl. But recognizing my weakness is the first step to changing it, right? When I face an obstacle with my kids — whether it’s related to school or some behavioral issue — I now ask myself, What would Missy say?

Last night, William was almost done with his math books (yay!) but he had to make a few corrections before we could call it done. After therapy and a quick trip to the mall, we came home and sat down to finish. After he redid a few incorrectly on his own, I realized that I needed to sit down with him and help him through. It was late, we hadn’t eaten dinner, our routine was completely off, there were quite a few corrections to be made, we had a difficult morning, Lucas was off playing, and I wasn’t going to let him go to bed until it was done. It had disaster written all over it. I’m happy to say that with Missy sitting on my shoulder (figuratively, of course), I cheered him through it!

At every turn, I had to stop myself from spouting out something negative and defeating. I then mustered up the most positive thing I could say. I uttered “You can do this!” quite a bit, and while I was going for variety, the repetition didn’t hurt. We even laughed together at some of his crazy incorrect answers. We were in it together, and he got it done!

So if you are struggling with a particular issue with your child — whether it’s a behavioral issue, a difficult chore, homework or anything else — find your inner cheerleader. I once read a quote that said something like, “Who came up with the idea that making our kids feel bad about themselves (through discipline or derision) would make them change their behavior?” It’s so true! If we want them to improve, we need to make them feel good about themselves.

Here are a few negative phrases I’m sure I’ve uttered at some point and their cheerleader alternatives:

1) You’re 5 years old. You should know better. –> You’re such a big boy. I had no idea you were so smart.

2) Come on. You know this. Why can’t you do it? –> You can do this! I believe in you!

3) Please try folding laundry. You may not do it perfectly, but that’s ok. –> I had no idea you were so good at folding laundry! That was really hard! (Refold after the child has gone to bed.)

4) Did you really think that snatching that toy from your brother was a good choice? Really? –> I know you like that toy, and it can be so tempting to take the things you want. But I think your brother would feel better if you asked first. Do you agree? Let’s give it back and find another toy like that one.

5) You were good at riding your bike last time. What happened? Try harder! –> I see your bike-riding skills are a little rusty. That’s okay. It happens to me, too. Let’s keep going and it will get easier.

6) I see you got a good grade on your spelling test. Good. That’s as it should be. –> Wow! You got such a good grade on your spelling test! Let’s put it up on the fridge so Daddy sees it when he gets home!

Try to step outside yourself to listen to how you speak to your child. Honestly evaluate whether you are defeating or lifting up your child. If it’s the former, make it a point to work on it and stop yourself before you utter another negative phrase. Our kids want to please us. Let’s encourage them by making them feel good about doing so.

*Names have been changed to protect the innocent. :)

Blanket Time

Journey of ParenthoodCan you really make a two-year-old sit on a blanket for more than ten seconds? How about a 12-month-old? Yes! As with everything that we’ve learned so far, it’s all about training. In fact, you can teach your two-year-old to sit quietly on a blanket, playing with a few toys for 20-30 minutes. The benefits are too many to count. In fact, blanket time is my favorite independent play activity. Not only does it give us a chance to teach our toddlers how to play quietly on their own in a defined space, but it also teaches them huge self-control and obedience. Plus, you can take it with you!

Yesterday, I wrote a “how to” blog post on Journey of Parenthood, our newest member of the Babywise Blog Network. Check out the post to find out all you need to know about starting blanket time, and how to work up to a significant length of time. Read through to the end to find out about my big blanket time success story!

Best of Childwise Chat: Moving to one nap a day

I’m taking time off from blogging for the holidays, so this week I’ll be sharing the best of Childwise Chat. These are the most popular posts of all time. Enjoy and have a fantastic Christmas!

Originally posted January 10, 2011

I don’t usually use this blog as a forum to give advice on naps and specific schedule items, but I see this one come up so often, I thought I would address it here. When our children drop the morning nap, it marks a shift in the child’s development. Dropping the morning nap is a big milestone in the lives of many parents of toddlers. Yet it’s almost one of the most frustrating. Many Babywise parents don’t know how to drop the nap without affecting baby’s sleep too terribly.

Here’s how the situation typically plays out. Baby is napping well and is able to overcome teething and various disruptions without too much trouble. For the most part, things have been going well for quite some time. Then suddenly, baby stops falling asleep for his afternoon nap. He’ll play in his crib for the whole nap, or he’ll go down fine but wake up after just 45 minutes. Mom gives it a day or two before deciding that something is going wrong. She knows that baby needs his afternoon nap and he seems to nap so well in the morning that she’s a little dumbfounded.

It’s true, these babies would nap a couple hours every morning if left to their own devices. But mom knows that there’s no way baby can go from late morning until bedtime without turning into a monster. The afternoon nap must be saved!

Before I give you my advice on dropping a nap, let me explain how I would not do it.

Don’t #1: Get out in the morning

Some say that the best way to preserve the afternoon nap is to cut out the morning nap entirely, cold turkey. To avoid a cranky baby in the morning, you should go out. Run errands. Take baby to story time at the library. Whatever. Just get out. It’s true, that getting out will help keep baby alert enough that he won’t get as cranky as he would at home. But still, it deprives the child of sleep.

Don’t #2: Every other day

Another approach is to allow baby to have a morning nap every other day. It’s true that this could help baby drop the morning nap, but the problem is it still deprives the child of sleep. By allowing him the nap every other day, you are depriving him of sleep and then letting him catch up on sleep on the days you allow it. His sleep is not on an even keel. The other problem with this approach is that it’s still likely that baby will not nap well in the afternoon on the days he takes a morning nap.

Don’t #3: Early bedtime

One idea to drop the nap is to let baby nap in the mornings and then do an earlier bedtime to compensate for the lack of sleep in the afternoon. Mom gradually moves the morning nap later and later while doing an early bedtime. Eventually, the morning nap becomes an afternoon nap. There are two problems with this approach. First, mom is messing with both naps and bedtime. There’s no need to mess with bedtime (if you’ll finish reading this post). Second, baby is still cranky and overtired until the transition process is complete.

My advice: Shorten the morning nap

When you’re sure that baby is ready to drop the morning nap and that the afternoon nap disruptions aren’t due to anything else (noise, teething, etc.), start shortening the morning nap. For this approach to work, it’s important to know your baby’s optimal wake time. When I did this with Lucas, his wake time was 2 hours. I realize that not all babies can go to sleep after just 2 hours, which is fine. The key is knowing what your baby’s optimal wake time is. It’s different for every child.

Before his afternoon nap disruptions, Lucas would usually nap for 1.5 hours in the morning and 2 hours in the afternoon. When I knew that nothing else was causing the problem, I started waking him up after one hour of sleep in the morning. I would allow him his usual wake time of 2 hours and then put him down for his afternoon nap. This meant that his afternoon nap started 30 minutes earlier, but it worked because he was still getting used to a shorter morning nap.

I continued allowing him a one-hour morning nap until his afternoon nap was again being disrupted in some way. I let him tell me when he was ready to shorten the nap even more. So then I started waking him up after 45 minutes. Again, I would put him down after 2 hours of wake time. Throughout the transition, I would let him sleep as long as he wanted to in the afternoon and I never messed with his bedtime.

After a few months of a 45-minute morning nap, we reduced it to 30 minutes. After a few months of that, we ended up going on vacation and it was the perfect time to drop the morning nap altogether. If we were home, I might have allowed a 20-minute catnap, but it also became apparent to me that he would have done fine without the morning nap entirely.

Bear in mind, this is not the fastest way to drop the morning nap. We started shortening the morning nap when Lucas was about 14 months old. He didn’t drop it entirely until he was almost 23 months old. Did I mind? Not in the least. Would I have minded a cranky baby all morning or afternoon? For sure. Would I have minded difficult bedtimes due to an overtired baby? Of course.

This gradual approach ensures that baby still gets the sleep he needs while allowing for an easy transition to drop the nap.

Schedule examples

To spell it out more clearly, here’s how our schedule looked during the transition.

Transition months 1-3

Morning nap: 10:00-11:00

Afternoon nap: 1:00-3:00-ish

Night sleep: 7:00pm-8:00am

Transition months 4-6

Morning nap: 10:00-10:45

Afternoon nap: 12:45-2:45-ish

Night sleep: 7:00pm-8:00am

Transition months 7-9

Morning nap: 10:00-10:30

Afternoon nap: 12:30-2:30-ish

Night sleep: 7:00pm-8:00am

You’ll recognize that the time between Lucas’ afternoon nap and bedtime got longer and longer. He handled this well. I realize, however, that some might not. The alternative is to keep the afternoon nap at the same time regardless of the child’s optimal wake time. There is something to be said for babies who are used to falling asleep at the same time every afternoon no matter how the long the morning nap was.

Finally, be sure baby is waking up at the same time every morning. No matter the method, the nap transition will not go well at all if you allow baby to sleep in every morning to compensate for a lack of sleep. The afternoon nap is where you will allow him to sleep as long as he needs.


The Morning Rush

Source: homeschoolcreations.net

Do you have kids in school? If so, you know all about the morning rush. For many, it’s the most dreaded time of day. Honestly, the morning rush was a factor in my decision to homeschool my boys. When William was in preschool, I deliberately chose to send him to the afternoon session to avoid the morning rush. And then he started full-day kindergarten. So we had a full two years to figure out our morning routine, and I can honestly say we never fell into a good groove.

If I had it to do all over again, here’s what I would do:

Get up and get showered before the kids wake up

This is a tough one since I’m such a night owl and really value my sleep. And waking up in the dark is always difficult. But what’s 30 minutes if it makes for a smooth morning? My shower is the thing that makes me feel like I can face the world. If it’s a cup of coffee or just some peace and quiet with your morning paper, take that time for yourself before the kids get up.

Figure out what wakes your child up

Our kids are like us in many ways. If we need a shower, a cup of coffee, or some alone-time with the newspaper to face the day, our kids likely need their own version of a wake-up activity. Allow your child to do whatever it is that he needs to face the day. Lucas always needs his morning snuggles. William likes to play with Legos or draw. It’s no fun if every morning is rush, rush, rush. Allow them some downtime before you walk out the door.

Get ready the night before

My kids always showered at night, and I usually packed lunches the night before, but I’m sure there’s more I could have done to get ready for the morning rush. I could have laid out their clothes, put their shoes (and socks!) by the door, had extra toothbrushes in the downstairs bathroom, made sure their coats were accessible, and made sure their backpacks were packed and by the door.

Make sure everybody gets enough sleep

Kids in elementary school should get about 10-12 hours of sleep, on average. That means, if you’re up at 6:00am, your child should be in bed no later than 8:00pm. Little kids tend to wake up early, so if you’re having to drag them out of bed, it’s likely they’re not getting enough sleep.

Make a chart

Most kids are visual. You can give them tasks orally until you’re blue in the face, and it still doesn’t get done. But if you give them a visual chart, they’ll be more likely to get all of their morning tasks done…and done quickly. I’ve used task cards for bedtime. I lay them out and they can follow them in whatever order they like. Then as they finish each one, they turn the card over. A checklist works just as well. Here’s a link to some free printable chore cards. For durability, take the file to your local office supply store to have them printed on cardstock and laminated.

Give them motivation

Let’s face it, when kids don’t want to go to school and don’t want to leave the warm, cozy house, it can be difficult to get them moving. The more they dislike school, the harder your mornings will be. There may not be much you can change about school, but you can motivate him to get moving. Put marbles in a jar for every task completed quickly, and go out for ice cream when the jar is full. Or give a penny or two for every task done. Stickers can also work well. It all depends on what excites and motivates your child. We’ve been doing pennies for school tasks, and we all love it! They are motivated to do their work, and it’s a lesson in itself since they have to count their money and understand what they can buy with it. One thing a wise teacher friend told me is that it’s important to switch up your reward system regularly. They always get stale, and a new system will create excitement.

Decide what matters most

Make sure you prioritize your morning activities. If you’re spending 30 minutes making sure your daughter’s hair is perfect but not giving your son his necessary morning snuggles, your priorities are a little off. Nobody’s going to notice if the ponytail is a little off center or if the socks don’t match. But your child will notice if you don’t feed his love language in some way every morning.

Vow not to nag

Nagging, yelling, screaming, and threatening have no place in the morning routine. And trust me, I know how easy it is to nag and yell. I have realized, however, that I can simply choose not to nag and yell. And guess what, it works! Attitude is a choice. You can choose to yell and have grumpy kids as a result. Or you can choose to be happy and have a happy start to your day. It makes a huge difference for everyone. You know the old saying, “Happy wife, happy life.” Well, I think this applies to our kids, too. “Happy mom, happy kids!”

Take a mental health day

If you’re having one of those mornings where it’s cold and blustery outside, and nobody wants to leave the house, take a mental health day! Let the kids stay home from school. Get a fire going in the fireplace, read your favorite books, crawl back into bed, eat soup on TV trays, put some cookies in the oven. Do your favorite things, and cherish that time with the kids. You can always email the teacher and ask her to send in whatever work needs to be completed.

How are your mornings? Do you have any tricks that have saved your sanity?

Turn sibling squabbles into hugs

Source: slimyfish.net

You may have noticed that I haven’t posted much about sibling rivalry. The simple explanation is that I don’t have much experience with it! My boys just love each other so much. And any squabbles were usually squelched by Lucas, my peacekeeper. For some reason, he saw it as his mission in life to appease his brother.

But all good things must come to an end. Lucas has decided that he’s done with keeping the peace. He’s decided to speak up for himself. Unfortunately, this has resulted in a few squabbles.

Well, I came across a fantastic way to stop sibling fighting the minute it starts. The consequence for any fighting is that they must hold hands. They cannot hold just one hand. They have to face each other holding both hands. And they must stay that way until they’re ready to hug.

I’ve tried this twice in the past two days, and it works beautifully! It ends the fighting in mere seconds! They see each other’s faces and almost immediately hug. At first, William wanted to hold just one hand and still look away from his brother. But as soon as I required them to hold both hands, they hugged.

It’s so simple and so sweet to see!