Friday, September 28, 2012

Elementary Activities: Riddles & Brain Teasers

By Tiffany Rudd

One of my favorite types of "books" when I was in elementary school were sets of question and answer cards called "Brain Quest." We owned sets from almost every grade. I'm pretty sure they are supposed to be used in some kind of game format, but I remember just reading the questions by myself and trying guess the answer before peaking.
Apparently I am an even bigger nerd than I thought. :)

Anyway, my point is that kids (especially nerdy ones like me) love riddles, brain teasers, and random facts. Why not take advantage of this fact and build their mental acuity while they laugh and have fun?

There are plenty of websites with tons of riddles and brain teasers for kids. Here are just a few that I found:

You can find plenty of books with riddles and brain teasers for kids on amazon, or at your local library and can even still purchase Brain Quest sets on amazon. I'm definitely going to have to buy a few sets for me....I mean my kids. :)

One fun thing about having a 1st grader this year is that I get to pack lunches and include hidden notes. This past week I taped a riddle to the inside of the lid of Cameron's lunchbox each day and then hid the answer somewhere else in or around his lunch. He thought it was pretty cool and said he even quizzed his friends.

Click HERE to print the riddles and answers I used in Cameron's lunch.

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Thursday, September 27, 2012

Parenting Tips: Carpe Diem with a Camera

By: Deborah Pace Rowley

Two of my favorite pictures of Natalie are the ones I have included in this post. In both of them she has just made a big mess: covered in lipstick and covered in flour. I am sure at the time I was frustrated. Now I look at these pictures and laugh and laugh. I think you can tell that this little girl was the cutest little imp ever.

I love how modern day Moms can blog, tweet, and instagram all the memorable and messy moments of their children's lives. I think the ability to document all of these activities, the good, the bad, and the ugly, does help us to seize the day. It gives us instant validation and support from an online community of other moms. But most importantly it helps us to chuckle rather than scream!

Even though it is a cliche, it is good to remember that we will laugh about these moments later. So why not laugh about them now? They make the best pictures in the scrapbooks of our minds.

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Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Preschool Activities: Learning Shapes

By Tiffany Rudd
On Monday I started sharing my preschool curriculum with you. I'm excited to share the activities, snacks, crafts, and songs my students love the most this year and hopefully help you learn at home with your own children.

At the beginning of each year I usually spend a few days learning/reviewing colors and shapes before we start working on our numbers and letters. Most of my students already know the basics, but it is fun to review and I like to add some more difficult shapes like rhombus, octagon and even pentagon to our activities.

Snack Ideas:
      * If your child is just learning her shapes, make a plate of foods that are all the same shape each day. On Monday only circle foods, Tuesday only square foods, etc. Then, when she has learned them all, give her a plate including foods of all shapes and ask her to name the shape she is eating. Educational and delicious! :)
Activity Ideas:
      * Floor Shape Songs: This fun singing and movement activity is always a favorite. This year my students even talked me into leaving the tape on the floor for a week and repeating the songs/activities each day. Repeat this activity just a few times and your child will have the shape names learned, and have fun doing it! Click the photo below for the full post and a video demonstration.
Arts & Crafts Ideas:
      *Shape People: My preschoolers had so much fun creating these this year. All you need to do this fun art project are shapes of different colors and sizes cut out of construction paper. Because it is early in the year and we are still practicing cutting skills, I opted to cut out all the shapes this time. If your preschool is older and more comfortable with using scissors, just trace the shapes and let him/her cut them out. Then just help her glue the shapes to another piece of paper to create a shape person. Triangle hands or feet, rectangle legs, oval or circle eyes, an octagon or rhombus nose...the possibilities are endless and oh so cute!   
Free Printables:
      * Shape Tracing Review Page: This is a great simple worksheet for practicing colors, shapes, and following directions. Click on the photo below to print this page.
      * Catch Anything: This fun printable includes a placemat for "catching" shapes. Click on the photo below to see the full post and print your own.
      * Learning Placemats: If your child is a little younger, or new to learning shapes, print these shape placemats and review the shapes during meal and snack times! Click on the photo to read the full post and print your placemats.

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Monday, September 24, 2012

Toddler & Preschool Activities: Learning Colors

By Tiffany Rudd
This month I started teaching preschool in our home again. This is my 5th year teaching preschool and I'm pretty sure it is the best mom job ever! I just love gathering and creating snacks, crafts, songs, games and activities that make learning fun. Plus, of course I love teaching and learning with my own kids.

I'm especially excited this year because I get to share my preschool curriculum with you here on the blog! Let's start with Colors...

I titled this post "Toddler & Preschool Activities," because most of my students have come to preschool already knowing most if not all of their colors. So, I usually just start the year with one or two days to review the colors. Two or three years old is a great time to start learning colors with your child and a four year old is ready for some fun review and extension activities. 

Snack Ideas: 
      * Fruit Rainbow: This year I just used some fresh fruit (cherries, orange slices, pineapple, grapes and blueberries) to create a fun "fruit rainbow." We named the colors, talked about the order of the colors in the rainbow, and then of course we ate our rainbow.
      * Rainbow Jello: In the past I've also made rainbow jello. It's a little time consuming to make and allow each layer to set, but it sure is beautiful and fun to eat. Click on the photo below to go to one recipe. When I made it I only did one white layer and did a purple layer as well.
Activity Ideas:
      * Color Tubes: This is always one of the favorite color activities. Click on the photo below to see my post with 3 ways to use these fun color tubes.
      * Outdoor Color Hunt: With my preschool class I often just do an indoor or outdoor "touch the item" color hunt. I call out a color and the class runs to touch an item of that color as fast as they can. Click on the photo below to see the full post on this fun color activity.
      *Catch Anything: This fun printable game is a great way to review colors. Click on the photo below to print the mitt and color review page.
Free Printables:
      * My Color Book: Every year my students go home with a review book they created to help them practice colors, shapes, numbers and the alphabet letters. These books often become some of my own children's favorite books to "read" on their own and even to have read to them at bedtime. Click on the photo below to print a color review book for your child.
      * Learning Placemats: Just a few weeks ago I shared some learning placemats that have been great for helping my toddler learn her shapes and colors. Click on the photo below to read the whole post and print your own learning placemats.

Wow! That was a long post, but I hope it helps as you learn colors with your toddler or preschooler!

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Friday, September 21, 2012

Elementary Activities: Great Apps and Websites to Encourage Young Writers

By Deborah Pace Rowley

I love the potential of the computer to encourage children to write. It capitalizes on the excitement of modern technology to teach one of the three classic R’s...reading, riting and rithmetic! Here is a list of the favorite apps and the websites that I use with my class. 


iDiary- This app has all the features you would expect from a fun online journal. Cool tools, unique stickers, the ability to add photos and more. The lite version is free but I recommend the full version for $1.99. 

Puppet Pals HD Director’s Cut- This fun app has kids creating a puppet show. The free version is fun for a start but I would recommend the director’s cut that costs $2.99 so your child can have lots more options of puppets including putting himself and his family into the show.

Toontastic- This app has kids creating and animating their own cartoons. There are lots of upgrades but I think the free version works just fine. 

Bookabi- This app is free and has kids putting comic book bubbles and captions on their own photos and drawings. They have so much fun turning their own photographs into comical creations that it is hard to get them to stop! 

Storywheel Lite- The lite version is free and allows kids to collaborate with their friends  or family members to create fun stories based on the objects that they spin on the wheel. The app lets you record your voice and then replay the story for all to hear. 

Poplet Lite- The lite version is free and allows kids to create fun webs that they can use to plan a story and brainstorm about plots and characters and action or whatever they want. 

Scribble Press- This app is probably my favorite for creating books that you can share online with family and friends. It has simple templates that the youngest child can fill in as well as drawing tools, stickers, the ability to upload your own photos and more. Better yet, it is free!

Paper 53- This free app is a beautiful tool for older writers to explore ideas, record hopes and dreams, sketch, draw and create in beautiful customizable notebooks. 


Storybird- This artistically beautiful site encourages kids and adults to write stories to accompany their amazing illustrations. More illustrations are being added all the time, so check back often for fresh inspiration. 

StoryJumper- This is another fun site that includes great tools to inspire kids. It has story starters as well as lots of stickers, props, and costumes to inspire your imagination and bring your book to life. 

Happy Writing Everyone!

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Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Welcome Smitten By Readers!

We are beyond excited to be guest bloggers over at Smitten By today! If you're joining us for the first time...WELCOME! 

Between the two of us, we have a total of nine kids that range in age from 2 months to 20 years old...So, no matter what age your kids are, we just know you'll find something here you can use to make parenting and specifically learning with your kids more fun! 

We hope you'll enjoy looking around come back again soon. We have some exciting things coming up! On Friday Deborah will share her favorite apps and websites for encouraging young writers and next week I'll start sharing my preschool curriculum with you weekly which means snack ideas, crafts, and activities to go with each letter of the alphabet!

Don't forget to like us on facebook so you can stay updated on our newest posts ---->

Thanks for stopping by! :)

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Preschool Activities: Guess That Smell!

By Tiffany Rudd

I've played this simple game in many variations with my preschool students over the years and every time it is a huge hit! 

The first thing you need to do is gather a bunch of "pungent" items. I've used foods like peanut butter, onion, cilantro, banana, citrus fruits, chocolate,  bacon bits, and pickles. You can also use non-food items like a cotton ball with perfume or rubbing alcohol on it, hand lotion/sanitizer, or even a crayon.

Then you can either blindfold your child and hold each item under her nose, or put the items in opaque containers with a hole in the lid. I've used old-school film canisters in the past, but this time I had these empty plastic juice containers on hand that worked great. I just poked a hole in the top with the tip of a knife. Be careful not to cut yourself and definitely don't let your child do that part. Duh. :)

Now, just have your child smell and try to guess what the item is without peeking...

Mmm...I wonder what it is?
 After she guessed I just let her take the lid off and see what was inside.
 This is her "That is not what I expected at all!" face.
 Her, "I'm too gorgeous not to stop and smile for the camera" face.
 I always choose at least one stinky item. This, "That is seriously nasty!" face is just too fun to pass up.
 And, of course, the "I guessed right!" face. Love that crooked smile.
Remember, you can do this activity even if you don't have any containers to use. I only had 4, so I emptied and replaced the items halfway through. You could use one container and just replace the item each time, or just use a blindfold and no container at all.

After we were done doing this activity together Brooklyn spent another 20 minutes mixing the items together in different combinations to see how they would smell. Yay for child directed science experiments!

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Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Parenting Tips: Swimsuit Experiment

By Deborah Pace Rowley

One of the most interesting studies that is cited in the book Girls on the Edge by Leonard Sax is the Swimsuit Experiment. It went like this. Girls and boys were put in two groups. One group wore bulky sweats and jeans. The other group wore swimsuits. For the girls, this meant wearing modest one-piece suits, not even bikinis. The two groups were then taken one at a time into a windowless room where they took a math test. No one else was in the room but the person taking the test and no one was watching. All the girls had comparable math ability but the girls wearing the swimsuit did significantly worse on the math test than the girls wearing the sweaters. Why? 

The researchers concluded that this result was caused by “self-objectification.” The girls in swim suits were distracted by their bodies. Each girl was essentially preoccupied with rating and evaluating her own body even though no one else was there to see or judge her. “It is a good bet that this effect would have been even greater if the young women were in a classroom with young men.” 

The book concludes, “If your daughter goes to school in a midriff top or a short skirt, she’s putting herself in a situation similar to the swimsuit condition in Fredrickson’s study. At some level, she is gong to be thinking about, analyzing and judging her own body when she ought to be thinking about geometry or Spanish grammar... Parents have to be willing to assert their authority. Parents have to be willing to overrule their daughter’s decision regarding what she is wearing to school.” (pg 30)

I thought this was another great argument in our arsenal of reasons why our daughters need to be modest. And it was one that I hadn’t even considered before. Ask your daughters to give this experiment a try. Have her wear a swimsuit as she completes her homework at home. Then have her wear some sweat pants and a t-shirt. Did she notice a difference in her ability to concentrate and focus?  Talk about the study and discuss the effects this may have on her together. 

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Monday, September 17, 2012

Toddler Activities: Learning Placemats

By Tiffany Rudd
Anniston is at such a fun age! I love to communicate and interact with her and see how much she absorbs and repeats. The only problem is, it's hard to get her to sit still long enough to learn anything. The only time she really slows down is when there is food involved. :) So, for the past few weeks I've been using placemats during her lunch and snack time to practice shapes and colors with her. She loves to point to a shape and have me tell her it's color and name. She tries to repeat all the names and can already point out and name circles all by herself. Her favorite to repeat is "purple circle." I wish you could hear it. 

Cutest. Thing. Ever.
If you'd like to try this learning activity with your toddler, all you need to do is print off the learning placemats below. The printable includes circles, squares, triangles, and rectangles in all different colors. I just slip the one I am using that day inside a plastic page protector so it is easy to wipe off when we are done. 

Just wait until you hear your toddler try to say "purple circle." I'm telling you, it makes my day every time. :)

Print these learning placemats HERE.

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Friday, September 14, 2012

Parenting Tips: Don't Rescue Your Kids

by Deborah Pace Rowley

Over a year ago I read the book Alone Together: Why We Expect More From Our Technology and Less From Each Other. Many of the ideas and concepts in this great book have stayed with me and I was reminded of it again when I took my second daughter to her college orientation. The new freshmen were led off in one direction for a campus tour while the anxious parents were left in the auditorium for a presentation by the dean of student life. 

The presentation lasted about an hour but the main thing that I learned can be summed up in 4 words: Don’t Rescue Your Kids. Both the book and the college presentation emphasized the changing dynamic of parent and child relationships as a result of the cell phone. 

Prior to this current generation of kids who regularly walk around with cell phones, young people went through a similar rite of passage. This rite of passage often involved being “grown up” enough to take a bus ride across town to see a movie or get an ice cream cone. The child was essentially on his or her own and had to be resilient enough to solve any problem that arose.  Not so today. Today kids are always tethered. Their parents are always a phone call away and are usually too quick to swoop in and solve any potential problems for the child. Kids today do not learn to solve their own problems or figure out things on their own. 

This is even true for college students. In the past, new freshman called home on a dorm phone once a week. Now parents expect to hear from their child daily and often try to fix everything that goes wrong for their homesick and nervous student from a distance. 

Imagine my horror when I learned that my oldest daughter was recently “lost” and separated from her group in Shanghi, China for 4 hours on her college travel study trip. She didn’t have a cell phone, she didn’t speak the language and she wasn’t completely sure where she was or where her group should be. (Lucky I didn’t know until two weeks later when said daughter was safely home!) 

Needless to say, Mom wasn’t able to rescue her but it turns out she did a magnificent job of rescuing herself on her own. She didn’t panic, she figured out the subway system and was reunited with her group before any lasting damage was done. 

I say “lasting damage” but actually a tremendous amount of good came from this experience. In the few months since this happened, this same daughter has drawn on the experience several times. She has said to herself, “If I can handle being lost in China, I can handle this. No big deal.” 

She has gained so much confidence and courage from facing her China crisis. I hope I will remember this and give my other children the opportunity to solve problems on their own.   

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Thursday, September 13, 2012

Elementary Activities: 25 Ways to Read a Book and Watch a Movie

By: Deborah Pace Rowley

At our house, we are eagerly anticipating the December release of the Hobbit movie. We have been passing around the book and brushing up on all our Tolkien lore to get ready for the big day! Reading books and then watching their respective movies has become a favorite pastime of all my kids. We love to discuss the differences between the books and the movies they inspired. We have shared Harry Potter and the Hunger Games, The Chronicles of Narnia and The Princess Bride along with countless other books and films. The books are always better. Am I right or am I right?!!

Here is a list of 25+ great books you can read with your child. Then you can watch the movie after you finish the book together. My oldest daughter was a nanny this summer and she was able to persuade a very reluctant reader to finish a book with the knowledge that she could watch the movie when it was done!


Ramona and Beezus by Beverly Clearly
Beezus and Ramona

Judy Moody Series by Megan Jones McDonald
Judy Moody and the Not So Bummer Summer

The Guardians of Ga'hool Series by Kathryn Lasky
Legend of the Guardians

Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine
Ella Enchanted

The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick

The Tale of Despereaux by Kate diCamillo
The Tale of Despereaux

Holes by Louis Sachar

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

Because of Winn Dixie by Kate diCamillo
Because of Winn Dixie

Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls
Where the Red Fern Grows

Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney
Diary of a Wimpy Kid

Mr Popper's Penguins by Richard Atwater
Mr. Popper's Penguins

Charlotte's Web by E.B. White
Charlotte's Web  
Spiderwick Chronicles by Holly Black
Spiderwick Chronicles

How to Eat Fried Worms by Thomas Rockwell
How to Eat Fried Worms

Bridge to Teribithea by Katherine Paterson
Bridge to Teribithea
The Fantastic Mr. Fox by Roald Dahl
The Fantastic Mr. Fox

Percy Jackson and the Olympians by Rick Riordan
The Lightening Thief

Inkheart by Cornelia Funke

A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket
A Series of Unfortunate Events

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgsen Burnett
The Secret Garden

The Little Princess by Frances Hodgsen Burnett
The Little Princess

Heidi by Johanna Spryi

The Railway Children by Edith Nesbit
The Railway Children

The Summer of the Monkeys by Wilson Rawls
Summer of the Monkeys

James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl
James and the Giant Peach

Do you have a favorite book and movie combination that you have shared with your child? Tell us about it below.

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Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Preschool Activities: Play with Shaving Cream

By Deborah Pace Rowley
In a past post, I shared with you a fun activity for shaving Dad. If you haven't read it, check it out here.
But you don't have to wait until Dad is available to have fun playing with shaving cream. Below is a picture of my kids playing with shaving cream on the table. They had so much fun spreading the shaving cream around, writing letters and numbers and having fun. I have even used shaving cream on my student's desks to help them practice writing their spelling words. Using all our senses really makes the learning stick!

The picture at the top of this post is another picture from my upcoming book. Isn't Brooklyn a doll? If you really want to have some fun, put your child in a swim suit and take the can of shaving cream outside. Then you can really go wild, painting with the fun and fluffy foam!

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Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Toddler Activities: Sound Exploration Shakers

By Tiffany Rudd
The other day I threw together some quick and easy sound shakers to keep Anniston occupied while I was making dinner. These simple noise makers kept her occupied for almost half an hour as she experimented with each and puzzled over the different objects and the sounds they made.

All you need to make these sound shakers for your toddler are 4-6 matching containers with lids and any small items you have on hand. I filled mine with rice, dry pasta shell noodles, colorful beads, white sugar, and dry beans. Just try to find a variety of items that will make different sounds when shaken.
*Make sure you use containers that won't break and that your child can't get the lids off of, or the items could become choking hazards.

Later, I adapted this activity for my preschooler by making 5 more matching containers.
I then lined the inside of each container with paper and challenged her to find the matching containers using only the sounds they make. This activity was a hit as well.

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Monday, September 10, 2012

Meal-Time Activities: Buy Dinner and Make Change

By Deborah Pace Rowley

For this fun learning activity all you need is a homemade menu and some play money. You can create the menu on the computer or even on a small chalkboard. Assign a dollar value to each of the items for dinner. You can even charge for a glass of water and for ketchup to go with the french fries! For younger children, just use whole dollar amounts. For older children, throw in some change. 

Give each family member some money and start out the meal by letting your child act as the waiter and cashier. First he can take each person’s order on a small notepad. Then he can total up all the purchases. Math Practice! 

After each family member has paid for their meal, your child can calculate how much change each person should receive back. More Math Practice! If your child figures the correct change, give a big tip. The waiter can then use that money to buy a yummy dessert.

Now that my older children have started working in fast food restaurants, I know how important figuring change can be.

P.S. Learn how to make the cute menu board shown above for just a few dollars at

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Friday, September 7, 2012

Parenting Tips: The Inverse Power of Praise (i.e. Don't call your kids smart!)

By Tiffany Rudd
More than once in the past, Deborah and I have written about the book Nurture Shock by Po Bronson. One of my favorite chapters in this book is called The Inverse Power of Praise and is subtitled "Sure, he's special. But new research suggests if you tell him that, you'll ruin him. It's a neurobiological fact."

The basic concept of this chapter is that labeling children as "smart" does not prevent them from underperforming, it may actually cause it!

At first I was definitely a little shocked by this concept. How could telling my kids they are smart cause them to underachieve? In the book, Dr. Carol Dweck explains, "When we praise children for their intelligence we tell them that this is the name of the game: look smart, don't risk making mistakes." So, when something is difficult for them, rather than try and risk failure, they just give up.

In her research, Dweck discovered that kids who think that innate intelligence is the key to success begin to discount the importance of effort. "I am smart, the kids' reasoning goes; I don't need to put out effort. Expending effort becomes stigmatized - it's public proof that you can't cut it on your natural gifts.

So, now I'm not supposed to praise my children? No, of course not! The book says that praise can be an effective and motivating force, but only when done correctly. So, how should we praise our kids?
    1. Be specific. Researchers have found that in order for praise to be effective in needs to be specific. For example, after a soccer game praise your child for looking to pass or working hard to get the ball instead of just saying, "You played great!" (pg. 20)
    2. Be sincere. Kids as young as seven can sense false praise and giving an overabundance of general praise can cause kids to discount sincere praise, lose intrinsic motivation, and become too competitive. (pg. 21)
    3. Praise Effort. According to the book, "Emphasizing effort gives a child a variable that they can control. They come to see themselves as in control of their success. Emphasizing natural intelligence takes it out of the child's control, and it provides no good recipe for responding to a failure." (pg. 15)
This last piece of advice has become a big one in our house, especially for Cameron. He tends to get frustrated and want to give up when anything is hard for him. So, we sat him down and talked to him about how the brain works by comparing it to Superman's strong muscles. We talked about how lifting heavy things and exercising makes muscles bigger and stronger. Now when something is hard for him I just have to remind him that thinking about and figuring out something hard makes his brain stronger and smarter. It has made a big difference in his willingness to continue trying. 

So, for the next week pay close attention to the kind of praise you give your children. Stop yourself before you compliment your kids to make sure your praise is specific, sincere, and praising effort not natural talent. If you're anything like me, it will be harder than you think.

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Thursday, September 6, 2012

Elementary Activities: Start Early with Alarm Clocks

By Deborah Pace Rowley
I have a terrible confession to make. I am often the last one up in my home. I secretly love to lay in bed and listen to my household stir around me. My husband leaves for work at 6:00 a.m. and after we pray together and he gives me a kiss I usually go back to sleep. Unfortunately, my blissful slumber only lasts so long. Then the door slams shut and I glance blearily at the clock. 6:30 a.m. There goes my 17-year-old out for a morning jog. 6:45 a.m. Now I can hear my 14-year-old son slamming cupboard doors as he help himself to some breakfast .7:00 a.m. Here is my 9-year-old grabbing some clothes out of the laundry room before she gets in the shower. 7:10 I guess I will drag myself out of bed now! 

There is something about lying in bed while I listen to my independent children start their day that makes me feel like a good mother. You should try it sometime! I think the biggest thing we have done to encourage our children’s independence is to buy them alarm clocks at a young age. Why is that a 6-year-old thinks that getting up to an alarm clock is the greatest thing since sliced bread while a 14-year-old thinks the sound of an alarm clock is worse than death? Start young!

I have never wanted my children to depend on me to wake them up and get them out of bed. For starters, I won’t be living with them and in a position to do this for very long! (I hope)  Plus I have heard horror stories of mothers having to throw buckets of cold water on nearly comatose teenagers to get them out of bed! (Think of the clean up!) No way did I want to be in that situation down the road. So we begin early in training our children to get themselves up and going on their own. 

Buy a cute, fun alarm clock and announce to your child that now she is old enough to get up on her own. Place a cereal bowl and spoon in a cupboard or drawer that is easy to reach and store a small amount of milk in an easily pourable container. Show your child where everything is and then tell her that she can get up and have breakfast even before Mom or Dad if she gets up with her alarm. We don’t often have sugary cereals so my kids consider them a real treat. I would buy a box of Captain Crunch and show it to my child when I make this announcement. 

That is all that is needed to make getting up with an alarm appealing and fun. Sure the novelty wears off, but it usually takes just once or twice of my child sleeping in and having to go to school late to get things back on track. Don’t intervene and wake up your child if they sleep through their alarm. This defeats the whole purpose, doesn’t it? Just take the child in to the office when they finally wake up and are ready for school. Then the child has to explain that he slept in and is not excused by Mom for this tardy. If extra encouragement is needed, talk to the teacher about piling on the work that he or she “missed” during the time they were asleep. Good luck establishing an effective morning routine in your family. If you have any other ideas that have worked for you, we would love to hear them below. 
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Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Preschool Activities: 6 New Ways to Play in the Sandbox

By: Deborah Pace Rowley
Sand is so much fun to play with, but my kids interest in playing in their sandbox seemed to come in waves. Sometimes they were super interested and were out digging and creating sand creations on a daily basis. Then for no reason whatsoever (actually the reason was usually that one of the girls had seen a BUG in the sandbox!) I couldn't get them to play in the sand for months at a time.

If your child's interest in the sandbox has waned and you are interested in getting back outside and enjoying the beautiful fall weather, try these ideas to think outside the box!

*Bury plastic dinosaurs in the sand and have your child launch an archaeology dig. No madly flinging sand around the box, no siree. Use a large paint brush and big kitchen spoons to gently uncover the fossils where they lie.

*Create your own homemade bones with make and bake clay. Craft bones in three sizes-- large, medium and small. Or cut the bones out of cardboard. Then turn your preschooler loose to uncover one of each size of bone. Can your child guess which size of bone he has uncovered first?

*Send your child on a treasure hunt around the yard that eventually leads to the backyard sandbox where treasure is buried. A few gold coins wrapped in a plastic bag make a great treasure but even a fruit snack will do in a pinch! If pirates had fruit snacks they would have buried them, don't you think!

*Send your child out with supplies to create a sand sculpture worthy of a California beach! Here are a few ideas to get you started.  Sculpt an octopus complete with bottle cap suction cups on his tentacles. Sculpt a mermaid with pasta shell scales. Sculpt a swimmer complete with real swimming goggles or a shark with a fun foam dorsal fin sticking out of the sand.

*Create a massive sand volcano by building the sand up around a full two liter bottle of Diet Coke. When the volcano is complete, watch it erupt by quickly unscrewing the cap and dropping several Mentos candies inside. Yes, this is messy but worth it! And your sandbox will eventually dry.

*Move toys outside that don't usually grace the inside of the sandbox. Would your daughter's Littlest Pet Shop Collection enjoy a day at the beach? How about the Polly Pockets? Could your son build a cool beach house out of Legos for the vacationing guests?

What are your kids favorite things to do in the sandbox? Share your ideas in the comments below.

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Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Teen Activities: Dig Deeper

By Deborah Pace Rowley

I just finished the book Girls on the Edge by Leonard Sax. I think every parent needs to read this book. It is really eye-opening and somewhat disconcerting, but in a good way. It helped me to see clearly the challenges my teenage daughters face and gave me some practical advice on how to help them. One of the things that Dr. Sax recommends is encouraging our daughters to develop a deep inner life. Ask your daughter questions such as: Who are you? What are your special gifts? What is the purpose of your life? If she answers these questions in a superficial or shallow way, encourage her to go deeper. As Dr. Sax asks, “What are there so many girls who can tell you a great deal about what they do but not so much about who they are?”

Modern girls can become so preoccupied with the cyber bubble and crafting an image for social networking sites that they do not spend time in personal reflection and meditation. They don’t contemplate the deeper issues of the soul. This can leave them empty and vulnerable during times of crisis. 

I particularly like this quote:  
“Why is the spiritual journey so important? Because life doesn’t go as planned. Because death and loss happen. Because disappointment hurts. Even if a girl has a brilliant mind and has earned top marks in every subject, and she is in great physical shape, those achievements of mind and body will count for nothing when the crisis hits. She will then discover that she has been living on the edge of the abyss. It may not take much to push her over that edge. Achievements in academics and athletics won’t get you through the dark night of the soul. If her life is just mind and body, then she may feel her life falling apart. She may experience an awful disorientation as she wonders whether anything is worthwhile, whether life is worth living. Maybe it’s not. All her dreams are dust. But if she has nurtured her spirit, nurtured it because you have taught her to cherish it, then she can endure through that dark night.” (pg. 195) 

I know I want to be a mother who has taught her daughters to cherish and nurture their spirits. Will you join me as we work on this together? Stay tuned for more ideas from this book as well as the companion volume by Dr. Sax Boys Adrift

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Monday, September 3, 2012

Meal-Time Activities: Healthy School Lunches

 By Tiffany Rudd
Both Deborah and I have recently completely changed the way we eat and feed our families. We've switched to a plant-based, minimally processed, "real food" way of eating. Part of this change has included finding healthy and kid friendly school lunch ideas. I've been scouring the web and wanted to share my favorite websites for healthy school lunch ideas with you.

We're only a week into school, but so far Cameron's favorites have been natural peanut butter and honey on whole wheat bread, homemade lunchables, hard boiled eggs, celery with peanut butter and raisins and fresh pineapple. I'm excited to try out more ideas from these websites as the year goes on!

P.S. If you'd like to read more about our change in eating habits you can find my personal challenge, weekly weigh-ins, recipes, and tips on my Feel Great In Eight Blog.

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