Your Child IS Your Work

One of my fellow grandma friends told me that her daughter-in-law would always ask her to babysit her child when she went to the grocery store. My friend was trying to figure out if it was really necessary because she had always taken her son to the store with her.

That said, I know that it’s a LOT easier to do things without having a little helper or two around. But I think it’s important to remember that your child is not in the way of your work, rather your child is your work. We need to go to work to have money to buy the things our families need. Making healthy meals is important for our families. It’s nice to have a clean, organized house and cute job chart for our kids. However we do all of those things because we have kids.

In the book Letters of CS Lewis he suggests that a housewife’s work is the most important in the world. He writes, “What do ships, railways, miners, cars, government, etc. exist for except that people may be fed, warmed, and safe in their own homes?… So your job is the one for which all others exist”.

So next time you’re trying to do the dishes and your 2 year old is hanging on your leg, pull a chair up to the sink next to you, take off their shirt, put an inch of soapy water in the sink with a few plastic cups and let them help you do the dishes (throwing a towel on the floor to mop up all the water they spilt was often my version of mopping my floor). If you’re trying to fold clothes and they are unfolding faster than you can fold, dump out the clothes, put your child in the basket (my kids loved to sit in and be pushed around in laundry baskets), put the clothes on top of them and call out what article of clothing you want and have them throw it to you as you quickly fold it and put it on the couch behind you. If you’re mopping or sweeping get them a toy mop and broom and let them imitate what your doing while you’re doing it. I’ve heard it said a child’s play is their work – that’s how they learn. So let them play house cleaning while you are working. You get the idea, rather than think of what movie you can put on for your child while you work, try to figure out how they can be constructively involved in what your doing.

I know moms cannot do this 100% of the time. At some point you are going to have to stop and sit down and read them a book or play a game for a few minutes. But just remember that your children are the reason you’re doing all the housework in the first place.

For more ideas on grocery story trips: A Little Helper at the Store or Now What Do I Say?


The State Fair

Money pit or educational event?

As a child our family stayed away from the State Fair because we thought it was a money trap. Arcade barkers had games rigged to rarely allow a win and there were outrageously priced rides. But as a parent I’ve learned that the State Fair can be fun and educational without being too expensive.  I live in Arizona so the links below will connect to the Arizona State Fair site, but I check the 2014 State Fair Directory and there is a State fair in every state in the United States; some large states even have two, one for Eastern and one for Western areas.

So, here are my tips for an affordable, fun, learning adventure.

Admission – go when there are discounts. In previous years the Arizona State Fair opened on the Friday of our Fall Break from school and the admission price was $1 that day. I’m sad to see that discount isn’t available this year, but there are others times that are free or $2. Realize that if the discount reads “Free admission between 12:00 and 2:00” you simply need to enter between those times but can stay as long as you want.

Read and Ride program: Kids ages 5-14 can read 3 books to earn 3 rides.  Depending on the size of ride they choose, it can be over a $20 value per child.

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Visit the free exhibitsPetting zoo, Duck races, Reptile adventure, Kerr’s Farm tours, Slack Wire Sam acrobat show, Figure 8 racing (even dad’s would like this one!), Racing Lemurs, Native American Dancers and more. A few events are ongoing throughout the day but check the calendar for times of those that only show once a day. Don’t miss seeing all the different animals in the agriculture building and check out the exhibits in the Coliseum building. Last year in the Coliseum my grandsons and I found something we had not seen on the map; lots of full sized taxidermy jungle animals placed in areas that looked like their natural environment. It turned out to be one of their favorite parts.

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My teenage daughter got to feed and pet a Llama.

As a child she also won a ribbons at the fair for baking and sewing projects.




Did you know your kids could enter items into the State Fair? I didn’t until an experienced mom told me that every year she has her daughters sew items to enter. But you don’t have to know how to sew to enter. There are hundreds of entry categories; Baked items, Scrap book pages, Models built from kits, Recycled art, Engineering projects and even making Duct tape item (clothes, shoes or accessories). The list of categories is so inclusive it feels like there is something for everybody! There is a category especially for children 6-11 years old (the competition is not steep).

Entering items does require that you make a few trips to the fair grounds. You’ll need to take the items over early and picking them up after the fair is finished. But it will feel worth the time the day your kids go and admire the ribbons they’ve won. The entry fee is $1 per item but there are small cash prizes for first, second and third places.  SO, when you go to the fair this year, check out the Competitive display areas and see if it’s something your kids would like to do next year.

Parking – This is the only part that I’ve not found a good discount for and that is not educational or fun. But I have learned that I would rather park in the fair ground parking and only walk a short distance for $7 rather than park a mile or more away and pay $5.

And last but not least – the FOOD. I can’t resist the smell of the greasy, yummy food. We take snacks and water but do splurge on a food item.

Going to the State Fair is the type of activity that makes learning (and teaching) fun for me. If you live in the city taking your kids to the fair can let them see animals they might never see anywhere else, and they can be exposed to new and enriching sites and ideas.

Children’s Bedtime

“I want a drink of water”

“I need to go to the bathroom”

“I can’t go to sleep”

Are these some of the things you hear from your kids night after night when they are finally in bed, but not asleep?

Here’s one idea to help kids settle down at night and be ready to sleep.

Twenty minutes before bedtime Announce, “In 20 minutes, that’s 8:00, I’m going to read out loud in my bed. Anyone who is ALL ready for bed is invited”.

ALL ready for bed might need to be defined a head of time. That way, after the reading when the kids are relaxed the spell is not broken by extra activity between your bed and theirs. Our routine was pajamas on, teeth brushed, prayer said, already used the bathroom and got a last drink. Then you can add ANYTHING else your family does as part of a nightly routine.

Ten minutes later say, “Reading in my bed in 10 minutes, hope you’re there”

And when it’s time to start say something like, “Reading fun will now begin” Or something that makes them realize that this activity is a real treat.

Also, I accepted latecomers. If they were not quite ready when the reading began they could finish getting ready and then join us. Missing part of the story seemed to be it’s own punishment for tardiness. There were times when a child was not ready and they could not seem to understand why I would not wait for them to get there before I began. It was a good chance for me to teach them to accept responsibility by saying, “I said I was starting to read at 8:00 so I need to start now. Go ahead and finish getting ready quickly and then come. It would not be fair to everyone who was ready to have to wait. Maybe tomorrow you need to start getting ready a little earlier”.

I have sweet memories of evenings with a bed full of kids, pillows and a good book.

When the reading is done and the kids are relaxed they can be sent (or carried is even more fun for them) gently and quietly to their own beds.

I think there is no shortage of book lists available to give you ideas for good reads. If you need some help to begin try Scholastic ,  International Reading Association, Teachers First (scroll down to “100 Best Books”). Or just go to the library and let you kids choose some of their own books! Don’t get too stressed over trying to find books that fit the age of every child listening. I think almost any age child will not complain with a good picture book even if it is technically below them in ability. And I found that often a young child will listen to a chapter book.

A few of our favorite books that come to mind:

Picture books:

The Empty Pot

How Much is a Million

Strega Nonna

Sylvester and the Magic Pebble

The 5 Chinese Brothers

Mike Mulligan and the Steam Shovel

Chapter books:

Little House on the Prairie series (my favorites are House in the Big Woods and

Farmer Boy)

Cricket in Time Square

Mouse and the Motor Cycle

Trumpet of the Swan

Charlotte’s Web

Indian In the Cupboard

Reading at bedtime can help calm kids, and raise a reader at the same time.

Remember to be FUN

Annie w dad and comics

Parenting can often seem filled with so many “don’ts” and “hurry ups” and the need to be firm and consistent. As a result, it’s easy to get so focused on business that we forget to BE FUN.

It only take a few minutes to leave what your doing and go wrestle on the floor.  Your child will remember what you did rather than how long it lasted.

Some of my fondest memories with my children were small simple things –

Tickles in mom and dads bed on Sunday mornings.

Wrestling on the floor.  Occasionally dad would “play dead” and could only be brought back to life by a kiss.

Eating lunch or dinner sitting on an old sheet spread on the grass outside (You have to take time to eat anyway, right?). Younger kids would love to eat their food on tiny tea party type dishes.

 “Doing time” with dad. That meant one evening a week a child got 30 minutes with dad’s undivided attention. The child got to choose what ever they wanted to do for the activity.  WARNING: sometimes what the child wanted to do seemed silly to us as adults, but during this time, they chose. Rules might need to be set before this tradition begins, such as; needs to be within a certain distance from home, or can’t cost more that a certain amount of money.

 Read a picture book or 5 minutes from a chapter book.

I asked my kids their memories and here are some of the things they remember:

    • Flashlight tag
    • Coloring on big sheets of paper
    • “Helping in the kitchen”
    • Dancing in the living room while mom played the piano (and getting insanely dizzy from spinning during the “Spinning Song”). Or you can use the radio.
    • Bike/wagon rides
    • Looking through the cedar chest
    • Helping in the garden
    • Reading Sunday comics together in the recliner chair.
    • Being read to each night by the light of the closet, before bedtime.

Kids grow up fast. It feels like you blink and they are teen-agers who don’t want to spend as much time with you, so enjoy it while it lasts.

Summer’s coming … Are You Ready?


What’s your idea of a good summer with the kids home from school?

Do you like everyone to get up early with kids heading off to swim team practice, going to summer school or getting work done first so they can play.

Or is your ideal summer day everyone sleeping in late and having lazy laid back days?

I think kids function better when there is structure. That does NOT mean you have to do it like me, your neighbor, your sister’s family or anyone else. But I do suggest everyone under the same roof have the same idea of what summer vacation from school will be like. It will make life better if kids know what mom would like to have happen and mom knows what the kids want to do.

So moms, ask your selves, “What do I expect the summer break to be like”?

After all, how can your kids know what you want them to do if you aren’t sure what you want?

When I was a young mom an experienced mom suggested that on Mother’s Day I should tell my family what I would like them to do to make my day enjoyable. She said if you have a lot of expectations in your mind and don’t tell anyone you’re setting yourself up for disappointed when no one does the things you want. She said, “Your family can’t read your mind”. Wow, that was insightful to me. I think it’s similar to summer vacation. We may be thinking it’s finally a time we can get some much needed projects done around the house while the kids might be thinking it’s time to watch TV and be on the computer all day. Since we can’t read each others minds we need to do some planning to keep our days from being filled with complaining, nagging, and ultimatums.

When my children were young they thought they didn’t want to have any responsibilities during the summer break from school. But I quickly learned they felt better about themselves and did not fight as much if they did some productive things each day.

Here are some things we did in our family during the summer:

For lots of summers we had a wooden chart with daily activities listed:

30 minutes of music
30 minutes exercise or a sport
15 minutes math
30 minutes reading
2 hours max. Computer/TV/video games

The board had columns for “to do” and “done” and the kids moved the pegs from one column to the other each day. A paper chart with stickers would work just as well.

I also wanted to make music a part of our summer. We didn’t take weekly music lessons in the summer. Instead we had a “piano jar”. I took some of the money I would usually spend on the lessons and bought items to fill the jar. I assigned each item a price in points. Anyone could earn 1 point for 1 minute practicing an instrument, or other musical activities such as musical flashcards. My daughter had a neighborhood friend who played the piano beautifully and she would sometimes come over just to play some songs, eat a candy bar then go home. I loved it; I got to hear beautiful piano music and I believe it helped motivate my kids to practice more so they could play so well.


Our piano jar was an old pickle jar.

Below is a copy of one of our piano points chart.

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Some other ideas that were successful in our home were:

Allowing my kids to earn more TV or computer time by reading – one minute of TV for every minute of reading. Double points could be earned if they read to someone younger.

We went to the library each week

We did field trip Fridays. We’d go to a museum, to a splash area at a park, a community event we had seen advertised, etc.

We watch old movies or musicals on Wednesday afternoons; The unsinkable Molly Brown, My Fair Lady, and old versions of shows like Absent Minded Professor, Love Bug, Computer Wore Tennis Shoes, etc.

There are certainly no shortages of sites on the Internet to give you ideas. Here are a few suggestions:

101 things to do

Kids Summer To Do List

25 Cool Places For Kids

100 Things to do With Kids This Summer

When school gets out make a Family Summer Calendar (ours was pages from a big desk calendar, decorated and hung on the store room door) and fill it up with big and small activities for your kids to look forward to. Even something as simple as making popsicles in the morning, and eating them in the afternoon could be written in for a day’s activity to look forward to.

Enjoy having your kids home this summer. Plan, discuss, involve the whole family, and write down your plan. This summer make pleasant memories rather than just trying to survive.

A Little Helper at the Store

I saw a child sitting in the grocery card being pushed by her mother. The child was holding a bag containing several tomatoes. It was a time of the year when tomatoes were not cheap, so the bag of tomatoes the little girl was holding was a relatively expensive purchase. It was apparent, by the short conversation I heard between her and her mother, that the young girl did not like tomatoes.

Here’s what I saw and heard:

When the mother turned her head, the little girl tossed the bag of tomatoes out of the cart, onto the floor. When the mother turned back around and saw what had happened she was angry. She slapped the little girls hand and said something like, “don’t do that!”  She put the bag of tomatoes back into the cart, turned her back, and again the little girl found the bag of tomatoes and tossed them from the cart. When the mother turned around and saw that it had happened again she was even more angry and proceeded to punish the child more.

What could have been more effective and kind?

Child throws a bad of tomatoes out of the cart.

Parent: Oh, don’t throw food out of the cart or it will get smashed or dirty and we’ll have to pay for food we don’t want to eat. Don’t you want us to buy tomatoes?”

Child: “I hate tomatoes!”

Parent: “You don’t have to eat these tomatoes if I buy them” (It’s okay for a child to not like tomatoes, there are things you don’t like, aren’t there?). “There are other vegetables that we can buy for you. But dad and I really like tomatoes and want to eat some but we don’t like them when they’re all squishy. So please be really gentle with them. Here, if you give them to me, I’ll put them over here (somewhere out of their sight and reach) and you can hold something else. The carrots? You like carrots don’t you?” (Or whatever food they like, preferably something not as easy to damage).

Remember, if a child who doesn’t have great verbal skills or doesn’t know how to express himself yet does something you consider inappropriate, ask yourself, “What is this little person thinking?”

Perhaps they do not like the food you are trying to buy.

Maybe they want to see if a round tomato bounces, like a ball.

Maybe they wonder if something will make a noise if it’s dropped.

Perhaps they wants to see if their juice poured on the floor makes the same shape every time.

Maybe they are just tired of sitting, or bored and want something to do.

That brings us to …

Activities to entertain and educate kids while at the store:

While pushing through the store ask your child to look for certain categories of things:

  • Items that are green, blue, all white, etc.
  • Packages that have a picture of a person or animal on them.
  • Find things that have writing on them. Find ones that contain the same letter of the alphabet that their name begins with.
  • Look for things that are bigger or smaller than their hand.
  • Find things that are cold and put them all together in one place in the basket (let them touch each item to their cheek to test the temperature).
  • Find items that are soft that can easily break or be smashed; tomatoes or eggs. Or things that are hard, like canned food, potatoes, or carrots.

These activities can be continued all through the store. Chances are that you’ll get tired of these “games” before they do. Keeping a child busy and involved can eliminate boredom, which in turn often eliminates poor behavior.

Make Learning Fun


Children come into the world as a clean slate, knowing nothing.   It’s amazing to watch them as they discover the way the world works.  Things that we adults often overlook amaze and intrigue children.

As children grow and learn about the world they start going to school.  School can be a fun, enchanting time for them.  It can also be tedious, laborious, and boring.  If you can make learning fun for kids it makes a HUGE difference!

While I was attending ASU and interning in a first grade classroom I was assigned the task of teaching a small group phonics lesson.  I talked to the classroom teacher and she gave me a group of students and a skill they needed to learn and practice.  I prepared a lesson that had a silly story (kids LOVE silly stories), some matching activities and a board game that used the phonics skill.  I took the small group of kids out of the classroom and we worked on a picnic table.  After about 45 minutes we returned to class.  One little boy in the group went up to his teacher and said, “We had so much fun!  And we didn’t even learn anything!”  That is the best kind of learning—when kids just think they are playing.

I had a similar experience last week.  I was substituting in a first grade classroom.  The teacher left great lesson plans and we did some really great fun learning.  We read a story about a boy who had a robot.  We then made robot puppets (construction paper, popsicle sticks, and googly eyes) and they wrote a story about their robots.  They were so excited the whole time!

Like always, we like to try to make our posts applicable to school and home.  So…

How can you make learning fun?

1)   Be excited about it yourself and get silly sometimes.                                                     2)   Learn in a variety of ways: pictures, reading, hands on activities, experiments, etc.     3)   Let them be creative and use their imaginations (let them create a piece of art to use in their writing, finger paint, play dress up, retell stories with puppets, etc.)                           4)   Make it applicable to life (like fractions and baking/cooking)

Have fun!  And help your bitty ones at school and home have fun too.



Bag of Tricks


Last week we said we’d post some ideas of things to take to church to keep a toddler busy and happy. I’m sure the possibilities are almost endless but I’ve listed a few of my favorites for you and would love to hear what you take.

I must admit that I have included item unrelated to Sunday such as a mini flashlights and Scotch tape (no, the tape does not go on the mouth!) in my bag. It’s fun to just give a child a piece of tape and watch him figure out that he can’t drop it, at least not until it gets dusty. They can figure out that it only sticks on one side, that it can hold things together like two pieces of paper or your fingers, etc. When I was young there was only one type of transparent tape – it was shiny and it could not be written on. Now there is Scotch Magic Tape and unless you’re older like me, you have probably not even noticed there is a difference. But at some places (like the dollar store) you can buy the old style, cheap, shiny type, which cannot be written on with a pencil (or colored pencil). After your child gets tired of sticking things together, putting several pieces of the shiny tape (placed in such a way that it forms a word or picture) can be put on a blank piece of paper and the child can scribble on the paper to find the hidden word or shape.

Mini flashlights that turn on by being squeezed, or a push button can be fun without being too distracting to those around you. Before the child figures out how to turn the light on, the mystery of why and when the light comes on can hold a child’s attention week after week. You can pretend that it only comes on when they kiss the hand that’s holding it, or when they touch their nose, or what ever you make up. When they finally figure out how it works and have a strong enough finger to turn it on, it can be used to shine through paper, fingers, or at the words of the songs in the Hymn book (this makes it church related).

Another item that a young child really likes is a small tape measure that retracts when a button is pushed (they can be found in fabric stores, or on line). Kids love to pull it out and see it go quickly back in, over and over and over. If they are older, they can measure how long everything is. Just make sure the tape measure is not the kind that clicks loudly as it’s pulled out (I learned that the hard way when I replaced my broken, quiet one). And make sure it’s plastic, not metal because the metal ones can hurt tiny fingers as it whips back in.

Perhaps a whole chapter could be written about Cheerios. They can be used as a snack for small stomachs at the same time as entertaining them. When a Cheerio is moistened, it can stick to the tip of a nose or to a forehead. Watching them try to find and grab it off their own forehead, before they’ve perfected their hand arm coordination is probably too amusing to adults and to the children sitting on the row behind you. I once found a small wooden building block that had a hole drilled through the middle. We discovered it was just the right size for a Cheerio to fit into loosely. When the cereal was in the hole, an older person could quickly push from the bottom with a closed pen, or other blunt object and the piece of cereal would pop out of the hole and cause the child to grin with delight. This simple trick supplied hours of reverent entertainment!

Another cereal activity idea is to have the child find where the cereal it. If Mom or Dad shows a hungry, or antsy child a piece of cereal in their hand, then closes the hand into a closed fist, the child can figure out how to get the food that he can no longer see. This isn’t meant to be torture, help them discover how to retrieve it. At first you use your other hand to open the closed hand to show them how to get to the cereal. Having them pull up one finger at a time is the next step, then having each finger that they pull up close if not held open makes them use their other hand to hold each finger after it’s opened. This might all seem overly detailed, but it’s a good way to make a little cereal last a long time all the while teaching as well.

It might go without saying, but I’ve seen it happen so I feel like it needs to be said anyway; beware of keys on the metal chairs or in the overflow where there’s a wooden floor. Once you give your child your keys, it’s hard to get them back with out a fuss.

If the child reaches the point that they can’t be happy, even with things you’ve brought THEN it’s time to take them out of the chapel as to not disturb others. Whew, who’s more tired, them or you?

Have fun creating your bag of tricks and let us know what works for you.

Sunday fun day!

Last week we wrote that next weeks post would be ideas on how to teach self-regulation, however we had a comment from a parent and that takes priority (we do love your comments and questions). So next week we’ll post about the how-tos of teaching self-regulation.  But for today: 

Make Sunday a Fun day

 This last Sunday at church I was talking to a friend who has a 4 year old.  In an effort to make Sunday a little more reverent, they have decided to cut back on TV for that one day each week.  She told me that is has been rough!  When I mentioned it to my mom she remembered what we used to do at our house on Sunday.  We thought that this would be something useful to share.


For kids sometime Sunday does not feel like a fun day. It feels like a day filled with more don’ts than do’s and therefore it feels restrictive. Especially if we, as parents, try to establish some better habits, which result in taking away some things they use to do that they loved.  One idea is rather than only take away activities they use to do, replace old activities with new ones. Make Sunday a day of fun activities, not just restrictions.  Keeping the Sabbath Day holy does not have to mean sitting in the house all day being still and quiet (remember the Primary song: Reverence is more than just quietly sitting…?).  We can still be reverent by enjoying nature, visiting loved ones, and doing service.

One thing our family did when we had a house full of young children was to have a Sunday bucket We used a bucket because we had one on hand, however any container will do: box, bag, bucket, tub, or drawer.

What is a Sunday bucket?  A Sunday bucket is a container that can be decorated on the outside and the inside is filled with toys, stories or activities that are not part of your child’s everyday world.  Let them know that the lid can only come off on Sunday and that the activities are exclusively for that day. In order to keep the container exciting, engaging, and effective, consider trading out/adding a new activity every week.  If you have children who will be tempted to peek or sneak an activity before Sunday you could simply add the new activity Saturday after they go to bed.

Here are a few fun, easy, inexpensive things a Sunday box might contain:

  • Puppets and a sheet to drape over the back of some chairs for the stage
  • Play dough recipe and ingredients
  • Picnic items to eat lunch out side
  • A map for a family walk around the neighborhood
  • A few boxes of different colored Jell-O and cookie cutters to make “Jell-O Jigglers”
  • Materials to make ‘forts’ such as clothes pins and sheets (when making a fort utilize the couch or kitchen table or chairs)
  • Art supplies to make cards, thank you notes, or I love you notes to friends or relatives. This would include a drive to the post office where you child gets roll down the window and put the letter in the mailbox.
  • Ingredients to make treats to do “ring and run” to neighbors.

Don’t stress, the Sunday Box item don’t have to be expensive or elaborate.

Below are some other ideas for Sunday activities. Some may need to be tweaked to make them feel more Sunday-like. But use them as a spring board and make them fit your family.

Creating Fancy Foods

Fun With Games

Arts and Crafts

Magic Tricks

Creating Pictures and Things


Bird Watching Close to Home  Recently I was watching my grandsons and sat on a blanket on the grass in the back yard and listened to hear how many different types of bird songs we could hear. I was surprised how may different ones there were!

If you’re interested in more ideas follow this link  and scroll all the way down to Family Activities.

Good luck with your Sunday box!  Let us know what you try or share with us if there is something you already do that works well.