For those of us who have spent time with small children in public places, we’ve all been there. You know, when they get tired, bored, hungry…and therefore, cranky? Your heart beats a little faster, your eyes check the room for those “looks”, and you need a solution – fast. And you want to entertain your child without a smartphone.
If your go-to solution is an electronic device, you may enjoy a short reprieve, but you may also wonder what kind of pattern you’re helping to establish.
Reaching for an electronic device anytime you feel bored or unhappy may not be the healthiest option to impart. Learning to interact with people, and learning to entertain yourself are healthier AND doable strategies.
Crayons, paper, pens? Good choices. What if you’re without your usual bag of tricks? Here are 9 ways to entertain your child without a smartphone. And avoid the oncoming apocalyptic meltdown.
Get your Frank Sinatra or Barbra Streisand on and hum a familiar song like “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” or “Old McDonald,” and see if they can: a) name it, b) complete a line c) sing along for as long as possible.
Try this at a restaurant. Grab several objects, like silverware, packets, stir sticks and place them on the table. Instruct your sweetie pie to take a good look. Cover your collection with a napkin, and carefully remove one of the items without them being able to tell which one. This is your chance to be Houdini! Remove the napkin and ask which one is missing. Repeat as many times as possible. Try role reversal. They’ll love “fooling” you!
Also, check out this easy travel game –> Which Ninja Is Missing? An Awesome Memory Game For your Kids. It’s such a fun game that takes ZERO time to set up and keeps your kiddo completely interested and focused. Ninjas always rock, right?!
Choose an animal and play whatever version of 20 question your child is suited for. “Do you crawl?” “Do you swim?” When they guess correctly, spend some time making whatever animal sound it makes.
Find objects in your surrounding of different colors. Ask them, “Can you touch something that is X?” If your location is suitable for walking around, you can go mobile.
It’s the classic! Certainly solid territory for a little older child able to process this guessing game. Choose something both of you can see, then say, “I spy something, and it starts with ____.” If your child has a basic understanding of the alphabet and a modest vocabulary, fill in the blank with a letter. “I spy something, and it begins with the letter C.” It can help to sound it out: “Ca-Ca-Ca.” For the preliterate set who knows only their colors or shapes, substitute those categories instead. You can also describe the objects’ properties: “I spy something, and it’s rough and scaly/smooth and shiny.”
This one requires a pen and paper. Divide the paper into a quadrant. Draw the same shape in three of the squares, but draw a different one in the fourth. Examples: 3 cats, one elephant. Have them point shape that’s different. You can make a more advanced version for older children.
Riddles can be fun for you to come up with and for your child to solve. For example: “I have four legs and am covered in fluffy white wool. What I am?” or “I’m shaped like a circle, I have two hands, and numbers all around me. What am I?” Need a little inspiration?
Check out –> 15 Fall Riddles and Jokes for Kids
Show your kid your open empty hands. Place an object like your keys in one of your hands and close both hands. Put your hands behind your back and switch the object back and forth between them. Bring your closed hands back in front of you, and ask your child to guess which hand the object is in.
So, there they are:
9 Ways to Entertain Your Child without a smartphone.
Do you have some tried and true non-electronic kid entertaining ideas? Leave your tip in the comments below.
Now that School is back in session, life gets back to established routines. Here are 5 Amazing Cleaning Routines for Kids that actually work! We cover routines for:
- Toy pick up
We even cover the inevitable challenge points, sticking points, and what ifs. Consistent implementation will help change your family dynamic.
- Step #1: Clear the bed and make it. (1-2 minutes) No matter how atrocious the bed and floor seem, the first step is to throw EVERYTHING off the bed to the floor. I know, I know. This is how the mess was created in the first place. But it is also an important step in cleaning the room. With the bed clear, it is easy to make. And, a made bed makes any room look cleaner.
- Step #2: Put all clothes on the bed. (2 minutes) Using the “full hands” philosophy, collect every piece of clothing, towel, fabric, etc. Place it all in a pile at the foot of the bed. At this point, do not use time sorting the laundry.
- Step #3: Gather items that belong in the room. (2 minutes) This is where your addiction to baskets actually helps your family. Have a few baskets (boxes, buckets, containers, whatever) standing by to help with sorting. With all of the clothing off the floor, you have two new options: things that stay in the room, and things that do not. Again, using the “full hands” (or basket) principle, move through the room picking up everything you can. When they start to fill up, walk around placing the items where they go, or close to it. Items that do not belong in the room (cups, plates, racoons, welding equipment, animal husbandry supplies), get placed just outside the door in a separate basket. They can be dealt with later. Taking them to their proper home now will prevent you from getting this room clean anytime in the foreseeable EVER.
- Step #4: Get rid of the garbage (2 minutes) Set the can in the middle of the room and quickly toss everything that doesn’t belong into it. Of course, you will likely still need to vacuum. The result of picking up all that is left on the floor creates a magical environment.This room is now officially 99% clean.
- Step #5: Separate the clothing (2 minutes) The clothing in the pile is clean or dirty. Separate this pile into two, making sure to inspect each garment to verify it does not have any spots, stains, or “crime scene evidence” tags. In some cases, it may be necessary to employ the sniff test, but a quick visual inspection for children is not out of the question.
- You are done!
Getting kids to pick up toys and belongings doesn’t have to be a daily struggle. These quick guidelines will help you get closer to a neater house and more harmonious play.
- Only keep toys or things that are thought-provoking: dress-up, blocks, legos, etc. Kids love them and they are good for varying ages: blocks to a baby are totally different to blocks to a five-year old and they will keep playing with the same toys in different ways.
- Choose containers suitable for your child to manipulate. A lot of products out there are for parents to manipulate. Look at your kid’s school if you need a model: things are on low shelves, they are easy to handle for kids, if a kid can’t lift or pick up the bin themselves they won’t clean up or play with it. It’s also easier without lids on them.
- Don’t give too many choices. Kids are a lot more capable then you think: if you observe them at their school they are taking things out on their own and cleaning them up afterwards. You will be surprised what they can accomplish in a structured environment.
If your toy room look cluttered and chaotic, then it looks like that for the kids.
- Another old school rule: if you want to play with something else, you have to first put away what you are playing with.
Kids ages 5 and up are ready to give you a hand with simpler jobs, but before you turn your child loose, have a quick chat about sorting. Explain that lights go together and are usually washed in warm water. Dark clothes and colors are usually washed in cold, and only totally white things can be bleached.
- Your child can check pockets for change or tissues and close up zippers. A younger kid can sort by color, add dryer sheets, match socks, and clean out dryer lint — which they will probably get a big kick out of.
- Teach your child to fold by starting with easy shapes like towels and washcloths. Older kids can pour in the detergent, fold all types of clothes, and put laundry away. You’ll conquer that mountain of dirty clothes, spend time together, and teach your child a super-useful life skill.
Washing dishes seems like a never ending chore. Children who are trained properly can be a big help at getting dishes clean. Whether you are teaching your children to use a dishwasher or wash dishes by hand, the best way to start is with scraping and rinsing. Even 5-6 year old’s can be taught how to scrape and rinse their plates. 7-8 year old’s can help with drying and putting away dishes. By age 9 kids are ready to learn how to wash different types of dishes or load a dishwasher. Be sure to teach safety principles. like how to set the knives aside instead of dumping them into hot soapy water where they would be impossible to see.
It’s best to start with good organizing habits! Limit Keepsakes. Some children let go of things easily, but for those who are stubborn about saving every little thing, offer up a “limiting container.” They can keep all of the keepsakes they want, as long as they fit in a certain box, or on a certain shelf. Teach the “One In, One Out” Rule. When you get a new toy or new jeans, the old ones can be donated. Kids need to understand that storage is finite, and that continuing to collect eventually leads to clutter and chaos. You could use something like storefreindly.com.sg to store larger items that you don’t have room for in your house, but when it comes to toys and clothes, it’s good for kids to learn that they can’t keep everything.
Give Every Item a Home : Labeling containers can help kids understand where their things belong, and smaller kids can benefit from having picture labels along with words. When kids ask you to find something, point out to them that you know where it is because it has a home. That’s why we have to put things back after using them, so we can find them again!
- Categorize Everything : When I was growing up, most of us learned the Sesame Street song, “One of These Things is Not Like the Other.” Four objects were presented: Three had a common theme, and the other item did not belong. By the time you’d finished the song, you had chosen which one didn’t belong. Look for opportunities, like this one, to teach categorizing to kids, as it is a crucial skill in sorting and organizing.
- Use Lists : You can make packing lists for kids when you are going on a trip, or have them help you make shopping and to-do lists. Kids love to cross things off and you’re teaching them how to organize their thoughts. Lists can also be helpful for reducing your need to nag when there are several tasks that need to be done.
Remember #cleaningroutines can be Fun! Make it a singing and dancing party.
Crank the tunes and make cleaning a PARTY. Try creating a “Cleaning Tunes” playlist in iTunes full of songs to get the kids energized to move. & Be sure to sing!
Via Clean Mama
Want to teach your kids how to help around the house with daily tasks and chores? Make it fun and easy for them to help out! Clean Mama has the Ultimate Happy HOME Cleaning Routine Plus FREE Printable Checklist.
Love this! She has chore lists for the kids too! Included are a weekly or daily cleaning chart, depending on what works for your family and schedule.
Got some awesome cleaning routines that work for you and your family? Leave a comment below:
Karen & The Cleaning Crew
Organize Your Morning – To streamline morning routines, have outfits pre-chosen and ready to go will keep the morning running smoothly and help you to get out the door on time.
- Put a desk or table in the homework area. Sounds obvious, but many kids like to sprawl across their beds to work on assignments. A desk or table that’s the right height for writing is important — your child is less likely to doze off or get distracted if he’s sitting at a desk. If you haven’t got a desk yet, you should really keep an eye out for well made office furniture.
- Make the space pleasant. If the homework space lends itself to decoration, let your child fix it up with artwork or posters. Pick out colorful pencil holders and other supplies. Homework shouldn’t feel like a chore at this stage, so let your child have fun with his space.
- Keep school supplies on hand. Pencils, pens, erasers, paper, an assignment book or calendar, and a dictionary are must-haves. Other suggestions: index cards, glue, scissors, a thesaurus, a calculator, paper clips, a stapler. Once your child sits down to work, he shouldn’t have to hunt for basic supplies. Looking for something a bit different? WRITEY whiteboard paint will transform any wall into a whiteboard wall. Writing down all those important facts and ‘to-do’ lists will ensure your child stays on task.
Buy a bento Box. Whether it’s a fancy Planet Box, an EasyLunchbox or a regular little Ziplock four-compartment box (available at every grocery store), this sets you up for easy packing. Just put something in each compartment. The variety will give your child more chances to find something he or she likes.
Fill every section with something different. Try to vary the colors and textures if you can. Here’s what you want to include:
Protein: Don’t limit yourself to sandwiches. Think hardboiled eggs, cottage cheese, cheese & crackers, trail mix, edamame, hummus with pita bread, turkey and cheese roll-ups…
Veggies: Sliced cucumbers, cherry tomatoes (technically fruit but who’s counting), small bell peppers with seeds removed…
Fruit: Grapes, strawberries, blueberries, fresh pineapple wedges, melon, banana chips, prunes, dried apricots…
Grains: Mini pretzels, homemade muffins, whole-wheat crackers, mini bagels with jam..
** Rotate each day. Use the same ingredients in different ways a couple times in the week. There’s less waste and more variety. For example: Use salami in a mini bagel sandwich on Monday, on a rollie-pollie on Wednesday and a sandwich on a stick for Friday. Do hardboiled eggs on Tuesday and egg salad on Thursday.
Have a lunch tip to share? Leave it in the comment section below!
Refrigerator Lunch Station
For an easy do it your self morning, have a container of pre-made options to choose from. Kids can quickly grab the items to throw in their lunches when they prepare them themselves in the morning or evening before.
For Lunch More inspiration check out these 20+ School Lunch Ideas the Kids Will Love!
Via Clean My Space
Backpacks or lunch bags super duper sticky? Here are some easy cleaning tips for lunch bags and backpacks, quickly making them as good as new! CLICK HERE!
I don’t know about you, but fun new products always motivate me to do some serious cleaning. Why not get some fun, kid-friendly cleaning products for your little ones?
So how do you build your cleaning kit?
- Start with a bright little bucket or something with a handle.
- To your bucket, add some cleaning cloths ( like old baby washcloths).
- Add a spray bottle filled with plain water.
- A toothbrush, for the deep cleaning.
- And finally, add a colorful apron, because we all like to look good while we clean, right?
Let’s Clean Up!
The best way to inspire kids is to work with their natural, intrinsic drive to be productive, creative, contributors to the household. Kids will feel like they are a part of something larger than themselves.
What back-to-school tips have worked for you? Leave a few tips for others in the comment section below.
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Karen & The Cleaning Crew
5 Strategies for a Successful Summer Break with Your Kids
Everyone gets stoked for Summer Vacation to arrive! However, that joy can turn sour in a heartbeat when parent or kid expectations aren’t met or if you forget to install ducted air con. Kids seem to want a free range, carte blanche, “do anything I want when I want to” existence, while parents generally can’t hack that kind of mindset. Before those smiles turn upside down, and your summer gets away from you, use these 5 Strategies for a Successful Summer Break. Start here, then adjust as you go!
The first of 5 Strategies for a Successful Summer Break with your kids is to maintain a schedule while setting consistent limits.
No need to be a strict dictator here, but experts agree: kids do better when there’s some structure to their worlds. Tennis lessons is a good way of giving your children something to do during the summer as well as give them consistency, if you are interested in finding out more, check out what type of tennis lesson are you looking for? There are a few other games that allow your kids to be active and enjoyable, an example of this is something like Pickleball, a game that has the elements of badminton, tennis and table tennis. With it’s growing popularity there are a few places online that can help get them started with the best pickleball paddles and instructions to start playing the game, teaching them a new game would be a great way to give your kids consistency. Consistency helps manage expectations for both kids and parents. Parenting expert Dr. Laura Markham writes on structure:
Research shows that kids get stressed during the school year from academics, homework, the social scene, and all the activities. They really need time to chill and relax. But they also need structure, meaning they need their day and week to have a shape — so they know what to expect. For instance, every morning after we play, we do errands or pick up the house together for an hour, and after lunch we have reading time and then quiet time. Every afternoon we run through the sprinkler or go to the pool.
With the abundance of screen-driven entertainment these days, “screen time” can be a parent’s “easy button.” Computers, smartphones, iPads, and game consoles abound. But research from The American Academy of Pediatrics, suggests eliminating screen time for children under 2 years old and advises limiting daily screen time to one to two hours for older kids. What to do? Setting consistent limits seems to be the consensus top tip, according to GreatKids family blog. Other top suggestions include:
- Use technology (DVR, apps, passwords) to monitor and control screen time
- Set a consistent family viewing time
- Keep media out of kids’ bedrooms
For a more comprehensive look, check out their 9 Secrets for Managing Your Kids’ Screen time by clicking here.
Technology can be an effective motivational and behavioral tool when used correctly. Empoweringparents.com outlines the guidelines for using technology as a consequence or reward.
Our second of 5 Strategies for a Successful Summer Break is to get outside and take in some adventures with your kids!
Yes, get them playing in the back yard. Yes, take them to the local park. Yes, hit up those play dates. Yes, go on family vacation. But YES, YES, YES, open their eyes to a bigger world and bigger experiences. Summer is prime time to take them on a hike into the woods, to the top of a mountain, through a creek, over some sand dunes. Travel and explore a neighboring town. Travel as much as you can this summer. For some helpful tips on traveling with kids, check out our blog from last week.
Family travel expert Debbie Dubrow has been there and done that when it comes to family travel. She emphasizes the challenges, the solutions, and rewards of traveling with your kids in her blog Deliciousbaby.com. Read her article “Why Travel“ by clicking here.
One father gave his 3 & 4 year old daughters a “travel experience” of a lifetime and documented it here:
While that “travel experience” may be extreme for some, be pro-active in sharing big experiences with your kids, no matter how little they are!
Allistair Humphreys, one of National Geogrphic’s Adventurers of the year, has coined a new term: “microadventures.” While Alistair has walked across India, biked around the world, and rowed across the Atlantic, his most recent passion is to encourage microadventures among those who living within the 9 to 5 structure. Grand, months long adventures may be out of reach for the majority of us, but a weekend microadventure isn’t. Here’s a short piece he did on microadventures for CNN:
His new book is called Microadventures: Local Discoveries for Great Escapes. His other adventure books are available on his website. It’s great to see someone with such a passion for the outdoors, nature, and getting lost in adventures of their own creation sit down, write, and subsequently find an audience for their literary works. I think anyone with a story to tell should be inspired by this and maybe even publish a book of their own. With the right amount of determination and creative talent, those with the will to see it through will hopefully find their books taking on an audience of people hooked to their every word.
Brett & Kate McKay run The Art of Manliness website, and after reading Alistair’s book on microadventures, decided to take an 8-week microadventure challenge – with their two young kids. Click here to read about their experiences. Their conclusion:
What turned out to be the most surprising thing about my 8-week microadventure challenge was how unchallenging it was! Breaking out of my routine and doing a tiny expedition each week required very little effort, time, or money at all; the barriers I had imagined to executing such outings turned out to exist only in my mind. That included a worry that Gus and Scout wouldn’t take to some of the activities, and I’d have a pair of whining kids on my hands. Instead, they loved getting out more and exploring, and I learned, as I seemingly have to again and again, that they’re more resilient than I sometimes think.
“I would say read! Read, read, read. In books there is a world of information just waiting to be discovered. The person who does not read has no advantage over the person who cannot read.” ~ Dear Abby
Aha! Parenting nails it:
Books open the imagination, make time disappear, and give kids a wholesome alternative to screens. (Reading is also highly correlated with school achievement.) Reading to your child develops a love of stories and books, which is what starts them wanting to read on their own. For more on helping your child learn to love reading, click here. For a starting list of great books to take to the library with your child, click here.
Coming in at 4 of our 5 Strategies for a Successful Summer Break is Home and kid organization.
Staying active and creative will result in lots of loose ends. Here’s what to do with them.
Cords, cords, and more cords. Whether it’s your home entertainment center, or you have grandchildren or nieces and nephews visiting, managing cords can be a regular struggle.
- Start here: Separate Power from Everything Else. Route power cables in one direction and all of your audio and video cables going in another direction. It helps with cable management, but it also decreases the sheer bulk of cables. In addition, it simplifies your task if you need to swap something out or test a connection. Grab yourself a few sturdy, plug-rich surge protectors like the Belkin Pivot Plug. Separate out all of the things you need to be on all the time from the things that can be easily powered off. That way even if you have a device that prefers to stay on standby and never really powers off, you can save energy by flipping the switch on the surge protector.
- Label Everything – You might think that is common practice, but the fact is most people just don’t label the cables connected to their TV, receiver, consoles, and other gear. Grab a cheap, personal label maker and label both ends of your cables with the cable type and the device it’s connected to. That way you don’t even have to look at the connector, and you’ll always know which end to disconnect to pull out a cable you need to test or replace. Do the same with your power cables. No label maker? Grab some tape and a sharpie!
- Tie Down, Hide, and Organize Those Cables – Once you have the right cables, have your cables labeled, and have the right gear to make the most of your home entertainment center, the last step is to set it all back up as cleanly as possible. using binder clips, coiling and zip-tying slack when you need to. Velcro strips can all help conceal your cable clutter.
BOOK ORGANIZATION IDEAS
- Multi-Purpose Bookshelf: A shelf like the Oeuf Mini Library can hold books as well as toys. Its utilitarian form is easy on the eyes, too.
- A Wall bench and bookshelf automatically creates a cozy reading area and provides both a space to read and extra storage for books.
- Stacked cubes: A custom book area with plywood cubes created this set-up with differently sized boxes for differently sized books.
- Baskets: It can be as simple as finding a large basket or two to hold all of your child’s current favorite books.
The key to keeping a somewhat clean space with kids is to have a very clear organization for their toys and arts and crafts. When kids feel they can actually put away their belongings quickly, it can be a game.
As far as arts and crafts are concerned, here are some solutions that are simple to implement:
- Mom’s Crafty Space has an Upcycled Montessori-Styled Crayon Holder Tutorial. Not only is it beautiful, but it’s also a good exercise for color sorting.
- I heart Organizing made an art caddy, using chalk paint, so it can be personalized by the kids to their taste.
- Cheeky Kitchen‘s pantry organization includes a shelf for arts and crafts, and a fun use of tin cans with simple labels.
- A Bowl Full of Lemons brings us the over-the-door shoe organizer as arts and crafts organizer.
- One Orange Giraffe designed a Portable Art Studio, including an essential craft bucket with pockets around it. Brilliant!
Check out @BetterHomes Storage Kit Ideas
Utensil caddies are a great size for far more than just utensils! The divided portions of the caddy are great for keeping markers, crayons and color pencils in their respective sections! Canning jars are perfect for odd shaped crafting items and can be tucked into the caddy along with scissors, paint, glue and wiggly eyes! The end result is something that can be tucked up on a shelf in a bedroom or pantry and can easily be snagged and carried to the kitchen table or floor to work on creative crafty projects!
Our last stop in our 5 Strategies for a Successful Summer Break is to focus on fun!
Parenting experts agree that what kids most remember is the feeling they had from a period of time, not so much the detail of every event. If the summer structure they remember is that they had fun during self-directed play, but parent-initiated activities were mostly about chores like clean up, they’ll remember the summer as a bummer. Making the focus of parent-directed (or grandparents) summer activities intentionally fun, while keeping age-appropriate responsibilities part of your schedule, will keep you sane and your kids happy!
What other tips do you have to create a successful summer break with your kids? Share it by leaving a comment below!
Karen & The Cleaning Crew