Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Enjoy the Snow for Fun and Fitness

The next time your kids ask you to play in the snow, take them up on their offer and trade some gym time for family fun. According to, a 150 lb woman burns the following calories per hour when engaged in these fun winter activities.

Building a snowman = 285 calories

Having a snowball fight = 319 calories

Making snow angels = 214 calories

Downhill skiing or snowboarding = 340 calories

Snowshoeing or cross country skiing = 476 calories

Ice skating = 408 calories

Sledding = 408 calories

Shoveling (okay, so maybe this one isn’t much fun) = 340 calories

Get out there and have fun with your kids – it is good for all of you!

Monday, January 28, 2013

Have a Family Game Night

Right now, before you make any other plans, go pull out a few board games and set them somewhere you will see later tonight so you don't forget to have a family game night.

Once you get going, everyone has fun with board games. However, to many of us, the idea doesn't sound very appealing until the fun actually starts. It is also such a simple idea that many of us forget to do it. I know I have games that are nearly new because I so often make bigger, more elaborate plans for family fun that the game boxes remain unopened.

However, over the past few weeks my daughter and I have been making a point of playing together more often. What fun we've had!

Kids learn important life skills through games:
~How to take turns
~How to lose a turn with good grace
~How to be a good sport when winning and losing
~How to be fair
~How to follow directions
~How to follow a sequence
~Critical thinking
~How to be an encourager
~Problem solving
~Time management
~Money management (in some games such as Monopoly)
~Fine motor skills (especially when holding a hand of cards
~How to deal with disappointment
~Self confidence
~Communication skills, including intergenerational communication skills
~And more.

Plus, as a parent, games give you the chance to check on your child’s skills and help you assess how he is developing. Pay attention to how your child plays and gently guide him in the areas where he needs to grow. If when moving his piece around the board he tends to skip over spots or doesn’t count correctly, help him move his piece back to where he started so he can try again. If he cries when he doesn’t win, help him learn how to use words to express his unhappiness. Teach him to say, “I am sad that I didn’t win, but I am happy for you.”

You can also use family game night as a chance to talk to your kids about their lives, the issues they are facing and how they feel in a relaxed setting, especially with preteens and teens who may not be as chatty as they once were.

Enjoy the time to bond with your family, practice skills, and have a ton of fun.

Friday, January 25, 2013

What To Do With All That Cash

Did your kids receive gifts of cash for Christmas? If they haven’t already spent it, they may be trying to figure out how to extinguish that fire burning in their pockets.

Kids love the freedom, independence, and power that comes from spending their own money on items they’ve hand selected. These experiences are great, teaching kids to make decisions, manage money, and live with the joys or consequences of their choices.

However, before heading to the store, have a conversation with your child about his thoughts on where the money should go. I recommend giving kids three separate piggy banks: a spending bank, a savings bank, and an offering bank. Allowance money should typically be divided between the three banks (I let the child decide how to split the amount between the banks, but that is a topic for another post). You and your child can decide if gift money, or other special occasion money, also needs to be divided or if it can just be spent on something fun.

Discuss what type of purchase your child has in mind. If she has been saving for a particular toy, her Christmas money might allow her to make that purchase. Perhaps she received a large sum, but just wants a few inexpensive things, like a Littlest PetShop figure or a Zooble. In that case, talk to her about taking a little money to the store and saving the rest for the next time she’d like a new toy. If your child has no idea what she wants, ask if she would like to start by looking at toys, clothes, books, etc. so you have an idea of where to start shopping and she can start making a mental plan. Wandering around Target looking for something to buy is not usually the best plan. When kids do this, they tend to make impulse purchases they later regret. I am in favor of doing this with a little bit of money because it teaches kids to be more thoughtful in their purchases, but protect them from the huge disappointment of wasting ALL of their gift money on an unwise choice.

Also, let your kids know that you always have the final say on a purchase. It does not matter that it is the child’s money, as the parent you do not have to let inappropriate clothes, music, video games, toys, or anything else into your house. Don’t censor a child’s purchase because you think it is silly or unrealistic (although you should gently ask questions about such items to help your child evaluate the true value of the item), but do stand by your morals and let your kids know when items cross the line.

By taking the time to discuss your child’s shopping goals before heading to the store, you are likely to have more fun and your child will have a better money management experience.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Make a Fun and Easy Fruit Dip

Looking for creative ways to get your kids to eat more fruit? Try this fun dip.

Combine 1 8oz brick of cream cheese (I like the lowfat Neufchatel cheese), 1/2 cup brown sugar, and 1 tsp. vanilla. Blend until smooth and creamy.

Stiffer fruits, such as apple slices and whole strawberries, can easily be dipped. Flimsier varieties such as peach slices may need to be spread with the mixture.

Once the fruit has some cheese on it, your child can dip the piece again in crushed walnuts, pecans or shredded coconut for extra fun and protein.

You can even put some dip in a small plastic container for a sack lunch treat.

Fruit has never been so much fun!

Monday, January 21, 2013

When Is Your Child Old Enough For A Sleepover?

It is the call many moms dread, “Can your son/daughter come spend the night?” Sleepovers are lots of fun for kids, and help them practice important skills such as independence and manners. But how do you know if your child is ready?

The complicated answer to this seemingly simple question is that there is no set age at which a child can go to a slumber party. It depends on several factors.

1.       Is your child comfortable separating from you? If she hangs on to your leg when you drop her off at school/preschool/Sunday school, she may not be comfortable leaving you for an entire night. Test this by letting your child spend the night with grandparents, cousins, or close family friends who are familiar to your child and who won’t feel embarrassed calling you in the middle of the night if your child wants to go home. 

2.       Are you comfortable separating from your child? It is natural to worry a bit when allowing your little one to experience something new, but if you spend the entire night obsessing about it, or call the other mom repeatedly to check on your child, you may not be ready. Talk to your spouse or a trusted friend to determine if your fears are grounded in truth or if you need to loosen the reins a little. 

3.       Is your child capable of speaking up for himself? If your child can clearly communicate what he needs, likes, and dislikes, you can probably feel confident that he will do fine at a friend’s house without you. If he is still working on these skills, then stick with shorter play dates where the kids have fun while you and the other mom get to know each other over a cup of coffee.

4.       Do you trust the family inviting your child to spend the night? If you feel comfortable with the parents, it will go a long way in easing your fears about the situation. When you are more relaxed, your child will be also. If you don’t know the parents well, or if you have concerns about the friend’s siblings, tell the other mom you’d like to get to know them better first. Invite the family over for dinner so you can see first-hand how the kids get along and how the parents respond to any conflicts. You can also see what siblings are like. Never send your child to another home if you don’t feel sure he will be safe and well supervised.

5.       How does your child play with others? If she seems to have a steady stream of fun ideas and gets along well with her friends during play dates, she is probably ready for a longer experience, such as an overnight. If she tends to argue a lot or get bored, she may not be ready for an extended interaction. 

6.       It is okay to allow sleepovers with some friends and not others. Try not to get into the details with your child on why some overnights are not allowed until your son/daughter is mature enough not to say something offensive or unkind to a friend. In the meantime, just say, “I’m sorry but that won’t work this time,” and try to leave it at that. You can offer to have the friend over to your house to play, or meet at a park for a fun afternoon. 

7.       Find out if other kids will be there or not. Is this a birthday party with several kids spending the night? If so, who will be there? Will your child know several of the other guests? Make sure your child will have more than one buddy so she doesn't end up feeling left out. Also see if the other guests are kids you are comfortable with your child being around for a long period of time. If there is a serious concern, you can let your child go the party but pick him up before everyone pulls out their sleeping bags.

8.       Avoid setting an age for sleepovers. This can cause unneeded conflict when your child is developmentally ready for an overnight but hasn’t reach the pre-determined age, or when she is old enough to go but you object to the friend who has invited her. Take each invitation on a case-by-case basis. 

9.       Above all, trust your gut. If your instincts say “no,” then your mouth should say it too.

Friday, January 18, 2013

For a Quick and East Dinner, Try Happy Hats

You may remember eating Straw Hats as a kid. When I was growing up they were one of my favorite hot lunch entrees at school. I still love them, and so do my kids. You basically make sloppy joe meat, serve it on top of tortilla chips, and top it with shredded cheddar cheese.

However, I found an easy variation on this that my family also loves. My youngest daughter named it Happy Hats, because it is like Straw Hats but it makes her even happier.

Brown one pound of ground beef.

Add one large 28oz can of baked beans (I like Bush's Homestyle beans, but any kind will do) and one 15 1/4 oz can of whole kernel corn to the beef. Simmer until everything is hot and well-mixed.

Serve over Fritos (the Fritos Scoops work really well) and top with finely shredded cheddar cheese.

Enjoy, and have a great weekend!

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

You Are Doing A Great Job!

Moms don’t hear it often enough, so let me tell you, loud and clear, you are GREAT! Even if we haven’t met yet, I bet I know some things you are doing extremely well.

1.       You are exactly the mom your child needs. God put you and your child together for a specific reason. Life may not always be easy (in fact, it may rarely be easy), but you are still the mom your child is supposed to have, and that makes you the very best person for the job.

2.       You love your child like no one else in the world ever can. That is the nature of the special bond between mother and child.

3.       You understand your child’s subtle signals better than anyone else. You know the difference between her cries, when he is truly upset rather than just feeling tired and cranky, when she is scared from a fall but not actually hurt, and all of the other signals children give their moms that the normal onlooker would miss.

4.       You know exactly what to say to make your child feel like the most important person in the world. More importantly, you know what to say to make your child feel like the most important person in your world.

5.       You can turn that little frown upside down. When your child feels blue, you can bring the sunshine like no one else.

Keep up the great work, Mom. You are more valuable than you realize.