Sunday, December 14, 2014

The three worst and three best things about having energetic kids

I was once took my daughter to a sports camp for preschoolers because she loved to run around. The girl doesn't know how to sit! While I was there, I noticed an overweight little boy huffing around the gym. My first thought was, "Good for his mom, getting him off the couch and running around." My second thought was, "Wait, how did she get him to stop running around and sit on the couch in the first place? I could use a little quiet time." We can't even watch movies with my daughter because she's always dancing and jumping up and down in front of the screen.

In honor of my little energizer bunny I'm listing the three worst and best things about having an energetic child.

The worst:
1. You are always on the run. Your little darling is not going to walk nicely next to the cart in the grocery store or sit quietly and play games on your phone in the restaurant, so get used to doing things quickly. You may have to completely give up restaurants without a play land when you have the kids along. Save those for date night. As for errands, don't plan on more than a couple at a time.
2. You become a human jungle gym. Energetic kids don't want to nicely snuggle with you, they want to climb all over you. Expect to have your cheeks pinched, your legs used as a slide and your stomach jumped on while you try to sit and read a bedtime story. Don't worry it's your child's way of showing affection.
3. Everyone will ask you if your child has ADHD. While some kids do have attention disorders, it is possible for your kids just to be energetic without needing to be medicated. If your child can concentrate on an art project, a sport, or something else they are interested in, they are usually just fine. Having energy is a good thing, you just have to spend some extra time channeling it well.

The best:
1. Energetic kids love life. These kids are interested in everything and will open you up to whole new experiences as they see and learn about the world around them with gusto. Wherever you take them and whatever you do, these kids will love it. In fact, energetic kids enjoy getting out and experience life large and up close more then they enjoy watching TV or playing video games. Let them take you for the ride of your life.

2. You'll get lots of exercise. You may be spending your days literally chasing around your energetic toddler. Accentuate the positive, you won't have to take a special trip to the gym. When your child gets older, he'll enjoy hikes, bike rides, days at the pool and trips to the park. All of these mean less time on the couch for you, too!

3. It's a sign of intellingence. Intellingent children are curious and engaged in the world around them. This leads to lots of physical activity. Whether its seeing how high they ca
n climb in that tree or taking apart pens, toys or remote controls, they are using their minds and testing their limits. Encourage those things as much as possible. That bodes well for a bright future.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Life lessons from a starry sky

It was on a camping trip with my family as a child that I first noticed the beauty, brightness and enormity of the night sky. I felt small. Yet, at the same time, I felt a part of a massive universe of unexplored opportunities. Stars have been inspiring the human heart since the beginning of time. Take the time to enjoy with your kids the magic and wonder of the night sky. There are many things they -- and you -- can learn from the stars.

Here are 5 things you want your kids to know about the stars -- and life.

1. How to find the North Star

The North Star is an anchor in a moving starscape. Navigators have used the North Star for millennia to find their way back home. Tell your children they can always come home. Away from home, the world may be full of turmoil. But in your family there will always be a place of love and support. You will be their anchor.

2. The stories of the constellations

When you tell the stories of the constellations, you are sharing the wisdom of the ages. Your kids may not want a lecture from you on kindness, but may get the message from the story of Ares, the magical ram whose sacrifice for two children caused the Gods to immortalize him in the stars. Child-friendly versions of the Greek constellation myths can be found on the Internet. Printable sky maps to help you find them can be found at

Brush up on other cultural traditions about the night sky. In Native American tradition, a son of the morning star brought healing to the world.

3. Starlight takes time

The closest star to Earth is Proxima Centauri. At 4.2 light years away, its light takes a little over four years to reach earth. The farthest star that can be seen with the naked eye is Deneb. Though the distance is not precisely known, its light takes around 3,000 light years to shine in the night sky. Teach your children that the universe has great things in store for them, but there are some for which you have to wait. The good consequences of the actions we take now are not always immediately seen.

4. The darker it is, the more stars you see

To see the best stars, you have to get away from the light pollution of cities. They’re there, even though you can’t always see them. Teach your children that sometimes it takes dark times in life to show us the true light. When things are tough, the stars in your life will be there to share their light.

5. The enormity of the universe

It’s impossible to wrap our minds around the scope of the universe. Scientists keep pushing the edge of known space. Sometimes we get caught up in the little details of life, and circumstances may seem impossible to overcome. Remind your kids that the universe is full of unexplored territory and unlikely surprises. Life, like the universe, is full of endless possibilities.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Fun for small yards

If you live in an apartment or have a really small yard, you may feel like your kids can't play outside. There are lots of things they can do though without a lot of space.

Hopscotch and jump rope are oldies but goodies. I bought my kids a five dollar jump rope at Target a couple of weeks ago and they've been going non-stop. They count their jumps and have been keeping a record of who jumps the most times in a row. Jump roping takes virtually no space and can even be done in the house if you're an extra nice mom and you clear a little space in the family room. With a longer rope kids can play together with 2 turning and 1 jumping. Jump rope is also a big calorie burner. I think you'll also find your kids invent a lot of other uses for the jump rope as well.

Hopscotch takes a little more space, but can be done in a driveway, on a sidewalk, or on a back patio. Draw the hopscotch with chalk, or use a stencil to paint a permanent one. When I was a kid I loved my rainbow hoppi-taw, but you can use about anything as a marker. There are forms of hopscotch played all around the world.

If you don't have space for a big trampoline, buy a small exercise trampoline. You can find them at most sporting goods stores. This is an especially good way for pre-schoolers to get their energy out.

Other activities that don't take a lot of room: Pogo stick, tether ball, four square and hula hoop.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

10 little things that will change your child's life

All parents want their kids to grow in to happy, successful adults. What will she like to do? Will he be kind? Will she be a leader? As parents, we want to give our kids the best future possible. That doesn't mean we need to give them everything they want or spend a lot of money on vacations or activities. Here are 10 simple things that may have a big effect your child's life.

A book:
Most of us remember a favorite bedtime story, thrilling read or character that was there for us when no one else was. Books have a special place in our hearts. A child's favorite book can influence what they want to be when they grow up or where they want to live.

A child's engagement with books can effect his future in a broader way as well. A study from the National Endowment for the Arts suggests poor reading skills tend to equate with lower pay, lack of or poor employment, and fewer chances for advancement. Poor readers are also less likely to be active in civic life, volunteer less, and vote less than better readers.

Reading really does make a lifetime of difference!

Doing the dishes:
Financial guru Dave Ramsey says, "You should view teaching your children to work in the same way you view teaching them to bathe and brush their teeth — as a necessary skill for life."

Chores teach kids the relationship between work and success. It will also prepare them to take on and fulfill assignments for future employers. As a bonus, your child develops a sense of his place in a community as he contributes to the family's success.

A teacher:
Your child will have many teachers over the years, but sometimes he makes a special connection with one that will change his life. Whether by igniting a love of a particular subject or by helping a child through a hard time in life, a teacher can earn a special place in his student's mind and heart

A friend:
Some people are born family, and some earn the title. Sometimes friends can have just as much influence on your child as you do. The wrong friends can send your child on a downward spiral and the right ones can support and uplift him to greater success.

Time with Dad:
A study posted on says, "Even from birth, children who have an involved father are more likely to be emotionally secure, be confident to explore their surroundings, and, as they grow older, have better social connections with peers. These children also are less likely to get in trouble at home, school, or in the neighborhood." Having an involved father was a better social indicator of future success than having money or social status. Enough said.

Music lessons:
Learning a musical instrument has numerous benefits for kids ranging from improving memory and mathematical abilities to creativity, self-expression and stress relief. If your child joins a band or orchestra it can improve his social skills and widen his peer group. Some budding musicians will even go on to music careers.

Your neighborhood:
Are you a little bit country? From the wrong side of the tracks? Totally suburban? Throughout their lives adults will identify themselves with their hometown, and neighborhood -- even after living away for years. Where you live affects your child's educational and recreational opportunities. Each place has its own culture that will influence your child's thoughts and ideas. The way you talk and how you feel about your neighborhood will also influence your child.

A puppy:
Having a pet has been shown to keep you healthier both emotionally and physically. Pets can teach kids responsibility and compassion. A study comparing children with dogs at home to those without, found that the children who were dog owners were significantly more empathic and pro-social. Pets can also provide a sense of security and reduce anxiety. For these reasons, animals are often used in therapy with children. The study also found that children with higher levels of attachment to pets reported more positive feelings about their family and home, than those with low attachment to pets.

Having a pet can teach your child to love more, be a better friend and have fonder memories of childhood.

A walk to the park:
The health benefits of exercise are two long to list. For kids, outside play is particularly important. Playing outside not only stimulates your child's imagination and promotes problem solving skills, it can help boost his immune system, give him needed Vitamin D and is a proven mood booster.

Besides the benefits of outside play, taking a walk with your kids provides beneficial bonding time for you and your kids. This is a great time to talk with your kids away from distractions. Some of your most meaningful, life changing conversations can happen on a walk.

A grandma:

Or, grandpa, aunt, uncle or cousin. Studies have shown that children with strong extended family ties tend to do better when faced with a problem. "The more children knew about their family's history, the stronger their sense of control over their lives, the higher their self-esteem and the more successfully they believed their families functioned," according to an Emory University study. Extended families often provide care and support when a parent is unavailable, or in conflicts between parents and children.

It's not the trip to Disneyland, the new iPod or even the best schools that will make your child's future bright. It's often little things you can do that turn out to make a big difference.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Parents, don't sweat the small stuff

  • A popular saying tells us, “Don’t sweat the small stuff,” is the key to a happy life. Parents have a long list of worries, but sometimes you just need to take a deep breath and let it go.
    Here are 10 small things parents shouldn’t sweat.
    1. What your kids wear. Unless what they are wearing is inappropriate for the situation (like a wedding or a funeral) let your kids express themselves with their outfits. They don’t need to be a mini you.
    2. Picky eaters. As long as they use good manners, don’t make your kids clean the plate. Dinner should be a pleasant discussion, not a family fight. Everyone has foods they hate (including you.) You can’t please everyone all the time, so let the picky eaters skate by with just a couple bites of some things.
    3. A little water. Kids get wet. They love it. They’ll dry. So will shoes, floors, couches and books. So will you.
    4. Missing socks. The kids like them better mismatched anyway, so don’t drive yourself crazy looking through every nook and cranny of the house for mates. Just grab your basket of mismatches and make some fun pairs.
    5. Messy hair. I remember my cousin screaming bloody murder as her mother immaculately French braided her hair. It all came out as we started crawling under the hedge. My son’s hair sticks up in back no matter how many times I wet it down. (He can’t keep still long enough for it to dry in place.) Keep it cared for, but keep it simple. Let your kids know their adventures are more important than their hairdo.
    6. Scattered toys. Your child’s imagination is bigger than one small bedroom or toy room. Let her make the magic a part of the living — no matter where she wants to play.
    7. Busy schedules. I often have to tell my tardy self, “We’ll get there when we get there.” Living with kids wreaks chaos on any schedule. Lost shoes, bathroom trips and spontaneous hide and seek tournaments can derail the best of plans. Getting angry and stressed does not stop time nor speed up your progress. In fact, it hinders it. So take time to smell the flowers, look at bugs, pick up rocks along the way or play a little longer before nap time. The fate of the world does not rest on your punctuality. You’re not going anywhere that important.
    8. The broken and the lost. When my daughter was young she broke an antique vase my grandmother had given me. She still remembers how I yelled. In the following years, I’ve realized — it was just a vase. It wasn’t my grandma or my memories of her. My life has gone on pretty much the same since the incident. Things get lost. Things get broken. They’re just things.
    9. Unsolicited advice. Everyone (other parents, non-parents, even kids) thinks they know the best way to be a parent. They’re all full of it. Sometimes people may hurt our feelings thoughtlessly. Sometimes they hurt them on purpose. Just let those comments slide right off. When you hold onto hurt, you’re the one carrying it — it affects the offender very little. Do the best you can and remember, you’ve put your foot in your mouth before, as well.
    10. Mistakes. Everyone makes them. I make them. My kids make them. My spouse makes them. We’re a family. Forgive and forget — even the big ones.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Kid-proofing tricks for your favorite electronics

  • You've spent bank on the latest and greatest device and you love it like a child. You want to keep your baby safe -- but you can't keep the kids away forever. How can you let your kids enjoy the great apps and games, but still protect it from their grubby little hands? Here are some tips for kid-proofing your electronics.
  • Buy kid tough cases.
  • You know your child is going to drop and/or step on, your phone or tablet. Make the investment in a durable case and it will save you the expense of a replacement down the road. Look into screen protectors to protect from scratches. Some stores even apply the protector for you if you're nervous about handling the thin polyester film yourself.
  • Stock-up on screen cleaners.
    • Whether you prefer moistened electronic wipes or a simple screen cleaning cloth, teach your kids the right way to clean off fingerprints. Show them where you keep the screen cleaners and make them easily accessible. If you don't, your kids may come up with their own cleaning ideas — and it won't be pretty.
  • Get something waterproof.
  • If your phone will be accompanying you and your kids to a day at the beach or poolside, bring a waterproof pouch to put it in. This will protect your baby from kids coming dripping wet and sitting on the phone, as well as from curious toddlers who like to see what happens when you throw things in the water. For a quick and easy fix, bring a sealable plastic sandwich bag.
  • Always have rice in the cupboard. 
  • If your child does, per chance, introduce your cell phone and water, end the relationship immediately. Turn your phone off so it does not short circuit. If your phone has been in water, assume it is water logged even if it is still working. Remove the cover, battery, sim card and unplug any accessory ports. Dry things off the best you can with a soft cloth, then bury the phone is a bowl of rice and leave it overnight. Rice is super absorbent and will draw out water. Don't try turning your phone on again until after 24 hours.
  • Designate and e-zone.
  • Tired of never being able to find your phone or tablet? Set up an electronic zone in your house where the kids are allowed to sit and use your devices. That way, they don't get carried all around the house and yard and left on the floor. It's also a good idea to prohibit food and drink in this e-zone.
  • Set passwords and turn off buying options.
  • If your kids can't get past the home screen, they are less likely to use the phone without permission and do unsupervised browsing and buying.You can turn off buying options all together on your phone to protect yourself from surprise charges on games or social media. Go to your phone's settings screen where you can find options to set restrictions on purchases, require a pin number for purchases, or turn them off.

  • Smartphones and tablets are a big investment in a sensitive but powerful tool. Go the extra mile to make sure your electronics are protected from little hands. With a little planning, you and your kids can enjoy using your favorite devices.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

My daughter and I are not friends -- but that's OK.

My two oldest daughters are 15 and 13. We are not friends. It's not that we don't have a good relationship. We talk, we have a good time together and we don't fight all that much. We're not friends because I don't want to be their friends.

If I were my daughter's friend, I couldn't be her parent --
and being her parent is much more important.

I don't need to entertain her. Friends are there for a good time, but it's not my job to make sure my kids are never bored. It's my job to make sure they do their homework and pull their weight around the house. It's also important for kids to know that you have other things going on that need your attention. It's not always just about them and what will entertain them.

I don't gossip. I speak don't speak poorly of my children's friends and classmates and I don't let them do it either. I don't speak poorly of other adults or teachers in front of my kids and I make sure they show respect for those around them.

I don't encourage her to do age-inappropriate things. You may not be the cool parent, but don't let your kids talk you into letting them act like adults in their habits, entertainment or relationships. They are not ready for them. When teens do adult things, like drink alcohol or have sexual relationships, it actually stunts their emotional growth.

I don't sit by her at football games. While family time is important, it is also important for your kids to socialize on their own with people their own age. In her adult life, my daughter is going to need to learn to deal with more than me. She'll have co-workers, neighbors and hopefully, someday, a family of her own. She needs to learn how to not only talk to and work out relationships with others, but make decisions on her own free from my hovering. (Plus, her friends are way more fun at football games.)

I'm honest with her. If my daughter's room, hair or personal life is a mess, I'm going to tell her. If she's doing something that could offend someone else, I'll tell her that, too. Kids are never going to learn to do the good stuff if no one points out the difference.

I say, "No." You don't get everything you want in life and everything you want is not good for you. Too many kids feel entitled to have everything on their Christmas list and every whim catered to. Telling your kids, "No," can not only keep them out of trouble, it can help them learn to deal with disappointment. It can teach them they don't get everything they want and that's OK.

I have expectations. Your friends don't expect much of you except to be fun and be able to text and use social media with prowess. I want so much more from my kids. I want them to do good things. I want them to be responsible. I want them to contribute to the community around them. I want them to grow up and make the world a little better for being in it. That means I expect things from them. I expect them to work hard. I expect them to think of and do things that don't only benefit them.

I never never withhold my attention or affection and don't try to win hers. Friendships can be fickle. I'm in this relationship for the long haul. When she hurts me I'll let her know I love her anyway. But, I won't bend over backwards to get her to like me. Friends come and go, but I'll never give up on her and I'll always be there.

So while I can't think of anyone who wouldn't be lucky to have my daughter as a friend, I'll stick with being the parent. It will be better for me, and her in the long run.