We’ve come up with some fun and innovative ways to make parenting your kids one tip-at-a-time easier. And if you have any parenting tips of your own to share, we would love to hear from you! Email your tips to [email protected].
Changing the tone
Does it push your buttons when the kids use that whiny tone? Or the demanding tone? Focus on the Family Broadcast guest Amber Lia suggests calmly saying, “How could you say that differently?” When kids are really worked up, however, they may need help to do better. Amber suggests helping them by saying, “Hey, breathe. I’m listening. Did you mean to say it like this?” then you model how to make the request respectfully.
Making right choices
Josh McDowell describes how, when his kids were growing up, he used the 4Cs principle to tutor his kids in making wise choices: Consider the choice; Compare it to God (His character and what He would want for you); Commit to God’s way; Count on His blessing. As a dad, McDowell looked for opportunities to help his kids look back and see how God had blessed their obedience and great choices.
The Batman Effect
Having trouble keeping your child on task while completing homework? Sensing a meltdown coming? Try having your child imagine they are an admired fictional character who is known for perseverance. This strategy – dubbed The Batman Effect – can improve young kids’ focus and help with self-calming in stressful situations by creating distance between the child’s emotions and the situation at hand.
Just three rules
How many rules do you have for your kids? Five? 10? 15? Focus on the Family Broadcast guest Becky Kopitzke simplified her family life by setting three primary rules that encompassed all the other little rules: “Obey the first time”; “No disrespectful talk”; “No hurting someone on purpose” (including hurt feelings). Hear Becky discuss this idea on a broadcast.
Kids can quickly grow discouraged if attempts to make friends come up short. Encourage your child that it takes repeated attempts to connect with others, and that friendships are built through a number of shared experiences. Teach relationship skills too. Does your child know how to ask questions to start a conversation? How to listen well? Is their conversation self-absorbed, or with balanced give and take? Are they inflexible, or able to cooperate?
Kindness and strength
It’s important to teach kids from an early age to protect themselves from harm from others in a way that’s kind but firm. For example, affirm your child in saying respectfully to a sibling, “I want to play with you, but not when you treat me like that. We can play again later, when you’re feeling better.” Hear counsellor Sissy Goff discuss this topic on this broadcast.
Got anxious kids? Or kids who can’t cool down once they’re angry? Put together a calm-down kit they can take to a quiet place to help them learn relax-and-regain-control strategies. Some helpful items to include are playdough, pictures with colouring pencils, bubbles or a pinwheel to blow, a stuffed animal to “ride up and down” on their stomach as they lie back and breathe in and out, a picture book about emotions, and idea cards with suggestions like “hum a song,” “whisper a prayer,” “count to 50,” “listen to music,” “listen to a story,” “snuggle in a soft blanket” and “ask for a hug.” It’s worth learning more about calm-down kits online and why these items (and others) help.
Ice breaker stuffies
Your child’s angry or upset, but won’t talk about it. Or they’re simply refusing to cooperate today. Break the ice by grabbing a couple of stuffed toys to use as puppets. Have the stuffies talk to each other, trying to guess what’s wrong. They’ll quickly thaw a chilly attitude!
Compliment relationship skills
We readily notice when our kids please us, but don’t forget to compliment your kids when they please others too. Encourage relationship skills by saying something like, “You made Grandma really happy when you asked about games she played as a child. People feel loved when you ask about things that are important to them.”
Monitor pretend play
Pay close attention to your child’s pretend play; it’s a window into what’s going on with your child. Are inappropriate or over-sexualised themes coming up? Is one toy bullying another? It may be a sign your child is being negatively influenced by media, peers or something else.
Do your kids rush to greet Dad when he arrives home? It’s a great time to build hospitality skills! Teach your kids to greet him warmly with small talk like How was your day? Or How was your drive home? And May I take your coat? Show them how to hang Dad’s coat nicely, and how to politely introduce Dad to any friends who are visiting.
Stop mealtime texting
Tired of your kids continually checking texts from their friends during mealtimes? Try approaching it the same way teachers do when they catch kids passing notes in class: Have your son or daughter read aloud the text that was so important, it had to interrupt your conversation!
Getting to the heart of the matter
Good discipline goes beyond correcting misbehaviour; it also helps kids realise their sin and need for the Saviour. When you need to resolve a sibling spat, try asking: What were you thinking and feeling in your heart that motivated you to do that? Next, encourage the kids to identify their sin and apologise to each other for letting sin win. Then close with: And this is why Jesus died for us. So you are forgiven; you are free. – Suggested by Focus on the Family broadcast guest Jeannie Cunnion
Guiding through consequences
When your child begins to misbehave, don’t redirect their behaviour by threatening to get angry. Instead, calmly explain what the consequences will be. You want your child to choose good behaviour from internal motivation, rather than feeling controlled an angry parent (an external motivator). – From Boundaries With Kids.
The power of surprise
Here’s a cute way to get youngsters to cooperate without fuss: feign surprise at their abilities! Wistfully say something like, It’s too bad you’re not old enough to help me by straightening the covers on your bed! Then go overboard exclaiming amazement when your little one hastens to show off their bed-making talent.
Three ways to stop tattling
When youngsters fall into a habit of tattling on others, here are three approaches to try: (1) Say, "If Kelly’s not in danger, then Kelly can tell me about Kelly. Would you like to tell me something about you?" (2) Ask, "Are you trying to save Kelly from trouble, or get Kelly into trouble?" (3) Ask primary ages, "Is there danger? Can you solve the problem? Can it wait?"
We expect prompt obedience from our kids. But we also set our kids up well for life when we teach polite negotiation skills. If you sense your child is mature enough, consider teaching them that some of your requests are "open to negotiation." Some families have their kids politely ask, "Can we have a compromise?"
“Try to give clear explanations for what you want and – if possible – why you want it. Then to avoid miscommunication, try asking your child to repeat back to you what you just said. You may be surprised to find that the message received is quite different from the one you meant to send.” – From Stress and Your Child by Dr. Archibald D. Hart.
Help your children relax in social settings by tutoring them ahead of time in the art of making conversation. Suggest topics they might like to talk about and rehearse helpful conversation starters (e.g. "What are you looking forward to over the holidays, Grandpa?"; "Is that pretty necklace new, Aunty? "Would you like to hear about . . .") Help your kids offer more than just yes or no answers too. For example, to answer "Do you enjoy school?" they might reply, "It’s okay, but what I really enjoy is . . .."
When you need to correct your child’s behaviour, make sure your child understands exactly what the "right" behaviour looks like. One great way to do this is to use a positive statement. For example, instead of saying, "Don’t run!" say, "We walk in the house." Or instead of saying, "Where are your manners?" say, "We always say please and thank you when we ask for something." Simple "house rules" like these, repeated often, will help your child understand and remember your standards for behaviour.
Time outs for mum (or dad)
Sometimes it’s not the kids who need a time out! When you feel your emotions rising and your self-control waning, remove yourself from the action. Explain to your kids that you are upset and need a time out until you feel calm enough to deal with the situation respectfully. This simple habit will help you avoid overreactions on your part, and is also a great way to model a self-control strategy in front of the kids.
Your kids deserve the best you have to offer, so work at laying down the stresses and strains of your work day before you arrive home. Here’s a tip to help: Choose a landmark on your way home – perhaps a specific intersection or billboard about halfway home. Decide not to think about work issues once you’ve passed your milestone. Instead, pray for peace of mind and spend the remainder of your trip focused on how you can serve your kids and spouse tonight.
Teaching respectful problem solving
Experiencing conflict with your tween or teen? Resist the urge to impose an ultimatum. Instead, ask questions that fuel productive discussion. Try asking “Please help me to understand why you . . .”, “How can we resolve this?” or “Is there a solution we can both live with?”
I cut, you choose
The simple principle, “I cut, you choose,” is a big help when it comes to teaching kids to share and to distribute portions fairly. The first child quickly becomes motivated to cut the cake or divide the sweets evenly when the second child gets to pick their portion first!
As your child reaches the tween years, they’ll want some control of their agenda. If you’ve been in the habit of accepting social appointments on your child’s behalf, it’s time to learn to say, “I’ll check with the rest of the family and get back to you on that.”
Excuse me, please
Knowing how to interrupt a conversation appropriately is an important social skill, but it’s a difficult skill for children to master. Teach your children an unspoken signal to use when they need your attention, then role-play different scenarios to help your child understand how to interrupt politely.
When guests come over to your home, your kids may feel out of place or uncertain about their role. To help them feel included, involve them in the process of welcoming guests by assigning them special jobs. For example, one child could be responsible for showing guests where to put their jackets or bags, another could give tours of the house (if you dare!), while all could share the task of drawing placemats or name tags for each guest. If it’s a celebration or birthday party, encourage your children to draw cards or make a special birthday hat for that person.
Have a ‘yes’ day
Sami Cone, author of Raising Uncommon Kids, suggests parents set up a day when they make an intentional effort to say yes to any requests their kids make. "I think what it did for me is that it helped me realise how many times I was saying no," says Cone. "And when you hear that over and over again as a child, it makes you resentful. . . . You’d be surprised at the simple requests that your kids have that we just learn to say no to." Hear Cone discuss this on our broadcast.
If you want to be a parent who really does know what’s going on in the hearts of your kids, it’s important to always play it cool and calm. Because if you habitually overreact over small, everyday things, it’s less likely your child will confide in you when they’re in serious trouble. So even on days when you feel overstretched or under appreciated, resolve to be a no-drama mama.
Agree, disagree discussions
Build your children’s critical thinking skills around the dinner table by making a statement like Secrets are good, then let your kids state why they agree or disagree. On a Focus on the Family broadcast, counsellor Julie Lowe discusses how this idea works with her own kids, saying, “We’re teaching them the skill of thinking and debating out why they agree or disagree with something. We’re also getting a picture into how they’re thinking and whether we should be concerned or not. And they’re all learning from each other.”
Danny Huerta, Focus on the Family’s vice president of parenting and youth, likes to ask his kids, “Who gets a vote? Who gets a vote in saying who you are and what’s valuable? Who gets that influence in your life?” It’s a helpful way to open a conversation and get kids thinking about how much they are allowing their friend group or other influences to shape their self-perception. Danny also suggests leaving notes on the mirror like “I love your sense of humour” to affirm for kids how they’ve been uniquely created by God for the purposes he has for them. “That’s where a lot of lies come through,” says Danny, “through the mirror.”
The Anniversary Effect
What dates in the year do you anticipate will bring up difficult memories for your kids? Anniversaries might be important in the life of your family: a divorce, death, car accident, fire, hospitalisation or even boyfriend breakup. Be ready for out-of-character behaviour in your kids and give opportunities for them to talk about their thoughts and feelings. Invite older kids to think ahead about how they want to commemorate the date. If kids are ready, doing something positive to help others can be healing.
Establish secret signals so you can silently encourage your child from a distance – from the soccer sidelines, or from the concert audience – without embarrassing them in front of their peers. It’s as easy as coming up with some simple hand gestures and rehearsing with your child what they mean. For example, two thumbs up might mean “Nice job!” while two thumbs pointing sideways might mean, “Don’t worry, you’ll get to try again.”
Book time for books
Having trouble getting your kids off screens and into reading books? Establish a set time for reading each day and do it together as a family activity. That way, no one can feel like they’re being deprived or forced to read while a sibling (or parent!) is enjoying screen time. Switch it up by reading individually, reading aloud to your kids, or having kids take turns reading to the family.
Send your child off to school with a cute reminder of your love – and a little self-esteem boost! Say, I’m trying to put my finger on all the things I love about you – but I need your help. Then, take your child’s hand and write a single letter on the pad of each fingertip to represent ten qualities you love about your child. For example, A for adventurous, C for creative, H for helpful etc.
What small change would make a really big difference for your family? Check out this quick list from eight different mums – the small change each one made in their home, and why they’re so glad they switched things up: See list here
The Same Game
Although much of daily life changed significantly in 2020, focusing on how much has stayed the same can bring kids a sense of comfort, calm and gratitude. Play the Same Game any time you wish by having your kids suggest things they love that they can still enjoy, even during the pandemic – whether it be autumn colours, riding their bike, their favourite soup, or playing with the family pet. – From Laurel Kirchner, author of our Kids on Integrity lesson plans
Children can jump to false conclusions about new experiences, harbouring odd ideas that a parent might never guess at – the parent only notices that their child’s reaction seems uncooperative, or really over the top. Child won’t potty train? Maybe he’s worried you won’t love him once he’s a “big boy.” Hysterical about her first bee sting? Maybe she’s worried it will sting forever.
Kids say one of the downsides of playing sports is the ride home with parents after the game. They’re physically exhausted and wrung out emotionally, and apt to take even well-meaning comments from parents as criticism of themselves, their coach or a teammate. One of the safest things to say is simply “I loved watching you play today.” Then leave it to your child to decide if they want to talk more about the game; they may first need time to recover.
Help your child build coping skills when disappointments come their way by modelling this powerful habit: After empathising with their sadness, ask How could we turn this disappointment into something good? Then be sure to let your child lead the way in finding something positive to do or think about instead. For example, a playdate may have been cancelled, but your child might realise they can still go to the park.
The 10-year rule
You don’t want to always nag. So when should you discipline your child, and when can you just “let it go”? Karis Kimmel Murray suggests thinking 10 years ahead. For example, if your three-year-old is lying, you don’t want her to be doing that at 13, so that’s a discipline issue.
Build confidence and a can-do attitude in your child: let them help you fix things around your home! Kids are fascinated to learn how things work, and you can teach them a lot from how you work too: how to make a plan, consult instructions and yes, even how to handle frustration!
Kids often face issues they find too embarrassing to talk about, and that can create distance between you and your child. A distressing incident at school, such as being teased for accidentally sneezing booger on a friend’s sleeve, can be just too painful to explain to Mum or Dad. When you sense something is upsetting your child, try breaking the ice by trading a special "just between us" notebook back and forth. Leave it under your child’s pillow with a question like, Is something bothering you that’s hard to talk about? and let them return it under your pillow when they’re ready to write about what’s upset them.
Sign language for under twos
Why is your toddler upset? Do they want food? A drink? A nap? What if they could tell you using simplified sign language? Search online for “baby sign” you could teach your pre-verbal little one – another great way to have fun bonding together.
Does your youngster have a hard time being apart from you? As you say goodbye, draw a heart on your child’s palm, then fill it with a kiss for your child to “keep safe” until you return. Draw one on your own palm too, and have your child fill it with a kiss, so they know you’re thinking of them.
The gift of being heard
Youth expert Jonathan McKee says teens often tell him, My parents don’t listen to me! Don’t be one of those parents! When there’s conflict, don’t rush to judge says McKee, but invite your teen to speak respectfully in their own defence. Say something like, Was there a reason why you didn’t clear away the dishes like I asked? You’ll help your kids build the life skill of being able to calmly defend their decisions – or recognise their bad ones!
Change the tape, shed the baggage
What loop tape plays in your head when you’re in conflict with your child? Lynne Jackson used to think, I’m an angry mum raising an angry child. And when he gets to be a teenager, it’s going to be horrible. Convicted to speak the truth in love, she changed her thoughts to I’m an intense mum raising an intense child. And we butt heads, but we love each other. Dropping that pre-set negative attitude made all the difference. Hear the broadcast.
Resist distraction: Stop, look and listen
Take the term "Stop, look and listen" to a new level for your parenting! When your child tries to tell you something, intentionally stop what you are doing, look them in the eye and show you are listening with your whole body, not just your ears. This simple act tells your child they are important to you. – Suggested by Focus on the Family broadcast guest Jill Savage.
Help kids learn how connect with and entertain others by showing them how it was done before smartphones! Keep a pack of playing cards in your purse or your car, then pull them out and start a game whenever you’ve got time to kill: in restaurants, waiting for a ferry or plane, or waiting for a sibling’s class to end.
Resolve not to use mealtimes as a time to tease your tween or teen. Teens are feeling a pull away from family and toward their peers, so it’s important to keep this time of family connection as positive as possible.
Safeguarding faith after high school
While studying faith retention in young adults, Dr. Kara Powell found that the first two weeks of campus life were crucial for university first year students: make or break habits tended to be established right away. Prepare your student with info about faith groups on campus and local churches they might attend, and stay in close contact in those first few weeks to offer encouragement.
Buying time to think
When your child says something unsettling – perhaps something like I don’t ever want to get married – don’t jump in to try to change their opinion. Instead, put James 1:19 into practice by asking What makes you say that? or Why do you ask? Exploring your child’s thinking shows respect for their point of view and buys you time to consider how best to respond.
Ensure all’s fair in love
We think we treat our children equally, but our children don’t always feel that way. In The Stickyfaith Guide for Your Family, Dr. Kara Powell cites a study of 25 families that found the most common theme in children who walked away from their parents’ faith was that they thought their parents played favourites. Make a point of taking each of your children aside to ask, Do you think we treat all the kids in our family equally and fairly?
Written all over your face
When your groggy child stumbles into the kitchen in the morning, does your face light up in a smile? Don’t pounce to point out their messy hair or crumpled shirt. Always greet your child cheerfully – as if they made your day just by showing up. Let them know that your love, just like God’s love and mercy, is new every morning.
The three Rs of forgiveness
"Love . . . willingly works to bring everyone back to the table. . . . And so love reminds us to release our anger, reach out, and restore. We must keep forgiving our children as we have been forgiven." – From The Love Dare for Parents by Stephen and Alex Kendrick
Reaching across the gender gap
"Mothers continually tell me how using the respect message has led to a whole new level of meaningful connection with their sons. . . . Yes, you love him, but the best way to communicate your love is show respect to the very spirit of your son . . . Many mothers feel so much love for their sons that it blinds them to the need the boy has for respect.” – From Love and Respect in the Family by Dr. Emerson Eggerichs
Top up your child’s love tank
We all know kids need their parents’ love and attention. But when life gets busy, one-on-one time with each child often gets whittled away. To safeguard this special time, set a date with your child every month (on the same day of the month as their age is a good way to remember). Let your child choose an activity you can do together on your "just-you-and-me date."
Express your love
Affirming attention – hugs, kisses and quality time – will positively build up your toddler’s sense of worth. Plus, these acts of positive reinforcement can also encourage your toddler to follow the rules.
Tell your own stories
Children love stories. Instead of reaching for a fiction book, have regular storytelling sessions about your childhood and your parents. Throughout mankind’s history, such familial stories have strengthened the bonds connecting people to the world around them. It gives your children a stronger sense of belonging, while also showing them sides of their parents and grandparents that they might have never known otherwise.
Having trouble drawing your teen into conversation at the dinner table? Many teens are fascinated by their family tree. Do a little sleuthing and try to share an interesting tidbit about a distant relative every now and again. Maybe your teen will catch the bug for researching their genealogy!
Want to spice up the conversation over mealtime? Make it a habit to tell a new joke at every evening meal. Soon, everyone will get in on the act, and you’ll have some doozies to laugh over together. Search online for your daily nugget.
Do you find it hard to teach your children the importance of faith?
Read our ideas for keeping kids involved and enthusiastic about time with God. Read more
Breaking the ice
Planning a visit with “long-lost” friends or relatives? You may be eagerly anticipating this reunion, but what about your kids? Many children are uncomfortable when surrounded by unfamiliar adults and “new” kids. To relieve the awkwardness of initial interactions, purchase a jigsaw puzzle or another project that the whole group can work on together. Your kids will find getting to know others more relaxing when they feel the group is focused on the project, rather than on them.
Carving out family quality time
Nanette S. recently shared with us how her busy family finds ways to spend quality time together. She wrote, “We really wanted to work on spending quality time with our children. We started off with a games night, like you hear and see around so often. We found this really difficult with our prior commitments to church, family, etc. What we have found is fabulous for us. Since we eat meals together anyway, we take an extra 10 minutes each day and enjoy a cup of tea or hot chocolate after our meal, around the table. Our girls get a chance to talk about what’s up with them for as long as they want. We have also started holding hands when we pray. Not only is it nice to connect as a family, but I have found how quickly you can learn whether anyone is angry with another family member.”
Are you searching for new ways to spend quality time with your kids? Baking together can be a fantastic way to bond and teach kids a love for cooking. Allow your child to choose a favourite recipe: a cake, muffins, cupcakes, cookies, a pie or a dessert square. For particularly messy recipes, pre-portioning ingredients (i.e. pre-cracking the eggs into a bowl or measuring flour ahead of time) can help cut down on messes and make it easier for young children to participate. After the baking has cooled, eat up and enjoy each other’s company over a glass of milk!
An old English tradition with a modern twist! Starting when your kids are young, keep Sunday nights free for a hearty, stay-at-home meal. Whether it’s a traditional roast with Yorkshire pudding or homemade pizza, everyone can look forward to starting the week off right – together. As your children grow, encourage them to invite their friends (and eventually, significant others!) to your weekly sit-down dinners. Once they are out on their own, rotate homes each week (if they live in the area). Have that week’s host cook the main dish, while everyone else brings the trimmings.
Soothing new sibling apprehension
If you have a child who’s feeling uncertain about the arrival of a new sibling, try to establish a weekly or monthly “Mum Date,” “Dad Date” or even a “Mum and Dad Date,” spending quality time just the two or three of you. Also, involve your child in the preparations for your baby’s arrival. Invite them to help decorate the nursery, pick out clothes or toys or prepare a “Welcome Home” sign. Find ways to involve your child in caring for your newborn – whether it’s fetching nappies, holding the baby or helping push the stroller. Most of all, remind your child that he or she is just as special to you as ever. And help them to know they have a very important role as big brother or big sister.
Show kids how to avoid the regret of impulse buys on larger items like a toy or an item of clothing. Before they blow their spending money, encourage them to walk away and think about the purchase for a day or so. Show them how to ask about a store’s return policy too. To go further, look for a fun board game that teaches financial skills.
Help your kids learn how to discern truth and error in advertising, and the subtle messages advertisers use to sell products and services. Don’t just passively watch commercials together, but ask your kids questions: What is the underlying message? How does it appeal to our emotions? What parts are exaggerated? Will this product really make you cool, more popular, more respected? – An idea from the book Your Kids Can Master Their Money
When money is tight
“If you don’t explain to the kids what is happening [when money is tight], they’re going to make something up . . . and it’s going to be fearful and frightful. You may think you’re having conversations in private, but your kids know if you’re stressed out over money. . . . But it will be the worst-case scenario in a child’s mind. So, explaining it in a very practical, pragmatic way to your kid in an age-appropriate way is the best way to go.” – Broadcast guest Brian Lowe
Inexpensive "fast food"
Enjoy the fun of fast food with this nutritious and budget-friendly alternative: When you do get fast food, save the empty bags, extra napkins and condiment packets. Next time, place a homemade lunch in the saved packaging. You can act out a pretend fast-food scenario with your kids, from ordering to paying, and even include a small prize in their bag.
Sizing them up
You’ve found a cute outfit at the store, but will it fit your child? Always be sure by adding two items to your purse: a tape measure and a “business card” for each of your kids with their relevant body measurements – or you can store the info as a memo on your smart phone. Update your record at least twice a year; daylight savings time change might be a helpful reminder.
Here’s the measurements to record: chest, waist, back of the neck to waistline, neck circumference, neck to shoulder seam, shoulder to wrist; for pants, record waist, pant inseam (crotch to cuff line); for skirts, record waist and length from waist to preferred hem line. If Grandma loves to buy for your kids, give her a copy of each “measurement card” too.
Money-saving tip for the toy chest
After a while, young children often get bored with their toys, and it can be pricey to regularly purchase new ones. Here’s a money-saving tip to help! If you have very young children who probably won’t notice the difference, try setting aside some of their toys for several months, putting them “out of sight and out of mind” in a closet or other storage area. When you sense they might be losing interest in their current toys, swap out the old ones for the “new.” Young children often find even older toys more interesting after they’ve been stored away for a period of time.
Tuck truck alternative
Do you dread the tinkling tune that alerts your kids that the ice cream truck is nearby? Spare yourself the exorbitant prices, and placate the kids by keeping a box of special ice cream treats in the freezer. When “the ice cream tune” plays, you’ll be ready with a budget-friendly alternative.
Though it may seem like common sense, navigating a grocery store is like running an obstacle course. Like many parents, we may begin confidently with a written list, but are easily distracted by the store’s maze, directing us to desirable, yet budget-busting items we don’t need. If you don’t know this already, most grocery stores have all the nutritious basics like fresh produce, meat and dairy along the perimeter of the store. Meanwhile, items which are pre-packaged, processed and pricier typically live in the middle aisles. And as a last-ditch effort to add to our final total, all the tempting goodies and forget-me-not extras like magazines, sweets, razor refills and batteries are displayed at the checkout. So, the next time you bring your kids to a grocery store, show them how to navigate the outer rim of the store first, before going into the aisles for the extras (or falling for the checkout-goodies trap) – and most importantly, to stick to their list!
Spring cleaning for a good cause
Kids grow up fast. And soon enough, you’ll find that all those outgrown clothes, toys and books are piling up just as quick. To de-clutter your home, try holding a garage sale and give the proceeds to a local charity or church ministry. Your kids can make signs to put up around the neighbourhood and help set up tables. You might even want to hold a joint garage sale with your neighbours. This is a great way to spend a Saturday together as a family, connect with your neighbourhood and teach your kids about material possessions and charitable giving. Garage sales also provide kids the opportunity to put their maths skills to use: Give them some change and assist them with transactions. You’ll not only clear the house of clutter; you’ll teach your kids important values and skills.
Family CD or DVD exchange
Do your kids get tired of watching your well-used family DVDs or listening to the same CDs over and over? Try swapping with another family you know well. Ask them what their favourite types of movies and music are, and share with them your own preferences. Have each family make a list of the DVDs and CDs they’re willing to loan or trade, including ones they may be willing to give away. Keep in mind the ages of the children and any guidelines the parents might use when choosing movies or music for their family. Keep a list for yourself and provide a list to the other family . . . then make the big swap!
Activities for teens
Boredom getting your teen down when stuck at home? Here are some suggestions to offer your teen:
Let them help scientists with all kinds of research through the crowdsourcing site Zooniverse.org, from identifying marine life to finding new stars.
Direct them to Google Arts and Culture where they can virtually tour over 500 museums and art galleries.
Let them set up their own DIY escape room complete with a creative storyline, puzzles and made-it-myself props, then invite family members to figure it out, or store it all away to share with friends at a later date.
Encourage them to create a playlist for a 10-minute dance-off for the family to get some exercise – one for each day of the week.
Let them plan a party or special activity to celebrate the end of social distancing.
Encourage regular social connections online with their friends: Let them regularly prepare a meal then meet friends over dinner at a “virtual restaurant” via video chat, or regularly meet online to pray with friends, share cool new online finds, discuss a movie or do a trivia quiz.
After hauling kids and gear out of the car for a day at the fair or the amusement park, or even for a trip to the mall, take a snapshot with your phone to help you remember where you parked the car. You don’t want to be searching for the car later, with tired kids in tow. If you have an alarm on your car’s key fob, you can use that to help locate your car too. Hold your key fob right under your chin to give the signal a little more range.
Dinner and a movee
Do you have a child who can’t sit still – even during mealtime? Encourage your kids to “store up their wiggles” by sitting as still as possible during dinner. Reward a good effort by playing music right after dinner so they can dance off their wiggles.
Enjoy hot drinks once again!
Have you discovered that peculiar law of physics that kicks in when you become a parent? Simply stated, it goes like this: The temperature of your beverage is directly related to your child’s need for your attention. If you’re wondering if you will ever enjoy a fresh, hot cup of tea or coffee again, here’s a tip: Pour freshly-brewed coffee into a thermal carafe, and steep tea in a thermal carafe, adding a generous quantity of water. You’ll have a hot brew that’s ready when you are – finally.
Retreat to a happy place
You’ve been stuck in a lineup at the grocery store checkout for ten minutes, and your kids are just one more price check away from announcing their frustration to the entire store. You need a distraction – now! Try playing “Guess This Place.” To start this simple game, think of a place your family loves to visit, and share a clue that will help the kids guess the location. It may be a favourite holiday resort, or simply your local playground. Try to incorporate a special event in the clue, such as “Jason found a ring here, and we returned it to the lady who had lost it.” You’ll be surprised how many wonderful memories come to mind!
What do you do when your youngest pulls a favourite book from the shelf, but the older children cry “Not that one again”? To keep everyone happy, try changing every statement and action to opposites. Your story may not make a lot of sense, but it will get plenty of laughs.
Hitting the pause button
The table’s all set and the food’s ready, but your little one just can’t tear themself away from their all-important game. Here’s a tip to help avoid tears or a power struggle: give your youngster the TV remote. Have them aim it at their toys and push the "pause" button. Reassure them that, just like a movie put on hold, their toys will still be there waiting for them when dinner’s over.
Bathtub bull’s eye
Need an activity to keep the kids busy? Here’s a simple, fun idea from mother-of-three Kelly S. for keeping your kids occupied while you finish up dinner, gather the laundry, make that phone call or, even better, enjoy a few relaxing moments to yourself! All you need are some blank sheets of paper, markers (washable markers are ideal), tape and a squirt gun for each child. On each sheet of paper (one per child), draw a big target with a bull’s eye in the middle. Then tape each sheet to the back of the bathtub wall, give each child a squirt gun full of water and tell them to aim for the bull’s eye. They’ll have a blast squirting their little hearts out! (Tip: To keep your kids extra busy, have more than one target sheet for each child.)
Restaurant rescue plan
Eating out can be challenging when you have kids. To help minimise stress, prepare a Restaurant Kit. Include toys and books; snacks for impatient, hungry little ones; wet wipes, nappies and a change pad; and a list of games – like “I Spy” – to play while waiting for your food to arrive.
Lots o’ luscious layers
Need a distraction to keep the kids busy while you prepare dinner? Invest in some plastic parfait glasses and let them stack up the layers themselves for dessert. Easy combos for kids to prepare include canned fruit, jelly, yogurt, granola, sliced banana or instant pudding mix.
Is getting out the door in the morning a hassle for your family? Is someone constantly searching for their keys, homework, backpack, gloves or purse? Try purchasing some inexpensive baskets, plastic tubs or decorative (yet sturdy) boxes – one for each family member. Place these near the front door, in an easily accessible closet or in a common gathering area, like the kitchen or living room. Encourage your kids to deposit their belongings in their container as soon as they come home; that way, items will be easy to find later. This idea can work great for Mum and Dad, too!
Want to teach your kids to make their beds? Kay Wills Wyma gave each of her kids a jar filled with $30, then removed one dollar for every day that their bed was unmade. It was a powerful reminder that forgetfulness means a smaller reward at the end of the month!
Spring cleaning fun
Let the kids help you with spring cleaning! Even if they can’t really help all that much yet, making it fun will help teach them to be enthusiastic about pitching in and doing their part. Put old socks on their hands and let them wash baseboards and walls. Sprinkle coins under cushions or rugs and let them keep what they find when they’re vacuuming. Make chores a game by putting on music and see who can “freeze” without giggling when the music stops!
Let the kids take care of a simple chore for you – a chore they’ll love doing. Dump their plastic toys in the bathtub with them, and let them scrub their toys as well as their toes.
Leaves? Not a trace
Kids won’t help to rake up the leaves? Give this a try! Collect some plastic bottle caps and write a number on each one with a permanent marker. Hide the bottle caps under the leaves in your yard. Then, make up a list of small rewards associated with each number, such as "extra dessert," or "get your nails painted." The thrill of discovering their next reward will motivate the kids to keep raking.
Randomise chore duties
If your children spend a lot of time arguing about who has to do certain chores, make it random! Assign a number to each chore but don’t tell your kids what chore corresponds to each number. Let them select their numbers, then reveal what their chore is. It keeps things fun and minimises arguing.
Little laundry helpers
Louise M. from Eden Mills, ON, shared with us the following helpful tip: “My daughters enjoyed sorting their laundry when they were toddlers – they could recognise their colours and throw the clothes into piles. If you have three predominant colours, just leave the largest load alone – it will remain in a pile when the others are sorted out. Now if only as teenagers they cared. One has grey undies from washing with denim. The other washed the white undies with a red load. She wanted to know if she could have new underwear, because she didn’t like the pink ones!”
Make cleaning up a game
Do your kids resist cleaning up their toys? Try this: Place a large box in the centre of the room and set a timer. Explain that any toys not put away after 15 minutes will enter the “spaceship box” for a return trip to planet Lax, which takes a week.
Toddler clean-up and learn
Instead of cleaning up after your toddler, teach him to help with kid-sized tasks by turning chores into fun educational games. While folding laundry, teach your little one about shapes and colours by showing him how to match socks and towel sets. Or, help your child with numbers by having him count how many toys he can put into the toy box. Watch your little one learn and become your little helper at the same time!
Work and earn
Give each child a sheet on the fridge with a list of chores they are expected to do each day. Allow them to put a sticker by the chore they’ve completed if they do it without grumbling. If, at the end of the week, they do all the chores without grumbling, they receive their allowance. If not, no allowance. Simple!
Organise your family chores
Chores may not always be fun, but they’re a great way to teach kids housekeeping skills, discipline and responsibility. At the beginning of each week, write up a to-do list specifying each family member’s assigned chores. Make sure you provide a time-frame to complete each task, such as by Wednesday, each morning or by the end of the week. Involve your kids as you assign the chores; one child may prefer a certain task or may want to switch every now and then. It’s a good idea to provide a place to check off each chore as it’s accomplished, or even to reward family members for chores accomplished early. Once all the chores have been checked off, enjoy your clean home and celebrate with a fun family outing or treat.
Cleaning time can mean fun time
Daniel S. from Canada, shared with us how he and his wife, Amy, make cleaning the house a fun, easy-to-do family activity. Using a timer set at 15 minutes, they pick a room or area and see how much each family member can clean, straighten, dust, vacuum or pick up in 15 minutes. After the timer goes off, they pick another room or area and set the timer again. Daniel says that this helps keep things fun and varied, while also making the time go by quicker. Try involving your kids and make a game out of who can clean their room the fastest.
Is your child less than enthusiastic about returning to school after summer vacation? Be sure to normalise these feelings and assure your child that even teachers can struggle with the transition too! Help your child understand that hurtful past events need not define their view of the new school year. Remind them too of their past successes in handling difficult situations – either in social situations or academics. Read more here.
When you ask your kids about their school day, do you always get the same old response: It was fine! To get your kids talking, make sure you’re asking questions that help kids remember specific events during their day. Try some new questions like: How were you brave today? Is there anything you wish had gone differently today? Did you learn anything that surprised you? Did you hear or read anything that confused you? See more after-school questions here
Kick off kids’ homework with 20 minutes of exercise first – it will improve their focus. Give exercise breaks while doing homework too: 5 minutes for every 15 minutes of work for primary ages, and every 20-30 minutes for middle and high schoolers. Let kids run in place, dance to an upbeat hit, run a lap around the yard, walk like an elephant or animal of their choice, play Simon Says, or write their name in the air with fingers, knees, toes.
Spur kids’ reading
Struggling to get your kids excited about reading? Maybe they just haven’t found a genre that intrigues them yet. Don’t forget that you can find ideas and book reviews at PluggedIn.com. Click "Filter" to sort the reviews by genre so you can zero-in on areas of interest.
Build their library
Once kids are old enough to make their own book choices at the library, parents tend to dial back on selecting books for their kids. Remember though that you can have a powerful spiritual influence on your child – even when they’re in university – by continuing to provide them with engaging books and articles.
Practice makes perfect
Tired of urging your child to practice their musical instrument or make progress on their reading list? Instead of nagging, spend a few minutes watching them instead (without criticising). Your undivided attention will be more motivating than continual reminders.
Make the most of all-too-brief parent-teacher conferences by ensuring you cover topics like these: your child’s strengths; your child’s learning style; how your child is doing socially; is homework being handed in?; is your child organised?; is your child focused or distracted?; does your child need extra help?; what’s the best way to communicate with your child’s teacher?
Learning from mistakes
Mistakes can quickly discourage young learners. So when you check your child’s schoolwork, use an erasable coloured pencil to mark errors. Then, once your child has re-worked the question and found the correct answer, you can erase the error mark and add an encouraging check mark instead.
Softening report card discussions
Need to have a difficult discussion about the grades your child brought home on their report card? Help your child be less defensive by making yourself vulnerable first: draw up a "parenting report card" and ask your child to give you a grade in one or two areas! For example, ask for a grade for "being available to chat." You can conclude your discussion with "We both have things we need to work on. Let’s make a deal to both put more effort into these things."
Take reading to a new level
If your children don’t enjoy reading, encourage them to explore reinvented forms of classic literature. Some of the most popular children’s classics come in other kinds of media, including live performances, audio books and radio broadcasts – think C.S. Lewis’ The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe, performed as a Focus on the Family Radio Theatre production. Such alternative forms of classic literature can be just what your children need to jump-start their love for reading.
Not back to school!
Does the term “back to school” make your kids groan? To help your child get excited about going back to school, try this activity: Give your kids crayons, markers and old magazines, and ask them to create images of what they like most about school. Afterward, discuss their pictures, asking them to explain their preferences. If your child has trouble thinking of positive things, remind them of their best friends, favourite teachers and activities from last year. End with a word of encouragement, letting them know how much you value their learning: “I just love to see you learn and become such a smart girl/boy!”
All in this together
When one child in the family is studying for exams, make younger siblings responsible for keeping the study area equipped with sharpened pencils and other supplies, and encourage outdoor play. Provide earphones so youngsters can watch TV or listen to music without disturbing your student.
Science fair show time
Is your child working on a science fair project this spring? Invite some of your child’s friends to bring their science projects along to your in-house "science fair party." To help ease the kids’ stage-fright, create a fun and inviting atmosphere by serving treats and decorating the house with streamers. It’s a great way for kids to practice their presentations, and grandparents and other relatives will love hearing about your child’s research.
Good homework habits
To help kids organise their time and stay on track with school assignments, try establishing a consistent time for homework, such as immediately after school, after dinner or after a snack or break time. Have each of your children find a place where they feel most comfortable and able to concentrate. Avoid distractions such as television, loud music or easy access to smart phones. Most importantly, be available to help. You can even join in by doing your own "homework" – paying bills, reading your Bible, catching up on emails or other tasks on your to-do list.
Take your teen to work
Teens are old enough to understand the world around them. Take your teen to work with you for a day to show them what the real world is like. Talk about what they might want to do after high school and encourage them to get an after-school job. This will help them become more independent and responsible.
Career Day for home-schoolers
Inspire your children’s dreams for the future by inviting relatives, neighbours or friends to visit your home to talk about their professions. Try to include a variety of career fields, especially keeping in mind your children’s talents and interests. Before your special guests arrive, help your children prepare a list of questions to ask. If your children express an interest in a particular career path, try to arrange a field trip to the office of a friend or relative who works in that industry.
Arts and crafts
Need a quick-to-organise “rest time” activity for kids on a hot day? Try tattooing bananas! Give kids a plastic-headed push pin and a banana each, and let them prick designs in the banana skin. Natural browning will reveal your designs in a few hours .
Digital art gallery
Need an extra room added to the house to store your child’s ever-growing collection of original artwork? Here’s an inexpensive alternative: Take a digital photo of each creation and store it in a digital file – your child’s personal digital art gallery. That way, it will be easier for your child to part with all but their most precious artwork. To help excite your child about this clutter-reducing plan, let them take some of the photos, and show them how easy it is to email their work to grandma and granddad.
Here comes the sun!
To welcome the coming of summer, try this light-reflecting craft idea with your kids. Using paint, glitter, stickers or permanent markers, turn old CDs (or the free ones that come in the mail) into sparkling sun catchers. Then, tie clear fishing line or ribbon through the centre hole, and hang them up to enjoy. Just make sure the younger kids understand they can’t use your prized CD collection for future projects!
Teach your kids about the importance of giving over receiving by helping them handcraft gifts for others. Not only are homemade gifts economical, they also teach children how to give thoughtfully and with anticipation. Help them plan in advance by asking them to carefully consider what would bless each recipient. After spending time and careful labour on a gift, your child will thrill to give the fruit of their efforts to a loved one. What better way to teach your child the importance of the thought behind the gift?
Take advantage of autumn and introduce your kids to autumn shapes and colours by making nature stamps from apples, potatoes and a variety of leaves from the yard. All you need is to cut the apples or potatoes in half and dip the cut side in paint. For leaves, use a brush to apply the paint before stamping. It’s perfect for decorating t-shirts, making wrapping paper or a fun poster. For more stamp shapes, cut the excess from the potato half to form the desired image. Try these simple shapes: a star, heart, diamond or flower. No matter the weather outside, your kids will be amazed how God’s bounty can be loads of fun!
Turn up the creativity without turning up the mess
Fostering creativity in your child is a healthy part of development; oftentimes, however, wallpaper ends up splattered, family heirlooms get ruined or Mum’s tablecloth gets stained. Foster your child’s creativity without sacrificing your sanity! Find a corner of the house – whether in a playroom, the kitchen, a bedroom or even a cleared out space in the garage – and set up an art “studio.” Protect the floor and walls with plastic mats, newspapers, an old sheet or anything you don’t mind getting splattered, glued or marked. Fill your craft area with paints, coloured paper, markers, crayons, glitter, child-safe scissors, old magazines and anything that might spark the imagination. Your child can have fun filling up their studio with their masterpieces while limiting their artistic messes around your home.
Playdates and parties
Calling cards for kids
Your child has a new best friend, and is desperate to have a play date with him or her outside of school or daycare. Your problem: connecting with the parent, since someone else usually picks the child up. Why not make a simple play date invitation card your child can give to your friend? Make your own fun design, then add some brief text, something like this:
Wanna play? My daughter [or son] [child’s first name] would love to have a play date with [insert friend’s name]. Please call me at [phone number] if you would like to arrange something.
Tips for using your play date card: For your child’s safety, give him or her only one card at a time, not a whole stack, and tailor the card to a specific friend. Include minimal information, just your child’s first name and your mobile phone number, rather than your home phone. Have your first play date on neutral ground, perhaps at a playground, so you can get to know the parent a little before deciding how you would like to proceed.
Do-it-yourself runway party
Got teen girls in the family? Here’s a fun idea for a memorable evening for your girls and their friends: Purchase a selection of clothing from a second-hand store, then hold a Project Runway party! Over the course of the evening, let your young designers snip and stitch, mix and match, to create unique fashions from the nearly-new collection. Elect Dad and the boys to act as the hosts and the judging panel. After serving refreshments and providing supplies, their task is to come up with fun award categories such as “Most likely to turn heads” and “Most likely to fall apart if you sneeze – dry clean only.”
Poolside pedicure fun
Looking for ways to liven up your daughter’s pool party? Give each guest a small pedicure set that includes a file, clippers and nail polish. When it’s time to dip a toe in the pool, it’ll be the prettiest toe ever! Expand the pedicure theme with crafts that include decorating thongs with beads or paint, or making ankle bracelets. Feature toe rings as a fun gift exchange idea, or include them in take-home gift bags.
Playing it safe
When your child’s new friend visits for the first time, be aware of equipment or furniture in your home that may be novel to the friend. A child who has not learned appropriate behaviour around bunk beds, trampolines or swimming pools, for example, may be at risk for injuries.
Health and hygiene
Concussions in kids: Know what to do
Bumps and bruises are part of life for active kids, but bumps to the head can be serious. Make sure you know the signs of a concussion, and the best ways to treat it to safeguard kids’ future cognitive ability. Remember that a child may not lose consciousness, but still have a brain injury. Treatment requires complete rest for the brain, including no school, reading, computer work or video games. Always consult your doctor right away if there’s a possibility of concussion.
The no-fuss flush
When using toilets in public washrooms, young children are often upset by the "surprise" automatic flush. Guard against this by keeping a pad of sticky notes in your purse to cover the flush sensor.
Take a chill pill
Allergy season can be extra miserable for kids who gag when swallowing pills. Try these ideas to reduce the fear and fuss: (1) Practice with small lollies. (2) Swallow with the head tilted down, not up. (3) Swallow the pill with a spoonful of yoghurt. (4) Sip a mouthful of water first, then slip in the pill and swallow it all together.
Coiffed for school
Here’s a tip to help excite your daughter about leaving for school with tidy hair: Create a picture album of girls’ hairstyles and let your daughter pick her style for the day. To build your album, pull images and instructions for easy styles from the Internet, or take photos of your daughter modelling her favourites.
Have you noticed an upswing in the frequency of nightmares and mysterious tummy troubles in your children of late? As summer holidays draw to an end, the root cause may well be underlying anxiety about starting a new school year. Help instil confidence in your child by reminding him or her of their strengths as well as past successes in school, in building friendships and in overcoming fears and challenges.
What you can’t see, can’t hurt you
Encourage your dentist-anxious child to close his or her eyes while in the dental chair, especially if needles are involved. Closing eyes before the procedure begins and opening them again when it’s over spares a child from fears induced by seeing the odd-looking dental tools.
Health experts recommend a hand-washing routine that includes rubbing hands all over with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. To help your child do a thorough 20-second scrub, teach them a short children’s song to sing while making "bubble gloves" at the sink. Try singing the alphabet or another song of similar length.
Serve up the health
It’s never too early to teach healthy eating habits to your children. Here are some tips to get you started: provide plenty of produce and whole-grain products; stock your fridge with milk and dairy products; buy lean meat, fish, poultry, lentils and beans for protein; serve reasonably-sized portions; drink lots of water; and avoid sweetened beverages.
My tooth came out!
Quick action can save a permanent tooth knocked out in an accident. Do not touch the root. Hold the tooth by the crown and gently rinse it in water or saline if it is dirty. Do not scrub the tooth! If you can possibly do so, replace the tooth back in the socket. If this is not an option, store it in cool milk. In either situation, see a dentist immediately.
Fun and games to get the kids movin’
Children need at least 60 minutes of physical activity each day to stay fit. But what if your child prefers to stay glued to the TV or their game console? Here are some fun ideas to get a reluctant exerciser up on their feet: Fill some water balloons or water guns and chase each other around the yard; build an obstacle course in the backyard and see who can get around the course the fastest; join the growing number of people who are hooked on rope skipping; play Piggy in the Middle. For this game, you don’t even have to use a ball. Change it up to “Catch the Kitty” or “Flying Elephant” by throwing an old stuffed toy instead.
You never know when a sunny day will inspire your family to rush outdoors to enjoy some summertime fun. Stay prepared with a Summer Safety Kit stashed in your car or near the front door. Fill it with sun hats, sunscreen, protective lip balm, insect repellent, sunglasses, Band-Aids, fresh drinking water and even some lightweight, long-sleeved shirts for extra sunny days spent at the beach or pool.
A night terror for the child . . . or the parent?
Dealing with a young child who is experiencing a night terror can be profoundly unnerving for parents who are not prepared for this phenomenon. Take some time to read up about this common sleep disturbance.
Pack a few sweets in your first aid kit to help console kids who’ve suffered mild scrapes and bumps. Lollipops have a long shelf-life, and may even outlast the pain of the owie itself. Best of all, it’s hard to wail and suck sweets at the same time!
When you’re invited to dinner at a friend’s home, take along a plastic mat to spread under your child’s highchair. When dinner’s over, roll up the mat and rinse it off later at home. There’ll be no embarrassment over the state of the floor, and your hostess will appreciate your thoughtfulness!
Now’s the time to review water safety rules with your kids! Here’s a suggestion: Make a rule that your kids must always ask your permission before entering the water – whether at a beach or your own backyard pool – since many parents of drowning victims say they had no idea their child was anywhere near the water. And be sure to always have an adult designated as a “water watcher” at social events.
Car safety rules
Kids driving you crazy in the car? Take time to review important safety rules such as, Never play with or take off your seatbelt; Don’t touch anyone else; Quiet voices only; No sudden screams or shouts. Kids learn fast if you make a point of pulling over and waiting, saying, I can’t drive if it’s not safe to do so.
Staying safe by saving face
Young teens may linger in social settings that are uncomfortable or unsafe, simply because they don’t want to lose face with their peers. Decide on a code word your adolescent can text you that means “Come pick me up. Insist I need to come home early.”
The stop ‘n’ go game
Teach young kids this game and practice it often to help keep them from running headlong into danger. When you yell “Go!” let them run in a circle around the yard as fast as they can. When you yell “Stop!” have them freeze in place, without moving, until you say, “Good listening! That’s how to stay safe.”
The ACCC reports that most of the accidents caused by toppling televisions involve children between one and three years of age. Make sure your television is placed on a low, stable stand designed explicitly for televisions, and attach it to the stand if possible. Don’t place toys, a lolly bowl, the TV remote, or anything that may be attractive to children on top of your TV.
When did you last review your safety rules with your kids? It’s surprising how many families neglect these three basics: In a playground or public area, always agree on a place to meet up if you become separated; Write or pin your phone number inside your child’s clothing, so your number is with them at all times; Establish a family password and instruct your child to flee from any stranger who claims to be "sent" to pick them up, but cannot provide the password.
Does your child’s tendency to roam far and wide make it difficult to track their whereabouts in playgrounds and other busy areas? Dress your child in a brightly coloured clothing that stands out in a crowd. You’ll find your trip more relaxing if you can locate them quickly.
Too much of a good thing
Protect your kids from over-exposure to cancer-causing UV rays this summer by teaching them to “slip, slop, slap.” Coined in Australia, this fun slogan reminds kids to slip on a shirt, slop on the sunscreen, and slap on a hat to guard against sunburn.
Playing it safe
When your child’s new friend visits for the first time, be aware of equipment or furniture in your home that may be novel to the friend. A child who has not learned appropriate behaviour around bunk beds, trampolines or swimming pools, for example, may be at risk for injuries.
Light in the darkness
Is your child afraid of the dark? Tuck a glow stick or flashlight in your child’s closet. If there’s a power outage overnight and your child’s night light fails, you’ll have a comforting light source handy. (Store glow sticks out of reach of small children – the contents can be harmful.)
Mobile phones can actually hinder your child’s ability to contact you if they learn to rely exclusively on the speed-dial function. Make sure your child memorises your work number and other essential phone numbers in case their phone is lost or the battery goes dead.
The babysitter kit
Set your mind at ease and make life a little easier for your babysitter by preparing a babysitting kit ahead of time. Include a list of emergency contact numbers, instructions on bedtime, meal restrictions, ideas for ways to keep the kids entertained and any other information a babysitter might find handy (such as: doors that automatically lock; neighbours’ names; where you keep Band-Aids and children’s medication). To help kids anticipate their time with the babysitter, involve them in planning a special treat for the evening, such as a movie, games and popcorn. You might also have them help prepare a special treat to bless the babysitter, such as freshly baked cookies or a piece of artwork created just for him/her. Another hospitable touch is to set aside some DVDs, books, magazines and snacks for the babysitter to enjoy once the kids are in bed.
Questions about natural disasters
When kids ask Why does God allow natural disasters?, Focus on the Family Broadcast guests Elyse Fitzpatrick and Jessica Thompson suggest a reply like: These are not natural disasters. These are unnatural disasters, because God never intended creation to be like this. Then continue with an explanation of how the fall changed everything. Wherever sin goes, tears follow is a good phrase to keep reminding kids. End by stressing that Jesus rescued us for heaven, where everything will be as it should be. Hear this broadcast
Adventures in Odyssey index
Are your kids fans of Adventures in Odyssey? Did you know there is a fan site at AIOWiki.com that can help you find your way around the 900+ episodes? You can read plot summaries, find episodes by theme and much more. It’s super handy for finding episodes related to Easter, for example! Just keep in mind that AIOWiki.com is not affiliated with Focus on the Family.
Kids and news reports
We may be living in a decisive moment in history. But even so, children under 12 should not be exposed to news reports that are scary (such as the pandemic) or that show anger or violence toward others, or people out of control. If your child asks, give your own simple explanation of current events. Calm your own feelings first, so you won’t scare your child. And when explaining what someone did wrong, stress the importance of self-control and treating others with respect. Always end on a positive or reassuring note, such as reminding your child that your family is safe.
Work for the Wi-Fi
Help your media-savvy kids learn diligence by password protecting your Internet connection. Change the Wi-Fi password daily or weekly, depending on your chore schedule, and give your children the password only after they’ve completed their tasks. A little motivation helps build a good work ethic!
Do you set specific time limits on daily media intake? Try using a timer to let kids know when it’s time to turn off the TV, computer or video games. Warn your kids ahead of time that they have an hour (or however long you choose) to watch TV, etc., but after that, they need to move on to another activity. To fend off those “But, Mum/Dad, I’m bored!” moments, make other activities easily accessible – set out board games, books, crafts, cards and puzzles, and take the time to teach them some fun outdoor games as well.
Get the scoop!
If you’re thinking about buying CDs, video games or DVDs as Christmas gifts for your children, find help for making safe, kid-friendly choices at Pluggedin.com. There you’ll find trustworthy, faith-based reviews on the latest media products.
Are video games consuming your child’s time?
Wendy A. from Coquitlam, B.C., shared with us the creative way she helps her son stay accountable and balanced in the time he spends playing video games. She wrote, “My 12-year-old son must earn his video game time by spending equal time involved in a physical activity. I keep track of the time with Popsicle sticks – with each stick representing 30 minutes. I stack them in a container made of three empty film canisters duct-taped together. On the side, they read: ‘Bank, earned’ and ‘Bank, spent.’ The sticks move from container to container accordingly. I think this type of regulation works. My hope is to help my son ‘track’ how much time he spends in a sedentary activity like gaming . . . and hopefully make him a more careful young adult.”
Car trip talk show
Clocking up kms in the car this summer? Use our free discussion questions to entertain the kids. Covering both fun and serious topics, they’ll help you start thought-provoking discussions and connect more deeply as a family.
Car trips on hot days can make kids cranky. Here’s an idea to keep the kids happy while you’re running errands: Give them some letter-size sheets of paper and washable markers. As you are driving around town, have the kids think up short messages they can write and hold at the window to share with passersby. For example, their message might say, “Have a great summer!” or “My little brother’s driving . . . he’s driving me crazy!”
The next time your family visits a drive-through restaurant, here’s a simple way to teach your kids the importance (and fun!) of blessing others. When you pay for your purchase, tell the cashier you’d also like to pay for the car behind you. Use that opportunity to talk to your kids about why it’s important to practice kindness and generosity towards others, and say a prayer of blessing for the people in the other car.
Driving love home
Play it safe when driving by allowing your children to answer your cellphone if it’s your spouse on the other end. As you relay messages to your spouse through your children, use it as an opportunity to bless the whole family by routinely signing off with a message like: “Tell Daddy I love him!”
Road trip tips for keeping kids content
During long road trips, most children experience restlessness and impatience. Parents often hear: “Are we there yet?” “I’m bored” and “How much longer?” Muriel from British Colombia, shares a creative idea she uses to keep her kids happy (and preoccupied) on long road trips. Read more
Road trip games
Are you and your family heading out on the road this summer? We’ve put together some fun car games for kids! Print off these free downloadable PDFs to take with you, whether you’re travelling near or far, so you’re always prepared to break up the boredom.
Cool trick for hot nights
Does your kiddo have trouble falling asleep on hot summer nights? Try a rice pack! Craft a simple one from spare fabric and place it in the freezer for an hour or so before bedtime. Wrap it in a small towel before tucking it into bed with your child.
Use a break away to break bad habits
Leaving home for a summer holiday? The break from routine is a great opportunity to reign in some bad habits! Scale way back on your kids’ gaming time and TV watching while you’re away, then re-establish new, healthier patterns when you get home.
Car safety in summer
The unthinkable happens to the best of parents: their child perishes after being accidentally left in a too-hot car. When you drive with your little one, always leave your purse, laptop or another essential item on the back seat. When you retrieve it to head into the office or the store, you can check that you’re really did remember to drop your child off at daycare on the way. Be especially wary of stressful days, fatigue or changes in routine. Some parents advocate wearing bracelets or placing sticky notes on the dashboard, removing one every time you drop a child off en-route.
Put your dog on the cat walk
Looking for creative ideas to keep kids busy during summer holiday? How about hosting a costume parade starring your family dog? Challenge your kids to create a costume, then lead your coiffed canine in a parade for mum and dad, or grandma and granddad. Or expand your event by inviting friends or neighbours to join in with their dressed-up pooch.
Summer word search
Without practice, kids slide backwards in their reading skills over the summer. Here’s a fun way to keep them engaged with reading: have regular “book treasure hunts.” On your next visit to the library, sneak a few “surprise” books into your bag. Hide a small stack of “new” books around the house, then invite the kids to find the “treasure.”
Not-so-lazy days of summer
Summer’s a great time to relax, but it’s also a good opportunity to focus on teaching the kids responsibility. To help, set up a "job jar" filled with chores listed on folded slips of paper. Have each child choose and complete at least one "mystery chore" each day, or balance a day of fun summer activities with a day of chores. If your kids vary widely in ages and abilities, you may need to set up a personal "job jar" for each child.
Summertime can significantly diminish a forgetful child’s wardrobe; clothing is often left behind at the lake or on the beach. To help your child remember their belongings, invent a fun “checklist” to rehearse each time you pack up your picnic. Try “shoes, swimsuit, shirt, sweater, sunglasses, sun hat, smile!”
And the bride wore thongs . . .
Snuggled up on the couch with the kids, your anticipation ends with a barely stifled groan. The kids want to watch your wedding video – again! Their curiosity is natural; they missed one of the most important milestones in your family’s history. But sliding in that VHS tape always makes you feel so “last century.” This summer, why not renew your wedding vows in a special ceremony organised by some pint-sized “re-wedding” planners – your kids! The preparations lend themselves to a host of indoor activities to keep the kids busy over the summer when they need some “down time” out of the sun. Let the kids prepare invitations, organise the ceremony, choose the music, plan the menu and cake, create decorations and table settings, and write the cutest re-wedding vows ever. But, of course, you get to choose the new ring!
Prepared for fun
Early in the summer, stow a tennis ball, inflatable beach ball, fold-up kite or other small toys or sporting gear in your car so you’re always ready for a quick game with the kids while out on a picnic, at the beach or at the park. These items can become invaluable for helping to pass the time if you find yourself in a lengthy ferry lineup or waiting for a tow truck after an unexpected roadside breakdown.
An affordable mini-vacation that’s easy and fun
Camping can be a fun-filled family adventure, but when you don’t have the resources, energy or time to spend a long weekend in a National Park, try spending a night under the stars in your own backyard! Set up a tent and stock it full of blankets, sleeping bags, pillows and cushions. If you don’t have a backyard or a good place to set up your “camp,” have your kids help you make a tent out of sheets and blankets in your living room. Make toasted marshmallows over your cooking range or in your microwave, play games, do some star-gazing and tell each other stories. In the morning, have breakfast together and take a “nature walk” through your neighbourhood or local park.
Helping kids avoid summer holiday boredom
Several weeks into their vacation, kids often become bored with long days of “nothing to do.” Try sitting down with your child to map out their weekly or daily schedule. Include fun, creative activities like baking cookies, picking flowers, writing a story, reading a book, working on a puzzle, setting up a lemonade stand, slumber parties or writing a letter to Grandma and Grandpa. Don’t forget to include constructive activities like daily chores, helping make dinner, yard work or washing the car (your child may groan, but it’ll help fill their day – and help you out at home!).
Beating cabin fever
When it’s too cold to play outside and you’re running out of ways to keep the kids happy, try some of these ideas: build a pretend museum exhibit; have an indoor beach party with hula and limbo dancing and bopping to The Beach Boys’ tunes; set up a "Dear Abby" booth and video your kids giving relationship advice; learn some basic first aid; act out a Bible story; design a new cover for your favourite CD; prepare some fun decorations and treats for Valentine’s Day.
Activities for a wintry day
Geraldine, originally from Canada, shared with us some of the fun ways her family loves to spend a wintry day: “We do indoor hopscotch (it’s painter-taped to my kitchen flooring), bowling, pirate treasure hunts, board games, crafts, watch a G movie while having our afternoon snack as a picnic, do an organising of our things as a team, read, dance, play instruments . . . all with 20-30 minutes of play time out in the cold. . . . I think it does the kids good to see me having fun doing these things as a family with them. I know it does my heart good.”
Beat the winter blahs!
Banish the winter blues by bringing out a few baskets filled with indoor games especially reserved for this time of year. A simple bag of balloons can provide loads of fun, and a bag of straws and a few ping-pong balls are all you need for a game of blow-with-all-your-might table soccer. If you have sufficient space, a sheet of particle board can transform your dining-room table into a ping-pong table for two to four players. If you have at least four players, try “Family Rounders.” After just two hits at the ball, pass the bat to the next player and run to the opposite side, keeping all the family laughing as they run around the table trying to keep up with the play. If anyone has leftover energy, try using the ping-pong paddles for “Balloon Badminton”– just don’t let that balloon touch the floor!
Indoor activities for winter-weather days
During the chill of winter, it can be hard to keep kids active and entertained. Here are a few ideas to keep your kids moving – and warm. Send them on a scavenger hunt in your home. Have them take turns hiding objects, writing out directions, drawing maps and searching for clues. You can also help them build a fort made of blankets or boxes in the living room. If your kids are musical, or if they love to write or tell great stories, have them prepare and perform in a family talent show or play. Another way to get everyone involved is to hold a family Olympics. Come up with silly games and competitions (that are easy enough for younger children) and have everybody participate.
Thinking of giving money or gift cards to your teens for Christmas? Make your gift a fun surprise that’s more than it seems. Hide the cash inside a book, coffee mug, DVD case, deck of cards, wallet or bar of chocolate. (A gift they won’t like makes it more fun!) Or get crafty and make a tissue dispenser that dispenses bills! The Internet is full of fun ideas and instructions!
All the excitement of Christmas brings out intense emotions in children, and just when we most need our kids to behave (because we are so busy), they can really struggle to “be good.” Don’t be surprised if your kids often flip-flop between happy and sad, or happy and frustrated, says child psychologist Eva de Gosztonyi. Although she has parents of special needs children in mind in particular, Gosztonyi has great advice for all parents: 1. Keep regular bedtime routines; 2. Provide lots of down time after exciting events; 3. Provide lots of time for play, especially rougher play that lets kids work out frustrations 4. Avoid stressing kids by suggesting gifts are only for kids who can behave. 5. Consider including some sad movies or stories in your Christmas season that will help kids grieve disappointments so they can move on. See details from Gosztonyi here.
Gifts for others
What do you want Christmas to be about for your kids? Focus on the Family broadcast guest Becky Kiser tries to keep the conversation about God’s gift to us in Jesus and encourages her kids to think only about the gifts they could give others, rather than gifts they want. When catalogues arrive at your house, urge your kids to look for gifts that are perfect for siblings or others.
Screening tech gifts
Before you place smartphones or other tech gifts under the tree for your kids, familiarise yourself with the parental controls available. Check the privacy and security settings, change generic passwords, and disable cameras and location trackers. Get more help at ProtectYoungMinds.org.
Touch-me Christmas tree
Tired of telling your kids not to touch the Christmas tree? Why not get your kids their own tree? Purchase a small artificial tree and sturdy plastic decorations, then let your kids have fun decorating and re-decorating to their hearts’ content!
Heading off the Christmas gimmies
Bah sugar-plums! It’s visions of toys that dance in kids’ heads at this time of year! When your kids find a new toy or gizmo to pine for or whine for, snap a picture with your phone saying, There! Got it on your wish list! You’ll cut short the pleading, and have handy details to forward to relatives who ask for gift ideas.
The Advent advantage
If you’re not accustomed to doing devotions with your kids, Advent is the perfect season to overcome the awkwardness of getting started. Kids already view Christmas as a unique season and are more receptive to trying something new.
Simplify your Christmas
Is your Christmas a time of wonder, or do you merely wonder how you will get everything done? Consider spreading out your traditional activities and focusing on the season rather than trying to pack too much into Christmas Day. Ask your kids to pick their top two favourite Christmas activities and let go of those that aren’t mentioned. You’ll enjoy the ones you keep so much more.
Help youngsters chime in at Christmas
When it comes to singing Christmas carols, little ones can sometimes feel left out; they can’t read the song sheet, and they haven’t yet learned the lyrics by heart. Help your youngsters join in by purchasing a set of sturdy bells or chimes. Watch their excitement peak each year when you unpack the “Christmas bells” along with your seasonal decorations.
Load up the gift card
Got Christmas shopping to do with the kids in tow? Help them behave with a “gift card.” Before you go shopping, issue each child a homemade card with empty checkboxes. As you leave each store, reward good behaviour by drawing a star in a single checkbox. When the card is full, let your child cash in their card for a small treat.
Prep your kids for the holidays
When Christmas is just around the corner, that’s a great time to concentrate on teaching your children about generosity. After all, the point of Christmas is not to get but to thank God for His gift of Jesus and to give generously to others. Try out the Generosity lesson on Kidsofintegrity.com. It’s free, easy to use and if you start now, your children will head into the holiday season with a spirit of generosity – not with the “gimme-gimmes”!
Holiday baking season
For many families, the holiday season means extra bake sales, fundraisers, parties and events, leaving mum and dad busier than ever preparing goodies in the kitchen. Sit down with your spouse and kids early in the season to plan ahead. Identify when baked goods will be needed, and encourage the family to inform you as soon as possible when additional baking needs arise. Pick an afternoon to do as much baking as you can . . . and enlist the entire family to help! You might also plan a baking day with other mums or dads to make large batches of cookies, cupcakes and treats. Whatever you don’t need right away, freeze for later and thaw out before the next big event.
Teach your kids about the importance of giving over receiving by helping them handcraft gifts for others. Not only are homemade gifts economical, they also teach children how to give thoughtfully and with anticipation. Help them plan in advance by asking them to carefully consider what would bless each recipient. After spending time and careful labour on a gift, your child will thrill to give the fruit of their efforts to a loved one. What better way to teach your child the importance of the thought behind the gift?
Make Christmas thank-you notes easy and fun
Teach your children that thanking relatives and friends for Christmas gifts is not only polite but also a fun opportunity to get creative. Pick an afternoon when the kids are still home on Christmas break to throw a family note-writing party. Prepare snacks, crank up some fun music and set up the kitchen table with art supplies, glue, child-safe scissors, markers and crayons (leftover wrapping paper and bows work great as well). Provide your kids with a box of blank notecards, a list of people to thank – and have fun! Your friends and relatives are sure to appreciate your kids’ personal touch.