School age

Easy Valentine’s Day crafts for kids

little boy dressed for Valentine's Day

Valentine’s Day is in just a few weeks! My kids love making “art-crafts,” so I thought I’d discuss some ways to allow kids to be creative while celebrating.

Let me be up-front: These ideas aren’t meant to be Pinterest-worthy, beautiful masterpieces. The goal of these ideas isn’t necessarily a perfect looking keepsake for Grandma. This is more about allowing kids to have fun and to learn through doing (and maybe to keep them occupied for a few minutes so you can get something done or simply have a break!). I’m a big believer that it’s better for kids to do crafts on their own terms than for me to hover and make sure that everything is perfectly in place, so if that means that a googly eye is glued kinda wonky, so be it. I want my children to take pride in their own work!


Why is positive parenting so much more effective than spanking?

If you’re a a late Gen X or Millennial parent, you’ve probably noticed that parenting advice and styles seem a lot different from when we were kids. Or perhaps it’s just that parenting advice is a lot more available now than it was when our parents had us (thank you, interwebs!).

Either way, times have changed, and there’s a lot of emphasis on positive parenting, gentle parenting, responsive parenting, or whatever you want to call it (and yes, there are subtle differences among these, but I’m just putting them together for now).

My experience growing up, at least, is that kids were expected to be kept “in line.” After all, the world works on the premise that there is always someone who has authority over you, and you need to obey that authority. One day we would be all sent out as adults, and we needed to know how the world works.

If you show up late, you’d get written up.

If you don’t perform at your job, you’d be fired.

If you break the law, you’d get arrested.

Therefore, it was imperative that we learned that misbehavior led to punishment, so we wouldn’t screw up too badly later once the stakes were too high.

Of course, this is only my experience, and it’s influenced by the cultural, social, and religious atmosphere I was brought up in, but I’m sure there are more of us who were exposed to these ideas. But wow, what a dismal view of the world… there’s not a lot of grace in this scenario!

While of course I want my children to accept responsibility for their actions and to respect others, I don’t want every choice they make to stem from a place of fear! So that’s why I’ve started looking into more positive parenting styles. I want my children’s actions to flow from a heart that is secure in love.

I want my children's actions to flow from a heart that is secure in love.

And as it turns out, science has shown that the way many of us were raised actually isn’t even effective! So let’s look at one of the most contested old-school styles of discipline, corporal punishment, and why positive parenting (or responsive parenting) is so much better.

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How mindfulness can make you a better parent

mindful parenting

Mindfulness can make or break a whole afternoon with your child! How can this concept teach you to use responsive parenting instead of reactive parenting?

Case in point: A week or so ago, I unexpectedly ended up being the one to pick up General Leia from school. When she saw me, the first words out of her mouth were, “Can we go over to Nana’s and Poppa’s to do my art project?”

I won’t lie, I was a little disappointed. I was hoping for a “Hooray! I’m so happy to see you, Mother dearest!”

But I told her cheerfully, “Sorry, we can’t play go to Nanna’s and Poppa’s house tonight. We have to go get your brother and sister and then go home.” This started a whole dramatic ordeal in which Leia’s world was ended and she cried as I walked past the other moms picking up their own cherubs from school. Awesome.

My instincts in that moment were not MOTY material. Ungrateful little kid, you could at least pretend you liked me. Honestly, I wanted to be snarky with her, because my feelings were hurt.

But I thought about where she was coming from, how I wasn’t who she expected that afternoon. Perhaps she had been thinking about doing that art project all day, and then there I was instead, blocking her from painting and creating. So I tried to stay positive, and after a bit we somehow made going to the pharmacy to pick up a neti-pot into a little adventure (you get adventure where you can!).

Of course, I don’t always do that well when my kids are in a bad mood. It’s hard to do!

But what if, instead of reacting according to our instinctive, negative emotions, we stopped and evaluated our thoughts first? 


The only three family rules you need

With children, you never know what they’re going to do on any given day. No wonder you need some great family rules!

Case in point: A few days ago, my husband and I came home from a trip with some chocolates that I’m really looking forward to. Even though we don’t do a lot of sweets for the kids, we also got them a few chocolate covered pretzels and let them have a piece the night we got back into town. So my kids knew there was chocolate on the counter.

I came to the kitchen yesterday to see that Bella Bean, my three year old (and scrounger), was about to get into the candy. I moved it to the top of the fridge (where they couldn’t reach even with a stool) and then put all three kids to bed.

The next morning, we got up and I started getting dressed. I noticed a suspicious quiet (you know what I’m talking about, parents of toddlers). Continue Reading

Use play to reconnect with your child

preschooler meltdown

You know those days when your precious little cherub is just driving you nuts? When you are about to lose it, and in your defense, she really isn’t at her best either?

Yesterday was one of those days. I was at home with the three kids (five, three, and one and a half), and the oldest had gotten really whiny. She was wanting some screen time and it just wasn’t in the schedule at the time.

“But Momma, I’m missing my game time…”

“Please let me play?”

I tell her it’s not time right now.

“Just please let me play?”

I say, “I’ve already told you no.”

“I just can’t think of anything else to do.”

Getting irritated, I say, “You can either play or help me put up laundry.”

Ensue crying. “I don’t want to do either of those things.  I only want to play my game!”

And so it went on.  My patience was wearing super thin.

It was just after Halloween, and both my little girls had chosen to be witches (they were adorable, by the way). Bella Bean, my three-year old, had put on her witch costume while all this whining was going down, and kept walking into the middle of the swath of folded laundry surrounding me as I was trying to get it all put away (also a pet peeve of mine). Suddenly, I had an idea to try to help everyone get it back together. (more…)

Toys for child development

We recently discussed what toys aren’t so great for your kids, but we didn’t go into a lot of detail about what toys are likely to lead to engaged play.  So let’s talk about some of our favorite toys here, plus alternatives!

For many toys, I’ll show both a more affordable option for a toy and the splurge.  I’ll tell you which we have for our kids (even if it’s the cheaper version!). Sometimes the splurge is totally worth it, and sometimes the more economical option works just as well for us!

Full disclosure: I’ll get a small percentage of any sales made through these links, but don’t worry, it won’t cost you any extra!


Whether you have a boy or girl, it’s good to have a doll for your child.  Dolls let children practice empathy and caregiving and give children an outlet to explore emotions. I know it’s soooo much easier to find little girl dolls than little boy dolls, so I’m putting a link to the little guy that we bought Budrow Wilson for his first birthday. He’s super cute and all three kids enjoy him!


wooden blocks

Want to help your kids with hand-eye coordination?  Let her play with blocks!

Want to build your child’s imagination?  Let him play with blocks!

Want to build your child’s spatial reasoning (in other words, to help them think about what 3D objects look like all the way around)? Let her play with blocks!


Want to help your child’s language development? Play blocks with him! Seriously, blocks are some of the best toys out there for child development. There’s lots of options out there. These are the kind we have!

Toy cars

Every little one (girl or boy!) needs something small with wheels that they can roll around.  Here’s a few choices.

The economical version

The O Ball car. The soft top is easy for little hands to hold. My toddler scoots all around the floor with this!

The splurge

To be honest, this little wooden car isn’t much more expensive.  Also easy to hold for toddlers and preschoolers!

Small characters

It’s so fun to have little people to play with.  Kids can “imagine into” them and pretend all different scenarios with small characters. I personally chose people without facial expressions to keep them more open-ended, but it’s up to what you want!

The economical version

I painted these myself! It was fun and easy. Just paint pegs like these with nontoxic stain or acrylic.

The splurge

Grimm’s makes this set of twelve colorful peg people already painted!  The stains are certified nontoxic, so no worries!

Rainbow stacker

Also made by Grimm’s, I can’t get over how beautiful and fun this rainbow stacker is!  This toy is a bit more of an “investment piece,” but if you splurge on one toy, I think this should be it!  I’ll be honest, this is the toy I have most fun with myself.  The colors and symmetry are really soothing to me, and it’s just pleasant to make designs with it. This set of rainbow-colored pieces can be arranged in endless ways for all sorts of fun.

Magnetic tiles

These colorful tiles have magnets on each edge so they can stick together.  Your kids will be able to make great towers and flat figures with them!

The economical version

These are the tiles we have.  They’re made by Discovery Kids and the kids all love them (from 1.5 to 5 years old)!

The splurge

This Picasso Tiles set is a lot bigger (100 pieces!), plus they’re clear in case you want to do some light board play. After seeing squabbles firsthand, I’d suggest a bigger set like this.

I hope this list of some of our favorite toys gives you some great ideas in case there are any “gaps” of toy types in your collection.  Check these out (just in time to get ahead of Christmas shopping) and let me know which are your favorites! 

By the way, are you having a hard time getting your children to share all those toys they have? Why not try having them take turns? Sign up to get a free printable (to stick on your fridge!) to give you the exact script I use to help my children take turns with toys!