This summer has been the Summer of Pom Poms. I am not sure why it took me so long to discover how great Pom Poms are but alas here we are.
My son loves Pom Poms! They are a toddler activity that is guaranteed fun. Besides just being a fun, entertaining activity, Pom Poms have helped my son develop some pretty important skills.
Benefits of Playing With Poms
I have been a teacher for 10 years now. Before that, I worked with preschoolers at a Summer Day Camp and babysat regularly.
Entertaining kids, planning schedules, and creative play are passions of mine that I have studied in my undergraduate and graduate programs and researched extensively.
BUT, I never realized how beneficial and wonderful Pom Poms are until now!
Lauren Barrett Writes is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases at no extra cost to you.
My 7 Pom Pom Ideas-Let’s Get Rolling
1. Pom Pom Bath
This one I have to admit I borrowed from Busy Toddler. After seeing it on her Instagram page a few times and my friend sending me the link to this activity, I decided to give it a try and see what all the hype was.
Well, a Pom Pom bath is a hit! My son did not want to get out of the bathtub. He loved scooping and dumping the Pom Poms using plastic cups.
All I did was buy a few bags of colorful Pom Poms and dump them in the bathtub. I put in some cups and my son did the rest.
The clean up is super easy too. Get a colander and scoop up the Pom Poms. They dry pretty easily.
Warning: Depending on the kind of drain you have, the little Pom Poms can go down the drain easily.
Pro Tip: Don’t show or tell your child how to play with the Pom Poms. Let him figure out and then sit back and be amazed at your toddler’s creativity.
Skills working on: Independent play and creativity.
2. Color Sort
I was skeptical of whether my son would actually enjoy this next activity, but he did once he understood what to do.
I took some painter’s tape and made a big chart on our floor. 4 rows and 4 columns.
Then, I showed him how to sort by colors. This red one goes here. Does this yellow one go with the red one? No. The yellow one goes here.
After modeling what to do, I took a step back. This is important. Resist the urge to want to correct every wrong one. I wanted to see what he would do.
And guess what? He didn’t get it right at first or the next time. But after a few more repeated attempts and modelings, I happened to glance over, and he was doing it.
I heard him whisper to himself when he would find a wrong color with a sort, No, and then he would correct himself.
Skills working on: Independent play, categorizing, colors
This next idea is one that you might have to sit down and play with your toddler, depending on his age level.
I bought a big die from the Dollar Store and wrote the numbers 1-6 on it. Then, I put all the Pom Poms in one large bin. I used the graph from the previous activity (4 by 4 chart made with the painters tape).
I would have my son roll the die. Together, we would say what number it landed on. Whatever that number was, we would count out that many Pom Poms and place them in the chart.
After a few rounds of doing it together, I always like to step back and see how my son would do it on his own.
Pro Tip: Once you take a step back, don’t correct or ask questions. Just narrate and use a strategy called Parallel Talk or Tracking.
Skills working on: Independent play and counting.
4. Pretend Play
It’s time to get imaginative on this next activity and encourage that pretend play.
When encouraging pretend play, you often want to mix items from the real world with pretend items.
What I did was take some of our real frying fans and mixing spoons and then I combined those with the Pom Poms. The Pom Poms became our “meatballs.”
My son loved mixing the Pom Poms in the frying pans and pretending like he was making something. He has one of those toy kitchens and after a while he brought the Pom Poms over to that to “boil,” “fry,” “bake,” and “serve” them.
Pro Tip: This is a great time for a 10-minute time-in. Sit with your child and let him take the lead, joining in on the fun. After the time-in step back and let him continue playing on his own.
Skills working on: Independent play and creativity.
This next activity was a big hit with my son. I think he could literally play with this activity for hours.
What I did was have two muffin tins side by side, but you could use two bins or pots or whatever you have around the house.
In one of the muffin tins I put all the Pom Poms and for an element of surprise wrapped it in tissue paper. The other tin was left uncovered. This got Henry interested in what was going to happen.
I instructed him to break, tear, or rip through the tissue paper to see what he would find. Then, I showed him how to scoop the Pom Poms from one bin to the other.
And kids love this! Eventually, he began scooping the Pom Poms into his dump trucks and that was fine with me.
Pro Tip: Have your child scoop and sort by color from one tin into the next.
Skills working on: Independent play, fine motor skills, and sorting.
This one is very similar to the previous one, but instead your toddler is going to use tongs.
At first, this one was hard for Henry to grasp. Literally. But with a lot of encouragement and modeling, he eventually got the hang of it and had a blast pinching Pom Poms from one muffin tin to the next.
You can do this in a number of ways. For starters, you can have your child use tongs to grab Pom Poms and transfer them from one muffin tin to the next.
Or you can use tongs for the color sort and counting.
Or you can do a whole new activity. Busy Toddler has a similar activity called Animal Tape Rescue. But you can adapt it for Pom Poms.
Get a bin and fill it with a little water. Food coloring is optional for added fun. Add in the Pom Poms. Then cover the top of the bin with painters tape, leaving little slits for your toddler to reach in and “save” the Pom Poms.
Warning: This is not easy, but it is a good workout for little hands and perseverance.
Pro Tip: Really build it up that this is a rescue mission.
Skills working on: Fine motor skills and creativity.
7. Frozen Pom Poms
Want an easy activity on a hot day? Freeze the Pom Poms. It’s that easy and makes for a great water table and sensory bin activity.
Another Busy Toddler favorite, all you have to do is put two Pom Poms in one ice cube tray and add a little water. Freeze it. And bam. That’s it.
Then recycle those bins and cups and spoons and tongs and let your toddler decide how she wants to play.
Skills working on: Independent play, creativity, and fine motor skills
What activity are you going to try with your toddler today?
I recently read Susie’s of Busy Toddler daily routine, and I realized her daily schedule has a lot of similarities to mine. I want to share mine as well.
I have been following this schedule with my toddler for about a year now. I’m a teacher and have the summers off, so this is my Summer/Weekends/Holiday Breaks Schedule. It is flexible, not rigid.
Keep in mind that I only have one child right now, and a schedule should be what works for you, not someone else. However, there are 10 productivity hacks I do every day that you can use in your daily routine to try out if you feel as if you can never get ahead in the day and are chasing time.
My 10 Productivity Habits-Let’s Get Rolling
I have been a teacher for 10 years now. Before that, I worked with preschoolers at a Summer Day Camp and babysat regularly.
Entertaining kids, planning schedules, and creative play are passions of mine that I have studied in my undergraduate and graduate programs and researched extensively on my own before you start comparing yourself to me.
Lauren Barrett Writes is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases at no extra cost to you.
1. Morning Routine
My morning routine is the single most important thing to my day. If it doesn’t go right, my day is thrown off. I can just tell.
At this point in time, my son is almost 2 and a half, and he is sleeping till roughly 7:30 AM. I plan to keep him in a crib until he is 3 or 3 ½, depending on the timeline of another baby in the Barrett household (prayers please ?).
The crib is working for us, and there is no scientific data that says a toddler needs to come out earlier than that unless your toddler no longer fits.
I get up anywhere between 6:00-7:00. I let my body naturally wake me up, but I prefer to be up by 6:30, so I have at least an hour to myself. That is important -starting my day with myself.
Even though my son wakes up at 7:30, I don’t get him until 8:00 when his Hatch goes off. He is content playing in his crib and talking to himself. I think it is important for his self-development that he learns to be and play on his own. That is why I do not get him right away (And, you got me, I like the little bit of extra time to myself).
You can read more in-depth about my morning routine here. But, I like to spend part of the time in silence and gratitude, and then I transition to straightening anything up and prepping for the day. Finally, I always set a morning goal. For me, it’s working on my Pinterest Page or my blog.
With this solid morning routine, I feel refreshed and ready to go grab Henry from his room. I’m not distracted by all that I have to do, and I am able to administer my first time-in of the day.
2. 5-Minute To-Do List
Now that my morning routine is complete, and I have gotten Henry up, dressed and downstairs, I like to have a solid game plan of what the day is going to look like and within that day I have my 5-Minute To-List fresh in my mind or written down in my planner or notes.
A 5-Minute To-Do List is a list of tasks that can get done in, you guessed it, 5 minutes. You’ll be amazed how many of these 5-minute windows you have throughout the day. It’s not enough time to start something major, but it’s enough time not to “waste.”
I am a firm believer in sitting and enjoying the silence without always looking for a distraction, so sometimes on my 5-Minute To-Do List is exactly that. Sit and enjoy the peace, take a couple deep breaths, or say a prayer.
But if you are not wanting to do that for every 5-minute opportunity you have, here are some ways you can take advantage of the time:
Whatever you decide to do, have your list ready for when another 5-minutes comes your way and see how it makes you feel.
3. Independent Play
While I am making breakfast and then later cleaning up the kitchen from it, I encourage independent play without the TV.
Susie from Busy Toddler, on the other hand, was the opposite. She allowed her children to watch one show while she made breakfast and then encouraged independent play throughout the rest of the day.
I normally do screen time right a little before naps or bed to help wind Henry down. The rest of the time, I have set up the expectation that Henry is going to play on his own with Mommy occasionally joining in to facilitate the play or do a needed time-in.
Independent play was taught to Henry from an early age. The research on the benefits of it is too important to do without it.
How do you get kids to play alone?
Once your children have learned to play independently, you can sit back with your coffee and marvel at their creativity and wonder or read a book or do some work. Guess what? The choice is yours.
4. Being Unbusy
Like Susie, I like being “unbusy.” That means while the kids are still toddler and preschool ages, they are not enrolled in a thousand activities that have you pulled in a thousand directions.
Kids learn best through play at this age, and by gosh, I am going to let the kids play without breaking the bank on art classes, soccer camp, piano lessons. Instead our days are usually wide open, and we are free to do what we like.
Your kids can get plenty of social interaction by playing with the neighborhood kids, going to local parks and playground, visiting the library and attending storytime there, setting up playdates with your friends’ kids, and hitting up the community pool.
5. Leave the House Every Day
Another thing that Susie and I have in common is that we leave the house every day. For us, we usually go somewhere in the morning and somewhere in the afternoon.
Our morning excursion usually is a run in the neighborhood or a local trail. We try to leave the house at 9:30-10:00.
I run and push Henry in the stroller, and we try to go to a playground after my run.
My morning run gives me the energy boost I need for the rest of the day, and it’s my time to listen to podcasts. I listen to them out loud so Henry can hear.
I kill three birds with one stone this way. I get my exercise in. I get my learning in. Henry gets a free ride through nature and his exercise at the playground in. Henry is happy. I am happy. Win-win.
Leaving the house doesn’t need to be exgravent. It can be a trip to Target or a visit to family. It can be a walk to the park or run to Chick-Fil-A. Doesn’t matter. Try to leave. Makes everyone happier.
6. Nap Time Plan
We arrive back at the house between 11:30-12:00 and have lunch. Soon after lunch is NAP TIME. I love my son, but naps are super important to me. They make everyone happier in our household. Currently, Henry naps from 12:30-3:00.
Before the nap even begins I have a well-thought out strategy on how I want to use my time for nap. There are few things I want to accomplish during a nap:
I try to only do things that I know I can’t do while Henry is awake. Working on my computer is a big one. Watching my TV shows is another. Obviously napping and diving deep into a good book.
I typically don’t waste Nap Time doing any chores or cleaning because I can do those things while Henry is up.
I also can shower and get ready while Henry is awake (I plop him in the big tub next to our shower stall, and he has fun splashing around. I can clearly see him). Although I will shower and get ready while Henry naps if a.) I want to leisurely take my time or b.) Need to be quick without a lot of interruptions.
However you decide to use nap time/quiet time, have a plan so you can execute it efficiently as soon as your little one’s head hits the pillow.
7. Nap Time Is Sacred
As I mentioned, nap time is important. I wear many hats: mom, wife, teacher, writer, reader, coach, antiracist, Christian, friend, etc. In order to nourish those areas, I need the nap time.
Because of that, I am pretty strict with scheduling and going places during naps. Very rarely do I allow naptime to be skipped. Also, very rarely do I go anywhere during nap times. Nap allows me to work on my side hustle and passion projects. They are sacred.
I have gotten pretty comfortable with saying “no” to things scheduled during those hours.
I also don’t spend the whole nap cleaning and doing chores. I prefer to subscribe to the method of cleaning a little at a time. This is just an example: Monday I’ll spend 10 minutes dusting. Tuesday toilets. Wednesday sweep and vacuum. Etc.
8. Social Media Days
I do love social media. I learn so much through Instagram and even FB now that I am in writer and parenting groups. However, I am well aware it can be an enormous time waster. That is why I have social media days.
I randomly picked three days of the week-Sundays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays-when I am allowed to scroll guilt-free through social media at any time I want for however long I want. The other days I don’t get on (most of the time).
I end up not even spending that long on social media even on the days I can go on. It’s just become a habit. I check a few accounts that are informative, laugh at a few stories, and look at cute pictures of kids and dream of places to travel on traveling blogs. Then, I get off and resume my day.
Try social media days to maximize productivity. If you want to get real about it, I have no social media in my 30-Day Challenge.
9. No TV Throughout the Day
Here, I would like to make a quick note on my TV-watching habits. I’ll be honest, I don’t really watch TV during the day. It’s not on in the background. I reserve TV for the night when spending time with my husband. I like TV, but it gets in the way of my productivity.
10. Put Kids to Bed Early and Don’t Feel Guilty
So Henry usually wakes up at 3:00. After a snack, we try to leave the house again in the afternoon so the day doesn’t drag on until dinner. If we don’t, Henry plays until dinner at 6:00. James cooks. I clean up. Henry has some TV until the dinger goes off at 7:15-7:30. We do our bedtime routine and Henry is in his crib at 8:00.
Henry doesn’t always fall asleep right away. Sometimes he isn’t even altogether sleepy judging by the way he is singing to himself and doing acrobats in his crib. But he is happy and learning an important skill of not needing Mommy and Daddy to fall asleep.
Do I ever go back in to hold him just a bit longer? Absolutely. But the nights I don’t, I don’t feel guilty because the time spent after he goes to bed for myself and my marriage is really important as well. I wrap up the day by heading to bed at 10:00.
And that’s my day!
As much as all parents hate toddler tantrums and do our best to avoid them with all the positive parenting strategies out there, tantrums are inevitable and will show up from time to time.
We've all been there. Toddler is in the store and sees something she wants.
She has to have it...NOW!!
We set our boundary of "no" and then hold it despite the mounting tears welling up behind your toddlers eyes. A wail escapes.
It's happening! A meltdown. In the middle of the store.
Before it starts to escalate to defcon 5, what do you do?
Try this positive parenting hack that will almost guarantee to calm a toddler tantrum in under 2 minutes.
Validate the Magnitude
Parents, you are going to do your best to remain calm despite the stares you might be getting from strangers. I highly suggest you close your eyes and take four deep breaths.
You are going to validate the magnitude of your toddler's tantrums. Your toddler is having BIG feelings right now, and we, as parents, want to recognize that.
I first heard of this from Dr. Becky at Good Inside.
First, you want to OK the feeling.
"You're feeling sad, angry, frustrated because you want the doll you saw. It's okay to feel sad, angry, frustrated."
Then, you are going to hold your boundary.
"But I said you can't have a new toy today. I'm sorry that makes you sad."
Now, you are going to VALIDATE the MAGNITUDE
"How sad are you right now? Are you this sad? [Hold hands close to your body like you are measuring something] Are you this sad? [Continue to stretch your hands wider] Wow! You are this sad? [Stretch your hands really wide] That's really sad!"
Another way to frame it that works well with my toddler is to pick two points and gradually stretch those points to be farther and farther apart.
"Are you as sad from the tippy tip of your head down to your itty bitty toe? Are you that sad? Or are you as sad as the top of the ceiling all the way down to the floor? Are you that sad? Wow! Or are you as sad from the top of the tree where the birds are all the way down to the dirt with the worms? Are you that sad? Are you as sad from way out to the sun all the way back to earth? That sad? That's really sad!
Usually after one or two distances, my son's tears subside as he looks at me in curiosity. He's processing his level of sadness. And before long, his tantrum is over.
Why it Works?
By validating the magnitude, we are letting our toddlers know that we are taking their feelings seriously and telling them that what they are experiencing is a big deal.
Our kids feel heard.
Another thing, according to Dr. Becky, is that we are taking something abstract (the feeling) and making it concerte which is less confusing to toddlers. That's why I also like to use sign language when teaching my toddler about his feeling or in the middle of his tantrum.
Our toddlers feel seen and understood, so...
They start to calm down.
And you can carry on in peace with a whole room full of parents impressed by you.
This article contains affiliate links.
Parenting in the summer looks a lot different than it does in the other months of the year.
In fact, authors Shari Medini and Karissa Tunis of Adore Them Parenting, have a whole book, Parenting While Working From Home: A Monthly Guide to Help Parents Balance Their Careers, Connect with Their Kids, and Establish Their Inner Strength, dedicated to each month of parenting. Check it out.
Whether you are a teacher off for the summer, working from home, a stay at home parent, or a parent going into the office, summer has a whole new vibe to it even if your kids are too young to be "off in the summer." The days are longer, more people are outside, and the workload of the other months seems to die down once Memorial Day hits.
For that reason, I like to create a theme of the day for each day of the week, so the hot summer days don't drag on. Although I know that there occasionally will be days when things pop up like vacation, family visits, and unavoidable appointments, I try to stick to this schedule throughout the whole summer.
Kids like predictable routines. They thrive off it, so when they know what's coming they are more likely to cooperate and have better behavior. You can even create a schedule in Canva for each day of the week and show to your kids the night before.
You can do a theme for all seven days of the week or just stick to the 5 days during the week and let the weekends be a free for all. You can double up on some days because you really enjoy one particular theme. Whatever you do, it's okay! The idea behind the themes is to be low stress and change things up.
Since my son is younger and still naps, we usually follow a morning routine, including my own morning routine, of breakfast, play, snack, walk/run, playground, and lunch before his nap and then hit up the theme in the afternoon. But whatever works for you is the way to go.
For your older kids, get their input and ideas for summer themes for the week. Need help with some suggestions? I have 7 ideas below that I have/will be using with my son this summer.
1. Water Day
Water day is a kid favorite. It's exactly as it sounds. On this day, we are going to do an activity that involves water. Here are some ideas for the day:
2. Art Day
On this day, expect to get messy. Plan ahead by having mats, towels, or cardboard boxes to put down on the floor and a bucket of water to scrub up afterwards. Head to art store to get some inspiration and here are some art ideas too:
3. Museum Day
Beat the heat and get indoors on Museum Day. Head to a local museum and let your kids wander around. Better if it's free. Some places to go:
4. Home Day
Home day is a day to catch up on things around the house or just lounge around. Some ideas on Home Day:
It's a day where your kids might get more screen than normal and everyone might stay in his or her pajamas all day. No guilt allowed on this day.
Get your kids involved in the chores too. For a list of age appropriate chores click here.
5. Library Day
Another way to stay cool is to go to the local library. Besides having a number of books to read, the library has a lot of programs to entertain kids throughout the summer. Check them out!
Can't leave the house? Create library day at home by
6. Cooking Day
A fun way to spend an afternoon is by adorning an apron and whipping up your favorite dish in the kitchen with the help of your kids.
Before beginning, lower your expectations and then lower them some more. Remember cooking day is all about having fun and teaching your kids some basic cooking skills like measuring, mixing, and stirring.
Head here to check out some kid friendly recipes.
7. Park Day
This is a theme you might want to do in the morning to avoid the afternoon scorcher. It's as simple as it sounds. Head to a park on this day. If you live in a big city, you can choose a new park each week.
At the park, delight in the walking trails, toss around a frisbee, or have a picnic. In my opinion, parks are some of the best things cities have to offer.
Other activities to do:
I hope these ideas can you some inspiration to begin the Theme of Day for those dog days of summer.
Since doing the day of the theme, I get excited for the next day instead of lamenting on what I am going to do all day. I am thrilled for you to join the Theme of the Day club!
As always leave a comment below if you have any questions! And continue dreaming up those themes.
You work all day in the kitchen to whip up a gourmet dinner for your family. You are excited. They will surely love it. You envision everyone sitting around the time, chatting and laughing, as the clank of dishes and bowls being passed around the table fills the air. It's something out of a sitcom.
Then, reality sets in and your dream of the perfect family dinner fades into the distance as your delicious meal is only greeted with silence and one word answers. Your kids sneak glances at their phones and scarf down their food in a rush to hole themselves up in their rooms for the rest of the evening. Even your husband slyly manages to turn on the TV.
If this is you or eerily similar, you might feel defeated and teetering on the brink of canceling family dinners from now on. I mean, why not? Everything else is canceled nowadays anyway.
But stop, take a deep breath, and read on.
Research has shown that family dinners are crucial to your children.
They decrease stress, open up communication, build self-esteem, and promote good eating habits.
Family dinners are some of my most fond memories of my childhood. Growing up, my parents made sure we had dinner together almost every night of the week, and on Sundays we all went over to my grandparents for a large family dinner with my cousins, aunts, and uncles. The values of those dinner times are still instilled into me to this day.
But I get it? With all the distractions and entertainment readily available at our fingertips, family dinners are dull in comparison.
However, I have 8 ideas to increase engagement on how to have lively conversations with your kids at family meals. These tips especially ring true for your older kids (preteens and teens). Trust me. I teach high school students.
For tips on eating with toddlers, click here.
1. Do a Draft
I first heard of these drafts on the Bobby Bones Show. They are wildly entertaining. I have done it with friends, family, and my high school students. The verdict? They love it and have fun. No one was on his phone.
How to play?
Pro Tip: Announce the topic for the draft the night before, so everyone has all day to think about it. This will get the game moving faster.
This game is a great warm-up at the beginning of class. Instead of asking "How are you doing," and hearing a mumbled response of the trite answer, "Good," I ask a more specific question.
"What was a high or best of your weekend? And what was a low or worst of your weekend."
Parents at family dinner time can adapt this to be the best or worst of the day. Everyone takes turns going. Expand upon responses.
I think you'll be surprised at the different types of responses and openness you'll get just by rephrasing "How was your day" to this new question.
3. Would You Rather
I never tire of Would You Rathers. I always think they are hilarious or thought-provoking. Teenagers, from my experience, typically agree.
Browse the internet for a premade list and go to town firing these off. Allow time for your family to expand on their responses about why they chose their answers. Hopefully, you'll gain some insights into your children's thoughts and behaviors.
Pro Tip: Debate this one - Would you rather get a million dollars with the one stipulation that for the rest of your life you will always get red lights or not get a million dollars but always have green lights?
For me? I choose the green lights. Time is money!
4. Easy Trivia
Another Bobby Bones game, easy trivia is sure to get a few laughs and awaken everyone's inner competitiveness.
Again, the internet is the place to go to print off some questions. Go around the table and ask away. If you get it wrong, you're out. Keep score. First one to five is the ultimate winner and gets a prize. New pair of shoes perhaps?
5. Humans of New York
One of my favorite sites is Humans of New York. The stories are generally uplifting, thought provoking, and very interesting. The photographer and writer, Brandon, really capture the essence of the diversity of the human spirit.
Pick one of these stories and read it during family dinner. Discuss it afterwards. Everyone can take a turn picking a story from the website and being the reader.
Pro tip: The inner teacher in me also suggests that you should prepare a couple of discussion questions to get the conversation rolling.
6. Read a Book
In similar fashion, pick a book to read to the family. My dad did this when I was a teenager, and I just remember laughing so hard. My family still quotes a line from the book. "The meatloaf will have to wait."
Pick a high interest-low reading level book for an easy read that flows throughout the meal. I have a complete list found here.
7. Pick a Place to Travel
I'll never forget the educational placemats my parents bought for us growing up. I think they instilled my brother's and my love for geography at such a young age. We had detailed maps of every country.
Buy some of these placemats and have each member of the family pick a place for your next family vacation. Even if you never go on the trip, just planning, dreaming, and talking about a trip can boost happiness. Check out some of my favorite places to travel.
Pro Tip: Close your eyes and hover your finger back and forth over the world map, when someone says, "Stop," place your finger on the first place. That will be your next travel destination. Fingers crossed for New Zealand.
8. Take Quizzes
I love quizzes, even all the cheesy Buzzfeed ones. I have also found that high school kids love them too.
Find a couple of these quizzes and take turns taking them and comparing the results.
Some quizzes to consider:
I hope these suggestions sparked a desire to either start family dinners or ramp them up a notch. Let me know in the comments what ones worked for you or any new ideas you tried with your family!
This post may contain affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, I may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.
I just need 20-30 minutes to work on something important, I think as I stare lovingly into the eyes of my 2-year old son.
If this is you, I have got you covered with 10 fun activities that will leave you guilt-free and your child learning.
Read the full article on Lisa Tanner Writing and take the quiz to see what type of mom you are right now.
1. Gel Clings
How do set it up.
I have a whole article on these toys.
4. Play Dough Animals
How do set it up.
5. Food Coloring Ice Bucket
How do set it up.
6. Card Drop
How do set it up.
How do set it up.
This article contains affiliate links.
When I received the Hatch as a gift for my baby shower, I never expected to love it so much. Read a full review here.
But I was surprised to learn that there are more ways to use the Hatch other than what it is marketed for - a sound machine to lull a child (and a parent lol) to sleep.
It has done a great job at that with my 2-year old toddler In fact, so well, I don't see us quitting it anytime soon. However, as I have been using it, I realized that it has a number of surprising ways to use it for any age with your children. And if you want to get creative, you can even adapt these strategies for yourself or other adults.
Here are 5 ways to use the Hatch.
1. Morning Wake-Up Call
The Hatch has different colors and sounds, and with the program feature you can program it to change colors and sounds at different times. Even if your child isn't using the sound during the night, you can program a calming sound and color (ie. light blue and birds chirping) as a morning wake-up call.
Your child can be conditioned to learn that once that sound or color comes on, he can get out of his bed and room and come get you. Or you will come get her out of the crib. Or your teenager has to get out of bed on the weekend. Or you need to get up yourself. Or, or, or.
The research-based calming sensation of both the sound and colors make it much easier to get up. They aren't jarring and abrupt. But, rather, a gentle easing into the day.
A cool feature is that you can program the color or sound to get brighter and louder, which is great for anxious kids who are impatient to get out of their room.
Pro Tip: Have the sound and light come on and then gradually have it get louder and brighter over a 15 minute period, so your eager child doesn't feel as if he is waiting forever.
2. Quiet Time or Time-Ins
If your child has stopped taking naps, I highly suggested implementing quiet time, and I also recommend doing time-ins regardless of your child's age.
During the quiet time or time-in period, have the Hatch set to one color. I would use red as that signifies that no one can move or leave the designated place. When you have decided that quiet time is over, the color will switch to a new color, like green, and all parents or child are free to move or leave.
Pro Tip: Play soothing music, like the lullaby sound, to keep your child relaxed and playing quietly in her room.
3. Homework Time
Not all kids find doing homework enjoyable. Some absolutely detest it. So to make it a lot less daunting and a more pleasurable experience use the Hatch.
A 2017 study suggests that white noise and other soothing nature sounds can improve your kids learning, memory, and overall mood. Put on the pacifying melodies and gradually lower the sound and dim the lights to indicate that homework time can end.
Pro Tip: Program the Hatch for Homework Time for no more than 30 minutes. After that, the optimal time for attention starts to decrease.
4. Play Stations
Set up play stations around the house. For example, an arts and craft station, an open-ended toy station, a reading station, an exercise station, a water station, or an outdoor station.
Then, program the Hatch for each station for about 10 minutes. When a station ends, a sound or a certain color will change on the Hatch indicating it's time to move onto the next activity.
Pro Tip: Do not have any of the other toys or objects from the other stations out in plain sight until it's time for that station to begin. Otherwise, your young kid will be distracted. A child is more likely to play with a toy when there are fewer toys around.
5. Nighttime and Naptime Routines
The goal when getting a child ready for bedtime and nap is to create a consistent, calming environment. The Hatch helps with this. Research shows that the colors pink, green, and blue promote rest, tranquility, and peace, so turn off the lights in your child's room and program the Hatch to switch on those colors. Then, program the Hatch to play soothing melodies that signal your little one's sleepy cues. Viola! Sleepy toddler. This works for adults as well!
Pro Tip: Choose the lullaby or running water sounds. They are calming, but not strong enough to put your kid to sleep. Once you put your child down, switch to a stronger sound like the white noise or wind.
The Hatch is such a versatile tool that I highly recommend investing in. It grows with your child and even can be used with parents who are empty nesters. It can calm, signify transitions, and even promote learning and memory. It's my favorite product and worth every penny.
Tell me in the comments if you use the Hatch and how you use it!
This article contains affiliate links of some of my favorite products. Purchasing them is at no extra cost to you.
Spring andliteracy! Two of my favorite things. Being a teacher and having my Master's in Reading Education, I sometimes go a little nuts with buying books or checking out books from the library for my son.
But with spring approaching and warmer weather in the forecast, I thought what better way to combine some of our favorite spring books, literacy activities, and the outdoors all into one neat, little spring package. We are all tired from being cooped up inside and on our computers, so let's get off our devices and outdoors with this ultimate spring literacy guide for toddlers and preschool aged children.
1. Become a Meteorologist With Usborne Weather Books
Spring brings a variety of weather from sunny, rainy, windy, and even snowy days depending on what part of the country you live in. What better way to talk about the different weather patterns your children see, then with Usborne's collection of weather books.
They have the Windy Day, Rainy Day, Sunny Day, and Snowy day. Read these books with your little ones and then spend the rest of the week having your child be a meteorologist and getting outside to track the weather. Use the premade template below or make one of your own.
2. Go on an Alphabet Easter Egg Hunt with Llama Llama Easter Egg
With Easter being one of the premiere events of the spring, it is only fitting we take our kids on an Easter egg hunt, but instead of chocolates and candies inside the eggs (save those things for actual Easter), put magnetic letters inside of eggs.
First, read Llama Llama Easter Egg or any other of your favorite books that feature an Easter egg hunt. Then, take your magnetic letters and put them in plastic eggs. For preschool aged kids, hide the eggs around the yard. Your kids will have to hunt for the eggs to find the letters that spell their names or any other word (Spring, Easter, Jesus, etc). You can add in a time limit or have kids compete against one another for bonus fun.
For the younger toddlers, simply have them open the eggs with the letters in them. Your toddlers can try to match the magnetic letter to pre-drawn letters or identify the letter. Either way, your toddlers will delight in the element of surprise of opening egg after egg.
3. Sign Language Scavenger Hunt with Sign Me Up
Spring is the time to try new activities. One of my favorite activities is sign language. I've already written a lot about the benefits of teaching sign language to your children as well as my favorite sign language resource, SignMeUp. So now, let's get outdoors and practice our sign language skills.
First, expose your children to sign language with SignMeUp or ASL Nook. Then go on a walk around the neighborhood trying to check off all the things you can you find on a premade list (see below). Once you find the object, have your little one sign the word. For repeated exposure to a word, make sure you are signing and saying the word yourself, having your kid sign and say the word, and showing them the picture, written, and real life form of the word. Multiple connections for the win.
For an added level of competitiveness, split off into teams. Some kids can go with Mommy and some kids can go with Daddy. Whoever can find the most words on the list wins!
4. Go on a Little Blue Truck's Springtime "Drive"
Little Blue Truck is always going on an adventure throughout town and stopping to see his friends. With Little Blue Truck's Springtime, you can too.
Before going on your own cruise, read the book first. Little Blue Truck is a favorite in our house. The books teach sounds, rhymes, onamonapia, and repetition, and they have some beautiful illustrations.
After reading the book, step outside into Little Blue Truck's world and recreate the drive he went on in the story. Have your little one hop into his own mode of transportation: the stroller, Cozy Coupe, Power Wheels, or a tricycle.
Along the way, Blue sees Sheep, Duck, Goat, Cow, Pig, Bunny, and Hen. You, too, will place stuffed animals or pictures of these animals throughout your yard or neighborhood. As you go on your stroll, stop to collect the animals and talk about what sounds they make. Have them hop into your car with you.
End the drive back at the house for a Springtime Celebration with all the animals. Have spring snacks and talk about what you saw on your "drive" as a sequence of events activity.
5. Batter's Up with My First Book of Baseball
Spring brings baseball, and baseball is a favorite in our household, so to honor America's favorite past time what better way to slide into spring with a little baseball literacy.
Start off by reading My First Book of Baseball and talking about all things baseball. Then head to the diamond, real or makeshift, and hit a homerun with this fun activity. You can do it a number of ways.
I hope these books and activities bring joy and a breath of fresh air to a long winter. Let me know what ones you tried and if your kids liked them in the comments. For more activities, subscribe to my newsletter to get the latest info.
This blog post contains affiliate links.
I truly believe that a good night's sleep and a perfect morning routine really set the stage for the rest of the day, especially for us moms. Whether we are spending the day rounding up the kids for a fun family outing or trying to get some work done around the house or at our actual workplace, perfecting our morning routine leads to overall better productivity, confidence, success, and happiness.
That's why I am happy to share my morning routine, which is helping me reach my 2021 goals. After some trial and error once my son came along, I finally feel as if I have nailed it down. While the actual times and order of the steps might have to be adjusted to fit your lifestyle and family dynamics, you will still gain some knowledge on how to set the tone for the rest of the day.
Maybe it's by doing one of these five steps and gradually working your way up to doing all five. Or maybe it's doing some during the weekdays and none on the weekends or vice versa. Either way, you are about to make some positive changes into your life by continuing to read.
Ready for some BIG changes into your life? Consider purchasing The Add One-A-Day 30 Day Challenge. 30 lifestyle changes to implement throughout your whole day.
1. Wake Up Before the Kids
Once your kids get down a solid sleep schedule and are not waking up at all hours or at the crack of dawn, this will be more feasible. Right now my son seems to fully wake anywhere between 7:00 AM - 7:30 AM. That means I aim to up and out of bed by 6:30 when I am not working (I have to be up earlier when I am working). I like at least a half hour to myself before my son wakes up. An hour is ideal.
By now, I have gotten so used to waking at this time, it has just become natural. But if you are just starting out, trying setting your alarm just ten minutes before your kids wake and then work your way up.
The key is to take 5 deep breaths, count to five, and just get up. No hitting the snooze and falling back asleep. Science shows that once you are awake in the morning and then fall back asleep, your body will actually feel more tired throughout the day.
I understand that this will not happen all the time. Listen to your body. At this point in my life, I normally let my body naturally wake me up when I am not working. Since I have gotten into the habit of rising around 6:00, most of the time I am fully awake by 6:00/6:30 (or sometimes even earlier), so I get up.
Other times, I might need the extra sleep, so I stay in bed until 7:00. When this is the case, I still allow myself 15-30 minutes of time to myself even if my son is awake. He is usually happy sitting in his crib talking to himself and playing with his stuffed animals. So no guilt there.
The times when I don't get up before my son, I can tell throughout the day. I feel as if I am playing catch up. Do yourself a favor and try this today!
2. Practice Gratitude
The first thing I do after I get out of bed is list four things I am thankful for in my designated gratitude journal. In the past, I have rattled them off in my head, but lately, for me, I have found it to be more meaningful and intentional to write them down.
The thing about practicing gratitude is that it can be as trivial or deep as you want it to be. Somedays, I write my husband or my son or my parents and other days I am super thankful for chapstick or my mouthguard I wear at night (How dare those Gen Zers say Millennials are old with their side parts and skinny jeans!).
Practicing gratitude is one of the key components to happiness and starting your day off happy is sure to be a catalyst for the rest of the day. It's hard to be upset when you're counting your blessings.
3. Partake in Quiet Time
It's easy to jump right in after you list your four things of gratitude and be flooded with all the noise. The noise from social media, work emails, the news, podcasts, etc. It's a lot so early in the morning.
That's why I like to take author, Matthew Kelly's advice and spend some time in the classroom of silence. For me, this could be 10 minutes of prayer, doing a crossword puzzle, reading a book, or eating breakfast in utter and total silence without checking my phone. I had my students try this, and they were amazed at how much they liked it. It's kind of weird and cool to actually listen and be aware of yourself chewing your food.
For you, your quiet time could look completely different. That's fine. Just try to spend at least 10 minutes blocking out the chaos of the outside world and tune into your own thoughts before the noise smacks you in your face in a few short minutes.
You'll head out into your day much calmer and relaxed. A clear head.
4. Drink One Glass of Water
Ahh water. It's so good for us. I have often heard that sleep and water are two of the most important things you can do for yourself, yet so many of us are not doing it.
That's why I like to start my day off with drinking one glass of water. I just chug it, and I instantly feel better and more refreshed. It's amazing how much one glass of water can do for us - our skin, our mind, our digestion, our circulation, and our body temperature.
Remember to continue drinking water throughout the day!
5. Review Your To-Do List
I believe that your to-do list should be created the night before instead of wasting time in the morning to do it. That way, you can have a plan of action in your mind the night before, and as soon as you wake up, you are able to execute it right away.
But I do like to spend a few minutes reviewing it, so I can have a clear vision of my day fresh in my head or revise any unrealistic expectations based on how I am feeling in the morning.
Get a good planner and get into the habit of writing down your daily goals. Schedule in those things that you want to accomplish no matter how big or small they are.
On Sundays, I like to get up and review the scriptures ahead of time for mass that day. I schedule it in into my planner, so I don't forget. And when something is written down, it carries more importance.
So maybe you should start writing down your morning routine, so you can remember to do it and so you can feel the satisfaction of crossing it off.
6. Make Your Bed
Finally, I like to have a bed made in the morning.
There have been studies that show that people who make their beds sleep better and have a more positive life. For me, it shows that I care and appreciate keeping my space neat and tidy. When my space is organized, I am organized. Plus, my bed just feels better sleeping in after it’s been made.
Naval Admiral William McRaven, the commander of U.S. Special Operations, agrees. In a famous 2014 commencement speech at University of Texas at Austin, the Admiral said it best. “If you make your bed every morning you will have accomplished the first task of the day. It will give you a small sense of pride and it will encourage you to do another task and another and another," he said. "By the end of the day, that one task completed will have turned into many tasks completed. Making your bed will also reinforce the fact that little things in life matter.”
Sometimes, I have to make my bed once my son is already up, but that's okay. I feel accomplished and in control of the day once I have done it.
Try it and see how you feel.
As Moms, we are busy and have so many thoughts running through out head throughout the day.
We need those few moments to ourselves in the morning to mentally prep for the day without any distractions.
With a little bit of practice, this morning routine will be perfect for you and if the rest of the day goes horribly wrong, you can rest in the knowledge that the morning went well because you were able to control it.
See you out there,
This blog post contains affiliate links.
Our parents always told us not to gossip. Teachers reprimanded us. Friends would ditch us if they knew we were talking behind their backs. TV created a whole series on the perils of gossiping.
But when you become a parent to a toddler, throw out any preconceived notion you have ever had of gossiping because gossiping is about to become your best friend. In fact, gossiping is one of the best positive parenting strategies I have undercovered as a mom.
What is gossiping?
Gossiping is exactly what you know it to be - talking about someone. However, when it comes to our little ones, this time we are going to do whatever it takes for them to hear us.
Yes, you heard that right, you want your toddler to overhear you talking about them while pretending that you don't even notice they are there. I'm talking about doing your best exaggerated whisper yell, hands cupped to your mouth, most dramatic imitation of gossiping possible to whomever or whatever (Daddy, a stuffed animal, a toy)
But here is the catch. You are not not going to drone on about all the things they did wrong. You are going to reiterate what they did well by using concrete examples.
"Psstttt, Teddy, guess what Henry did today? When Mr. Dinger went off, Henry went straight upstairs to get ready for bed without even crying!!! Can you believe that? Should we clap for Henry?"
This doesn't mean that you should avoid all mentions of any negative behavior your toddler does. You just want to put the focus on building your child's self-esteem while focusing mostly on the positive.
Why gossiping works?
I first heard of this strategy from the book, "The Happiest Toddler on the Block," by Dr. Harvey Karp. Dr. Karp says that gossiping "green lights" good behavior. He goes on to say that gossiping should start around 15-18 months. Why?
It's the same for adults. What do you prefer more: Your husband directly telling you that you are doing a good job as a mom or you overhearing your husband bragging about what a good mom you are to his parents? I would bet that most people would choose the latter.
That is because a direct remark to your face could be considered just a nice remark that he has to tell you because he is your husband, but the fact that he said it to someone else not in your presence must mean he really means it!
Toddlers feel the same way. If it's being whispered as a secret, Mommy must really mean it. It must be important, and I should pay close attention.
Gossiping fills up a toddler's self-esteem cup. It's hard being a toddler. They are often told "no" or they are forced to stay in very strict boundaries. Overhearing all the things they did right makes them confident in themselves and more likely to continue doing those actions.
How I do gossiping with my son?
Gossiping can be done anytime throughout the day, but I make a point to especially do it before bed to recap the day.
While we are sitting in the rocking chair having finished reading our nighttime books, I make a point of noticing the teddy bear that sits on Henry's nightstand. I call him Gossip Bear.
"Psst...Hey Gossip Bear, come here. I need to tell you what Henry did today."
I bring the bear over and make a point to turn away from Henry and face the bear instead. I then proceed to whisper about some of the good things Henry did that day while sprinkling in one behavior that I would like to curb.
"When Mommy told Henry screen time was over, Henry only cried for a little bit. He then went over to play with his kitchen. I was thankful Henry did that. Henry also learned to put some of his toys away when it was time to clean up. That made me smile, Gossip Bear. However, Mommy wants Henry to stay in his pack-n-play at Grandma's house. No more climbing out. Henry needs to sleep, sleep in order to play later. He needs to stay in crib. No climbing out."
Henry's ear have perked by this point, and I can tell he is absorbing every word. It's rather cute if I do say so myself. Finally, I ask Gossip Bear if we should clap for Henry and we both do.
But we are not done. Gossip Bear has something to tell me. I make believe Gossip Bear is whispering something into my ear and then proclaim, "Of course, Gossip Bear, you can give Henry a kiss and hug goodnight." Gossip Bear walks over to Henry and in his own voice asks for a kiss and a hug which Henry is excited to give. The end and as simple as that.
Start using gossiping throughout the day whenever you see your kiddo doing something you want to encourage him to keep doing, and you will sure to see a transformation in behavior. Who said gossiping is always bad?
For more positive parenting strategies read here and join the newsletter below.