The Best Advice for Raising Well-Adjusted Children

The Best Advice for Raising Well-Adjusted Children

This post is by guest contributor Kristin Louis from Parenting with Kris

Parenting advice is everywhere these days, and shaping children into happy, well-adjusted members of society is a tough job. It’s easy to get caught up on particular facets of parenting, such as discipline, and lose sight of all the other ways you can raise children who thrive in school, work, and life. Whether your kids are toddlers, teens, or any age in between, check out the following resources for help raising children who are well-behaved, emotionally stable, and equipped with the skills they need for success.

Advice on The Importance of Routines

Routines help children feel grounded and in control. Set a schedule for your mornings, mealtimes, and bedtimes so your kids know what to expect.

12 Tips to Master Your Kids’ Morning Routine and Eliminate Stress by Nicole Spector

Best Ways to Help Children Fall Asleep at Nap Time

Creating a Night Routine for Your Family

Advice on Setting Boundaries

Establishing firm rules and boundaries—without sacrificing respect—can help your children learn to self-regulate their behavior.

How to Set Limits for Kids Without Harshness, Fear or Shame by Sarah MacLaughlin, LSW

Using Praise to Encourage Good Behaviors by Amy Morin, LCSW

Rules For Kids That Parents Should Follow by Sherry Parnell

Advice on How to Support Learning

As a parent, your actions have a significant influence on your children’s academic progress. There are plenty of ways to support learning at home!

Strategic Ways to Use YouTube in Your Homeschooling by Emily Sewell

7 Educational and Entertaining Activities for Young Kids

101 Reasons That Video Games Can Be Educational

Upgrade Your Internet for the Best Game-Playing Experience

Advice for Building Problem-Solving Skills

Raise confident, problem-solving kids by giving them the tools they need to figure things out on their own.

5 Reasons to Let Children Make Their Own Decisions by Ken Myers

Why You Should Let Your Child Fail: The Benefits of Natural Consequences by James Lehman, MSW

It’s common for parents to worry about whether they’re doing everything right. Just remember, there’s no such thing as a perfect parent! The most important thing is to be there for your children through every age and stage of development, offering gentle guidance and allowing your kids to take the reins once in a while. Do what you can to provide a happy and supportive home environment, and your kids are sure to thrive.

I hope you found this parenting advice round up helpful. What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given since becoming a parent? What’s the worst? Let me know in the comments below. If you found this post helpful, share it with your friends!

Picture Books About Faith for Your Child’s Easter Basket

Picture Books About Faith for Your Child’s Easter Basket

Picture books about faith are such a great way to teach our kids about faith and the love of Jesus during the Easter season. I love including books in my children’s Easter baskets. Here are a few of our favorite engaging stories that are sure to spark wonderful conversations about our Lord. We love including these books into our homeschool day or as a bedtime story.

I hope your family enjoys these picture books about faith as much as we do! I really find that exposing my children to Jesus through books fuels their understanding, curiosity, and love for the Lord in an exciting way. It is really incredible the questions children will come up with on their own after exposing our Christian faith to them through books. If your kids aren’t that in to books right now, have no fear. Go check out this post to spark a love of books in your child.

The Easiest Way to Start a Garden

The Easiest Way to Start a Garden

The easiest way to start a garden is to just jump right in and do it. Gardening is one of those things that feels really complicated and intimidating. It’s easy to get swept into the rabbit hole of soil composition, fertilizers, pest controls, and then quit before even starting. But friend, I am here to tell you that starting a garden is not complicated. You just need four ingredients. They are seeds, sun, water, and dirt. That’s it. It really is that simple.

Seeds

The first question you need to ask yourself is whether you want a flower garden, vegetable garden, or both. If you want to grow vegetables, I still recommend planting a few colorful flowers to attract the pollinators. You can order seeds online from a place like Botanical Interests, or you can buy them from your local box hardware store. You will find lots of choices at both places, whether you’re looking for vegetables, flowers, organic, or conventional. It really doesn’t matter. It’s important to know when to plant your seeds. To determine this, you need to know your planting zone. All you have to do is google your city and planting zone. Zones are labeled by a number and letter. If you are on the edge between two planting zones (I live close to 5b and 6a), go by the dates for the colder zone (so 6a for me). There is nothing sadder than when your new baby plants freeze because you planted them in the ground too soon. I actually plan to start my seeds inside this year, and then will transfer them to the ground in the beginning of May.

Sun

Almost every vegetable will need a considerable amount of day time sunlight to grow well. That seed packet you just bought – flip it over and read that back. That is where you will find exactly how much sun your plant needs. Knowing that you need access to a lot of light, it matters where you decide to place your garden. If your yard is mostly shaded, you can use large pots (or even buckets) in a sunny spot on your porch or edge of your driveway.

Water

When determining where to place your garden, you need to consider your water source. The easiest thing is to have your garden be close enough to your water hose, so you can easily use that. Once you get into the summer months, you will need to water your garden almost daily. If you live in a place with extreme heat, you will want to put a sprinkler on your garden for several hours if you go through a spell with no rain. I can attest that filling up a watering can and walking it to your vegetables multiple times each day get real old real fast. So yes, your plants need to have access to lots of sunlight, but they also need to be close to your water source.

Dirt

Next, let’s talk about dirt. This is where I see a lot of new gardeners get overwhelmed. Dirt composition is a whole thing if you make it one. But you can have a healthy and thriving garden without knowing too much about what type dirt you have. Don’t overcomplicate it. If you are using containers, just pick up some bags garden soil (or maybe find someone with extra topsoil). If you are worried about the soil at your house, you can also use store bought soil and mix it in with what you already have. This is a great options for those in the south who’s yard is mostly that hard red clay dirt.

Bonus Tips

Don’t forget about pest control. If you are using containers or have a raised bed garden, you won’t have to worry too much about rabbits. But if you think some furry critters will be interested in your veggies, then surround your garden with some type of fencing (I just use chicken wire). As far as bug control, your best resource are the employees at your local nursery. They have a wealth of knowledge about the pests in your area, and they will recommend effective measures to combat them.

Lastly, it’s important to note that starting a garden takes the most time and energy in the beginning. Once things are in the ground, pests are controlled, and you have a watering routine, the hard work is over. Then you get to reap the harvest of that work. You might have some bumps along the way, but takes the lessons from the garden all in stride. Have you ever had a garden? Do you plan to start one this year? Let me know in the comments below. If you’re looking for other spring themed activities, check out how I make a spring sensory box here. And as always, if you liked this post, please share it with your friends.

Fun Activities for Kids to Beat Winter Blues

Fun Activities for Kids to Beat Winter Blues

Here are some fun activities to beat the winter blues. Winter can be so difficult for kids and parents alike. And we are in the heart of the season as we speak. February is often the most difficult winter month. It’s definitely the coldest and dreariest. Here are some fun winter activities you can do to shake things up and fight the winter blues.

Get Messy

It’s time to let go and get out the paint and the glitter. That’s right; I said it. Get out the glitter. Pulling out the messy arts and crafts will feel special and exciting for your kids. My middle child made a rainbow tree FULL of glitter the other day. She was so so proud of her creation. Yes, there was a messy table to clean up, but seeing her joy made up for it. It also gave me an opportunity to teach her how to properly clean up messy crafts. This means that next time, she can be more independent with her activity. I find that the more independent my kids can be with clean up, the more likely I am to say yes to these things.

Epic Obstacle Course

Obstacle Courses are great activities to beat the winter blues, and there’s good reason for that. They are a lot of fun, and the provide a lot of gross motor movement in small spaces. But honestly, often kids will only do them for a short while. What if you elevated your obstacle course? Let it span multiple rooms in your house. Have you kids try to complete the course walking and crawling backwards. Set a timer to see how many times they can complete the course in a given time. Can the do it blindfolded? The possibilities are endless! To get the most bang for your buck (as in get the most pent up energy out), have your kids switch gross motor movements quickly. For example, go from crawling through a tunnel to hopping. To top off your epic obstacle course, have your kids do one last run, then surprise them with a favorite snack at the end.

Bake All the Yummy Things

Baking with kids can be stress inducing. Same for me friend. But it is always a hit, and you get to eat something yummy at the end. It’s really a win for all when you look at it like that. One hack I found for making cooking with my kids less stressful for me is to cook with one child at a time. Instead of having them all three squishing in around the bowl, I divide up the tasks. For example, when making cookies one child gets to mix the wet ingredients, another child gets to combine the dry ingredients, and the last child gets to scoop out the dough onto the baking sheet. Baking this way is more manageable for me, which in turn makes me want to do it more often.

Go for a Walk

Yep. Get outside and go for a walk. I know it’s cold. I know it’s dreary. Go for a walk anyways. Layer up (tank top, long sleeve shirt, sweater, coat, hat) and spend at least fifteen minutes outside. I promise you it will help with the winter blues. There is something magical about that col crisp air that snaps you out of the brain fog. When you get back, warm up with some hot chocolate.

One of the hardest things for me, during this time of the year, is finding motivation to do the things. I hope these ideas encourage you to take simple but intentional action to fight the winter blues, not only for yourself but also your kids. If you are looking for ideas on how to utilize your indoor space in a more intentional way, check out my post about Living in Zones. What are you favorite winter activities? Let me know in the comments below, and as always, like and share this post if you enjoyed it.

It’s Time to Edit Our To Do List

It’s Time to Edit Our To Do List

We all need to edit our to do list this year. 2020 has been weird and hard and heartbreaking and all the things. There’s no way to beat around the bush or sugar coat it. The holidays are supposed to be filled with joy and glad tidings, but this year many of us are grieving, struggling financially, feeling burned out, or all of the above. I see you. I hear you. And I am here to encourage you.

Exhale

Take a couple of deep breaths, mama. When you exhale, let it go. Let go of your expectations of what this holiday season will be like. Let’s agree to leave some wiggle room in our schedules. Let’s agree to take it day by day. There. Does that take some of the pressure off? I hope it does. Speaking of plans, let’s take a look at our holiday to do lists. I’m not talking about the practical things that are non-negotiable. I’m talking about that holiday baking that you do every single year, the 17 Christmas movies are a must watch, and the five course dinner that you typically serve on Christmas day. Those things. The things that you might really enjoy but maybe won’t or shouldn’t happen this year.

Let Go

It is okay to not do all the things. It is ok to cross things off your holiday to do list because you don’t have the capacity to get every thing done. This isn’t a lesson just for 2020. I actually learned this truth last year. There wasn’t one specific thing that was going on in my 2019 life, but I was feeling SO spread thin by the beginning of December. A lot of little things added up, and I was just DONE before it even started. The holiday season felt like some gigantic mountain I was going to be forced to climb. I realized that’s not how I wanted to spend my time. I am worthy of enjoying the Christmas season just as much as my kids and the rest of my family. Therefore, I made the decision, and I crossed some big things off my list. IT WAS FREEING! I was able to enjoy the holiday season with my family without feeling like I was in servitude to them.

Focus on What Really Matters

This year has been really interesting. It has really made us focus on what really matters. What really matters to you? What fills your cup during this time? What brings your family joy? By crossing off the things that don’t really matter, we can make room for this things that do. I am excited to make room for is decorating gingerbread houses as a new family tradition. But here’s the kicker, because I’ve crossed some things off, I am planning on baking the gingerbread myself. This is something that I have wanted to do for years but haven’t been able to because of being distracted by other things. This year, what matters most to us is that our family feels peaceful and bonded. Every activity is put through that filter. If it doesn’t meet that basic criteria, then it’s crossed off the list. So, let’s all edit our to do list together this year, and enjoy the things that really matter. For more practical tips on having a stress free holiday season, you can read my post here.

What are you crossing off your list this year? Are you adding anything to it? Let me know in the comments below and don’t forget to like and share if you enjoyed this post. Happy Holidays!!

The Best 2020 Holiday Gift Guide for Kids 8 and Under

Here are my top picks for gifts for kids 8 and under that are not only budget friendly, but will also grow with your kids. This post contains some affiliate links, which helps support this space with no added cost to you. Also, feel free to check out my gift guide geared specifically towards children with ADHD. Happy shopping and happy holidays!

These blocks are so great and can be used by any age to make simple or complicated structures.

This customizable stuffed animal was such a favorite with each of my kids when they were young toddlers.

The perfect gift for your emerging authors and illustrators. Have your kids write and illustrate their own book, then send it off to be professionally made into a real hardcover book!

Have your little mermaid snuggle up in this cozy blanket all winter long.

Put on a show with this fun set of puppets.

Bilibos are an open-ended toy that can be used in so many fun ways. We also use our as “wiggle seats” during homeschooling.

These On the Go Craft Kits are perfect stocking stuffers! They are perfect for screen free entertainment in the car, if you’re traveling this holiday season.

My 6 year old received this face painting kit for her birthday, and it has been a favorite for all 3 of my kids. I love it because it washes off SO easily and doesn’t stain.

I cannot tell you enough how much my kids love these books. They are cute and sweet stories that actually teach our kids about the scientific method in a fun and engaging way.

This fun toddler scooter will be under the tree for my 3 year old this year! I love how it has two wheels in the front to help with balance. 

Slime, slime, and more slime. Need I say more? Seriously, though, I like how this kit contains ready made magnetic slime, which was showcased on Emily’s Wonder Lab.

Did you know triangle crayons help teach proper grip? These Jumbo Triangle Crayons are great for little hands.

Do you have a fashionista like I do? My 6 year old received this jewelry making kit last year, and she still plays with it at least once a week. 

My 8 year old has become very interested in origami over the last several months. I plan on getting her this set. I really like how the paper is double-sided. 

This fairy garden is growing in my kitchen this very moment. The kids had such a fun time creating it, and now we are watching the grass grow. They can hardly wait to string the included lights for a special and unique night light. 

There’s a reason Tinker Toys are such a classic.

I’m not the crafty mom, and that is why I love all in one craft kits. Look at how stinkin’ cute this robot craft kit is!

Get your kids outside and moving without the clean up of Nerf guns with this Laser X laser tagging game.

Who doesn’t want to cuddle up with Baby Yoda from Mandalorian on Disney +. This 8″ plush Yoda is perfect for your little Star Wars fan.

Harry Potter is as popular now as it was ever. This Room of Requirement LEGO Set is so fun but not overly complicated to assemble.

There you go! I hope you found some fun things your kids will love. A special thanks to my dear friend, Meredith, for her contribution to this gift guide.

Living in Zones

Living in Zones

I created zones for my kids and myself in our home. I felt like there was zero order to my home. Do you ever feel like that? Like there are people and things all over your house all the time? This is so common, especially when you have kids. It is especially so when you are homeschooling, because you are using your house each and every day. Toys migrate from the play room to the living room to the bedroom to even the bath tub. By the end of summer, I’d had enough of this mess, literally and figuratively.

What Do I Mean?

What do I mean by zones? I forget where I first heard of turning your space into zones, but I was reminded of the idea by Erin from Cotton Stem. The idea of creating zones means using your space intentionally to provide a change of scenery, spark creativity, or just a place to go that has a purpose. For example, that random corner in your kitchen that’s kind of dead space – let’s turn it into something useful!

Book Nook Zone

made a little book corner in her kids’ bedroom. I thought, “Wow, I can do that!”. And I did. I went around my house and grabbed my son’s Anywhere Chair, a cozy blanket my kids love, an extra end table we randomly had, the basket of books which was not getting read in our playroom, and voila! We had our own reading corner in the upstairs loft. We named it the Book Nook, and it is now where my big kids do their independent reading each day. They LOVE it, and they are actually reading the forgotten books that were formerly in the playroom.

Bonus School Space Zone

With the success of the Book Nook, I looked for other ways to implement more zones. We have a large loft area upstairs, and it wasn’t being utilized well. The book nook was in one corner of the room, but I saw the opportunity to make the loft even more purposeful. I moved a desk that was in my daughter’s room (it was only storing doll clothes) to the loft. I added a lamp and a globe to the desk. BOOM! Now we have a zone for school work other than our homeschool room. We use this when someone needs to move to a quiet space. Because the kids take online piano lessons, I moved our keyboard to the same wall as the desk to be included in the school zone.

TV and Video Game Zone

I positioned the TV and Nugget couch to the next area in the loft to create a “lounging zone”. The TV cabinet also stores our LEGOs, so these are out of the kid’s bedrooms. This little TV zone get a lot of use on the weekends when my kids watch more shows and enjoy playing the Wii. It’s a small area. It’s literally just the Nugget and the TV, but the special thing about creating zones is you don’t have to have a lot of space to make something special.

Gross Motor Zone

Finally, the last zone I created in our loft is the “gross motor” zone. This is the biggest zone. I have a toddler trampoline in a corner and a sensory swing to hang from the ceiling. The Nugget Couch can easily be pulled over to make an obstacle course, slide, or whatever the kids want to create. Lastly, I added the little toddler slide from the backyard. I wanted an area where kids could play rough and get their wiggles out. We live in the Midwest, and it will soon be too cold to play outside. Having this play space is essential, and it’s already being used.

Now It’s Your Turn

I know not everyone has a large unused loft in their home. However, the idea behind creating zones is using the little corners and nooks you do have. Turn them into a special place for your kids to go. Maybe it’s setting aside the end of your kitchen table and leaving out crafting supplies, or trays and tubs of playdough that the kids can access on their own. Maybe it’s taking that kids table that isn’t really getting used anymore and turning it into a board game table. Maybe you need a “mom zone” to keep your calendar, file mail, and meal plan. I created my “mom zone” in our kitchen. It is so nice to have all my things in one place. Assess what’s not working or take a space that isn’t being used efficiently, then let your imagination flourish. Take a look around and share what you come up with!

Below are a few links to some things that we have in our zones, but don’t feel like you have to buy a bunch of stuff. Shop your house first, then see where you need to fill in the blanks.

Indoor Sensory Swing:

Toddler Trampoline:

Cozy chair for your own Book Nook:

Toddler Slide:

Nurturing Sibling Relationships

Nurturing Sibling Relationships

Nurturing sibling relationships is an aspect to parenting I want to thrive in. I want to preface this post with love. I know we, as mothers, are doing the very best we can. Mothering and parenthood is legit hard. It’s a high and holy calling on us. My heart is to share a few things that have helped our family. And my hope is that maybe something shared can bring a little more peace to your home where there might be chaos. My heart is not boastful. I do not get it right every time, and I definitely do not know all the things. We struggle and have hard days and weeks just like every one. Also, my children are young. I know that things will change as they get older, and we will have to mold and adjust our strategies as our children grow. My husband and I are continually having conversations about what each of our children need and how we can best meet those needs. I am not an expert, and I believe a lot of sibling dynamics come from individual personalities. However, there have been a few things that we have purposely implemented in our family culture to nurture the relationships among our children.

Valuing Sibling Relationships

First and most importantly, we view siblings as a gift in our family. My husband and I don’t take for granted the value of this special bond among our 3 kids. I grew up as an only child, and my husband has one younger brother. We are not experts by our own account, but we have a deep desire for our kids to have a special, close, and unbreakable bond. For much of my childhood, I longed for that “best” friend who would be present in my life for years and years. That deep connection when you can read each other’s thoughts without saying a word. Childhood friendships can graze the surface of this, but those relationships tend to be fluid and temporary. They depend on where you live, what school you go to, etc, and those things can change often for kids. But siblings are with you forever. They’re stuck with you, ha! So, I think for us, that is the biggest motivator for for how our kids view each other. They are a gift. It all starts with your heart and how you as the parent view sibling relationships.

Teaching Conflict Resolution

Secondly, I have basically been a helicopter parent when it comes to conflict resolution among our children. In the toddler years, this meant me having them repeat what I say when resolving a conflict. I intentionally taught them the words and tone of voice to use with the goal of nurturing their sibling relationship. I took the time to explain to one child why the other child was feeling a certain way. If one child did something hurtful, I would tell them to look at their sibling, and I would say calmly, “Look at their face. They are sad. It made them sad when you did xyz. You need to say sorry and make it right.” I start this around age two. I believe it helps them to develop an awareness and empathy for others. I have only just recently started letting my 5 and 7 year old work out conflict on their own. And it has, honestly, been a joy to hear them both state their opinions on a situation and come to their own compromises. It really makes all that hard work I did when they were younger worth it. I also really take the time to explain to the older kids that those younger than them are still learning. That we have to be patient and teach them. This is especially poignant, as I call my now 2 year old the toddleriest toddler I ever had. He is in his learning stage, and my older two often have to give him grace when they don’t initially feel like it. That is also a good life lesson.

Nurturing the Heart

Thirdly, to the best of our ability, we parent the hearts of our children and not just their behavior. If one child is going through a phase where they’re repeatedly getting frustrated and yelling at another child, we not only address the behavior but also get to the reason as to why said child is frustrated and yelling. We actually dealt with this recently. The frustrated child was yelling because they felt like their sibling wasn’t listening. After talking about appropriate ways to express frustration (yelling at people not being one of them), we followed through and talked to the sibling about the importance of active listening and how it hurts people’s feelings when they don’t feel heard. This is only the most recent example. It takes a lot more work on the front end. It would be so much less effort for me to just separate the two kids and have a blanket “no yelling” statement and then move on. But if we had only responded to the behavior of the first child, we would have missed a teaching moment for the second child. We always try to keep the goal of nurturing sibling relationships in mind during conflict resolution.

Family Culture

Lastly, we do our best to instill a team spirit into our family culture. I really credit my husband with this one. He loves being part of a team. Therefore, we don’t allow our kids to compete against each other. We tell our kids to use team work to complete a task, whether it’s chores or just playing a game. When calling my kids collectively, I will say “team Sewell, it’s time to go (or what ever).” This, I hope, just gives them the little reminder that we are all on the same team. Always. We don’t pit them against each other – ever. Even when playing games.

I think the big take away in nurturing sibling relationships is that we have decided that this is a priority in our family. We put a lot of our parenting energy into this. We tell our kids that they are “forever best friends,” and we mean that with our whole heart.

I would love LOVE to hear how you nurture sibling relationships with you kids. Share what has worked in your family, so we can learn from each other.

Gluten Free Peanut Butter Cookies

Gluten Free Peanut Butter Cookies

These gluten free peanut butter cookies are so delicious. It seems like everyone is wanting comfort foods during this strange time. Enjoy this quick cookie recipe with your family. Let me know how they turn out in the comments below.

1 cup peanut butter

1 cup granulated sugar

1 egg

1 tsp vanilla extract

**Bonus ingredient: how ever many chocolate chips your heart desires

Mix together and spoon onto greased cookie sheet. Bake at 325 for 12-15 minutes, until edges start to brown. Remove and let cool on the cookie sheet to firm up. Yields 12-15 cookies.

I hope you ENJOY these gluten free peanut butter cookies! And, it’s ok. You’re doing ok. It’s going to be ok. Deep breaths.

Homeschooling During Quarantine: It’s a New World

Homeschooling During Quarantine: It’s a New World

Can you believe we are homeschooling during quarantine? WOW! My intention was to write more often than I have, but it seems like the entire world has changed in just the last 10 days. Everything is canceled. All the things. We are having to adjust being at home at.all.times. This has been hard, even for me, a self identified introvert! Our best laid plans have been thrown out the window.

How are you handling homeschooling during quarantine? If you’re like me, you’re having good moments and hard moments. Good days and bad days. Days where you think, “I’ve got this!”. And other days where the enormity of the uncertainty feels so overwhelming. So, what are we to do?

Start with Small Routines

There is no shortage of advice on how to fill your time at home. Countless companies are offering free resources. You can easily pull up hundreds of options on Google. To me, it’s too much. I do not have the mental capacity to sort through everything. My advice is to start small. Start with implementing and STICKING WITH an attainable daily routine. Have different routines for your weekdays and weekends.

Furthermore, get dressed. I read a quote that said, “Flannel starts to feel like depression after about 3 days.” It’s so true. I am used to wearing make up every day. When I don’t, I feel lazy and unmotivated. So, I’ve been wearing my typical make up almost every day. It has really helped my mentality in approaching the day. Below is the weekday we are using in our family (2 parents at home barely working with 3 kids):

*8:30-9:15 (this is the only time we go by the clock): Every one gets dressed

*Homeschool my two older girls, while hubby take the toddler upstairs for some gross motor play

*Morning snack/break from school

*Finish school while toddler does a puzzle (or some other simple activity)

*Lunch

*Nap/Quiet time

*Afternoon snack while watching TV

*Get out of the house in some way (play outside, go for a walk, take a drive)

*Follow typical night time routine of dinner, baths, after dinner snack, and bed

I hope this helps bring a little intentionality to your day. We’ve been following this routine for about 4 days now, and every day it feels a little more normal. We can do this. We ARE doing it! If you’re needing encouragement for how to manage self care during quarantine, check out this post.