Monday, January 28, 2013

Little Miss (or Mr.) Manners

Growing up, my Mom was a stickler for good manners. My sister and I were often reminded to use our manners, and at a young age, I remember distinctly thinking that I wouldn't do that to my kids when I was a parent. It was so annoying!

Fast forward twenty years or so, and guess what I do on a regular basis? (Cue the laugh track...)

We know that, even before children are verbal, there is a lot of learning going on. And it's not just about children absorbing the alphabet or learning their colours. There's a saying - "Children learn what they live" - and I fully believe that.  Even as a baby, I'd say "bless you" when my child sneezed, or I'd hold the door open for strangers at the mall, while my little one slumbered in her stroller. Children notice everything, not just the big, grand gestures. I've been told that my kids are extremely well-mannered (well, most of the time!) and I attribute that to the fact that I have continued my Mom's tradition of teaching manners from a young age. 

Here are some great resources for teaching children manners. I've found them extremely useful and I hope you will, too!

As parents, our actions - despite how insignificant they seem at the time - lay a foundation for our children that can last a lifetime. While reading, writing and math are important to learn, I think manners are just as imperative for future success. Whether rich or poor (or somewhere in between), good etiquette and respect for others are the great equalizers. Manners are invaluable, yet cost us nothing.

What ways do you teach your kids good manners? Please share your ideas... it helps make us all better parents!

Thanks for reading! Until next week...

Monday, January 21, 2013

Party Planning Made Easy

Because my children have birthdays in the first half of the year, I find that I need to get organized right out of the gate, so that I don’t go crazy planning last minute parties for them.

I usually start by asking them about their preferences. We make a wish list, then whittle down what their “must-haves” really are. My kids know that they don’t get everything they ask for, and this is just another way they learn moderation.

Once we have a theme established, I go online and search Pinterest for great party ideas. Pinterest has, increasingly, become one of my go-to sites, as it seems to distill all of the wonderful ideas out there into one easy search. Then, once I have an idea of what I need to purchase, make, and do, I continue with a Google keyword search to find out where I can get all of the items on my list.

Here are a few of my favorite party ideas right now:

I love this party theme because not only is it cool, it works for either gender. Boys and girls, alike, love to pretend they’re superheroes, dressed up in capes and masks. And, note the number of awesome DIY projects for this theme… you can really cut down on costs by making many of the accessories yourself. Depending on the ages of the children attending the party, you could even incorporate some items, like
felt masks and cool wristbands, into the party as fun activities. 

This website offers lots of great ideas for using your child’s toys as part of the décor, and the DIY construction sign cookies and marshmallow pops are fun and easy.

This farm-themed party is super-easy and offers lots of opportunities to showcase veggies as part of the décor and on the menu, as well. We love the mini chicken fingers and fries in pint containers and the creative use of tiny clay pots.

This is a great theme that allows you lots of freedom to think outside the box. From lollipop swirl-frosted cookies on sticks, to take-out boxes decorated with multicolored dot stickers and filled with sweet treats, any little girl would swoon over this party!

5. Girly-Girl Party – Inspired by this treat:

If you’ve got an older girl who loves makeup and anything girly, get creative and throw her the party of her dreams! Make spa masks, have manicure stations where her guests can do their nails (or each others’), and offer cute treats to eat, like nail polish marshmallows! Make it a sleepover, with popcorn and the movie Legally Blonde, and you’ve got a winner!

There are so many amazing party ideas on the web… if you want more, take a look at these for Girls and Boys. And, be sure to check out our Kids’ Party Ideas board on Pinterest, where we are always pinning new ideas!

One last suggestion…

Instead of loot bags filled with toys that will eventually end up in the landfill, try our new Loot Bag Packages – they come in 7 designs, including Superheroes, Cupcakes and more – and they’re only $4.99 each! They’re inexpensive, fun and practical too - each child gets their own customized labels and one tag to identify their favorite water bottle or backpack.

Happy party planning!

Monday, January 14, 2013

Three Little Words

As a parent, I look forward to unexpected moments of sweetness that take me by surprise. They brighten my day beyond measure and I treasure each and every one.

Lately, my little guy has been saying (out of the blue), “Mama, I love you too.” (It’s really sweet because, sometimes, I haven’t even said “I love you” yet!)

My older child often says “I love you” at unexpected moments, as well - in the morning when we're at the door putting on our coats and boots; while doing a craft or activity together; or even when we spend some quiet time reading a book while her little brother naps.

I have always made a conscious effort to let my kids know how I feel about them, so that they have a good role model for using positive, uplifting words. Words of kindness and affection don't need to be saved for bedtime or school drop-off; we use them all the time. And, I want them to know that hearing those three little words make my day! They stop me in my tracks and all of the noise in my life seems to go away. It’s amazing the effect they can have on a person – it’s powerful stuff!

If you don’t already, I encourage you to start your day with a big “I love you” to your child(ren). The impact of those three little words will be felt throughout the day.

And, who knows, you might just be met with the same when you’re least expecting it!

Monday, January 7, 2013

Getting Organized

It’s the start of a new year, and there’s no better time to get organized than now!

As I make a mental checklist of areas that need work, I also take a moment to recognize areas of success, and strategies I’ve implemented since last year, that are effective. (Some of these might work for you!) 
  •  Labeling school items – it’s safe to say my kids are extremely well labeled. Nary a hat or scarf goes to school without a label (with Found-it™) on it… and their teachers have expressed their appreciation for this! :)
  • Work – I’m getting better at structuring my workload so that I have more time to spend with my kids and be more present when doing activities.
  • Birthday planning – I now have pre-purchased birthday gifts ready to go at a moment’s notice. It doesn’t sound like a big deal but, trust me, it’s a lifesaver!
  • Planning play dates – I was always a spontaneous kind of girl, but that meant play dates were pretty hit-and-miss. Now, my oldest child has a weekly scheduled play date that she adores.

While I’ve had a few “wins”, there are still areas that need to be worked on…
  • Our morning routine – we have one, but it is less than stellar…definitely a work-in-progress. While it has shown steady improvement, I need to be more diligent in enforcing it this year so that there is less frustration while trying to get out of the house.
  • Meal planning – there’s nothing worse than rushing around at 5:30pm looking for something quick to make for dinner. I’m going to try and save my sanity by planning meals weekly. We'll eat better, and save money, too! Here are some of the tips and tools I'm going to use. 
  • Personal time – there never seems to be enough time in the day to schedule personal time, but I’m vowing to improve upon last year. While I made some strides in that direction, they were short-lived. This year, I am scheduling a standing date with myself to do something that will invigorate me like my much loved, but often neglected, yoga class.

Are there any organizational strategies that have worked for you, or any that you’re going to try this year? We’d love to hear about them!

Here’s to a healthy, happy 2013!