Monday, July 27, 2015

10 Strategies For Surviving a Family Road Trip

The end of July and August are the most popular times of the year for parents to take time off from work and go on a vacation with their family. However, this doesn’t mean that every family will be flying to their destinations (which opens up a host of its own challenges)- but for many families, this means a road trip. Perhaps road trips were fun and exciting when you were 22 and going with all your friends, but some parents would call a road trip with all your children in a packed car something out of a horror movie. 

No matter what, the road trip probably won’t be an experience you would call amazingly fun and exciting or something you’ll want to do again right away, but there are strategies you can take to ease some of the stress and chaos and make the trip at least bearable. Some of these strategies involve planning and completion ahead of time, and the others are for when the road trip is in progress. 

For the days leading up to the road trip:

1. Check the weather
Bad weather can make a road trip extra stressful, even without kids, so put a car full of kids and bad weather together and you’ve got yourself a nightmare road trip. At the beginning of the week be sure to check the weather forecast and see how the weather is going to be on the day of your trip. If it is going to pour, leave a day earlier or leave the day after you planned because, I promise, it is not worth it to drive through a storm in order to be there on schedule. 

2. Pack a cooler of easy to eat and not too messy snacks
Emphasis on the not too messy part! Having a cooler filled with snacks and refreshments will keep kids from wanting to make unnecessary stops or continuously whining that they are hungry. And they are there for when you get hungry too! Great road trip snacks include goldfish, apple slices, cheese, and juice boxes. 

3. Perfect your “you better stop doing what you’re doing” face 
Having the ability to communicate your expectations with a single look is an art that seems to be perfected by mothers. This skill becomes extra important when you’re up in the passenger seat or driving and can’t take your eyes off the road for longer than a split second- or when you just don’t have the energy to yell or lecture. Bonus points for being able to do it in the rearview mirror!

4. Charge all electronics
This one is super important because if the technology and entertainment dies and the children are bored- you’ll be the one paying for it! The night before the road trip, make sure that all portable DVD players, kindles, iPads, cell phones, ect are plugged in and charging.

5. Make sure headphones are packed 
Not only make sure some headphones are packed, make sure enough headphones for each child are packed because, trust me, you do not want the kids fighting over who gets to use them. Forgetting headphones would also mean that you have to listen to their movies or music the whole ride too instead of your own, and that will probably put a damper on the trip.

For when the road trip is in progress:

1. Don’t stress
This may sound impossible, but try as best you can to not get overwhelmed and let the little things bother you. The trip will probably not go entirely as planned or be easy every second, but it is important to go with the flow! Remember, you are on your way to your vacation!  

2. Forget about potty training: bring extra diapers
Even if your toddler is doing a pretty good job with their potty training or fully potty trained, forget the lessons and just throw on a diaper or pull-up. You’ll be glad you did when your 20 miles from the nearest rest stop and your child says they need to go like, immediately. 

3. Master the art of peeing on the side of the road (for you or the kids…)
Sometimes rest stops can be few and far between, and every parent knows when a child has to go to the bathroom, they cannot wait. For those of you who have children too old to put a diaper on, get ready to have to pull over. From what I have read, the best thing to do is pull over so your car is completely off the road, on top of a hill if possible to decrease visibility, open both passenger side doors, and have your child stand or squat between the doors. If your child doesn’t feel comfortable doing that- they are just gonna have to get over it or hold it!

4. Do your best to ignore them
Kids and long car rides do not mix well. They are probably going to annoy the heck out of you at certain points, but do your best to resist giving in or lashing out because that will just make things worse. Just put in your favorite CD, turn it up, and tune them out! 

5. Have some “road trip games” ready

The classic road trip games may have lost their popularity since the increase in technology, but they can still be a great bonding experience and provide some technology-free entertainment. If the kids are in a good mood, and you’re in a good mood, give some of these road trip games a try. 

ONCEKids Publishing is run by literacy advocate and Mompreneur Eileen Wacker.  Click here to find her acclaimed books

Monday, June 29, 2015

28 Summer Bucket List Ideas for Your Family

Every summer at the beginning of June it feels like we have endless time ahead of us, but without fail, every year August rolls around and we hear ourselves saying, “where did the time go?”

One of the best ways to make sure you don’t let the summer fly by without doing any of the fun activities you wanted is to make a Summer Bucket List. At the very beginning of summer, sit down with the family and make a list of all the activities you want to accomplish and places you want to visit that summer. Then make sure to hang the list up in a place where you’ll see it everyday, like on the fridge. Not only writing it all out on a list but also hanging it up as a daily reminder will help you keep track of what you’re accomplishing and not let the days get away from you. It can also serve as a reference for those rainy days when the family is bored and looking for something to do. 
 Have the summer you always say you’re going to have when June rolls around, while you still have plenty of time left! To help you get started, we asked real moms for some ideas straight from their own summer bucket lists.

1. Go strawberry picking

2. Set up a lemonade stand with the kids 

3. Have a family water balloon fight

4. Explore a part of town your family has never been to

5. Have at least one family picnic (complete with straw baskets and everything!)

6. Go for a family bike ride

7. Have a family cook off or bake off on a rainy day 
Make two teams, one with mom as the coach and one with dad, and then compete against each other to see who can make the better meal or dessert.

8. Host a BBQ for your family and friends

9. Go on a family nature walk and learn about the plants and birds

10. Have a family game night complete with snacks and prizes

11. Catch fireflies

12. Visit your local farmer’s market

13. Run (or walk) a 5K race with your family

14. Take the kids to a drive-in theater

15. Go camping (even if its just in your backyard)

16. Make a slip-n-slide in your own backyard

17. Make a fire and roast marshmallows

18. Volunteer with your family for a local charity

19. Visit a park you’ve never been to

20. Go to the zoo and teach the kids all about the different animals 

21. Start a garden with your children as helpers

22. Make up your own holiday and celebrate it as a family

23. Do arts and crafts outside as a family 

24. Make homemade snow cones with the kids

25. Teach the kids how to fish

26. Play flashlight tag or ghost in the graveyard with all your neighbors (yes this includes the adults too!)

27. Go for a family bike ride

28. Go kayaking 

To find the book series that inspires these stories, click here

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

How Parents Can Stay Sane When Kids Are On Summer Break

During the school year, parents and children develop a concrete schedule or routine of daily and nightly activities and know what to expect when each day arrives. Parents find comfort and stability in this routine and it helps free them from some of the chaos of parenthood. However, when summer break arrives and the kids get out of school, that routine is abolished and can make parents feel, well, a little bit crazy. Psychologists and child specialists recommend a few strategies for parents to utilize during these summer months to free them from some of the chaos and get some structure back in their life. Three months is a long enough time to develop some sort of routine, but the first few weeks can be hectic. 

One of the first ways parents can stay sane as they watch their routine dissolve right before them is to organize a new (but less structured to compensate for the flexibility of summer) schedule before the kids even get out of school. This includes new summer bedtimes, meal times, and maximum technology hours. It can also include a list of activities family members are still expected to do on a daily basis regardless of summer vacation, such as making their beds or tidying their rooms. 
Another way to stay organized and feel a sense of structure is by making a summer bucket list. Three months sounds like a long time but once August rolls around, many of us find ourselves asking where the time went. Filling your family’s summer with fun and exciting activities is a lot easier to accomplish when you have a list to serve as a reminder. It can also provide a reference for when a nice summer day comes around and you aren’t sure how to spend it. 

Parents can feel the craziest during the rainy days when kids can’t play outside and the whole family is cooped up indoors. Use these days to have movie marathons, read or play board games as a family. Make it fun by letting everyone stay in their pjs all day and picking out movies everyone can enjoy. Another fun activity to try on cooler or rainy days is baking. Kids love to help parents bake and kneading dough or using cookie cutters will keep them occupied long enough for parents to take a deep breath and relax for a minute. 

Another method for keeping somewhat of a schedule over the summer months is to establish a daily quiet time. Even if it is just for an hour or two a day, kids can use this time to read, play quietly, go outside, write stories, or watch a TV show. This gives parents a window of time each day to get some important things done or just take some time for themselves knowing the kids are occupied. 

A last, but important, way parents can stay sane over summer break is by having the kids help out around the house more than during the school year. Summer is for everyone to enjoy, including parents, and without a long school day, kids have unlimited free time. Give each child a few summer chores to help out around the house so everything gets done faster and everyone can have more free time to enjoy themselves. 

Long breaks from school can feel overwhelming and anxiety provoking for parents of children with unlimited free time, but there are absolutely ways parents can minimize some of the chaos and make it so they have a fun and relaxing summer, too! 

ONCEKids Publishing is run by literacy advocate and Mompreneur Eileen Wacker.  Click here to find her acclaimed books

Monday, June 22, 2015

How to Keep Kids Learning Over Summer Vacation

Just because it’s summer vacation and schools out of session doesn’t mean parents want all learning to come to a halt. However, without a routine schedule and structure of a school day, finding ways for kids to keep their learning can be a little tricky. But with some creativity and a lot of time outdoors, there are definitely opportunities for learning that parents can take full advantage of. 

1. Make a trip to the zoo into a science field trip
Hands-on and visual learning are such fun ways to learn. Most families take at least one trip to the zoo during the summer anyway, so take this opportunity to turn it into a fun learning experience! Act like it is a science field trip and have the kids read all the descriptions of the animals and learn about them, like what type of animal they are and where they originate from. 

2. Try a new type of learning called “Genius Hour” 
There is a new idea experts have come up with called Genius Hour, where once a day for an hour kids are allowed to pursue whatever subject or knowledge they wish to, just for its own sake. It helps kids explore a subject they are passionate about and expand their learning and knowledge base all at once. 

3. Keep their problem-solving skills sharp
There are lots of video and computer games out there for kids that are fun but also provide cognitive nourishment and help build problem solving skills. So keep your kids problem solving skills sharp and use those rainy days to keep them occupied with some “learning-friendly” computer games. 

4. Start a vegetable garden in your backyard
Another fun way to teach your kids the basics of science is by having them help you plant a small garden or vegetable garden in your backyard. Talk with them about the science of plants and what it takes to keep them healthy and growing. In addition to the educational and learning aspect, having to tend to the plants and keep them alive is a good way for kids to learn some responsibility. 

5. Have kids keep a journal about your family vacations or adventures
Writing, even free writing, is very good for expanding kids’ reading skills and keeping their wheels turning during the long summer months. Having kids keep journals is a great way to keep them reading and writing, but also gives them something to look back on and read when they get older. 

6. Use a Museum Visit for a History Lesson

Another great way to spend a rainy or cloudy day is with a visit to a museum. Not only does it provide entertainment when the outdoors can’t, but it can also be a great excuse to teach the children some lessons about history in a way that is fun and interactive. 

Friday, June 19, 2015

Harvard Psychologists Give Their Six Tips to Raising Kind Children

A group of psychologists at Harvard recently did a study to examine how parents can raise kind and “good” children in the madness of modern day society. People who are raising children today experience many criticisms and conclusions made by others of how technology and social media is ruining children and parents are constantly feeling like they need to change their strategies and reshape their parenting styles to accommodate the continuous advancements. But to those parents- worry no more! The results of the study have the Harvard psychologists saying that underneath the madness of modern technology, the basics of raising a good, kind, and moral child haven’t really changed. 
In today’s world, parents focus on raising children to find success and achievement as well as personal satisfaction and happiness- but the psychologists conclude that it is still possible to raise children to be goal-oriented while still raising them to be kind and empathetic people using the same strategies parents have been using for generations. 

Their study’s results show that these six “tried-and-true” strategies remain the best ways to raise kind, understanding, and goal-oriented children in the modern world:

1. Spend time hanging out with your kids
The importance of this will never decrease. Spending time with your children and showing them their importance is the foundation that all the rest can build on. Asking children questions about themselves, showing interest and understanding of their world, telling them about your world, and just demonstrating caring is so important to raising children who will do the same for others. 

2. If it matters, say it out loud
The psychologists report, “Even though most parents and caretakers say that their children being caring is a top priority, often children aren’t hearing that message.” Remember that children don’t always pick up on cues and don’t assume they know your expectations and what you think is important. Communicate those things openly and honestly to your children. Make sure you tell them how important kindness, openness, acceptance, and caring is and they will be much more likely to demonstrate those qualities. 

3. Teach your child how to “work it out”
It is important for parents to help guide children and offer advice, without always stepping in to solve their problems for them. Children who learn problem solving and decision making are not only better at solving their own issues, but also helping others solve problems. Encourage children to identify the source of the problem, evaluate the pros and cons, think about how their decision affects others, and move forward with a solution. 

4. Make helpfulness and gratitude routine
According to the Harvard researchers, “Studies show that people who engage in the habit of expressing gratitude are more likely to be helpful, generous, compassionate, and forgiving- and they’re also more likely to be happy and healthy.” Parents can encourage helpfulness and gratitude by asking children to help out siblings, assigning daily or weekly chores, and reminding them to give thanks throughout the day. 

5. Check your child’s destructive emotions
No children are perfect or never experience negative feelings or emotions. The trick is to help children learn to work through those emotions and keep them in check. This can be done by talking to your children and guiding them to a safe and productive conflict resolution. 

6. Show your kids the bigger picture
The researchers report that “almost all children empathize with and care about a small circle of families and friends. The trick is getting them to care about people who are socially, culturally and even geographically outside their circles. You can do this by coaching them to be good listeners, by encouraging them to put themselves in other people’s shoes, and by practicing empathy using teachable moments in the news and entertainment.” 

Read more about Harvard University’s “Making Caring Common Project” here

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

The Parental Debate: Should Kids Go Unplugged During the Summer?

Today, technology is an essential part of kids’ schooling and has become deeply integrated into much of the curriculum- but that has not stopped parents from asking themselves; how much technology is too much? This question comes up again with even more urgency when the weather improves and school is no longer in session. Many parents feel more inclined to let their children indulge in more technology use during the winter months when playing outside isn’t really an option but when summer break starts, feelings change and boundaries become less clear. 

The start of summer break has many parents debating- should they make their kids go unplugged for the summer or is that asking too much? Some parents feel that a tech-free policy for the summer is unfair or just unrealistic, others think that its necessary to get kids to go outside and keep playing. To give some perspective on this hot topic, we researched what the experts had to say. 
Much to my surprise, feedback from experts did not support turning off technology for the summer but thought that such a policy was not only unfair, but even cruel. Their support behind this thought was that school is a social place where kids can see and interact with all their friends but during the summer months, kids lose some of that interaction and technology is a method for keeping in touch. Author of “From Fear to Facebook”, Matt Levinson, says that staying in touch through social media or texting is a way for kids to preserve their social connections. 

Despite the conclusion that kids should not be forced to unplug completely during the summer, experts do emphasize that there are other methods and strategies for keeping kids actively playing and spending time outside and not always on technology. 

One method is to lead by example. Parents need to be good models for their kids by paying attention to their own use of technology. If parents are always plugged in, then how can they expect their kids to be inclined to unplug? 

Another method is to search for a regulating approach that works for your family. Every family is unique, and different strategies and rules work for different families. Technology use during the summer should not be as black and white as either no rules surrounding technology or banning it altogether, but some sort of happy medium should be implemented. Examples of boundaries you could set for your family could include a time limit on recreational technology use or a rule that no one can use technology starting an hour before bedtime (this is a great way to reserve time for reading each day). 

Another method experts suggest is to come up with a list of fun activities that the whole family can participate in that don’t involve technology. This is a great way to encourage kids to expand their hobbies and participate in activities that don’t involve any sort of technology without having to ban or implement strict rules surrounding technology use. Added bonuses include spending more time as a family!

What do your thoughts? Should kids be technology free during the summer? 

ONCEKids Publishing is run by literacy advocate and Mompreneur Eileen Wacker.  Click here to find her acclaimed books

Dove Shows Men Finding Out They Are Going to Be Fathers With Emotional Ad

In the last few years, Dove has come out with some pretty amazing, and pretty emotional, commercials that have had me reaching for my box of tissues- and their Father’s Day ad was no exception.

Just in time for the holiday, Dove released an emotional ad sharing a collection of moments of men finding out that they are going to be fathers for the first time. The clips are real-life footage of men’s honest and candid reactions to their other half’s news of her pregnancy. The reactions are touching, exciting and priceless. 

If that wasn’t amazing enough, the end of the ad features a message saying, “real strength means showing you care even from the very first moment.” Dove reports that the ad is to honor men for Father’s day but also as part of a Dove “Men+Care” campaign to demonstrate that showing care and love is a sign of a man’s real strength. 

Watch the heartwarming commercial below and become part of the campaign by tweeting your fatherly wisdom or advice using the hashtag #RealStrength