• How to Make Hand Washing Fun for Kids
    Raising Girls

    How to Make Hand Washing Fun for Kids

    Proper hand washing is the best thing that you can do to prevent the spread of illness + disease. Kids are notorious for having grubby hands. Because kids are so likely to be constantly touching their face with their hands, it is imperative that they practice good hand washing habits.

    Unfortunately, that is easier said than done. Learn how to make hand washing fun for kids to help encourage your children to wash their hands more often + more thoroughly.

    Get Them Singing

    One way on how to make hand washing fun for kids is to turn hand washing into a little ditty. Not only does singing a song make the process more enjoyable, but it also helps young kids to keep track of time so that they know if they have been washing their hands long enough.

    Good song choices include “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star,” “Row Row Row Your Boat” + “Happy Birthday.” The alphabet song is also an appropriate choice because of its length. Make sure that your child doesn’t rush the song to get done faster.

    Make the Bathroom Fun

    An uncomfortable bathroom does not inspire kids to stay any longer than they need to. You can choose to make your bathroom fun by making it comfortable + inviting for them.

    A personalized step stool is a terrific way to make the sink accessible for small kids. You can choose a fun vanity to make kids stay to encourage them to stay + wash their hands.

    Even some fun soap can motivate kids to dive in + wash their hands. Young children usually enjoy foaming soap more than gel-based or bar soaps. Or, try putting some glitter in a spray bottle of liquid soap + telling your child that they have to scrub until the glitter is washed off their hands.

    Be Realistic

    Once your kids reach a certain age, it is time to give them the unscrubbed truth about washing hands. Younger children can be taught about germs by sprinkling glitter on their hands + showing them the difference between using just water + scrubbing with soap to remove it.

    Older kids might benefit from watching a documentary about germs or looking at any type of reading material that explains how many harmful things can reside on their hands if they do not practice good hygiene.

    Washing hands should not feel like a chore to your child. With the right education + the effort to make it fun, you can win this battle.

    Need more tips on raising your girls? Check out:

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  • DIY Halloween Party Ideas
    Raising Girls

    DIY Halloween Party Ideas for Kids

    Ahhhhhhh…the good old Halloween Party. Halloween parties are but some of the festivities that can lead up to the big night of trick-or-treating for kids. Throwing a Halloween party for your kids doesn’t have to be hard or expensive.

    In fact, here is the ultimate guide on DIY Halloween party ideas for kids ranging from decorations + food to games + activities.

    DIY Halloween Party Ideas for Decorations

    Turn items you probably already have in the house into cute but inexpensive Halloween party decorations. Not only are these ideas inexpensive but they don’t take all that much time.

    Egg Carton Bats

    1. Spray paint cardboard egg cartons black – inside + out.
    2. Cut a section that has three egg depressions.
    3. Turn upside down. The middle hump (was an egg depression when right-side up is the head of the bat.
    4. Glue two googly eyes in the middle of the hump. The humps on each side are the bat wings.
    5. Hot glue fishing wire, ribbon or pipe cleaners to the back of the head for hanging. 

    Log Jack-O-Lanterns 

    1. Use landscaping logs from the gardening department for small jack-o-lanterns + larger round logs you find in the forest for bigger jack-o-lanterns.
    2. The smaller logs should be cut into sections from 4 to 6 inches tall.
    3. The larger logs from 12 to 15 inches tall.
    4. Spray paint orange.
    5. Find branches that are stem shaped — wider at the bottom + narrower at the top.
    6. Spray paint the stems black.
    7. Glue to the top of the log.
    8. Paint faces on the logs in black.  

    Mummy Doors

    1. Cut sheets of cheesecloth into 8 inch strips. You can also use old white sheets for this.
    2. Wrap the door crisscrossing some of the strips. This works best with two people one on either side of the door.
    3. Before the last wrapping, add two large white circles with black centers as the eyes of the mummy. 

    Lollypop Ghost

    These are so easy + cheap you could hand them out as treats on Halloween.

    1. Use round ball-shaped lollypops.
    2. Cut two squares of white paper or cloth about 4 inches square.
    3. Place the squares on top of the lollypop.
    4. Tie with black ribbon right under the lollypop.
    5. Draw a ghost face with a black marker.

    Balloon Spider Web

    1. Blow up the balloons.
    2. Spray with adhesive or paint with white glue.
    3. Wrap the balloons in white string crisscrossing but leaving lots of space between the string to resemble a spider web.
    4. Spray or paint again with glue.
    5. Let thoroughly dry.
    6. Pop the balloon.
    7. The string web should remain in place.
    8. Glue several spiders to the outside of the web.

    Ghost Doll

    A little tricky but worth the effort. And they’re cheap to make.

    1. Place a baby doll in a sitting position with its arms straight out. A vinyl or plastic doll with no hair works best for this.
    2. Soak cheesecloth in a heavy starch solution.
    3. Wring out.
    4. Drape the cheesecloth around the doll, molding it the head + around the arms + legs.
    5. Let dry.
    6. When you remove the doll the cheesecloth retains the doll’s shape for an eerie looking ghost.

    Plastic Spiders in Ice Cubes 

    1. Wash plastic spiders in soapy water.
    2. Place one spider in each ice cube section of an ice cube tray.
    3. Add water.
    4. Freeze.
    5. Place the ice cubes in glasses or the large ice cube in a punch bowl.

    Muddy Ice Cubes

    1. Mix red, yellow, orange, green + purple food coloring in orange juice to make a mud brown color.
    2. Freeze in ice cube trays.
    3. For an added touch, add plastic worms to each cube.

    Boo Bottles 

    Easy peasy + cheap as in almost free.

    1. Remove the labels from empty gallon containers of milk or water.
    2. Draw ghost faces on the containers in black using paint or markers.
    3. Fill with a layer of clear or white pebbles to weight the containers down so they won’t blow away.
    4. Stop there or add a touch of lights. Wrap small flashlights that only cost about a dollar with beige or white masking tape.
    5. Widen the neck of the gallon container so the flashlight barely fits in with the light shining down +the switch at the top.
    6. Use a bit more masking tape to fasten the flashlight securely.
    7. Or fill the containers with Christmas mini-lights on a white cord (a green cord shows through the container + ruins the effect).

    Spooky Mini Garden 

    1. Paint a terracotta plant saucer black.
    2. Fill with moss + rocks.
    3. Add in artificial crows, a skeleton, skulls, mini pumpkins, mini witch hats, mini gravestones or any other miniature symbols of Halloween to create a tiny Halloween scene.

    Bloody Napkins + Tablecloth 

    This is messy + can stain so do this somewhere clean up is easy, like the backyard.

    1. Cut napkin-size squares from an old white sheet.
    2. Fill a spray bottle with double strength red Kool Aid. Don’t add sugar you just want the color.
    3. Spray + drip the “blood” on the napkins + white sheet.

    Here are a few creative ideas for outdoor decorations.

    Graveyard Scene

    1. Cut ghost shapes out of quarter inch plywood with a jigsaw.
    2. Then screw in a painted stake to the back of the cut out, be sure your screws are screwed in from the front of ghost.
    3. Paint the ghost shapes white + then use black paint to make eyes + mouth push the stake into the ground.
    4. Using the same idea cut out shapes of a tombstone + use spray paint with a faux stone finish in grey.
    5. Let dry.
    6. Paint RIP with black paint. Foam board can be used instead of plywood but it won’t last more than one season. The plywood will last for several years + since it’s flat it doesn’t take up much storage space.
    7. Place a skeleton hand on each side of the tombstone on the “grave” as if the dead person was coming out.

    Headless Horseman

    1. Make a headless man using an old pair of jeans, shoes, gloves, shirt + jacket.
    2. Stuff jeans with rolled towels, newspaper or plastic grocery bags.
    3. Arrange jean “legs” on a chair that has back support or on a bench up against a wall.
    4. Then stuff the T-shirt + stuff the arms.
    5. Place the shoes + gloves where they should be. To arrange the limbs sometimes takes some finessing.
    6. Use fake blood around the neck.
    7. Have your headless man hold a jack-o-lantern as his head. On Halloween night or party time, spread raw hamburger where the neck should be + use ketchup for more blood.

    Eerie Forest

    1. Trim your trees + save branches from 5 to 7 feet long. You could also use dead tree branches as well.
    2. Spray paint black.
    3. When dry place upright along the sidewalk up to your door to create an eerie forest. These could also be used inside. For an added touch hang cobwebs from branch to branch.

    Alternative Jack-O-Lanterns

    Pumpkins aren’t the only source for jack-o-lanterns.  These alternative jack-o-lanterns have to be carved no more than a day ahead since they won’t last. Watermelons look menacing with their outside green skin + bright red flesh inside.

    1. Scoop out the flesh of a watermelon but leave at least a couple of inches of red. Try small nearly rindless watermelons as well as larger melons.
    2. Another option is to carve eggplants into small demon faces. Buy the largest you can find to make carving easier. The weird shape of the eggplant adds to the fun.

    DIY Halloween Party Room Decorations

    Pull out your Halloween decorations. Any and all skeletons, bats, spiders, snakes, pumpkins, jack-o-lanterns, witches hat, spider webs, black cats, etc. will do. But don’t stop there.

    Eerie Furniture

    Black tulle draped over furniture gives an eerie effect. White sheets draped gives a ghostly effect.

    Floating Ghosts

    1. Stuff the tulle to form a ghostly shape.
    2. Hang up several ghosts + hide a rotating fan out of sight to blow on them.
    3. Use helium balloons for the ghost head. (Helium will only last for the evening so do this right before party time.)
    4. Drape one layer of tulle over the balloon, gather it then tie it closed.
    5. Tie the balloon strings to the back of furniture so the helium balloon ghost won’t float away.
    6. Hang it up where the breeze can make it flutter.

    Eerie Room Atmosphere

    Fog machine, strobe lights + black lights can create eerie effects. When using black lights try to have them in an area that has no other light source. If possible designate a room where the door can be shut so it highlights the effect.

    1. Splatter butcher paper or brown wrapping paper with glow-in-the-dark paint.
    2. Tack the paper up on the walls.
    3. Buy dry ice only an hour or two before the party. Keep in your freezer.
    4. Put dry ice in containers or hollowed out pumpkins.
    5. Add water + watch the fog start rolling in. Kids are amazed by it. Keep it where the kids can’t touch it because the ice itself can give you a bad burn if touched with bare hands. The ice is so cold it freezes skin.

    Create a Creepy Wedding Altar

    1. Tack large black garbage bags on a wall.
    2. Drape the bags over an arch.
    3. Ask your grocer’s floral department to save you red roses that they were going to throw out.
    4. Dry the roses. Red roses turn an ugly black.
    5. Place the black roses in spray painted black vases on either side of the arch.
    6. For your bride use any long white dress, preferably with long sleeves. Drape the dress from the ceiling with fishing wire so it looks like a ghost. Add a skeleton head + a veil made from tulle. Blow up white latex gloves + place in the long sleeves. 

    Spooky Music

    Don’t forget to play spooky music. Music or spooky sounds can only add to your party atmosphere. If you don’t have a Halloween CD then play a regular CD on a much slower speed. It’s also possible to download scary sounds from the Internet.

    DIY Halloween Party Ideas for Food

    One of the most enjoyable aspects of a Halloween party is the food. There are hundreds of recipes that have been specifically created for this spooky holiday.

    Keep the food simple + familiar but with a twist. Rename favorites in the Halloween theme. Use food coloring in blues, greens + browns to alter the way a dish looks.

    Or use familiar food in unfamiliar ways. For example blanch a cauliflower head, break apart + then reassemble (this makes the cauliflower easier to serve). Cover the cauliflower with ranch dressing then using ketchup in a squeeze bottle outline each floret with the ketchup so it looks like a brain.

    Use some of these other ideas to help you plan the yummiest menu possible. 

    Human Finger Chicken Fingers

    Serve chicken fingers with blood (any red dipping sauce). Add a sliced almond for the finger nail to create a realistic look. 

    Snakes in the Swamp

    Another dish to try is to add equal parts red, blue + yellow food color to spaghetti after it’s been cooked so it turns an ugly brownish color. Serve with a green pesto sauce + call it snakes in the swamp. 

    Meatball Eyeballs

    Make goofy eyeballs out of meatballs.

    1. Shape seasoned ground meat into an oval with a flat top + bottom.
    2. Bake until done.
    3. Cut a round circle out of mozzarella cheese about the size of a half dollar or one inch in diameter to create the white part of the eye.
    4. Cut grape tomatoes or cherry tomatoes into three slices.
    5. Cut black olives in half.
    6. Assemble the goofy eyeballs by placing a slice of cheese on the meatball, then a slice of tomato on the cheese + top with a black olive half.
    7. Vary the placement of the toppings so the eyeballs are looking in different directions. 

    Ghoulish Punch

    1. Make your favorite punch + add a few ghoul hands.
    2. To make these hands, fill non-powdered rubber gloves with cranberry or other red juice. (Don’t overfill, the fingers of the glove should still move easily.) 
    3. Close gloves tightly with rubber bands + freeze flat on cookie sheets, which have been lined with paper towels.
    4. When ready to serve, open gloves with scissors + add to punch. You may want to break off one or two fingers + add them separately so they float in the punch bowl
    5. A fun punch can be with one quart of lime drink, one quart of lemon lime soda + one cup of lime sherbet. The sherbet should be added right before serving. Stir so the sherbet foams up a bit with the soda. Dust the foam lightly with cocoa powder to resemble dirt. 
    6. It’s not a good idea to use dry ice in your punch to make it smoke. Curious hands may try to touch the dry ice resulting in freezer burn. Instead place the dry ice in containers out of reach, such as the back of a table + you can still have the atmosphere of the smoky fog without the worry of accidents. 

    Spooky Spiders

    1. Spread peanut butter or cheese spread onto round butter crackers.
    2. Place four chow mien noodles or small pretzel sticks on each side of the cracker making eight spider legs.
    3. Stack a cracker on top making a sandwich.
    4. Dip raisins into peanut butter or cheese spread + place on top as spider eyes.

    Bloody Bones

    1. Prepare ribs with your favorite barbecue sauce.
    2. Arrange ribs to resemble a human rib cage.
    3. Place a half of a red pepper or tomato in the middle as the heart + put a real knife or fake knife into the heart.

    Monster Hands

    1. Place a candy corn into each finger of a plastic deli glove.
    2. Fill the glove with popcorn until plump.
    3. Tie off at the wrist of the glove.

    Yummy Eyeballs

    1. Slice carrots, cucumbers or radishes in bite size circles.
    2. Put a dab of cream cheese on top.
    3. Put 1/2 of a black or green olive on top.

    Fingers + Dip

    1. Peel + slice carrots length wise into finger size pieces.
    2. Attach almond slices or plain potato chips pieces onto one end of the carrots with cream cheese, dip, or hummus as the fingernail.
    3. Use the same idea using pretzel rods.
    4. Supply your favorite dip.

    Apple Bites

    1. Core + slice an apple.
    2. Spread peanut butter to one side of the apple slice.
    3. Put three or four tiny marshmallows for teeth on top of the peanut butter toward the bottom of the apple slice.
    4. Top with another apple slice, peanut butter side down.

    Mummy Roll-Ups

    1. Use a cooked hot dog or breaded chicken strips or nuggets.
    2. Place in tortilla with ketchup.
    3. Roll up burrito style leaving one end open.
    4. Use ketchup to dot on eyes of mummy.

    Food Faces

    1. Create scary, silly, or jack-o-lantern faces using meat, cheese + vegetables pieces on round foods such as pizzas, cheese crisps, quesadilla or tostadas. You can use homemade pizzas or frozen cheese pizzas.
    2. Use pepperoni + black olives as eyes, red pepper pieces to form a nose or diced onions to create teeth.
    3. For cheese crisps use black olives for eyes, shredded lettuce for a mouth, salsa or sour cream for noses or mouths.

    Bagel Monsters

    1. Slice bagel in half.
    2. Spread on cream cheese.
    3. Fill with meat.
    4. Use a piece of ham to make a tongue coming out of center of the bagel hole.
    5. Attach black olive or pepperoni eyes with cream cheese.
    6. Use lettuce leaves as hair.
    7. Add a carrot as a nose.

    DIY Halloween Party Ideas for Games + Activities

    Trick or treating is the time-honored activity but that doesn’t mean you can’t create your own traditions. Use these ideas to keep kids occupied during a Halloween party.

    Bat or Spider Hands or Feet

    1. Paint your child’s palm black + stamp them on paper.
    2. To create a bat place, hands together with thumbs touching, keeping fingers close together.
    3. For a spider, keep wrists touching spread thumbs + fingers apart.
    4. Add eyes in color paint or using googly eyes.
    5. Using this same idea paint the bottom of your child’s feet or foot white.
    6. Stamp onto black paper.
    7. Let dry.
    8. Turn paper upside down + paint black eyes + ghost mouth on the “heel” head of ghost.

    Scary Characters

    Copy off Disney or any cute characters + let children make them into scary characters.

    Skeleton Q-Tips

    1. Make skeletons using Q-tips as bones + glue onto black paper.
    2. On black paper use white chalk to create a spider web or glue Q-tips to create a spider web.

    Sock Bat

    Make a bat by stuffing a black sock with batting, glue eyes on it + cut out bat wings from black craft foam + attach with hot glue or a stapler.

    Pumpkin Pots

    Make pumpkin pots by painting the outside of a terra cotta pot orange. Turn upside down + paint a jack-o-lantern face with black paint. Then glue a piece of wood or stick in the drain hole as the stem. 

    Pumpkin Necklace

    1. Paint a walnut completely orange.
    2. Let dry.
    3. Use a black sharpie to draw a jack-o-lantern face on the walnut with the pointed side as the top.
    4. Cut a piece of black ribbon big enough to fit over the child’s head.
    5. Hot glue each end to the top of the pumpkin making a necklace.
    6. Cut out three leaf shapes from green felt.
    7. Hot glue to the leaves to the top of the “pumpkin” covering up where the two ribbon ends meet.

    Bone Necklaces

    String hollow macaroni onto a shoelace (the plastic tip of the shoe lace makes stringing easier) to make “bone” necklaces.

    Draw Scary Monsters

    1. Give each child a sheet of paper that has four lines drawn horizontally across it.
    2. Have everyone draws a head with the neck just showing beyond the first line.
    3. Fold the paper so the head is hidden + only the neck shows on the remaining ¾ of the sheet.
    4. The child passes her sheet to the child sitting to next to her.
    5. Each child draws the body including arms/wings/tentacles to the waist of the monster. Again the waist appears just a bit beyond the second line.
    6. Fold the paper to hide the body.
    7. Pass the sheet again.
    8. Each child draws the legs down to the third line on the paper.
    9. Fold the sheet again so that only 1/4 of the page is showing.
    10. Pass the paper again.
    11. Each child draws feet between the third and fourth lines on the paper
    12. Unfold the paper to reveal the monsters.

    The monster might turn out to have a dragon head, a bear body, octopus legs + lizard feet.

    Costume Contest

    Hold a costume contest. Make up different categories. Award prizes.

    Pin the Tail on the Black Cat

    Play pin the tail on the black cat or face onto the pumpkin. Use the idea of pin the tail on the Donkey.

    Guess the Number of Candy Corns

    Fill a jar full of candy corn. Have the kid’s guess how many candy corns are in the jar. The one that comes the closest wins a prize.

    Flashlight Tag

    Play flashlight tag in the house or around the neighborhood.

    Make Witch’s Brew

    1. Give the children a selection of ingredients, such as fruit + vegetable juices, milk, nut milks, tea, soda, chocolate syrup + a few odd ingredients such as coffee, lemon juice, ketchup, soy sauce, etc.
    2. Each child selects one of the ingredients to add to the brew.
    3. Have the first child add the ingredient.
    4. Have each child taste the brew.
    5. Continue until all of the ingredients are in the brew.

    Feel/Taste + Guess Game

    1. Blind fold the child or without the child looking have the child touch or taste each item.
    2. You can either have them guess what they think it feels like or guess what the item actually is. If you have peeled grapes to eat tell them it is eyeballs + they have to guess that it is actually grapes. If they are feeling the grapes ask them to guess what the item is.

    Here are some items you can use:

    • Peeked or frozen grapes: eyeballs or frog eggs
    • Spaghetti or spiral pasta: Brains
    • Yogurt: Slime
    • Potato chips or almond slices: finger nails
    • V-8 juice: Blood 
    • Gummy worm: earth worms
    • Sun Flower Seeds: Witch’s Teeth
    • Fruit roll ups cut in strips: old band aids
    • Ham Cubes: cut off fingertips
    • Bell peppers cut in strips: witches skinny fingers
    • Raisins: shriveled spiders or boogers 
    • Smashed mini wheat: eyelashes
    • Pretzel rods or sticks: bones
    • Halved tomatoes or bell pepper: Heart
    • Sausage links or hot dogs: intestines
    • Cooked chicken breast: liver
    • Thin round cheese slices: pieces of skin
    • Peeled grapes: eyeballs
    • Pepperoni slices: scabs

    Use some or all of these DIY Halloween party ideas for kids to host your Halloween party. It can create a fun + festive atmosphere for all ages without spending a ton of time or money in the process.

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  • 12 Cool Things to Include When Building a House
    Raising Girls

    12 Cool Things to Include When Building a House

    Every homeowner has a list of items that she would love to add to her house one day. Whether that be a luxurious in-ground pool, a room addition, or a smart home feature, your house should be a reflection of your personality + needs.

    Check out these 12 cool things to include when building a house or renovating a home to create your dream home.

    1. Smart Fridge

    While it’s an expensive investment, a smart fridge is an invaluable addition to any home. The touchscreen tablet on the exterior of the fridge allows you to pull up recipes, access music + entertainment, ask Alexa + much more.

    Most smart fridges come equipped with a camera, enabling you to look inside of your fridge when you’re not even home. Are you at the grocery store + can’t seem to remember if you need to buy milk? Simply pull up the app on your smartphone + take a peek inside your fridge.

    2. Home Automation

    In addition to the smart refrigerator, there are a variety of other home automation products that can simplify your life + add convenience. Bluetooth-connected appliances + automatic faucets allow for multitasking and can even save you money on utilities.

    Automated thermostats save money on energy costs + keep your house at the perfect temperature for any time of the day.

    3. Home Theater

    One of the latest trends in interior design is a home theater system. This specialized room in your house is ideal for screening movies, binge-watching your favorite Netflix shows + catching the big game.

    Because of the sound-proofing capabilities of a home theater, your other family members will love that you can shut the door + block the noise from the rest of the house.

    A home theater is an addition that grows with your family. Young children will delight in family movie nights, while older teens will appreciate having a dedicated place to hang out with friends.

    4. Wine Cellar

    Wine enthusiasts get significant use out of a home wine cellar. This space can be used to simply store wine, or it can be turned into an entertainment room with a few cozy seating arrangements + a wet bar.

    A dedicated space engineered to keep wine at the optimal temperature is the ultimate in-home luxury. Plus, it can increase your home’s value!

    5. Central Vacuum System

    Forget about lugging around the vacuum, plugging it in + hooking up all the accessories to get all the crumbs + cheerios off the floor. Central Vacuum Systems are now back in house style. Just hook the hose + handle up to the central vacuum system unit in the walls around your home + vacuum.

    Unlike the previous 50s’ version of this convenient home amenity. new central vacuum systems have cool features like baseboard suction so you can just sweep the dirt + grime to the baseboard + it sucks it all up from there.

    I don’t know about you but nothing annoys me more than all the dirt + crumbs that seem to line up along baseboards. With a home central vacuum system, vacuuming just got a heck of a lot easier.

    6. Outdoor Fireplace

    Pinterest

    Add an outdoor fireplace to your patio, front or back porch. Build your fireplace in the middle + add log holder built-ins on each side (or even one side).

    The family can really enjoy sitting around the fireplace pretty much year round. You can roast marshmallows for s’mores, read, have family game night or sir + relax.

    7. Outdoor Kitchen

    Livabl

    Build an outdoor kitchen. A fridge, sink, grill, oven + wine fridge are just some of the cool features you can add to an outdoor cooking space. It’s great for family time outdoors or for entertaining, such as kids’ birthday parties.

    Having an outdoor kitchen alleviates the constant going in + out of the house to cook, prep food, grab drinks, etc.

    8. Under Staircase Storage Drawers

    You know that space under the staircase that faces out into the foyer or room where your stairs are? Why not turn that into usable space with pull-out drawers for storage.

    When pushed n, the drawers look like it is part of the wall + wall trim. When pulled out, it is huge drawers where you store shoes, toys, hats + gloves + other miscellaneous items that you don’t want lying around the house.

    9. Bookcase Stair Drawers

    The same holds true for actual steps or stairs on a staircase. Turn these into drawers that pull out. Store books in the stairs instead of cluttering up a book shelf in a room.

    When the drawers are pushed in, it looks like a regular step or stair.

    10. Under-Cabinet Outlets

    Kettle Valley

    Instead of installing outlets in the kitchen back splash, add outlets under the cabinets in the kitchen instead. Just like under-cabinet lights, under-cabinet outlets save space while simultaneously adding convenience.

    11. Mud Room

    When we do our home renovation + addition, this is first on my list. Create a mud room at an entrance point in your home. Everyone can have a cubby + drawer for storing shoes, coats, hats, gloves, backpacks + other personal items.

    Instead of dropping everything on the floor as they enter the house, your kids + husband each have their own little section of the mudroom to store their items in an organized fashion.

    Some homes combine the mudroom with the laundry room.

    12. Upstairs Laundry Room

    This is another must-have on my future home plans. We are moving our laundry room from the basement to the upstairs (third floor in our case) so that the laundry room is closer to the bedrooms where the three girls are going to sleep.

    This eliminates dragging laundry up + down the stairs. Dirty laundry can go from the kids’ bedrooms to the laundry room. Clean laundry can go from the laundry room to the kids’ bedrooms.

    We’re adding a master suite to the main floor (which is the second floor in our home) so we are likely going to put in a full-size stackable washer + dryer in our master suite so we can still do our laundry without lugging it up + down any stairs.

    Your house should be a haven of relaxation + entertainment. Any of these cool things to include when building a house can deliver convenience + fun to the place you call home. Some of them are just plain cool 🙂

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  • Tips for Toddler Girls Summer Fashion
    Raising Girls

    3 Tips for Toddler Girl Summer Fashion

    From cute beach dresses to breezy tunics, there are tons of stylish toddler girl summer fashion choices for girls. When you’re purchasing new clothes for your little girls, try to keep comfort, affordability + fabrics in mind.

    Use these tips for buying toddler girl summer fashion pieces to keep your little ones on trend while staying within your budget.

    #1 Choose Breathable Fabrics for Toddler Girl Summer Fashion

    Mulberry’s Garment Care recommends choosing breathable fabrics that are lightweight + easy to care for + it keeps your little ones from getting overheated. Natural fabrics, like cotton + linen, are much more breathable than synthetics, such as polyester.

    Denim is generally too heavy for summer weather + silk is also low on breathability. If you can, look for outfits that include small openings in the sleeves or have cold-shoulder styles to increase the breathability of the outfit.

    #2 Lighten Up on Layers

    Layers may add too much bulk to your little girl’s outfit, which can make outfit changes harder + longer than you’d like. E&O Apparel points out that layering clothing can get expensive.

    Instead of layers, opt for loose clothing that’s easy to take on + off quickly. For example, a lightweight tunic dress or a short-sleeve tee + leggings is much easier to deal with than layering sundresses with cardigans or wraps.

    Too many layers in the summer can cause your toddler to overheat quickly. Capris, shorts, tank tops + dresses add versatility to your little girl’s wardrobe + keep her cool without breaking the bank.

    #3 Opt for Durable Toddler Girl Summer Fashion Pieces

    With trips to the swimming pool, beach days + outdoor playtime, the number of outfit changes your little girl makes means more clothes to wash. According to Quartz, choosing durable items that can survive both the washing machine + the wear + tear of your child’s activities can help you save money in the long term, giving you the possibility of reusing some outfits for the next summer season.

    Cotton fabrics are much more durable than silk. You can also consider buying some activewear styles for your child, which typically lasts for multiple seasons. Capris + shorts generally last for a long time + shirts with reinforced seams or ribbing may provide longer wear than seamless tops. To increase the durability of the clothing, always follow washing instructions on the label.

    Even if your toddler grows out of the clothing by the next summer season, her sisters can wear the clothes 🙂

    By choosing durable, lightweight fabrics + loosening up on layers, you + your little girls can enjoy toddler girl summer fashion. You can look forward to fewer loads of laundry + outfit changes so you can instead focus on summer fun!

    Check out 3 Places to Buy Inexpensive but Nice Girls’ Clothes to find out exactly where to buy your toddler girl summer fashion.

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  • How to be a Productive Stay-at-Home Mom
    Raising Girls

    How to Be a Productive Stay-at-Home Mom

    Being a stay-at-home mom is far from easy + unless you have a very good idea of how to manage your time, things can get pretty crazy. To be productive, you need to stay motivated.

    Here are some tips on how to be a productive stay-at-home mom.

    Get up Earlier to be a More Productive Stay-at-Home Mom

    It can be very tempting to hit that snooze button especially as an exhausted mama but try not to do it. Try to get up before everyone else so you can have some time to yourself to shower, sip a cup of joe + hit the ground running with your to-do list for the day.

    Even just a few minutes to gather your thoughts before the chaos that is mom life begins can make a huge difference in how you feel + set you up for a successful day.

    I *try* to get up at least 1-2 hours before my kids do each day. I grab a cup of coffee, write blog posts, write an email to my list, or create pins for Pinterest. This way when my kids do wake up, I’ve already put away a couple hours of work. I can put my computer + phone away, give them breakfast + start their day.

    Get Ready For The Day 

    Life as a stay-at-home mom can sometimes leave you feeling like there’s no point in changing out of your pajamas + honestly, sometimes there really is no point. It’s why I call my pajamas my house pants. Saying I stayed in my house pants all day doesn’t sound as bad as saying I stayed in my pajamas all day.

    But if you’re feeling blah, sometimes just putting on a fresh pair of leggings + throwing some mascara on can you give you a boost! Try it at least once a week + see what it does for your morale.

    If it changes how you feel + how you attack the day then make an effort to get up, get dressed + get ready every day, even if you’re not leaving the house.

    Prepare The Day Before

    People always give Moms working out of the house advice on how to prepare in advance for the next day to save time + energy but the same advice applies to stay-at-home moms. Just because you’re home, doesn’t mean you can’t prepare for the next day.

    Lay out everyone’s clothes so they’re ready to be worn, prepare lunches so they’re ready to go the next day without much effort, pack a bag of essentials if you know you’ll be out of the house. It will help you feel in control of your day while saving you lots of time.

    Make a to-do list + prioritize the list. That way when you do get up + get ready, you can start tackling the items you do have to accomplish for the day.

    Find Opportunities to Relax

    You would get breaks if you were working outside the home, right? The same should apply as a stay-at-home mom. You’re working your butt off everyday + you deserve time to relax – even if it’s just a few minutes here + there.

    Let’s be real, it might be that you only get 5 minutes of peace + quiet while you’re sipping your coffee. Take it. Embrace it.

    Set Nap Time or Quiet Time

    Have a set schedule for nap time or quiet time if your little one is done with naps. Putting them in their crib at the same time everyday is not only great for you to catch up on whatever it is you need to, but it also sets your child up for a great sleep schedule.

    Teach Independent Play

    You don’t need to play with your children all day. Letting them learn to play by themselves when Mommy needs to get some work done helps them use their imagination + be creative.

    If you need a lot of time to get some work done, give them a super messy + fun activity. It can keep them entertained for hours (literally, hours).

    Make a Schedule

    Some people are planners (me) + are better at getting things done when they have a plan written down + set in place (also me). If you think this is you, go ahead + schedule your day to see if it helps your productivity.

    You can test out the Pomodoro Technique to see if it works for you. Set a timer for 25 minutes + work on a task for that 25 minutes. When the timer goes off, take a 5 minute break. When your break is over, then set the timer for another 25 minutes + tackle finishing the same task or a new one.

    The Pomodoro Technique to learn how to be a productive stay-at-home mom.

     Delegate Chores

    Just because you’re a stay-at-home Mom does not mean that you have to do everything all the time. If your kids are old enough, let them know what they can do to help you out. Get them to unload the dishwasher or show them how to do a load of laundry. This teaches them responsibility + takes some things off your to-do list.

    Enlist your spouse or significant other to help. My husband helps with laundry, cleaning the bathrooms + washing the floors. Of course, this is because he wants me to avoid hiring a cleaner but he does do it 🙂

    My kids are 5, 3 + 1 but the two older ones do help put away silverware from the dishwasher, put their folded clothes from the laundry in the appropriate drawers + pick up their room (on occasion).

    This still leaves a ton of chores on my plate but it is helpful.

    Embrace The Chaos

    Some days are just going to be utter chaos. The house will be a mess, the laundry will be piled up, the dishes will need to be done + you know what, that’s OK. If it doesn’t get done today it can get done tomorrow. Allow for a bit of chaos + you just might find yourself less stressed about it.

    This takes a lot of work for me. Chaos spins me up. Clutter unravels me. BUT, every once in a while, I let it go. The Earth still spins. The world doesn’t come to an end + it really is OK.

    Ask For Help

    Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Whether it’s from your partner, family or a close friend – never feel ashamed for feeling worn out + needing help with any part of Motherhood. Remember, it takes a village. Ask for help.

    Live for After Bed Time

    I put my kids to bed at (around) the same time every night. The baby goes first. The two older ones later.

    I use those 2-3 hours after they go to bed to be productive. Sometimes I work on one or both of my blogs. Sometimes I fold a basket of laundry. Sometimes I watch a show or movie with my husband. Sometimes I crawl in bed to read until I fall asleep.

    I know you’re tired after a long day at home but even focusing on one task for just a little while (even just 10-25 minutes) can help to increase your productivity for the day.

    Make a Priority List

    Each night before I go to bed, I make a list of the things that I need + want to get done the following day. I write my to-do list out in order of priority.

    The first thing on my list is something that has to be done the next day. I choose the top three tasks that have to get done (or that I want to get done) + I put them in order of importance.

    The rest of the things on my list are “nice to get done” items. If I finish my first three priority items then I move on to item #4 on the list.

    Some days, I get through my whole list. Other days I don’t get past #3. Some days I don’t get past #1 🙂

    Self-Care

    Make time to take care of you. I promise this is going to make you a better mom, a better person + more productive. Whatever self-care is to you, do it. Read a book. Take a nap. Get your nails done. Get your hair done. Take a girls trip with your girlfriends for the weekend.

    You are going to come back from the activity refreshed, happier + ready to tackle some more of those items on your to-do list.

    I promise you.

    I learned this lesson the hard way. After my first daughter was born, I lost myself in motherhood + being a wife. My writing business decreased. I stopped getting my nails + feet done. I stopped reading.

    What mom has time for that, right? That whole speech the flight attendant gives on a plane about helping a small child put their own oxygen mask on AFTER you put your own on applies here.

    If you are depleted, angry, upset + deflated, you’re in no shape to help or take care of the people that need you + depend on you — your child(ren), spouse, etc.

    So whatever oxygen is for you, do it + come back as a better you.

    Meal Plan + Meal Prep

    At a minimum, plan out your meals for the week. I write what I’m going to serve for dinner each night on my calendar so that I have a plan.

    This allows you to shop for groceries faster + when dinner time rolls around you’re not scrambling to figure out what ingredients you have + what you can make.

    You can also meal prep. Meal prep is getting the food ready ahead of time. You don’t have to make entire meals ahead of time but you can prep ingredients.

    For example, when your veggies arrive with your grocery delivery or in your produce box, wash them, cut them, chop them or slice them. Store them in glass containers or storage bags. That way when it’s time to cook, you have your ingredients ready to go.

    It helps you to be so much more productive as a stay-at-home-mom. I also find that it reduces food waste. If I have sliced up zucchini, squash, peppers, or onions that I’m not going to use fast enough, I throw the baggies in the freezer + then I have them next time I need to cook a meal instead of having to throw them away.

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  • Summer Day Camps
    Raising Girls

    The Ultimate Guide to Summer Day Camps + Sleepaway Camps

    The end of the school year is suddenly here (today for my daughter finishing Kindergarten + last week for my preschooler). What are you going to do to occupy your kids for those long summer days? For moms who work either full-time, part-time or even flex hours from home + even stay-at-home moms, summer day camp does double duty as child care + can help save your sanity.

    I read a post from a fellow Mama yesterday that said her success for the day was not strangling anyone since her kids were already home for the summer. Success indeed 🙂

    If you haven’t thought much about the plan for summer but now you’re hitting the panic button, wondering if it’s going to be 3 long months of computer screens as babysitters… you’re in luck.

    Most summer day camps + even summer sleepaway camps expect + prepare for an influx of registrations at the end of June or early July. You likely have an array of summer day camps to choose from, depending on where you live + what still has availability.

    Types of Summer Day Camps

    The best way to find out what type of summer day camps are available for your child is to do a local search online. Here are some of the typical, activity-based summer camp choices.

    Summer recreation programs

    Many towns offer a recreation program, with typical hours from about 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. but sometimes shorter hours + sometimes longer. This is one of the most affordable options to get kids out of the house + socializing under the supervision of caring adults or teenagers. Your child will engage in a variety of activities, including outdoor play, gym exercise on rainy days, swimming + arts + crafts.

    Depending on the location of your town or county’s recreation program, there may be an option for kids to purchase food for lunch. Otherwise, you may be required to pack a snack + lunch each day.

    There will likely be at least one or two field trips to kid favorites like the local movie theater, skating rink or bowling alley, or perhaps a nearby farm if you live in a more rural area.

    Performing arts camp

    Kids who would like to develop their talents for singing, playing musical instruments, dancing + acting might be thrilled with the idea of attending a performing arts camp during the summer.

    If your younger child shows aptitude around the performing arts, this experience could well be the catalyst for future participation in music band, drama club + other performing arts-related extra-curricular activities.

    YMCA summer day camps

    The YMCA has long been a reliable option for summer campers of all ages. The YMCA offers indoor + outdoor pools with swim lessons for all ages, taught by certified instructors. They will also typically have indoor gym areas, exercise equipment, racquetball courts + outdoor playgrounds, basketball courts, tennis, ball fields + other kid favorites.

    Sports camp

    For kids with a love for sports there are summer day camps for that. At these camps, the majority of the focus is refining particular skills that apply to a certain sport.

    So for example, if your child attends softball camp, she will spend the majority of her day working on catching, throwing, hitting + fielding. Teams are formed + games are played.

    Other activities at sports camp will of course include meals, along with some free time + possibly swim time. If you know your child is really into, or wants to become a pro at a particular sport, then sports camp could be a great investment for the summer.

    Computer + STEM summer day camps

    A growing number of organizations are dedicated to helping kids develop their intellectual + skill set – with opportunities to attend summer day camps focused on science, technology, engineering + math (STEM) skills.

    This type of camp can be ideal for the brainy, mechanically inclined, book smart + computer savvy kid for whom intensive sports or hours of daily outdoor play may not be her thing.

    Since it’s a good idea to have kids be active for at least some portion of the day, ask if there will be some outdoor play to have the children burn off energy + enjoy some free time with peers, in addition to the educational experience they will be gaining at this type of summer day camp.

    The Right Type of Camp for Your Child

    The type of summer day camp that’s right for your child will, of course, depend on her personality + individual preferences. While parents who work may have more limited options based around the operating hours that the summer day camp offers, stay-at-home moms may have more choices in day camps, since hours might be more flexible.

    Since no mama likes to dish out cash for something their kid isn’t going to enjoy, start by asking your children what types of activities they’d be interested in exploring for the summer. These days, there’s something for every preference + taste.

    If your son or daughter is hoping to advance their baseball, basketball, soccer, or gymnastics skills, summer sports camp can give them an edge during the off-season, so they’ll return stronger + more prepared to compete when sports are back in session during the upcoming school year.

    Arts camp is a perfect fit for the dramatically, musically + artistically inclined. And scout camp or another type of outdoor camp that features activities like hiking, fishing, swimming, traversing the outdoors, learning about + experiencing nature + other related activities can be a win for the outdoorsy type of child.

    Hours for Summer Day Camps

    Drop-off + pick-up times at summer day camps depend on the individual camp where you send your child or children. Most summer day camps take into consideration that working parents need a place to bring their children early in the morning before they head to work for the day.

    So your child’s summer camp’s drop-off time could be as early as 7:30 a.m., or it may be a more firmly-set schedule that begins at 8:45 a.m. — but again it depends on the camp + their hours of operation.

    Camp’s pickup time, too, can coincide with the end of the work day for parents. However, if you choose a camp for your child that offers an array of flexible options, then you may be able to secure a pick-up time as early as 3 p.m. or as late as 6 p.m.

    The best way to find out about summer day camp hours is to make some calls to the various day camps in your area.

    Duration of Summer Day Camps

    Once again, the answer to this question varies greatly from one summer camp to another. You may find that some camps in your area require that parents sign their children up for a minimum of one month of camp.

    Other camps allow parents to sign up their kids week by week, as needed. If your child is signed up for all four weeks of July, she may see a variety of kids coming + going. Some summer day camp facilities even permit parents a flexible schedule of 2 days a week, 3 half days, or some other alternate option.

    Ask to see a printout of the camp’s schedule + itinerary, or check it out online if there is a website available to read + gather information.

    How much does summer camp cost?

    You can find camps that cost as little as about $500 per month, or as much as several thousand dollars.

    Many of the lower-priced camps are subsidized by the government to make it more affordable for working parents. If you’re worried that you won’t be able to foot the bill for camp, you do have options such as obtaining financial aid or being granted a scholarship for your child to have a free ride to camp this year.

    A higher grade-point average, being a well-rounded student + a track record of good behavior may be factored in when considering whether to grant a child a scholarship to camp.

    The American Camp Association has designed a scholarship program that local camps can elect to participate. The first prerequisite to a camp offering their scholarship is that said camp must be ACA accredited.

    According to the ACA website, “Each year, participating camps give scholarships to campers who cannot afford the entire camp fee and whose presence at camp will broaden the composition of the camp community.”

    The YMCA is another camp that is well known for offering a scholarship to qualifying families who meet their income requirements. If you are interested in obtaining a scholarship for your child to attend either of these, or any other type of summer camp, your best bet is to start your research well in advance of summer, ask lots of questions + be persistent.

    Fill out forms in a timely fashion, obtain supporting documents such as proof of income. The best way to get what you want is to ask for it.

    So if you need help affording summer camp for your child or children, be proactive. Make the calls, find the right person in charge to speak to + let them know your needs.

    Are Summer Day Camps Daycare?

    Yes, most summer day camps are similar to daycare. It is one daycare option available to working parents or parents that want to help occupy some of their kids’ time during the summer.

    Summer day camps tend to provide children with a well-rounded experience that combines learning, socializing, skill building, sports + more.

    For this reason, you’ll find fully qualified professionals who can provide proper care for your children; be counted on to react swiftly, appropriately + effectively in an emergency situation; are trained in CPR; qualify as certified life guards for the swimming pool or lake if there is one; + other requirements.

    You’ll find a registered nurse on staff in the camp’s infirmary, an arts + crafts teacher who likely has a degree to support his or her teaching skills + possibly even music teachers who have been formally educated as such, depending on the type of summer day camp you choose for your child or children this summer.

    Summer Day Camp Schedule

    Once again, a summer camp’s schedule can vary depending on the type of camp you choose for your child, the hours of operation + the way the camp elects to segment the day.

    If there are different age groups performing various activities during the routine hours of day camp, then the camp may opt to rotate these groups through each activity.

    There may be an arts + crafts building, a pool or lake to swim in, woods to hike, sports fields, or other features of the camp. It is up to the organizers of the activities to decide which age group participates in which activity + for how long, based on a variety of considerations + concerns.

    Young campers may prefer to have pool or lake swim time later on in the day after it becomes a bit hotter. Sporting activities may be organized for the younger campers during the earlier morning hours before the sun is strong.

    Rainy days typically present opportunities for alternate activities such as arts, crafts + indoor games.

    Again, the summer camp schedule that your child experiences depends on the camp + their schedule.

    Since these are just some possibilities, your best option is to contact some camps in your area to ask specific questions before registering your child.

    Do summer camps serve meals?

    Some, but not all summer camps serve meals. If your child is attending a summer camp based out of a daycare facility that provides year-round service, then they may already have a lunch program in place. In which case, your child should be able to purchase lunch on site.

    Some day camps/day care facilities have an ongoing relationship with local food establishments + may have worked out a Monday through Friday schedule of ordering lunch from various places, for a flat fee of around $3-$5 per meal.

    Day camps who do not offer on-site lunches expect parents to pack a snack + lunch for their child(ren), along with a drink, each day. There may be a large refrigerator unit where the lunches/snacks can be stored to prevent spoilage on hot summer days.

    Be sure your child’s name is written clearly on her lunch bag + avoid foods such as mayonnaise, which tend to spoil easily. If the camp doesn’t have a fridge or cooler for children to store lunch boxes, it’s a good idea to include a cold pack to keep items like yogurts, fruits + sandwiches fresh.

    Helpful tip: Be sure to follow up with your child about lunch at camp. Ask if she has enough time to eat her food or if there is a reason why she is not getting to finish her food. Be sure that she is able to eat lunch within a reasonable time frame + that the foods you pack are not being tossed into the garbage before moving on to the next activity.

    Lunches + snacks can be mixed up in the rush to get everyone set up with their lunch + eating. If your child seems very hungry at the end of their long + busy camp day, asking about their lunch + snack time can help you assess if you need to pack more food or something else is happening.

    For example, in one of my daughter’s classes, I found that her snack time was so close to her lunch time that she had a ton of leftover food each day. I started packing a smaller snack with the same size lunch + found that she was wasting less food this way.

    Should I Send My Child to Summer Sleepaway Camp?

    The choice to send your child to summer sleepaway camp versus summer day camp versus no camp is, of course, a personal decision. Before registering your child for summer sleepaway camp, here are some things to consider.

    The age of your child

    Summer sleepaway camp is usually for children that are at least 11 or 12, though some summer sleepaway camps may be for younger children.

    The maturity level of your child

    More important than age is your child’s comfort level which has a lot to do with maturity. Some 10 year-olds who are old souls may feel at home spending their days + nights with friends at summer camp.

    Some 14 year-olds may feel separation anxiety as a result of being away from their families for so long. Again, it really depends on the child, what they’re comfortable with + used to + other factors.

    How far away from home the camp is

    Some parents happily pack their kids up + drive 2-3 hours to give their kiddos the rustic summer sleepaway camp experience. Or, maybe the camp isn’t necessarily in the woods or mountains, but you’ve selected it for some special offering that your child can benefit from, such as arts camp or horse camp.  

    Keep in mind that in choosing a camp that is farther away, you are solely relying on other people to care for your child, even if something goes wrong. Are you + your child ready to be separated for such a great amount of time and distance? Will you be able to visit them at camp + how often?

    Other things to ask yourself:

    • Is there a special need or a special medical situation that warrants you’re somewhat nearby in the event of an emergency?
    • Is the camp located nearby to a family member or friend whom you may be able to rely on to help?
    • Will your child attend camp along with a buddy from school whom she can stick with for safety, a sense of security, friendship +the other perks of having a pal present?

    Benefits of Summer Sleepaway Camp

    Just as there are pros + cons to summer day camps, there are pros + cons to summer sleepaway camps.

    Children become more independent

    Although it may not feel like it at first, one of the best + most liberating times your child may have is while being away for a month or more at summer sleepaway camp.

    At first, they may be filled with apprehension at being on their own. But with so many fun things to do, new people to meet, friends to make, exciting experiences to be had + a newfound sense of freedom, it can do wonders for a child’s self confidence + sense of self reliance.

    Kids branch out socially

    Summer sleepaway camp is an opportunity for your child to make new friends with new + different types of kids, some of whom she may have never known prior to this experience.

    Culturally + socially, your child can broaden her horizons after meeting new friends from different towns, cities + states around the country, at summer sleepaway camp.  A bunk buddy from summer camp could become a long-distance pen pal to keep in touch with the whole year through.

    Your child can conquer fears

    As parents we mean well, but sometimes our presence can actually hinder our children’s personal growth as we fall into the same predictable behavior patterns. An extended time away from parents, brothers + sisters can help a child break out of her shell to be bold in ways she may never have considered possible.

    Kids can learn new ways of doing things. In meeting different people, having a new routine + undertaking new experiences, your child may learn how to do things in new ways. This can contribute to worldly wisdom + expanding one’s awareness, which is a good thing for maturity + personal growth.

    Questions to ask before signing your child up for summer day camp:

    • What is the daily camp schedule?
    • What are drop-off + pick-up times?
    • What age groups is this camp?
    • What is the camp’s activity schedule for a particular age group?
    • Are there themed weeks at this camp + if so what are the themes for this summer?
    • Will there be a field trip, or several of them + if so, to where?
    • What age are the people in charge of overseeing the campers (i.e. camp counselors, junior counselors, directors, instructors, coaches, etc.)
    • How many children per counselor or junior counselor?
    • Is my child required to have a physical performed by her doctor before attending camp?
    • Am I required to sign my child up to camp for a minimum of days; for example, a full month?
    • Is there a discount or other type of tiered pricing based on the number of days or weeks a child attends camp?
    • Is there a family discount for sending more than one child to camp?
    • Is lunch available for purchase on site, or do I have to pack a bagged lunch?
    • What other items am I required to have my child pack each day for camp (typically a swim suit + towel, lunch + snack, sneakers or hiking shoes, rain poncho, other?)
    • If my child is attending a specialty camp, what type of equipment, supplies, uniform or outfit am I expected to purchase in advance?
    • Is financial aid or a scholarship available?

    How to Afford Summer Camp

    Summer camp fees vary depending on the type of camp your child attends + the duration of the camp. A summer recreation program based out of the school may be more affordable than a specialty camp that focuses on advanced skills like horseback riding, computers, fine arts, or sports such as baseball or gymnastics.

    One way to help offset the cost of camp is to have your child “work for camp” – that is, assuming this is a camp that she really wants to attend. Not only will chipping in to pay for camp teach your child the value of a hard-earned dollar, but they can gain valuable skills in the process.

    There are plenty of tasks that busy moms + neighbors can outsource to young people with a mind for making money to pay for summer camp. There are local moms in need of babysitting or a mother’s helper.

    Other ideas for kids to make money for camp include running a paper route, mowing lawns, doing yard work or running errands, house sitting, washing cars + walking dogs.

    Is financial aid available for summer camp?

    According to an article in USA today, a 2018 survey by the American Camp Association, 93% of U.S. camps who responded to the survey claimed to have some sort of financial aid available for families who qualify.

    Don’t allow the stress of paying for summer day camp paralyze you from taking action. If you’re looking for a way to obtain financial aid for summer camp, inquire about need-based grants in which your household income will factor in to the amount that you’re required to pay for summer camp.

    Another option is a scholarship. If you are a lower-income family, single mother or someone on a limited budget, it can benefit you to begin searching for an affordable camp situation well in advance of school letting out.

    If you are really strapped for cash + cannot afford to send your child to summer, check out what the mom from Simply Made Fancy does to host a summer camp for her own kids at home.

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  • How to Protect From Child Bee Stings
    Raising Girls

    How to Protect From Child Bee Stings

    If you’ve ever suffered a bee sting, you know how painful they can be. As a parent, it’s natural to want to keep your child from experiencing that same discomfort.

    Here are some tips on how to protect your child from bee stings.

    Wear Protective Clothing to Avoid Child Bee Stings

    Bees + wasps are most active during the cooler periods of the day, sunrise + at sunset. If your children are outside during this time, make sure they’re wearing long sleeves + pants. Caution them against running barefoot through untended grassy areas.

    In addition, their shirts should be tucked into their pants whenever possible. Avoid dressing them in dark colors or floral patterns, as both are known to attract wasps and bees.

    Long sleeves + pants can also help to protect them from flea + tick bites.

    Check Your Home

    You can help prevent wasps’ nests by spraying beneath your eaves with an insecticide sometime in early spring (April is the best time to do this). If you do find yourself dealing with an infestation, a pest control company can help you get rid of the nests.

    Visits typically cost under $200 + you can get rid of the fear + hassle of removing the wasps yourself.

    Pest control companies won’t kill bumblebees when removing them because they are so important to the environment, so you should try not to kill them either. Wasps, on the other hand, pose far more risks than benefits.

    Keep Food + Drink Covered

    Since bees are attracted to sweet things, it stands to reason that they would be tempted to fly into an open soft drink can — + this is more common than most people realize. To make matters worse, a child bee sting in the mouth or nose can lead to swelling, causing respiratory difficulties even in individuals who aren’t allergic to bees.

    If you’re dining outdoors, make sure all unattended beverages are equipped with covers or lids. Keep food secure in coolers or refrigerated lunch bags until it’s time to eat + keep an eye on communal bowls + containers—especially if they’re being used to hold desserts, fruit salad, or other sugary snacks.

    While it’s impossible to prevent insect bites + child bee stings altogether, you can lessen the risks by following the steps outlined above.

    Now that everyone is ready for safe fun in the sun, check out A Complete Mom Guide to Summer Activities with Kids (So Everyone Survives the Summer).

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  • 10 Best Books on Raising Strong Girls
    Girl Mom Reviews,  Raising Girls

    10 Best Books on Raising Strong Girls

    Raising strong girls in the face of mean girls, bullies + life is tough. Even if you were a girl at one time, as a mom now, it’s a different world for girls than it was when we were growing up.

    Also, if you’re going at this parenting stuff for the first time, you’ve never raised girls before. It doesn’t hurt to have some information at your fingertips so you can have a plan in place for raising strong girls.

    These 10 books can provide you with the information, tips + advice that you need for raising daughters + raising strong girls that can take on this world while they are little + continue to take it on as they grow into teenagers + adults.

    1. No More Mean Girls

    No More Mean Girls

    Remember in elementary school how you we played + learned + then went home? Yeah, those days are gone. While mean girls tended to appear in high school for us, mean girls are now making an appearance as early as elementary school.

    No More Mean Girls by Katie Hurley tackles the issues like peer pressure, low self-esteem + cyber-bullying that is creeping up at younger ages than ever before. In a world where social media leads our girls to believe that building “likes” reveals to the world just how “liked” they are, it is our job to instill confidence in them so they don’t define their self worth by what others think of them.

    This books gives parents practical + actionable advice on exactly how raising strong girls is about teaching girls to stand up for themselves while being strong, confident + learning to build each other up instead of tearing each other down.

    Katie Hurley also provides parents advice on how to teach girls to deal with mean girls, how to seek out + build healthy friendships + how to express their emotions in a healthy way.

    2. Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters

    Strong Fathers Strong Daughters

    Raising strong girls has a lot to do with the relationship that said girls have with their fathers. The challenge is that most fathers have never been girls so it’s hard for fathers to connect to their daughters (It can be hard for mothers to connect to their daughters, too, + most of us have been girls.).

    In Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters, Dr. Meg Meeker, reveals the 10 secrets every dad needs to know about building or re-building strong bonds with his daughter. Building these strong bonds is the foundation for helping daughters + fathers create successful lives.

    3. Little Girls Can Be Mean

    Little Girls Can Be Mean

    When my oldest daughter was entering the 4s’ class at her preschool, I was shocked to find out from her preschool teacher that “mean” girls start as young as 4. Four! My oldest is especially sensitive so I wanted to arm her with + my other daughters with what it takes to stand up against bullying.

    Little Girls Can Be Mean provides you with the four steps you can take to bully-proof girls starting in the early grades (for me it started in Pre-K) such as elementary school.

    The great thing about tackling the issue of bullying in this book is it covers bullying for girls + bullying at young ages rather than with older girls. The book provides actionable strategies young girls can use to stand up for themselves when they are being intimidated, bullied + disrespected.

    While the focus of the book is on helping girls deal with bullying at a young age, you just might pick up a strategy or two on dealing with “mean moms.” Some things + people never change, right?

    4. Cinderella Ate My Daughter

    Cinderella Ate My Daughter

    Growing up in Florida, I was surrounded by Disney. As I reached adulthood, I began to realize that Disney does girls a HUGE injustice by implanting thoughts such as, “One day, your Prince Charming will come along.”

    It creates a fantasy + fairytale mindset that is often far from reality. Now that I have three daughters, my focus is on raising strong girls that can stand on their own two feet — whatever way that looks for them — without a man, with a man, wearing a tiara or wearing a football helmet.

    Cinderella Ate My Daughter weighs the pros + cons of raising girls in a binary gender society. The biggest takeaway with this book is that we should just let our daughters be whoever it is they want to be.

    If she wants to don the princess dress + be girly, then that is A-okay. If she wants to roll in the mud + wear a dinosaur dress then that is A-okay, too. If she wants to wear a princess dress while rolling in the mud, then so be it!

    This book also dismisses the mindset that girls are all sugar + spice + everything nice mentality. It delves into the thought process that our society has about how important outer beauty + how to focus on inner beauty instead.

    5. What I Told My Daughter

    What I Told My Daughter

    This book screams Girl Power! It is a compilation of reflections from women leaders in politics, sports, business, academia + the arts. Strong + confident women like Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Laura Bush + Madeline Albright.

    These women lead by example for their daughters + provide their best advice in what they told or showed their daughters about life lessons in leadership, courage + empathy.

    What I Told My Daughter is a series of essays written from the perspective of the celebrities + women leaders. They each discuss the life lesson they taught their daughter(s) + how they went about doing it.

    You don’t have to be a celebrity or a power-leader to take away some great life lessons that you can share with your own daughter.

    6. Enough As She Is

    Enough As She Is

    While girls are outpacing boys in areas such as college enrollment + GPAs, girls are more anxious + stressed out than ever before. Many girls feel that no matter how successful they are that they just aren’t pretty enough, smart enough, sexy enough, popular enough, successful enough or thin enough for the world in which they live.

    Enough As She Is uses case studies + in-depth research to help parents give their daughters the necessary tools to become healthy, happy + fulfilled women that reject the pressure of becoming a supergirl + how to overcome the stress that society places on them.

    I remember being scared to death of turning 30, but my 30s turned out to be a time in my life when I finally felt comfortable in my own skin, didn’t care what other people thought of me + truly lived life on my own terms. If I had read this book or had a mother that read this book, I might have been able to get there way before I turned 30.

    By the way, my 40s aren’t looking so bad either 🙂

    7. Odd Girl Out

    Odd Girl Out

    Boy bullies tend to push + shove. Maybe even punch + slap. They come at it from more of a physical side than girls. Girl bullies punch + strike with emotional abuse.

    Odd Girl Out reveals the hidden + dark side of girl bullying in our culture. This includes social media bullying online. The author arms parents with information to recognize the signs of social media bullying or girl bullying in general + provides ways to overcome it.

    8. Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls

    Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls

    Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls combines the world of make believe with reality. Each story is about a true strong woman but is told as a fairtytale. This is a lead by example book for raising strong girls.

    The book includes 100 stories illustrating the lives of extraordinary women with the likes of Amelia Earhart, Jane Austen, Coco Chanel, Cleopatra + Marie Curie. The illustrators of the book are 60 women. Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls is a book for girls written about girls (past + present) by girls + illustrated by girls.

    It is a bit more for younger girls than it is for adolescent or teenage girls. Much like the fairytales from Disney, the book has engaging stories while teaching life lessons. It is the perfect book for bedtime stories.

    9. How to Mother a Successful Daughter

    How to Mother a Successful Daughter

    All any of us want as parents is to have happy, healthy + successful daughters. Success can look drastically different from one daughter to another.

    How to Mother a Successful Daughter delves into the steps you can take as a mother to help your daughter overcome the stress, pressure + anxiety that societal pressures put on her to build a successful life in her own eyes.

    As mothers, we lead a lot as example for our daughters. We have to model the behaviors that we want our daughters to exhibit. We definitely have an influence on whether those behaviors are healthy ones or not. The focus of this book is the dynamic of the mother-daughter relationship + how mothers can have a positive influence on their daughters.

    10. Strong is the New Pretty

    Strong is the New Pretty

    You know what they say that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. So true. What is pretty to me may not be pretty to you. What is pretty to you may not be pretty to me.

    Strong is the New Pretty is a photo book that depicts girls just being themselves in all sorts of different outfits + situations. It debunks the myth that girls have to look or act a certain way to be pretty, to be accepted or to be liked.

    The 175 photographs depict that raising strong girls is all about fostering the beauty that is on the inside + that what is beautiful on the outside is a strong + confident girl.

    Raising strong girls is not for the faint of heart. It’s a tough process but you don’t have to go it alone. There are numerous resources available to you, Mama, so you can raise strong + confident girls that are going to do great things for this world.

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  • Raising Girls

    A Complete Mom Guide to Summer Activities with Kids (So Everyone Survives the Summer)

    Hooray, it’s almost summer! Time to relax, have some fun in the sun + enjoy a more laid-back schedule. Whether you’re planning on chilling at home or heading out to the pool, beach or on vacation, here are some summer activities with kids + some tips to play it safe inside the house, out in the yard + while roaming.

    Create a Summer Activities Bucket List

    The first thing I do with my kiddos when it’s summer break is make a Summer Activities Bucket List. This, in + of itself, is such a FUN activity. We break out an old fashioned pen + paper + we set to work using our imaginations to conjure up all of the summer activities we can try to accomplish over the summer.

    You can get fancy + creative with the design of your bucket list of summer activities but you certainly don’t have to. It can be a standard check to-do list.

    Lauren + her 3 kiddos over at Mrs. Weber’s Neighborhood create a handmade summer bucket list. You can check out her ideas for adding summer activities to your bucket list, too.

    The Best Ideas for Kids offers a free download of a summer bucket list. Click on the picture of her bucket list to download it from her site.

    summer activities bucket list

    Check out summer activities throughout + at the end of this post for ideas to add to your own summer activities bucket list.

    Summer Activities with Preschoolers

    My kids are 5, 3 + 1 so we have to find a range of activities that are fun for everyone. Sometimes, the activity is a bit more focused on one or the other, though.

    Some summer activities with preschoolers + toddlers can be just as fun for the Kindergartner, though.

    Some of the simpler BUT SO MUCH FUN summer activities with preschoolers that you can do at home:

    • Bubble gloves
    • Drawing with sidewalk chalk
    • Throwing water balloons (especially at their sisters)
    • Playing in the water table
    • Running through the sprinkler

    Another activity that my kids love is to have a summer outdoor movie. Steph over at Dresses and Dinosaurs says to set up a screen + projector, put out some fun cushions or chairs (sometimes she + her kids even use water floats) with blankets + pillows. Steph puts together some fun snacks like snack mixes or popcorn + watches a movie with the kids once the sun goes down!  

    Slight variation on this. My kids have made “cars” out of cardboard boxes, plates, colored duct tape, markers + more to sit in while they watch the movie. This is what I call a two-fer because you get two activities out of it–making the cars + watching the movie. Woo hoo!

    Another slight variation is to seat them in one of their play “car” vehicles. Here is the baby in her sister’s Frozen Jeep. (OK. She’s actually standing.)

    I don’t know about your kids but my girls LOVE to play in the mud. Alexandra over at Scissors & Glue suggests setting up a mud kitchen in your back yard + letting your kids go to town digging + playing in the mud.

    Alexandra also shares how to serve tea time treats from a mud kitchen. My girls would be in total heaven. Tea + mud, oh my!

    Time at the Pool

    Swimming is usually high on the list of fun summer activities with kids. My older girls are taking swimming lessons + the oldest is getting ready to participate in the swim “team” for 5 + 6-year-olds in our neighborhood.

    For adults + older kids, swimming is a great workout for your heart + lungs + a HUGE stress reliever. If you do head out to the pool with the kids, take the necessary safety precautions no matter what your age or the age of your kids.

    Swimming + Pool Safety is a Must

    Girls in the pool
    • Always swim with a buddy. The buddy system is important so you can look out for each other while in the water. If someone starts to feel sick or loses control while swimming, his or her buddy can call out for help. If your buddy knows CPR, all the better!
    • Take breaks. Swimming + splashing around in the pool is tiring. Swimming takes a lot of energy + muscle power. It’s a full cardio workout, which means your heart + lungs are giving it their all. If you start to feel tired + like you can’t keep up, sit this one out. Just a few minutes of rest may be all you need before you’re back in line at the diving board.
    • Don’t go in without a lifeguard on duty. Lifeguards are trained to keep people of all ages + sizes safe in the water. They are required to take water safety courses + undergo CPR training. If you’re at a pool or lake, the best way to keep your entire family safe is to look for a life guard before heading in together for a dip.
    • Invest in swim lessons. Anyone at any age or skill level can learn to swim. Once your child masters being able to tread water + swim in the deep end, you’ll feel so much more at ease while at pools, lakes + beaches. It also opens the door to all sorts of fun, warm-weather activities such as boating, kayaking, wave running + more. Knowing how to swim assures a safer + more enjoyable summer for everyone!
    • Never leave children in the water unattended. No matter how strong a swimmer your child may be, you should never leave him or her unattended in the pool, at the lake + especially not while swimming in the ocean. Station your group in close proximity to a life guard + put an adult in charge of overseeing the water activities.
    • Floaties are everyone’s friend. When in doubt, grab a flotation device. Kids’ life jackets, water wings + pool floaties should be worn according to age, size + weight. Adults too, should check the maximum weight capacity on their flotation device. No shame in taking a rest on your pool raft if you feel the need 🙂
    • Observe the water depth. Teach kids to be mindful of the number printed on the side of the pool. Teach them early so they know that 3′ is the safe zone but 5′ is the deep end where only the expert swimmers can go. Even if the deep end is roped off, it’s best to make children aware of water depth.
    • Mind the rules of diving + swimming. Teach your children that the adults who are in charge of the pool should be respected. If the sign says NO DIVING, NO RUNNING, NO HORESPLAY then follow accordingly. If kids can’t read yet, take a moment to explain the rules of the pool + that the rules ensure everyone’s safety.
    • Keep sun exposure to a minimum. Vitamin D is definitely important, so a little sunshine is okay. But if you plan to be out for several hours, be sure to apply a good, waterproof sun block. Brimmed hats, awnings, umbrellas, rash guards + beach cover ups are other, less messy ways to stay shielded from those UV rays.
    • Take a rest after eating before you get in the pool. Some say that you should wait at least a half hour before heading in to take a dip after eating. This is mostly for swimming so you don’t get cramps. Frolicking in the water doesn’t really count so you don’t have to follow this rule to a tee, but it’s good practice to “rest while you digest” so you won’t end up overexerting in the water.
    • Keep water horseplay to a minimum. If someone seems scared or uncomfortable, let them be. Teach kids to respect the space of other people. Of course, some splashing + frolicking is great provided everybody’s enjoying it. But if there’s an uncertain swimmer in your midst, or someone who’s afraid of the water, be mindful of their feelings + safety.

    For more pool safety tips, check out Pool Safety 101 from Ashley at Irish Twins Momma.

    Summer at the Beach

    Probably only second to the pool is heading to the beach for a day trip (if you’re lucky enough to live near the beach) or on vacation. In my book, (I’m from Florida but live in Virginia now) the beach is #1 on my summer activities’ list.

    The list of things you can do at the beach with the kids is almost endless.

    • Playing in the sand
    • Building sand castles
    • Burying sisters in the sand (Keep their head out, please)
    • Carrying a million buckets of water back + forth from the ocean
    • Flying a kite
    • Digging
    • Eating
    • Drinking
    • Having ice cream from a vendor on the beach or nearby
    • Blowing bubbles or bubble gloves
    • Surfing (for older kids)
    • Boogie boarding
    • Playing in the surf/waves
    • Playing in the tidal pools (be careful of jellyfish + other sea animals)
    • Hunting for shells
    • Riding bikes
    • Taking a walk along the shore

    Safety: Fun in the Sun, Safe in the Surf

    Whether you’re a year-round shore dweller or someone who just vacations there during the summer, it’s always a good idea to take necessary precautions at the beach. Here are some tips for making your trip to the ocean a fun + safe one.

    • Sunscreen up! The white sand + the reflective ocean water, plus the general lack of shade at the beach make for some quick + painful sunburns. Be sure to apply a good, waterproof sunscreen with a high SPF. Those with fair skin may also wish to bring along a beach umbrella, tent +/or hide beneath the wide brim of a floppy beach hat. If you do manage to get a sunburn, use aloe vera after a bath or shower to soothe + moisturize.
    • Avoid going in the ocean without a lifeguard present. The undertow can be extremely strong + waves can overwhelm even an expert swimmer. Beach life guards are there for everyone’s safety + enjoyment, so make sure you’re near one if you’re thinking about taking the plunge. (I know I need all the hands + support I can get since my kids outnumber me + my husband!)
    • Stay within designated safe swimming areas. At the beach, you’ll often see colorful flags posted every few hundred feet or so, close to the shoreline. This serves to mark the designated safe swimming areas. Usually, a life guard station is between these flag markers. That’s how you know that this is an okay spot for you + your family to swim.
    • Swim with a buddy or in a group. It can be a lot of fun, bobbing up + down in the crashing waves, diving into the foamy surf, being thrashed around by the mighty ocean. But ocean swimming takes the most physical effort + is the most dangerous of all types of swimming or water activities. Bring along a swimming partner or entourage if you plan to go in. Always keep your eye on your buddies while in the water, to make sure everybody’s staying safe.
    • Don’t bring kids in to swim in the ocean until they’re strong swimmers. The shore line is the perfect spot to wade up to your ankles, build a sand castle, collect some shells + splash in the foam. But kids shouldn’t go all the way in until they’ve taken swim lessons + are proven strong swimmers. If your family or friends plan to be near where the waves break, it’s a good idea to have kids don some swimmies, a floatie tube or properly sized life jacket to ensure that water play stays fun + safe.
    • Mind the tide. Year-round beach dwellers often pay attention to something that vacationers may miss: the tide. When the tide is high, the undertow becomes stronger + that can mean more difficult + strenuous swimming/water conditions. Check posted signs so you pick the best time to swim + be on the beach. Or you can always ask a life guard.
    • Keep an eye out for jellyfish. Jellyfish prefer warm water, so if you want to avoid them then head out for an ocean swim earlier in the day before the water heats up. If you’re planning a beach vacation, June + July mean less likelihood of encountering jellyfish on the shore line because the water is still on the chilly side. Where there’s one jellyfish there are usually more. If you spot some, maybe take a break on the sand. If there are tidal pools on the beach, be careful there are not jellyfish or jellyfish tentacles in the pools. Even if the tentacles are no linger attached to the body of a jellyfish, they can still sting! (If you do get stung by a jellyfish, here’s what to do. Immediately rinse the sting with sea water + attempt to scrape out the stinger using something with a dull edge, like the edge of a credit card or a child’s sand shovel. Once back at home or at the place where you’re staying, treat the wound by rinsing with vinegar. Apply a baking soda paste. Hot baths + ice packs may also ease the pain. Finally, relieve itching + discomfort with calamine lotion or lidocaine.)
    • Don’t forget to hydrate. Tiredness, confusion + headache are all signs of dehydration, but it’s easy enough to avoid, even at the beach. Take along a small cooler filled with bottles of ice water. If you don’t have water with you, stop for some refreshments on the boardwalk. Remind kids to have a drink every so often after playing. Ice pops are another fun way to stay hydrated on a hot, summer beach day!
    • Pay attention to landmarks. One funny thing about the beach is that every entrance looks exactly the same as the last one. Teach everyone in your group to pay attention to landmarks, such as special signs, flags, or a particular building that may be within view. This way, if anyone becomes separated from the group, they’ll be able to find their way back easily.

    Summer Camps for Kids

    My kids attend (or attended) the summer camp at their preschool. My middle daughter is there right now! Summer camps for kids are a great way to occupy their time (for at least half a day, if not a whole day).

    Summer camps for kids can range from general day camps to super-specific camps. Our summer camp for preschoolers is general but each of the teachers has a theme.

    For example, the teacher that is in charge of my daughter’s camp does a camping theme with them. All of the activities over the course of the two-week camp is centered around camping.

    When she was my older daughter’s summer camp teacher, she did an “around the world” theme. They had passports that they made + they did different activities centering around different terrains + areas of the world (desert, wetlands, Antarctica, etc.) to get their passports stamped each day.

    I’ve also seen super-specific camps such as science camp, where the kids focus on science-related activities + learning experiences the entire time they are attending the camp.

    Summer Camp Safety

    Whether it’s the very first camp experience, or your kid is a seasoned camper, sleep-away or weekly day camp… you definitely want to remind your child of some safety precautions to take before embarking on the summer adventure that is camp!

    • Get a referral. A familiar summer camp that your child looks forward to having fun at is probably your best bet. This is my girls usually attend the camp at their preschool. Another good idea is to find places you go with your child (My Gym, the local rec center or a local museum, for example). If this is your child’s first experience at a camp they’ve never been to before, try to get a personal recommendation from a friend whose child has already attended, if possible.
    • Take a tour. If it’s a brand new + unfamiliar summer camp, be sure to take a tour with your child. This way, you can get to know the counselors + caregivers while getting a feel for the types of activities they offer.
    • Use the buddy system. Whether the day’s activity is hiking in the woods, lake or pool swimming, arts + crafts, or sports… encourage your child to hang with a buddy + stay with the group.
    • Teach your child about privacy + personal space. If it’s sleep-away camp, your child is going to change into sleepwear, swim wear or day wear, take showers + use the facilities. Teach her the difference between good touching + bad touching. Let her know that she has a right to her own space + privacy. Make it known that if someone makes her feel uncomfortable, she needs to tell you right away.
    • Make sure your child knows where the infirmary or nurse’s office is. Bee stings, skinned knees, poison ivy + heat exhaustion can all be a routine part of camp life. Encourage your child to tell his or her counselor if he’s been injured or has any symptoms that may need to be treated. If your kiddo has allergies, be sure that your child’s counselor, camp nurse + caregivers know what the allergies are + how to treat the symptoms.

    Amusement Park, the Zoo + Carnivals

    Summer time offers its share of fun in the form of carnivals, zoos, amusement parks + water parks. In our area, we have both paid + free options.

    One of our summer vacations with the kids is to take them to Hershey Park, Dutch Wonderland + Sesame Place. Being from Florida, I have been to Disney about 101 times (maybe more). Check out my article on 4 Tips to Prep for Your Disney Trip with Kids.

    We have the National Zoo (free) + Frying Pan Park Farm (free) nearby + Roari’s Zoofari (paid) that are usually on our list of summer activities with kids.

    We tend to make a day (or a half day) out of going to the local farms + zoos. We get in the car + head to the place by around 10 am. We pack snacks, drinks (especially water) + sometimes even a lunch.

    We take along a blanket to sit on the ground for a picnic on the ground. If there are picnic tables or general tables available, we, of course, snag one of those instead.

    Amusement parks are more of an all-day affair. Before you pile all the kids in the car, take some of these safety tips into consideration to ensure the most enjoyment with the least amount of worry.

    • Charge up the phones before heading out. Whomever has phones (parents, kids or both) should bring them along on your excursion. This way, if anyone becomes separated from the group, they can put in a quick call to locate the pack. Another good use of cell phones is for meet-ups. “I’ll see you over by the monkey cages at 3:15.”
    • Try to keep it to an even number of friends or family. This is particularly important if you’re visiting an amusement park or carnival. If your family is oddly numbered, then bring along a friend for the day. This way, you’ll never be in that awkward scenario where one person has to either ride with a stranger or sit the ride out entirely + get separated from the group. Also, it means there is one adult per child!
    • If the sign says don’t feed the animals… don’t feed the animals. Many zoos have designated petting zoo areas where you can purchase animal feed for a quarter + have a great old time letting goats nibble out of your palm. However, kids should be taught that other animals outside the petting zoo may not be as friendly + should not be offered a snack.
    • Stow your valuables if you plan to use the water park. It’s helpful to bring a sleeve of quarters so you can get a locker to store your cell phone, wallet + other valuables while splashing about in the water park.
    • Mind the height requirements + cautions for various amusement park or carnival rides. Usually the people who work at such establishments are pretty good at knowing when someone is too short to ride a certain ride. However, some folks are more lax about the rules — so it’s up to you to make sure that kids are safe.
    • Accompany kids to the bathroom. Play it safe + keep the children with you in the bathroom.
    • Take shelter from a sudden storm. Every once in a while, a brief summer thunderstorm disrupts your outing. If this happens, find the nearest place where you can go indoors, such as a gift shop or food establishment. Typically, summer thunderstorms pass quickly so it won’t be too much of a hassle. If caught outside in an electrical storm, be sure to avoid trees, tall metal structures + metal poles.

    Take a Hike

    Take the kiddos on a family-friendly hiking or walking trail. We recently took a vacation to Shenandoah Valley for spring break. This area has numerous trails so we were able to find a family-friendly one where the girls could walk on their own + we could push the baby in her stroller.

    We also have numerous trails surrounding us in the area we live, including one in our neighborhood. Hiking or walking a trail with the kids is one of those summer activities that is great in the morning or later in the day when it is cooler.

    Hiking or walking a trail is a fabulous way to introduce your kids to nature. Birds, animals, fish, plants, flowers + fauna are all typically within arm’s reach.

    It’s also a GREAT way to tire the kids out so naps just might be in order — even for the kids that don’t normally take naps!

    Practice Good Safety While Hiking + Exploring the Woods

    While taking a walk in the woods can be enjoyable, there are definitely some things to be mindful of in the interest of your safety, as well as the safety of your kids.

    • Select a trail that matches the ability level of the kids. Most people who hike often know that there are easy trails, where the terrain is fairly level + without obstacles. Then, there are more strenuous trails that may lead up mountains, onto rocky terrain + over sloped areas that pose risk to less experienced or less able-bodied hikers. The trails are marked by different colors, such as red, white, blue, green, orange, etc. If you aren’t sure which colors mean what, spend some time looking at the hiking trail map. Or, talk with a park ranger or hiker who is familiar with the trail + can guide you into choosing the most kiddo-friendly trail.
    • Bring a charged cell phone. Keep yours charged + on your person during hiking expeditions. One useful thing about having your cell on a hike is that if you decide not to go the full trail, you can navigate your way to a shortcut that meets the road.
    • Keep a back pack with plenty of bottles or sippy cups of water. It’s important to stay hydrated, especially if hiking during the summer months.
    • Take along a first aid kit. Hopefully, you’ll never have to use it – but if someone gets cut or scraped while on the trail, a first aid kit with Bactine + band-aids is going to be a welcome + comforting sight.
    • Dress for tick protection. Deer ticks carry the dreaded Lyme Disease + Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. Take precaution by wearing long sleeves, long pants + tying up or putting a cap over long hair before heading out into the deep woods for a hike.
    • If you see a bear, make a lot of noise. Hiking in Bear Country? Bears typically don’t bother humans + are typically only after a potential snack. But mother bears can become defensive if they see you as a threat to their cubs. If you spot a bear in the woods + there’s no avoiding it, spread out your limbs to appear bigger, clap your hands together + make a lot of noise. This is said to scare off bears so they’ll leave you alone.
    • Avoid smoking cigarettes in the woods. Prevent forest fires by not smoking in the woods. Smoking and hiking are two activities that don’t mix anyway.

    Camp in the Backyard

    You don’t have to pack up for a camping trip + drive out to a campground. Turn your back yard into a camp ground — complete with tent + a campfire (Check with your local authority to make sure there isn’t a burn ban in your area).

    My girls adore putting up the tent with their dad + getting their sleeping bags, blankets + pillows all set up inside. We live in a wooded area so our back yard does have a camp ground feel to it.

    We have a fire pit that we (carefully) roast marshmallows over to make s’mores with the girls.

    Campfire Safety this Summer

    Are you a campfire person? For many of us, the cool air of a summer night conjures up memories of toasting marshmallows + telling spooky stories around a campfire. If you build a campfire, be sure to practice good safety habits.

    • Add a screen. Wood fires can pop, crackle + sparks. You can use a protective screen to avoid the burn of a stray ember.
    • Phone it in. Many towns have a special phone number that you can call to find out if there is a burn ban in your area due to dry conditions. This way, you know not to have a campfire if dry conditions could cause a fire outbreak.
    • If you dig a fire pit, be sure it’s large and deep enough. The recommendation is 4 feet in diameter and 12 inches deep. There should also be a border of large stones around the fire, to ensure that the flames are kept to one spot. Leave 2 inches of space between the stones for proper air flow.
    • Have a water source nearby. This means a working hose that’s hooked up + ready to go if necessary. Typically, you can put out a fire by shoveling dirt from the bottom of the fire pit over the burning embers + wood. But if you want to be more quick about stopping the fire, then use the hose method. This unfortunately creates a ton of smoke, but it may be your best option in certain circumstances.
    • Teach kids to stay back from the fire. Also do not allow anyone to run around near the fire pit, where both the flames + the large stones pose a risk. Avoid having people wear loose clothing which could catch on fire if the individual is tending or poking at the fire.
    • Don’t forget about stop, drop + roll. This is fire safety 101, taught from the beginning in preschool. Remind all of your campfire attendees that stop, drop + roll is still the best way to put out a fire in someone’s clothes catch an ember.
    • Avoid smoke inhalation. If your fire begins to billow out smoke for whatever reason (green wood, spraying water on it to put it out), instruct everyone present to leave the area until the smoke clears.
    • Don’t start a campfire on a windy night. If you’re not sure if it’s good campfire weather, you can consult with your local fire department to be sure. Some towns regularly post a risk of forest fire number which is good to know if you host campfires near a wooded area or in a neighborhood where the homes are closer together.
    • When in doubt, put it out! If you’re ever wondering if this is the wrong time for a campfire, it probably is. Best to be safe than sorry… so put it out!

    Gardening

    My girls love to plant flowers, trees + bushes. We live in a wooded area + have had to cut down a few trees that were endangering our house + cars. We bought tons of news trees to plant with them–trying to teach them that if you have to take a tree away that you should plant at least one tree to replace it.

    (We planted a lot more than a 1:1 ratio).

    Every Spring we plant new flowers with the girls in our flower beds + planters. We have even gone down the road of having tomato plants.

    Gardening or planting a garden is one of those summer activities that comes with a ton of benefits for you, your kids + the environment.

    The girls even have little gardening sets made for kids that make planting or tending to trees, flowers or veggies easy peasy lemon squeezy.

    Summer Time Gardening Safety

    Did you know that good gardeners have their own set of rules that they abide by for the best yield of produce + the safest gardening experience? If you’re new to gardening, heed these wise words when growing veggies, herbs + fruits this summer with the kids.

    • If it’s not in use, store it away. This means shovels, wheelbarrows, rakes + gardening shears. Tools that are left scattered about can pose a risk to the passerby who may accidentally trip + fall over them + you don’t want the kids messing around with sharp objects unsupervised. Also, tools that are left out in the rain can rust over time. Take a few minutes to tidy up after a day of toiling in the garden beds. It is safer + the garden looks tidier, too!
    • Replace rusty fencing. Lots of people put up low critter fences to keep rabbits + other varmints away from their veggie gardens. We have to put up deer fencing or the deer in our neighborhood eat EVERYTHING. Over time, this fencing can rust. If someone accidentally scratches themselves on the fence, this can pose a risk. So be a safe gardener + get rid of that rusty fencing.
    • Don’t pick veggies after a rain, or when it’s dewy out. The air becomes moist after the sun goes down + everything is covered in dew in the morning. This is the worst time to pick vegetables because wetness transmits mold, bacteria + viruses. Wait until the sun has been shining on your garden for a while to dry everything out, before heading in to harvest.
    • Use proper form when bending + reaching to pick vegetables and tend your crops. It’s easy to strain your muscles if you reach too far while standing in an awkward position. Remember to bend your knees when leaning forward + keep your tummy pulled in so as to avoid straining your back while gardening. (This one is probably more for you than your kids.)
    • Avoid using chemical sprays on your garden. This includes pest control. Most garden pests can be kept under control either by planting strongly scented herbs nearby your veggie plants, or by simply picking the beetles off the plants. Another option is to knock off garden bugs with a spray of the hose.

    Summer Activities Bucket List

    I mentioned earlier that my girls + I have not made our summer activities bucket list quite yet but here are some more ideas to inspire you when making your own list.

    1. Go to a baseball game
    2. Make popsicles
    3. Go on a scavenger hunt. Check out scavenger hunt printables) from Red Tricycle)
    4. Visit a foreign country (from your living room)
    5. Plant a garden
    6. Make homemade ice cream
    7. Check out a program at the library
    8. Check out books at the library
    9. Decorate a t-shirt
    10. Check out the summer movie program ($1 per person)
    11. Buy ice cream from the ice cream truck
    12. Visit a museum
    13. Go to a spray park
    14. Go to a drive-in movie (We have tickets that we bought the girls as part of their Easter basket gifts)
    15. Make homemade ice cream sundaes for dinner
    16. Pick your own berries at a local farm
    17. Play baseball
    18. Hoolahoop
    19. Ride a bike (maybe even learn to ride a bike without training wheels)
    20. Visit a local book store (We found a really neat one in Old Town Alexandria, Hooray Books, where we found some of the neatest items, including the baby’s new llama Wubba Nub!)
    21. Act out a puppet show (My girls did this last night)
    22. Try a new ice cream place (We hit a local shop, Sugar Mama’s,) recently that makes their ice cream locally + it was DELISH! They also have this fabulous idea where you can buy mini scoops of different flavors for 50 cents each so you can try a variety of flavors all at once.)
    23. Gaze at the stars
    24. Watch airplanes land + take off (Dulles + Reagan National are our local airports)
    25. Attend an outdoor concert
    26. Host winter activities in the summer (See 101 Winter Activities for ideas)
    27. Enjoy the indoors or rainy summer days (See Rainy Day Activities for ideas)

    It’s summer ya’ll so make your summer activities bucket list, start doing + checking items off your list. Have a happy + safe summer!

    Mom Guide to Summer Activities with Kids
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  • Raising Girls

    The Ultimate Guide to Sibling Fighting + How to Stop It

    My two oldest girls (almost 6 + almost 4) fight ALL. THE. TIME. I imagine it is only a matter of time before the baby (1 year) is brought into the melee. It’s what I imagine it’s like to have boys (sibling fighting) because there is often a brawl similar to a WWF wrestling match in the living room, on the breezeway or in their room when they are going at each other.

    They lose their #$%! + then I lose my $#@% + it just gets ugly from there.

    I’m an only child so this is unchartered territory for me that I vowed to get to the bottom of + FAST. Here’s what I found out + have started to put to work.

    Why Do Siblings Fight?

    In my research to get to the bottom of this sibling fighting, I first set out to find out why siblings fight to begin with. I mean, there’s probably some obvious reasons but I discovered there a LOT of underlying reasons that spark siblings to fight.

    1. Sibling Fighting is Normal

    It is perfectly normal behavior for siblings to fight with each other.

    Phew…

    You can heave a little sigh of relief. I know I did.

    In fact, child behavior experts say that sibling fighting can help prep your kids for the real world. It gives them the skills they need to negotiate + for conflict resolution.

    Now, rolling around on the board room floor pulling hair, punching + yelling at one of their co-workers is PROBABLY not how you want them to resolve conflict + negotiate so the HOW to resolve conflict + negotiate are skills you have to work on with them.

    We’ll get into that a bit later on.

    2. Sibling Fighting Garners Attention + Gives Them Control

    When the kids fight, you react so another reason that siblings fight is to get Mom or Dad’s attention. It’s on an unconscious level for the kids, but they soon come to realize that if they fight with each other or pick on their sister that Mom or Dad (or both) give them attention.

    Second, it gives the kids control over you as the parent. Again, it’s more subconscious than on purpose, but kids are really smart. They quickly put two + two together to figure out that they can control Mom or Dad’s behavior + reactions (if you let them) by fighting with their sister.

    It is no coincidence that as soon as you take a phone call from your old college roommate or you’re trying to schedule a doctor appointment that this is when your girls turn into Ronda Rousey + Stephanie McMahon.

    3. Sibling Fighting Stems from Comparison

    One child in the family tends to feel as if they don’t measure up to their sibling so it causes sibling fighting. As a parent, we have to be careful that we are not making statements that compare our children to one another. Often times, this is an inner feeling that the child has (whether parents are contributing to the feeling or not).

    Because the child feels as if they don’t measure up to their sibling, they lash out at them + start a fight.

    In the book, Siblings Without Rivalry, the authors conduct a group study. The authors ask the group what adults (parents) do to contribute to sibling fighting + sibling rivalry. The response from kids was that parents compare siblings.

    So interesting.

    Think about it. You know you’ve probably done + so have I. One kid is having a full-on meltdown + you mumble something like, “Why are you acting like this? Look at your sister. She’s not acting like this. She’s doing what she’s supposed to be doing — getting her PJs on for bed.”

    Oops…

    The Siblings Without Rivalry book also provides suggestions on how to help your kids live together so that you (as parents) can live (in peace) too.

    How to Stop Sibling Fighting

    While some or all of these causes of sibling fighting might sound familiar to you, what in the heck can you do about it?

    Check out these 10 ways to finally put an end to sibling fighting.

    1. Model Behavior

    My husband + I attended a family retreat on strengths-based parenting. One of my biggest takeaways from the retreat sessions was we model behavior for our children.

    Worth repeating: We model behavior for our children.

    We SHOW our children exactly HOW to act.

    Our children act + react just like we show them to act + react to situations.

    So if you + the hubs are fighting, yelling + screaming at each when there is some kind of a family conflict, guess what?

    That’s how your kiddos think they need to act + react in order to resolve a conflict they’re having + in their situation it’s a conflict with their sister.

    The same holds true for your reactions when a fellow driver cuts you off on the road or you have an issue returning an item at the customer service desk of the local department store.

    If a driver cuts you off, instead of throwing F-bombs + shooting them the finger, say, “Wow, that driver cut me off. That’s dangerous but it’s OK. They must be in a hurry or maybe they didn’t see me.”

    In your head, you can throw F-bombs + shoot them the middle finger 🙂

    This models calm behavior to your children as a way of reacting to an unpleasant situation.

    2. Allow Them to Express Their Feelings

    Girls tend to hold in their emotions + not use their words to express their feelings. Instead, they bottle up their feelings until one day it explodes all over their sister.

    Hence, the WWF match taking place in the middle of the living room.

    So when my daughter yells at her sister saying, “I hate you. You’re the worst sister ever,” that is perfectly OK. She does have the right to feel like her sister is the worst sister ever.

    Instead of shouting back at her that she shouldn’t say that, you should validate her feelings + say something along the lines of, “I can hear that you are angry with your sister. Good job using your words to express your feelings.”

    3. Stay Out of It

    As long as nobody is being hurt, stay out of the middle of sibling fighting. When a fight breaks out, stay calm + quiet. Allow them to work it out between each other + don’t intervene.

    If violence or hitting breaks out then you might have to step in saying something along the lines of, “In this house, we use words, not hands to resolve issues.”

    Allowing fighting siblings to work out their own differences is where they can acquire their conflict resolution skills.

    4. Separate Them

    I have found this works the best so far for my two fighting siblings. Send them to separate rooms for some time apart from each other. Not only does it diffuse the situation but it also gives you the opportunity to speak with each child one-on-one.

    It gives each child the individual attention they might be seeking from you without their sister interrupting + allows them to give you their side of the story.

    In the end, separating them usually allows whatever the fight was over to dissolve + they’re back playing together nicely 15 minutes or so later.

    5. Divert Their Attention

    For my girls, fighting is generally over an object, like a toy. The preschool teachers where both girls went or currently go, use terms like, “That was in Audrey’s hands so would you like to play with this truck until Audrey is done with the motorcycle?”

    Most of the time, the kid takes the alternative toy (or whatever it is) + moves on. Sometimes, they don’t come back for the toy. Other times, they wait close by + when their sibling puts the coveted toy down, they scoop it up for their turn with it.

    6. Celebrate Their Individual Strengths

    Each of my daughters is soooooo different. Sure, they have some similarities (DNA will do that to ‘ya) but for the most part they are truly individuals — with their own likes, dislikes, personalities + characteristics.

    Celebrate these differences with your family as a whole + with your child individually. I mentioned a retreat that my family + I attended on strengths-based parenting.

    The premise of strengths-based parenting is determining what your strengths are as an individual + what your child’s strengths are as an individual. Once you know what each of your strengths are, you can help your child focus on their strengths (rather than focusing on their weaknesses + trying to turn them into strengths).

    The book Strengths Based Parenting is ah-mazing. It helps you figure out what each of your strengths are + then walks you through how to parent a child with the strengths your children have + how to be a parent with the strengths you have.

    The book does not cover the topic of sibling rivalry + sibling fighting BUT it does work with you on how to be the best parent to the child(ren) you have + it focuses on not comparing your children but rather celebrating their strengths + helping them to foster + nurture their strengths.

    Indirectly, this all helps to eliminate (or at least drastically reduce) sibling fighting.

    I highly recommend the book. (We also own the Strengths Based Marriage book, which I also highly recommend for your relationship with your spouse + building the marriage you want).

    7. Give Them an Outlet

    Give your kiddos some way to express their feelings that doesn’t involve punching their sister as hard as they can while holding her in a full Nelson. My girls LOVE art. They would paint, color, draw or make crafts All. DAY. LONG. if I let them.

    When a fight breaks out, try to divert their attention with a creative activity they enjoy, such as art. This allows them to get their feelings out on paper (or some other medium) rather than out on their sister.

    8. Make a Wish

    My girls are into fairies + wishes so granting their wish is powerful to them. When one of them is having a conniption fit, simply saying, “I can see that your sister is making you angry + you wish that she would stop [insert whatever it is that she is doing at that moment to tick the other one off].”

    Just making this statement, granting her wish, has an amazing way of diffusing the situation, validating the feelings of the upset daughter without really requiring any action on the part of the daughter that is pushing her sister’s buttons.

    I’m like a fairy godmother 🙂

    9. Don’t Take Sides

    It takes two to fight (I know you were expecting make a thing go right + that’s true too). Avoid taking the side of one child. Avoid punishing the children at all or taking away the toy (or whatever) that is causing the problem.

    Instead treat the children equally. They are both fighting + they are both in the wrong for doing so.

    10. Teach Empathy

    Separate the kids + circle back when everyone is calm. You can teach your kids to be empathetic to their siblings by asking, ” How do you think your sister felt when you took the car out of her hand?”

    It helps your daughters to understand how other people feel by their actions + helps them to (hopefully) adjust their behavior the next time they are in the same situation so they won’t make their sister mad (sad, etc.).

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