Get Your Kids Outdoors

Kids Outdoors

Teach your kids to love nature but taking them out in the great outdoors. Here are five great outdoors activities to get your kids a little exercise, a lot of fresh air and an appreciation for nature. These ideas require very little planning, virtually no equipment and you’ll probably find places to do them within minutes of your home.

Hit the Playground

Playgrounds are great places to get your kids outdoors and teach them to play well with others. Playgrounds in parks and at schools are great places to burn off some energy and have a little fun. The swings, slides and monkey bars are fun enough, but make it even better with a game of follow the leader. If there are other kids there, it’s a great opportunity to teach your child how to meet new friends, invite others to play and have a great time.

Hike a Trail

Check out local hiking trails in your area. Pick a well-traveled trail that’s appropriate for the age and skill level of your kids. In particular, handicap accessible, trails which loop back to the parking area are easy and fun. Take your camera along for a few photo opportunities which are sure to arise.

Take a Tree Tour

Plan a stroll through your neighborhood to look at the trees and get your kids outdoors. This is especially fun in the fall, when the leaves are turning and falling, but other times of year are great, too. Get an identification book and find out the names of the trees on your block. Take along paper and crayons to make rubbings of the bark by placing the paper against the trunk and rubbing the crayon on the paper. Collect seeds, cones or twigs from your trip.

Create Fun in the Backyard

Even the smallest yard can be a great place to play games, build a rock garden, grow vegetables or flowers or simply relax outside. Create mini-gardens with cool planters, raised beds or simply dedicate an area for the cool rocks you find when you’re out hiking. You can also head to the front yard and, if you have a sidewalk or any paved areas (i.e. driveways), get out the chalk and draw or play hopscotch. Remember jumping rope as a kid? Teach your children to do the same outdoor things you enjoyed at that age.

America’s Pastime

Nothing beats a live game of baseball. The bleachers, the hot dogs, the game and atmosphere: it’s summertime perfect. If you don’t live in a big city with a professional team, don’t worry. There’s baseball in your community:  club ball, little league or minor leagues. Ask around the head out to a game. You’ll be surprise how much fun you can have just watching the kids play a pickup game at the local field.

There you have it: five ideas for getting your kids outdoors. And outdoor fun can be a year-round option. Just be sure to dress for the weather and you’ll have fun outside in every season.

[Image]

 

Managing Your Love Life After Kids

Love Life After Kids

It might seem like a distant memory, but do you remember your love life before children? Every night was a “date night” and might include dinner and a play, movie or other entertainment. You would fall into bed and connect with your partner, then lazily sleep in the following morning. You might be laughing out loud at the comparison of that to what you have now, after kids. But you still have a healthy love life after you have children. Here are some tips to managing your love life after kids.

You Might Be Exhausted

It’s probably the biggest reason you’re not getting intimate more often with your spouse. Particularly if you have kids under 2 who aren’t consistently sleeping through the night: by the time you get dinner, bath, bedtime and your little one is settled, all you can think about is getting some shuteye. The sleep deprivation is hard to fix until a little later, but don’t deprive yourself of some mood-boosting and healthy intimacy with your spouse. We all know that kids tend to drive the schedule around the house, but you can work within that framework to spend a little time together. It is not uncommon for couples to find that their best opportunity for intimacy isn’t at night. If, by chance, you’re lucky enough to have a predictable napper, you’ll have some time alone: make the most of it!

Let Someone Watch the Kids

There’s no law that says – when you drop the kids off at a sitter – that you have to go out. Arrange for an outside sitter, then head home instead. Yes, you will feel a tinge of guild at being home alone. Quickly replace it with this thought: when you feel physically and emotionally connected to your partner, you will be a better parent. Taking care of your needs – and the needs of your spouse – are important to enable you to take care of the needs of your children. In this same spirit, it is perfectly acceptable to take of early from work and meet your spouse at home for a rendezvous before you pick up the kids at daycare.

Schedule It

You will likely grimace at the notion that you should actually schedule couples-time on your calendar. You think it will feel like an appointment or something on your to-do list. Then, you will see that there, amidst the pediatrician and play dates, your meetings and the gym, you have prioritized time to devote to your partner. It will feel strange, but when you see that scheduling time results in more romantic moments, you will agree to it, at least in the near term.

If You’re Not Feeling It

If you’re the parents of a newborn or baby under the age of one year and you’re not feeling as turned on as you used to, don’t be afraid to talk to your OB/GYN or general doctor. Hormonal imbalances, vaginal dryness and poor sleep can all contribute to your sex drive. Be open about your feelings and ask your medical practitioner for possible treatments.

Managing your love life after kids can be a challenge, but the investments you make to keep romance in your relationships will strengthen bonds with your partner and the connections the two of your share with your kids.

[Image]

 

Is a Christmas Pet a Good or Bad Idea?

Pet For Christmas

Are your kids ready for a pet for Christmas?  They may have come home after playing with their best friend’s dog and told you that they would like to have a puppy.

Or maybe your daughter has decided that a kitten is exactly what she needs to fulfill her life.

But is a pet for Christmas a good or bad idea?

Old-School

When we were growing up, getting a pet for Christmas was always one of the most exciting presents around.  Yes, we got the usual lecture of being responsible for the kitten or puppy and, of course, we swore on our honor that we would take care of them.

The reality is, however, that kids go back to school and families go back to work but you still need to care for a puppy or kitten.

What Do You Do?

A kitten is easier than a puppy with respect to her toilet needs. She simply uses a litter box.

A puppy, on the other hand, will need to be taken outside every 2 hours for the first month or so to start house training and teaching him that your home is his clean den.

If you have a stay at home parent, the house training issues for a dog are easier but that parent’ schedule must still be a factor.  Not everyone stays home, so it’s a big consideration when deciding whether not to get a puppy for your child’s Christmas present.

The Statistics

Sadly, too many Christmas pets are surrendered to shelters every year.  There are a myriad of reasons but, mostly, it’s because the pet has too many needs for a busy family after the holiday vacation is over.

Fostering An Older Pet

One way to get around the issue of a young dog or cat as a present for Christmas, is to think about becoming a foster family for an older dog or cat at holiday time.  This is a great way to see if an animal will integrate well with your family lifestyle and schedule.

It also teaches your kids responsibility without having the issues of house training a puppy.

A Better Alternative?

Perhaps a better alternative for your family this year, is to talk about what kind of pet your children would like and make their Christmas present the beginning of choosing him or her.

Naturally, whatever pet you decide upon needs to be age-appropriate for your kids and also fit into your lifestyle as well.  It may be that a smaller pet like a hamster or a gerbil or even some fish would be a great start for a busy family.

So let’s answer the question: Is a pet for Christmas a good idea or bad one?  The answer is that there isn’t a concrete answer.  It really will depend on the age of your children, their schedules and the lifestyle of your family.

If you think your kids are ready for a puppy or kitten and you’re all in, then a Christmas pet is a perfect idea.

[Image 1] [Image 2]

 

Kid Friendly Restaurants

Kid Friendly Restaurants

When you think of the phrase “kid friendly” and pair it with restaurants, it really has everything to do with their menu.  Having options for younger kids and even older ones makes taking your children out to eat so much more fun.

Here are some ideas for kid friendly restaurants.  Not all of them will be in the area where you live but, hopefully, some of them will be.

Denny’s

This restaurant may be the butt of some jokes in TV commercials, but is a fabulously kid friendly restaurant.  Who wouldn’t love pancakes for dinner?

One of the things we’re really like about Denny’s is that they make an effort to give diners nutrition and allergy information right on the menu.  This is really helpful if you have a kid who’s allergic to nuts and you need to make sure that a particular dish is safe for her.

Red Robin (Yum!)

Besides having a very catchy theme song, this restaurant is a great place to take the family especially for a kid’s birthday.  They have a mascot that comes out and makes a special appearance and there are tons of balloons for your birthday girl or boy.  They are always enhancing and changing their child’s menu and even adding some healthy options like veggie burgers and side dishes of fruit and vegetables.

Is your 6 to 12 year-old a future top chef?  Every year, Red Robin sponsors a recipe contest that goes into their cookbook.  All proceeds from cookbook sales go to charity.

Chili’s

This popular chain has been adding to its kids menu steadily for years.  There are some entrees like grilled chicken, pasta and pizza.  They also have side dishes like corn, mandarin oranges and pineapple.

Mimi’s Café

If you come into the restaurant with some hyper kids and you really need to get some food into them quickly, this is the restaurant for you.  They have a free appetizer plate that includes Cheerios, oranges and crackers.  Just the thing to quiet down some antsy kids.

Their kids’ menu options include choices like soup and salad and spaghetti.  Side dishes include mashed potatoes, fruit and applesauce.  Bibs and hand wipes are given to all families with young children and there are changing tables in all of the restrooms.

Soup Plantation

This chain also goes by another name outside California which is Sweet Tomatoes.  The thing we adore about this chain is that it’s perfect for frugal families.  Adults can eat for less than $10 and about five bucks for kids three and over.  It features a pasta station, soups and a 55-foot long salad bar with plenty of fruits and vegetables.  And they don’t forget the dessert in their fabulous bakery section.

Chuck E. Cheese

This wouldn’t be a kid friendly restaurants blog post without mention of Chuck E. Cheese.  This seems to be the place to take kids for blow-out birthday parties and fun entertainment in addition to fantastic pizzas.

So get ready, pack up those kids and take them to your nearby kid friendly restaurants for family fun and a great meal.

[Image 1] [Image 2]

 

 

How to Dial in “Me Time” and Still be a Great Parent

Time for Myself

When you become a parent, it appears that your life stops for 18 years.  But it doesn’t have to be that way.  In fact, the more time you dial in for yourself and show your child that it isn’t selfish to do that, the more balanced that child will be when he reaches adulthood.

Here are some ideas to dial in “me time” and still be a great parent.

Take Care

This doesn’t just mean being careful.  It means treating yourself the way you treat others.  Don’t be hard on yourself.  Our society in America holds parents and parenting to a very high standard.  Got some dishes in the sink at the end of the day?  Don’t worry about it.

There are going to be times when parenting is overwhelming and stressful and that’s when you need to take good care of yourself.  If you like taking a bath, lock the bathroom door and give yourself the gift of time and a hot soak.

You’re going to be a parent forever.  Parenting isn’t a sprint, it’s a distance race so you don’t need to go all out all the time.

You don’t have to go it alone.  And this applies to two parent households as much as to single parent households.  Find some people you connect with who have children about the same age and make sure to get together often as a support group.

Kids Under 5

This stage of the game has parenting feeling like the ultimate 24/7 job.  And it is. Hang in there, though, because kids get older and things get easier.

Remember the question above about dishes in the sink at the end of the day?  There are going to be lots of times when your house isn’t perfectly clean and company comes over.  It’s okay.

And get a sitter and go out as often as you can afford to.

Children Aged 6 - 9

This is when you can start setting boundaries and getting your children involved in normal family chores around the house.  Teach them how to do their own laundry.  Show them how to help with dishes and loading the dishwasher.  They make some of the mess; they can help clean it up.

Have your child’s friends come over for a play date.  That will give you some time to get some of your own things done while they’re being entertained by their friends.

Teenagers

Just like when they were infants and toddlers, you will worry about your teenager as he presses the edge of the envelope of independence.  Talk with your teen about curfew and also about what you expect from them.  And, to be fair, ask them what they expect of you.

If you have a favorite activity or hobby, you can certainly get back into this in a more concentrated and focused way.

Great parenting and having time for you are not mutually exclusive.  Enjoy the gift of time and also the gift of your children while they’re young.

[Image 1] [Image 2]

 

 

Choosing the Best Pet for Your Kids

Pet For Your Kids

Kids and pets go together like s’mores and camping but choosing the best fit can be stressful. Here are a few things to consider ahead of time that will make your choice easier:

  • Your child’s age, abilities, and daily schedule
  • Where you live, and
  • The type of pet you’re looking for: a dog or a cat?

The Kid

When thinking about a pet, consider the age, abilities and daily schedule of your child. The younger the kid, the less ability they may have to care for a dog or cat. Ditto for a child with a busy academic and after school schedule.

For an older child, say late elementary school to middle school age, the time for a puppy or kitten may be perfect. A great way to test and see if your kid is ready for the responsibility of being a pet parent is to foster.

Being a foster family is the perfect rehearsal for bringing a dog or cat into the family full time. Both dogs and cats need foster homes and you can even be breed specific if you’d like. There are many rescue agencies looking for willing foster homes.

Where Do You Live?

The best type of pet for your family also depends on where you live. Are you in an urban high-rise with kids at school and you’re out all day? A puppy may not fit as well as a kitten due to a dog’s need to be walked. Puppies being house trained should go out every two hours until they are about three months old. After that, they can hold it for an extra hour per month of life.

If you are in the country with space for an outside kennel, a puppy would be a great choice even with a busy family because that kennel gives it the ability to be outside at will.

If you live in the city, a kitten or cat would be perfect. Cats are more self-sufficient than dogs and fit a busy family schedule with ease. Food and water, litter box, a way for the cat to see what’s going on outside and you’re set.

The Perfect Pet

There really isn’t a universally perfect pet and their needs must fit into the family like a piece in a jigsaw puzzle. If you’re considering a specific breed, think about …

  • How large or small the animal will be when fully grown
  • Its need for activity, and
  • What you can afford to spend on food and medical care

Breed traits should also play into your decision as well. For example, long hair will need more grooming from your child than one with short hair. And look into the kinds of medical issues a specific breed may have. Long haired cats can tend to have more hairball issues than short haired breeds.

Choosing a pet for your child can be stress-free if you do some pre-planning. Consider your child’s age, abilities and schedule, where you live, the type of pet you’d like and you’ll be all set.

[Image 1] [Image 2]

How to be a Positive Role Model as a Single Parent

Being A Single Parent

Whether it’s the result of death, divorce or by choice, the number of single parents in America today has risen exponentially in the past 30 years. Gone is the stigma of being a single parent.

Dads are raising daughters and Moms are doing the same for their sons. Is it easier to parent a child of the same sex? Absolutely.

But it isn’t impossible.

Has the American Dream Died?

In a word, no. But it has morphed since the two-parent household days of “Father Knows Best” and “Ozzie and Harriet”.

The American dream of owning your own house, feeling safe in your neighborhood and having a good family relationship is still very much alive.

The rising divorce rate in America has created an atmosphere of disposable families. While we still believe a loving two-parent household is best, we realize that kids will do better in school and in life without the tension of parents who are battling each other.

Communicate

Fear is the biggest killer of relationships because fear causes us to remain silent. You and your child need to talk all the time whether it’s about allowance, friends or starting to be more independent as a new driver.

If you talk honestly with your child and tell them what it’s like to be a single parent from your perspective, she will be more likely to talk with you about her issues as well.

Does that mean you should treat your kid like your BFF? No, not at all. But there’s no harm in saying things like needing to stick to your monthly budget when she wants to buy the latest designer wear. Explaining how budgets work, how life evolves by using open communication is a healthy way to be a positive role model.

Show Don’t Just Tell

Telling your child you love them is important to be sure. But showing them? That speaks volumes. Take time each day for you to play with your kids. Moms, throw a ball around with your sons. Time is the best gift you can give your child and that teaches them to value relationships.

This also extends to you as a parent reaching out for help when you need it. And let your child see that you’ve asked for help. It will show her not to be afraid of asking for help every now and again.

Set Boundaries

This can be as simple as speaking respectfully all the way up to making a plan with your teen when she starts getting together with friends and partying. Talk about what you will and won’t accept and make a plan together.

Opposite Sex Role Models

Avoid trashing an ex-spouse to your child and include friends of the opposite sex who aren’t romantic partners. This shows your kid that she can have male friends without it being a boyfriend/girlfriend relationship which helps her build solid relationships with both sexes when she gets older.

Single parenting is challenging but is also filled with the joy of showing your child how good life can be.

[Image 1] [Image 2]

 

 

On-the-go Healthy Snacks

Fresh Fruit Kabobs And Dip

Quick, Healthy and Delicious Snacks For Kids

If you're a mom, you're all too familiar with the concept of being busy. Since you're constantly on the go, making healthy snack options for your kids can often seem like a difficult task. Thankfully, it's not as hard as you think. Instead of letting your kids munch on fast food, introduce them to these simple yet delicious healthy snacks.
Veggies and Dip
Creamy ranch dip (not ranch dressing) can make an excellent small meal option for youngsters. Not only can the right recipe of ranch dip be healthy, but it can also be filling. To make this dip, you need nonfat buttermilk, salt, onion powder, minced garlic, black pepper, fresh dill (if the kids like it), parsley and softened cream cheese. Once you gather all these ingredients, put the buttermilk and softened cream cheese together in a tiny bowl. Then, mix them well using a whisk. Finally, integrate all of the rest of the components by thoroughly stirring them in, too. Once your dip is prepared, serve it with fresh sliced vegetables such as broccoli florets, carrots and celery. Not only will your kids love it, but it's also excellent nutrition-wise. You can also try it with healthy crackers - those high in whole grains and fiber, and without sugar and artificial flavorings.
Fruit and Cheese KabobsIf you're looking for a tasty, protein-rich snack for your kids, then fruit and cheese kabobs can make a fun and quick option. All you have to do is purchase low-fat cheese cubes and several options of fresh fruit -- think melons, strawberries, bananas, raspberries and apples. After that, all you have to do is put them on wooden skewers. Not only do children usually think these kabobs are yummy and filling, but they also can be helpful for keeping them active and satisfied until supper is ready. At home, you can add some plain or vanilla yogurt for dipping. And they're easily portable if you're on your way to soccer practice.

Whole Grain Chips
Tortilla chips also can make a nutritious and kid-friendly snack, especially if they're whole grain. Cover these chips with shredded cheese, salsa and vegetables. If you have a Trader Joe's in your area, they have some good options. You can also let your kids dip the chips in a tasty guacamole or the ranch dip above.
Other Ideas
If your children are in the mood for a sweeter snack option, not many things can top good old-fashioned graham crackers. For some extra fun, flavor and nutrition, let them dip the graham crackers in applesauce. Or stick to the traditional milk.Hummus is yet another excellent healthy snack for kids. The Middle Eastern staple food dip is chock-full of protein and fiber. It's also rich in olive oil, which is beneficial for the heart. Allow your kids to nosh on hummus with slices of fresh vegetables. Since hummus has a pleasantly subtle taste, kids are sure to appreciate it. Eat with veggies or chips.

Keep your kids healthy, content and active by serving them these nutritious snacks. Kiss junk foods goodbye. These snacks are all perfect for the chaotic, on-the-go lifestyles of families with kids.

Kid-Friendly BBQ

Delicious golden grilled corn  on table on bright background

Hosting a BBQ is a great way to enjoy good food, nice weather, and relaxed times with friends. If you are looking for ways to include some dishes that the kids at your BBQ will love, read on.

Grilled Food

Kids are notorious for loving hot dogs! Be sure to have plenty of ketchup on hand, since that seems to be the go to condiment staple for kids. Kids also tend to love any finger food, and eating corn on the cob is always a good choice. Why not throw some corn on the grill? To get corn ready for being cooked this way, peel back the surface level part of the husk, and allow corn and husk to soak in water for 15-30 minutes to allow for full moisture absorption. Then, peel back all layers of husk (but keep husk attached) and remove corn silk. Brush the corn with olive oil or butter, as well as some salt and pepper. Pull the husk back up and tie either with twine, or a pulled off piece of husk. Rotate and slowly cook on the grill, and get ready to for some satisfied guests! Remember to avoid serving grilled corn to kids until it is at a suitable temperature.

Side Dishes

An easy and satisfying side dish is sliced raw veggies with dip. Place sliced seasonal veggies in appealing containers that are easy for kids to reach, and use either the all-popular ranch dip, some hummus or make a homemade dip. Another easy and healthy side dish is watermelon slices. Adults and kids alike enjoy biting into a cool and refreshing slice of watermelon goodness!

Desserts

A summer BBQ is no time to heat up the oven. Think simple summer fun as you plan for your desserts. There are great treats such as homemade juice pops that kids will love. Simply take 100% juice and pour it into popsicle molds the day before the party. Smoothies are also a great alternative to ice cream. Place a banana, some grapes and a handful of blueberries in a small blender. Fill remaining space 1/2 with vanilla yogurt, and 1/2 with milk. Blend and serve!

Enjoy your BBQ and having fun times with friends! It's really not hard to cater to the kids in attendance. Chances are, the above mentioned food items will be equally enjoyed by the adults at your party, and everyone will be eating simple, healthy and tasty offerings!

 

Starting a Garden

Two Little Boys And Father Planting In Garden

Planting a garden can teach your kids a lot about life. Planting and caring for a garden can teach kids independence and responsibility, it can boost their self-esteem, and it can promote environmental awareness. With all of these advantages to gardening, why not start a little garden of your own? Even if you are limited in space, there are plenty of options for you and your kids to get growing.

Flowers

Flowers are always a big hit in a garden for children because they are typically very easy to grow and they bloom fairly quickly. Kids will want to see results, so quick bloomers like Zinnias are an excellent choice. Sunflowers are also very popular among kids, and the seeds can eventually be eaten. Flowers can also be planted anywhere, from a tiny flowerpot inside the house to an outside garden in the ground. You may also get a bouquet or two.

Tomatoes

Tomatoes are always a hit with kids. Children love growing things they can eat, and tomatoes can be eaten right off the vine. Most kids like any variety of tomato, but cherry tomatoes are always a favorite. Another advantage of growing tomatoes is that they can be grown either in the ground or they can be planted to hang upside down from a porch or balcony. There are a lot of different choices when it comes to growing tomatoes.

Carrots

Because kids like to see the fruit (or vegetables) of their labor so quickly, carrots are another great choice in the garden. They can either be planted in the ground or in flowerpots, and they will grow to whatever size they can. Since most children love baby carrots, these are a great choice for a kiddie garden, and they do not take up too much space either.

Pumpkins

Pumpkins are fun for children to grow, especially when they will be ready by Halloween. Kids love to carve pumpkins that they have grown themselves. Although most pumpkins can grow fairly big given the space, there are smaller varieties such as the Jack Be Little. These pumpkins grow smaller, but they are a great choice if you are short on space.

Planting a garden is a fun and educational activity for kids of all ages. They will learn so much from taking care of plants that you will wonder why you waited so long to introduce them to gardening in the first place.