14 Ways I Challenge You to Love Your Children

Love. A four letter word with such impact and weight. A word that shapes and molds these little humans into well-rounded citizens so that they can go out into this world and show love to all those around them. Just stop and think for a moment how much love impacts a child. As stated in the education.com article, “…nature’s partner is nurture, the environmental conditions that influence development. Children’s experiences in the environment affect all aspects of their being, from the health of their bodies to the curiosity of their minds. Nurture affects children’s development through multiple channels: physically through nutrition, activity, and stress; intellectually through informal experiences and formal instruction; and socially through adult role models and peer relationships. With good environmental support, children thrive.”

I will warn you that the next 14 things are NOT for the faint of heart. They are not easy. They are items that I personally work on each day. Fourteen points that I want to be mindful of as I raise my children.

WE HAVE A HARD JOB.

Show Your Children Love by…

Loving Their Father/Vital People in your Child’s Life

Children learn through modeling. They soak in their environment and what they see becomes their expectations for the future. Showing children how to humbly love one another is critical. Let them see you be vulnerable. Show them that it is okay to say you are sorry and to acknowledge your mistakes. Let them see that love is mutually respecting one another. That affection and touch are done in a loving way only when it is comfortable for both people. Have them help you in planning random acts of kindness as you invest in those that you love. Model to them how the needs of those you love are at the forefront of your brain as you model treating others the way that you want to be treated.

And you may be saying… “but you don’t walk in my shoes”. That is completely true. I will never walk in your shoes or know what it is like but I do know that much of these issues are adult problems. They are not things that children need to see or hear. I know that we do not live in a perfect world where all families are one cohesive unit but I do know that even if you are not with the father of your child, the words you choose when you speak of their father will affect them. That age-old saying, “If you have nothing nice to say, don’t say anything at all” holds so much weight when it comes to this topic. The people that your children love hold such a valuable place in their hearts. It will only hurt your child and your relationship if your angst gets the better of you. Take the higher road.

Loving You

So much of what they see in themselves, they have learned from you. As you poke at your “fat” in the mirror or comment about the ugly shape of your nose, they see it all. They learn that those are the things that we do. We pick at ourselves and critique our “flaws”. They watch as our eyes dart to another woman near us as we size her up and down and compare her to ourselves. Let us work together to lift each other up instead of compare one another. Help us to see the beauty in our “flaws” or at the very least not pick at them or express them in front of our children. My hope is that that inner voice that degrades myself will not be passed on to my children. I do not want them to hear those voices like I do but instead, I want them to hear my voice lifting them up and cheering them on.

Loving their Beauty

With that being said, love everything about the way your child looks. They are a part of you and they are beautiful. No matter the size or the shape, they are beautiful. You are their number one cheerleader in life. A comment, although meant with the best of intentions can be detrimental. I think of the amazing show “This Is Us”. My mind immediately goes to Kate who her whole life has suffered from an addiction to food. It had been a focus for her and a topic which comments that were made carried over to her adult life. Although no one meant the comment in a vicious manner, it still stung.

Help them to see that they do not need the make-up, hair dye, or fancy clothes to make them beautiful. Who they naturally hold so much beauty.

Loving Who They Are on the Inside

Every night before my babies go to bed I whisper into their ear, “The most important thing is to have a kind heart.” I try to be very conscious of how much they hear compliments about their clothing or accessories or beauty. I try to counter this with compliments on things that make them beautiful on the inside. It is important for them to see the beauty and value in who they are as a person.

Loving Learning

Being lifelong learners is something that we all should strive to be. Show them that you are always learning. Let them know that you make mistakes and that you seek out ways to learn and grow from them. There is so much out there to learn and grow from. Let them find the joy in mastering a new craft or the satisfaction of solving a problem that has puzzled you for some time.

Loving Books

One of the best gifts you can give your child is the gift of literature. Read to them. Show them the word that they can experience as they get lost between the pages of a good book. Let them see you pour over books. Help them see the value of words and how they can empower them. We may be raising children for jobs that do not even exist yet but one thing is certain, a rich language will be pertinent no matter the career.

Loving their Independence

The clock is ticking, you are late and your child insists on tying their own shoe. Your patience is tried as you let them fumble and try again and again. It is hard. I know. But that perseverance is so pertinent. The independence and strength they show is a trait that will help them go far in life.

Loving their Failures

They will fail. We are all human and we all make mistakes. Love them for the mistakes they make no matter how hard that can be. Let them know that no matter what mistakes they make they will always be loved by you.

Loving their Curiosity

A child’s eyes see this big world with such freshness that is inspiring to all that is around them. Foster this sense of curiosity and soak it up yourself. Get excited when they ask all the questions…who, what, when, where, WHY? Research with them. Learn and grow together and let them know that it is good to question the world around them.

Loving the Time Spent Together

Making time for each child can be so critical. You are not guaranteed tomorrow. Think about the memories that you want to leave your children with. How do you want them to remember you? Love your child with everything you have. Each day is a blessing and we must make the most of it. Say yes more often and live in the moment.

Loving the Little Moments

If you read my post about my biggest fear you will know my need to hold these little moments close. We hear all the time how fast this time goes. Sometimes when you are in the middle of it all, when the days are long and the fits seem endless it is hard to remember that this time is so fleeting. But even just looking back on the few years, you realize that it is so true. You do not realize at the time that it is your last time carrying your baby down to bed or the last time you will spoon feed them. Looking back you will realize that moment is gone and all that is left are the memories that you have soaked up.

Loving their Educators

My youngest started preschool this year. I took a long time reflecting on her school endeavors and allowing myself to let go. I even wrote a letter to her new teacher in which I poured my heart out as I handed my baby to them. Educators play such an important role in the life of our children. They spend so many hours with our babies. Teachers love our children and so it is important for our children to hear us talk highly of their teachers. If there is a discrepancy with something that has happened at school, make sure that it is discussed in private in a very neutral manner. We want them to hold their educators to the highest regards and not have their views tainted by our options or thoughts.

Loving their Quirks

These little things that make your child them may at time challenge you. Find the beauty in the uniqueness that makes them who they are. After all, they are partially made up of you…maybe upon reflection their little quirks are a little familiar. 😉

Loving their Dreams

Believe in their dreams and let them know that you will support them. If they want to be astronauts, take them to a space museum and find all the books in the library about being an astronaut. If they want to be an artist or basketball player, find classes to hone in on their skills. Be their cheerleader and their number one support.

LOVE YOUR CHILDREN WITH ALL YOUR HEART. It’s not always an easy job but it is the most important one!

Check out all the other great posts in the series on LOVE at  http://www.mamiworks.com/ and https://badasamother.com/! It has been my pleasure to collaborate with them.

Memorable Christmas Games

When my first was born, I decided I wanted my family to have more traditions. I thought these traditions were something that made your family unique and gave you lasting memories. One of the first things I started was a Christmas PJ party with my whole family which included PJs of course, lots of delicious food, festive drinks, and my favorite part…CHRISTMAS GAMES!

It is because of these Christmas games, my Christmas memories are filled with laughter and excitement.

Let’s be honest, who wouldn’t love having memories of your grandpa trying to wiggle a cookie down his face while he makes ridiculous faces or of your competitive grandma swinging a string and puffball in her mouth feverishly trying to get it to stick to her vaseline covered nose?

I’m a huge advocate of games and how they build bonds between family members. I even have a whole blog dedicated to over 30 educational family games! So many of my best memories of my family involve playing games together.

In an attempt to liven up your holidays and get everyone off the couch and creating memories, I’m going to share with you some of our all-time favorite Christmas games.

Antler Ring Toss

 

Currently, at Kohls, they have this adorable game! You blow up the antlers and rings. Tie the antlers to your head and enjoy all the ridiculousness of this awesome game! You can play that the person with the antlers has to stand still or that they are working together as a team and have them move to help you snag the antlers.

Kahoot Christmas Edition

Kahoot is an amazing game to get everyone using their devices in a constructive way. Everyone will get a code to join your game. You can use the ready-made Christmas questions and add your own for a personal touch. We tried to come up with questions in reference to our past Christmases. More technology savvy people took a seat next to those that weren’t as versed in technology. You may want to request people to bring their tablets, i-pads, laptops, etc. so that everyone has access to a device. Then everyone races against the clock to answer the trivia questions fastest. If you have ever been to Buffalo Wild Wings, it is set up very similar to their trivia game.

Jingle Bell Toss

If you have ever been to a college party and played beer pong, then you will be an expert at this game. Set up your red solo cups in a Christmas tree pattern (4,3,2,1…as shown above) and do the same for your opponent a few feet away. Using bells, try to throw them into the cups. When they land in a cup, remove that cup. Continue this pattern until all of the cups have been removed. The first one to get rid of all the cups is the winner. Head over to Playground Parkbench for a clever and easy way to construct this game to use over and over again.

Snowball Fight

Target Dollar Spot has these adorable Santa slingshots that make for the perfect Christmas game. They also have tubes filled with soft “snowballs”. Purchase a few of these and let the games begin! We also used the slingshots to try to catch the snowballs in Santa hats as well for another element to the game.

Snowman Knock Down

Decorate white cups to look like snowmen. Grab ball pit balls to see if you can knock down all the snowmen in a minute.

Toilet Paper Snowmen

Gather a roll of toilet paper, a hat, scarf, and carrot (or any other snowman materials you may have in your house). Each partner pair will need one of each of the items. Agree upon a time (1 or 2 minutes is recommended) and see who can make their partner into the best snowman.

Mitten Mayhem

Give each player a set of gloves and a Hersey kiss. See who can unwrap their chocolate the fastest while wearing their gloves.

Christmas Pictionary with a Twist

I found this twist on the traditional game of Pictionary over at Happy Home Fairy and loved everything about it! Head over to their blog for step-by-step directions.

Red Hot Pinchers

A tray of Red Hots candy (also known as cinnamon imperials)  and tweezers can add a fun element to this race against the clock game. Try to see how many red hots you can pick up and put into a cup before a minute is up. My eighteen month old wanted to join in so we gave her a plastic spoon and she was able to compete as well.

Snowball Shake

Take an empty Kleenex box and tear out the plastic that is in the center. Secure the back of the Kleenex box to a large string. Fill the box with ping-pong balls and tie it around the player’s waist. See how many ping-pong balls they can shake out in a minutes time. Whoever can shake out the most is the winner.

Rudolf Nose Stick

Each player gets a string with a cotton ball hot glued to the end of it and a dab of vaseline on their nose. Without using their hands they must swing the cotton ball up and get it to stick to their nose. The first person to complete the task is the winner. Caution…this can get wild!

Christmas Bingo

Pinterest is filled with fun Christmas bingo games such as this one from The Girl Creative Blog. We used Christmas M&Ms to mark our gameboards but I’ve also seen Christmas Hersey kisses used. The pictures make it a game that gets even the youngest players involved!

Christmas Charades

Put together a bunch of traditional Christmas words on pieces of paper. Have a person draw a word or phrase out of the tin and act it out without talking. The person who guesses is the next person to act.

Naughty Elf Noodle Race

Grab a box of penne noodles and a box of spaghetti noodles. Using only a spaghetti noodle in their mouth, the players must put as many penne noodles on their spaghetti noodle as possible in a minute.

Naughty or Nice

Everyone had a few good laughs from this game. We let the youngest players decide after each player read what they drew if what they said was naughty or nice. We went around a few times and found out who was the naughtiest and who was the nicest! Of course, we had to take a picture of the naughty people and the nice people.

Grab a copy of the printable from The Crafty Blog Stalker or create your own for a little twist. (They put the paper in punch through cups, however, we just put ours in a bag and drew them out for simplicity sake.)

Marshmallow Snowman Stacking

See how many marshmallows everyone can stack in a minute. The person who stacks the most marshmallows on top of each other is the winner.

Snowball Wreath Toss

Take down the wreath on your door and use that for this game. See who can throw the most snowballs (either marshmallows or the Target snowballs from the previous game) through the wreath in a minute.

Christmas Tree Cup Stacking

Race against the clock and your opponent to see who can stack the most cups in a pyramid or Christmas tree shape in a minute.

Reindeer Nose Race

Gather cotton balls, the jingle bells from your other games, and one red puffball into a container on one end of the room. Gather each team on the other side of the room with a plastic spoon and an empty container at their feet. Give them a minute to race back and forth and gather as many “noses” as possible without dropping them.

Cotton Balls = 1 point

Jingle Bells = 2 points

Red Puff Ball = 5 points

Whoever has the most points in a minute is the winner.

Christmas Cookie Face

It is finally time to dig into those delicious Christmas cookies! Each player puts one on their forehead as they tip their heads back. The players must get the cookie to their mouth to eat it using only their facial muscles. Whoever can successfully complete the task first is the winner!

I’m all for simplifying life.

I have a special bin filled with all the materials (minus the perishables of course), costumes, and photo props that we use for our Christmas PJ party. This makes it quick and easy to set up each year.

I challenge you to go create memories this Christmas! And while you are at it, check out these great memory making Christmas gift ideas for kids!

 

Four years of amazing memories…

and still going strong…

Summer Fun on a Budget

Summer has been full of fun, cheap adventures that have kept us happily busy!

I truly had planned to write up a bunch of fun 4th of July activities that we were going to do in preparation for the 4th of July but, that didn’t happen. Let’s be real here, it’s busy and doing a craft project just doesn’t seem to be fitting in with our lifestyle right now and I’m totally okay with that! The winter will be here soon enough and our days will be filled with crafts, books, and games once again. But for now, it is SUMMER! And we are going to live every moment drinking up this beautiful sunshine!

So you may be asking yourself what sorts of cheap or free things have been keeping us so busy? Well I’ll share them with you in hopes that you too can find some adventures in your neck of the woods!

Family Fun Runs

I am not a runner by any means. It’s just not my thing. Lately though, everywhere I look there is information about these fun different runs that people are doing! It just so happened the our whole family has now done two Color Runs! What is more fun that getting covered with a bunch of different colors as you run around together!? Look in your area maybe you all can go do an obstacle course through the mud like the Tough Mudder. Or what could be more fun than running through a bunch of inflatables as your obstacle course!  Usually there is a small fee to enter however, in our cases both were donation based events for local schools.

Making memories with family + Supporting a good cause + Being healthy and active= Major win!

                

Free Zoo

In our area there are a few different options for free zoos. Having the flexibility in the summer allows us to be able to go on more of a whim! We always try to shoot for a week day when the weather looks nice since it isn’t as crowded during the week. I pack a cooler with lunches, snacks, and drinks to help save money on food. We all wear comfy shoes and spend the day meandering around the zoo. Even the littlest one is in awe of all the animals.

As you can see, my middle child was not happy being so close to the mom and baby gorillas!
A face to face view of the grizzly bear!

Free Zoos near Eau Claire, WI:

Irvine Park

Como Zoo

Trips to the Beach

Nothing beats the beach on a hot summer day! Most beaches are free to the public or just have a small parking fee. I have a bag of sand toys always packed and ready to grab! We throw together a bag full of sunscreen, towels, life-vests, tubes, and a change of clothes. (Be watching Instagram to find out about the newest all natural sunscreen that I recently discovered!) Then we work together to pack a few food items that everyone likes! And of course being out in the sun we make sure to bring lots of water to drink! The littles can play to their hearts content and then nap on the beach when they get tuckered out! That is definitely one of my favorite ways to spend the day! These pictures were taken at Lake Altoona Beach, a great place to swim in early summer.

             

Bike Trails

Our area is full of different bike trails and paths to explore. Even if its just for a quick jaunt together or a longer trip that usually end with a stop to get ice cream, we always have a blast! The girls love riding in the Burley Bike Trailer and my oldest is building up her stamina to ride her own bike! Once again we feel good since we are having fun together but also staying active!

Good thing she has a little sis to give her the extra boost she needs every once and awhile!

Nature Hikes

Along with bike trails, there are lots of unique walking paths in our town to explore. And sometimes we find ourselves forging our own trails! The girls love to find different flowers along the way, as well as sticks, feathers, and other fun things to collect! We usually pack snacks in the stroller because as you all know, kids are hungry all the time! This allows for us to explore for longer periods of time. These pictures are from a recent hike along the Chippewa Water Trail.

                 

Feeding the Ducks and Throwing Rocks

Eau Claire means “Clear Water” so our city is full of fun areas along the river to spend an afternoon. My girls could throw rocks in the water for hours! And of course we have to bring along any bread to feed any ducks we may see.

Treasure Hunting

Growing up we always stopped at thrift sales (or garage sales as some call them) whenever we went anywhere. As kids we would grab whatever coins we could scrounge together and come home with all kinds of fun treasures. It is still something my Grandparents, my Mom, and I love to do. Of course the thrill of finding unique treasures has now been passed on to my girls. My husband is not a huge fan but it has seriously clothed our children, basically filled all our bookshelves and playroom, and decorated much of our house! (Check out the cute lemonade stand I just scored here.)The other day it was my husband’s birthday and my four year old grabs her purse on the way out the door to lunch and says to him excitedly, “Do you think there will be any thrift sales along the way Dad?!” Of course it was a Sunday and it was his birthday so the chances of going treasure hunting that day were slim to none. I had to laugh at her excitement and the fact that the tradition had now rubbed off on her!

These roller skates were our newest finds! We found the brand new Frozen pair for $4 and the other pair at another sale for $1!

Trips to the Park

There are so many different parks around town to explore. Each one has something different to offer the kids. It has been kind of a fun bucket list idea of ours to write down all the parks in our town and try to visit each of them! I love to see how excited the kids get when we visit a park they have never been to before. If you haven’t checked out the new playground at Altoona Elementary School, we highly recommend it! They did a great job of survey the kids to get their input on what type of equipment they enjoyed playing on.

  

Free Kid’s Classes

Keep your eyes and ears posted for fun classes that are being offered.

Churches are a great option for fun summer activities. My four year old just had a blast at her Vacation Bible School Class this past week. It was free for anyone who wanted to come and have fun and learn about God! They sang songs, did all kinds of fun experiments, played games, and made different projects together! She gained so much from that week.

We have also found a fun free Yoga in the Park for Kids class that happens every Tuesday. The girls grab their mats and practice their poses with other kids. The leader does a great job leading them in playing games, doing stories with actions, and strengthening their bodies.

Another resource to check is your local schools and libraries! They have a bunch of fun, free classes that they offer for kids over the summer.

S’mores and Campfires

Evening fires and s’mores have been a large part of our evenings lately. We just finished up our new patio area and so we are spending a ton of time out there. Sitting around the fire is a perfect time to reflect on the day together and just relax. Of course, the girls are always thrilled to roast a marshmallow over the fire. Although it is messy, nothing is cuter than a kid devouring a large s’more.

Our first s’mores on our new patio!

Community Events

I love to check out the Events Calendar that our city puts online. There are so many great activities happening all the time!

Last week, on the day of the Summer Solstices, a local yoga company put together a large free event for the International Day of Yoga. They had face painting, vendors, and live music. Then they led a class for a large group of people. The older two girls and I went with some friends and had a great time! There is also free Yoga in the Park for everyone on Thursdays and Saturdays!

Booked on our calendar is:

  • Family Fun Day– a free event with live music, sports, demonstrations, exhibitors, arts, an outdoor movie, and so much more! This year we are excited to watch The Secret Life of Pets on the big outdoor screen!

             

  • Chalkfest– a free event where local artist spend the day covering the sidewalk with unique pieces of art. At the end of the day, the pieces are judged and awards are announced. They have fun chalk related games and food vendors out so you can spend the day watching the chalk artwork progress. The kids can also participate by adding to the kid’s sidewalk mural.

                   

  • Dragon Boat Festival-watch teams paddle large Hong Kong style dragon boats along a 250 meter course.
  • Ski Sprites– We love to go on Wednesday and Sunday nights to Lake Altoona Beach to watch the Ski Sprites preform daring tricks!

I’m sure there will be many more spur of the moment community activities that will fill our calendar.

Strawberry Picking

I just took the kids to a local strawberry patch with a friend and her little ones this week! It was perfect! The baby was content pulling berries off the vine and stuffing them into her mouth. The kids were content eating strawberries and occasionally putting berries in their buckets. And we got to pick berries while chatting together. It really was such a wonderful time! And we came home with a pail full of delicious, juicy berries! These pictures were taken at Mcilquham’s Orchard.

                 

I’m hoping to take them blueberry picking soon because those are my favorite to pick! They are seriously the easiest berry to pick and fresh blueberries are hands down THE BEST!

Playing in the Rain

Summer rains are the best time to go out and play! The air is warm and the cool rain is refreshing. Rain boots and “sumbrellas” as my middle baby says, are fun accessories that we don’t often get to use! Here is the link to score a cute frog umbrella like ours! I’ll be honest though, I got mine treasure hunting at a thrift sale! I love going out with all the kids and splashing in the puddles with them. We have splash contests and races. Best of all, occasionally Daddy comes home during our rain adventures and joins in, dress clothes and all!

  

Backyard Water Play

I love setting up water play areas in our yard. It is so much easier for me than to bring all these young kids to the pool.

  • I put up our pool which has a slide and sprinkler on it. (Another find of mine from treasure hunting that I scored for FREE!) I also bring over a small little tikes slide and put that into the pool as well. Then we fill it with ball pit balls (see more here). The kids could spend hours in this pool.

  • Another favorite is a simple slip and slide!
  • Turning the sprinklers on is another easy way to stay cool and keep the kids happily, busy!

  • And of course we always have our water table on hand! Here more about my love for our water table here.

Outdoor Music Concerts

On Tuesdays, Owen Park in Eau Claire is filled with Blues Music. Local food vendors gather and people bring their blankets, chairs, and beverages to relax and listen to the music.

Schultz Barn in Eleva has a featured band every Tuesday in the summer too. I actually just came home from there. It was just gorgeous! It isn’t too crowded and its set at a barn looking out over the rolling fields! They have a woodfire pizza company come and they also sell ice cream. You can bring your own beverages and just relax with family and friends.

                 

Thursday, Pheonix Park in Eau Claire has their Sounds Like Summer Concert Series. 2,000+ people come to these every Thursday night!

                

Take a look in your community to see if they have any live outdoor music shows! It is a perfect venue for a family picnic!

Take Me Out to the Ball Game

Local baseball games are a family event that can be enjoyed by all ages! We have our local Express games that we like to frequent. The kids have a fun time seeing the game, enjoying a hot dog, and doing the different family events that they often have. While we are there we also try to hit up the train ride that goes through Carson Park!

                             

That’s what we have been doing…

And of course LOTS of play-dates with friends and family!

Do you have any family things that you can do on a budget over the summer?