The Happy Kid Handbook on FOX NEWS Health


Image via pexels

I’m back from a whirlwind trip of speaking at schools and media appearances to spread the word about The Happy Kid Handbook and, more importantly, to discuss childhood stress and taking back childhood. I met countless amazing parents along the way and we had some very lively discussions about helping our kids thrive.

Stay tuned for an upcoming post on the power of play – specifically higher level play (what it means and why your kids need it).

In the meantime, I wanted to share one of my favorite clips from the past week. I stopped by FOX NEWS Health in NYC and had a great chat about the importance of letting kids be kids. I hope you enjoy it!

Before you go…it is November and November brings gratitude – this week on PBS Parents I shared some strategies for promoting gratitude all year long. Check out, “For Greater Happiness, Teach Gratitude“.


Sending happy thoughts your way!

3 Reasons to Keep the Costumes After Halloween



My son is obsessed with football. He loves watching games. He loves discussing scores and plays. He loves throwing a football with his daddy and playing some version of two-person flag football. And he really, really loves the Patriots.

So you can imagine his excitement when Franklin Sports offered to send him a Patriots costume for Halloween. But here’s the thing: He wears it almost every single day. We have yet to iron on a number, because he likes to become all of his favorite players when lost in play. If we skip the number, he can switch between players and try on every role.


For the past few years, my son has always made his own costumes. He has a big imagination and he likes to make something from nothing, and costume creating became part of our Halloween tradition. I was a little sad when he said he wanted to be a Patriot this year because I thought I might miss that part of Halloween, but when the costume arrived, it hit me: This isn’t just about Halloween. This is about the power of pretend play.

Parents often remark that their young kids have “grown out of” dress up play by about first grade. But at 8 and 7, my kids still love to dress up, and so do some of their friends. Perhaps the fact that we put Halloween costumes into the dress up bin on November 1st each year has something to do with it. Perhaps it’s just who they are. They love pretend play and they get so much out of it.

3 Reasons to keep the costumes:

Try on new roles:

Kids use play to learn about the world around them, and part of that comes from pretending to be something you’re not. Just the other day I found my daughter searching my closet for “appropriate librarian shoes”. She recently added “children’s librarian” to her future career list and she’s working on making that dream come true.

When lost in dress up play, children can escape their own worlds and enter new ones. They can work through what it might feel like to be someone else. This develops empathy and compassion. It’s also a lot of fun!

Work through fears:

Got a worrier on your hands? Dress up play is a great way to work through fears and process difficult emotions. Sometimes kids feel powerless – dress up gives them a chance to flip the script and take control of negative emotions.

Tap into the imagination:

Creative problem solving is a catchphrase in education these days, and for good reason. When kids learn to think outside the box or, better yet, pretend there is no box in the first place, they learn to persevere through difficult tasks. They develop grit.

Dress up play is a great way to tap into the imagination and think creatively. Creative thinkers make excellent problem solvers because they aren’t afraid to think beyond the directions on the page. When we give kids the opportunity to work on this through play, they thrive.

I have a confession to make: While I will sign my son up for flag football at some point, I’m not excited about the idea of him playing football in the future. Until we actually cross that bridge, he has plenty of years of dress up play time left to act like a quarterback.

Keep the costumes. Halloween is fun for a night, but dress up play is fun all year long.

Image credit: Franklin Sports

Disclaimer: Franklin Sports provided a Patriots costume for Liam. He loves it. I hope they send him one every year! All thoughts and opinions are my own.

The Happy Kid Handbook in Stores Now!

Happy Kid #1 close up


Yesterday was an exciting day! Thanks to so many of you, The Happy Kid Handbook made it to #1 for parenting on Amazon! I am humbled by and grateful for your support. This is just the beginning. In the coming weeks I will hit the road to talk about the book and share my passion for taking back childhood and empowering our kids to live happy lives.

There were some great articles about the book yesterday. While I did my best to share them on social media as much as possible, I decided to share them here just in case you missed something that might be helpful to you and your family.

Yahoo interviewed me a few weeks ago and shared 8 Ways to Raise Joyful Children in a Stressful World. That was a super fun interview and I love the article.

Club Mid for Scary Mommy shared an exclusive excerpt of the book. Check out How Do We Teach Our Kids About Forgiveness? for some tips straight from the book!

My friends at shared another exclusive excerpt from the book – this one on raising kids who speak up. Read 5 Ways to Raise a Kid Who Speaks Up for more on teaching assertiveness skills.

Also on, my dear friend Sherri wrote The Secret to Raising a Happy Kid – warning, always bring tissues when reading Sherri.

By now you know I’m a huge believer in the power of play. My friend Marilyin at Roots of Action shared this article on the importance of play: The Benefits of Play are “Oh, So Big!”

Passion is always a hot topic. Should a kid have just one or is more really better? I enjoyed writing this article for Psychology Today: How to Support and Nurture Your Child’s Passions.

And you don’t want to miss 5 Steps to a Happier Home on

Thank you so very much! If you didn’t get your copy, please check it out!

If you did, and you want to stop by Amazon and leave a review…I will owe you a giant hug and a latte!

I’ll have some bookstore and speaking dates for you soon…stay tuned!

Get out and play!

3 Phrases That Will Strengthen Your Bond With Your Child Today


It’s easy to talk about and practice unconditional love when we are rested, happy and healthy but when times get tough – the act of unconditional can fade away. And that’s just it. We all talk about it often. Of course we feel huge love for our children. But do we show it? Do we make sure to communicate it?

Unconditional love isn’t just a feeling in our hearts, after all, it’s an action we take to communicate that feeling.

I was overwhelmed with exhaustion. A cold morphed into croup – the kind of croup that triggers the asthma and results in a desperate call for help in the dark of night. There were treatments and visits to the doctor and more treatments. There was little sleep. We were both overwhelmed and bone tired. Worry kept me awake, standing guard over her little lungs while she finally slept. It seemed as though it might never end this time. Nothing worked. Until it did. Finally, the light emerged.

But getting back to the daily grind was no easy task. That kind of illness, that inability to take a single breath – that leaves little ones scared and clingy. That triggers worries and sadness and difficulty sleeping. Although I was running on empty and wanted to rush through the process of reentering the world, I knew I couldn’t. I had to find the strength and patience to continue to practice that unconditional love. I had to help her through the next steps – to wash the fears away.

It wasn’t easy. I used a few strategies from the book. We did rainbow breathing together and practiced bossing back that pesky worry brain. When she was ready, we both tentatively let go. Our eyes met through the window of the classroom, both sets lined with tears. I watched and waited. She opened her book. Slowly, I walked away, placing my trust in unconditional love.

Kids need to know that we are always there for them. They need to hear the words and feel our arms wrapped around them. When we build them up with love, they are better able to spread their wings and fly.

There are countless things we can say and do to communicate unconditional love. Try these:

“I trust you.”

We spend a fair amount of time guiding our kids, as we should. We teach them to play well with others. We show them how to mediate conflict. We give them strategies to cope with the hard stuff. But at some point, we have to trust them. We have to believe that they can take it from here.

Communicate that to your child. Trust that your child can make good decisions, stand up for what’s right and walk away from what isn’t. Build your child up by trusting in her ability to thrive while she’s away from you.

“I believe in you.”

Many kids are pleasers by nature. They run to us with every little accomplishment because they want us to cheer for their success. They want us to know that they can do it! The hard part is empowering your kids to believe in themselves. We want them to carve their own paths – to find happiness by reaching their own goals. Not by pleasing us.

“I believe in you” is a frequently used phrase around here. I use it when they struggle to make decisions, when they walk into their classrooms each morning, when they step onto the field or dance floor or when they question their own abilities.

“I believe in you” puts your faith in them and empowers them to reach their own goals on their own timeline to make their own dreams come true. Powerful stuff.

“I will always be here for you.”

Growing up is hard work and sometimes letting go feels like jumping into the great unknown without a parachute. Kids need the parachute.

You know you’ll always be there to love them through their successes and failures, but kids need to hear their parents communicate this to them.

“I will always be here for you.” Say it often. Set it on repeat. Make it happen.

There will be ups and downs along this journey. There will be long days and longer nights and heartbreaking moments that bring you tears, but there will also be laughter, happiness and moments of pride that can’t be put into words. Be there for all of them, both in words and in spirit.


For more strategies to empower your kids to live happy lives and teach your kids how to cope with the hard stuff, preorder your copy of The Happy Kid Handbook today!



The Happy Kid Handbook on California Charter

happy kid handbook cover FINAL

Things are getting busy as we prepare for the 10/20/15 launch of The Happy Kid Handbook! If you’re curious about the book, check out this clip set to air on California Charter this week!

I chatted with host Brad Pomerance about all things Happy Kid, including how to reduce stress, why our kids are so busy and the importance of understanding temperament when it comes to parenting our kids.

We had a blast comparing parenting stories and discussing where to go from here. I hope you enjoy it!

Please consider preordering your copy of The Happy Kid Handbook today! Incidentally, I still have a few cute feelings faces magnets left to distribute for preorders…get yours while they last!


To see a few specific relaxation strategies from the book, please check out this article on Quartz!

Feelings Faces Magnets With The Happy Kid Handbook!



Big News!!!

We are just one month away from the release of my first book, The Happy Kid Handbook: How to Raise Joyful Children in a Stressful World (Tarcher Books, Penguin Random House)!

I’ve been a writer since I can remember and this book is a dream come true. I put my heart and soul into this book and it is my greatest hope that it will bring some comfort to some of you along this parenting journey.

A gift for you…

Emotional regulation plays a big role in helping kids learn how to cope with the hard stuff that life has to offer. The truth is that we all experience ups and downs along the way and, despite all best efforts, we can’t protect our children from obstacles in their paths. We can, however, give them the tools they need to work through those obstacles on their own.

This is a theme in Happy Kid: Empowering our kids to work through obstacles independently so that they can live happy lives!

A first great step is helping your child build a feelings vocabulary. When kids can accurately identify their feelings, they can learn how to cope with them. Sounds simple, right? I can’t tell you how many kids sit on my couch and struggle to answer the following question: “How do you feel today?”

I love feelings faces charts because they help kids draw the connections between facial expressions and emotions. They also open the door to communication about feelings. I put a feelings faces poster on my family room wall when my daughter was 18 months old, and we still use it to this day!

You see those adorable magnets in the picture above? I worked with a talented artist, my dear friend Stacie Ottoson, to create those just for you! The first 50 people to preorder The Happy Kid Handbook will receive a custom designed Happy Kid feelings faces magnetic chart (size 4×6) as a token of my deep appreciation of your support of the book.

How do you get one?

It’s easy. Follow these steps:

  1. Preorder The Happy Kid Handbook through one of the links below or at your favorite local bookstore (support your local independent bookstores – please!)
  2. Take a screenshot or picture of your receipt – block out or blur that credit card info, though.
  3. Email your receipt to me at katiehurleylcsw(at)gmail(dot)com or send me a private message on Facebook.
  4. Include your full name and mailing address (United States only for now!)

Preorder The Happy Kid Handbook here:


Barnes & Noble



If you already preordered the book because you’re simply amazing – you still get the magnet. Just let me know where to find you!

I’m ready to send out 50 feelings faces magnets – let’s get to it!

I can’t thank you enough for your support. Many of you loyal readers have been there from the beginning – you helped me get here. For that, I am full of gratitude.

Stay tuned for upcoming bookstore and speaking events…

It’s time to start spreading the happy with #TheHappyKidHandbook!

Don’t Wait for November to Teach Gratitude

Teach gratitude every day

Earlier today my kids spotted a dime on the floor at the exact same time. This almost never happens. My daughter is dreamy like me and tends to have her head in the clouds. She doesn’t always see what’s right in front of her because she’s busy thinking – dreaming big dreams. My son, like his dad, is a details kind of guy. He likes numbers, facts and lively conversations about numbers and facts. And history – oh how they love history. He’s the champion coin finder in the family because even when he gets lost in thought, he has an incredible ability to remain partially grounded in the here and now. He always sees the coins.

I walked down the stairs to find them deep in conversation about how to handle the coin situation. Numbers guy thought trading it in for two nickels made the most sense. But the dreamer wasn’t so sure. She liked the feel of the dime as she rolled it between her fingers, and that sent her spinning into her thought clouds.

I kept a safe distance, eager to see how the story might end. It wasn’t long before they crafted the perfect solution.

I should back up a bit. In late August, they came running to me with huge smiles and sparkling eyes. “We have a great idea!” they shouted. “We want to match a family with kids exactly our ages this time because we know so many things they will like!” At holiday time, our church organizes a family-to-family giving program.  You can sponsor a family (or two or three…) to help with a Thanksgiving dinner and some gifts under the tree. My kids had so much fun choosing gifts last year that they haven’t stopped thinking about it. Truly, the whole experience was heartwarming on many levels.

This year, my kids seem to want to take the lead. They talk about saving money of their own to contribute. They’ve created gift lists and edited them over and over again. The experience of helping another family left them so full of gratitude that they just can’t wait to do it again.

“Do we have our family YET?” they ask, every few days (and then some).

I sat quietly, watching them whisper. They were hatching a plan, that much I knew. We’ll donate it. Can we donate it? Can we donate one coin? I heard bits and pieces as I waited for them to come to a final decision. This coin, as it turns out, started a movement in our little family. The excitement mounted as they discussed the possibility of putting all loose change and found coins into a a jar to save for a family in need this holiday season. No longer would they depend on me to buy the gifts – they were making a difference. Moments later a jar appeared and the loose change left behind this morning was thrown right into it. They were on their way to spreading kindness, one small coin at a time.

Don’t wait for November!

Come November we will be flooded with information about raising grateful kids and projects to get the gratitude going. People will slow down just a little and remember to give thanks and the world will feel just a little bit more friendly. Kindness will take center stage as we roll into the winter holiday season.

But what if lessons in gratitude were taught all year long? What if acts of kindness, big and small, were simply part of the backdrop? What if we didn’t wait?

We all know that helping others is a great way to help kids slow down and think about gratitude. But sometimes kids feel powerless. It’s hard to know where to begin, how to spread kindness, when you don’t have much control over your own life. Kids can make a difference. Through small acts of kindness, kids can spread gratitude and happiness to others – they can be change makers.

Try a few of these kid friendly acts of kindness:

  • Collect coins to donate to someone or a charity in need.
  • Save the proceeds of a lemonade stand to donate.
  • Help weed a garden or rake leaves for an elderly neighbor.
  • Bake something for a neighbor or relative who is ill.
  • Make cards to cheer up kids in a local children’s hospital.

When kids realize that they have the ability to make a difference on their own, they become change makers. They tap into empathy a little bit more and stop to think about the wellbeing of others.

Don’t wait until November to start teaching gratitude this year. Engage in deliberate acts of kindness, big and small, as much as possible and talk about how spreading kindness makes the world a happier, and more grateful, place to live.

If you choose to join my kids and coin it forward to someone in need (or if you have another great family community service project going), please stop by the Facebook page and tell us all about it!

Support, Don’t Hover, to Raise Independent Kids


Sometimes it feels like parenting is a no-win situation these days. If you stick too close, you’re a helicopter. If you hang too far back, you’re not engaged. If you let your kids ride their bikes alone, you might even be reported for neglect. Okay, maybe that last one is a little bit extreme, but you get the point.

Parents are constantly under a microscope today. Parents read articles and books on parenting to gather information and perhaps solve a few parenting mysteries (we all have them from time to time). That’s a good thing. The flip side is that input is everywhere…even when you’re not looking for it. That’s not such a good thing. That can damage the self-esteem of the parent. That can cause parents to question their instincts. That can cause arguments and frustration.

New research, for instance, shows that “helicopter parenting” is detrimental to kids no matter how loving the parents are. This particular study shows that children raised by controlling parents are actually less engaged in the classroom. While the researchers thought they might find that love and support neutralized the controlling behavior, they didn’t.

The quick takeaway, of course, is that helicopter parenting is no good. But what does that actually mean?

For purposes of the study, the researchers defined “helicopter parenting” as engaging in over-involved habits such as solving problems for kids or making decisions for them.

The term “helicopter parent” first appeared in a book in 1969, referring to a parent of a teen who hovers too close. It gained steam in the 2000’s as college deans reported such behaviors as parents looking to get grades changed and calling to wake college kids for classes. I’m not sure my parents even knew when my classes were when I was in college – I can’t imagine a daily wake-up call.

Somewhere along the line, “helicopter parenting” trickled down to parents with younger children. Today, if you stay too close, according to the judgment of another, you’re a helicopter. I get tons of questions from confused parents – they want to do their best to love and support their kids, but they don’t want to hang too close and cause problems by “hovering”. Sigh.

Young children need parental support. They need help and guidance along the way. Do they need you to solve every problem? Of course not! Do they sometimes need help brainstorming problem solving strategies? Absolutely.

The best advice I can give on this one is to strike the term “helicopter parenting” from your vocabulary. It’s overused and often misused, and that’s a problem.

Beyond that, try this:

Trust your instincts.

You know your family better than anyone else. Some kids need close supervision at the park, while others need room to spread their wings and fly. I know, for instance, that my daughter can climb super high and never fall but if my son follows her I need to trail him – he often catches up to her only to realize that he doesn’t love heights. I also know that my kids have potentially fatal food allergies, so all parties require close supervision.

Trust your parental instincts. You know what your kids need and how to fulfill those needs. If you worry about what others think, you might not make the best choices for your family. Stay focused on your own family and tune out the white noise.

Talk about feelings.

Kids need to be able to experience and cope with frustration, anger, sadness, and every other feeling that comes up throughout the day. Too often parents jump in to solve a problem so that kids don’t have to experience big emotions.

Emotions are good and all feelings matter. Talk about the feelings that occur when something is hard or just out of reach. Let your child cry and express her emotions as she sees fit. Then label those feelings, talk about what caused them, and discuss ways to feel calm.

Problem solve together.

Solving every problem for your child leads to learned helplessness. Solving problems with your child provides guidance and support while empowering your child to become a problem solver.

Brainstorm together. Ask leading questions, but don’t provide the answers. We all have moments when we need sometime to listen and provide support, right? Kids feel the same way. Sometimes they need someone to sit close and listen while they try to find a solution.


Listen for the sake of listening, not for the sake of crafting the perfect response. Too often we get caught up in partial listening – we listen to respond. The best listeners, however, need time to respond. They need time process what was said and respond when they have something thoughtful to add to the conversation. The best listeners…listen.

Listen to what your kids say. Let the feelings and emotions hang in the air for a moment. Sit with them. Experience them. Take the time to empathize before you problem solve. When your children learn that they won’t break every time they experience big emotions, they will be better equipped to cope with the hard stuff along the way.

Make time for play.

Kids learn a lot from free play. They learn to solve problems. They learn to resolve conflict. They learn to cope with emotions. Play is the business of childhood – make time for it.

For more on the importance of free play, check out these articles:

Parents, Are Your Kids Getting Enough Free Play Time?

5 Ways Even Working Parents Can Factor in More Free Play

Why Free Play Is Important During the Summer

Parenting with Presence with Susan Stiffelman


I read a lot of parenting books.  When parents come to me for help, I need to know what they’re reading and why it speaks to them.  When they come to me with the latest and greatest parenting “theory”, I need to understand why that particular style appeals to them.  I stay on top of the current research, I read until my eyes fall out, and I help parents apply that coveted information to their daily lives.

The truth is that parenting is challenging at times, and while books are full of useful information – learning to apply that information to the bumps in the road can also be a challenge.  If you really want to practice mindful parenting but find that it’s hard to do so when your children arguing about that one toy (again), you’re not alone.  Sometimes what we read at night doesn’t always work the next morning.

This time is different.  From the moment I opened Susan Stiffelman’s book, Parenting with Presence, I felt a sense of calm.  The chapter on throwing away the snapshot is worthy of a book of its own.  I think we all do this, to some degree.  We create a snapshot of what we want our families, our lives, our careers, and even our friendships to look like.  When those snapshots conflict with reality, we feel disappointed, angry, and sometimes depressed as a result.  We have to learn to start where we are – parent the kids that we have – instead of desperately trying to live up to the snapshots we created.

With a focus on self-love, acceptance, and compassion, Stiffelman guides us through the hard stuff – making peace with our own feelings and emotions while understanding why our children might feel hurt or upset at times.  Stiffelman provides practical strategies for parents and, more importantly, she also provides hope.  Parenting with Presence will shift your thinking and calm your soul.

Please enjoy Stiffelman’s 5 tips for parenting with presence below, and get your copy of her book here!


Five Tips for Parenting With Presence


I had meditated from the time I was sixteen, so as I approached motherhood, I was certain I would be spared those dramatic, stressful moments I saw frazzled parents having with their children. Yelling or shouting? I would be too centered to succumb to that level of frustration. Trying to rush my child to get where we were going? I was confident about my ability to slow down and live in the moment.




In theory, parenting with presence sounds easy enough. Putting it into practice in real time with real children is another thing altogether. No one can push our buttons the way our kids can — ignoring repeated requests to come to dinner after we’ve made something healthy and tasty, or refusing to stay in their beds when we’ve run out of steam and desperately want to go to sleep. Sometimes we lose our cool, and our way.


Parenting shows us just how human we are. Humbling, yes, but if we relax into the experience rather than resist the difficult moments, it can be one of the greatest opportunities we will ever have to learn how to love more deeply, live more fully in the moment and become more open-hearted versions of ourselves. A blessing of untold magnitude, but one with a never-ending invitation to stretch and grow.


Here are a few of the things I have learned about parenting with presence:


Be good enough. Our children don’t need us to be saintly or enlightened. We just need to be good enough. Don’t allow mean, critical voices in your head to tell you that you’re not adequately conscious or evolved. That voice — the one telling you that if you were more “spiritual,” you wouldn’t yell at your kids– is not your friend. It is only with a heart that is at ease with our imperfections that we can truly embrace the opportunities for spiritual growth that come with being a parent. When you lose your way, touch your heart with a “There, there” as you would comfort a child, and begin anew.


When your buttons get pushed, look beneath the surface. None of us like being ignored or dealing with tantrums. But when we feel especially triggered by our child’s unpleasant behavior, unfinished business from our own childhood may be rearing its ugly head. If your child’s anger makes your blood boil, it may be rekindling memories of a parent’s explosive temper. If you feel painfully disrespected when your kids pretend they don’t hear you, it may be activating the hurt of being ignored as a child. Our children can be invaluable beacons of light, illuminating our emotional dark corners to catalyze deep healing and open us to extraordinary dimensions of love and acceptance.


Commit to moments of full engagement. Most of us juggle the demands of our lives by giving partial attention to each activity without being fully present for any of them. We listen halfheartedly to our child’s story about Show and Tell while our wandering mind thinks over the emails we need to send. We rush our kids through brushing their teeth, counting the moments until we can fall wearily into bed. When our kids sense our divided attention, they often generate chaos and drama to bring all of us into the room, even if their behavior results in threats or punishments. Focus on the one thing you’re doing, whether it’s serving a snack or changing a diaper. Investing even a few moments of fully-engaged time with your kids can bring greater joy to your parenting life.


Challenge fear. Many parents are driven by anxiety. What will happen if she doesn’t finish her homework? What if he refuses to eat dinner…again? When we are ruled by fear, we tend to come across to our children as desperate and needy, effectively putting them in charge of our happiness. Make friends with the worst case scenario so it has less of a hold over you.


Unplug. These days it is nearly impossible to visit a park and not find parents checking their devices while the kids play, or strolling their baby while chatting on their cell phone. Rarely do you see families in a restaurant without at least one person—often a child— on some kind of digital device. We all know that the digital revolution has brought amazing things to our lives, but our children need regular doses of our presence. Yes, it’s great that you can reach out for the support of your cyber-tribe when you’re feeling isolated with little kids. But the next time your cell phone beeps, try staying a little longer in the 3D world.


My now twenty-four year old son walks into the house as I’m finishing up this article. I feel the tug of my writing, but the pull on my heart is stronger and I stand up to share a hug and a few moments of “How’ve ya been?” as we catch up after not seeing each other for a few days.


I have enjoyed many soul-nurturing experiences in my life but to this day, seeing my son still splits open my heart like nothing else can. Through the many rough patches and the countless days when I fell miles short of being as conscious as I had hoped to be, this love remains. Pure, perfect and miraculous.


# # #


Susan Stiffelman, MFT is the bestselling author of Parenting with Presence and Parenting without Power Struggles. She is a licensed marriage and family therapist, a credentialed teacher, and the Huffington Post’s weekly “Parent Coach” advice columnist. She lives in Malibu, California where she is an aspiring banjo player, a determined tap-dancer, and an optimistic gardener. Visit her online at


Based on the book Parenting with Presence: Practices for Raising Conscious, Confident, Caring Kids ©2015 by Susan Stiffelman. Printed with permission of New World Library.


Plan the Perfect Playdate With Avery & Austin


To drop your child at my house to play is to leave structure behind.  Do I supervise them?  Of course!  Do I feed them?  Obviously.  One thing I won’t do, however, is micromanage the play.

By now you know that I’m big on imaginary play and creativity, and I believe in giving kids the space they need to play.  Is my house a disaster most days?  Absolutely.  Does it make me crazy?  Not so much.  Yes, we put things away and we all pitch in to keep the house clean.  But I gave up on the idea of the Pottery Barn perfect house long ago.  I would much rather have the fun house – the place where kids can be kids.  The place where fairies live in small houses and football players take over the living room floor.  Childhood is short – play while you can (that’s what I tell myself, anyway.)

This approach doesn’t work for everyone, though, and I understand that.  Not everyone wants their couch turned into a campground or their living room taken over by an animal safari on any given day.  And not everyone wants to leave a playdate to chance.

The truth is that some kids love unstructured playdates, but some don’t.  Some want to get lost in imaginary play while others want to do something more tangible.  Some want a mix of the two.  That’s where Avery & Austin come in.

Co-founded by two moms who have hosted approximately one bazillion playdates between them, Avery & Austin takes the guesswork out of planning the perfect playdate.  The idea behind Avery & Austin is to pack everything you need, including a healthy (and NUT free!) snack for two, into one box and deliver it to your doorstep.  The theme changes from month to month, and the crafts are fun and creative and easy for the kids to do independently.



My kids had a blast creating bird houses and bird feeders!  They were instantly lost in a conversation about what kinds of birds might visit their houses as they painted the afternoon away.  They came up with names for their new bird friends and discussed perfect placement of the bird houses.



What I loved about this craft is that it inspired creative thinking beyond the craft in their hands.  They made big plans for a bird neighborhood and brainstormed ways to keep the squirrels away.



We saved the bird feeders for another day.  The beauty of these boxes is that the crafts are projects – the kids won’t just rush through them in a few minutes.  They can take their time to create and engage in playful conversation while they craft.  The bird feeders were a huge hit!  We actually had enough supplies to make three, and the kids got creative and used different shapes.



Incidentally, the birds loved these – we had quite a few days of visitors!


Sometimes crafts can mean a bit of a headache for the mom in charge, but these were easy to use and the kids worked fairly independently.

Another great perk?  Each box contains a special gift for mom!  How sweet is that?

You can check out their subscription options here.

These boxes are great for playdates, but I would also recommend them for siblings and for time spent with grandparents.  They are full of fun and creative activities that don’t require an expensive and time-consuming trip to your local craft store.

Learn more about Avery & Austin here and start planning your next playdate today!

And one more piece of amazing news….

I have a coupon for you!  Use the coupon code below to get $15 off your first purchase!  This coupon expires on June 30 – so get to it!



Disclaimer:  My friends at Avery & Austin sent me this box to review.  All opinions are my own (or those of my children!)  We love Avery & Austin and we think you will, too!