TIC Holiday 101: The Babysitter Checklist

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Holiday season is officially in full swing (we even have some cooler temperatures out here in SoCal to show for it), and today I have some important tips when it comes to leaving your kids with babysitters or other caregivers during holiday time.  This Target Inner Circle Holiday 101 post is written in support of Target’s My Kind of Holiday campaign, but the information is written specifically for all of you.

The holiday season brings endless to-do lists, multiple parties, and presents to purchase, wrap, and hide.  Chances are the you will need a babysitter a few times to give you some much-needed space to do all of that purchasing, wrapping, and hiding…and maybe even to attend a party or two without bringing the whole crew along.

Whether you rely on family, use a trusted babysitter who knows the kids well, or bring someone new into the mix (holiday time can make it difficult to book your favorites), it’s important to have a very specific plan and list of numbers at the ready.  Holiday season is also flu season, sleep deprivation season, and overstimulation season.  The more you prepare your caregivers, the better off your kids will be.  And it will also give you peace of mind.

Enter the babysitter checklist. A specific list of phone numbers, schedules, mealtimes, and other activities can truly east the transition and help keep your home happy and healthy.

The Babysitter Checklist 

  • Your mobile phone # (don’t assume it’s stored and/or easy to locate).
  • Your plan (where you’re headed, even if it includes multiple stops)
  • Pediatrician’s phone number including an after-hours line or procedure for paging
  • Your nearest PREFERRED urgent care center (include the phone number and directions)
  • Phone # for the nearest friend or relative who can be there in ten minutes or less.  Let them know they’re on call.
  • Phone numbers for poison control, local police department, and local fire department.  (Did you know that calling 911 from your mobile phone means the call bounces off the nearest tower and might not get to the nearest police station or fire department?  Program local #’s into your phone for faster response time.)
  • Medications your child needs (or might need) with SPECIFIC instructions
  • Location of medical items:  Thermometer, fever reducers, nebulizers, inhalers, etc.  Make it easy on them!
  • FOOD ALLERGIES!!!!!  List ALL food allergies, even if you think that your babysitter already knows them.
  • Approved snack list. This is particularly important for parents of children with food allergies.  Take the guesswork out of snack time by preparing the snacks ahead of time or posting an approved list on the fridge.
  • Bedtime routine:  Be specific here.  If your child likes three renditions of Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star before bed, say that.  Exhaustion and overstimulation can trigger separation anxiety.
  • Favorite hiding places.  Some kids hide when they’re sad or worried.
  • Meal schedules.  Help reduce hunger-related meltdowns by sticking to a schedule.  Plan meals ahead and the time that your kids normally eat.
  • Downtime activities.  Babysitters and caregivers can be fun.  But when the fun never ends it can result in overstimulation and exhaustion.  Provide a list of quiet time activities and transitional activities to help the kids decompress.
  • Screen time rules:  Leave a list of approved TV shows and length of TV time allowed.

When it comes to downtime activities for the kids, Target has you covered with crafting kits and other art supplies.  Everything from gingerbread house kits to foam Santa’s Workshop kits will keep your kids crafting and calm while mom and dad are away!

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Time spent crafting and creating and having fun at home?  Now that’s #mykindofholiday!

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Little hands having fun always make a holiday merry and bright…

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What did I miss?  What’s on your babysitter checklist?

Disclosure:  As a member of the Target Inner Circle (TIC), I am given exclusive access to the brand and promotions so that I can get the information to you.  I was given crafting materials to get my kids in the holiday crafting spirit.  As always, all opinions in this post are my own.  



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My Kind of Holiday: The Kid Detective (Giveaway!)

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Many kids write a holiday list sometime around the beginning of December.  They tend to have certain “must have” items in mind.  But you might find that those must have items change as the holiday approaches.  It can be hard to figure out what they really want versus what they want because someone else has it right now.  And once you do figure out a specific list…then you have to figure out where to hide everything.  What’s a mom to do?

That’s where Target comes in.  The first thing you want to do is look through Target’s Kids’ Gift List to find the perfect gifts for your little (and not so little) ones.  Then you need to think about storing the gifts in sneaky spots and creative presentation.

This year Target teamed up with retired CIA intelligence officer Jonna Mendez to help moms determine what gifts their kids want the most this holiday season – and how to possibly store those gifts when the kids seem to be just about everywhere…

Jonna is both a mother and a grandmother, too, so she knows a thing or two about preparing for the holidays!

I followed a few of Jonna’s tips on hiding gifts around the house, and I was pleasantly surprised by the wonderful hiding places that I never even considered prior to this little exercise.

Check this out:

 

Target Kids’ Detective Tips: Clever Storage Phase

Shopping and finding the perfect gifts are only half the battle, now you need to find clever ways to hide the gifts without the kids finding them!  Since Santa visits my house, looking for hidden gifts isn’t really an issue…but still, you have to find the best spots (birthdays require gift storage, too).

  • Kids’ Gift Detective Tip #1:  Hide the gifts in plain sight.  Parents often go to great lengths to hide gifts in what tend to be the most obvious places for kids to look (or they lose them – I wouldn’t know anything about that, though).  Try hiding gifts in boxes that are always stored in the garage or laundry room, under the sink behind the “do not touch” cleaning products, or in the linen closet behind the guest towels.  Kids expect gifts to be completely hidden and not easily accessible.
  • Kids’ Gift Detective Tip #2:  Disguise the gifts as everyday items.  For smaller gifts, try hiding them in your sock drawer…inside the socks.  Or consider hiding them in a healthy box of “mom and dad” cereal that the kids won’t touch.  For larger gifts, hide them in suitcases that are rarely used.
  • Kids’ Detective Tip #3:  Hide the gifts at someone else’s house.  If you have older kids or kids that are sneaky, ask a relative or friend to store your top gifts.  Or how about at the office?

Be sure to visit ABullseyeView for more great Kid’s Detective tips! (Seriously, though, that post is super cute and includes great ideas – like invisible ink, just saying.)

I had a great time finding sneaky hiding spots around my house (even if I almost dropped a really expensive bass on the hardwood floor…oops!).  The holiday season can be a bit overwhelming and stressful – playing Kid Detective will snap you right out of it and bring back the holiday magic!

I hope you’ll track me down on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook and play along using the hashtag #mykindofholiday.  The nice people at Target are having a great time with this and truly enjoy seeing your pictures.

And now for a little extra holiday magic courtesy of my friends at Target…

One lucky U.S. reader will win a $25 Target gift card!!!!!

How do you enter?  Easy.

Leave me a comment below telling me your BEST Kid Detective tip.  You have to leave a tip to be entered to win, so get crafty and share your ideas!

Contest closes on December 6, 2013 at 8pm PST.  Get your entry in now!

Disclosure:  I am a member of the Target Inner Circle.  As such, I am given exclusive access to the brand and upcoming promotions.  As always, the opinions contained within this post are my own.  Play along!  It’s fun!

 

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My Kind of Holiday: Baking with Kids!

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What’s my kind of holiday? (You know you have those catchy ads stuck in your head, too.)  One spent baking with my kids, of course!

All of my favorite holiday memories from my childhood involve time spent around our kitchen table cutting, baking, sprinkling, and frosting Christmas cookies.  Gingerbread cookies were carefully decorated with raisins and those little silver balls that didn’t seem edible but somehow were.  The smell of cinnamon and nutmeg wafted through the air as we waited for them to cool so that we could begin phase two of decorating:  Frosting them until the actual gingerbread was no longer visible.

The sugar cookie dough was dyed red and green for extra holiday cheer, and the sprinkles added just the right amount of sparkle.  We laughed, chatted, attempted to create new and different designs (my brother was always the master of the hand-rolled candy cane cookie), and spent time together. After months of school and time spent with friends, holiday time always brought us back together again.

It’s a tradition that I just can’t live without.  In my house, the holiday season doesn’t really begin until the very first batch of cookies goes into the oven.

My kids have been baking and cooking with me since they were old enough to stand upright in the “kitchen helper”.  Time spent in the kitchen means bonding, laughing, telling stories, and creating something from nothing.  It’s a time to stand side-by-side and simply be together.  We love every minute of it.

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And the holiday cookies?  Well…it’s always nice to end up with a delicious treat.

When Target asked me to share my favorite holiday tradition, I didn’t think twice.  Every time I bake holiday cookies with my kids I experience both happy memories from my past and beautiful new memories forming in my present.  I love to watch my kids create.  I love to listen in on their little conversations and answer their questions about my holidays as a child.  I love to share my stories and listen to theirs.  Sitting around the table making Christmas cookies with my kids leaves me feeling overwhelmed with gratitude for this amazing life and family that Sean and I have created.  Small moments like these always bring me back to simplicity.  It doesn’t get any better than this.

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Due to a very long list of food allergies and my own preference, we bake everything from scratch around here.  But you don’t need to be a baker to make your own holiday memories that involve tasty treats.  In fact, Target made it easy for you this year.  With an entire aisle dedicated to holiday baking (how cute are these “Ninjabread Men“?), you can pick up baking kits and all of the baking essentials in one quick trip.

Check out these fun holiday baking kits and tools:

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I picked up the Nordic Ware Petite Holiday Cookie Cutters just for fun (I have an alarming amount of holiday cookie cutters in my home and truly didn’t need more), and I have to tell you – they are by far my favorite holiday cookie cutters (seriously, I’m known to buy expensive cookie cutters from high end cooking stores).  The shapes are great and the cookies are the perfect size.  At $9.99 for a pack of fifteen, you really can’t go wrong.

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From recipe books to baking kits to baking tools and more, Target has everything you need to create amazing memories with your little ones this holiday season.

In case you do want to bake from scratch this year, I’m sharing my super amazing sugar cookie and cookie frosting recipes below.  Happy baking!

Practical Katie’s Super Yummy Sugar Cookies

Make ahead tip:  This dough needs to chill for at least two hours, but you can also make it the night before.  Plan ahead!

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 Cups of butter, softened
  • 3 Cups of granulated sugar (Baker’s Sugar is kind of awesome, by the way)
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 5 Cups of all purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 Tablespoon cinnamon (completely optional, but adds a nice touch – especially around the holidays.  So does a touch of nutmeg.  Your call.)

Directions:

  1. Cream butter and sugar.
  2. Beat in eggs and vanilla.
  3. Stir (not beat) in flour, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon.
  4. Form into a large ball, cover, and chill in the fridge for at least two hours.
  5. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  6. Roll out dough on parchment paper (cover with flour, granulated sugar, or powdered sugar to avoid sticking) to 1/4 – 1/2 inch thick.  ***Bonus tip:  Only use the amount of dough that you need at any given time and let the rest continue to chill.
  7. Cut shapes.
  8. Bake on parchment paper for 6-8 minutes.
  9. Allow to cool and decorate using cookie frosting (below) and approximately 10,000 sprinkles!

Vanilla Sugar Cookie Frosting

Ingredients:

  • 4 Cups of powdered sugar
  • 1/2 Cup butter, softened
  • 5 Tablespoons of milk
  • 1 Teaspoon vanilla
  • Food coloring – optional (I use all natural food dyes)

Directions:

  1. Cream together the sugar and butter until smooth.
  2. Gradually mix in milk and vanilla with a hand mixer.
  3. Add food coloring, if desired.

*Note:  Apparently many people prefer to use shortening instead of butter in cookie frosting.  That’s not really my thing and I love the way this frosting sets, but don’t let me stop you if you’re a believer in shortening!  

Please share your holiday baking fun on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter using the hashtag #mykindofholiday…we’ll be watching!

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Disclosure:  Target sent me a box of baking goodies to get us in the holiday baking spirit.  As part of the Target Inner Circle, I have exclusive access to the Target brand and some promotions.  As always, the opinions contained within this post are my own.  I really did buy those Nordic Ware cookie cutters…and I just had an extra set shipped to Connecticut, where we will be spending the holidays!  Love them!

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Beat Holiday Stress with a Seasonal Toolkit

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Tis the season…for holiday stress.

Yes, the holidays are full of excitement, bright lights, pretty candles, and gifts of all sizes.  And while the actual celebrations tend to be fun in the moment (most of them, anyway), this time of year does tend to coincide with increased stress levels, decreased sleep, and just a little bit of irritability at times.

It doesn’t have to.  I’m not sure if it was always this way or if the pursuit of holiday perfection has increased over time, but it’s time to take a step back from holiday stress and get back in touch with the true meaning of the holiday season.

Randi Ragan, green living expert and founder of GreenBliss EcoSpa, agrees that stress takes away from the holiday season.  “We get so caught up in stress,” commented Ragan, “that we can’t see through the cloudiness.”  In that cloudy state of mind, we forget that the holiday season is about family, gratitude, and togetherness.  The rest is just stuff.

Common signs of stress include:

  • Irritability
  • Sleep disturbance
  • Changes in appetite (overeating is common)
  • Increased illness
  • Exhaustion
  • Headaches, stomachaches, and back and neck pain

Randi Ragan and I discussed holiday stress at length and came up with a great seasonal toolkit to help your through this stressful time of the year, but the truth is that most of these tools can and should be used throughout the year.  When we take control of our stress levels, we take control of our lives.  And we also set a great example for our children.

Holiday stress toolkit:

Establish personal boundaries:

As Randi so thoughtfully pointed out, “We always make sure to apply sunscreen 20 minutes before we leave the house because that’s what we’re told will give us the best results.  It’s the same for stress.  We have to come up with a few strategies that work for us to combat stumbling blocks along the way.”

It’s important to set personal boundaries so that you don’t get caught up in obligations in an effort to placate other people.  When you’re always doing for others, your needs get left behind.  That can lead to resentment, exhaustion, and increased stress.

  • Decrease your obligations (do you really need to bake something for yet another bake sale?)
  • Reorder your priorities (take control of your to-do list and decide what’s necessary versus what’s not)
  • Learn to say no without excuses (there is no rule that you always have to say yes)

One other little (funny but true) tidbit from Randi:  “Potluck was invented for a reason – to stop everyone from losing their minds.”  Don’t cook the whole meal, mamas.  Assign tasks to your guests.

Be mindful:

Stress often causes us to lose sight of what’s happening right now.  People under stress tend to dwell in the past or project into the future.  Stress lends itself to thinking about regrets or worrying about what might or might not happen.  That kind of thinking distracts us from the present tense.

“We only have control over what’s happening right now,” says Ragan.  “This is your precious life – what are you going to do with it?”  Powerful, and also very honest, words.  We need snap out of the “what ifs” and live in real time if we have any hope of kicking stress to the curb.

  • Tape reminders to your car, your fridge, and your front door with notes that trigger you to stay in the present.  You know what keeps you grounded – those are the words that will bring you back to real time.
  • Schedule online and phone time and power down in between.
  • Have your kids create a “be present” box to hold all phones, tablets, and other items of distraction during family time.
  • Stop trying to document every single moment by camera or iPhone and allow yourself to actually revel in the moments instead.

Learn to breathe:

Deep breathing sounds like such a simple, and perhaps even silly, strategy, and yet many people don’t take the time to actually do it. “Deep breathing is miraculous,” says Ragan, “flooding your brain with oxygen calms you more than anything else.”

  • Practice deep breathing when you’re not under stress (just before bed and upon waking up in the morning are excellent times to work on deep breathing).
  • Inhale for a count of four, hold for three, and exhale for a count of four.
  • Practice yoga to work on mindful breathing.
  • Use visual reminders that simply say, “breathe”.

Keep healthy snacks in your purse:

You know what’s not good for stress levels?  Starvation!  Chances are that you always remember to pack snacks and water for your kids, but you rarely do the same for yourself.  Set up a grab-and-go system of healthy snacks in the fridge (string cheese, cut veggies, grapes) and in the pantry (mixed nuts, dried fruit, sunflower seeds, etc) so that you can throw a couple of snacks in your purse before you leave the house.  Fill that giant, reusable water bottle and stick it in the fridge before you go to bed each night to ensure that you stay hydrated throughout the day.

Decrease consumption:

“We have an obsession with consumption right now,” says Ragan, “but decreasing that consumption will help us carve away stress.”

Many families sort through toys, clothes, books, etc and donate gently used items before the holiday season.  This is a great way to give back and help others, and it teaches kids an important lesson.  When you have more than you need, you help those who have less.

But sometimes this simply makes room to fill with more things.  And while holidays gifts are fun and exciting, sometimes people go overboard (guilty as charged).  Consider scaling back and focusing on gifts with meaning instead.

  • Set limits with kids.
  • Have kids write the list early, and then revise it a couple of times.
  • Give the gift of time.
  • Make someone else happy – helping a neighbor or baking cookies for friends are gifts, too.

Factor in “me time”:

Me time doesn’t have to cost a lot of money.  It might be an hour alone with a good book or a manicure while the kids play with a neighbor.  Or maybe it’s a long, hot bath after the kids are in bed.

Many moms enjoy heading out with other moms for a night.  It’s great to get out with friends and decompress after a long week.

Or maybe you simply need a date night with your spouse.  Find what helps you recharge and bump that to the top of your priority list.  You deserve it.

If you live in the Los Angeles area, check out Ragan’s company, GreenBliss EcoSpa.  They will bring the pampering to you and a group of friends – doesn’t a “mom’s night in” sound amazing?

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For more on the importance of slowing down this holiday season, head over to Everyday Family.

Here’s to a happy and healthy holiday season!  Just remember to stop and breathe….

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Don’t Get Lost on Halloween!

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I love Halloween.  Most of it, anyway.  I can live without the super creepy, fake bloody dead people decorations that some people really seem to love, but I love the rest of it.  I love the cheery look of pumpkins on the front porch, the adorable costumes, the cute voices yelling “trick or treat!” from behind the door, and the smiles that this exciting night brings to little faces everywhere.  Also?  I love Candy Corn.  Due to food allergies we are a dye free, nut free, soy free, rice free (not to mention countless other things free) house…so I had to break up with Candy Corns.  I won’t give up the search, though.  Somewhere out there someone is making dye-soy-rice syrup-tree nut free Candy Corns…and I can’t wait to find them.  I f you have any tips, please send them along.

Anyway, I love Halloween.

But…Halloween is the most dangerous night of the year for young children.  Between walking around in the dark, large crowds of kids wearing costumes, and drivers who can’t quite see all of the kids darting back and forth, Halloween night requires increased supervision.

It’s incredibly easy for a young child to get lost.  Kids panic quickly when they lose sight of their parents.  While some kids might yell out for help if they get lost or confused, others might hide or keep moving.  With all of the chaos that occurs on Halloween, a child can get turned around and run off in the wrong direction.

It’s best to have a plan.

Identify a safe house:

Identify a safe house before you head out trick-or-treating.  This should be the home of a trusted friend or neighbor.  Walk by it during the day and point it out that night (houses look different in the dark) so that your child knows where to go in case he gets separated from the group.

SmartPhone Pictures:

It might sound excessive, I mean who wants to live in a state of worry, but the more prepared you are, the better your chance of enlisting help quickly if you lose sight of your little one on Halloween.

Snap two pictures of your child before you head out the door:  One with his costume on and one without.  Should you happen to lose sight of your child for a moment, you can quickly access pictures of him from that very night.

Find a friendly face:

Many kids hear about stranger danger, and for good reason.  But it’s also important to teach your child to find a friendly face in an emergency.  Police officers and fire fighters tend to be out an about on nights like Halloween, but kids should also learn to look for moms with babies or young children to ask for help.  Writing your phone number in marker on your child’s arm is also a good idea.  Many kids become quiet and shut down when they are scared.  Having your phone number on them helps another adult find you quickly.

Or…

Get some “Uh Oh Safety Wristbands”:

Uh Oh Bands is a family owned company committed to keeping kids safe.  As parents, and as people who genuinely care about kids, the creators of Uh Oh Bands took a simple idea and ran with it.  With a lightweight wristband that says “uh oh, I’m lost” and allows space to write in a phone number, kids can easily get help in the event that they lose their parents.

Note:  Never write your child’s first or last name on a wristband or anything else, for that matter.  Simply write “Mom” followed by your phone number.

Uh Oh Bands are waterproof and allergen free (I always like to hear that) and perfect for little arms.  And the best part?  They even have glow-in-the-dark wristbands for Halloween!

Uh Oh Bands also has a line of allergy alert bands, which are great for play dates, sleepovers, and daycare/school.

You can learn more about Uh Oh Bands on Facebook.

You can never be too safe when it comes to looking out for your little ones, and I highly recommend that you check these out.  Moms have some very excellent ideas…

I hope you and your little ones have a wonderful Halloween!

 

Disclaimer:  Uh Oh Bands sent me a pack of safety and allergy alert wristbands for review.  I am a big believer in keeping kids safe, and I think these wristbands are an excellent product for travel, allergies, and Halloween (or other busy places such as fairs/large outdoor events).  I was not compensated for this post.

 

 

 

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Heart Shaped Days

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The holiday crash hit us a little hard this year.  After a very long buildup – a full month with Elfie, songs by the piano, Christmas coloring books, and baking galore…the week after was a little hard.

As much as the kids loved their toys and treats, they loved the togetherness most of all.  They loved the smell of the tree, the hanging of ornaments, and the family time spent by the fire.  They loved the us.

So when the faces looked a little sad and the missing of holiday togetherness hit its peak, Sean and I decided to take action.  We decided to make Valentine’s Day more than just one day.  We decided to eat red food, wear red clothing, and hide love notes throughout the house.  We decided that a Valentine treasure hunt might brighten a dreary day and heart decorations might just bring be in order.

I wrote more about Heart Shaped Days over on moonfrye – I hope you’ll stop by and join the fun!

Family Goals on Away We Grow

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Setting some personal resolutions for the new year?  You’re not alone.

But how about family goals?  Do you ever sit down as a family and set some goals that you can all work on together?  It’s nice to work toward common goals, and it helps everyone stay motivated.

I stopped by Away We Grow on Yahoo to share some tips with my sweet friend Diane.  Stop by and check it out!  Then gather your family around the table and set those goals for 2013!

Looking forward to another great year together, Practical friends!

Three Good Choices

Ringing in the New Year with a hot vanilla sounds nice, doesn't it?

Ringing in the New Year with a hot vanilla sounds nice, doesn’t it? 

Tis the season for big, life-changing goals.

Some of you will set those goals, work on them every single day, and achieve them.  I applaud your efforts.  A goal achieved, no matter the size, is a very good thing.  It sparks confidence.  It reminds you that you can do it.  It boosts your self-esteem.  Yes, a goal achieved is life changing…

But many of you will get caught up in the busy.  You have the best intentions, believe me, I know, but parenting/working/relationship building/friendship building all require a lot of energy.  And let’s face it, dark chocolate covered caramels with sea salt sprinkled on top are really good.  Much better than plain Greek yogurt and sugar snap peas.  And diet overhauls tend to lose steam over time because deprivation of your very favorites absolutely never ever works.

It’s all about moderation, my friends.  A little bit of this and a little bit of that makes the world a happy place.  Meet me in the middle, won’t you?

Here’s the thing:  We’ve all learned some hard lessons in the past few weeks.  I won’t revisit it.  I’ve said enough.  But I will say this: Our world lacks kindness at times.  There is a level of entitlement in this country that causes people to think that their rights are the single most important thing.  They have a right to this, they have a right to that.

Me, me, me….

As parents, what we need to do is focus our energy on raising a generation of people who care about one another.  We need to praise kindness and take a stand on bullying.  We need to pay close attention to our children so that we can troubleshoot along the way…no childhood is free from obstacle, after all.  And we need to stop the singular focus on the rights of the individual.

Divided we fall…and we are falling.  Hard.

Here’s where you come in.

Instead of talking to our kids about personal resolutions and things like reading more (isn’t that always a goal?), riding that bike, or conquering some fear that will really only be conquered when the time is right, will you please join me in focusing on one of the three good choices listed below?

Kindness

Acceptance of others

and/or…

Mutual respect

We need the little acts of kindness to shine through.  We need to use our manners, hold open the door, and help a friend when she falls.  We need to give compliments often and bite our tongues when our words aren’t necessary.

We need to celebrate our differences and learn from one another.  We need to sidestep that fear of different or the need to be the best and find the good in every individual.

And we need to respect one another.  We need to judge less and compliment more.  We need to ask when we don’t understand and give each other the gift of compassion.  We need to be honest and open.

It’s a simple New Year’s wish, this little goal of mine:  I want us to work together in 2013 to build a better generation of kind and compassionate children.  I want to focus on the positive and win the race by way of the high road.

I want to celebrate the good because I know the good is out there…

Won’t you join me?

Happy New Year, Practical friends.  Be safe.  Be merry.  And, please – pretty please, make good choices.

 

 

 

Christmas Magic

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It’s not about the tree.

It’s not about the lights.

It’s not about the candy canes or caramel corn.

And it’s definitely not about the gifts.

It’s about the little things.  These special moments.  The wonder in their eyes.  Their hearts on their sleeves.  The love that seems to follow them everywhere.

These are the memories that last a lifetime.

These are the moments that stretch from here to there.

These are the traditions that will carry them straight through to forever.

Embrace every little thing this holiday season.

Hold them tight.

Begin new traditions.

Repeat those passed down to you.

And take it in…

THIS is Christmas Magic…

Happy Holidays from Practical Parenting!

The Holiday Sleep Schedule

Tis the season…

 

For too many parties, too much sugar, endless to-do lists, and too many late nights.

 

I love the holidays.  I love the lights.  I love the music.  I love the gingerbread cookies baking in the oven.  And I love family games by the fire.  I really, really love that.

 

But the holiday season and exhausted kids seem to go hand in hand.  Between the shopping, partying, wrapping (and unwrapping), and constant flurry of activity that surrounds the holidays, kids tire easily.  The result?  Less fun than anticipated.

 

Adequate sleep is crucial for kids, no matter the season.  Kids who do not log enough shuteye are at risk for frequent colds and other illnesses, increased stress, decreased ability to concentrate, and poor eating habits.

 

What does that really mean for parents of young children?  It means frequent visits to the MD, temper tantrums, not so great reports from school, and food wars.  Are we having fun yet?

 

When life becomes hectic, it’s vital to maintain a consistent sleep schedule.  Kids need rest and downtime to stay healthy, happy, and playful.

 

And what would a holiday be without healthy, happy, and playful kids?

 

Stick to the schedule:  A consistent bedtime routine helps kids get to be on time and promotes healthy sleep habits.  Keep the schedule consistent, even when vacation begins.  It can take the body a few days to adjust to changes in schedule, and that adjustment period can be exhausting.  It’s best to maintain consistency.

 

Avoid “one night only”:  It always seems like a good idea to stay up later just this once because it’s a holiday and the kids are having fun.  One late night often results in two days of cranky kids.  While some kids will sleep off a late night, many do not.  If you bend the bedtime a little, try to stay within a ½ hour of the regular the time.

 

Factor in recovery time:  If you do allow for change during the holiday season, be prepared.  Adjustments in sleep schedules take time (there’s a reason daylight savings time is torture) and kids will feel lethargic and cranky and change their eating habits as they adjust.  Be sure to factor in plenty of downtime (quiet playtime) and encourage short naps to help them make the transition.  Allow at least three days to ease back into school schedule when the vacation comes to an end.  Kids require time and patience when sleep is interrupted.

 

Avoid overscheduling:  It’s always difficult to say no to a fun party, but overscheduling during the holidays almost always leads to stress and exhaustion.  Choose a couple of parties to attend, and learn to say no.  Setting limits on party attendance is a great lesson for kids to learn.  When you learn to avoid excess stress, you create a calm and enjoyable holiday season for your family.

 

Family time:  School vacations always seem like an opportunity to visit every museum and science center in the area.  It’s great to plan a couple of outings, but try to factor in plenty of quiet family activities at home.  Quality time spent together results in better communication, less stress overall, and happier kids.  Break out the hot cider and schedule family game night!

 

Model healthy sleep habits:  I’ve said it before, but it’s always worth repeating:  Your kids will do as you do, not as you say.  Be sure to stick to your own sleep schedule so that you can stay healthy and keep your own stress to a minimum.  A stressed out parent = stressed out kids.  Be sure to take care of you too.

 

Now get out there and enjoy the sights and sounds of the season!

 

 

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