be nicer than necessary notes: lunchbox love to help us stop bickering

be nicer than necessary notes teachmama.com

post contains affiliate links

 

 

 

be nicer than necessary notes: lunchbox love to help us stop bickering | teachmama.com

We’re in a mad winter funk over here.

A serious winter funk.

Lots of snow days and delays grey skies and dreary days and indoor recess at school means that there’s been a lot of grumpy, grouchy kids at our house.

And parents.

No matter what we do to mix things up, it seems like we’ve all been doing more arguing and bickering than I care to admit.  And it’s not just the kids–sure, of course, it’s the kids.  But it’s also my husband and me. The dog. The birds and fish.

We’re all a little cranky.

And I’m chalking it up to the winter blues.

So instead of allowing it to totally take over our lives this month, this month of luuuurve and friendship, we decided to focus on being nicer.

Our #livefocused challenge has us focusing on friendship over here, and because being nice is a really big part of friendship, we’re trying to be nicer than necessary this month.

Here’s the skinny. . .

Be Nicer Than Necessary Notes–Lunchbox Love to Help Us Stop Bickering:

Right.

be nicer than necessary notes: lunchbox love to help us stop bickering | teachmama.com

Because  Maddy, Owen, and Cora all really dug our True Holiday Spirit Notes during Advent this year, I fashioned the Be Nicer than Necessary Notes after them.  The kids liked how these notes were simple and small.

Today, at breakfast, when I introduced the idea to them, I said,

You guys. This past month has been a little crazy over here. There’s been a whole lot more arguing, bickering, and yelling than I care to admit. And it’s not just you.

Daddy and I have been arguing. Brady has been cranky. The birds and fish have been nasty.

We have all been super-cranky, and something has to change.

 

be nicer than necessary notes: lunchbox love to help us stop bickering | teachmama.com

 

be nicer than necessary notes: lunchbox love to help us stop bickering | teachmama.com

 

 

We talked about how hard the winter is and how much more time we spend stuck indoors and how hard that can be, but they agreed: something has to change, or we’re all going to go insane.

I said, We’re going to do what Maddy and I read about in the book, Wonder–we’re going to channel our inner Summer (a character from the book) and focus on being nicer than necessary. 

Owen said, Oh Mom, that’s not at all catchy: ‘Nicer than necessary notes’? Can’t you think of something better? 

I explained that the name isn’t as important as what we’d be doing but if he wanted to think of a newer, better, and more catchy name that he totally could.

be nicer than necessary notes: lunchbox love to help us stop bickering | teachmama.com

be nicer than necessary notes: lunchbox love to help us stop bickering | teachmama.com

 

I said that each day, I’ll share a note in their lunchbox and that we’ll talk about what we did–or didn’t do–that night at dinner.

No pressure. Just a quick little reminder each day to be nicer than necessary. To be kinder than expected. To give a little more and to bring a little more sunshine into other people’s days.

Do you want the Be Nicer than Necessary Notes to download and throw in your kids’ lunches this month?

Here they are: nicer than necessary lunchbox notes teachmama.com

be nicer than necessary notes: lunchbox love to help us stop bickering | teachmama.com nicer than necessary lunchbox notes teachmama.com

 

(Please, if you choose to share–and we hope you do!–consider linking to this post instead of the attachment page. Thank you!)

Really, what I do is print out three sheets of notes (one for each child), and then I cut them as one page then clip them together.

That way, Maddy, Owen, and Cora will each get the same note every single day.

And is it a big deal that there are 25 notes here and 28 days in February? Nope. I figured that between snow days and weekends, we’d do fine with 25 reminders to be nicer than necessary. It’s all good.

It’s not about perfection. It’s about trying to live more intentionally, to be more focused in our every day, to smile more and worry less. Right?  Right.

And that’s it–just one little way we’re trying to move from being the Cranky McCrankerson family to a family that’s oozing with kindness. Or something like that.

 

Would it work for your family? How do you get your kids, spouse, and self out of the winter rut?
live focused in 2015 friendship teachmama.com sq

 

I couldn’t think of a better way to kick off this month, when our #livefocused theme is friendship, than by sharing this information with you, your kids, students, and families.

I’m really looking forward to what lies ahead!

 

live focused in 2015: give yourself a fresh start and live with intention

 

 

fyi: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Forever and always I recommend only products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”  For more information, please see teachmama media, llc. disclosure policy

valentine’s day heart bingo

valentine heart bingo teachmama.com

post contains affiliate links

 

 

 

valentine's day heart bingo super-easy and fun for home or class parties | teachmama.com

 

This is so funny–I created this bingo game ages and ages ago but never really shared it.

So?

Here it is: Valentine’s Day Heart Bingo.

Super-basic and similar in layout and design as our Halloween Ghost Bingo, but, of course, all Valentinesy and lovey.

Here’s the skinny. . .

Valentine’s Day Heart Bingo:

This is a great one to print out and use for classroom parties, for playdates, or for any time that works for you.

It’s a good, calm-down bingo game with a Valentine’s Day theme.

valentine's day heart bingo super-easy and fun for home or class parties | teachmama.com

valentine's day heart bingo super-easy and fun for home or class parties | teachmama.com

 

Valentine’s Day HEART Bingo can be downloaded and shared here: valentines day HEART bingo | teachmama.com

(If you choose to share–and we hope you do!–please link to this post instead of the attachment page. Thank you!)

What you need to play:

Prepare to play! 

To prepare the game, all you need to do is print it. Then give each person a board and some bingo markers.

valentine's day heart bingo - teach mama

To play, the bingo caller rolls the die or flips the card.  Instead of the big bingo roller in the normal bingo game, we used the die or we used the small cards with letters H-E-A-R-T on them. This is how we decided which column the card would be under.

Then the bingo caller flips a small card to show players which object should be covered.  I created a small set of these cards and a larger set. The larger set has the name of the word written below the picture.

Bingo caller can say something like,

Okay, I flipped ‘H’ and the ‘fire heart’. Everyone look for the ‘fire heart’ under ‘H’–it looks like this. . .

Sweet! We’ve got an ‘E’ and the ‘happy guy’.  Who has it? The ‘happy guy’ looks like this. . .

Okay friends, we’re looking at the ‘R’ column and the ‘love face’. This is everyone’s favorite. Who has the ‘love face’ under the ‘R’?

Remember, the first one with five in a row, shout ‘HEART’!!!

valentine's day heart bingo - teach mama

valentine's day heart bingo - teach mama

Especially for early readers, seeing the picture and reading the name is a better way of learning words and letter sounds.

And mention it, too, as you go. There’s really no harm in pointing to the words as you say them. Reminding kids that ‘heart’ is spelled H-E-A-R-T and that the winner needs to shout ‘heart’ instead of bingo!

Hey–if they learn nothing during this game other than how to spell ‘heart’, it’s a win. Heart’s a difficult word, friends.

And, like all bingo, the winner is the first player to have five objects covered in a row.

valentine's day heart bingo - teach mama

 

Or you can get crazy and play 4 Corners (each corner covered), Blackout (full board covered), or Small Square (small box of two on top and two below covered).

Whatever works, whatever you need.

Happy playing!

Want a few more fun Valentine’s Day ideas? Check out: 

valentine's day class party ideas

how to throw a rockstar valentine's day party teachmama.com 2

 

valentine's day class party ideas, 2.0 | teachmama.com

 

fyi: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Forever and always I recommend only products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”  For more information, please see teachmama media, llc. disclosure policy

how to schedule power kid time into your every day

how to schedule power kid time into your every day | a weekly organizer designed to make kid time a focus

post contains affiliate links

 

 

 

I am not kidding with this.

You guys, the days may seem slow, but once your kids hit elementary school, life totally moves into fifth gear.

Completely. Like seriously life starts to flash by.

schedule power kid time  teachmama.com

I’ll never forget what a gal from my Moms Club said to me, when I ran into her at the grocery store one day, (she was kid-free, and I was juggling three kids under five). She said, Amy, you won’t believe this now, but it’s true: the days are slow but the years are fast. 

At the time, I remember thinking, Suuuuuure, lady. You enjoy your peace and quiet and coupon-shopping while I try to keep these kids occupied long enough for me to grab what I need for this week’s meals on top of two monster boxes of diapers and a human-sized bag o’ dog food. Awesome. Sure long days and short years. Mmmmmkay.

You know what, though? She was right. So right.

And though she didn’t pen that infamous parenting quote, it has stuck with me like glue.

I so know how so many of you feel right now–you’re so tired. You’re barely hanging on some days. You love your kids more than you ever thought possible, but you’re really filling your days with things to keep you all busy, hoping that the activities stretch you from nap time to playgroup to mealtime or tv time. Then your spouse comes home, you slap five, and you go do your work–tutoring, teaching, selling, cleaning, whatever–and he takes over.

how to schedule power kid time into your every day | teachmama.com

how to schedule power kid time into your every day | teachmama.com

 

Or something like that.

I get it. I was there. And I still am there in so many ways.

Though my babies are all in school now, I struggle to find carve out power time with them each day.  Time that counts, whether it’s because it’s quality snuggle time, time to just listen, or time to help them develop a solid foundation for learning.

This month, because we’re kicking off our #livefocused year, I thought I’d share something that could help during those crazy times–something that can actually help you no matter where you are with child raising to schedule power kid time into your every day.

No, it’s not a nanny, and it’s not a babysitter, housecleaner, or cook. So sorry.

It’s something that really may give your days, your weeks, and your months more focus.

It’s a super-simple sheet that really does nothing more than give you the place to schedule a little power time with your kids into your every day.

Power time with each of your children.  Whatever ‘power time’ may look like to you.

 

how to schedule power kid time into your every day

Sure, we’re with our kids a million hours each week. We’re with them every single day, for hours. And it’s awesome.

But are we really with them–listening to them, learning from them, supporting them in the best way we are able?

Because if we don’t spend power time with them now, before we know it, our kids may not want to even entertain the idea of spending time with us at all.

Here’s the skinny. . .

How to Schedule Power Kid Time into Your Every Day:

Believe me when I tell you that I never used anything like this when Maddy, Owen, and Cora were little.

But I truly believe that had I used it, it would have helped keep me a little more sane, allowed me to let a little bit go if I could have had it on paper each week.

Instead, I kept all of my power time plans in my head: Okay, Maddy needs some help with her d’s and b’s, so let me do a little of that with her this week; Owen’s grip is totally crazy, so I’m going to do some fine motor activities with him; and Cora is still calling every color ‘pink’ so we need to do a little work so the gal learns those colors

Right.

And along the way, let me do the grocery shopping, laundry, and cleaning.  Dog walking, clothes shopping, and meal preparing. And I’ll schedule a few playdates, make sure the kids are getting to doctor appointments, clean the guinea pig cage, and do what I can to make sure we’re all happy and having fun. Oh, and let me help them learn their letters and numbers and colors and all that good stuff.

It’s a lot.

I feel grateful that my head was always filled with fun ways that my kids could learn those foundational skills, so it wasn’t hard for me to come up with ideas. The activities were usually based on research, on the stuff I was reading for my grad classes, the activities I had done when teaching, and the methods I was using for my tutoring students.  Or they came from parenting magazines, friends, or blogs I was reading.

I just grabbed a few things I had around the house that supported what we needed that day, and I used them during that quiet time before nap or rotated rooms during their rest time.

But I truly think that these little weekly plan sheets can help every parent get a little more organized this year–help parents deliberately plan power time for their kids each day or week.  

Power time does not need to be elaborate, crazy lesson plans. Just ideas, friends.

 

schedule kid time each each | teachmama.com

 weekly planner _ teachmama.com

If you’d like to download our weekly power time planner, here it is: weekly planner _ teachmama.com

(Remember, if you’re interested in sharing, great! Please consider linking to this post rather than the attachment page, please!)

And punch holes in each page, add them all to a 3-ring binder.  Include some dividers with folders, and you have a sweet, simple little planner.

Or, if you don’t want to go that route and you don’t want to punch holes, get a skinny report cover clip, and that can be your calendar planner.  Either way, remember we have the 2015 calendar because we love you that much.

 

I have the planner. I downloaded and printed. Now what?

Jot down ideas. Just so you remember to grab the puzzles from the basement when you go down or so that you remember to print out a few mazes or alphabet cards or find a few pennies for cleaning or pick up cheerios or pretzel sticks from the grocery store.

Sit back with a cuppa at the beginning of the week, look roughly ahead at your weekly schedule, and figure out a few things you want to do with your kids. What kind of power time you want to spend with them.

Visit our FAQ page to find out where you should start or to find ideas that work for your kids. Or check out the navigation bar to find other topics. I’ll have another post coming soon filled with places to go from here if you’re stuck.

On top of doing all that other parenting stuff.

Use the ‘to do’ lines to jot down some general things you must accomplish each day.

Consider:

schedule kid time each each | teachmama.com

schedule kid time each each | teachmama.com

  • Use the boxes to schedule three things you want to do during kid time. Remember with little ones, you may have full days at home. Full morning. Full afternoon. Fill ’em up, friends.  And think: movement, mind, and me time. Each and every day.

movement: Kids need to move each day, both fine motor and gross motor.

mind: Kids need to stretch their mind each day, in some way, shape, or form.

me: Kids need to have alone time each day, playing by themselves, doing something independently.

schedule kid time each each | teachmama.com

schedule kid time each each | teachmama.com

 

  • If you have more than one child, use the ‘to do’ lines the same as above, but use one box for each child. Most likely, you’ll be doing a bunch of things together, which is totally cool. Just try to fit in at least one focused activity with each kiddo each day.

You want to shoot for one activity that packs some kind of punch.

 

schedule power kid time | teachmama.com

schedule power kid time | teachmama.com

  • If you have older, school-aged kids, just using the sheets to make sure that you are adding time for each child each day–no matter what. Maybe you’re not sitting down together each and every day to craft or play like you could when they were younger, but any time together, even if it’s having a child help you with dinner or helping him organize his Pokemon cards (gah!) counts.
  • Make these sheets work for you and your family. There’s no wrong way.

And that’s it.

Just a little somethin’ to keep in your back pocket, my friends.

What do you think? Yay? Nay?

How else can I help?

live focused 2015 teachmama.com b w collage

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ive focused in 2015 organization teachmama.com sq

#livefocused posts:

fyi: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Forever and always I recommend only products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”  For more information, please see teachmama media, llc. disclosure policy

organizing play spaces: 4 steps to awesome and tips every parent needs

organize playspaces 4 steps to awesome teachmama.com

Friends.

I’m  hoping that you’re still doing a rockstar job taking control your three things this month because, sweet mercy–you can manage to organize three things.

Whatever it is that has been bugging you, whatever it is that causes you the most stress or anxiety, start there.

That sock drawer? The coat closet? The laundry room? You can do it.

This is the year, friends. We’re taking control of our life and our time, and we are living focused.

Need the whole deal? Check out the get yourself organized post as a refresher.

organizing play spaces: 4 steps to awesome and tips every parent needs

I do understand that often it’s overwhelming if you choose something big to organize.  We often don’t know where to start or what to do after we get started. Or sometimes we just get sick of doing it in the middle and want to quit (I do, at least).

Lucky for us, I have recently joined forces with the amazing Rachel from Rachel and Company, and we have some really cool projects in the works.

For real.

Like cool ways to help you and your family get organized–and stay organized.

Like cool things just for your tween. Or just for your kids. Or just to help you organize some super-tricky parts of your life.

Can’t wait.

Until then, I have Rachel sharing some awesome tips for organizing play spaces over here for us today.

You’ll love her.

And you’ll totally love the Organizing Play Spaces Printable we’ve created.  (Scroll on down–you’ll find the link!)

Here’s the skinny. . .

Organizing Play Spaces–4 Steps to Awesome and Tips Every Parent Needs: 

Organizing Play Spaces, by Rachel Rosenthal

The holidays are over but are the new toys, games and books your kids got for the holidays taking over your home?

Don’t worry, you’re not alone! They’re taking over my home too and I do this for a living.

Now that everyone is back in school and we’re all back in somewhat of a routine, it’s time to stop tripping over that new toy fire engine when you get up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom. It’s also time to finally organize all this new stuff!

So, what to do?

To start, find a designated “play space” to keep everything organized, or as you know, the toys and games will take over your home.

organizing play spaces: 4 steps to awesome and tips every parent needsorganizing play spaces: 4 steps to awesome and tips every parent needs

Even if you don’t have an entire room to devote to “play”, creating a space in the corner of another room can really help contain the clutter in one area (or at least give you a starting point!).

Without a place to put something, we can’t expect our little ones–or even ourselves–to have an organized play space. And while as moms we are prone to taking on all the organizing ourselves, I am giving you permission to stop doing it all yourself.

Depending on the age of your children, I say, get them involved.

There are age-appropriate organizing tasks that your children can do, and now is the time to empower them to be involved in living an organized life.

Things might not be “perfect” or the way you want them, but that isn’t the point. We want to empower our children and ourselves in creating a space truly conducive to play.

organizing play spaces: 4 steps to awesome and tips every parent needs

organize play spaces teachmama.com 3

Below are some tips on organizing your play space that even your youngest kids can help with!

  • Put all small items like doll accessories, toy cars and even game pieces in labeled containers without a lid. This keeps similar items together and makes for easier play and clean up. Adding a label (a picture or words) helps little ones participate with the organizing.
  • Don’t try to organize your entire play space at once. Choose one category of items, like dress up clothes or board games and focus on just that before moving on. Our printable on organizing your kids can help. It lists out some of the top items that need to be organized in a play area and gives just a few easy steps for paring down what you have and getting an organizing system into place.
  • Have a “hide the clutter” basket. Keep a large empty basket or container in your play area. This can be used two ways. Just make sure that you set a time limit on how long items can stay in this basket. We recommend no more than one week.

1. A quick hide all:  if you need to get things off the floor in a flash (think unannounced guests).

2. An easy organizer:  Whether it’s you or your kids who are reorganizing the play area at the end of play time, fill the container with everything that is left out, then carry it with you to put the items away where they belong.

_____________________________

Rachel Rosenthal of Rachel and Company is an organizing extraordinaire.  Rachel uses creativity, style and a little elbow grease to help families get their homes, schedules, routines and lives in order. As a professional organizer, Rachel empowers families of all ages and sizes to live more organized, productive lives and has helped over 900 clients since starting in 2008.

Rachel works nationally with clients, is based in Bethesda, MD with her 7-year-old identical twins, and she has been featured in publications such as Better Homes and Gardens, Huffington Post, Washingtonian, The Washington Post, Parents, NBC4 and Fox5. Rachel can be reached through her website: www.rachel-company.com.rachel and company  rachel collage

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Thank you, Rachel!

I love Rachel’s idea of the open containers, especially for younger kids, and I love the idea of the ‘hide the clutter’ basket–with limitations and guidelines.

So smart.

So let’s get you organized, my friends.

 

Here’s a super-cute printable that Rachel and I collaborated on. I think  you’ll dig it.

Organize Play Spaces Printable: organize play spaces teachmama.com 3

If you choose to share or link to the printable (and we hope you do!), please link to this post rather than the document itself. Thank you!

 

 

So there you have it–a really quick way to organize your child’s play space, wherever that may be!

How do you stay organized? What do you use to organize play spaces? I’d love to hear it!

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live focused 2015 teachmama.com b w collage

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ive focused in 2015 organization teachmama.com sq

#livefocused posts:

free blank 2015 calendar: get organized STAT

free blank 2015 calendar: get organized STAT teachmama.com

post contains affiliate links

 

 

Friends I am totally and completely overwhelmed and excited.

The feedback you’ve shared makes me so weepy.

You are excited about our #livefocused in 2015, and so am I.

You’re organizing.

You’re arranging.

You’re doing great things.

 

free blank 2015 calendar: get organized STAT | teachmama.com

You’re thinking about what you’re doing and trying to move more deliberately through each day.

You. Rock.

I mentioned that I was doing my best to stay organized, and though I still have a long way to go, one thing that help me stay sane is keeping things on a calendar.

Though I do use Google calendar for our family, I also use a hard copy calendar for my blog-related tasks and planning.

So? I thought I’d share one that everyone can use–something that goes along with our #livefocused in 2015 challenge.

Here’s the skinny. . .

2015 Blank Printable Calendar– Get Organized Stat:

Everything you need is here, friends.

Click on the link above the images below, or click on the image itself.

Once you get to the attachment page, you’ll see a link. Click it. You’ll get to the pdf page. Print it out.

Be happy.

january 2015 calendar teachmama.com

free blank 2015 calendar: get organized STAT | teachmama.com

february 2015 calendar _ teachmama.com

free blank 2015 calendar: get organized STAT | teachmama.com

 

march 2015 calendar _ teachmama.com

free blank 2015 calendar: get organized STAT | teachmama.com

april 2015 calendar _ teachmama.com

free blank 2015 calendar: get organized STAT | teachmama.com

 

may 2015 calendar teachmama.com

 

free blank 2015 calendar: get organized STAT | teachmama.com

 

june 2015 calendar _ teachmama.com

free blank 2015 calendar: get organized STAT | teachmama.com

 

july 2015 calendar _ teachmama.com

free blank 2015 calendar: get organized STAT | teachmama.com

aug 2015 calendar _ teachmama.com

free blank 2015 calendar: get organized STAT | teachmama.com

 

sept 2015 calendar _ teachmama.com

free blank 2015 calendar: get organized STAT | teachmama.com

 

oct 2015 calendar _ teachmama.com

free blank 2015 calendar: get organized STAT | teachmama.com

nov 2015 calendar _ teachmama.com

free blank 2015 calendar: get organized STAT | teachmama.com

 

dec 2015 calendar _ teachmama.com

free blank 2015 calendar: get organized STAT | teachmama.com

 

 

And punch holes in each page, add them all to a 3-ring binder.  Include some dividers with folders, and you have a sweet, simple little planner.

Or, if you don’t want to go that route and you don’t want to punch holes, get a skinny report cover clip, and that can be your calendar planner.

Remember to include your January organization sheet, because friends, we need to start the year with our stuff in order.

Let’s do this.

 

There’s more to come.

I honestly cannot wait.

 

live focused 2015 teachmama.com b w collage

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ive focused in 2015 organization teachmama.com sq

#livefocused posts:

fyi: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Forever and always I recommend only products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”  For more information, please see teachmama media, llc. disclosure policy

 

live focused in 2015: give yourself a fresh start and live with intention

live focused in 2015: give yourself a fresh start and live with intention

 

 

live focused in 2015 teachmama.com

Happy New Year, friends.

As we move into the new year, I want you to know that I am so very thankful for each one of you.

Really.

I thank you for reading. I thank you for subscribing. I thank you for hanging in with me through the years.

I love writing, I love creating, and I love sharing, so I’m a million times grateful that this–blogging–has become my job.

And the most important thing here is that it wouldn’t be a job if it weren’t for you.

So hugely, from the bottom of my heart, gracias.

But what I’ve noticed in the past year is that this space is changing, I am changing, and we are changing.

And so we are going to make some serious changes over here.

Changes that I think will be really, truly beneficial to us all.

I hope that you’ll join us for this ride.  We’ll all benefit–I promise.

Your kids. Your spouse. Your friends. Your neighbors. Your family.

You. And me.

It’s about living with focus in 2015. Living intentionally.

Because we get one life.

So let’s do it up.  Woot.

Here’s the skinny. . .

 

live focused in 2015  teachmama.com small

Live Focused in 2015–Give Yourself a Fresh Start and Live with Intention

My friends.

I promise I’m not going all sappy nutty on you. I’m really not.

I’m actually already half nutty from this parenting gig, so that’s nothing new.

And I’ve always been emotional and sappy.

But what I will promise is that this year is going to be a year of change.

And I’d love for you to come along with me for the ride.

I’m not promising perfect because perfect’s impossible.

I’m not guaranteeing greatness because greatness is fleeting.

I’m not encouraging immediate awesome because, well, everything worthwhile seems to take some time.

live focused in 2015 | teachmama.com

 

What I am suggesting is that together we do what we can to live with more intention, more focus, in 2015.

I started this blog way back in 2008 to encourage parents everywhere to do what they can to sneak in some learning into their kids’ every day. And for a long time, that worked.

We had little ones at home, for hours and hours and hours, and I knew that there were fun, cool things that parents could to do help build a foundation for learning, all with minimal effort and huge returns.

And together we got our kids off to the wilds of Kindergarten, then year by year, one by one, into elementary school.

But now? Things are different.

live focused in 2015 | teachmama.com

 

Though our kids are in school for most of the day, we’re still so busy.  We’re working, we’re scheduling, we’re volunteering.  We’re grocery shopping, coupon-clipping, and bill paying. We’re turning in permission slips, cutting our box tops, collecting donations, and packing lunches.

We’re crock-potting, speed cleaning, and skimming.

We’re running ourselves ragged schlepping kids to and from sports and activities, orthodontist appointments, and ‘hangouts’ (because goodness knows they’re too old for ‘playdates’).

We’re dashing. Dancing. Moving. Skating. Jogging. Swimming. Through. Life. 

And we’re not really thinking.  We’re just doing. Moving.

And friends, before we know it, it’ll all be a blur.

And we’ll be standing in the driveway staring at a packed Suburban, filled with luggage and linens and books and baskets, getting ready to send our baby off to college and wondering where the heck all the time went.

Sob. I can’t even.

So this year, I’m trying to take it back.

 

live focused in 2015 | teachmama.com

I’m going to take back the reigns of my life, and try–try as best as I can–to live more intentionally, to live focused in 2015. 

I’m doing this because I really need it. Believe me.

And I’d love for you to join me.

So I’m getting refocused in this here bloggy blog. I’m going to focus on the same goal I set forth back in 2008:

to share the tools and resources parents need to be the best teachers they can be for their children.

I’m still going to focus on learning in the every day.

And I’m going to focus on family, literacy, and what we can do to support our digital kids.

live focused in 2015  teachmama.com focus

But I’m going to post a bit less frequently and instead focus on quality over quantity.

Less really is more sometimes.

Because the content here is free for you, I’m going to still have to do some sponsored posts, but my focus is to create longterm partnerships with brands that really matter. With brands that really rock.

And I’m going to really, truly focus on you–my subscribers

So we’re going to rock it out with a bunch of subscriber-only giveaways.  That means nothing if you already subscribe except that you’re awesome and starting now you should read to the very end of the post (or at least scroll all the way down and check the box after the post for a whole lot of happy).

But it also means that if you don’t already subscribe, then you’ll definitely want to:

  • subscribe either to our rockstar emails and get 2-3 posts each week the day after they’re published, or
  • subscribe to our newsy-newsletter and get one email each Tuesday with all of the posts from the week. Either works.

teachmama subscriber screener

As far as the whole focused in 2015 is concerned, I’ve come to some conclusions:

1.  As our children get older, we’ve got to show them that we, as parents, are doing the best we can to live this life to its fullest.

We’ve got to show them that we are doing our best to live focused and intentionally.

We’ve got to show them that we are trying to be organized.

We’re nurturing relationships.

We’re taking care of ourselves.

We’re listening and loving and moving through life with a plan.

We do this so that our kids do the same.

live focused in 2015 teachmama.com

2. This is the year I’ll also be focusing on what we are doing to live intentionally, to live focused in 2015.

I’ll still share the cool stuff I usually do, but each month, I’ll also include a focus.

January- organization: in routine, in schedule, in home

It’s time to get on it. Get your house in order and create routine that works for your family. Life is too short to let it pass you by, and it’s time to climb out from under the mess and live intentionally. But in order to live intentionally, you’ve got to get organized.

February-friendship: with spouse, colleagues, siblings, parents, kids, girlfriends

What do you do to nurture your friendships? How much time do you actually put into keeping up with your oldest pals? Do you ever organize a girls’ night out? A date night? How well do you really know your kids?

March-clarity: of thought, words, action

Sometimes we need a re-start in the way we’re thinking, speaking, and interacting with others.  Let’s make sure our in-house behavior systems, rules, and guidelines are established and clear.  Let’s get refocused in the way we speak to our kids, spouse, and friends. Let’s try to align our thoughts and actions.

April-growth: emotional, mental, physical

Face it. we all need to grow in some way, shape, or form. Learning never needs to cease. Have you really worked your brain lately? What do you need to do to stay up to date with work or well-being? April is a month to learn how to better care for ourselves, kids, family.

May-self: you, you, you

Check yourself before you wreck yourself. When was the last time you took time out for you? What do you really, truly love to do? If you don’t know, it’s time to find out. If you know and haven’t done it for a while, now’s the time to get rolling with it.

live focused in 2015 months  teachmama.com

 

June-family: make family time count

School’s out. Time to really unplug and spend time with your kids now that they’re out of school. Our tabletop surprises will keep you constantly filled with ideas for creative, innovative ways to spend time with your kids.

July-breath: because breathing really helps

Sure, it’s summer. And a whole lot happens in summer that makes us forget about our New Year intentions and focus. But let’s check in on January organization. Do you need a restart? How are things going with friends, growth, or your self-care?  Before we freak out, we’re going to make breathing a focus this month as we slowly get back on track.

August-time: take control

How are you using your time? Life is moving quickly.  Are you making sure you’re living each day to the fullest? Parenting is hard—there’s no doubt about that. And juggling a spouse, work, and a household makes it even more difficult.  But even if we spend a few minutes each week giving our days some focus, we’re taking control. We’re still in charge.

September-learning: back to school means everyone learns

Back to school means we’re all learning a whole new routine and system.  How are we, as parents, best interacting with our kids, their teachers, and schools? Are we supporting them the best we are able? What do we need to learn in order to do so? New strategies? New concepts?

October-honesty: with ourselves and others

Halloween means that our kids are on a quest to find disguises, but let’s be honest this month with ourselves before the holiday season begins. Let’s be honest about how we think and feel, and let’s do what we can to make sure we’re sharing are true and awesome selves with the world.

November-giving: set an example of gratitude

We all have so much for which we should be thankful, so let’s give what we can to those who need it. Setting an example of giving and gratitude for our children is super-important from the start, especially during their formative elementary years. No better time than now to give to the world the best we have.

December-peace: finding beauty in the basics

It’s so very difficult not to get caught up in the holiday whirlwind, trying to create a perfectly pinteresting holiday for our family. But we don’t need to go crazy. We really don’t. Let’s focus on the important things and strive for more peace in our 2015 holiday seasons.

 

live focused in 2015  teachmama.com share

Never fear, friends.

I’m not going to leave you high and dry here. We’re doing this together. Baby steps.

Each month I plan to:

  • share printables which will help us get focused and live intentionally;
  • do some fun giveaways, freebies, and contests for subscribers only–that means you!;
  • invite experts in to share their ideas and suggestions;
  • create videos with tricks, tools, and ideas for our topics;
  • share the normal, awesome content you have come to expect, with the #livefocused added in as a bonus (yay!);
  • use our Facebook page as a place to support each other, chat, and share high-fives (like a freebie, fab support group);
  • share photos from my journey on Instagram and Twitter using #livefocused;
  • do round-ups of your photos, ideas, and experiences across platforms;
  • quite honestly, learn as I go–from you and from others!;
  • offer follow-ups and extensions that may help you in this adventure.

live focused in 2015: give yourself a fresh start and live with intention

I’m excited. I’ve got so much planned, and it’s only the first Monday of the month.

I cannot wait to really embrace 2015. Watch out world, crazy things can happen when a bunch of smart women (and men!) are a little more focused!

Here. We. GO!

Check it all out video-style:

 And? If you don’t already subscribe to teachmama.com’s YouTube channel, you totally want to!

Are you in? Let me know, friends. I need to know I’m not walking alone on this journey!

  • share any of the photos here on your facebook page
  • share any of the photos here on your twitter or instagram page
  • share any of the photos here on your google + page or blog!

Tweet this:

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new years eve guess the word game

new years guess the word game teachmama.com

new years eve guess the word game

Much like our Christmas Guess the Word Game, the New Year’s Eve Guess the Word Game totally rocks.

Okay.

There you have it.

Plain and simple.

Rocks. 

The kids loved playing our holiday version on the way to see their Pennsylvania family this week, so I made another version.

Actually, I made both versions on the same day.

And actually, the kids helped brainstorm words for both.

So fun.

Here’s the skinny. .  .

  • New Year’s Eve Guess the Word Game:

The premise is the same for both games, and it’s super-simple.

One person holds up a card with a word on it and tries to guess what it is.

Easy.

new years eve guess the word game

new years eve guess the word game

Remember, though, that the card holder does not look at the word.

And everyone else gives one-word clues to help the person guess it.

We often play in a few variations:

  • the fewer words it takes to guess, the better;
  • the person who can guess the most words in row wins;
  • for a challenge: all of the clues must begin with the same letter; or
  • all of the clues must rhyme with the word on the card;
  • add a timer.

new years eve guess the word game

new years party word guess game

Want to download the cards?

The New Year’s Eve Guess the Word Game is here to download as a pdf if you’d like: new years party word guess game

The last page is blank so you can add your own!

(If you choose to share this post, super! Please just link to this post instead of the attachment page, though! Thank you!)

Keep it simple.

And have fun with it.

And if you change things up a bit, let me know!

Want a few more cool New Year’s Eve activities? 

 

26 cool, new family traditions to start in the new year

26 fun family traditions to start this year teachmama.com

26 fun family traditions to start this year  teachmama.com

I’m all about family traditions.

Not only does it make your life as a parent easier, but having traditions gives your kids something to hold on to.

Traditions give kids the feeling of security.

Traditions give kids the feeling of safety and comfort.

Traditions give kids the feeling of strength of family.

And yes, often there are years that traditions also teach kids about flexibility.

Especially when for whatever reason you can’t make the Flag Cake or you can’t organize a St. Patty’s Day Scavenger Hunt.

I’ve gathered 26 cool, fun, new family traditions to start in the new year.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • 26 Cool, New Family Traditions to Start in the New Year:

 Here they are.

1. Complete the New Year’s Interview.  One of our all-time faves.

2. Volunteer on MLK, Jr. Day.  Spend the day doing something that counts.

3.  Make Surprise Notes for your neighbors.  It doesn’t matter when; it doesn’t matter which ones. Just do it.

4. Host a January Favorite Junk Food Party.  Everyone brings one thing: his or her favorite snacky junk food.

5. Make crafts for Meals on WheelsSimple crafts, pretty notes just to brighten someone’s day.

26 cool traditions for family - teachmama.com

6. Participate in a fundraising walk. For whatever cause speaks to your heart. We’ve got some starting points on our blog 4 cause post.

7. Make Valentines for classmates and friends.  We think that homemade is best. They don’t have to be fancy.

8. Do an Earth Day park clean-up. It can be as simple or as involved as you like, with one person or ten.

9. Use the Special Plate to celebrated good days.  The Special Plate makes every one of us smile. It’s a good day when you get to use the Special Plate.

10. Have ice-cream for dinner on the last day of school. Because why not? It’s SUMMER!

11.  Allow everyone to choose his or her birthday dinner. If the birthday boy (or girl) has a party, it’s a dinner in, and Mom and Dad cook a meal of choice. If there’s no party, it’s a dinner out.

12. Celebrate Golden Birthdays, when your age matches the date.  Maddy and Owen both celebrated their Golden Birthday on their 9th year; Cora will celebrate hers when she’s 23, but we’ll most likely celebrate a Half-Golden Birthday when she’s 11 1/2 years old.

13. Eat fondue on New Year’s Day.  Do it up. Cheese, bouillon, and chocolate with fancy glasses and sparkling cider.

14. Make a July 4th Flag Cake.  Strawberries, blueberries, whipped icing, and yum.

 

26 cool, new family traditions to start in the new year

15. Have a St. Patrick’s Day Scavenger Hunt.  Quick and easy, around the house.  At the end? A little pot o’ gold, of course. Or at least a fun little goodie bag.

16.  Make an Easter Bunny Cake. Round cakes, licorice, and jelly beans make this a special Easter treat.

17.  Organize a neighborhood Egg Hunt.  The eggs don’t have to be filled with jewels–kids love to find anything in their eggs–wrapped candy, pennies, you name it!

18. Have a 1st Day of Summer Cook-Out. Back yard, with hotdogs, chips, and watermelon.  Neighbors and friends. Make it a potluck so it’s easy on you.

19. Make Mom breakfast in bed for Mother’s Day. Awwwwhhh, one of my favorite things ever is when the kids make me breakfast in bed on Mother’s Day. Who cares if the coffee’s cold and toast is burnt? Not I!

20. Go on a family hike for Father’s Day. Let Dad pick the hike, or kids can surprise him. Pack a lunch, drinks, and a blanket. Enjoy!

21. Make Candy Wreaths for your schools.  Because who doesn’t love candy? And really, every single school staff member will love you for it.

26 fun family traditions to start this year  teachmama.com

26 fun family traditions teachmama.com WHITE

 

22. Open new pajamas on Christmas Eve.  One gift before the big day, and it’s always pj’s. Fresh, cozy, new jammies for the big night. And everyone will have matching pjs on for Christmas morning photos.

23. Have the kids make dinner for parents on their anniversary. We haven’t done this yet, but man. I really want to.

24. Schedule a surprise no-school, Cookie-Baking Day in December. Hands down, it’s our absolute favorite day of the holiday season. Well, almost.

25. Boo! your friends in October. Even more fun if you gather a group of pals to do the ‘boo-ing’ with!

26. Make shoebox gifts for the needy at holiday time.  We do this every year, and every year it gets more fun for the kids and more meaningful.  Our church is a drop-off point, but many local newspapers also advertise places that they take these important boxes.

And that’s it!

I’d love to hear what traditions you celebrate and honor each year–there’s always room for more!

Want to download the fancy-schmancy 26 cool, new family traditions poster: 26 fun family traditions teachmama.com BKGD

26 cool, new family traditions to start in the new year | teachmama.com

26 fun family traditions teachmama.com BKGD

All I ask is that if you choose to share this post, please link to this post and not the attachment page–thank you!

 

Check out a few other posts that may help you develop strong and healthy habits for your family:

 

christmas guess the word game

holiday guess the word game teachmama.com

christmas guess the word game | teachmama.com

My kids are basically a captive audience at breakfast, and they have been for a long, long time.

Whether they’re staring at the cereal boxesreading the newspaper, chatting grammar, or doing brain teasers, it always seems like they are waiting for some sort of activity while they throw back their Cheerios or waffles.

Because they love the Guess the Word Game that we play at their Halloween class parties, we made a holiday version.

I like the simplicity of this activity, it’s mobility, and the many different ways you can adjust the rules.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • Christmas Guess the Word Game:

The premise of this game is super-simple: one person holds up a card with a word on it and tries to guess what it is.

christmas guess the word game | teachmama.com

 

christmas guess the word game | teachmama.com

But here’s the thing: the card holder does not look at the word.

And everyone else gives one-word clues to help the person guess it.

We play in a few variations:

  • the fewer words it takes to guess, the better;
  • the person who can guess the most words in row wins;
  • for a challenge: all of the clues must begin with the same letter; or
  • all of the clues must rhyme with the word on the card;
  • add a timer.

christmas guess the word game | teachmama.com

christmas guess the word game | teachmama.com

Fun, simple.

And when the kids help me generate a list, sure, they know what’s coming, but it’s still fun.

They feel more a part of the game when they are the co-creators.

Want to download the cards?

The Christmas Guess the Word Game is here to download as a pdf if you’d like: christmas party word guess game

The last page is blank so you can add your own!

(If you choose to share this post, super! Please just link to this post instead of the attachment page, though! Thank you!)

 christmas guess the word game christmas party word guess game

 

Want a few more holiday-inspired gift ideas or activities? Check out: 

Follow along on pinterest:

 

Follow amy mascott @teachmama’s board christmas ideas for kids and family on Pinterest.

 

create a bedtime routine that works

create a bedtime routine that works teachmama.com

sponsored post

 

 

 

create a bedtime routine that works For a long, long time I’ve talked about the importance of rest in our kids’ lives, and along with that goes routine.

We all need rest, and we all thrive on routine.

Especially our little guys.

So it’s super important that from the start we create a bedtime routine that really, truly works for our kids. 

What I’m finding is even now that my kids are older, they still need. The. Routine.

When my friends from Scholastic asked me to help create a printable for parents all about the bedtime routine, inspired by the talented Caroline Jayne Church, you bet I was game.

I was happy to do so. It’s a great reminder for the parents with bigger guys, and some of the resources I have here are super for parents of littler guys.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • Create A Bedtime Routine That Works:  

1. Give your kids a gentle reminder that bedtime is around the corner. Have a little, low-sugar snack if dinner was early.

create a bedtime routine that works  teachmama.com

2. Bathtime, shower, clean those bodies.  Really. We’ve got to get our kids into the habit of staying clean, and for us that really means having a nail brush (because man their nails get dirty–especially in the summertime!), and having washcloths close by all the time.  If kids don’t need a full-fledged shower or bath, then they definitely should still clean face, hands, and feet!

3. Brush teeth. Our big guys still need help with this, especially if they’re rocking some metal in their mouths. Flossing, brushing adequately, and making sure teeth are brushed in the morning and evening is so important!

create a bedtime routine that works   read teachmama.com

4. Pajamas on!  Dirty clothes away, wet towels hung up to dry.

5. Night time clean-up. Once pj’s are on, we also stress that kid have to do a quick pick-up of their rooms. No one wants to wake up to a total mess in the morning!

6. Books, books, books!  I still think it’s super-important to read with your kids before bed, no matter how old they are. It doesn’t matter what kind of reading it is–magazine, children’s book, graphic novel, or chapter book–we just want them reading!

create a bedtime routine that works   read teachmama.com

7.  Quiet conversation and love. Whether it’s prayers or a quick What was the best part of your day? or What are you most looking forward to tomorrow? Closing down the day this way is a great way to wrap up the day and prepare for tomorrow.

 

Check out the entire Scholastic Parents’ Caroline Jayne Church resource page, including the Bedtime ‘Cheat’ Sheet: 7 Simple Steps to a Sweet and Cuddly Bedtime Routine.

All of Caroline Jayne Church’s books are the perfect addition to bedtime routines and are totally worth checking out!

create a bedtime routine that works | teachmama.com

 

And that’s it. That’s the routine for us. I’d love to hear the routine for you!

Or check out a few other posts that may help you develop strong and healthy habits for your family:

 

fyi: This post was written as a partnership with Scholastic. As always, my opinions are all my own, influenced only by my experience as an educator and parent and by my three little loves. 

true holiday spirit notes for kids: remembering the meaning of the season

true holiday spirit notes for kids: remembering the meaning of the season

post contains affiliate links

 

 

 

December is here. true holiday spirit notes for kids: remembering the meaning of the season

I can hardly believe it.

So this season I’m trying a little something different.

Rather than focus on the receiving part of the season, this year, I’m really trying to focus on the giving component. 

The being a good person component.

The remembering the holiday spirit component.

And I’m starting with an Advent Season challenge for my family: to try to incorporate the true holiday spirit into our every day of December.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • True Holiday Spirit Notes for Kids–Remembering the Meaning of the Season:

All month long.

http://teachmama.com/?attachment_id=19938

http://teachmama.com/?attachment_id=19938

We’ll open our Advent Activity Calendar in the morning like we have for the past few years, but at lunchtime, the kids will have a challenge.

A simple but meaningful challenge.

Twenty-five days of incorporating the true holiday spirit into our every day. I’m excited about it and think the kids are, too.

Though Owen is home sick with me today, I introduced the ‘challenge’ to Maddy, Owen, and Cora today at breakfast.

 

http://teachmama.com/?attachment_id=19938

 

I said, Okay, so you know that for the last few years we’ve done our Advent Activity Calendars–the one on the tree and our cool k-cup advent calendar from last year, right? 

This year, we’re doing something a little different. We’re going to continue to do our Advent Activities like we have in the past. That way we remember to fit in all of the fun things we love to do each holiday season. 

But we’re all going to try a new type of holiday Advent Activity too. A challenge. Just something super small that will help us remember the true meaning of the busy holiday season. 

http://teachmama.com/?attachment_id=19938

http://teachmama.com/?attachment_id=19938

We’ll talk about what we do each evening, but the cool thing about it is that it’s kind of a secret. Like today’s is ‘be extra nice to one person’. 

You’ll be extra nice to one person, but you won’t make a huge, weird deal about it. You’ll decide on who to be nice to, and you’ll do it. 

Maddy asked, Won’t some of our other friends feel left out if they’re not being treated extra nicely? 

http://teachmama.com/?attachment_id=19938

I said, No, not really. Because hopefully you’ll be nice to everyone–you’ll just be extra nice to someone else. 

And then we’ll share our challenge answers at home each night. Does that make sense? Kind of a secret thing that we’ll share as a family.

The kids got it. And they dug it.

 

Here’s our True Holiday Spirit Challenge sheet: true holiday spirit challenge notes teachmama.com

(If you decide to share, please share this post instead of the attachment page. I truly appreciate it!)

true holiday spirit lunchbox notes | teachmama.com

 

true holiday spirit challenge notes teachmama.com

I created the challenge to work as lunchbox notes because my kids love them and look forward to them. I wanted the notes to be small enough that they could read them inside their lunchbox, and I wanted there to be one note for each day of Advent, one for each day of the holiday season.

The notes are numbered–very lightly–from 1-25. And they include things like:

  • be extra inclusive at recess;
  • say ‘thank you’ to someone–and mean it;
  • ask a quiet classmate how he or she is doing;
  • hold the door for someone today;
  • and more.

So we’ll see how it goes.

Want a few more holiday-inspired gift ideas or activities? Check out:

must have gifts for kids and families | teachmama.com

gifts for sunday school teachers or CCD teachers | teachmama.com

 

kids and family gift guide from teachmama.com

 

teachmama gift guide 2012

 

 

holiday gift guide | teachmama.com

 

fyi: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Forever and always I recommend only products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”  For more information, please see teachmama media, llc. disclosure policy