Summer Challenge!

A special thanks to Jan for her challenging, helpful, encouraging talk last week! We’ve posted it here for your convenience! Happy summer MOPS! 



This summer, you will be very busy…

You will be:

  • Working more than full-time
  • Teaching, training, leading by example
  • Nurturing a small human or multiple human beings
  • Creating a family culture in which these little humans can thrive
  • Setting limits, explaining “why”, keeping little humans safe and healthy
  • Creating lifetime memories for your children
  • Determining how they will view themselves and how they will approach life

You will busy; I know this because you are a mom.  And you thought the summer might be relaxing?! Being a mom is like running a marathon and training for it at the same time…you really don’t get time off –even in the summer

 About a month ago, I was in the Portland area helping my mom after surgery.  It was a gorgeous late spring day with everything in full bloom. Next to the house is a green space and playground.  As I worked outside, I watched a young mom come and put her young daughter in a child’s swing and sit down in a swing beside her.  The mom talked on her phone for a while, texted and then got up and took a picture of her daughter swinging and sat back down and continued to relate to her phone.  In the half hour that I worked and watched them, the mom hardly took her eyes off of her phone and there were no words exchanged between her and her little one.  They were outside together on a beautiful day and yet they were worlds apart. This is only a snapshot of their whole day. I don’t know anything else about the rest of it, but this picture arrested me and I couldn’t get it out of my mind.

In the “olden” days, when my kids were preschoolers, we had no devices to entertain us or our kids.  It fact, none of  your moms had any of the devices we have now.  The “I”things…Ipod, Ipad, Iphone and others have exploded in the last 10 years as have dvd players, games and apps. I don’t need to tell you that we live in an extraordinary technological age.  It is wonderful in many ways, but it comes also with problems and challenges. With this explosion of technology comes more potential for moms to be distracted away from their kids and more potential to use “devices” to entertain or distract children away from their parents. More, in this case, can mean less.

So in view of this, I’d like encourage you with some ideas and challenge you to keep on excelling as a mom even as we all look forward to summer. I think you are all up to the challenge.  You are good moms and are always learning new ways to be better moms.

Summer of Challenge:

UnplugIntentionally cut down on your use of “devices” when in the company of your family. Don’t be available to everyone all the time. Be available to your family and put everyone else on hold sometimes.  Instead of planning some time “off” of your phone or ipod, try setting aside time to be on and limit that time.  Just say “no” to too much “I” stuff in order to say yes to the little ones who really want your face time.

Connect-Intentionally plan for relating to your kids as persons worthy of your time and attention. {My pet peeve: a friend talking or texting on the phone to someone else when she is spending time with me.  In a similar way, I think children can feel jealous of your time on the phone and conversely, very much valued when they get your full attention.} You are your little one’s favorite attraction.  From birth to about 3, 4 or 5, depending on the child’s personality, children want most to relate to mom…more than toys, other kids or other people-even sometimes dad.  It won’t always be so…this is probably the only time in the life your child that they want to so intensely relate to you.  In ten years, they won’t even want to be seen in the same space with you!  Plan to give full attention to your kids this summer.

Get active and explore with your kids-Intentionally plan to enjoy activities together.   The brain is tripling in size between birth and 3 yrs of age.  Children need lots of multi-dimensional, sensory, tactile and cognitive activities as their brain develops.  The less time on any screen and more real time activities can build in them longer attention spans and more impulse control for success in later life. Studies have shown the negative effects of too much screen time in children and researchers recommend zero screen time for children under 3 years old.  Children need to be exploring, moving, climbing, touching, building, holding, throwing, lifting, drawing, scribbling, smelling, rolling, listening, looking, imagining, creating, running, jumping, hugging, and talking. 

Even in the summer, they need learning activities and they need plenty of your undivided attention.  This is a good time for you to give it to them.

So, I throw out a challenge to unplug and connect this summer with your children.  In order to help with this challenge, I am going give a lot of tried and true ideas for activities. I have used these with my kids or other people’s kids.

Things to do with kids at and around home:

  • The very best stuff for kids in the summer…water, stones, sticks, and dirt! Kids can be entertained with the basic elements of nature.
  • Tub, bucket or bowl of water outside…cups and pitchers and pouring things, things to stir with.  Add soap for even a longer event.  Has the added benefit of calming your child.  (washing dishes, doll clothes)
  • Dirt or sand for digging.  Add cars and trucks if you want.
  • Paint brushes and water…house,car, sidewalk.
  • Hose on car, house, driveway, plants.
  • Squirt bottles of paint on an old sheet hung up
  • Bubbles and fly swatters
  • Sidewalk chalk dipped in water
  • Paint clay pots or wooden bird houses, decorate picnic table with paint, paint old furniture outside
  • Tent, sleeping under stars, camping out, and cooking on a camp stove (practice in your yard)
  • Backyard obstacle course
  •  goofy golf course that you set up in your backyard
  • scavenger hunts for natural things
  • collecting stuff in bags on walks
  • Life size giant Candyland board on driveway drawn with chalk, kids are the pieces and draw cards
  • Idea jar for when they say I’m bored or as I always said to my kids, you must be tired, go take a nap. Or assign chores when they say this and they will think of things to do very quickly!

Creative Inside: dress up, kitchen band, car garages and towns out of cereal boxes, decorate paper tablecloth (news roll ends), office supplies for playing office

Learning activities: counting everything-pretzels, m&Ms, toys to pick up, etc; identify letters when you see them, sounds in the car and make signs, lists, scribbling for writing; listening to books, reading lots and having much conversation with you.


Out and About

Amtrak, libraries, kites, car wash, Baskin-Robbins, Sweet Peaks, Brookies-Cookies, Kalispell school playgrounds, WF park, WF city beach, Lkside Volunteer Park, Glacier Apgar bike trails, Yellow Bay picnic area, Lone Pine State Pk, Danny On trail-WF mtn., Birch Lk in Jewel Basin, Bike trails in Kal., Swimming lessons-(BF club, Summit, Woodland Pk pool), Upick fruit, Wayfarers Pk, Swan Lk, Greenhouses, Petco, Hedstrom’s dairy

What to do in the car-Road trips large and small…

Group stories, abc game, Fortunately-Unfortunately game(Unfortunately there is a lion coming, Fortunately I have had lion taming lessons), Write or draw out scavenger hunt to look for things while in the car, claim a car color

Dry erase pages, magnetic letters, dimes to spend, bags with treats, activities etc, audio books, plastic bags with activities

Id’s, first aide, snacks, water, towels, extra clothes and shoes, entertainment packs

Avoid Meltdowns-be proactive and prepared: Too hot, tired, hungry, too much activity, changes, stimulus, not enough “mom” time, no schedule; always have food and water on hand!



Shopping and “things” with kids

After a trip to JoAnn’s with my kids today, I needed to read the following wisdom from our very own, Jan Roberson. Find more of her writing at Flathead Living

Just say “No”!

I was standing near a couple in a line in Target one day.  The mom pointed to the object in the cart and told the dad that “she wants it”, referring to their young daughter.  They discussed several reasons why it wouldn’t be good for her, yet it still remained in the cart.

Perhaps this is an obvious statement, but children need to hear the word “no” from their parents especially in regard to acquiring stuff. They need to know that they can’t have everything they see and that they don’t need to have every whim supplied.

Stores are laid out to entice children (small and large). It’s called marketing, attractive packing and strategic placement. My children taught me that even though they desired everything they saw, it didn’t last long.  Mostly, for them, it was truly “out of sight, out of mind”.  Of course, this fact never stopped the pleading, whining and begging for things…

I could not afford to hire a sitter every time I had to go shopping, so the kids were almost always with me in the stores.  If that is the case for you, some shopping strategies might help.

Here are a few ideas that I tried or wish that I had!

  • Give them each $.25 a trip to the store (or whatever works for you) and tell them that it is theirs to spend or save for another time and keep it in the car for them.  They will have to save a few times just to start!  Also, you will need to put a time limit on their shopping or it could take forever to decide.
  • Have a budget and stick to it! If you often buy spontaneously or randomly, have a budget for miscellaneous spending.
  • Think up synonyms for “no” ahead of time.  I’ll need to think about that; Let’s wait till next time and see; Wow! There is so much to look at in here!; I don’t think that’s the very best for you right now; Yeah, there are things I wish I could get too; Let’s add that to your wish list.
  • Take the offense, especially with little ones, and distract them.  Try a running dialogue: What color is that? What shape?  Let’s find blue things, round things, etc.  Keep them looking for things in the “game” instead of things they want to buy for themselves.
  • Tell them ahead of time what is on your list and engage their help in looking for it.
  • Have a policy of one in and one out.  If you get a new____, you need to give one _____ away.

Even if you are fortunate to be able to shop alone, kids still have wishes and expectations.  They see advertisements in magazines, TV, catalogues and see what other kids have. For us, this was the worst.  They didn’t watch TV and we didn’t have many magazines or catalogues, but they did have friends with more stuff! When they got to school, the refrain became, “everybody I know has one!”  “I am the last of my friends to have one.”  This was often true! (Try not to answer this with the sarcastic “So, we aren’t everybody”.)

Work out your family’s standards and perimeters for stuff often and early with your kids.  It will help when the pressure comes.  When your kids want something big, perhaps they could get together and come up with some “big” reasons why we should buy this, i.e.- convince me. Their reasons should be guided by the standards already set in your family. Or you could come up with a list of questions to ask before buying a larger item.  Examples: Do I really need this? Where will this be in 6 months? Is it over packaged and unrecyclable? (environmental concerns) Does it fit the budget for such things? How do you keep up the toys/things you have now? (Note: I would avoid the “if you do this, then you can have this” situation as it may circumvent the above evaluations.) Ultimately, the parents have the final say and the children should know that they cannot manipulate, whine, or otherwise control the adults’ decision.

Parents can be proactive with buying toys.  I invested in small quality items like playmobiles and legos which promote creativity.  So when a present was in order, the kids could pick a small addition to the set we were collecting.  We still have these sets and every child that comes over wants to play either with the “little people” or the legos.

How do you decide what kind of toys for your children?

  1. Observe your child or children over a couple weeks’ time…what do they really play with?  How do they interact with a particular toy? Are there some that promote creativity? Some that provoke wild or loud behavior?
  2. How many toys are you willing to deal with-clean, pick up, corral, find a place for, toss or give away? How much time do you want to spend managing “stuff”?
  3. What can really engage your kids (besides TV, movies, and electronics?) so that they can be creative and think; so that you can get needed things done around the house? Look for engaging toys.  Given a choice kids will usually chose a flashy, eye-catching, “candy”-like toy. Give them something more.

Examples: playmobiles, legos, duplos, large cardboard boxes with a door cut into them, playdough, tea sets, sets of small cars, anything small that fits in small hands to carry around; dress up clothes-thrift store or old clothes from you! Something that works as a pretend kitchen for them; anything that mimics what their parents do…office “supplies”-tape, glue, pens, pencils, paper pads, coupons, envelopes, ink and stamps; kitchen utensils and kid dishes; cleaning things-small broom, etc; gardening utensils..small gloves; shopping-basket, play money, a place to set up cans and other food items; games, puzzles, books; put them outside!