Archive for the ‘Early Childhood’ Category

6 Steps to Planning a Sweet Summer with Your Family

Tuesday, June 18th, 2019

From our marriage & parenting contributor, Mary Carver.

Since she was a preschooler, I’ve taken my oldest daughter on a date after the last day of school. It’s an opportunity for us to have some sweet, one-on-one time, but also a time for us to reflect on the last nine months. I ask about her favorite parts of the school year, the hardest parts, and what she learned. But then, we turn to the future.

Making plans for the summer is one of our favorite things to do. Because yes, I’ve trained my daughter to love lists and schedules and plans just as much as I do. Parenting win! But seriously, we do love it — me because we come up with a plan on how to survive the summer months and her because she gets to share her ideas and have a bit of influence on what we do.

That’s not to say I show up at our lunch date with a blank calendar. No, by the time school is out, I’ve already registered my kids for camp parents’ night out or open houseparents’ night out or open house, made hotel reservations for any trips, and started talking to possible babysitters for the days I just have to get some work done. But we still have plenty of summer hours to fill and plenty of days to plan.

Are you worried that I’m that uptight mom who over-schedules her kids? Wondering if my girls even know how to play on their own? Longing for the days of old, when kids got out of school and then spent three months playing pickup ball, riding bikes, and catching fireflies?

I know. Me too! So don’t panic. I promise that’s not what I’m about. If you crave structure and need to have a general idea of what you and your kids are going to do this summer, but also want to leave plenty of space for regular old playtime, I’m here to help. This is not possible. We can do it! Read on for tips for planning a sweet summer!

Do your homework.

Pull up all the websites in all the tabs. Camps, churches with VBS programs, library programs, bucket lists from Pinterest, summer school listings on the district website, road trip itineraries — get it all in front of you.

Are you going to do all these things? Heck no. But you want to know what your options are before you start picking and choosing the few things you’re going to do.

Try something new.

Summertime is the perfect time for trying out a new hobby, activity, or sport. I couldn’t fit a full week of art camp into our budget, but I signed up my youngest for a morning drawing class. And I’m not sure my oldest will like karate (we’ve tried it before, but I’m determined to have her try again), so rather than commit to a weeks-long session, she’ll attend parents’ night out or open house at the local martial arts school to test it out. 

Include your favorites or family traditions.

Do you always watch fireworks from the park down the street? Do you kick off the season with a big barbecue or just by pulling out the fire pit? Are summer afternoons time for bubbles and sidewalk chalk and bike rides? Do you let the kids set up a lemonade stand every year or go geocaching in the woods behind your house? Are they (and you) looking forward to their annual visit to the grandparents’? Whatever you’ve made a habit of doing year after year — big or small, at home or on the town, silly or serious — make sure to include these things on your summer agenda. And if you’re not sure which activities or outings your kids are counting on this year, just ask them! You might be surprised by the things they remember and love the most.

Give the kids choices.

Speaking of what the kids want… Now’s the time to get them involved in the process of making plans! You might not want to give them carte blanche with your calendar, but you can give them some leeway. Perhaps come up with 10 ideas for summer projects and ask them to pick three. Or sit together and sift through all the ideas you found when you did your homework. Make a giant wish list, then pare it down to what’s doable for your family. 5.

Make margin and leave room to breathe.

While we want to keep our kids (and maybe ourselves) busy during our break and while we want to do everything we can to make summer fun for everyone, there’s something to be said for downtime. Unscheduled time. Blank space on the calendar and breathing room in our souls. Let them be bored sometimes. Stay up late and take naps. Leave room for spontaneous playdates or game nights or pizza picnics on the back porch.

Only you know what the right amount of rest is for your family. And this is something that will change from year to year (maybe from day to day)! So, give yourself time to figure it out and room to adjust. And just know that what works for other families might not work for you. And what worked just fine last year might be completely different from what you need this year.

It’s all about balance.

Now, don’t get me wrong. If your family is all about baseball and that’s all you do, all day, every day, that’s awesome! I mean, it is not for me — but I’m not your kid! If your family is all in with an activity or hobby or sport, go for it. But for many of us, a little balance goes a long way.

When I’m making summer plans for my family, I try to balance all the things: indoors and outdoors, sports and art and science and music, active and resting, fun and learning and chores and more fun, planned and unplanned, time with friends and time reserved for family. Do you think I ever get that balance right? No, of course not. But I try, which means we end up with more balance than if I didn’t try at all.

That’s it. That’s how I plan our summers and what I recommend to you. But more important than following my steps and suggestions is following your heart and what you know about your family. Choose the things that work for you, that bring you joy, that keep you sane, that create the summertime memories you — and they! — will treasure forever. And let the rest go.

Love these ideas? Here are a few more you might enjoy!

7 Promises I’m Making to My Kids This Summer

Using Technology on Summer Break

DIY Summer Time Capsule Craft for Kids

DIY Fluffy Slime Recipe (so fun!!)

DIY Rainbow Bubble Snakes

Have you started making plans for this summer?

Mary Carver is a writer, speaker, and recovering perfectionist. She lives for good books, spicy queso, and television marathons, but she lives because of God’s grace. Mary writes with humor and honesty about giving up on perfect and finding truth in unexpected places on her blog,MaryCarver.com. She is the author of Fast Talk & Faith: A 22-Day Devotional Inspired by Gilmore Girls and co-author of Choose Joy: Finding Hope & Purpose When Life Hurts.She is also a regular contributor toincourage.me and MothersofDaughters.com. Mary and her husband live in Kansas City with their two daughters.

Planning a Spring Break Staycation

Monday, March 18th, 2019

Today we have gathered the best tips, easy projects, and fun activities you can play for the ultimate family staycation. Be sure to bookmark this for some of our favorite boredom busters!

From our marriage & parenting contributor, Mary Carver.

Last year, on the Friday before our school district’s spring break began, my daughter went on a field trip with her class. It was her first experience roller skating, and all week my husband and I joked with her, saying more than once, “Don’t break your leg!”

Well, the joke was on us, because just a short hour after I dropped her off at school that morning, I got a call from the school nurse. My daughter had, indeed, broken her leg. That ordeal is a story for another time. But what I’m remembering today, as we head into spring break season once again, is how so many people reacted to the news by asking if we’d had big spring break plans.

Apparently, many families plan big trips for their kids’ spring breaks. I feel silly admitting it, but I really had no idea. I had assumed most families would be staying home, juggling work and childcare, catching up on home projects, and possibly taking a trip to the movie theater or park before sending their kids back to school.

After all, that’s about all I had planned!

After hearing about other families’ more extravagant and adventurous plans, I didn’t feel guilty that we couldn’t afford that kind of travel or time off in the spring. But I did feel bad that I hadn’t put more thought into what we would actually do instead. Last year’s spring break was consumed by pain medicine, follow-up doctor’s appointments, and begging my daughter to JUST TRY TO USE THE CRUTCHES. But this year, I was determined to make the most of our five days off school!

Here’s what I did:

Evaluate your free time. Plan your work time.

Because of the nature of my work, I can’t simply take a whole week off. (Okay, I can, but it requires a level of nose-to-the-grindstone intention that I just didn’t pull off this time.) But I also don’t want to spend five days trying desperately to finish projects while hearing my kids ask, “When are you going to be finished?” So I’m planning three half days of work (and probably a chunk of time on the weekend to catch up). That way, they know they’ll have to entertain themselves during those times and I know I will need to focus so I can maximize those times.

Now we’re left with two full days and three half days. What will we do?

Take a look at your to-do-someday list. Get something done.

I’m not the only one with a Someday To-Do list, am I? A list of house projects, inconvenient errands, or seasonal tasks that always seem to get pushed to the back burner during the regular school year?

The trick with this part of a spring break staycation is positioning your to-dos as adventures or fun projects. If your kids are anything like mine, half the fun of spring break is spending extra time together — so why not use some of that together time to accomplish something? You’ll be relieved, and they’ll be proud they helped.

At least that’s my hope for having my girls help me recover the dining room chairs. I’ll let them weigh in on the material we choose, and any project involving a screwdriver and staple gun is fascinating to them (even if they don’t actually use the tools themselves). And since we sit on those chairs every single day, they’ll see the fruit of their labor daily. (Plus, at least in my house, anything can be fun if we add loud music, funny faces, or a special snack to eat when we’re finished!)

Other chores or errands might require some incentives, of course — like shopping for new spring clothes, but only after we go through and clean out their closets, or a trip to a special ice cream shop but only after we finally return those Christmas presents you’ve had in the trunk of your car for months and drop off the Goodwill donations you packed up back in January when you KonMari’d your house like the rest of the world.

Because I want to have two full days for full-blown staycation adventures, I’m planning our “project” (chore and errand) days for the other half of those days I’ll work. Now, finally, it’s time for the fun part!

Explore your town. Connect with friends. Make memories.

Whether you have a couple full days to fill, a few hours here and there, or an entire week, planning for fun will make sure your break doesn’t slip away without doing anything to write home about. (I know, you’re already at home. You know what I mean.) Here are some ideas:

  • Does your community have a children’s museum? Or art museum? Or, really, any kind of place where your kids can let loose and have fun (while also learning something because you’re a sneaky mom like that)? Go there. Bonus tip: Look on the museum’s website to find out if they have free days or hours, coupons, or special events that you can plan around.
  • Who are the friends you keep meaning to see but haven’t been able to? Who lives too far away for a simple dinner together during a normal week? Make plans to see them! Invite them over to your house for a playdate or lunch, or meet them at a park somewhere between your homes. (Or, if you really want to mix things up, you could combine an errand with a friend date and do your errands together. Need to stock up at Costco or Trader Joe’s? Why not go with a friend? Then grab lunch somewhere with a playplace so your kids can run free while you catch your breath.)
  • What’s new? Has a big store opened up recently? Or perhaps a new restaurant? Make an adventure of checking out the new place by putting together a scavenger hunt for your kids or giving them a “mission” or mystery to solve while you’re there. Tasks or items might include eating a food they’ve never tried before, spotting specific items or colors or numbers, deciding how they’d like to spend a certain amount of money (either pretend or real), or even figuring out where the public restrooms are located.
  • Take a trip down memory lane. If you’ve lived in your city for a while, take your kids to see some nostalgic sights (like your childhood home, the restaurant you and your husband had your first date, the park you took them to when they were much younger). If you’re new to town, you can use this time to learn about your community’s history. Check out a local museum, ask a neighbor to share one of their favorite spots, or just explore an area, road, neighborhood, attraction you haven’t visited yet.
  • And don’t forget this: My city has a specific website for parents, listing out special events, fun excursions, coupons and promotional codes, and more. I always, always go there first when playing a staycation. Does your city have something similar? (Or, perhaps a local parenting group on Facebook? Or your MOPS group? Whatever source has a collection of information about activities in your city, go there!)

Put the “stay” in staycation.

Finally, you don’t have to even leave the house to have fun during your break. If you have little kids or a health condition or any reason at all that makes going out to find fun more difficult than usual, just stay home! But that doesn’t mean you’re stuck with Disney Channel reruns or another week of mac and cheese lunches. You can mix it up, right from home!

Some of our favorite things to do on those days are trying a new recipe (let the kids help cook), doing simple science experiments we’ve found on Pinterest, trying to imitate the trick shots of Dude Perfect or the dance moves of Kidz Bop after we watch a few videos on YouTube, or doing one of those messy craft projects I normally don’t allow. (Hello, glitter slime!)

Whatever your staycation looks like, you can make it fun. And really? Your kids will enjoy just as much and remember just as fondly the day you let them spend hours in their swimsuits, splashing in the tub with all the toys as they would some tropical trip. Are you together? Are you doing something out of the norm? Are you laughing and letting loose, even just a little?

Then your staycation will be a success!


A few more tips for you:

  • Set a budget. Even if you’re staying home, you’ll likely spend a little more money when all your kids are home and “needing” to be entertained.
  • Plan for rest. Much as I adore schedules and lists, I know we can’t fill up every minute. Both my kids and I need downtime and quiet time, so I might as well plan for that, too.
  • Sprinkle in surprises. Even on those work or project days, you can delight your kids with their favorite dessert, a new Spotify playlist, a quick manicure, or a break to play catch in the backyard.

Want more fun activities for the perfect staycation or family getaway? Here are a few of our faves!

exploring columbus, ohio

exploring saugatuck, michigan

exploring grand rapids, michigan

printable travel games (for those of you hitting the road!)

 

try our diy fluffy slime recipe

mix up our 3-ingredient cloud dough

make these fun rainbow bubble snakes

make an easy dreamcatcher

make pom-pom flower bouquets

dye a pair of canvas shoes for spring

try these fun rainbow science experiments

 

Still bored? Here are 22 of our favorite spring break boredom busters! What do you like to do during a staycation?

Mary Carver is a writer, speaker, and recovering perfectionist. She lives for good books, spicy queso, and television marathons, but she lives because of God’s grace. Mary writes with humor and honesty about giving up on perfect and finding truth in unexpected places on her blog,MaryCarver.com. She is the author of Fast Talk & Faith: A 22-Day Devotional Inspired by Gilmore Girls and co-author of Choose Joy: Finding Hope & Purpose When Life Hurts.She is also a regular contributor toincourage.me and MothersofDaughters.com. Mary and her husband live in Kansas City with their two daughters.

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How to Find the Best Valentine’s Gifts for Your Kids

Monday, February 11th, 2019

From our marriage & parenting contributor, Mary Carver.

Do you give your kids gifts for Valentine’s Day? I know for some families, it is a gift-giving occasion; others not so much.

As I’m writing this, somewhere between Christmas and the month of love, I’m surprised to find myself leaning toward the no-gifts-necessary camp. Since I adore giving (and, obviously, getting) presents, especially to my kids, I’m blaming my feelings on the fact that in my house, our family of four has three birthdays in the few weeks surrounding Christmas.

I’m saying it’s a lot of gifting.

And that maybe my four-year-old asked me just this morning, “But on my real birthday [as opposed to the day of her birthday party a week before], you’re going to give me presents, right? I’ll get presents?”

Sigh.

Yes, of course she will. Because tired or not, I love giving presents. You might even say — and you would be right if you did — gifts are my love language. (Words of affirmation are also my love language, so feel free to include a long, detailed note in the card with my present.)

If you aren’t familiar with love languages, it’s a tool created by Gary Chapman and explained in his book, The Five Love Languages.

Chapman proposes that most of us express and receive love best in one of five ways: gifts, words of affirmation, acts of service, touch, and quality time. (To learn more about this or to take a quiz to figure out your love language, click here.)

Since Valentine’s Day is a holiday all about love, it does make sense to make plans with love languages in mind. And, whether you are a virtual Cupid who adores everything red and pink or a cynic who rolls her eyes at “that holiday the card companies made up,” considering love languages when making your Valentine’s Day plans is smart. Because either way, you want your efforts to be worth it!

Right? You want your people to feel loved and for your time and resources to be well spent communicating how much you value them.

How to Find the Best Valentine’s Gifts for Your Kids

If you know your kids’ love language, I’ve got some great, last-minute ideas for you.

Gifts

This category might seem like the easiest one, but you shouldn’t just grab the fluffiest teddy bear at the gas station on your way home!

Instead, try to remember something they’ve mentioned wanting since Christmas — perhaps something that made you roll your eyes because you don’t need that and we just had Christmas and wait until your birthday! While I definitely use Christmas and Easter as holidays to give some practical gifts, I think it’s fun to give unnecessary, frivolous, fun stuff for Valentine’s Day.

One of my daughters has picked up the habit lately of saying, “My friend has [________]. I love it and I want it!” I’ve tried reminding her that she can admire something without immediately coveting it.

But she’s five, so it’s a hard lesson to learn.

(I’m kidding. This is hard for all of us, isn’t it?!)

Still, if your kids mention things like that, it might be fun to surprise them with their own for Valentine’s Day.

Words of Affirmation

If you have a child who insists on saying, “No, I love you more!” you might have a words kid. Now, I have no scientific data to back this up, but I suspect many words people are like me and, as much as they crave the affirmation, they certainly do not want them said to their face!

Because, hello, awkward!

Instead, write your kids a love letter! If they’re younger — still in the coloring pictures stage of life — draw or color a picture to go with your words. If they’re older, send an email or text. Or make a video of yourself telling them how much and all the reasons why you love them so much.

Whatever medium you use, make it something they can absorb slowly, alone if possible, and keep to re-read or re-watch over and over again.

Acts of Service

My kids love when I help them clean their rooms. But I think they’re a little unusual in that (I remember not wanting my parents to clean my room for fear my favorite books, toys, or — let’s be honest — junk would disappear!). However, since we’ve been working on sharing household work as a family (aka, I’ve been making them do chores), I know their rooms aren’t the only things I could clean as a way to show my love.

I’m pretty sure checking any of their chores off the list around Valentine’s Day would earn me major mom points.

So, depending on which chores your kids detest most or which tasks stress them out, taking something off their plate for the day or the week might be a huge gift to them.

You could also fix their favorite meal, drive them to school if they normally walk, or finally get around to replacing batteries in their toys or hanging frames in their rooms (or whatever to-do has been stuck on your list for months)!

Touch

Just give them a hug and kiss, and call it good, right?

Well, maybe not.

For kids who crave physical touch, that’s a great place to start. But what about going a little farther for this occasion? What about…

  • Taking an exercise or dance class together
  • Trying yoga with a video from the library or on YouTube
  • Playing a round of one-on-one basketball on the driveway (or at the gym if it’s too cold)
  • Brushing her hair, massaging his shoulders, or holding a thumb wrestling tournament

Lots of physical activities result in friendly, affectionate touches. So break a sweat or get out of your comfort zone, and show your kiddos just how much affection you have for them. (Or turn on Netflix and snuggle on the couch under your warmest blanket — what one of my girls wants every day, not just on Valentine’s Day!)

Quality Time

Most of these ideas involve spending more and different kinds of time with your children.

But perhaps you want to really go all out and plan a date with your kiddo who needs quality time to feel loved.

You could send an official invitation (via letter in his lunchbox or a Post-It on her mirror) to get started. Then dress up, pick them up at the door, and eat at their favorite restaurant.

If you wanted to do more, you could use your time together to make a bucket list of activities to do together.

Or you could take a list of “get to know you” questions and ask (and answer!) a few of those together.

Or play a board game, look through old photos, or challenge them to a round of that video game they’re always talking about.

Whatever it is you do this Valentine’s Day, have fun! No matter what language you speak or what plans you make, they’ll feel cherished and appreciated by the effort you take and the memories you make together.

Looking for more great parenting ideas? Here are a few of our favorite articles!

teaching your kids the importance of failure

how to handle lying

how to find and write pen pals

diy tween self-confidence kits

How do you plan to celebrate Valentine’s Day with your kids?

Mary Carver is a writer, speaker, and recovering perfectionist. She lives for good books, spicy queso, and television marathons, but she lives because of God’s grace. Mary writes with humor and honesty about giving up on perfect and finding truth in unexpected places on her blog, MaryCarver.com. She is the author of Fast Talk & Faith: A 22-Day Devotional Inspired by Gilmore Girls and co-author of Choose Joy: Finding Hope & Purpose When Life Hurts.She is also a regular contributor to incourage.me and MothersofDaughters.com. Mary and her husband live in Kansas City with their two daughters.

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The Best Gifts My Kids Ever Received

Monday, December 3rd, 2018

From our marriage & parenting contributor, Mary Carver.

What kind of shopper are you? Are you the type who buys everything in a frantic flurry on Black Friday? (I suppose I shouldn’t make assumptions; I hereby recognize you may attack the post-holiday sales with military precision and a budget Dave Ramsey would admire.) Or do you collect presents for your loved ones all year long, stashing them away after entering them into your top-secret gift spreadsheet?

I fall somewhere in between those types, attempting to buy presents ahead of time but occasionally forgetting what I’ve bought, who it’s for, or where I hid it.

And don’t even get me started on all the great intentions I’ve had for saving up for the holidays — or the ways I’ve abandoned those plans with, well, abandon.

Current state? I have small piles of packages in a few places around my house, one in plain sight yet strangely overlooked by my nosy kids, and a spreadsheet about said gifts that was updated sometime before school started. And hopes for a year-end paycheck that comes in time to hit the best sales (on the internet because this mama doesn’t do Black Friday or mall madness).

But as I started to feel stressed while making a list of all the stores I need to visit and purchases I have yet to make, I remembered how I felt on my oldest daughter’s birthday this fall.

As I’ve shared before my daughter is an enormous fan of all things Harry Potter. It was a given that her 11th birthday party would have a Hogwarts theme, and thanks to my tendency to lose my Pinterest-loving mind when it comes to planning parties, going all out for this celebration was also a given.

From the invitations and the decorations to the games and the food, we went crazy.

In a good way.

Planning the party was a blast, and my Griffyndor-wannabe (I get it, I do. But Pottermore sorted her into the house of Hufflepuff, and I do not question Pottermore.) was thrilled.

However, the best part of the whole weekend wasn’t a display of floating candles in the dining room or chocolate treats turned into golden snitches.

It wasn’t even the set of paperbacks I’d found on sale weeks before (though that did earn a whole lot of hugs and thanks).

The best part of my daughter’s birthday weekend happened when one of my best friends drove three hours to help us set up the party, bringing her own Hogwarts robe and magic wand and spending hours talking with her about details of the characters and plotlines I can’t keep straight.

The weekend got even better when another one of my best friends and her husband showed up for the party in full costume, down to preppy vests and scary tattoos.

My girl didn’t stop smiling that day and has yet to stop talking about how amazing it was that, not only did her friends come to celebrate her birthday, but so did mine.

The fact that adults who are not related to her (or obligated to spend time with her) showed up in such a big way was an incredible gift.

When I think about the best gifts my kids have received, experiences and quality time come out miles ahead of any toys, books, or clothes they’ve been given. Trips to the art museum with my brother, pumpkin carving and bread baking and apple picking with my parents, notes in the mail from a Sunday school teacher who shows up every single weekend, questions and conversations from my friend who always takes time to sit down, make eye contact, and really connect with my kids on their level — all of these blow coloring books and stuffed animals and iTunes gift cards out of the water when it comes to gifts that matter.

I do realize, by the way, that this illustrates my family’s privilege.

Our basic needs are met this year, so wishlists and shopping lists can be about presents just for fun, but we’ve had other years when we’ve been exceedingly grateful for winter coats or backpacks for school that the grandparents have purchased. If you’re in a season where the gifts your kids need are sturdy jeans, a new toothbrush, or help paying for dance class or soccer cleats, I get it.

However, if you are looking for fun gift ideas this holiday season, tangible ways to show your kids they’re loved, or answers to aunts or friends or grandpas who ask, “What should I get them?” — my number one suggestion is time.

Here are a few ways you can give (or recommend other loved ones give) your kids the best gift ever:

  • Sign up for a lesson or class together. Learn to cook a new dish, improve your golf swing, or make a birdhouse for the backyard.
  • Buy gift cards to a restaurant or coffee shop, with the plan and promise to use them together.
  • Put together a craft kit to pass on a skill or art you’ve mastered. This could be cross-stitching, calligraphy or hand lettering, or making the perfect pancake.
  • Create a doable bucket list for the next year (or month). Maybe even create it together!
  • Buy passes to a sporting event, concert, play, book signing, or other event they’d like to attend — and go with them.
  • Buy tickets to local attractions, such as the zoo, museums, or parks — and go with them.
  • Create a coupon book of low-budget ways you can spend time together — and follow through whenever they want to redeem a coupon.
  • Make a list of conversation starters and put them in a container. Use them regularly to get to know your kiddo better.

All kids want to know they’re valued, that at least for a few hours they’re more important than work or schedules or chores or even their siblings. And the gift of time — a shared experience, a regular “date” or plan to get together — lasts so much longer than toys that fall out of favor and use within months (or sometimes even before they go back to school in January!). I still have some shopping to do, but this year I’m making sure I plan for gifts that focus on quality time, shared experiences, and ways to grow closer to my kids.

Looking for more advice for the holiday season? Check out these posts!

the real santa story

choose your own adventure christmas gift

christmas tree cinnamon rolls tradition

celebrating st nicholas day

free printable advent calendar (for big kids!!)

 

What’s the best gift your kids ever received?

Mary Carver is a writer, church planter, wife, mom and recovering perfectionist. She writes about her imperfect life with humor and honesty, encouraging women to give up on perfect and get on with life at www.givinguponperfect.com.She also contributes to incourage.me and MothersofDaughters.com, and she’d love to connect with you on FacebookTwitterPinterest and Instagram.

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6 More Ways to Date Your Husband in the Fall

Monday, November 12th, 2018

From our marriage & parenting contributor, Mary Carver.

I met my husband in the fall. We went on our first date later that same fall. And, years later, our first daughter was born in the fall. So when the weather begins to cool down and pumpkin spice everything shows up basically everywhere, I find myself feeling a little more lovey-dovey than usual.

Not that I don’t love him in the spring. Not that we don’t try to plan date nights in the winter. But there’s just something special about the fall!

Unless we’re incredibly intentional about it, though, our autumn date nights look exactly the same as every other date night in any other season. Because unless we are careful to be creative and plan ahead, my husband and I will always default to dinner at a Mexican restaurant chain and a movie.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that! We love tacos! And movies about superheroes or spies!

We do.

And sometimes “the usual” is exactly what we need to give us space to connect and remember how much fun we can have together when we set aside the day-to-day for a while.

But other times?

We need to get out of a rut, and we need to try something different. So while we’re still in the midst of this romantic season, here are a few date night ideas I’ve come up with.

Perhaps you’ll find a new way to date your husband this fall, too!

6 More Ways to Date Your Husband in the Fall

 

Go back to school

Don’t worry, I’m not talking about pop quizzes or English papers! No, I’m suggesting you take a class with your husband. It’s always fun to learn something new or brush up on rusty skills — and doing it together will give you something fresh to talk about and a brand-new bond as you find hidden skills or even fail miserably together! Often, you can find classes open to the community through your local college or community college. Or just search online for classes. Depending on your interests (and level of adventure!), you could take a class in cooking, self defense, dance, woodworking, wine tasting, or even massage.

Think outside the box

Don’t tell my husband, but one thing I’m giving him for Christmas is a list of adventurous, totally new-to-us date ideas for next year. I’m hoping to get gift cards or make reservations to go along with the list, so we’ll actually have to stick to outside-the-box dates! I’m planning a taking a barbecue tour around our city, finally trying our skills in an escape room, going rock climbing, visiting a shooting range, and putting a lock on a “lovers’ bridge” in a nearby town. What new, exciting, just plain different activities does your town offer?

 

Try new restaurants

I’ve mentioned our tendency to eat at the same chain restaurant every time we go out. We know what to expect; we know the wait won’t be long. But we also know we won’t be surprised. So I’ve done a little research and looked up lists of the best local restaurants in our community. Some are new, some are just new to us. Some offer the type of food we always eat; some will stretch our palates a bit!

 

I actually made the list a couple years ago and we’re very slowly trying a new place every few months. And the last time we did? We had so much to talk about! Did we like it? What was our favorite part? What was different than we expected? Do we want to go back? I can’t wait to try another new restaurant this fall.

Ditch the kids

I know, I know, you love your kids. They’re wonderful! Your heart, walking around in the world. I know! Mine, too. However, sometimes it’s fun to do kid stuff…without the kids. Every time my husband and I take our girls to a fall festival, parade, pumpkin patch, or corn maze, I find myself thinking how lovely it would be if we could come back the next day, just the two of us. So this fall, I’m going to plan ahead and make sure we have a family day AND a date day at the fun farm.

Change up the time of your date

Dating your husband doesn’t have to happen in the evening. And since fall seems to be one of the busiest seasons our families have, a night-time date might not even be possible. Why not meet for pumpkin donuts and coffee one morning? Or sneak outside for hot chocolate under the stars once the kids are in bed? You could also go to lunch at a food truck park, a chili contest, or your favorite picnic bench. The point is that you don’t have to wait for a free Friday night. Fit in date nights whenever you can, even if it’s at 8:00 in the morning!

Get physical

Hey now, not like that! I’m talking about doing something active together, like taking a hike, going for a bike ride, or participating in a fundraising walk. Take advantage of the gorgeous fall weather, and train for a 5K together (or just take your time walking through a flea market or art show). And who knows…this fall date might shake things up in more way than one!

 

Need more ideas? Don’t miss 5 Ways to Date Your Husband This Fall! What’s your favorite fall date night plan?

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7 Habits to Help Your Kids Have a Great Morning

Tuesday, October 2nd, 2018

 

 

From our marriage & parenting contributor, Mary Carver.

How’s your fall going so far? It’s felt a little chaotic at my house. For weeks now, I’ve been saying, “We’re still getting into our school year routine.” But guys? We’ve been back to school for a while. If I can’t get my people into a routine soon, I’m going to have to change my excuse to, “Well, the holidays are just messing us up.” And then it’s winter break and the new year and the flu and spring break and end of school and summer.

Because the truth is, we’re constantly entering or leaving one busy season or another. During this stage, with two busy kids and two busy adults, we just don’t have a long stretch of “normal” to look forward to. There’s no sense in waiting to get back to normal before getting organized, finding routines, or learning how to live — because I’ll be waiting forever.

The number one thing I’ve found that makes a difference in how my kids — and I — deal with busy seasons? Sleep. Our quantity and quality of sleep makes an enormous difference in everything — in our health, our attitudes, our discipline in the other things that make life easier or otherwise better. Sleep kind of makes our world go ‘round.

And sleep is a funny thing. Everyone needs it, but everyone needs a different amount. And everyone seems to need different conditions to get good sleep. So it’s a universal need but also a personal one. Therefore, rather than tell you one, laser-focused solution that works for my family, today I’m sharing several things that seem to make a difference for at least one person in my house. Hopefully something I share will work for someone in your family, and together we can stop needing excuses for being so out of sorts as we move from season to season.

7 Habits to Help Your Kids Have a Great Morning

Know the facts

When we get busy with evening activities and homework and movie nights and one more story at bedtime, we can easily cut our kids’ nights short without realizing it. That’s why it’s good to know — and then keep in mind — how much sleep is recommended for each child, based on their age. This article from the American Academy of Pediatrics lists the recommended sleep times for each age range from four months to 18 years. 

This chart was helpful for my family as it showed me that it’s not weird for my 11-year-old to need more sleep than my 4-year-old. Last year I let my older daughter stay up later than her little sister, because I assumed she could handle it. But over the past few months I’ve realized that just isn’t true. They need different amounts of sleep, and what I assumed was wrong. Now they go to bed at the same time, which feels weird — but the AAP says is acceptable and not that weird after all.

Bathe at unusual times

Sometimes it feels like I have to choose between hygiene and sleep — for my kids and for myself! But what I’ve finally realized (it only took me how long?!) is that we don’t have to bathe (or shower) at the “usual” times. I can shower before bed instead of in the morning if I have to. My kids can bathe right after school instead of getting to bedtime and realizing we’ve run out of time and skipping it…again. It seems like a little thing, but it’s made a big difference for us. (And this tip goes for any bedtime or morning task. You can have story time right after dinner, and you can make lunches at night instead of after breakfast.)

Brain dump before bed

While I don’t often struggle with insomnia, I’ve certainly spent many nights staring at the ceiling as my worries or ideas or to-do list run through my brain on a loop. I’ve learned it’s better to just turn on my lamp, grab a notebook, and write it all down. That way, my brain can rest, knowing that I’ve captured all the things and I can tackle them the next day.

Sometimes my kids need that, too. I try to make sure I don’t shut them down if they bring up a tough subject or start telling a long story at bedtime, but when possible, I will ask if it’s something we can talk about the next day. And then, to make sure they know I’m serious, I’ll let them see me make an actual note so we don’t forget to come back to that topic or story.



Set alarms!

I use the alarms on my phone to keep me on track all day long, all week long. This is especially important for making sure we all get the sleep we need without being late for school or work. I set alarms for —

    • When we need to go upstairs to start the bedtime routine
    • When my oldest daughter needs to bring her book out to the hallway (so she doesn’t stay up super late reading…like her mama!)
    • When I need to turn off the TV and start my own bedtime routine
    • When I need to get up, at the very least a few minutes before the kids
    • When I need to wake up the kids (I need to get back to setting my 11-year-old’s alarm in her room; that helped her morning attitude a lot when we did it before.)
    • When we need to go downstairs to start packing lunches and eating breakfast
    • When my oldest needs to go to the bus stop

Without those alarms, we would be lost!

Make expectations clear 

Nearly every argument my girls and I have in the morning is about whether or not they’ve completed their morning routines: making their beds, brushing teeth, brushing hair, putting on clean clothes. It doesn’t seem hard to me, but they struggle — so writing down the morning routine and sticking it on the bathroom wall has helped. I also included what times we do things, so they know if it’s close to 7:30 and they aren’t close to ready for breakfast, they’d better get a move on!

Have your own morning routine

What makes you feel awake? Do you need coffee before you can deal with people? Or perhaps it’s a tall glass of ice water or a few minutes of stretching that gets your blood moving. For me, it’s turning on all the lights, brushing my teeth, and putting on a bra. Without those things, I am a slug — and not a very nice one either. We all win when I make sure to complete my own morning routine!

Take a moment 

Look, nobody in my house likes mornings. So I’m not about to tell you to take hours of your morning to connect with your people. But! If you can take even a few seconds to look them in the face and wish them well (on a test, with a friend, in general) or perhaps play their favorite song in the car and share a smile in the rearview mirror as you do your best car dance, I guarantee it will make a world of difference. And if you have more than a few seconds? Five-minute family devotions, love notes in the lunchbox, or a blessing prayer in the carpool line will take little time and effort, but leave you feeling like you’ve got this morning thing mastered.

Those are just a few things that help us have better mornings. We aren’t perfect, and don’t do every thing every day. But when we do our best to check most these boxes? We are more rested and less frazzled, and mornings don’t seem so bad (even to my house full of night owls).

What helps your family have a great morning? Be sure to scroll down for more great parenting articles!

Mary Carver is a writer, speaker, and recovering perfectionist. She lives for good books, spicy queso, and television marathons, but she lives because of God’s grace. Mary writes with humor and honesty about giving up on perfect and finding truth in unexpected places on her blog,MaryCarver.com. She is the author of Fast Talk & Faith: A 22-Day Devotional Inspired by Gilmore Girls and co-author of Choose Joy: Finding Hope & Purpose When Life Hurts. She is also a regular contributor to incourage.me and MothersofDaughters.com. Mary and her husband live in Kansas City with their two daughters.

Like this article? You might find these other parenting articles helpful too!

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a new way to teach your child how to tie their shoes (my kids learned in 5 minutes flat!!)

teaching kids the importance of failure

homeschooling a child with special needs

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diy tween self-confidence kit

5 book series for kids who love harry potter

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Homeschooling a Child With Special Needs

Monday, August 27th, 2018

How to Homeschool Child with Special Needs from MomAdvice.com

From our guest contributor, Jackie Nunes, of Wondermoms.org

For parents, few things are more heartbreaking than seeing your child unhappy. While you know there will be times when they’ll struggle – especially if they have a disability – you want to minimize those hardships. There are a lot of challenging situations you can’t control, but schooling doesn’t have to be one of them.

If your child isn’t enjoying school or isn’t getting the support and attention they need, homeschooling could be a solution. It’s a weighty decision that requires a lot of planning and a big leap of faith. As you consider homeschooling your child, it’s important to make sure you have all the information you need and understand both the benefits and drawbacks. While every family’s experience is different, here are the pros and cons my family has encountered homeschooling a child with special needs.

child playing outside unsplash-logoHugues de BUYER-MIMEURE

The Benefits of Homeschooling

There are many advantages to homeschooling, but they all have one thing in common: flexibility. When your child has special needs, the routines, rituals, and educational strategies that work for most kids don’t always fit. Benefits include:

  • Ability to focus on your child’s strengths and interests. When teaching your child at home, you can tailor the learning experience to their needs. This means that you’re able to focus on your child’s strengths and interests when deciding how to approach their lessons. If your child is obsessed with dinosaurs or loves the color red, you can work that into your curriculum. You can follow their lead and do things that make them feel proud and accomplished.
  • Ability to focus on your child’s weaknesses. If there’s something that’s difficult for your child, you can take the time you need to patiently practice and reinforce it. You might need to try a dozen different approaches before you find one that works, but you set the pace.
  • The classroom becomes a relaxing environment. Homeschooling often helps reduce anxiety among children. Because your child is no longer expected to handle the stresses that often accompany traditional schooling, they can focus more on learning and having fun.
  • You can better monitor your child’s social encounters. When you homeschool your child, it takes a bit more effort to arrange group activities and get-togethers with other children. But you get to see how your child reacts and is treated in different situations and focus on social experiences that are positive and encouraging. Homeschooling greatly reduces the risk of bullying.
  • Homeschooling provides schedule flexibility. You can schedule your day around doctor or therapy appointments, if necessary. You can take as many breaks as your child needs during the day, which helps them feel better and learn better. If you wake up late or your child is having a bad morning, you can move your lessons to the afternoon.
  • Learning at home is less overwhelming. Many children with special needs also have sensory processing issues. Although you can’t entirely tune out things like lawnmowers, garbage trucks, and rainstorms, home is almost always a calmer and less chaotic environment than a public school. It has fewer sights, sounds, smells, and crowds that can overwhelm children with special needs. By homeschooling, you have much more control over your child’s learning environment and exposure to external stimuli.
  • Field trips are more fun and more relaxing. Your child isn’t pressured to keep up with the rest of his or her class, which means they can take all the time they need to read plaques in museums or look at the animals at the zoo. You can also integrate learning and field trips more due to the much lower number of students.
  • Homeschooled children learn constantly. Many families turn to homeschooling to keep their child’s love of learning alive and to kindle that flame that can be at risk of burning out when a child is unhappy in school. Homeschooling enables you to nurture your child’s sense of curiosity and wonder. Learning takes place all the time, not just during the school day. You can follow your child’s lead and let them explore whatever strikes their interest.

tired mom unsplash-logoVladislav Muslakov

Some Drawbacks of Homeschooling (and Solutions)

As with anything, there are downsides to pulling a child with special needs out of a traditional school. Here are a few things to consider before making your final decision.

  • Less structure. Many kids thrive on routines and no matter how hard you try, you won’t be able to replicate the daily rhythms and predictability of a traditional school. For some kids, it can be confusing to have the line between home and school be blurry. Consider setting aside part of your home and creating a dedicated space for homeschooling to create a clear separation between play time and school time. You can also create a daily schedule, post it in a prominent place, and stick to it as closely as possible.
    • Access to facilities for art, music, and sports. While homeschooling, you may miss out on a few things that a traditional schooling experience would offer your child, like a gymnasium, sports fields, music program, auditorium, and art room. Enrolling your child in after-school art or music enrichment classes and signing up for a Little League or Special Olympics sports team can help fill the gap.
  • Less social interaction. There is a risk of becoming socially isolated when you homeschool a child with special needs because outings generally take more effort and planning. But it’s important for children to interact with peers of the same age to develop friendships and social skills. It is also helpful for neurotypical kids to be around people with disabilities to develop awareness, compassion, and understanding of special needs. Be sure to network with other homeschoolers and make the effort to expose your child to others kids both with and without special needs.
  • Finding specialists and outside professionals. Most school districts employ professionals including speech therapists, guidance counselors, and special education experts. If your child needs therapies, support, or assessments, your child might still be entitled to them even though you homeschool. It could take some extra research and outreach to access these resources, but in many cases specialists will come to your home. Start with your local school district and your health insurance plan. If you run into difficulties and think you’re being denied services unfairly, contact a lawyer who specializes in disability law to find out what your rights are.
  • No school nurse. Since your child won’t have access to a nurse throughout the day like they would in a traditional school, it’s always a good idea for homeschooling parents to have a basic knowledge of first aid and CPR.
  • Exhaustion and burnout. Homeschooling is a huge undertaking. It can be exhausting to serve as teacher, parent, companion, and therapist 7 days a week, 365 days a year, It’s important to pace yourself and schedule kid-free time to maintain your sanity. Be sure to get a sitter from time to time and have date nights with your spouse or significant other. Maintain adult friendships. You will be more helpful to your child if you take care of your own needs.

DIY Homework Study Station diy homework station tutorial

Creating an At-Home Learning Space

When children are first getting used to being homeschooled, it’s important to set clear boundaries between time meant for school and time meant for play. In an effort to decrease confusion, many parents set up a classroom space meant only for schooling. When setting up this space, there are some things parents should keep in mind.

  • Choose your room carefully. It needs to be big enough to hold a desk for your child as well as one for yourself with space left to walk around. Spill-proof flooring is also a great idea for the classroom.
  • Get adventurous with your seating. If you have a child who’s particularly restless, try fun seats like bean bag chairs or yoga balls to keep them seated and focused on their schooling. For many kids, a sensory-rich environment is beneficial.
  • Set up lighting. Think about picking a room that has natural lighting, which is proven to be better for learning. In addition to natural light, make sure you have artificial lights as they will be necessary on rainy days or if homeschooling in the evenings.
  • Decorate your classroom. When decorating, it’s a good idea paint your walls a calming color. Add pops of color throughout the room to keep the environment fun and exciting. Hang posters, and chalk or dry erase boards on your classroom walls.
  • Think about making an outdoor learning area. Working in nature is a great incentive for your children to behave during class and allows them to discover new things about their environment.
  • Furnish your classroom. Make sure you keep it clean at all times, as cleanliness is important when it comes to productivity. Consider making a game for you and your child that involves cleaning your classroom at the end of the day.
  • Place a couple of bookcases in the room. Make sure anything that your child will need to have access to is on lower shelves.
  • Make storage space. To create the best experience for you and your child, be sure to establish routines and keep clutter at bay. Buy containers of many different sizes and shapes. Label them with pictures based on what you store in them.

To Sum It All Up

Though it does come with its fair share of bumps in the road, homeschooling is a path that many parents choose to go down. If you’ve properly prepared yourself, your home, and your child for homeschooling, you can not only help your child learn better, but you can strengthen your relationship with them. Studies have found that homeschooling can be a great benefit to both children with special needs and the parents who love them.

Jackie Nunes is a former pediatric nurse who is now a full-time homeschool educator and co-founder of Wondermoms.org. She and her husband have three children, all of whom are taught at home. Their middle child, an 11-year-old daughter, is hearing impaired, developmentally disabled, and uses a wheelchair.

 

Looking for more parenting advice? These articles might help too!

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HOW-TO-HANDLE-LYING how to handle lying

The Real Santa Story from MomAdvice.com the real santa story

5 Ways to Calm the Chaos This School Year 5 ways to calm the chaos this school year

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How Rewatching a Favorite Show Made Me a Better Wife and Mom

Wednesday, May 23rd, 2018

From our marriage & parenting contributor, Mary Carver.

We live in a time of peak television. It’s a real golden age of entertainment – or so the critics tell us. But what is an actual embarrassment of riches when it comes to endless viewing options often translates into overwhelm, decision fatigue, and DVR avoidance. Because while I truly think many new shows sound amazing, when it comes down to picking a show to watch, I skip past the premieres and head straight for the reruns.

Real life means that most nights, I’m too tired to take on a new show — and instead crave the familiarity and comfort of old ones. I think that’s okay. I’ve written in defense of “comfort food TV” before, and I stand by that argument. I must, because a couple months ago, I found myself rewatching “New Girl” from the beginning.

new girl watch tv all day

“New Girl” is a half-hour sitcom starring Zooey Deschanel, and I vaguely recall loving it when it first came on in 2011. Somewhere along the way, though, I got a little bored or it got a little stale, and I stopped looking forward to new episodes. I watched out of loyalty and a mild curiosity about how the story would end. I didn’t even care one way or another when the show was renewed for a final season.

But all that changed when I started back at season one.

I’m not sure why, out of all the sitcoms on Netflix, I picked this one to rewatch — but it only took a few minutes to remember how much I’d once loved it.

As I binged one episode after another, I laughed out loud, often so hard I had tears streaming down my face. I found myself falling back in love with characters that had started to annoy or bore me, and I smiled at their most ridiculous antics with bemusement and affection. I cheered for their victories and ached at their disappointments. I couldn’t get enough of those crazy kids and was suddenly anxious for that final season to begin.

Maybe you’re wondering how on earth this delightful yet inconsequential experience could have anything to do with my life as a wife or mom. I get that. It seems like a stretch. But it’s not really. Not to me.

See, as I thought about how much my appreciation for this show was renewed by watching old seasons, I remembered a conversation I had with a friend several years ago. I was struggling with my oldest, whose behavior and sassy attitude were making it incredibly difficult to like her. OF COURSE I LOVED HER. But I think most moms know the feeling of loving our kids (or, ahem, our husbands) while not particularly liking or enjoying them much.

new girl murder someone

My friend listened with kindness and understanding — and then suggested I start each day by looking at my daughter’s baby pictures. She wondered if looking at photos of my daughter at her sweetest, most innocent, and most adorable might help me dig up some affection for her, even on the most challenging parenting days. We discussed how that act might just give me a likable anchor to hold onto when backtalk and disobedience threatened my patience once again.

And you know what? It works.

No, looking at Facebook’s On This Day reminders doesn’t magically drown out my daughters’ tantrums or arguments, and flipping through scrapbooks doesn’t erase the memory of a call from her teacher or a messy room or a dinner declared, “disgusting.” But it does balance out the harder parts of parenting with the sweet ones. And it does fill up my heart and my mind with all the good things about my kids that get overlooked when we’re dealing with the hard stuff.

This strategy works for my marriage, too.

On days when I’m most frustrated or disappointed with my husband, taking a look at our wedding photos or a vacation album really does pull me back from the edge. It doesn’t move his shoes out of the middle of the floor or write a love note inside the belated anniversary card. It certainly doesn’t teach us to communicate better or force us to consider one another’s feelings more. But glancing at a moment of joy captured and framed (or scrapbooked) reminds me that this irritating man is the one I chose and the one I love — and that though everyday challenges feel like they’ll never end, we’ve been in sync and happy before (and will certainly get there again).

Rewatching a favorite show that I’ve lost interest in reminded me why I fell in love with the show and the characters all those years ago. It refreshed my affection for the characters, bringing back to mind all the times I’d been moved or inspired or simply entertained by them. I remembered how much the good times outweighed the bad ones, and my desire to spend more time with a new season grew with every relived memory.

new girl bathroom

Reminiscing about my favorite people, who just might drive me crazy at times, does the same thing. It takes me back to the early days of our relationship, when I basically looked like a heart-eyes emoji and only saw the good in him or her. It reminds me of all the amazing times we’ve had together. And it gives me a big picture perspective, interrupting my in-the-trenches belief that the [hard] way it is today is how it will always be. I’m reminded how happy we’ve been in the past and feel hopeful that we’ll feel that way again. I remember that I’m in this — parenting, marriage, even friendship — for the long haul, through the best seasons and the worst.

Mary Carver is a writer, speaker, and recovering perfectionist. She lives for good books, spicy queso, and television marathons, but she lives because of God’s grace. Mary writes with humor and honesty about giving up on perfect and finding truth in unexpected places on her blog, MaryCarver.com. She is the author of Fast Talk & Faith: A 22-Day Devotional Inspired by Gilmore Girls and co-author of Choose Joy: Finding Hope & Purpose When Life Hurts. She is also a regular contributor to incourage.me and MothersofDaughters.com. Mary and her husband live in Kansas City with their two daughters.

Bringing Back the Art of Storytelling: Circle Round

Tuesday, May 1st, 2018

Circle Round Storytelling Podcast from MomAdvice.com

This blog was sponsored by WBUR’s Circle Round.  Thank you for supporting the companies that support our site!

It’s been no secret that I have a mad love affair with my record player. Although I have many beautiful and distinct memories of listening to music on it, my plastic record player was my original love.

record player

record player

The reason it held my heart was simple…it read me stories.

I had piles of books, complete with matching records, that I would flip through and listen to over and over again. The magical chime to turn the page conjures up so many memories of sprawling on my shag carpet and closing my eyes to imagine those stories coming to life. Even before I was able to master reading, I knew a good story when I heard one.

As you know, MomAdvice is ALL about books and storytelling. This is why it brings me immense pleasure to share with you about a new storytelling podcast that your kids will flip for.

In fact, I listened to a few when I heard about it because of the captivating storytellers that they secured to read these beautiful stories.

Have I intrigued you yet?

3 Wishes source: Circle Round

Circle Round is a storytelling podcast for kids ages 4-10, and comes from the WBUR producing team behind the popular podcasts Modern Love, Dear Sugars, and Kind World. 

These episodes are narrated by Rebecca Sheir and the original music is composed and performed by Eric Shimelonis (he introduces a different instrument for each episode!). This dynamic duo also happen to be a husband and wife creative team and the two partnered together to share their storytelling gifts with the world.

I know, as a parent on-the-go, it can be difficult to squeeze in a story hour, but these stories have been tailored to a length that works for a busy family’s lifestyle. Each episode is around 10-20 minutes in length, with a strong focus on offering global perspective by using voices that represent cultures from all over the world.

It’s such a fun way to share a different part of the world with them.

Even as an adult, I am thankful for books and their ability to transport and expose me to different parts of the world or cultures that I didn’t know about!

I also love that these podcasts focus on topics like kindness, persistence, and generosity.

In today’s world, I can’t imagine better themes for our kids.

lion source: Circle Round

The reason I was so intrigued to hear these stories for myself though are because of the amazing talent that they were able to secure for their shows. Circle Round stars some of today’s most exciting theater, film, and TV actors (e.g., Jason Alexander from Seinfeld, Kathryn Hahn from Transparent and Bad Moms!).  These familiar voices make these stories even more fun and a joy to listen to as a parent.

Seriously, share this fun storytelling podcast with your kids and be sure to subscribe to get the updates. Circle Round already happens to be wrapping up its first season, offering thirty stories for you to share with your kids, so there is PLENTY to listen to!

Circle Round Storytelling Podcast from MomAdvice.com

Subscribe to Circle Round via iTunes, Stitcher, or your favorite podcast app and download episodes!

This blog was sponsored by WBUR’s Circle Round.  Thank you for supporting the companies that support our site!

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5 Book Series for Kids Who Love Harry Potter

Monday, March 26th, 2018

Book Series for Kids Who Love Harry Potter

From our marriage & parenting contributor, Mary Carver.

My daughter loves to read. I mean, the girl LOVES reading.

I mean she refuses to leave the house without a book. I’m talking about a kid who stays up way past her bedtime reading, every night, unless I remove all books from her room. I’m saying she burns through books like…I don’t know, but something that doesn’t last a long time. Even all the resources of both her school library and our city library cannot keep this kid in books.

Please know I don’t say this as a criticism. I’m not mocking her. Oh no. Because my book-obsessed child is basically a mini-me in this regard. The bookworm does not fall far from the bookworm tree.

She’s also a teensy bit obsessed with Harry Potter. She was Hermione for Halloween. She began planning her Hogwarts-letter 11th birthday party the day after she turned 10. She has a Harry Potter-themed shirt for every day of the week. And last week? I registered her for a Harry Potter day camp coming up this summer. She’s a big fan.

But my daughter is also sensitive. And innocent. And, much to her great dismay (and the fantastic combination of tween attitude and gnashing of teeth), she was not ready to read the fifth Harry Potter book after devouring the first four.

Despite her protests that she was the only kid in the fourth grade who hadn’t read all the Harry Potter books, I know I’m not alone in navigating the challenge of a tween who loves books and can read at a higher grade level than she’s in – or ready for. So just in case you have a kid who loves Harry Potter (but has already read them all or isn’t ready for the next book in the series) in your life, I’ve got a few other series that might keep your bookworm busy.

Book Series for Kids Who Love Harry Potter

5 Book Series for Kids Who Love Harry Potter

The Land of Stories by Chris Colfer – Twins are transported to a fairytale land through a mysterious book. The stories are more Grimm than Disney, but still suitable for my fourth-grader who is reading the fifth book in this series (and loves giving me a play-by-play WHILE SHE READS. It’s fine. It’s great. It’s FINE.).

Reportedly, a movie based on this series is in development. But since no cast, release date, or other news has been announced yet, you and your kids still have plenty of time to read the books first.

Percy Jackson and the Olympians by Rick Riordan – It may be sacrilegious to Harry Potter fans, but this is my favorite middle grade series of all time. So when my daughter finally showed interest in this book about a boy who learns his father is Poseidon, an actual Greek god, I was super excited! And nervous. Would she love them as much as I do?

Well, I won’t keep you hanging – she did. Because it’s the best series ever, said the totally unbiased and definitely cool mom. It really is a great series, though, with funny, complex characters who go on incredible adventures. And readers learn a whole lot about Greek mythology along the way.

Sisters Grimm by Michael Buckley – This nine-book series about two sisters whose parents have disappeared and who learn that fairy tales are true begins light and gradually grows darker. Like with Harry Potter, parents may want to set the pace for their kids’ progress through these books. But also like Harry Potter and the other series I’m recommending, parents may enjoy them just as much as their kids! So reading them together may be a great option, as the messages of girl power and the strong bond between sisters enhance the clever nature of these fractured fairy tales.

Story Thieves by James Riley – Life was pretty boring for Owen until he discovered his classmate Bethany could jump inside books and interact with the characters. The two students go on adventures in different types of books over what is so far a five-book series, and while reviews call these books more simplistic and clichéd, my daughter loves them. I legitimately just requested the fourth book in the series for her from the library.

 My 10-year-old still enjoys these books but they are geared toward a younger audience than these other series (which makes them a great alternative for kids who aren’t quite ready to advance to the next Harry Potter book!).

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle – It may be experiencing a resurgence in popularity because of Disney’s recent movie release, but this series has been captivating and inspiring kids for decades. I wasn’t sure how my daughter would respond to this book, with its old-fashioned roots and sometimes complicated syntax and vocabulary. I shouldn’t have underestimated either my daughter or this series. She was hooked from the beginning, as I read to her, “It was a dark and stormy night.”

Significantly different than the 2018 movie, this book captures readers and encourages them as well. I’m thrilled that my daughter wasn’t content to wait for me to read another chapter each night and has finished the first book on her own and begun the second.

I looked up each of these books on CommonSenseMedia.org, and they are all suggested for readers ages 9 and above (except for Story Thieves, which is appropriate for kids 8 and up). This site also has a great guide for both the Harry Potter books and movies, if you’re unsure about what age is best for each of the installments in this series. You can watch a quick video here and read a more detailed guide here.

It can be hard to hold our kids back from books that may be too intense for them, but it’s worth it. Reading the books when they can truly comprehend the storylines and handle difficult situations emotionally will protect their love of these books so they can enjoy them for years to come.

And if taking a break from one series leads to interest in reading another, well, that’s just an added bonus as our kids grow into great readers who love all sorts of stories.

reading harry potter

Harry Potter Illustrated

Isn’t Mary so great?

As I was titling these images, I ran across these photos of our Harry Potter fans.  They look so little, don’t they?

The days are long, but the years are short.

I can’t believe how quickly time has been passing.

Savor these reading moments with your kids because they, truly, are gone in a blink of an eye.

What to Read After Harry Potter Book Series from MomAdvice.com

If you want to explore a couple more authors and where to go next, check out these two posts from Mary:

What to Read After You’ve Finished the Latest Kasie West Novel

What to Read After You’ve Finished the Latest John Green Book

Do you have any recommendations for a great kid series after Harry Potter? Feel free to drop your suggestions in this comments below!

Mary Carver is a writer, speaker, and recovering perfectionist. She lives for good books, spicy queso, and television marathons, but she lives because of God’s grace. Mary writes with humor and honesty about giving up on perfect and finding truth in unexpected places on her blog, MaryCarver.com. She is the author of Fast Talk & Faith: A 22-Day Devotional Inspired by Gilmore Girls and co-author of Choose Joy: Finding Hope & Purpose When Life Hurts. She is also a regular contributor to incourage.me and MothersofDaughters.com. Mary and her husband live in Kansas City with their two daughters.