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Category: ideas-for-moms

{Back to School Shopping – With Printable}

It’s almost time for the kids to head back to school. My kids have grown quite a bit and need to do some serious clothes shopping this year.  I always try to fit lessons into the activities that we do and back to school shopping is a great opportunity for that.  As soon as the kids were old enough to understand addition, I started involving them in making decisions about how to spend their school budget.


This printable is the one that we use for clothing shopping.  I think its great to get the kids thinking about budgets and their spending.  Plus, it makes it much easier to explain why you can’t buy ten Abercrombie shirts when they can look at the numbers themselves.

Here’s what we do:

1.  We sit down together and come up with how many of each item of clothing they will need and fill in the first column.

2. Then, kids need to go through all their clothing and try things on and write in the numbers for the “have” column.

3.  Now that they are old enough, I have them do the math to fill in the “buy” column with the number they need to buy.

4. Then, we sit down together and I help them divide up their budget for an approximate amount that they will have to spend on each of the item categories.

5. After that, we head to the mall.  They use a pencil to fill in the amount they spend on each item (They round to the nearest dollar, and I don’t make them figure in tax) and check off each category when they have gotten what they need.

6. The “extra” column is filled in if they buy all the items they need in that category for less than the total budgeted.  They can then apply the “extra” money to other categories if they need more.  Dear Daughter is planning to spend her extra at Abercrombie.  Dear Son is asking if he can use his extra to buy Legos. I think I’m going to have to say no or he will end up with one pair of jeans, one t-shirt, and a room full of Legos, lol.

7.  I also have them total up how much they spend to make sure they stayed within their budget.

I know it sounds a bit complicated, but it really has taught the kids a lot about budgeting and spending.  And it has been GREAT for helping to explain why they can’t buy all designer brands.  They are also learning the if they spend a little less in one category, they can spend a little more on some brand name that they “have” to have.

This method has worked great for us over the years.  If you’d like to use our printable, you can find it here.  If you have other methods, please leave us a comment, we’d love to hear from you!

 
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{The Chore Cup}

{The Chore Cup}

I am trying a new idea at my house. I get tired of my elementary aged kids fighting over chores. I hear a lot of : “It’s not fair! I vacuumed/dusted/took out the trash/insert-chore-name-here last time.”   In an effort to curb the fighting, I am trying a Chore Cup. I don’t remember where I heard about the idea, but I figured it would be a great time to try it as we are adjusting to the new back-to-school routine.

What you do is put the chores on popsicle sticks and put them into a cup. At chore time, each child pulls out a stick and does the chore on the stick. I am trying a color coding system since my son hates some chores that daughter likes and vice versa. So some chore sticks will have a green dot for my sons chores, some a pink dot for daughter, and some will include both dots for either. I suppose the colored dots could also be used to label them for age (like pre-school chores on the orange dotted sticks, middle schoolers on the red dotted sticks.)

In order to make it fun, I also am including some other things that aren’t chores like play your favorite video game for 10 minutes, run a lap around the yard, draw a picture, etc…
I’ll keep you updated with how it works out for us.  If you try it, let me know how it works in your house.

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To Clean or Not to Clean?

That has been the question. Here at Smart and Trendy Moms, we are trying to figure out just how much to help our kids with cleaning their rooms. We’d love to hear what you require of your kids when it comes to cleaning up.

When you have kids, it goes without saying that you have tons of toys, sports equipment, and basically junk that needs to be organized and cleaned. We have been asking around and have discovered that things range from moms who don’t have the kids clean anything to kids who are totally responsible for their own rooms and everywhere in between.

I’m all for making kids responsible for cleaning their own rooms (admittedly, sometimes without much success), having them put away their own laundry, and help with a few other simple chores.  However, I usually end up in a cycle of:   I say “clean your room” and threaten loss of privileges when they aren’t doing it; they grumpily clean up; and then within a few days, the room’s a mess and the cycle starts again. Not fun!  A couple weeks ago when a friend asked me what I was doing and my reply was “getting the kids to clean their rooms.”  She said, “you’re always doing that” and its true.  Things have got to change.  I’m just not sure how to do it.

I’ve got friends who spend more time cleaning up for their than I do, but less time arguing about it.  I’m looking for a middle ground so that I’m not having a weekly argument about cleaning with grumpy kids, but I’m not just running around cleaning up after them either.

Please leave us a comment to tell us your opinions on how much kids should be responsible for doing and how you get them to do it. We’d love to hear your ideas.

 
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{"Mom's Sanity Saver Car Box"}

{"Mom’s Sanity Saver Car Box"}

I’ve never been the best at planning.  It never bothered me much until I had kids.  When my daughter was little, I started out carrying a diaper bag; but as she got older, I started thinking, “We’re only taking a quick trip to the store; I won’t need the diaper bag.”  So as you can imagine, it wasn’t long before I found myself out with a wet, hungry toddler with no diapers, no snacks and a 20 minute drive home – total meltdown!

So after that happened (yep, I only let that happen once!) my solution was to put together a “car box” filled with all the things needed to make sure that everyone is dry and happy for a peaceful car ride.  In my box, I included: diapers, a container of wipes (great for diaper changes or sticky hands), snacks, a couple of juice boxes, a bottle of water or two, and a few small toys and books (ones that the kids weren’t used to or had never seen).  I used to keep the box on the floor of the backseat so it was there whenever I needed it.

Dry diapers, full tummies, and entertainment in the car makes for a happy mom!

*    *    *

I never let the kids into the “car box” on their own, but I did have a bin that they could reach their own full of toys and books to keep the kids busy.  For me, with two kids, it worked perfectly having a box that fit perfectly in between the two carseats. I stood some books upright at the back and then kept an assortment of “car toys” in it so that the kids always had some things to keep them happy in the car.  And I rotated some of the less played with toys frequently so they would regularly have something new to look at.   And with having the toys in a box, it made it really easy to put the lid on and stash it in the back when someone needed to sit in the middle seat.

Happy car trips!

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{Tips for a Happy Holiday}

On the Holidays, do stress and worry go hand in hand with food and family for you? Yeah, for us too. Here are some ideas I’ve come across that might help:

Keep It Real – To help reduce stress, set realistic expectations (and then be willing to let even those go) or even set your expectations a little bit low to start with. Have you ever gone to see a movie that everyone was raving about and then thought, well that was alright, but not worth all the fuss. Sometimes I think that happens because you’ve heard amazing stuff about it and built it up in your mind so much that it couldn’t possibly live up to the hype. If you build up the most fantastic, amazing day in your mind, it can’t possibly live up. Keep in mind that things won’t be perfect; just relax and have fun.

You are Not Martha Stewart – accept this fact and move on.  That right there will get rid of a lot of stress and pressure.

Reconsider Tradition  – Don’t feel like you have to follow everyone else’s ideas for the Holiday.  Two kinds of gravy, three kinds of cranberries, and three different kinds of pie is enough to stress anyone out!  If you want to start a new tradition or be completely un-traditional, you might want to try it. You probably want to let everyone know in advance on this one especially if you have a conservative family. And hey, it might get you off the hook of ever having to host a family dinner ever again, lol

Be Prepared – Get ready whatever you can ahead of time – clean rooms a day or so in advance (and banish the kids from those rooms), fix desserts salads breads and sides ahead of time. The less you have to worry about, the more you can relax and spend time with your family and friends.

Be Willing to Ask for and/or Accept Help – Have friends and family bring a dish to share and/or games to play – This can make things easier when it isn’t all up to you to provide all the meal and all the entertainment. This makes it as easier on you, and most people really like to help and participate.

Just Roll With It – If turkey takes longer to cook than you thought, your brother arrives late, or the rolls burned, just roll with it – don’t let little things ruin your day, just go with it, keep a sense of humor, and make the best of things.

Keep in mind that the meal does not define you. Your family and friends will love you ( or hate you :-)   ) regardless of the meal. You do not have to plan, cook, serve, and clean up perfectly and without any help. Don’t try so hard to impress anyone, just enjoy yourself and keep in mind the things you are thankful for.

Happy Holidays! . . . and good luck  😉

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{Homework Help - Developing Independent Learners}

{Homework Help – Developing Independent Learners}

In the kindergarten and first grade years, there is a lot of parent help needed for homework.  As they get older, they need less and less help. Developing good study habits is important for kids for later in school when they won’t ask or when you can’t help them — I don’t know about you, but I don’t remember my high school geometry! lol

I have gotten a few bits of advice from teachers on helping kids with homework in a way that helps them become self-sufficient and independent.  Here’s what I learned:


  • Have a Homework Spot.  Make sure they have a quiet place to do their homework with all of the supplies they need (and maybe a snack).   This helps them keep focused on what they are doing and not stop and get distracted by trying to find a pencil or get something to eat. Even if they don’t have a desk to work at, you can set up a basket with the usual supplies that they need.
  • Do homework at the same time every day.  The idea on this one is that it is supposed to be a habit so you don’t even have to remind them and they get used to working on their own.  Sounds great . . . in theory. This bit of advice doesn’t work for us.  With everyone doing different sports and activities, we have a crazy schedule and can’t do homework at the same time all the time.
  • Only Offer As Much Help As They Need.  Only help if homework is supposed to have parent involvement or if they aren’t understanding it.  Some homework (when they are young) requires that you read together or that you read spelling lists for practice.  Other homework can be done on their own. Let them work on their own when they can.  The idea is that if you are helping them all of the time, they don’t develop the confidence in their ability to do it on their own.
  • Back Off Before They Get It.  If you are explaining how to do something, back off just before they get it.  Sometimes I find it hard to tell the right moment, but this one makes total sense and I never thought about it before.  If you are always right there when they suddenly understand something, they get the idea that they need you there to figure things out.  If you guide them in the right direction and then back off just before they understand it, then they get the accomplishment and the confidence of the “win” of understanding.
  • Do something else while they are working. This gets kids in the habit of asking for help when they need it, instead of expecting help to just show up.  That is an important habit because with so many kids in class a teacher may not be aware that your child needs help unless they ask for it.  And doing something else keeps you from hovering :-)  Bonus points if the something else is related to what they are doing.  If they are reading, you read something yourself.  If they are doing math, balance your checkbook. This is supposed to help them see that what they are working on is related to real world things.
  • Stop helping if either of you are frustrated.  Suggest a little break.  This teaches kids that there are going to be times they aren’t understanding something and get frustrated and that sometimes a 5 or 10 minute break is all they need to take a fresh look at things are figure them out.

What homework advice have you gotten from teachers or what worked for you when you were in school? We’d love it if you could share what works for you and your kids with STM readers.

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{Timez Attack - Multiplication Game}

{Timez Attack – Multiplication Game}

Its that time of year again, the kids are back in school and hard at work. If you have a child that needs to learn their times tables this year – or needs to review them :-)  – we came across a great computer game called Timez Attack.

The game takes what is basically flashcard practice and turns it into an exciting adventure.

In the game, your character is an alien girl or guy and you move though the levels by fighting the bad guys off by answering multiplication problems.  The basic “dungeon” map is free and you can actually play all the way up thorough 12s on that map.  They also have other levels that you can purchase with different backdrops and different bad guys to help keep things interesting.   I made a deal with my son (who absolutely loves the game) that I would buy him the next level when he reached a certain point in the game. It was great incentive for him to keep working.

It gives kids a limited time to answer the questions and it is really good about showing the answer to a missed problem and then repeating the problem until they get it correct.  The game gets kids to practice like they are doing flashcards but makes it fun and keeps them interested.  With this game, my kids (ages 8 and 10)  have been doing a great job with his times tables and have been having a great time playing.  I love it when they are practically begging to play an educational game!

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Image for kitchen ninjas game

{Kitchen Clean Up Game – Kitchen Ninjas}

Image for kitchen ninjas game

Kitchen ninjas clean up

When my kids were in the 4 to 9 age range, they started to go into the kitchen and get their own snacks or drinks. That was great; I love that my kids are independent. What I didn’t love was the mess that they started leaving – cracker crumbs, puddles of milk and juice, smudges of peanut butter – it seemed like every time I walked into the kitchen, they had left a mess.

So I came up with the “Kitchen Ninjas and Samurai Mom” game. My kids loved ninjas at the time – they knew how ninjas were sneaky and never left any trace that they had been someplace. So I told the kids that they were going to pretend to be Kitchen Ninjas. Every time they went in the kitchen to get a snack, they had to be sure to clean up any mess and leave no trace so that Samurai Mom didn’t know they had been there.

They loved this game and would start laughing and quickly wipe up if “Samurai Mom” were heading in that direction. They loved outsmarting Samurai Mom. We even kept score on a paper on the fridge – ninjas would get a point if mom couldn’t see that they had been in the kitchen, and Samurai Mom got a point if a mess was left. Samurai Mom always gave advance warning of her approach; the clean counters were waaayy better than points  :-)

Unfortunately, my kids have outgrown this game, but I thought I would pass it along to see if it might work for you and your kids.

One of the things that I think got my kids really excited about this game was that we had read the Magic Treehouse Series Book #5 – Night of the Ninjas in which Jack and Annie hang out with ninjas and escape a samurai.

Good luck and please leave us a comment to let us know if this one works for you or any other ideas you have.  Thanks.

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Breakfast Butterfly – Go Ahead, Play with Your Food

Butterfly French Toast and Eggs - Ideas for Moms
I love having fun with food, especially at breakfast when my kids often need a little encouragement to wake up and start the day in a positive way.  My son and I made a french toast and scrambled egg butterfly, and he loved it. 
We cut the french toast into quarters for the wings, formed the body, head, and antennae out of scrambled eggs, and added ju-ju bees for eyes.  I think chocolate chips would be cute for eyes, but my son wanted ju-ju bees.  Simple and fun and he had a smile on his face while he cleaned his plate. 

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Monoface – Online Fun

Image from Monoface Website

My kids were totally entertained by this site. It’s called Monoface. It was originally a Holiday card by the advertising and design agency Mono. They took photos of their employees (some making funny faces) and have put them together in one face. Some silly, bizarre, and funny photos result. You click on the different parts of the face and switch them out to make new faces.

Sounds simple, but my kids loved it. I saw lots of smiles and giggles. After clicking on the parts of the face for a while, the kids found the randomize button that randomly puts a new face together. Then they started trying to find all of the parts of one person’s face to see what one of the people actually looked like. Some good entertainment on a cold winter day.

If you want to check it out, here’s the link: http://www.mono-1.com/monoface/main.html

Smart and Trendy Moms finds products, ideas, projects, recipies, and other information that we have personally found helpful or interesting.  As always, it is up to you to determine what is appropriate for you, your children, and your situation.  See our Disclaimer

Fish Finder Math Fun – Kids Math Game

Fish Finder Math Game

Looking for an idea on how to get your child to study his or her math facts? This is a math-practice game that you and your child can make.

Your child lines up two numbers in the two upper bubbles and the answer appears in the large bubble. It is currently set up for addition, but a blank printable is available so you can make your own quiz sheets for larger number addition, subtraction, multiplication, or division.

Here’s the “set up” instructions:

1. Print the fish page and the quiz sheets from the list at the bottom of this post. (You will need the “Fish Page” and at least one “Quiz Sheet”)

2. Have your child color the fish page

3. An adult should cut out the three bubbles on the Fish Page marked “cut out bubble”

4. An adult should cut a flap of paper (approx. 2 inches square), fold back just at the edge, and glue above the large bubble (This will cover the answer, heavy paper works best for this so you can’t see the answer through it.)

To use

Have your child move the fish page over the quiz sheet until two of the white bubbles line up in the upper bubbles. When two numbers are in the top bubbles, you child tries to answer the problem, and then lifts the flap to see if he is correct.
Younger children will sometimes have a hard time lining up the bubbles at first. It helps if you make sure they understand that the small bubbles will be white, and the big answer bubbles are gray.

Printables
Fish Page
Quiz Sheet 1
Quiz Sheet 2
Blank – Make your own – Quiz Sheet

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Kid’s Sight Word Game – Concentration

Sight Word Concentration

Most of us have played the little matching game with the photos (Hasbro calls it Memory, when I was a kids we called it concentration). You can play the same game with sight word flashcards.  For Sight Word Concentration, you will need two copies of each sight word flash card that you want to work on.
You will need the words you want to use in pairs. I like to use a minimum of 8 cards (4 pairs). Lay them out in columns and rows facedown. On your turn you turn over two cards, saying each word as you turn it over. If your cards match, you pick up the cards and put them in a pile in front of you. If they do not match, you turn them back over, and it’s the next person’s turn.

This is great because your child has to look closely at the cards trying to see if the words look alike. For unfamiliar words, they will need you to help them say the words as they turn them over. This is a great one for learning new words, but I always try to have one or two relatively familiar sight words so that my kids don’t get overwhelmed.

Smart and Trendy Moms finds products, ideas, projects, recipies, and other information that we have personally found helpful or interesting.  As always, it is up to you to determine what is appropriate for you, your children, and your situation.  See our Disclaimer

Kid’s Sight Words Games – Go Fish

Sight Word Go Fish

For Sight Word Go Fish, you will need two copies of each sight word flash card that you want to work on.
I like to use a minimum of 17 pairs (34 cards total) for this one. You can use more.

To play, you deal 5 cards to each player. The rest of the cards go in the middle of the table. On your turn, you ask another player if they have a particular card. (“Mom, do you have to “and” card?”) If the other player has the card, he gives it to the player who asked. If not, then the other player says “Go Fish” The asking player draws a cards from the deck. If the player gets the card he asked for, from the other player or from the deck, he gets another turn.
When you get a match, you lay them down in front of yourself. The player with the most matches wins.
This game can also be used to work on counting and greater than and less than. “Good counting, if you have 9 pair and I have 8 pair, which is greater?”

Smart and Trendy Moms finds products, ideas, projects, recipies, and other information that we have personally found helpful or interesting.  As always, it is up to you to determine what is appropriate for you, your children, and your situation.  See our Disclaimer

Sight Word Path Game- Dice Variation

Sight Word Path - Dice Variation

Here is another variation on the Sight Word Path game.
In the original sight word path game, you have your child lay the sight words flashcards out in a path, choose their favorite car/animal/little doll etc. and as the toy walks down the path, it “reads” each word.

Lisa at Tip Top Designs says that she and her daughter Carmen have added a twist to this game. In their twist, you use a pair of dice. You roll the dice and your child moves his or her car along the path. Whatever word the marker lands on, if your child reads it correctly, you remove the word from the path.

I love this  variation because by using a pair of dice, it allows you to also work on math skills since they have to add the two numbers together and count in order to know how many spaces to move.  For younger children, you could always say the math problem aloud.  I imagine this one can be done as a path or, depending on the number of flashcards, you could arrange the cards in a circle or square.

Thanks to Lisa at Tip Top Designs for this variation. Please leave a comment to let us know how this variation works for you and your child.

Smart and Trendy Moms finds products, ideas, projects, recipies, and other information that we have personally found helpful or interesting.  As always, it is up to you to determine what is appropriate for you, your children, and your situation.  See our Disclaimer

7 Keys to Comprehension: How to Help Your Kids Read It and Get It!

Authors: Susan Zimmermann and Chryse Hutchins

Since I’ve been doing some posts on sight word games, I thought it seemed like a good time to do a book review on a book that deals with kids learning to read.

If you have kids or are a teacher, 7 Keys to Comprehension is a great book to help with understanding the reading process. Reading is a very important skill for children to develop because reading skills are used in learning all of their other subjects. My daughter’s teacher recommended this book to all of the parents.

I’ve always loved to read, so to me many of these tips seemed like they were something you would just automatically do, but even if you do them you don’t necessarily understand what you are doing well enough to teach it. And many kids, often the ones who don’t enjoy reading, don’t naturally do these things.

This is a great book that helps you understand what happens when a child is learning to read, and it gives tips and advice on what you can do to help your child understand what they are reading and develop a love of reading. They have looked at what good readers do when they read and found that they are skills that all children can learn.
Being able to “sound it out” is only one part of what goes on to be able to read effectively. Even kids who can read aloud flawlessly sometimes don’t understand what they are reading. And if kids aren’t understanding or aren’t able to picture what they are reading, they aren’t going to enjoy it.

This book has tips for different ages in each chapter for teachers, parents, and working together. I found many of the teacher tips also applied at home so be sure not to skip those sections even if you aren’t a teacher.  From what I can see this book is most helpful for kids from preschool through elementary school, but there does seem to be tips and ideas that apply to all ages.

It also has some tips that you can teach your kids to help them know when they aren’t fully understanding what they are reading. And then some “fix up” tips to help them get back on track.

I try to read with my kids every night, and I’ve been using many of the tips in this book as we read. For example, many kids don’t make predictions about what is going to happen. If you don’t make predictions you aren’t as involved in the story. So as we read, the book suggests that you stop and ask “what do you think is going to happen next?” and then you read to find out.  It seems to be getting my son much more involved in the stories.

This book has been great in helping me understand what is going on as my kids are learning and improving their reading abilities.

Smart and Trendy Moms finds products, ideas, projects, recipies, and other information that we have personally found helpful or interesting.  As always, it is up to you to determine what is appropriate for you, your children, and your situation.  See our Disclaimer

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