Teaching children the importance of giving back #GivingTuesday

When my friends at The Motherhood asked if I’d write a post about #GivingTuesday and share a little about how I go about teaching children the importance of giving back, I had to agree.  How could I not? Giving back to others and paying things forward is something we place a lot of emphasis on in our family, and we’ve worked hard to try to get our children to understand the importance of, participate in, and hopefully one day, fully embrace the importance of helping others.  (In exchange for writing this post, The Motherhood will be sending me $100 that I’m able to donate to a charity of my choice.  I have already sent that money to Hawkwing.org along with many, many of the toys and games and fun products we’ve been sent throughout the year).

Teaching kids about the importance of giving back can be simple or complicated.  It can be  all serious, and it can be fun.  It’s really what you make of it.

1. Lead by example.  This one is easy – kids learn a lot by our example.  When they see us giving back, they learn it’s important to give back.

2. Involve them.  We talk to our children about the realities others face in the world.  We don’t want to scare them, but we also believe it’s important for them to understand not only all of what we as a middle-class family have, but what others don’t have.  Understanding when they get cold and can run in a warm house to warm up- that others may not have it- that matters too.

3. Encourage them.  Talk to your kids- they may have some amazing thoughts and ideas about what they’d like to do to give back.  Given the chance to come up with their  own ideas, your kids might surprise you!  One little girl was very sad about her friend passing away from cancer that she started Crayons for Cancer to help raise money for the families of the kids with cancer!

4. Let them.  My kids understand sales and coupons- they may not fully understand what it means, but many times they’ve seen a sale for buy one get 2 free and tell me , “Mommy we could buy one for us and share 2 at church for the food bank.”  Lately, with the cold spell we’ve been having, both of my older two have asked me if we can get some really warm mittens for some kids to have warm hands when they have snowball fights this winter.  That’s a hard request to refuse- and I won’t.

This year, we’ll be taking part in #GivingTuesday.  This year, and every year we’re able.

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#GivingTuesday™ is an initiative to start the giving season and we encourage everyone to be involved with it. However, to be an official partner, you must be a registered non-profit [a 501(c)3 in the United States] with a specific #GivingTuesday initiative, or a for-profit business, school, religious or community group who commit to spearhead a project that will benefit at least one registered charity or non-profit. Families and individuals are encouraged to be generous in whatever ways matter to them, whether that means volunteering at a local charity or donating to a favorite cause. Please read our Terms and Conditions for more information.

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5 Reasons to Send Your Kid to Preschool

This post brought to you by Creme De La Creme. All opinions are 100% mine.

Allowing your child to get a head start in preschool has many benefits. Preschool doesn’t  just prepare your child for kindergarten

1. Nearly 80 percent of brain development occurs before age five. Choosing a high-quality preschool program will give you the head start they deserve in life.

2. A great preschool will lay a great foundation for knowledge needed for school. When your child starts kindergarten and already knows how to do the things they’re teaching, that opens the door for advancement and even faster learning.

3. Interacting on a daily basis with peers their age helps improve their social skills, and self-confidence.

4. Craft and art projects, reading, and playing games – these are all educational activities cleverly disguised as “fun” in preschools!

5. For many children, preschool is the first time they experience true structure on a larger scale. Kids thrive on structure, and a good preschool provides that.

The best preschools I’ve found that meet all those criteria and more is Creme de la Creme.

Here’s an excerpt from their website and a $500 coupon so you can try them out yourself…

More than anything else, what defines Creme de la Creme preschool is the success of our students who come back and share stories of how their Creme experience gave them the tools they needed to excel in school, in relationships, and in life.

The facilities look like Disney world when you walk in – it’s too cool for the parents and for the kids to experience.

Call now and get up to $500 off your tuition.

“CBS… found a place where everything is up to date in education, 
where they have gone about as far as anyone can go.” Dan Rather CBS Evening News

“Now for the lucky few who have access, there’s a new trend among some day-care providers to make pre-school much more sophisticated and luxurious then it’s ever been.” Tom Brokaw NBC Nightly News 

“It’s Disneyland because of the design… it’s Harvard because of the emphasis on early childhood education.” Good Morning America 

“It’s a pre-school for the 21st century.” Diane Sawyer Good Morning America

Crème de la Crème’s passion for child development has spawned research to enhance the learning experience in young minds. In fact, Crème has been bringing out the greatness within children since 1980, earning awards for the best daycare and the best childcare centers throughout Colorado, Georgia, Illinois, Kansas, New Jersey, Ohio, Texas, and Virginia. Within minutes of arriving you’ll understand why children enjoy learning at Crème.

Visit Sponsor's Site

Internet Safety with Kids

The internet is an amazing source of information. It can give people who use it information about anything in a matter of seconds. When it comes to kids and the internet, it does cause parents some concern, and rightly so.

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This post about internet safety with kids is sponsored.  

Most kids should be taught how to be internet savvy, no matter their age. Parents should also make an effort to teach their children certain rules about the internet. What may seem to be a relatively harmless search could end up reaching a website that is full of pornographic material. This sort of website could be reached by some simple spelling errors on the keyboard.

Thankfully, there have been laws enforced in regards to internet safety and kids. The law is called COPPA, which stands for Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act. This law is designed to protect the privacy of children online. This act enforces a website to have their privacy policies in full view, which explains that no personal information on a minor is collected, stored, or used without the consent of a parent.

When it comes to gaming and the internet, gaming sites are not permitted to obtain certain information for a child who is under the age of consent. The only information the website is permitted to collect is perhaps a made up screen name to allow the minor to participate in a contest or game.

This law protects a child’s privacy somewhat. However, it is up to the parent to regulate and enforce internet safety rules when it comes to a minor. You could protect your child online by utilizing various online tools to block access to certain websites. Another way to ensure your child’s safety is by checking to see if your internet service provider offers parental control options. Check with your internet service provider to see if these options are available.

Overall, it is up to the parent to become computer illiterate so you can monitor your child’s online activity. It also helps to have the computer in a common area where you will be able to see what activities your child is participating in online. When a computer is behind closed doors, you can never be sure of what type of websites your child is visiting nor whether or not they are in a chat room forming a conversation with a potential predator.

Keep your child safe online by enforcing internet safety rules in your home and for publicly accessible computers.

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You may want to consider using Hotspot Shield- a VPN service. Hotspot Shield secures browsing sessions, detects and blocks malware, hides IP addresses, and allows you to access blocked websites (e.g. Netflix from certain countries). It’s a free download and can protect your kids while they are online.

Sponsored Video: Baby’s First Christmas

Christmas is one of my favorite times of year. I can’t even explain it. The magic of it all almost overwhelms me. Seeing it through the eyes of children just makes my heart sing. And part of that magic for me is how much kindness and goodwill there is in everyday life. If only it was year round. The wonder and awe of the magic of Christmas can really be enjoyed when you have a baby in your family- your own baby, or a loved ones baby. There’s just so much about babies that brings hope and joy – just like Christmas does. This post about baby’s first Christmas is sponsored by our friends at Fisher Price.
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Babies mean new life. They offer hope. They have a way of bringing out the softest side of almost everyone and can reduce you to a puddle in a glance. At the holidays, families gather together to celebrate- my family included. I know my family gets giddy when there’s a baby to celebrate Christmas with for the first time- the family grows, there are new traditions to be begun, old traditions to share, and memories to be made.

In our family, baby’s first Christmas absolutely includes gifts- it’s hard to not want to just ‘get a little something” for an adorable new baby! My mom always got the kids an LLBean backpack filled with hardcover children’s books she thought were wonderful. But she also got them something fun, and as many of the toys and gear have been through the years, Fisher Price was, has been and continues to a brand we purchase again and again. From the “big” gear items like a bassinet, bouncy seat, or jumperoo to baby’s first toys and mobile, Fisher Price offers quality materials and construction with fun, engaging components and design to delight your baby for a long time to come- and likely,

Fisher-Price made this absolutely adorable video using a holiday jingle and it just made me smile so big as I watched thinking back with my own kids and their excitement each year as Christmas morning come!

Just look at THIS little cutie! I love watching this video :)

Rice Krispies wants to know what’s hard for your kids to digest #HardtoDigest

What’s hard for your kids to digest?  Around here, the things that are hard for my kids to digest, in no particular order:

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This is a sponsored post, opinions are my own.

1. Film cameras.  Blank stares when we showed them.

2. The concept that no, mommy was not around the week God created the earth.

3. Wearing underpants EVERY time we leave the house

4. Why can’t we put things in our nose?

5.  How long it takes for Christmas to come.

6. But WHY do we have to have healthy grow food every time?

7. Why can’t I have some of my gum? (At 2 am)

8. Why don’t you ever give me my food in a bowl on the floor?

9. When can we get a pet skunk?

10. Why can’t we put stickers on our privates?

 

There’s rarely a dull moment around here.  Or, really, any home with small children.  Kids don’t always find the adult ways of doing things, or rules about how to do things, easy to digest.  At least with RICE KRISPIES® CEREAL, you can rest assured that it is easy for kids to digest.  That’s because it’s made of rice, which moms know is gentle on tummies.

Truth be told, when my littlest one was about 2?? One of the big kids mentioned wanting the noisy cereal that talks for breakfast.  After she freaked out and didn’t want her cereal to talk, she heard the fun snap, crackle and pop that we’ve all known for so long and proceeded to only want talking “ice” ripsies for months afterwards.  Kids are so funny!

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Photo Credit: RiceKrispies.com

What are YOUR kids’ hard to digest moments? If you share them with Kellogg’s using the #hardtodigest hashtag, you may just see it pop up on the RiceKrispies.com website! 

 

McDonald’s adds books to Happy Meals! #HappyMealBooks

One of my favorite past-times has always been reading books.  This month, McDonald’s restaurants are dedicating  the month of  November to making reading “happier” in Happy Meals and including a children’s book in each Happy Meal.  There are 5 books to choose from and I have to tell you, I’m really happy about this new promotion from McDonald’s! Kids love getting a treat with their food, and this is a wonderful way to encourage kids (and parents) to read!

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We visited a local McDonald’s restaurant over the weekend after my daughter’s soccer jamboree. It was kind of an early dinner for us, and we don’t often eat at fast food restaurants, but given that I was flying to Seattle very late that night/early the next morning and we’d had a super busy week, my husband and I decided that we’d stop on the way home from the Jamboree, surprise the kids with Happy Meals for dinner, and then head home for a family movie night.  This gave me more time to just chill and hang with the kids and no one had to cook nor clean up from dinner. The kids were so excited to get chocolate milk to drink AND new books!

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We hit the jackpot with our books- we managed to get 3 different books in 3 Happy Meals- which meant 3 new books for the kids to enjoy!

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Big sister read to little sister, who is trying hard to read on her own but not quite there yet. The hands-down favorite book was The Goat Who Ate Everything- we all found it to be funny and even the book looks like the goat took a bite from it!

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Their brother was pretty happy to find another book he could successfully read on his own without help from mom or dad or big sister!  His book had pizza in it, his favorite food, so he was a pretty happy little guy.

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McDonaldsEnglish-#happymealbooks

I’m Lovin’ It ®

Are you going to go get one of the Happy Meals with books in them this month?  What is YOUR favorite children’s book? 

Disclosure: Compensation was provided by McDonald’s via Glam Media.  The opinions expressed herein are those of the author and are not indicative of the opinions or positions of McDonald’s.

FUN Halloween Safety Tips

Halloween is just 2 days away.  Kids everywhere will be doing what we don’t let them do any other night of the year- head out after dark, in costume, to go to stranger’s houses to accept candy.  Halloween is just plain F-U-N but it’s also important to keep safety in mind.  Here are some (sort of) FUN Halloween Safety Tips!

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I participated in a campaign on behalf of Mom Central Consulting for Stride Rite. I received products to facilitate my review and thank me for my participation.

Safety doesn’t have to be boring or “stiff.” If you make it fun, it’ll be fun.  

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1.  Dress for the weather.  Listen, I grew up wearing full blown 1970’s and 1980’s overstuffed snowsuits under my plastic non-breathable costumes like most of the other kids of my generation who lived in a colder climate.  I survived.  Thankfully, we’ve come a long way with outerwear and you can now stay warm without having added approimately 8 inches of puff to your person all the way around.  Also, you can now MOVE freely in outerwear.  But if your kids really really loathe the coat idea, be creative in a compromise.  We’ve done long underwear under a shirt, and a really warm fleece under the costume.  If it’s hot, don’t roast your kids!!  If your kids can move freely, they’ll be happier.  It’s also 1000% acceptable for them to wear their favorite pajama pants under a costume.  If it’s a layer and it keeps them warm, who cares?

2. Dress for Comfort– especially with littler kids this one is big.  Perhaps your kids are like mine and perhaps they aren’t, but if my kids are wearing something that makes them uncomfortable (physically), it makes them crabby.  Crabby kids don’t always listen because they are distracted and annoyed from the discomfort.  My kids have been known to start disrobing to remove the offensive article of clothing no matter where they are.  If the costume is itchy, get some cotton under it, or find an alternative.

3. Don’t forget the shoes!!  Sturdy, comfortable shoes.  For EVERYONE, even the adults in the group!  No one likes to walk far if their feet hurt!!

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My littlest one is Ariel this year.  As much as she would L-O-V-E to be wearing those fabulous and sparkly heels that come with little kid dress up clothes, there’s no way I’m going to let her be walking in the dark with those shoes.  I want her feet in sturdy shoes so she won’t slip or twist her little ankles on something she can’t quite see in the dark.  Stride Rite kept little costumed princesses and superheroes and more in mind when they decided to make a whole line of shoes that light up that go along with favorite characters for costumes.  Fittingly, they’ve called them Trick or Feet.

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Check out these Disney Wish Lights Ariel shoes.  Now, these are Stride Rite, so you know they are built sturdy to work with your child’s feet.  They are also Ariel, so they have a heart shaped gem with Ariel on the toe that lights up with every step your little one takes. There are also lights where the hook and loop closure rests on the side of the shoe.  Light up shoes are a big draw for kids- they are really just fun to wear and I’ve yet to meet a kid who’s NOT loving light up shoes.  The bonus here?  With shoes that light up with every step, your kiddo is more visible to others.  People, cars, bikes, and any folks laying in wait to scare trick or treaters coming into their yard.  Chances are, they’ll see tiny lights walking toward them and realize it’s a littler person heading up the way and won’t jump out to scare your little pumpkins.  Plus, your child can have that costume theme from head to toe (literally) and enjoy the shoes long after Halloween night is over.

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Even if your little one isn’t wearing light up shoes, please, please, be sure they are wearing shoes that are sturdy, comfortable and fit well.  No matter how careful you are and how great your flashlight is, walking in the dark at the end of the day can be the cause of tripping or a misstep or twisting of ankles, etc and that’s not going to end well for anyone.  Make sure their little feet are safe and secure!  My son just got the Rugged Ritchie boots from Stride Rite- I’m sure he’d love some Black Spiderman Sneakers but those don’t seem to be in high demand….only the red…) but these boots are a HUGE hit for him.  He feels just like his daddy in these boots, and loves how they don’t look like they are for little kids at all. I like the rubber sole and the sturdy construction of these boots, and he can wear them to school and church and look great while doing it.

4.  Visibility– This one’s a biggie, and it doesn’t mean that you have to have a spotlight on your child with every step they take.  You want your kids visible for safety, but that doesn’t mean you have to hand them a big heavy flashlight and insist they lug it around turned on all night or have it shined on them.  Light up shoes are a SUPER fun way to keep your kids visible to others.

We often will take a glow stick or two and clip them onto the kids’ treat baskets.  It keeps them visible to others and doesn’t add weight to their pails, and they think its just so much fun to have glow sticks.  Getting some of the many glow in the dark stickers and reflective tapes to put  on the back of costumes also works well.  The key is getting some visibility on your child.  Just in case.  Have some fun with this!

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Our Black Spiderman son will have some reflective stickers on the back of his costume on his shoulders, waist and bottom of his legs just for extra visibility.  We do the same for our little Ariel and our older Diva Witch.  We’re big on safety around here but we also try to make the safety fun so the kids don’t resist.

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What are your favorite safety tips on Halloween? AND, most importantly, what are your little ones dressing up as for Hallween??

 

ToysRUs grants wishes early: Sponsored Video #WishinAccomplished

I am Christmas crazy. I won’t lie. I love it all.  Decorations, shopping, wrapping, carols, the spirit of giving, goodwill, smiles from strangers, well wishes…the holiday cards.  I do.  It’s genetic- my mom was Christmas crazy, and my grama before her. While I love the excitement of everything the holidays bring, I always have been aware of those who are less fortunate than I- my parents instilled that awareness in us from a very young age and we’ve worked hard to instill the awareness in our own kids- along with a desire to help others, especially at the holidays. We bake for others, we buy toys and things to donate, and we have a bake sale at Church for the Sunday School kids to raise money for a charity the kids vote on.  We keep the kids actively involved in the decisions and purchasing as well as the giving during the holidays so they can learn and see for themselves.  I think it’s one of the best gifts I can give them- to be compassionate and give to others.

So when I see that big companies are doing something to give back to others  and grants wishes– well, it warms my heart, and I want to share.  When I heard about this little surprise ToysRUs had for a bus load of kids- who thought they were going on a field trip about leaves and trees… I readily agreed to share it with you all.  This post is sponsored by Toys ‘R’ Us. It’s sweet, and it’s cute, and the kids’ reactions are just awesome.  It totally put me in the Christmas spirit- and yes, I did get some holiday music out to listen to.

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Photo Credit: ToysRUs (screenshot from below video)

 

Please take just a few moments of time and watch this short- and sweet- video.  Chances are, it’ll warm your heart the way it did mine!

Tools to build self-esteem and self-confidence

Ladies, remember when you were little and anytime you saw a camera, you hammed it up?  I know I did, for years.  And then… somehow, some way, I stopped. I began to hide from the camera.  I’m too (insert negative here) or I’m not (insert adjective here) enough.  My hair’s not done, my makeup’s not on, I’m having a fat day, look at the zit on my chin! 

So there’s some point in time between this little girl below and adults where we stop loving the camera.  Why is that? And how can we work to stop it? Dove wants to help give us all tools to build self-esteem and self-confidence.  They want us to use the tools so much they are giving away a ton of prizes.  This is a sponsored post with Lunchbox. UNI_Dove_SelfEsteem_Social_5[2][2]

Make Girls Unstoppable

Dove® wants to inspire women everywhere to make girls unstoppable.Download the Dove® self-esteem discussion guide to help you start the conversation with your daughter.

After downloading, enter to win a Walmart gift card. There’ll be a give away of one $300 Walmart gift card everyday and a $1,000 Walmart gift card grand prize! You can enter every day to increase your chance of winning! Um, $300? A day? Yes, please.

When Did You Become Camera Shy?

You used to love the camera. These 2 love the camera- for now.  My goal is for them to NOT stop loving the camera.  While you’re on the site, watch an inspiring video about girls’ relationship with the camera, and be reminded of the importance of teaching young girls about self-confidence and self-esteem.

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Dove® Self-Esteem Project at Walmart

Your purchase helps provide self-esteem programs for girls. Your Dove® purchase at Walmart helps support the cause. Start contributing today at walmart.com/dove.

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No purchase necessary. Open to 50 US & DC, 18+. Ends 11/22/13. For rules, click here.

We made the most of the shutdown #domore

Yesterday, my husband returned to work after almost 3 1/2 weeks of being home for the government shutdown.  It was very bittersweet to see him head out the door to go to work.  I joked a lot about him driving me crazy and “cramping my style” but in reality, we had a pretty good time of things.  My husband spends so much time working and then comes home and tries to care for our house, our property, and be a good father and husband.  That’s a lot on his shoulders, especially since he’s the primary breadwinner in our family.  He’s never NOT working hard.  Ever.

I’m not going to be all sunshine and roses and say hey! The shutdown was awesome- but I’m also not going to get all political in here.  We had absolutely no choice- his work was shut down, he was going to be home until it ended.  We could be miserable or we could make the best of it.

We chose to make the best of it.

The first few days, hubby worked hard to finish the breezeway remodel we’d begun in August.  It’s amazing.

Once that was done, he cleaned the chimney, repointed the chimney, got a lot of yard work done, did some paint touch ups, and I don’t even know how many other little chores he’s had in his mental to do list, for too many years.

But he also stopped.

He took the kids to school

He flew kites in the yard.

He did pickup at school.

We got to have the first night just the 2 of us we’ve had since becoming parents- and our first Red Sox game together. Horrible picture, amazing memories.  (Shhh. We don’t need to tell anyone about this being in here, mmmkay?)

redsox us

He helped cook dinners.

He smiled. Often.

He relaxed. A lot.

He laughed. Tons.

We all played basketball.

We watched movies. Even chick flicks!

We stayed up late, and snuggled in the morning.

We missed the bus.

We made cookies. Then we ate too many.

He played.  And played.  Did some work, and played some more.

And it was AWESOME.

Through all of it, and every day, my husband works hard and plays hard.  He needs to be able to count on his underarm products to keep everything from being stinky.  Degree® with MOTIONSENSE™ has innovative technology where the more you move, the more it protects.

degree-men

Degree® offers different levels of protection strength – wetness protection, odor protection, motion activated, and extra strength.

So while I would REALLY like the government to 1. make sure they do pay us the money they promised they would and 2. never ever EVER do this shutdown thing again, I would also like to take the time to suggest that perhaps the next time the folks in Washington get themselves in this kind of HOT WATER that they might want to head to Sam’s Club for the best value on Degree Men (and women)!  They are going to need it.  At least they won’t stink!?