When A 6-Year-old Washes Dishes



Boy Washing DishesWhen my 6-year-old asked if he could do the dishes, I decided to shush the part of me that was going to thank him kindly and offer a more age-appropriate chore to help out with. Why not reinforce this self-initiated and sincere offer to help? Usually I hassle my kids to put away their laundry and set the table because I know that chores teach children a sense of responsibility, competence, self-reliance, and self-worth that stays with them throughout their lives. I certainly didn’t want to miss the opportunity to ‘capture’ this voluntary act of household responsibility and increase the likelihood that it would happen again! So I got out the step stool and resigned myself to mopping up a huge sea of dishwater.

Dishes Piled HighTwenty minutes and some precariously piled dishes later, I had a wet but extremely proud little boy who was planning his next tasks of tackling the bathrooms and the car! Honestly, I have to say that the dishes were even fairly clean – much better than when his father washes them!

Read more about getting your child started with doing chores.

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20 Tips For Helping Kids Choose To Eat Fruits & Veggies

Boy Eating AppleWe want our kids to make healthy food choices, but the day-to-day reality of teaching them to do this can be a challenge. There are lots of healthy recipes and ideas out there for kids, yet they are often drawn to less healthy options. Here are a few parenting strategies that can help:

  1. Offer them a fruit or veggie snack before they are starving hungry. [See video of a healthy snack drop off while the kids are playing!]
  2. Let them to have that special snack they want if they also eat a fruit or veggie.
  3. Have them pick out three fruits and three veggies that they like at the grocery store. They are more likely to want to eat them if they have ownership!
  4. Tell them they don’t have to eat everything on their plate, but if they want dessert they need to eat their meat/protein and their vegetables.
  5. Offer them two different choices of fruit for a snack and let them pick.
  6. Let them choose which vegetable side will be served with dinner.
  7. Spice up fruits and veggies with dips and toppings – e.g. ranch dressing for carrot sticks, peanut butter on apples, whipped cream on bananas.
  8. Veggies From Garden!

    Veggies From Garden!

    Try growing your own fruits and vegetables together! Kids will be more excited about eating something they have helped grow in the garden!

  9. Eat fruits and veggies yourself! If you sit down with a plate of fruits or veggies, young kids are bound to come over and want some of what you are having.
  10. Create something fun from a healthy snack – e.g. spell their name out with different fruits or veggies! [There are tons of ideas on Pinterest, here's a Parenting Owl Board called Fun Food]
  11. Play a game where your child chooses one thing that will be part of a snack and you choose one thing. Make the most of this game by extending it to activities – your child chooses what to do for 10 minutes (play together), then you choose what to do for 10 minutes (clean up!) and keep alternating.
  12. Make a trail of fruits or veggies that lead to a surprise treat hiding under a cup or bowl! It could be something like a fruit flower or a special treat.
  13. Ask your child to choose when they will eat different snacks throughout the day including some fruits or veggies, then have them stick to the plan!
  14. Have a family food challenge where everybody tries a different type of food they have never had before! Create your own rules – e.g. One new food per day and you have to try at least three bites.
  15. Challenge your children to play each other in ‘Whatever You Can Eat I Can Eat Too’ where each child chooses three foods that they will eat at least three bites of and that their sibling has to eat too! Tap into their competitive side and offer prizes to the winner or to all successful participants!
  16. See how many different color foods you cGroentenskelet, Mmmm! :) Gerepind door www.gezinspiratie.nl #groenten #leuk #grappig #kinderen #eten #smullen #creatief #etenan eat together in a meal or a day!
  17. Set up a chart where your child gets a sticker for each vegetable serving he or she eats and let them earn something fun at the end! [Read more about using Reward Charts]
  18. Let your child help cook meals, including a vegetable side. Sometimes kids are more excited to eat a salad that they helped make!
  19. Create a food journal with your child that has pictures of different foods you try together. Look for new and different fruits and vegetables at the grocery store.
  20. Make an alphabet book with fruits and vegetables from A to Z! Cut and past or draw pictures and try everything that you put in your book!

Remember, whenever your child happens to choose a fruit or vegetable be sure to reinforce that choice by telling them how strong and healthy that food will help them grow! Have any other great strategies for getting kids excited about eating more fruits and veggies? Please add a comment and share them! Also, here is a great article with kid-friendly healthy snack ideas: Parenting.com 20 Best Snacks for Kids

Happy Healthy Eating!


Make Your Own Ice-Cream

Eating Ice CreamWhat better way to spend quality time with your little one than making ice cream? It is quick and easy, perfect for young attention spans, and the end result is a delicious sweet treat!

You can make your own ice cream at home using plastic bags [See how on Spoonful!] but we used this ice cream maker that was given to us for a birthday. Very affordable, it has been reviewed as one of the ‘As Seen On TV’ products that actually works!

What you will need:

  • Measuring Spoons
  • Measuring Cup
  • Ice (preferably crushed)
  • 4 Tbsp Salt
  • 4 Tbsp Water
  • 1/4 Cup Heavy/Whipping Cream
  • 1/4 tsp Vanilla Extract
  • 1 Tbsp Sugar
  • Chocolate Syrup (optional)

Follow these simple steps:

  1. Making Ice CreamFill the ice chamber with ice, salt and water.
  2. Place the freezing bowl over the ice chamber and add remaining ingredients.
  3. Firmly secure lid and cover and shake continuously for 3 minutes or until consistency is to your liking!

Now it’s time to enjoy your delicious treat!





Composting With Kids

CompostComposting is a sustainable practice that can provide important nutrients to your garden and improve soil structure. The compost itself comes from organic material such as food and yard waste that has been decomposed and recycled as fertilizer and soil amendment. Composting can divert up to 30% of household waste away from the garbage can, and it provides a natural alternative to chemical fertilizers. Our family incorporates composting for several reasons:

  • It teaches the kids about taking care of the earth.
  • It gets kids involved in household chores and gardening.
  • It is an interesting learning experience to see the transformation and usefulness of kitchen and yard waste into a nutrient-rich material for our garden. We love it when pumpkins, watermelons, or tomato plants pop up from our compost!

Compostable Materials

How to Compost:

  1. Start on bare earth and lay down twigs or straw to enhance drainage and help aerate your compost pile.
  2. Add compost materials in layers, alternating moist (e.g. kitchen scraps) and dry (e.g. dried brown leaves or other yard material).
  3. Add green manure or green grass clippings to activate the composting process and speed things along.
  4. Water the compost pile occasionally or let the rain do the job.
  5. Cover your compost pile to retain moisture and heat, both essential for the composting process.
  6. Turn your compost pile with a pitchfork or shovel every few weeks to aerate it. Alternatively, you can add in a coarse dry material such as straw if you have a good supply of it.

Materials Not To Be Composted

You can use a ceramic, stainless steel, or bamboo counter top composter to collect food scraps. A plastic container in the refrigerator works also. When the container is full, take it out to your compost pile! Here are a few kitchen compost containers:

If you would prefer not to have an open compost pile in your yard, enclosed compost bins can be used for small scale outdoor composting. You can build one yourself from a heavy duty garbage bin (see YouTube video).  Another option is to purchase an enclosed stationary or rotating compost bin. Both discourage animal pests and keep compost neatly enclosed. The rotating compost tumbler has the added benefit of composting year round and speeding up the composting process. Here are a few outdoor compost bins, the first one is the type of outside compost bin that we have next to our vegetable garden:

These are the (more expensive!) rotating compost tumblers:

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Rewards Vs. Bribes

CandiesSome parents have a hard time with rewarding their children for good behavior because they feel it is no different than bribery. Many also worry that their child will not learn to behave appropriately for the ‘right’ reasons or that their child will only behave if there is some type of tangible prize or reward at stake.

These are valid concerns, however, rewarding children for good behavior is actually very different than ‘bribing’ them. Especially when planned ahead, rewards serve as a positive consequence for nice behavior that reinforces the behavior and makes it more likely to happen again!

Social BehaviorChildren learn social behavior in stages, much the way they develop physically. You wouldn’t expect your infant to just get up and run across the room – first they roll over, then they sit, crawl, cruise on the furniture, take a few tentative steps, etc. until finally one day they are off and running! Likewise, ‘prosocial’ behavior emerges in a developmental sequence. As parents, our job is to give them lots of support in the beginning and gradually let them learn to do things on their own. Rewards are very effective in shaping children’s behavior as they navigate through all the different stages on the road to pro-social, adaptive behavior!

Providing little incentives for nice behavior (for example getting through the grocery store without a temper tantrum) is similar to holding their tiny hands so they can Having a Cookiewalk across the room with some support. You don’t expect to have to hold their hands to walk or offer a lollipop for good behavior in the grocery store when they are sixteen years old, but it’s a great way to get them on the right track when they are little. (You’ll be holding their hand and offering them lollipops for other things when they’re sixteen – like waiting to find out if they passed their driving test!).

As adults, we do things for rewards all the time and there’s no reason you can’t offer incentives to your children too! How many of us would show up to work week after week without the promise of a paycheck? With your child, just be sure that you are rewarding what you intend to reward. For example, if your child starts having a meltdown and you desperately offer them a lollipop for stopping the tantrum, they may start to have more frequent meltdowns so they can get a lollipop. In this case you would actually be reinforcing the meltdown, not the stopping of the meltdown! The best way to use rewards is to ‘capture’ the good behavior when you see it happening naturally. Also, rewarding doesn’t necessarily equate to candy either – a quick hug and a compliment goes a long way with your child and is a powerful reinforcer! [Read more on Encouraging Good Behavior and Reward Charts]

What is your opinion on rewarding children when they behave nicely?

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Talking to Your Child About School Violence and Tragedy

In the wake of recent school violence, images and detailed accounts are all over the media. We want to shelter our children from such harsh and incomprehensible realities, but are they going to find out anyway? Perhaps it is better if they get their information from us first. Or maybe your child already heard about the tragedy and you want to address it yourself. Having an open and honest conversation with your child enables you to:

  • Give non-sensationalized facts at your child’s level.
  • Dispell mis-information.
  • Help ensure your child’s sense of personal and family safety.
  • Answer any questions they may have.

Here are a few ideas to help you support your child and prepare for the conversation:

1. Avoid having your child see the media coverage of the event (television, internet).

2. It’s okay for your child to know that you are upset by what happened. This is a normal and natural way to feel and you don’t have to pretend otherwise. That said, be sure to talk with other adults about your own fears and concerns rather than with your child. You do not want to burden your child with undue stress or worry.

3. Reasure your child that they are safe and that nobody they know was hurt. (Only if this is the case, if  not, see below for additional resources and guidance).

4. Use language that is at your child’s level and that will minimize the shocking impact of what happened. For example, rather than saying that children were shot or murdered, you can explain that people were hurt, and that some of them died.

5. Clarify where the tragedy took place - that it was very far away, not in their school, town or state, etc. (Whatever is applicable). Children may not have a clear sense of geography and distance, so they may otherwise think that it happened very close to where they live.

6. Discuss safety measures that are in place in their own school and home, and emphasize that is is always good to know what to do in an emergency even though they hopefully will never have to worry about an actual emergency.

7. If developmentally appropriate (i.e. for older children), explain that the media is full of information and mis-imformation. Sometimes reports about tragedies such as these are sensationalized, inadvertently or not. Help your child understand that we should always consider the source of information, especially on the internet, and know that we can’t always believe everytyhing we read and hear.

8. Be sure to answer any additional questions your child may have.

9. Be aware that children may have specific concerns relative to your family situation. For example, they may worry about a parent or other adult they know who works in a school, or a sibling who attends a different school.

10. Children who have previously experienced violence, or who struggle with anxiety to begin with, are at a higher risk for more debilitating reactions. If you sense that your child is having a difficult time with the news, seek the support of counselors who are available through your child’s school.

We are all probably trying to understand why and how something so horrific could happen. Unfortunately, there is not likely to be a satisfying explanation. As my friend Lynn Reilly, a school counselor, explains, it is like an accident – we don’t know why it happened, it just did. We can do our best to be careful and try to prevent an accident, but we can’t always stop an accident from happening.

For more on Lynn’s insightful perspective about this tragedy, please visit her blog: http://www.perspectiveparenting.com/2012/12/15/lessons-in-the-wake-thoughts-on-the-sandy-hook-elementary-school-tragedy/

Additional Resources for Talking With Children About Death:

Helping Children Deal With Loss, Death, and Grief: Tips for Teachers and Parents From the National Association of School Psychologists (NASP): http://www.nasponline.org/resources/crisis_safety/griefwar.pdf

Helping Your Child Deal With Death from KidsHealth.org: http://kidshealth.org/parent/positive/talk/death.html


The Magic of Christmas

Magical ChristmasIs My Child Too Old to Believe in Santa Claus? Of course not! Enjoy this time and re-experience the magical moments of Christmas through your child’s eyes! It is a great way to de-stress and put things back into perspective when the holidays get hectic. Above all, it is a wonderful way to enjoy your child!

I’ve heard fathers say things like ‘He’s going to get beat up if he keeps talking about that magic elf!’ This may be more of a natural reaction for men regarding their sons, since they’ve lived through the sometimes brutal realities of boys giving grief to one another.  Meanwhile, mothers are busy worrying about their child’s emotional trauma that may result from finding out who really put that new (okay, so it was gently used!) bike under the Christmas tree. These are perfectly normal reactions from parents, and everyone will get through it… especially the children!

Levitating Elf on the Shelf

Levitating Elf on the Shelf

My son understood the situation with Santa Claus when he was 8-years-old. Two years later, he still believes that the Elf on the Shelf magically moves around the house! Clearly there is some breakdown in logic here, because the whole concept of the Elf is that he keeps tabs on us and then reports back to Santa. But sure enough, there was my 10-year-old son last week, explaining to his younger brother that of course Mom doesn’t move the elf because how would she get it to levitate on the ceiling?! 

Okay, I admit that I go out of my way a little to perpetuate the magic. I’m not making any apologies though, because it is so incredibly fun for our family, and thus far, nobody has beat him up!

Whether they question Santa at age 7 or believe until they are 12, the important thing is to keep teaching children to think for themselves and to understand the spirit of Christmas. In the meantime, experience the magic of the holidays and take a little time to walk in your child’s shoes.  Just be sure to enjoy the view!

For more on what to say to your child when he or she asks you if Santa Claus is real, check out the following article. It literally brought tears to my eyes!

Is Santa Real? How Do You Answer the Question?


Time With Your Child

TimeWhat is the single best gift any parent can give their child? Time! Isn’t it what we all want – more time?! For our children, this means setting aside at least 30 minutes of special, unstructured time together every day! The reward is a warm, trusting relationship that you will build with your child by sharing undivided attention, interaction, and communication together on your child’s terms!

For young children this special time usually takes place on the floor. Let your little one lead the way without any distractions or interruptions from work, chores, texts, emails, or television. Focus your attention on whatever it is that may be captivating your child for the moment and do exactly what she does or wants you to do! From the driver’s seat, your child may tell you just what the mommy cow should say to the baby cow. This is your opportunity to give your child a sense of control over her world and to provide unconditional acceptance. By following your child’s lead, you are sending her Playing Blockssome very positive messages about the fact that she has good ideas, is fun to play with, is a good friend, and can communicate with and influence others. That’s just for starters, because there is a host of other positive outcomes associated with play that benefits your child’s cognitive and physical development! Most importantly, you are laying the foundation for a warm and connected relationship with your child for years to come!

As your child grows up and becomes more independent, the activities will obviously change, but the goal of spending time together focused on your child’s interests stays the same. So maybe sitting there while your son gives you the 15-minute tour of his new Mindcraft world is not at the top of your list when there are 100 other things that need to get done. But you do it anyway, because this is important to him. We can always muster up some enthusiasm or interested questions in order for our children to feel how we care! Plus, it’s a great opportunity to sneak in some snuggle time. My son hardly seems to notice how I wrap my arms around him as we sit together next to the computer looking at his latest Lego video finds on YouTube!

Tip: Set a Timer!

  • Kitchen TimerTell your child you want to play but there are also some things that need to get done.
  • Set the timer for 15 minutes of playing time together, then set it again for 15 minutes of cleaning,  emailing, or whatever you need to do.
  • Your child can help you with chores, clean up his toys, do homework, etc.
  • Return to 15 minutes of undivided playing time and alternate as necessary.

For very young children you can start with 5 or 10 minutes at a time. Playing with your child and then doing something else for short intervals will help him learn to play independently for increasingly longer periods of time.

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IS Your Child Ready For Chores?

Sometimes it’s hard enough to get our own stuff done each day, let alone find the time to set up and follow through with a chore schedule for our children! So is it really necessary to require them to perform household chores? Here are some of the benefits:

  • Kids and ChoresChores teach children to contribute in a meaningful way to the family functioning.
  • Chores help children internalize basic work attitudes and habits including responsibility, initiation, reliability, persistence, and thoroughness. These skills are important for success in school and throughout their lives!
  • Successfully completed chores provide a natural opportunity for parents to express their appreciation to children. This fosters children’s self-confidence and strengthens the parent-child bond, giving families a sense of mutual support and caring.
  • Chores help children learn some basic independent living skills such as cleaning, cooking, doing laundry, and taking care of their things.

When is my child ready to start doing household chores?

As soon as children develop the physical and motor coordination necessary, they can start helping out with chores. Children as young as 3-years-old are both ready and highly motivated to imitate their parents and help out around the house!

How do we get started?

It is important to give your child chores that are appropriate for his or her age and skill level. In the beginning, you probably want to work closely with your child, doing the chores together. As your child grows older and more capable, you can let them work more independently. When children are first starting out they can begin with tasks that are short and simple, then gradually shift to more complex chores. Here’s what you can do:

  • Demonstrate the task first, explaining why you do things a certain way.
  • As your child starts learning the skill, offer lots of encouragement. It’s more important to recognize your child’s effort than to make sure they are doing the task perfectly.
  • Offer opportunities for your child to practice the skill, making it a fun activity you do together.
Happy Kid Cooking

Happy Helper!

Remember that even if your child’s work is barely adequate right now, he or she will be motivated to keep at it and improve over time if you give lots of positive encouragement. Praising children for their effort makes them feel proud and appreciated!

We invite you to comment and tell us how you introduced your child to household chores and what works well for your family!

Here are some other great blog posts related to kids and chores that you might enjoy checking out:

Keeping up with Housework & Everything Else by Powerful Mothering (Great for working moms!)

10 Lessons Children Can Learn From Doing Household Chores by Housekeeping.org

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Teaching Time-Out to a 2-Year-Old

In the beginning it’s bewildering to imagine how your 2-year-old could be placed in a time-out area and stay there. But it IS possible! The trick is to teach your child to go to time-out when they don’t actually need it.  Before you ever start using time-out as a discipline strategy, try the following steps to teach your child what time-out is all about:

1. Show them the time-out area (a stair or mat works well) and tell them what it’s called. Ask them to sit on it, then clap and cheer for them when they do.  Do this a few times, praising them each time for listening.

2. The next step is getting your child to stay in the time-out area until YOU tell them to leave.  Ask them to sit in time-out again and say “This time I want you to stay there until I tell you to get up!”  Let them sit for a few seconds before telling them to get up, then clap and cheer for them for doing a good job listening. Try this a few more times, having them sit a little longer each time. It’s better to start short and gradually increase the time, rather than trying to go too long and having your child get up before you tell them to. If they start leaving the time-out area before you tell them to, say “No, sit down and wait until I tell you!”  Making it a fun game helps your child learn exactly what to do and teaches them to listen to you and follow your directions.

3. Once your child understands how it works, practice going to and staying in time-out every day for a week. You are still teaching them when they are NOT in need of a time-out. The most important thing is for your child to stay in time-out until you ask them to get up. Don’t worry as much about getting them to stay there a long time. If you can, try walking out of sight for a few seconds while they sit in the time-out area and wait for you to come back and tell them to get up and go play.

When your child is able to do this, you are ready to start using time-out as a discipline strategy to deal with challenging behavior! Time-out is especially useful for dealing with physical aggression and non-compliance. For more information, check out this article on using time-out effectively with your child.  Please comment and share your great time-out tricks with us!

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