9 Ways to Connect With Your Kids During the School Year

Post by M.J. of Pars Caeli

9 Ways to Connect With Your Kids During the School Year

The store shelves are stocked with folders and notebooks, and the camps and vacations are coming to a close. We’re all soaking up the last nuggets of summer before the school schedules, activities, and homework begin again! Every year the relaxing family time seems to go faster and faster, and I will miss the sweet moments, connecting with my three kids, learning more about the incredible people they’re becoming.

But the quality time together doesn’t have to be limited to summer fun, we can make it last throughout the year, too, with a little extra planning and patience. We try these nine easy ways to connect with your kids during the school year. See what think of these playful and practical suggestions:

9 Ways to Connect With Your Kids During the School Year

1. Spend time together before school – I am not a morning person so getting out of bed to be cheerful and/or excited for a new day is not my strength. However, I love having small moments with my children every morning. Some days that’s an extra snuggle and chat before changing out of PJs or lip syncing a Taylor Swift tune to bring on some giggles.

If you’re off to work before the kids, consider leaving them a note to read at breakfast or the comics to bring a smile. Days are so much better when they start off on the right foot (for us all)!

2. Send a little home with them to school – Since full-day kindergarten began for our family, five years ago, we’ve been sending lunchbox notes with our children. After hearing from my daughter about quiet lunch times and wanting to have something to chat about with friends, I decided to add a joke and doodle to these notes. Teachers and lunch helpers would read them to the kids as they were learning to read, and everyone got a kick out the silly pictures and corny jokes.

I started sharing these notes on Instagram and hearing from other moms and teachers who would reuse them with their kids! I loved the idea that I could help other parents connect (in the middle of the day or on a long drive or in a doctor’s office) with their children.

The seeds of Lunchtime LOL Notes were born! I’m so delighted to partner with the Land of Nod to bring these jokes to life in a pack of 180 (the whole school year!). I wanted to make it easy for parents to send their love so one side is blank for your message with the other side bringing the silly along! And now you can… so go grab your family a pack.

9 Ways to Connect With Your Kids During the School Year - Lunchtime LOL Notes

3. Coach, lead, assist – Not all of us can fit it in, but if you can, I’ve heard it from the mouths of my own babes, coaching your kids can be a great way to connect with them. In coaching or leading an activity, or volunteering in the classroom, you establish a new context for your relationship as a parent and not only get to see your child in a new light, but also get to know their friends, too. . . which leads me to #4

4. Get to know their friends – Where you can, be the parent who drives the carpool, goes on the field trip, watches the games. Get to know your children’s friends. The older your kids get, the more insight this will provide into who they are becoming! It also lets your children know that you’re really interested in their lives, even the nitty gritty details. This comes in very handy when you hear the stories come home and know who’s who to ask your children the right questions. :)

9 Ways to Connect With Your Kids During the School Year

5. Be goofy – There’s a time for antics and a time for. . . yada, yada, yada. We all know that adults and parents need to be mature. The work conference call, the brilliant tweet, the email – sometimes they have to wait. Make sure to spend some all-out-silly time with your kids, too!! Whether it’s dance parties, wrestling, or silly string fights, let them see that you’re still a kid, and that you can laugh until you snort, too!

6. Listen (and fall in love with) their music – For those of us who live and die by our favorite tunes, this can be a challenge. However, sometimes it’s the nonverbal communications that can speak the loudest. We spend a decent amount of time in transit, in the car, listening to music. Sing your heart out to their favorite tune (even if the words make no sense) and drum along to the weird beat. Showing a love and an embrace for what they love, let’s them know you’re trying.

7. Talk over the day – How was your day? Answering this question goes really well with some children and not so well with others! In our house, it completely depends on the day who wants to share happy/good/sad/surprising news. Some days there’s silence. But I do want there still to be a space (usually over dinner) where we all talk about the latest. Sometimes I have to talk about my weird day at work to prime the pump, and sometimes I’m inspired by their insights and observations. Ultimately, I want them to know that we’re interested and listening – always.

8. Read what they’re reading – Enjoying books with my children has been a total unexpected highlight of motherhood! We read together at bedtime with our youngest, exploring our favorite picture and chapter books. But we’ve also started a kids bookclub with our 8 and 10 year olds to read along with our children and their friends – some long-time favorites like The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe and new ones like Wonder. It has elevated our conversations and broadened our understandings of one another. Reading together has also been truly beneficial to their reading confidence and interest.

9. Go on dates together – We are a mix of introverts and extroverts in our house, and, at times, it can be hard to get everyone engaged as a full group of five. My husband and I make it a priority to go on “dates” with each of our kids. They used to get jealous when we’d leave on a date together. Why don’t we get to have a special time with you? Well, now they do. Often these take the simple form of a trip to the bookstore or library or playground. Other times the dates can be a special shopping trip or dinner out. Bonus: my children have a new level of understanding of Mommy and Daddy needing one-on-one time together, too!

Here’s hoping we get a few more weeks of summer to squeeze in all the fun we can. And once school begins again, we’ll be ready to dig into some other ways to stay connected with our kids, too. How do you do it? How do you stay close when schedules leave you spending so much time apart?

9 Ways to Connect With Your Kids During the School Year

M.J. is a graphic designer and illustrator and proud momma to three. She founded Pars Caeli (meaning a piece of heaven), a happy blog and shop on the web, three years ago to share projects for kids, parents, and home to add a little creative to the everyday. She worked with our team to bring her lunchbox jokes to life in our product Lunchtime LOL Notes, now available to kick off the school year!

Bedtime Routines for Babies

Post by Corri McFadden of corrimcfadden.com and Glitter and Bubbles.

Bedtime Routines for Babies

Bedtime with Zelda is one of my favorite hours of the day. There’s nothing like winding down and getting ready for some relaxation time with your babes! For all you Mama’s out there, determining a bedtime routine for your baby is extremely important to develop good sleeping habits. (Moms—we know that a baby with bad sleep is an extremely cranky one!)

A calming routine that follows a pattern every night helps give your little a head up that it’s bedtime, which will help him or her transition more easily. Even more so, bedtime is an amazing way to bond with your babes at the end of a long day. I’ve used some of Zelda’s very favorite Land of Nod products to help put her down at bedtime.

Bedtime Routines for Babies

A soothing bath is great for your little in terms of help calming them down for bedtime. (This totally works for us adults, too!) Make sure the water is warm to the touch and not too cold. This will create a cuddly-like, warm atmosphere that will put your babe in a calm mood. Zelda loves splashing around with her monster rubber duck before we end her bath with a gentle massage to help relax her little muscles.

Bedtime Routines for Babies - Reading

Just the sound of your voice can help lull your little one to sleep! Spending time with them while you read one of their favorite books is a great way to bond and help establish a bedtime routine. It also familiarizes them with more words and numbers, so you can totally credit yourself with being a multitasking Mama as you put your babe to bed and lend them a little knowledge. One of Zelda’s favorite books includes The Saggy Baggy Elephant, which she loves to read in her hooded elephant towel right after bath time!

Bedtime Routines for Babies - Hooded Bath Towel

This is usually my last step before I put Zelda down to bed. Rocking your babe in your arms or a rocking chair is a great soothing technique to lull them to sleep. After I rock Zelda in her favorite rocking chair, I put her down in a dark room, with the exception of a night-light, and secure her in her baby blanket. It’s great to put your little to bed while they are still awake so they know how to soothe themselves to sleep.

I’ve found that each bedtime routine depends on your little’s personality. For example, bath time before bed may turn into a rowdy activity instead of a calming one–once they learn how to splash, there’s no going back! In that case, you’d ditch the tub and skip straight to a massage. It’s all about how you and your babe connect and what methods work best to put them to sleep!

Corri McFadden is the owner and founder of eDrop-Off Luxury Consignment. As a style expert and successful blogger, she hosts a weekly fashion segment on Chicago’s “You and Me This Morning” and features more tips and tricks on her website, Corri McFadden. She also recently launched Glitter and Bubbles, a savvy site for modern-day moms looking for inspiration through fashion, décor and food.

50 Summer Art Projects For Kids

Post by Christina of Christina Williams Blog

50 Summer Art Projects For Kids

We’ve still got about a month of summer vacation, and despite my best efforts, we need some new ideas. I have a summer goal of doing more art projects with the kids. Especially the messy, memorable ones; and now is the perfect time to get cracking on our list. Most of our summer camps have dwindled down; swimming lessons are over; as is our family vacation; so now I’m pulling out the (washable!!!) paint.

I’m planning on inviting friends, family and neighbors to the back yard at the end of summer for a gallery walk where the kids can show off the projects art projects they’ve completed this summer.

50 Summer Art Projects For Kids Checklist

For easy reference, I made a list of 50 Art Projects for Kids; and you can print it out here. My kids really liked painting with race cars and bouncy balls, and I have to admit that I gave it a whirl, too. If you’re going to paint with bouncy balls, or other projectiles, for that matter, here are a few tips: 1. Use washable paint. Obviously. 2. Wear old clothes 3. Work outside. Cover the ground or a table with a drop cloth; or use a table you can easily wipe down when the fun is over.

50 Summer Art Projects For Kids - Painting with Bouncy Balls

50 Summer Art Projects For Kids - Race Car Painting

50 Summer Art Projects For Kids - Salt Painting

I think my favorite summer art project though, was the salted watercolor paintings. The example above is my 9-year-old’s masterpiece. Even he isn’t too cool for most of these projects. (Hooray!) Simply “draw” a picture with Elmer’s glue, sprinkle liberally with salt; shake off the excess. While the glue is still wet, use watercolor paints and just touch the salt gently with your paintbrush. It’s so much fun to see the salt absorb the color; and it’s also a great exercise in color mixing.

I’m sharing our 50 summer art projects for kids over on Instagram, so feel free to follow me there @christinawilliamsblog; and if want to play along, use that hashtag #cwsummerart so we can create a virtual gallery walk for our kids! I hope you’ll join in the fun!

50 Summer Art Projects For Kids - Bouncy Ball Painting Project

Christina Williams is a blogger and graphic designer living in Salt Lake City, Utah. She’s a night owl and a bookworm, as well as a mother to three children ranging in age from two to eight. She shares her latest DIY and design projects along with her adventures in parenting on her self-named blog, Christina Williams. 

DIY Father’s Day Gift – Felt Catchall

Post by Rebecca of Not So SAHM

DIY Father’s Day Kids Craft - Felt Catchall

By some stroke of luck, both of our kids learned to sew at school this year. Now I’m into lots of different arts and crafts, but sewing just isn’t my jam. So of course they both decided they wanted to sew their dad a present for Father’s Day. I racked my brain to think of something simple that was also useful and (*lightbulb!*) I came up with the idea to make Dad DIY felt catchalls. He really needed several containers to hold the daily contents of his pockets and I wanted something that wasn’t going to scratch all our new furniture. So these were perfect! I think he’s going to love them (and his new-found ability to rapidly find his wallet, keys, and security badge in the morning).

DIY Father’s Day Gift - Felt Catchall

To make our DIY Father’s Day Gift – Felt Catchall, you’ll need:

  • 2 sheets of colored felt (we used 9″ X 11″ sheets from a craft store and cut them into 9″ squares)
  • 1/8 circle hole punch
  • Colored embroidery thread and a needle
  • Ruler
  • Black marker
  • Scissors

And here’s how you make it:

  1. Cut your felt sheets into a square. DIY Father’s Day Gift - Felt Catchall
  2. Using your ruler, draw marks onto the corners of your felt where you are going to hole punch (I did this prep work and the kids jumped in at the sewing stage). You’ll need to gather the corners of your felt in two spots, so you will be marking for four holes:- 2 holes, each 1.5″ from the corner of the felt and 0.6″ from the edge- 2 holes, each 1.5″ from the corner of the felt and 1.25″ from the edgeDIY Father’s Day Gift - Felt Catchall
  3. Use the punch to make each hole as marked. I did this on one corner and then folded the felt in half and marked the opposite corner. Then repeated for the remaining two corners. You’ll be able to mark all four corners, but only have to measure once. Punch the remaining holes. Lay punched felt on top of second piece of felt. Using the holes as guides, mark where you’ll need to punch on the second piece. DIY Father’s Day Gift - Felt Catchall                                                  (folding to mark the same spot on the opposite corner)DIY Father’s Day Gift - Felt Catchall

  4. Thread your needle. Gather one corner and sew through the closest two hole punches several times. Tie the ends into a small knot and clip. Repeat for the two holes closest to the felt’s edge, looping the embroidery thread over the top as you sew. DIY Father’s Day Gift - Felt CatchallDIY Father’s Day Gift - Felt Catchall
  5. After you’ve done one corner completely, show your kiddos and help them do remaining three corners. Voila!

We’re wrapping our felt catchalls in The Land of Nod’s fabulous suitcases — the best reusable gift wrapping for this delicate present!

DIY Father’s Day Gift - Felt CatchallDIY Father’s Day Gift - Felt CatchallDIY Father’s Day Gift - Felt CatchallDIY Father’s Day Gift - Felt Catchall DIY Father’s Day Gift - Felt CatchallDIY Father’s Day Gift - Felt Catchall

Rebecca is a mom to two young kiddos and, in her spare time (ha!), likes to pretend she’s a back-up dancer, craft cocktails, and run long distances. A relatively recent SAHM, she blogs family-friendly activities, DIYs and celebration fun at Not-So-SAHM.