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!

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. 

Kids Food Face Collages

Post by Rebecca of Not So SAHM

Kids Food Face Collages

Lately, it seems that my kiddos cannot. stop. eating. They’re both going through big growth spurts and we’ve spent a lot of time talking about foods that help us grow healthy and keep tummies full at the same time! Because eating every twenty minutes to constantly avoid a “case of the hangrys” is just not realistic (no matter how many snacks I tote around with us). So I thought it would be fun to do an art project showing you are what you eat: food face collages!

We’d done something similar before at the National Portrait Gallery, and the kids loved it. It’s super easy and really fun to see what the kids come up with. Kane wanted to use groups of fruit and veggies to make an overall abstract portrait of himself “wearing a hat” and using “carrots for [his] curly hair.” Cam decided to use an eggplant as her actual face and show herself eating a bunch of grapes. I even got in on the fun.

To make our food face collages, you’ll need:  

  • Clip art images of fruit and veggies — check your computer’s clip art, look for free art online (like this), or even purchase a set on Etsy
  • Heavyweight black paper (the food really pops against a black background)
  • Scissors
  • Glue

Simply let the kids cut out fruit and veggie shapes to create a face, and then glue the shapes onto black paper. I encouraged our kids to plan out their portrait first, but if they want to glue as they design (like Kane did), that’s fine too. Kids Food Face Collages

Kids Food Face CollagesKids Food Face Collages Kids Food Face Collages 15 Kids Food Face Collages 9Kids Food Face Collages 11Kids Food Face Collages 13Kids Food Face Collages 15

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.

Christmas Present Wrapping Party

Post written by Michelle of Avery & Augustine

Christmas Present Wrapping PartyChristmas Present Wrapping Party 2Christmas Present Wrapping Party 3Christmas Present Wrapping Party 4Christmas Present Wrapping Party 5Christmas Present Wrapping Party 6Christmas Present Wrapping Party 7Christmas Present Wrapping Party 8Christmas Present Wrapping Party 9Christmas Present Wrapping Party 10Christmas Present Wrapping Party 11Christmas Present Wrapping Party 12I thought it would be fun to turn this year’s wrapping of Christmas gifts into a Christmas present wrapping party, inspired by one I had seen in an old issue of Real Simple years ago.  These merry garlands and plush friends helped create a festive and jovial atmosphere!  I set up a simple plate of wintry snacks because I knew we would work up an appetite in the midst of all the paper and ribbon frenzy—slivers of gjetost, freeze-dried cranberries, shortbread trees, chocolate creme-filled cookies and Happy Hippos.

Every year, I try to come up with a different theme for our gift wrapping, be it a particular set of colors or patterns.  This year, we went with a color palette of reds and grays.  We used washi tape to embellish our packages, creating simple Christmas motifs and letting Avery and Nate have a go at it with their own designs.  Avery and I knit some chains to tie around a couple of the presents.  Avery wrote gift recipients’ names on card stock using these dual-tip markers and I cut out an outline of each name, creating a unique shape for each.  I liked how using the brush tip of the markers added some nice depth to the letters.  When Avery looks at all of our wrapped parcels, she’ll know that she had a part in the creative process and that her work was valued.

I love how when we look back at photos of this event, it’ll remind us of the things we did together as a family throughout 2014—Nate experimenting with washi tape and different art media, the fun Avery had starting to knit (and how proud she was when got the hang of it!) and her important milestone of learning how to write letters, words and names.  Wondering if this wrapping party will become an annual tradition!

Thanks to The Land of Nod for providing us with inspiration for our wrapping party!

You can see Michelle’s work and read about her two young children and their first forays in cooking, art and everything in between at Avery and Augustine.