Experiences Over Things: Why Traveling As a Family is So Important

If you haven’t taken a family trip yet, there is no better time! Many parents feel nervous and unsure about traveling with their young children, but providing your kids with experiences over things is so valuable on many different levels. It can seem like a lot to take on; packing the car and heading to an unfamiliar destination. Will baby/toddler sleep well in a different bed? Will the room be dark enough? What if their nap schedule is ruined? How can we possibly bring everything we need? Will they cry on the airplane? These are familiar concerns from parents who have yet to take their first family vacation. Once you actually do it, I promise, it isn’t as bad as you might think! Traveling as a family exposes your kids to so many wonderful opportunities that you often can’t replicate at home.  Continue reading “Experiences Over Things: Why Traveling As a Family is So Important”

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Setting the Right Expectations When Traveling with Kids

Have you ever heard the expression “life is what you make it?” Well, remember that phrase next time you’ll be traveling with your kiddos.

Life with kids is full to the brim with fun, joy and laughter….but we all know that there are plenty of challenges and hardships we have to deal with along the way too.

Traveling with kids is no different, but I’ve talked to many parents who avoid traveling with kids because it doesn’t feel doable or “worth it” to them.

If you fall into that camp, I challenge you to shift your perspective and reframe your expectations so you don’t miss out on awesome opportunities to create memories as a family!  Continue reading “Setting the Right Expectations When Traveling with Kids”

3 Ways Traveling with Kids Makes You a Better Parent

Oftentimes as parents (especially new parents!) it’s easy to feel a little like life as you knew it is now over.

Gone are the days when you were relatively carefree and could go wherever the wind led you.

Now your days are marked by responsibility for someone other than just yourself – someone who’s daily needs are 100% dependent on you.

It can feel a little overwhelming if we’re being honest, right?

Naturally, when you’re considering the ways life changes when you become a parent, traveling with little ones is among the first to get tossed out the window.

It just seems like it would be too crazy hard with too many things to plan for and remember, and too many risks and unknowns.

It’s an easy thing to overcomplicate, and many parents today do. But it doesn’t have to be so complicated! Continue reading “3 Ways Traveling with Kids Makes You a Better Parent”

7 Ways to Foster Independence in Your Children

Guest post written by Jen Holden

Think of a time in your teenage or early adult life when you were most proud of yourself. Who was there?

I’ll bet you recalled a time when you did something totally independent of your parents. They weren’t there to hold your hand, tell you what to do, and give you all the steps to success.

You did it all on your own, and that’s what made you feel proud.

Likewise, we all want our children to become independent thinkers, problem solvers, and self-monitors, but a common problem today is that parents often “hand hold” every step of the way.

Parents tell their children how to do things and when to do them, which causes children to look to their parents for help in everything they do. This is the opposite of independence. Continue reading “7 Ways to Foster Independence in Your Children”

Tips for Traveling with a Baby Under 12 Months Old

Traveling with kids can seem pretty daunting, especially traveling with babies one-year-old or younger.

There are so many variables and factors that are ultimately outside your control, it can often feel easier to put off traveling until your baby is older. But don’t!!

Traveling with your kids can be so rewarding in many different ways! Family adventures, when planned mindfully, can be some of the sweetest memories you’ll ever make.

The key to successful traveling experiences with babies is being prepared in advance. Do your best to anticipate obstacles or changes to schedule, but then just go with the flow!

Even the most scheduled babies will survive if they stay up late one night or get to lick a popsicle for the first time.

Remember, vacation is supposed to be fun! But I get that stress can certainly creep in, so I have put together some tips for traveling with baby to hopefully help things go as smoothly as possible.  Continue reading “Tips for Traveling with a Baby Under 12 Months Old”

How to Choose Toys Your Kids Will Love

One of the things parents are often unprepared for once they start having kids is the role toys will play in everyone’s lives.

Obviously we know and understand that kids will play with toys – that’s what kids do! But navigating constant toy marketing at every turn, little hands tugging on your shirt pleading for the latest fun toy on the market, and the inevitable playroom messes that come from saying “yes” too often to those pleading requests can be more than a little overwhelming for any parent! Continue reading “How to Choose Toys Your Kids Will Love”

Cheers to the Modern Day Dad (Thank You!)

Let’s be honest, there is nothing sexier than a good dad! You know the kind I’m talking about.

One who is excited to leave work to come home and see you and the kids. Who eagerly took birthing classes with you.

One who has changed just as many diapers as you, and who proudly wears their baby through the grocery store.

The kind of dad who doesn’t think that it’s your job to do everything. One who sees marriage as a true partnership and approaches everything as team.

The dad who offers to take the kids on the weekend to give you some down time, and who folds laundry with you while you drink wine and watch TV after the kids are in bed.

The same dad who doesn’t care if the house is a mess because he knows it’s just impossible to get things done on some days, and who always thinks of your needs and the kids’ needs before his own.

Some of you may be reading this and wondering to yourself, “Where can I find these magical unicorn dads?!”

But we live in a day and age where so many men are really embracing their roles as dads and what that can mean in families.

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Sadly, 25 years ago it was hard to find dads like I described, but today it’s becoming more and more common to see men step up in ways like never before.

For some, being an involved and hands-on dad may be super challenging, not because it doesn’t come naturally, but because that isn’t what they were modeled growing up.

All the responsibility fell on mom for everything else: the cooking, cleaning, driving the kids everywhere, laundry, packing lunches, etc.

Thankfully, this was not the case with my Dad. He worked just as hard as my mom and often made sacrifices in his career to be there for us kids, so my mom could accelerate her career.

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He didn’t miss a parent teacher conference, he came home early to watch almost every one of my sports games (which often meant staying up super late to finish the work he cut short during the day), he played basketball with me on countless nights after dinner, and loaded all four of us kids into the family minivan to take us grocery shopping on Saturday mornings so my mom could have a break.

He kissed my mom every night and loudly expressed to us how much he loved her. My parents always modeled for me a relationship built on teamwork, trust and love. This is so important and shaped me into the person I am today!

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So this Father’s Day we salute all the Modern Day Dads out there!! Those dads who are hands-on, help with the chores, support their wives whether they are stay at home moms or working moms, find balance in their marriage, and strive to be just as involved as mom.

Thank you for working hard to provide for your family whether it be working a day job, a night job, two jobs, or staying home with the kids so mom can work.

Thank you for pouring the best of yourselves into loving your families well.

We love, honor, appreciate, and celebrate YOU!

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10 Simple Household Chores for Kids Under 5

With our schedules so full and our lives so busy, it’s important that we as parents make sure to teach our kids from an early age that they will be expected to chip in and help with family chores.

Giving children responsibilities helps their confidence grow and helps them understand their place in the family. What do I mean by this?

Well, as kids learn and grow they are striving to understand how they fit into the world – especially within their family unit.

Encouraging good habits like cleaning up after playtime, keeping their rooms neat and tidy, and helping with family chores will help them to understand the importance of teamwork.

Being part of a family takes teamwork to make sure things run as smoothly as possible!

Motivated by Good Will, Not Money

Personally, I suggest not using a reward system such as allowance when it comes to household responsibilities.

We should expect our kids to help out and get involved, without the added incentive of getting paid, and they should understand that expectation of them as well.

Communicate to them that chipping in and doing their share is just part of being a family.

Position it as a necessary part of a well-balanced life, and they’ll grow up understanding that, in order to get along well in life and with others, they will need to step up and do their part in the world (without needing extra incentives!)

Instead of setting your kids up to look for external rewards in everything, strive to ensure they feel appreciated and honored for the work they do.

Make Chores Fun & Find the Teachable Moments

For young kids, around 3-5 years old, make sure to keep things light and enjoyable. During cleanup and chore time my toddler often doesn’t even realize she is working because she is having so much fun in the process!

It’s all about how you frame it (and your kids will follow your example.) Remember, they are still little and learning, so frame it as a fun activity to do together and be sure to emphasize the importance of the job and how they’re helping by stepping up.

Let Them Have Ownership

Establishing the expectation that your child must take ownership of their personal belongings and their chores will help to foster independence and teach responsibility at an early age.

Set this precedent at an early age, and continue to reinforce it as they get older, making sure to not micromanage their efforts and jump in to help with every little thing.

You don’t want them continuously coming to you for help with things they are perfectly capable of doing on their own.

Examples of Simple Chores for Little Ones

To give you a good starting place for implementing these ideas with your younger children, here is a simple list of household chores appropriate for kids between the ages of 3-5, to help get them involved in the workings of the home.

1. Clean up toys

It’s a great idea to begin teaching these concepts by starting with your child’s own belongings. Turn some music on, give them directions and go to town getting their toys cleaned up in a fun, enjoyable way.

2. Set or clear the table

I don’t know about you, but my kids are always asking to help when I am cooking. When it’s meal time, let your child know that you have a special, important job that needs done in order for the meal to happen, and you’re going to give it to them!

3. Help with cooking

As I just mentioned, kids LOVE helping with cooking, which for some parents can be stressful. Don’t let it be! Create opportunities for them to be helpful during the cooking process in safe ways, such as helping you stir, retrieving ingredients from the refrigerator, or throwing things away when done.

4. Feed the family pet

This is a great opportunity for teaching young kids how to follow simple instructions, like how many scoops of food to put in the bowl, or how high to fill up the water. It will also help teach consistency because it’s important that the job gets done or your beloved family pet will go hungry!

5. Clean up spills or messes

The idea here is, “you break it, you bought it!” As early as possible, start teaching kids that if they cause a problem they need to be part of resolving that problem. Teach them to take personal responsibility by holding them responsible for their mistakes. Don’t shame them, but encourage them to make things right and offer to help as they do.

6. Get ready for the day

Teach your kids how to choose their clothes for the next day, then get dressed themselves and brush their own teeth. Once they’ve mastered this routine it will make morning so much easier for you AND they’ll feel so accomplished being able to do things for themselves.

7. Water the plants

This one is similar to feeding the pets. Make sure you child knows what will happen if the plants don’t get watered, so they learn that certain things have to be done or you’ll deal with negative outcomes later.

8. Sort laundry and match socks

This is perfect for developing cognitive skills as they learn concepts like matching. Ask them to make piles of their clothes, their sibling’s clothes if they have any, and of mommy or daddy’s clothes. Then ask them to find pairs of socks that go together.

9. Washing dishes

Whether you get them up on a chair and washing dishes in the soapy water with you, or helping you load the dishwasher after meals, get them involved in this essential cleanup step after meals. Again, this will teach them to take personal responsibility for themselves instead of waiting on other people to do things for them.

10. Collect the mail or newspaper

Most kids I know LOVE to see what the mail brought for the day, so give the job of retrieving it every day to them.

Do you have any tried and true favorite chores that you kids are responsible for doing?

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10 Tips for Packing & Traveling with Kids

We have all been there: you booked a trip to visit friends or family, put it on the calendar go about life as normal.

As the weeks pass and the trip gets closer you keep telling yourself, “I’ve got plenty of time to get ready!” Then suddenly it’s a week before the trip and full panic mode sets in.

What do I pack (the whole house?!) What will I need when I get there? How will my little one do in the car or airplane? How will I keep my kids entertained?

There can be so many unknowns, especially if you are traveling with kids for the first time. But it doesn’t have to be that way!

Check out the following 10 tips to help set you up for success when packing and traveling with kids.

1. You don’t need to pack everything!

It might seem like you need #allthethings, but I promise you don’t! Use common sense and creativity. Your bags can only hold so much (and your arms can only hold so many bags!)

Create a list of “must have/can’t live without” items and “would be nice” items. This will help you clearly see what you really need.

2. Arrange for a crib at your destination

Most hotels have cribs available for families to use, so call ahead and see what might be available.

If traveling to San Diego, you can rent the toys & gear you need from a local family using The Sharing Exchange™!

We make it super easy to browse inventory, read reviews on owners and their items, and book ahead of time.

Having the things you need when you arrive relieves so much anxiety and will make your packing list so much shorter!

Pro tip: Bring your own clean crib sheets if using a hotel crib.

3. Consider the weather and circumstances when packing

Thinking of the weather where you’ll be traveling will help you pack only what is necessary you and the kids. Be sure to pack comfortable favorites for the kids that are versatile – and don’t forget layers!

If you are heading to the beach, most days will be spent in bathing suits, so only pack a few outfits (this will reduce the list!).

For the traveling in the airplane or car, dress the kids in easy outfits for bathroom trips, especially something easy for non-potty trained kiddos.

Also, remember to bring a few new small toys for the car or airplane ride and wrap them up with layers of colorful wrapping paper. This will keep the kiddos entertained for an extended period of time.

4. Pack outfits in ziplock bags

When you’re packing for your kids, choose full outfits, including tops, bottoms, socks, underwear and accessories, and place each outfit into a gallon-size ziplock bag with their names on the front.

This travel hack will make dressing your kids each day a breeze! No more digging around in your bags trying to find all the pieces for complete outfits each day.

5. Pack enough food & snacks for each travel day

You never know when there will be an unexpected delay or hiccup in your plans.

I don’t know about your kids, but when my children are not fed they become hangry! Hangry kids on a plane = no bueno!

Make sure you have snacks, sandwiches, drinks, pouches, bottles for baby, etc. Many flights do not offer any in-flight food service, so don’t rely on this!

6. Pack a small carry-on for important essentials

This will allow you to consolidate everything that matters into one easy-to-access spot: passports, wallets, keys, paperwork of any kind, prescription medicine, medical cards, hotel details, etc. Be sure to never let this bag out of your sight!

Other possible items to include if there’s room: the stuffed animals or blankies your kids can’t sleep without, sunglasses, cell chargers, an extra set of glasses or contacts, pacifiers (yes, multiple!), and an extra change of clothes for you and kids.

Why an extra set of clothes for you? In case of a baby blow out on your lap, throw ups, drink spillage, etc. You never know what traveling with kids will throw your way, and you want to be prepared!

7. Use a baby carrier

Wearing your baby with a baby carrier is a fantastic way to travel hands-free with your little one. Try to be realistic with that you can feasibly carry while wearing your baby, so if your partner heads to the bathroom, you can still carry everything.

8. Prepare for airport security in advance

Explaining the airport security screening process to your kids ahead of time will help them understand what to expect. Be sure to touch on things like having to remove their shoes, walking through the security scanners and possibly talking to TSA officers.

Also, make sure that you’re ready to go when you enter security, so you don’t hold up the line. Car seats and strollers will have to be hand swiped with the wand, so give yourself time to go through this process.

9. Arrange for early flight boarding

This will allow you to settle into your seats and install car seats if you decided to bring those onboard (which we always recommended!)

10. Put a last call checklist on your back door

Make sure to include a master list of everything you need to make sure is packed and everything you need to make sure is done before you leave. Go through the list before leaving to ensure nothing falls through the cracks!

Above all else, remember that this trip is supposed to be FUN and you’ll be creating memories with your family to last a lifetime. Don’t let packing and traveling anxieties steal from the joy of it all!

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5 Simple Ways to Create a Mindful Playroom

We’ve all been there: you’ve managed to throw together dinner for the kids, send them off to play long enough to clean up the kitchen, and as you make your way to get them off to bed you discover that Toys ‘R Us seems to have exploded all over the playroom floor, halfway up the stairs, and everywhere else in between!

Taking deep, calming breaths you try not blow a gasket, instead patiently asking your kids to help you clean up. Oftentimes this is met with a fair amount of resistance from our little ones, so we wanted to offer a few creative suggestions to help you facilitate meaningful play in your home while doing your best to minimize the clutter and chaos.

Children learn best through play, so it’s super important to organize their toys in a way that fosters and encourages creative meaningful play. Check out the following tips to do just that, while keeping things manageable.

Less is More

This is true with so many things, but especially when it comes to toys. When kids have too many options they are less creative, get overwhelmed easily and often complain about being bored (despite having so much to do right at their fingertips!)

With so many options, kids lose focus and aren’t able to concentrate long enough to use their imagination and learn.

Every few weeks take note of what they are and are not playing with consistently. If it hasn’t been touched in a week, then store it away for later use, rent it out to another family using TheSharingExchange.com or donate it.

Ask yourself questions like, “Is this item adding value to my child’s life in a positive way?” or “Would my child miss this if it went missing?”

When we maintain a mindful playroom, we are giving our kids extra space to be innovative, resourceful and creative.

Owning fewer toys also often results in fewer conflicts between siblings and friends.

Keep Toys in a Central Location

A defined physical space for toys is often best. For example, all toys stay in bedrooms and designated play areas with no exception. I say this for three reasons.

For starters, once the play space is full then there is no room for more. You can easily practice the “one in and one out” rule, which will help you limit the excess and practice mindful consumption.

Secondly, it is important to maintain some adult space in your home for your own sanity.  No one wants toys creeping into every nook and cranny of the house!

Isn’t it the worst when you are running to tend to a crying baby and you step on a Lego in the middle of the night?! Ouch!

Lastly, keeping toys within a confined space helps kids with boundaries and mental organization. If your office supplies were scattered all over the house, when you sat down at your desk to work you would feel overwhelmed and unproductive.

Similarly, kids will often feel the same way when their toys are scattered all over the place and they don’t know where to find the things they’re looking for.

Get Creatively Organized

Instead of storing all toys in a large toy box, organize them into smaller groups and store in horizontal shelving.

Make sure your storage solution is down at your child’s eye level. This gives your kids easy access to reach what they need. And, when toys are stored down on their level, most kids are more likely to help with cleanup.

Pro tip: always make sure your furniture is safely attached to the wall so nothing comes crashing down on your little one.

Finally, make sure your bins or storage containers are a manageable size so your kiddos can pick up & carry things back to where they belong.

If you make them too heavy or bulky, they’ll have to rely on you to help clean up. We want to encourage independent helpers, not co-dependent helpers!

Using clear bins is also a great solution so they can easily see what is inside. Even better? Store a single item on the shelf so it highlights the item. Again, less clutter equals higher quality play. Modeling for our children how to arrange toys helps them learn to respect & value their things, and respect the clean up process instead of randomly scattering them all about.

Establish Expectations Around Cleanup

Around age three kids begin to understand the concept of boundaries as it relates to their belongings.

In our family we have a rule that, if you play with one thing it must be cleaned up and put away before another activity or game can be taken out.

Establishing guidelines like this provides a healthy amount of structure, which leads to more intentional play.

The playroom should be a space to learn, grow and imagine, so when it is time to clean up it is helpful to give clean up warnings to ease the transition away from playtime. This shows your child you respect their boundaries and their time.

For example, “In 5 minutes it will be time to clean up and get ready for dinner.”

I like to usually give a 10 minute, 5 minute, 2 minute and 1 minute warning. Even setting a timer can help some kids who thrive on predictability.

Almost all children like to know what lies ahead, so clean up warnings can help them gear down and start thinking about the next part of their day.

In my personal experience, I have seen less tantrums and resistance to clean up if you can give appropriate clean up warnings.

As an exception, if your child has worked for hours building a masterful block tower or Lego creation, it is ok to let it stay out for next time.

Talk this through with your child and ask them when they plan to revisit it. How would it make them feel if they had to clean it up now?

Since it obviously can’t stay out forever, talk this through and set an expectation for when it will be cleaned up.

Example, “I know you have worked hard on this, so let’s leave it here that way you can come back and play with it tomorrow. At the end of day tomorrow we can clean it up together.”

Rotate Your Children’s Play Things

If you are seeking to cultivate a truly intentional playroom with a “less is more” mentality then you might want to consider rotating your kids’ toys to keep things fresh and interesting.

Renting new toys from another family in your neighborhood is also an option. The Sharing Exchange™ was created just for this purpose.

Instead of always buying things new, a toy exchange platform like The Sharing Exchange allows you to access an endless amount of toys, games and activities from other families in your neighborhood without the headache (or cost!) of owning everything.

Rent something for a week or two and when the novelty wears off, send it back to the owner. This teaches our youngest learners how to borrow and share. Modeling this concept for your kids is invaluable! Just like a library, rent, play, return!

Respecting other people’s stuff is such a great lesson to teach your kids. If you are not local to San Diego and you don’t have access to The Sharing Exchange™ (yet!), look up toy libraries in your community or organize a play date with a toy swap.

We hope that armed with these tips and suggestions in mind you can now create a fun, safe, and intentional play space for your active learners!

So much growth happens through play, so get down on the floor and play with your little ones and watch their imaginations run wild!

Ps: Have you taken our quiz, “What is Your Child’s Play Personality”? This is a great way to better understand how your child plays! We even offer a free guide with suggestions for different toys and activities curated specifically for your child’s play personality! Click here to take our quiz.

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