5 New Year's Resolutions for a Happier Family

Tuesday, December 30, 2014 No comments

A fresh new year is upon us. Let us resolve to make 2015 a year of connection and love with these 5 resolutions.

1. Make your marriage a priority. Research shows that happy marriages make happier kids. Rekindle the romance by flirting, being playful, going on dates, or just spending time alone once the kids are in bed. It's easy to let the hectic parenting life draw us away from our partners, so we have to be intentional to maintain this important relationship.

2. Commit to yelling less. Again, the research is piling up on the harmful effects yelling can have on our families – especially our kids. There is a space between stimulus and response – between your child's action and your reaction – that, when mindfully harnessed, provides the space for you to calm down and respond rather than react. Practice expanding that space a little every day.

3. Slow down and unplug. We love our smartphones, iPads, and social networking sites, but it can be easy to tune out our families when we're plugged in all the time. If you want a happier, closer family, commit to some "unplugged time" daily. Put away all the gadgets, shut down the computer, and connect with your spouse and your kids for some time each day with no distractions. Purposefully leave some empty spaces on the calendar to just be together and enjoy each others company.

4. Take better care of yourself. Your needs are important, too, and it's no secret that we can give more of ourselves when we are healthy and refreshed. Make it a priority to get the exercise and sleep your body needs as well as ensuring you have some time each week to do something just for you. If you have to drop some less important tasks or commitments to make that happen, don't feel guilty for doing so.

Can I Do Montessori at Home?

Thursday, December 18, 2014 1 comment

The Montessori Method of education was founded in 1907 by Dr. Maria Montessori, the first woman in Italy to become a physician, which she achieved in 1896. In 1901, she gave up her work in the clinic and studied philosophical education and pedagogical pathology. Dr. Montessori based her educational methods on scientific observation of children's learning processes.

What I love about Dr. Montessori is that she always emphasized respect for children. She believed even very young children have a sense of personal dignity, and therefore she advocated for allowing children freedom of choice to choose their activities and also for teaching them autonomy – to do things for themselves. She discovered that children had a wonderful ability for deep concentration at tasks that interested them and also a great sense of order. Children are naturally eager learners, and Montessori believed they are capable of initiating learning in a prepared environment.

The question is can one provide a Montessori environment at home? The answer is yes! Here's how:

Your child needs freedom to move and explore the environment. Prepare a place in your home where your child is allowed to freely explore without interference and “no's”. Make this space clean and clutter-free, pleasing to the eye, engaging, and of course, safe.

Provide simple toys for babies and toddlers, such as wooden blocks, rings with a rocking base, and simple wooden puzzles. You may want to create a busy board with a real key and lock, zippers, buttons, wheels, etc. You can find many ideas for busy boards online. Provide several different baskets of activities, all neatly arranged and easy to see, and allow your child the freedom to choose at will. Montessori emphasizes learning through all 5 senses, so be sure to include activities that stimulate each sense.

Montessori believed that having external order can help children develop a sense of internal order. Therefore, the environment should be neat and orderly, and everything should have a place. Teach your child to put things away when they are finished. Make tidying up a habit when your child is a toddler as this gives him some control over the order of his environment.

Look at your home through your child's eyes. Put things within reach. Low and open shelves and child-sized furniture are staples in the Montessori environment. Provide light weight step stools at sinks and arrange things such as toothbrushes, toothpaste, and hand soap within reach, as well as snacks low in the refrigerator and cups accessible for getting their own drinks.

Encourage Autonomy
Montessori believed that young children have a need for purposeful work, not to complete a job but for the activity itself. It is good for children to have small-sized brooms, mops, and buckets so that they can be involved in cleaning up. Teach children self-care – how to blow their noses, brush their own teeth, bathe themselves, and dress themselves as toddlers. Allow for many choices throughout their day – which cup, which shirt, etc. - and this will also foster a sense of independence. Stand back and let them try things and only offer help when needed.

If you want an easy way to start using Montessori activities at home, Montessori By Mom provides themed Toolboxes with hours and hours of activities. Having all the material together saves time and money. They include instruction videos so you don't need any previous experience. I have used them and both of my children love their Montessori Toolboxes. They enjoy playing with the materials time and time again.

"Education is a natural process carried out by the child and is not acquired by listening to words but by experiences in the environment.” - Maria Montessori


As seen at Creative Child Magazine

I'm happy to offer you a discount for Montessori by Mom of $10 off your first month's subscription! Just subscribe here and use the code AFFBEPP. Example toolboxes pictured below:

5 Ways to Bolster Your Child's Emotional Intelligence

Wednesday, December 10, 2014 No comments

Talk about feelings.
Describe how sadness, happiness, anger, and other emotions feel in the body. Teach your child to recognize and name emotions as she feels them. You can do this beginning when she is very young by saying, “You look angry. Your face is red, and your body is tense.” As she grows older, talk to her about how to handle her emotions. Teach her ways to move through sadness, deal with disappointment, calm anger, maintain happiness, and so on. She will benefit from this lifelong.

Accept and validate all feelings.
As parents, we often only like to see positive emotions in our children. Anger tends to trigger our own anger. Sadness makes us worry, and so we want to wipe it away quickly. We may dismiss disappointment or anxiety in hopes that these feelings will just go away in our children. We want to see them happy all the time, but human beings aren't happy all the time, and it's important for your child to learn that all emotions are normal and okay to feel. He needs to know, of course, that all behavior isn't acceptable (for example, he can't throw things because he's mad), but it's perfectly okay to feel mad. Don't dismiss feelings that make you uncomfortable, but sit with your child through them. Often, they just need you to listen and show understanding.

Play games that build emotional intelligence.
We have a long list of many emotions that we act out in our homeschool day. Yes, emotional intelligence is part of our curriculum. Acting out emotions with your bodies or with puppets or toys is a great way to build emotional intelligence. Look through magazines or books and talk about what emotions are shown on people's faces or give your child blank faces and various eyes, noses, and mouths to create their own faces. There are even some really neat toys that build emotional intelligence, such as Meebie and Kimochis.

Unique Gifts for Little Ones - Holiday Gift Guide 6 from CreativeChild

If you're looking for unique, creative gifts for the little ones on your list, I have a wonderful gift guide for you full of great gift ideas. Check out a few of the items in this guide:

Hi, I’m Ozobot

I provide kids and techies an expressive way to learn and play with robotics in a variety of social and interactive settings. I come to life when you create mazes, tracks and playgrounds on paper, game boards and digital screens. I also come with free downloadable apps and become your physical avatar for some truly one of a kind augmented reality games.

I teach you code language, robotic behavior and deductive reasoning while effortlessly playing on multi-dimensional environments. Expand your imagination and gain skills for life through my ability to play creative, strategic and competitive games with you.


Goobi and Jumbo G magnetic construction sets.

  1. Why Goobi?
    • An ideal and amusing activity which induces creativity and helps to develop sense of proportion.
    • Teaches simple and spontaneous ways to learn basics of geometry, physics, architecture and engineering.
    • Enhances eye-hand coordination and improves problem solving skills.
    • An entertaining activity that brings families together, revealing their undiscovered creativity.
    • Can also be very helpful for occupational therapists in the rehabilitation of people with motor skill challenges.
    • Can even appeal to professionals as a stress reducer. 


The Tubby Table  is an award-winning educational bath toy for toddlers. 

Children and parents love this innovative and educational play surface that suctions in the middle of the tub, giving kids a sturdy & safe place surface while keeping water and toys inside the tub!

And for even more great gift ideas, check out the gift guide from babyMaternity, which includes practical gifts like this Pack n Potty

Preparing Children for a New Sibling

Thursday, December 4, 2014 No comments

Welcoming a new baby into the family is an exciting time. It can also be a difficult transition for your older children. Here are some tips for making the transition to big brother or big sister easier.

During Pregnancy:
1. Read a lot of books to your child about babies, birth, and being an older sibling.

2. Encourage connection to the new baby by involving your older child in the naming process, in shopping for the new arrival, and in preparing the nursery or sleeping space for baby brother/sister.

3. Allow your older child to pick out a gift for her new sibling and wrap it. Let her know she'll get a new present from the baby, too!

4. Take your child along to hear the baby's heartbeat, and let him see ultrasound photos. Show him his own ultrasound photos, pictures of his birth and infancy, and talk about how you felt when you first held him in your arms.

5. Allow for plenty of bonding time with dad or grandma or whomever will be watching your child while you are giving birth. Prepare your child ahead of time for the separation so that she'll know what to expect.

6. Keep your routine as regular as possible in the weeks leading up to the new arrival. This is not the time to transition to big beds or for potty learning. This should be done very early in pregnancy or well after the child has had adequate time to adjust to the changes a baby brings. Too many changes at once will overwhelm her.

Once Baby is Home:

1. Involve your older child in the care of the baby as much as possible. Rather than making him wait on the sidelines while you care for baby, which is likely to foster feelings of resentment, enlist his help.

2. Be sure to tell your older child how much she is still valued. Be specific in your praise and encouragement. “You mean the world to me. I'm so glad the baby has you for a big sister! She'll learn all about being kind and helpful from her wonderful big sister.” 

3. Let your older child overhear you telling the baby what a special big brother he has and how you hope he grows up to be a lot like big brother. Anytime our children hear us bragging on them to others, it boosts self-esteem and creates feelings of belonging and acceptance. Also tell people in front of him what a wonderful big brother he's being. Save the negative comments, like “he's been so clingy since the baby came home” for when he's not in earshot.

4. Realize regression is normal and won't last forever. Some children may start to act more like a baby again. It's best to avoid criticizing this behavior and just provide love and acceptance. Once her emotions level out, she'll act like herself again.

Holiday Shopping Made Easy - Gift Guide #5 from CreativeChild

Monday, December 1, 2014 No comments

Another wonderful gift guide is here from CreativeChild, full of imaginative gifts for all the children on your list. Here are some highlights from issue #5.

Crazy A's – The Crazy 8's Reading Card Game
Ages 4 & up / 2-8 players / 10 minutes to play

Crazy A's (formerly called Whizizzle Phonics) is a fast-paced phonics game series that teaches the sounds of the English language. Designed by a dad and perfected by teachers, this series of phonics games keeps kids engaged in learning phonics basics while having fun.

Easier than memorization and more fun than flashcards, Crazy A's games help kids learn by using sight, sound and color. Level 1 teaches children the common "C-V-C" consonant-vowel-consonant words such as 'dog', 'cat', 'mom' and 'dad'.


Folkmanis Puppets

The Most Innovative, Creative, Puppet Maker in the World!

Folkmanis® believes imagination is the key to a healthy childhood, encouraging play and discovery to develop the skills necessary in life. The company has been making the most innovative and engaging specialty puppets in the world since 1976, delighting imaginations and winning nearly every industry, child development, and kid-tested award - many repeatedly.

A gift of a puppet encourages imaginative, open-ended play, endearing hugs, and snuggly companionship.


Sandtastik Play Sand, the safest sand in the world!

Sand with peace of mind

Imagine children inspired by the simplicity of soft granular sand. Watch as they will dig, pile, sift, compact and more. These are all fundamental to the development of fine motor skills, intellect, visualization and social conduct.

#1 in education - allergy free, clean sand for indoor sandtables and sensory tables at preschools, child care centres, hospitals and therapeutic offices. Sandtastik® play sand can also be used for outdoor sandboxes, playgrounds and at home.

100% safe play sand - contains no quartz, no asbestos, no wheat and no nuts.


  • 100% safe for kids
  • No free silica
  • Soft
  • Molds when wet
  • Sparkles
  • No dust
  • Ages 2+  (adult supervision)
  • AP Approved (ACMI); Non-toxic

And for new and expecting parents, don't forget to check out babyMaternity's gift guide issue 5 as well, where you'll find great gift ideas such as these!

Teach Emotions Through Play and More in Holiday Gift Guide 4

Tuesday, November 25, 2014 No comments

I have been loving these holiday gift guides from Creative Child! They are stuffed with creative gift ideas you wouldn't normally find. Here are a few of my favorites from guide #4!

Emotional health lays the foundation for all other learning. Your kids express feelings while doing what they love best — Play!

Big, cushy, comforting Meebie has swappable parts and pieces. Kids express creativity and feelings.
Play with Meebie fosters social and emotional health, earning Meebie the respect of teachers, therapists, and parents alike.


Kimochis is another fun emotional education toy!

Increase your child's emotional vocabulary and build self-esteem through play. Kimochis are award-winning plush characters that make feelings fun!


Malia's Beach House is a magnetic building set that inspires storytelling. Build the house any way you like and then decorate it with more than 40 magnetic accessories.


Playtape is the fastest, best way to creatively build roads and rails for playing with toy cars and trains. PlayTape sticks to any flat surface, is easy-tear, repositionable, easily removed with no residue, easily stored undefineded, disposable, and recyclable.


There's also a guide for expecting and new parents! 

10 Ways to Connect With Your Child

Tuesday, November 18, 2014 No comments

Being deeply connected to our children is the key to emotional health, cooperation, influence, and peaceful homes, but staying connected in the hustle and bustle of daily life can be challenging. We have to be intentional about our relationships with them now if want these relationships to flourish for years to come. Here are 10 ways to connect with your child. These require time and commitment, but the payoff is greater than anything else you will ever achieve.

1. Let go of distractions. I'm not coming with an anti-technology message, and no one expects you to let the emails go unanswered or the laundry undone, but we simply have to carve out time each and every day to attune to our children. It doesn't have to be a lot of time every day. You may be able to squeeze in only 10 minutes today, but maybe you can do an hour later in the week. The key is to really focus all of your attention on them for this set-aside time.

2. Know what makes them feel loved and give it daily. Some children need more affection, others need to hear affirming words. I highly recommend The 5 Love Languages of Children to help you understand what your child's love language is and how to practice all love languages. However, if your child is old enough, simply ask what makes him or her feel loved the most. On the flip side of this coin, be sure to avoid things that go against their language. For example, if your child's love language is words of affirmation, be especially careful with criticizing that child. Of course, you don't have to have a book to make your child feel loved. Just be sure to tell them what you love about them, encourage and build them up, and be affectionate.

3. Show sincere interest in their interests. Minecraft or One Direction might not thrill you, but you also might be surprised at what you find you enjoy when you take the time to go into your child's world.

4. Be a parent you can talk to. This means being able to listen without doling out immediate judgment. We have a tendency to want to offer our two cents before our kids even finish a sentence. Often we discount their feelings with words like Oh, it's not that big of a deal or we offer advice when really all they need is to feel heard.

5. Use positive discipline. Drop the authoritarian act in favor of being a leader and a teacher. Punishments like spanking and time out cause disconnection and don't teach the child how to improve, whereas teaching problem-solving skills and using fair and logical consequences with a healthy dose of empathy will keep the connection intact and give your child skills for better self-control.

How to Create a Peaceful Home

I truly believe that peace on earth starts at home, and that's why my website and my books have one focus, to promote peace in families. Peace must begin inward ; we must first find peace in ourselves. We can then extend that peace to our partners and children, onward to other family members and our communities, and peace will then have a ripple effect out into society.
There is much we can do to cultivate peace. For the sake of brevity, I will outline what I have found to be most fruitful in my own journey to peace.

Creating Peace Within Yourself:

Know your story. Understand your past and how it has shaped you. Decide if you were shaped in a way that you do not want to be today and do the inner work needed to bring about healing and positive change. (There are many books on this topic to choose from.)

Identify your triggers. What makes you feel angry, depleted, or anxious? Write down patterns and address ways to avoid these triggers or change your reactions to them. Good questions to ask yourself are 1) where did this trigger come from, 2) what does this tell me about myself or how I'm living my life, and 3) what can I do to deactivate this trigger and find peace?

Nurture your spirit. Seek spiritual peace with daily practice of prayer and meditation. Benefits are not only spiritual, but psychological and physiological as well.

Creating Peace Within Your Environment:

I believe home should be a haven ; a place where everyone walks in and says, "Ahhh!" Here are a few simple steps to make your home feel more peaceful.

1. Clutter is an energy drain. Pare down and organize.

2. Decorate. Cheerful, inspiring decor does wonders. I recently redecorated my living room, adding pops of cheerful turquoise and a few calming decorations, and it's now my favorite space in the house. When my mood needs to shift, I go there.

Ways to Give JOY on Your Child's Birthday

Love-bombing my children on their birthdays has become a favorite family tradition. My husband remembers with fondness how each year when he was growing up, the birthday child would wake up to getting his or her nose buttered by the rest of the family. I remember the joy of feeling celebrated when my parents smothered the house in balloons and decorations. The memories you provide your birthday boy or girl now will bring smiles for a lifetime. Here are 15 ways to give joy to your child on that special day.

  1. Crepe paper the bedroom doorway, and all the doorways if you'd like! There is a hallway leading from my child's bedroom, and I usually put a crepe paper maze through the entire hallway. The birthday child gets to bust through the doorway and run down the hall breaking streamers! It's a fantastic way to start the day!
  2. Sneak into the bedroom after she's asleep and put helium balloons all over the room. What a lovely sight for her to open her eyes to on birthday morning!
  3. Start the day with a special breakfast. A muffin with a candle or cake batter pancakes.

Gifts to Inspire and Encourage! Holiday Gift Guide #3 from CreativeChild

It's time for holiday shopping, and these gift guides from CreativeChild Magazine offer up the perfect gift ideas to encourage and inspire your little one!

Here are some of my favorites from issue #3!

The Maze Mover has 3 mazes in 1! This can be used standing, sitting, alone, or with friends. Promotes balance!

Meet NEA, CAZI, SAM and LACI. These Magnificent Sprinkles are each blessed with a special power that helps children to be brave and strong. So whether your room makes strange noises at night, or you sometimes feel lonely, Grandma Leah has just the Sprinkle for you! Sprinkles have soft rainbow hair, a silky power band, and huggable bodies perfect for a cozy cuddle. They even come in a miniature size so you can carry them with you at all times!

With a spin and a song, the Magnificent Sprinkles bring comfort and joy to you!

Snapo blocks, the only building blocks that connect on all sides with a snap, that rotate and slide too for extra fun.

The standard assortment has more than 275 blocks that come in multiple shapes and colors.

They include wheels, propellers, roof pieces, ball-connectors and many more.

All you need to build whatever your imagination can dream of: cars, houses, animals, airplanes....

They come in 4 color combinations. Check them out!

Stomp on the StompRocket launch pad and watch the rocket soar up to 
200 ft in the air!

Children loved learning to recognize letter characters with the Meet the Letters DVD. Now with Meet the Letter Sounds, children will learn the different sounds that letters make. Children will love letter characters both new and old. Meet the Letter Sounds is part of the three part Meet the Phonics Series; that teaches Letter Sounds, Digraphs and Blends. You will be amazed at how easily your little one can learn their letter sounds.™ Meet the Letter sounds features many new letter characters and also brings back old favorites from Meet the Letters.

Featuring a full color illustration of animals from around the world. i-Mat: My Animal World serves as a visual fun playland with dozens of cute animals that babies will enjoy looking at and exploring.


  • 3 Languages in English, Spanish, and Chinese
  • Basic and Advanced Games
  • Real Animal Sounds and Music
  • Teaches Vocabulary and Comprehension
  • Playmat dimensions (individual): 24.5″ x 24.5″ x 3/8″
  • Playmat dimensions (assembled): 48″ x 48″ x 3/8″

There is so much more in this guide!

View the full guide here!

Also check out the babyMaternity gift guide for expecting and new parents!

Connection-Based Discipline

In my previous article, Why Connection is the Parenting Key, I discussed the separate roles of the upstairs and downstairs brain. We know now that children learn best when they feel calm and connected. We understand that upset, out of control children have little to no access to the part of their brain that houses logic, reasoning, and sequential thought. They simply cannot “think about what they did wrong” when they're locked in their downstairs brain. Therefore, shaming, isolating, punishing, spanking, and yelling only serve to keep them locked downstairs. To help them learn the lessons we want to teach, we must first engage the upstairs brain, and we do that through connection. This simply means we meet them where they are and let them know that we hear their frustration and understand their feelings.

But won't this reward the misbehavior? The answer is no, and here's why. If your child has a tantrum over a cookie, and you empathize with her feelings and then give her the cookie, the cookie is the reward. If your child has a tantrum over a cookie and you empathize with her feelings but don't give her the cookie, she learns boundaries yet feels understood and valued. Spoiling occurs when there are no boundaries. I love what the book No-Drama Discipline says about this. “Connection is about walking through the hard times with our children and being there for them when they're emotionally suffering, just like we would if they scraped their knee and were physically suffering,”

Connecting has nothing to do with indulging, coddling, or spoiling children. Connection doesn't give in. Connection understands. Connection doesn't coddle. Connection listens. The boundary still stands. Here are some steps to discipline with connection in mind.