Great Wolf Lodge Review

Pressing the Reset Button | Tips for Planning a Stay at Great Wolf Lodge

Homeschool is great. Sometimes, however, we become so stuck in our mundane routine that we don’t even realize how far we’ve traveled from our vision.

If you’re new here, our vision for home education is this:

To foster a healthy relationship with learning that inspires a lifestyle of educational, mental, and spiritual growth.

While field trips, extra-curricular classes, and formal lessons are great ways to execute this vision, I strongly feel that just being can teach our children the value of rest. In rest, we discover the balance we all need to prosper.

Let me give you an analogy.

You’re probably aware that, when it comes to working out, rest is just as important as the physical activity.

Why?

Because it allows our muscles, tissues, nerves, and bones to rebuild after being broken down by an effective workout routine. Too much physical activity, when not coupled with resting periods, can take a toll on the human body.

In the same way, too much education, without adequate resting periods, can take a toll on childen—and their parents.

Enter the “reset” button.

You know, that button you press when your Wi-Fi has been running a little slower than usual? Yes! I press a similar button to reset my family when things have been a little—slow.

This spring, after pressing that reset button, we took a little trip to the Great Wolf Lodge resort. We called it our mini family getaway where for just a few days we could just be. Let me tell you, it was everything we needed and more!

Before I delve into my tips, I must disclaim this post is not sponsored. We paid our own money to stay at this resort and all opinions are my own. If you missed the video footage of our GWL adventures on Instagram, you can rewatch them on our Instastory highlights under the title “Today” for a limited time.

Now, here are some helpful tips if you’re planning a family getaway to Great Wolf Lodge (GLW) this spring. 

GWL 4


1. Sign up for emails.

Before you book your stay, I highly recommend signing up for emails. All you need to do is go to the company website and create an account. After doing so, check your inbox over the next few weeks. You’ll be surprised by how many promo deals GWL will send you for up to 50% off your stay. Without doing so, you could end up paying $400-$500 per night!

 

2. Your waterpark passes are included.

You probably know this but, in case you didn’t, when you purchase a hotel room for the night, this fee includes your entry to the waterpark for all the guests who’ll be staying in that room. So, if you booked a room for a family of four for $300/night, you will NOT have to purchase additional tickets to the waterpark. Each family member will receive a wristband upon check-in that grants them entry into the park.

 

3. Check for “Homeschool Day” offers.

If you’re a homeschool family, your location may offer “Homeschool Days.” Homeschool Days are basically days the resort invites homeschoolers to enjoy their facility at a discounted rate. Our location’s Homeschool Day was last month during Spring Break. They sent out offers as low as $99 per night! We were unable to take advantage of that deal but will be looking out for it in the future.

 

4. Don’t purchase a day pass.

From what I saw, day passes are around $55 per person. For a family of four, that’s $220. Trust me when I say, you can get a room (which includes your waterpark passes) for the same price, sometimes even less if you watch for promo deals. I highly recommend staying a night at the hotel if you can manage to book it for a lower value. You’ll be able to take advantage of the fun evening activities without worrying about driving/flying home. Plus, how cool is it to sleep at a hotel that has an indoor waterpark?

 

5. It’s an indoor waterpark and it’s warm!

Great Wolf Lodge Review

Again, I’m probably insulting your intelligence, but GWL is an indoor waterpark. Although, I also don’t want to assume you know this information. Some people I spoke with actually didn’t know. All major attractions are indoors. No need for sunscreen or sunglasses unless you’re enjoying the outdoor pool/hot tub. It’s also very warm, about 80 degrees indoors. The water temperature is warm, too! And, yes, it’s open during winter.

 

6. Arrive early.

Standard check-in is at 4pm, but we were allowed to arrive as early as 1pm to have access to the waterpark, which we took advantage of. We simply checked-in, received our wristbands, and enjoyed the water park until our room was ready. And as a side note: our room was ready by 2:30pm, so we were actually able to get into our room earlier than the standard check-in time! However, this is likely because we visited during low-traffic hours.

 

7. Leave late.

Check-out is at 11am, but you don’t have to leave just yet. After checking out of your room, put all your belongings back into your car and enjoy the waterpark (and the rest of the resort) until it closes at 8pm (sometimes 9pm). Your wristband will still work for entry to the waterpark! If you want to keep your room a little longer you can always pay extra for what they call “late check-out.” You won’t necessarily need to, though, because everyone can shower and dress in the waterpark locker rooms. The locker rooms even have a machine to spin-dry your swimsuits.

 

8. You don’t need your wallet.

The wristband you receive upon check-in is attached to your credit/debit card on file. Simply scan it to make purchases at the resort. The wristband is also your room key so don’t lose it! This is pretty handy because you can keep your wallet in a safe in your hotel room and you won’t have to rent a locker ($10-$18) at the waterpark to host it.

 

9. Don’t struggle with your luggage.

If you’re not valet parking (which is an additional cost per day), send someone (your hubby or oldest child) to the front entry and have them bring a luggage cart to your parking space. There’s no additional charge for this service. Simply load up, check in to your hotel room, and leave your cart outside your door when you’re done. A staff member will bring the cart back downstairs for you.

 

10. Skip the upcharges.

GWL offers Wolf Pass packages for up to $60 per child. This is an additional charge. You get the following:

  • One MagiQuest game
  • One wand to play MagiQuest
  • One round of mini golf
  • One entry to the Moonstone maze
  • One climb at the ropes course
  • One arcade card with 20 points (this will go quickly)
  • One candy cup
  • One ice cream scoop
  • One pair of goggles

I personally did not think the passes were worth the money. There are plenty of free events to enjoy at the resort after the kids tire themselves out at the waterpark. There’s morning yoga, face painting, crafting, and story time. There are also several evening parties—including a dance party for the kiddos and more! Make sure you receive an activity schedule when you check in. If you’re staying for more than three days, perhaps the passes could be worth the money, but I wouldn’t recommend it otherwise.

 

11. You can pay for activities/attractions separately.

A Wolf Pass is not the only way to enjoy the resort’s activities. You can save money and just pay for the activities you really want to enjoy. MagiQuest, one of the resort’s most popular attractions, will cost you around $33 per person for the game and wand. That’s nearly half of what you’ll pay for the Wolf Pass. Save your wand to avoid purchasing another one if you plan to return to GWL. Additionally, bowling is only $6 a game. No need to pay $60 for a Wolf Pass if you only want to bowl! I will say the Wolf Pass is worth it if you plan to do more than two activities.

 

12. Visit on weekdays and off-holidays.

GWL 2

Part of the reason we had a wonderful time was because we visited on low-traffic days when the resort wasn’t crowded. Judging from other reviews, visiting on weekends, spring break seasons, etc., is a no-no. When we visited, the lines at the waterpark were not long. Some slides had no wait at all. There were also plenty of chairs to relax in, plenty of tables to eat lunch at, and plenty of room to move about in all the pool areas.

 

13. Take advantage of Camp Howl.

This is the only upcharge that could be worth the money. For $25-$30 per child, you can put your kiddos in a program called Camp Howl and enjoy a child-free evening from 5pm-9pm. This gives you an opportunity to sip some wine (if you drink), enjoy the hot tub, sit by the cozy fire and chat—whatever you and your spouse/friends want to do at the resort!

 

14. Beware of the towel return policy.

Be sure to return your towels before the waterpark’s closing hours. Failure to do so will result in a hefty charge to your credit/debit card. When returning your towels, you MUST ensure you swipe your wristband and hear that “beeping” sound. Some attendants may let you know about this policy (ours did), but judging from other reviews, some of the park attendants failed to relay this information to guests.

 

15. Stay an extra night.

This may not happen for you, but our resort sent us a promo code on the second day of our visit inviting us to stay an extra night for only $75. A huge savings from the $400 per night average! If you’re willing to take a risk, just book one night less than you’re planning to stay and see if your resort will offer an additional night for a fraction of the cost. Keep in mind that we stayed at our resort during low-traffic days, so more rooms were probably available to give us this offer. If you can swing it, you could save over $325 for your last night’s stay.

 

16. Don’t overpack.

GWL 5

The waterpark supplies a seemingly unlimited amount of beach towels, free of charge, but make sure you return them when you’re done! The waterpark also offers certified life vests and flotation devices. You will not be able to bring your own floatie into the park, but you can for sure bring a certified life vest if you’re picky about those types of things.

 

17. B.Y.O.F.

Yes, bring your own food if at all possible. As with any resort, prices are inflated and the food is just so-so. GWL allows you to bring a cooler into your room (not to the waterpark, though). There’s a nice size mini fridge to store it all. We packed sandwiches, cereal, apples, bananas, Gatorade, water, and more! For dinner, we simply drove about 8 minutes to the nearest Chick-fil-a. And I will add that the waterpark states “no outside food” but I saw plenty of families bring in their own food at our location. According to other reviews, some locations will check your bags so BYOF into the waterpark at your own risk. No worries, though, there’s a restaurant inside the waterpark should your kiddo swear they’ll die of hunger.

 

18. Not teen-friendly.

My boys are 6 and 9-years-old and I agree with the people who say this resort is for families with children ages 12 and under. I saw MANY bored teens. Unless your teen has a “kid at heart” personality or is a low thrill-seeker, they’ll probably hide in the hotel room glued to their cell phone. There’s only one high-thrill slide. The other slides were so low-thrill that I saw toddlers get on them. There were also moderate-level slides suitable for 9-12-year-olds. However, there’s an outdoor pool that teens might enjoy, but it’s only open during the warmer months. I’m not a high thrill seeker, so I was happy to get to enjoy the slides with my boys free of fear, haha.

 

19. You can relax.

The lifeguards and staff at my location were phenomenal. They were alert, friendly, but stern. If your kids are pretty well behaved, you can totally relax in the chairs next to the waterslide area and let them go at it! Honestly, I didn’t encounter one child misbehaving (although I know this is rare). The lifeguards are quick to blow their whistles and put them in check. My husband and I did enjoy the slides quite a bit with our children. However, after an hour or so, our thighs started burning from climbing all those steep stairs. We opted to stay in close range while our boys went on the slides as much as they pleased, and we felt like they were in good hands.

 

20. Coffee (and other adult beverages) onsite.

For all my coffee lovers, the resort does have a Dunkin Donuts on-site and the prices are actually reasonable. My husband and I paid about $5 for two medium coffees. For a resort, that’s not a bad price point.  We are not drinkers, but we’ve also peeped that the resort offers beer, wine, and other alcoholic beverages in their restaurants. There’s even a bar in the waterpark.  Also, feel free to BYOB to the hotel.

 

21. Celebrate a birthday.

GWL 7

My youngest son’s 6th birthday gave us another excuse to splurge on this getaway. It worked out since his actual birthday landed on our homeschool field day last week and we didn’t get to throw a party. He had a great birthday with his friends, but GWL definitely took it up a notch. They made him feel extra special the entire stay, from singing happy birthday GW-style, to giving him special party hat wolf ears that alerted everyone to grant him birthday wishes. He kept asking how everyone knew it was his birthday. He loved it! Be sure to let the resort know you’ll be celebrating a birthday and get your camera ready to capture the moment.

 

22. Visit the Lagrange, Georgia Location.

If you’ve got options in regards to locations, choose the Lagrange, Georgia location. For starters, the customer service is great (shoutout to Ms. Kim at the check-in counter). The rooms are nice and clean since it’s a newer facility. The Lagrange location is also the prototype for future Great Wolf Lodge’s, as there are newer attractions that other locations do not have. So go and check it out!


GWL 3

Well, that about sums it up! Have you traveled to GWL before? What are your tips?

 

 

 

 

 

Homeschool of Shame | When I Lose My Temper

Homeschool of Shame | When I Lose My Temper

Losing one’s temper looks different for everyone. For me, it looks like screaming orders at the top of my lungs when I get tired of repeating myself. I mean, why can’t my kids just listen the FIRST time, right?

I’ve quickly realized, I wasn’t the only one struggling to maintain my cool. It’s quite a hot topic amongst moms, especially the homeschool moms in my circle.

I’ve also quickly realized I didn’t want my emotions controlling me. It’s not a great feeling. So, I set out to be intentional about improving this area of my life. And I’ve discovered that 99.9 percent of this change required daily doses of tenacity, self-awareness, and mindset renewal.

Months later, I’ve noticed a huge improvement in my temperament, and I want to share some of the things that have been working for me. Here are seven preventative strategies I use to keep me from losing my temper:

 

 

1. I expect my temper to be tested:

Don’t we all prepare for things when we expect it to come? A wedding? A new baby? A midterm exam? Similarly, I prepare for a test in patience because I expect it. Each day comes with its own challenges. I can recite all the positive declarations I want, but they will not stop the challenges of the day from coming. What these declarations WILL do instead is prepare me for the challenges of the day. They give me the mindset I need to better manage my emotions and resist the temptation to be quick-tempered. Here’s one of my favorite declarations inspired by 1 Corinthians 13:4-8:

Today, I choose to be patient and kind. I refuse to be rude, easily angered, or keep a record of wrongs. I will persevere through the challenges that come my way because I know love never fails.

 

2. I realize that I’m in control:

Anger is part of being human. It’s a valid emotion. And, while it doesn’t feel good, the good news is that I get to choose whether it dictates my behavior. I’ve learned that anger is not the problem, but rather what I do with that anger that poses the real issue. I’ve learned my negative response to anger is nothing more than a bad habit that needs to be replaced with good ones. Here are some REAL ways I managed to adopt good habits to dispel anger:

  • Give it to God: If you live with me, or are a close friend, you’ll hear me say MANY times, “God, help me!” when I feel I’m about to lose it.
  • Start declaring love and peace: You’re probably tired of me mentioning “declarations,” but the power of the tongue is a mighty tool.
  • Find the humor in it: Yes, I’ve been known to laugh off anger. Hey, it works!

 

3. I let it out:

Even when I manage to keep my cool and the situation has passed, the anger can still linger. This is when I find a safe space to let it out. If I’m in public, a bathroom stall has never failed me. I pray, I sob, and I wipe my tears and move on. If I’m at home, I take a similar approach but in the comfort of my bedroom. My car has also been my “safe place” to let the tears roll and release some steam.

 

4. I confront the offender:

Sometimes, pent-up anger arises when I don’t confront the offender. Maybe I let my kid off the hook one too many times. Maybe I was overcharged and never bothered to go back to the store to resolve the issue. Small things like this can add up in the stealthiest of ways. Trust me, I never realized how much not speaking up has been the source of my lost temper. What I’ve learned is to not “let stuff go” that actually needs to be addressed. As long as it’s done in love, confronting your offender and resolving issues can be very freeing.

 

5. I take self-inventory:

“What’s going on, Nike? What is the REAL issue?” These are the questions I ask myself after I’ve lost it. What makes this measure “preventative,” even though technically at this point I’ve lost it, is that I can pinpoint certain triggers to be aware of next time around. Sometimes, it wasn’t that I was angry but sad, afraid, or discouraged. Sometimes, I realized the anger stemmed from an insecurity. For instance, when I first started homeschooling, I was insecure about whether I was doing a good enough job. Therefore, a child who refused to do assignments or was simply “not getting it” became a common trigger. Once I identified the trigger, it became less powerful and less likely to prosper against me. Wouldn’t you take the bullets out of a gun you knew would be used against you?

 

6. I take care of myself:

Don’t roll your eyes at this cliché tip. You’d be surprised how much a bad diet and no exercise can affect you. I’m in no way perfect in this area of my life. Sometimes I eat that extra slice of cheesecake and skip that evening workout. But I can say with certainty that the more I do it, the more I’m reminded it’s just not worth it. Why? Because I’m keen on how my mood changes when I do my body a disservice. Exercise is one of the BEST ways to release the stress and negative energy that can lead to a loss of temper. I’ve learned to keep it simple, though. A walk around the neighborhood on a sunny day does plenty for my mood.

 

7. I remember that anger is toxic:

Have you ever seen the rice experiment? A man puts an equal amount of freshly cooked rice into two jars. He labels the first jar “love.” He labels the second jar, “hate.” For a period of weeks, the man spends each day saying positive words to the “love” jar and negative words to the “hate” jar. After just a few days, the rice in the jar labeled “hate” starts to blacken and mold. And after a few weeks, the rice in that same jar is unrecognizable while the rice in the jar labeled “love” still looks good enough to eat. The moral? The words we spew in anger are powerful and toxic.  I try to remember this the next time I want to tell-off someone I love. I picture that “hate” jar, I see their spirit, and I imagine how my words could possibly destroy them.


 

And there you have it. These are six things I actually do that work. With any post like this, I must make the disclaimer that if you’re EVER concerned about your anger, you should definitely seek the help of a professional. There’s no shame in that. But for those who are looking to grow in patience, I highly recommend trying some of these strategies out!

 

Have any helpful tips? Don’t be shy! Let us know in the comments.

 

 

 

 

 

Homeschool | Help Your Child Work Independently

How to Help Your Child Work Independently

You may have read my post last week where I shared what a typical homeschool day-in-the-life looks like for my preschooler. This week, I will discuss how I was able to get my second-grader to work independently to award me more time to work with my four-year-old.

I’m surrounded by homeschool moms often, and I can pretty much gather there’s a common struggle with getting a child to work independently. One mom admitted she waits until her husband comes home to lay down the law, while another mom recently discovered her “independent worker” had been skipping assignments. Still, there are many moms who don’t even know where to begin.

We all fall short somewhere, but there is hope for those of us who struggle to get our children to complete their assignments on their own. This academic year, my goal was to get my second-grader to work independently on reading, spelling, and math at the very least. I can safely say that I’ve reached my goal and it’s taken a huge weight off my shoulders. I want to help you remove some weight, too. So, here goes!


16 Tips That Helped My Son to Work Independently


 

1. Make Daily Reading a Habit.

If you don’t follow any other tips on this post, at least follow this one! Strong reading fluency is the foundation for working independently. Why? Because your child will need strong reading skills to read and understand lessons on their assignments. Only continued practice will develop a fluent reader, so ensure your child reads every single day. My second-grader was required to read for one hour every day last year—including summers. This year, he easily spends an hour reading on assignments alone.

How to Get Your Child to Work Independently

2. Let Your Child Practice Reading Instructions.

Instead of reading the instructions to your child all the time, let him give it a shot. Reading instructions helps your child get familiar with words they may not encounter in everyday language but are common jargon for a subject. For instance, your child may never see the words “addition,” “subtraction,” or “multiplication” in a chapter book, but will need to become familiar with these terms to work independently on their math curriculum.

3. Don’t Skip Reading Comprehension.

When my oldest son was in kindergarten, he was required to complete one reading comprehension activity every morning. Of course, this was once he became a fluent reader. Reading comprehension is not only important for ensuring a child understands what he reads, it’s important because it puts the child into the practice of questioning if he understands what he reads. Therefore, when a child reads on his own, he will naturally look for evidence that the text is understood. This is essential for working independently because some children who lack reading comprehension skills may struggle with understanding lessons that accompany assignments.

Reading Comprehension Practice

4. Baby Steps Build Confidence.

I recommend starting a child off working independently as early as preschool. You can give them simple tasks like circling all the “A’s” on a worksheet and then “slip away” while they complete the task on their own. These baby steps will help the child build the confidence that they can successfully complete tasks in your absence. This tip is new to me, so I didn’t do this early training with my oldest son but have with my youngest. However, when my oldest son was in kindergarten, I would leave the room after a lesson while he completed the seatwork on his own. This practice gave him the confidence he needed to eventually work independently.

5. Read It Thrice Before Asking for Help.

Establishing a habit of reading the directions over three times will help cut down on asking for help prematurely. I don’t know how many times my second-grader came to me in a panic, only for me to ask him to reread the directions and for him to say, “oh, I understand now.” The rule of thumb is if after the third reread you still don’t understand the directions, I’ll be glad to help.

Helping a Child Work Independently

6. Make Consequences Clear and Concise.

Being a mom is hard enough. When your child doesn’t take you seriously, it makes the job even harder. To the mom with no backbone, here’s how to get one: make clear and concise consequences for not completing assignments—and follow through! Consequences reinforce your authority and encourage your children to respect you as such. In our home, there will be no screen-time of any sort if independent assignments are not completed. No exceptions. You get to decide what rules and consequences best fit your family.

7. Develop a Simple and Effective Checklist.

Once your child is ready to work independently, make a simple checklist to help them stay on track. Although you want the checklist to be simple, add necessary details to ensure your child completes all the assignments for a subject. For instance, I must remind my son on the checklist to answer all the questions for his assigned reading. When you give a child a checklist, it eliminates the “what next?” questions. Additionally, research suggests those little checkmarks increase motivation and confidence.

Checklists for Kids

8. Have a System in Place.

Make sure that you have a designated place for all your child’s independent work that is easy to get to. In our home, we’ve adopted the workbox system using a storage cart. In previous years, we’ve used labeled binders that we stored on a tabletop shelf. What I love about our current system is that there are ten drawers, so every subject has a place and we can even store school supplies there. This simple solution eliminates all questions that start with “where is my…?” Plus, having a system encourages my son to practice the good habit of organizing.

9. Create a Conducive Environment for Independent Learning.

You don’t have to get fancy on this one. Most of my mom friends attest that the bed is their child’s favorite place to get work done. Personally, I like to let my son work quietly upstairs in the classroom while his brother and I are downstairs doing lessons.

Homeschool Learning Classroom

10. Eliminate Screen-Time.

Trust me on this, screen-time is a distraction. I’m going to sound very strict, but we do not do screen-time unless it’s the weekend or off-school day. This, of course, is with the exception of videos that accompany a lesson. How do we live? Perhaps I’ll write a future post on it. I must say that when screen-time was an option, my son would rush through his schoolwork just to be done for the day so that he could play video games. This lack of application resulted in careless errors on his assignments. It was then that I decided to limit screen-time to weekends only, and it worked!

11. Explain the Importance of Working Independently.

If your child is like mine they like to know the why behind EVERYTHING. Even if they aren’t as inquisitive, it’s still a good idea to explain the importance of working independently. This explanation may be different for each household. In our home, we explain to our boys that their independent assignments test their responsibility. When they complete their checklists without being told and put in their greatest effort they are indicating to us that they are responsible and can be trusted with more privileges. Of course, there are more benefits we could share with them, but privileges are what motivates them most them at this age.

Helping a Child Work Independently

12. Be Available.

Working independently can be stressful in the beginning. And with good reason, because as parents we are transferring some of the educational responsibility to our children. Don’t be surprised if, during the first week or two, your newly independent worker takes on the role of the “needy” student. My son tested me to the point of annoyance. But I later realized what he was looking for was reassurance that I was “there.” Once I assured him that he was not entirely on his own and that I was always willing to help him, I received fewer unnecessary interruptions.

13. Refrain from Micro-Managing.

I find that many moms, including myself, will constantly ask their independent worker if they’ve completed all their assignments. No, don’t do this. The goal is to help them become independent workers. That means they should already know what’s expected of them and execute the mission without being told. Instead, evaluate their progress at the end of the week and give fair consequences for incomplete assignments. I guarantee their checklist will be one of the first things they’ll get done in the morning after a day or two of not being able to play video games.

Help a Child Work Independently

14. Review All Assignments.

Set a day aside every week to ensure your child is on track and is mastering the material. I’ve heard from many moms who admit to not doing this, but I must say reviewing your child’s work is necessary for their academic success. For example, one week I noticed my second-grader was not “borrowing” correctly on his math assignments. I was able to nip the bad habit in the bud by sitting down and helping him to see where he went wrong. I was also able to administer extra practice on that particular topic. Even more? When a child knows you’ll be reviewing their assignments, they’ll have even more incentive to try their best.

15. Have a Reward System in Place.

It’s always a great idea to reward your child if they’ve had a successful week. I mean, who doesn’t like to be recognized for a job well done? These rewards don’t have to be extravagant. It can be as simple as writing a note that reads “way to go!” Of course, I must mention it’s best to refrain from overpraising as studies suggest it has the opposite effect. But a little praise here and there is a great confidence booster for independent learners. Personally, on the weeks when my son goes above and beyond, I let him have his tablet after his tests on Friday, rather than making him wait until Saturday (we only do tablet time on weekends).

Homeschool Language Arts Independent Work

16. Choose the Right Curriculum.

So, I literally thought of this tip at the very last minute and wanted to include it due to its significance. If your goal is for your child to work independently, make sure to choose a curriculum that caters to independent learning. The only reason my son doesn’t work independently on ALL of his subjects is that I didn’t make the right curriculum choices. His curricula for language arts, geography, and science all require my instruction and supplementation. While I enjoy these curricula, next year I will make choices that better fit our homeschool agenda.


That concludes my list of tips that helped me develop an independent learner. The key term here is develop, as there’s an advancement and maturity process to working independently. It takes time! Of course, I can’t end this post without saying every child is different and will work independently at different ages. If you have an independent learner, let us know your tips in the comments below!

 

15 Ways to Encourage Your Reluctant Reader

How to Encourage Your Reluctant Reader  | 15 Solutions

“My kid hates reading.” I hear that phrase all the time.

I have two readers. A four-year-old who’s emerging and a second-grader who reads fluently. Let me just say they’ve both had their reluctant moments. I won’t even begin to discuss the reluctant readers I encountered during my tutoring days. Trying to find a formula that works for reluctant readers can be frustrating, especially since every child is different. Here me out when I say it’s never the fault of the reluctant reader. It’s our job as their teacher to help them discover what method works best for them—help them soar! Below, are some of the strategies that helped me find a winning formula for each child. I hope you find these tips useful in helping to develop a winning formula for your reluctant reader.


 

15 Ways to Encourage Your Reluctant Reader

1. Wait.

Before I discuss my next few points, I want to mention this: If you have a reluctant reader under the age of seven, try waiting. Children learn to read at their own pace. My oldest son didn’t start reading until age six. It took four months for him to read fluently. It was a quick process because he was ready. I did not push early learning, but I did encourage pre-reading skills. Nothing formal. My youngest son, who is four, started learning to read at age three because he wanted to. He was eager at first but later regressed for months. We paused our curriculum and waited until he was ready to continue. You can find several scholarly articles making a compelling case for waiting until age seven to begin formal reading lessons. I say, it depends on the child. When a child is ready, there’s no stopping them. When they aren’t ready, early reading can prove counterproductive.

 

2. Be realistic.

15 Ways to Encourage Your Reluctant Reader
Setting Realistic Expectations WIll Help Reluctant Readers

Listen carefully: your child may not be a reader. I know It’s scary. The terror of realizing your child hates practicing such a vital skill. But guess what? It’s going to be alright. Trust me when I say you just haven’t found what motivates him yet. In the meantime, set realistic expectations. Your child may not pick up a book for leisure, but he will read when it serves his interest.  Which leads me to my next point…

 

3. Discover what excites them.

Those “boring” chapter books that accompany their reading curriculum may be a snooze. Why make your child read something boring? After all, you yourself typically enjoy reading what fascinates you. Discover what excites your little reader. For instance, my son loves informational texts. He’ll freely read up on anything from coding to architecture “how-to” books. Reading is reading.  Hey, even comic books count. If your child practices often, it shouldn’t matter what their text of choice is.

 

4. Make lessons short.

15 Ways to Encourage Reluctant Readers
Keep Lessons Short For Reluctant Readers

If reading is frustrating for your child, make the lessons super short. I’m talking 10 minutes or less. I made the mistake of pushing my oldest son to complete full lessons and boy was it frustrating for both of us. Thankfully, he enjoyed reading once he got the hang of it. After much research and prayer, I learned to take it easy with my second son. He is less reluctant because our reading lessons are so short. Even better? He’s improving with each lesson. Remember, quality over quantity is best. You can gently increase the lesson time as your child masters the material.

 

5. Be repetitive.

Don’t be afraid to let your child read the same book, chapter, or passage repeatedly. At three-years-old, my youngest son mastered reading a primer titled “Cat.” That’s all he wanted to practice reading for weeks. Similarly, my oldest son reread Frog and Toad books countless times when he was first introduced to chapter books. Instead of following the recommended reading for their curriculum, I let them read these books. It helped build their reading comprehension, fluency, and confidence.

 

6. Offer incentives.

Last year, my oldest son exchanged an hour of reading for an hour of video games. There was hardly a day that went by that he didn’t cash in on this offer. This year, since we no longer allow video games during the week, he reads an extra hour in exchange for a later bedtime. You’ll read more about extending bedtime in my tip about establishing a reading hour. For my four-year-old, stickers and snacks do the job. I purposely scheduled his snack time after reading lessons to give him something to look forward to.

 

7. Establish a reading hour.

15 Ways to Encourage Your Reluctant Reader
Designated Reading Hours For The Family Can Encourage Reluctant Readers To Read More

Establish an hour every day when the house is quiet and everyone is expected to read. Guess what the best time to do this at my house is? If you said “bedtime” you’ve guessed correctly! My kids will do anything to stay up—that includes reading books. I give them permission stay up an extra hour if they read. It works! They sort of feel like they’re getting away with something.

 

8. Get competitive.

If your child is competitive in nature use it to their advantage by timing their reading speed. We like using an egg timer because the ticking sound encourages my son to focus. The goal is to see how much they’ve read in ten minutes, twenty minutes, or whatever time you’ve decided on. When the timer sounds, record the time and see if they can beat their own record the next time they read. A game I like to play with my youngest is sounding a loud noisemaker each time he reads a word correctly. My noisemaker of choice is a squeaker and, let me tell you, he thinks this game is absolutely hilarious. Admittedly, the squeaker is annoying, but it works and my four-year-old’s giggle is just adorable.

 

9. Visit the library or bookstore.

Sometimes being in an environment where other people are reading will offer encouragement to a reluctant reader. Not to mention the seemingly endless book selections available to suit their inquiring minds. When we take trips to the library, I let my kids pick out anything that interests them. I help them look up subjects, they take the books to the tables and read through them eagerly. No, they don’t read every single word. But listen, I’m just happy they’re excited about a book. We arrive home with 30-40 new books after each library visit, sometimes more! Which leads me to my next point.

 

10. Establish a diverse home library.

15 Ways To Encourage A Reluctant Reader
Diverse Book Selections Keep Reluctant Readers Interested

You don’t have to buy a bunch of books. I know I don’t. What I do is check out up to 50 books from the library every few weeks and keep our home library resources in rotation. This ensures there’s always something my kids will be interested in reading. We have award winning story books, books about computer programming, health, animals, black history, and more! These selections change every few weeks. And yes, my kids will actually read them—or at least look through them. If we really like a book, we consider purchasing it and making it part of our permanent library.

 

11. Get moving.

Sometimes it’s not the reading that kids dislike, but the sitting still part. If you’ve been trekking with me, you know my boys are kinesthetic learners. They love to move! Reading while pacing is a great antidote for little movers. It may drive you crazy to watch it, but trust that these movements are all a part of helping them concentrate and retain information as they read. If they don’t like pacing, try a stress reliever ball that they can squeeze when they feel the urge to move.

 

12. Let them listen to fluent readers.

Sometimes it may be that your reluctant reader hasn’t had enough examples of what fluent reading sounds like. Be sure to read aloud to them often so they can develop an ear for it. Let them follow along with you as you read so they can see how you pause after each comma, sentence, paragraph, etcetera. Audio-books are also great for this, but make sure it includes the physical copy of the book so that your child can follow along.

 

13. Be an example.

15 Ways to Encourage Your Reluctant Reader
Being An Example Is A Great Way To Inspire Reluctant Readers

Does your child ever see you read for leisure? It’s no secret that children learn more from the things we do than the things we say. A great way to encourage a reluctant reader is to simply get lost in a book yourself. You’ll convey the message that reading is fun and interesting. I typically read in bed after the kids are asleep, so I have to make a conscious effort to let them see me read every now and then.

 

14. Join a reading club.

Most libraries and bookstores will offer seasonal reading camps to help encourage a love for reading and motivate children to read more books. We always take advantage of these camps. It’s a great way for reluctant readers to challenge themselves, meet new friends, and be publicly rewarded for their achievements. If you’re a homeschooler, consider reading clubs or classes at your local co-op or homeschool group. This year, my oldest son has been taking a reading class that focuses on group reading. He loves this class so much that he signed up for it again this semester. It’s been a fun way for him to practice reading among his peers.

 

15. Remind them that they’re not alone.

15 Ways to Inspire Reluctant Readers
Sometimes Knowing They’re Not Alone Is All The Encouragement Reluctant Readers Need

Learning to read the English language is challenging. There are so many rules and “exceptions to the rules” that can frustrate an emergent reader. I like to remind my boys they’re accomplishing something that’s challenging for many people, but with regular practice they will master the art of reading. When my oldest was an emergent reader, it was like the weight was taken off his shoulder when I gave him a list of people he admired that had trouble reading at first but have now mastered the skill. Similarly, my four-year-old has witnessed the reading journey of his older brother and looks to him for inspiration. Sometimes knowing they aren’t the only one is comforting and motivating.


Your Turn: I want to hear from you. What are some strategies you’ve used to help your reluctant reader? Let us know in the comments!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How to Homeschool

10 Things You Should Know Before You Homeschool

Thinking about homeschooling your children, or know someone who is? As a newbie homeschooler, I would have been lost if it weren’t for the homeschool veterans that helped me put everything into perspective. So, here I am paying it forward. Not that I consider myself a veteran, but I’ve learned a thing or two. Here are my top ten things every prospective homeschooler should know and/or consider before their first year of homeschool. And if you’re already in the homeschooling game, perhaps you may still find some of these tips useful.   


10 Things You Should Know Before You Homeschool


1. The Law

In the United States, you have the right to provide your child with a home-based education. Homeschool is a legal practice in all fifty U.S. states and has been since 1993. However, there are legal requirements you should know regarding homeschool. Requirements differ depending on where you live, so it’s best to research the requirements for your state. I can offer you a summary here, but be sure to do the research for yourself for up-to-date legal requirements.

Homeschool Law Breakdown

There are four types of states regarding homeschool laws: The first type is a No Regulation State. A no regulation state has no requirements for homeschool parents. The second type is a Low Regulation State. A low regulation state only requires parents to send notification of their intent to homeschool. The third type is a Moderate Regulation State. A moderate regulation state requires parents to send notification of their intent to homeschool, as well as test scores and/ or professional evaluation of student progress. Finally, the fourth type is a High Regulation State. A high regulation state may require notification, test scores, curriculum approval by the state, teacher qualification of parents, or home visits by state officials, among other things. Click here to get a snapshot of the category your residing state falls into.

I can’t stress enough to do your own research. Laws change all the time and there are always details to consider. To help structure your research, seek to answer the following questions:

  • Is there a compulsory attendance?
  • Are there required subjects?
  • Is there a deadline?
  • Do you have to keep records?
  • Can you teach other kids?
  • Can you hire a tutor?
  • Do you need a college degree?
  • Are there required standardized tests?
  • What are your other rights?
  • Did any laws change?

I know. It all seems so scary. If you need any legal help, the Homeschool Defense Legal Association will point you in the right direction.

2. Your Vision

So, what’s a vision, anyway?

I like the way leadership expert, Jessie Lyn Stoner, defines vision: “Vision is knowing who you are, where you’re going, and what will guide your journey.” It is made up of your purpose, picture of the future, and your values. Now let’s apply that to your homeschool. Ask yourself these questions:

  • What is your purpose for homeschooling and what value will it provide to your family?
  • What will your picture look like at the end of your homeschool journey when your purpose of fulfilled?
  • What are your core values and how will they support your purpose?

Make sure you write your vision down! Here’s an example from my vision and mission statement for the upcoming school year.

Nike Anderson's Homeschool Vision Statement

3. The Benefits

Understanding the benefits of your decision to homeschool will keep you going when things get tough. Be sure to do thorough research on all of the benefits you’ll be providing for your children (and yourself!) during your homeschool experience. Write them down or print them out. Here are a few statistics from the National Home Education Research Institute:

  • Homeschool students score above average on achievement tests regardless of their parents’ level of formal education or their family’s household income.
  • The home-educated typically score 15 to 30 percentile points above public-school students on standardized academic achievement tests.
  • Homeschool students are increasingly being actively recruited by colleges
  • The home-educated are doing well, typically above average, on measures of social, emotional, and psychological development. Research measures include peer interaction, self-concept, leadership skills, family cohesion, participation in community service, and self-esteem.

It’s important to understand that some statistics in favor of homeschool, and those against homeschool, can be biased. Instead, make it a habit to write down your personal list of benefits that you’ve experienced as a result of homeschool. Here’s mine. Perhaps I’ll explain these in depth in another blog post.

  • Improved Focus. We’re able to modify our learning environment to ensure the best possible focus.
  • Close-knit Family. We have the opportunity to strengthen our relationship with one another.
  • Tailored Education. We can choose a curriculum that best suits our family and make necessary modifications if needed.
  • Tailored Pace. We can speed up or slow down our lessons depending on the level of mastery. 
  • Lifestyle Learning. There’s very little separation between real-life and “school.” Everything’s a lesson!
  • Lifestyle Freedom. Our schedule is super flexible. We can vacation off-season and visit attractions during low-traffic hours.

4. Discounts & Free Resources

Homeschool has the potential to get costly, especially for beginners who are tempted to purchase everything that veterans recommend. Research free resources in your area. You might be amazed by all your community has to offer for little to no cost. The local library is a great place to start, as they are typically connected to many resources that offer free admission to the museum, zoo, aquarium, and much more. You can even find free or low-cost classes at your local museum, zoo, aquarium, capital building, and education center.

Of course, there are many free resources on the Web. Youtube has great educational channels for all ages, and there are websites galore that are full of access to free educational resources. Websites I’ve used frequently for free printables and curricula are:

  • Education.comFree printables for core and elective subjects for grades pre-k thru high school. Also provides games, activities, lesson plans, and more.
  • KidzoneFree worksheets for pre-k thru grade 5.
  • Teachers pay TeachersFree lesson plans, worksheets, games, and resources from experienced educators around the world.
  • AllinOneHomeschoolA free online curriculum for core and elective subjects for grades pre-k thru high school.
  • Khan AcademyFree online courses, classes, and practice.
  • ScholasticFree resources and tools, printables, and more.
  • Hoffman AcademyFree music lessons.
  • Nike Anderson’s Classroom(Shameless plug, hehe!) Free printable worksheets for pre-k thru grade 2 designed for kinesthetic learners.

This list doesn’t even make a dent so please do your own research. New resources I haven’t tried but am just learning about are:

  • CrayolaFree lesson plans and resources for language arts, math, STEM, social studies, art, and more.
  • Homeschool Buyers CoopFree virtual field trip lesson plans, resources, tips, and more.

Read FREE Homeschool DEALS Your Wallet Will LOVE for more resources.

*******You May Also Qualify for Teacher Discounts******

Don’t forget you are a teacher, too! I mean, I know this should be a given, but it took me a while to accept that title. So make sure you attend teacher drives in your area and take advantage of the free school supplies they give out at the start of the school year.

Even more? You can receive a teacher’s discount at participating supercenters, bookstores, and office supply stores. I’ve personally received discounts at my local bookstore, but am now learning there are so many stores that may offer homeschoolers a teacher’s discount. Keep in mind that you may have to show your declaration of intent, homeschool membership card, or HSLDA membership card. Here are some stores you might want to try according to the HSLDA.

·         Adobe.com

·         A.C. Moore Arts and Crafts

·         Ann Taylor Loft

·         Apple Store

·         Barnes & Noble

·         Big Lots

·         The Book Barn

·         Books-a-Million

·         Colonial Williamsburg

·         The Container Store

·         Creation Museum

·         Dell

·         Generation Joshua

·         Goodwill

·         Half Price Books

·         HSLDA Online Academy

·         J. Crew

·         Joann Fabrics

·         Legoland

·         Michaels

·         Mount Vernon

·         New York and Co.

·         Office Depot

·         Office Max

·         Patrick Henry College

·         Ripley’s Attractions, Gatlinburg, TN

5. The Types of Homeschool Groups

Basically, there are different types of homeschool groups that cater to the needs of different families. The best way I found out about the homeschool groups in my area was through a Facebook search. I simply searched “homeschool groups near me” and requested to join the groups I was interested in. Please note that there is an additional process to be an official member of the homeschool group of your choice. Joining a Facebook group may give you access to information about that group, but many groups require an application, a membership fee, references, a background check, mandatory volunteering, and more. Be sure to seek out the group administrator for additional requirements. Here are some examples of homeschool groups to consider:

  • Christian Homeschool Groups—A group that provides homeschool families with information, fellowship, and learning opportunities centered around Christian beliefs.
  • Secular Homeschool Groups—A homeschool group that provides non-religious families with information, fellowship, and learning opportunities.
  • African American/ Ethnic Homeschool Groups—A homeschool group that connects African Americans and/or various ethnic groups with one another.
  • STEAM Homeschool Groups—A homeschool group that helps families provide their children with an education in the areas of science, technology, engineering, art, and mathematics.
  • Homeschool Playgroups—A laid back homeschool group focused on providing children with fellowship opportunities in the form of open-ended play.
  • Classical Education Homeschool Groups—Connects homeschool families who follow the classical education method. This group usually offers classes by parents who specialize in teaching classical education.
  • Tutorial Co-op—A co-op for children of any age in need of specialized tutoring in a particular subject. Usually, taught by qualified parents and/or teachers.
  • Parent-support Co-op—A co-op for homeschool parents to gather, fellowship, and minister to one another.
  • Traditional Homeschool Co-op—A co-op that’s usually parent-led designed to provide homeschool children with elective classes, field-trips, socialization, and more.

6. How Your Children Learn.

If you plan to use a curriculum, make sure it suits the way your child learns best. There are different types of learning styles. Here’s a list of six different ways your child may prefer to learn.

  • Visual, or learning using pictures, images, and spatial understanding.
  • Aural, or learning using sound and music.
  • Verbal, or learning using words, both in speech and writing.
  • Physical, or learning using your body, hands, and sense of touch.
  • Logical, or learning using logic, reasoning, and systems.
  • Social, or learning in groups.
  • Solitary, or preferring to work alone and use self-study.

Scholastic offers a simple “Learning Style Quiz” you can do with your child to point you in the right direction. When I sought out a curriculum for my children, who are visual and physical learners, I made sure to implement a curriculum that involves games, physical movement, and stimulating visual prompts and videos. But even in doing so, we’re not limited to the curriculum. I’ve created many resources, learning games, and projects along the way to enhance classroom learning. You can, too! Pinterest is your best friend. So is your imagination!

7.  You Don’t Need an Extensive Curriculum

Well, maybe you do if you live in a high regulation state that must approve your curriculum choice. However, for the rest of us, an extensive curriculum with all the bells and whistles isn’t necessary. Trust me when I say, “What will always matter most is how much you put into a curriculum. Not what you get out of it.” When a parent places a great deal of effort into their child’s education they will never come up short—regardless of the curriculum choice. I am living proof. Due to financial hardship in the past, I’ve had to get super creative. I relied heavily on free curricula, library resources, and my creative juices. If you’ve been following me since Day One, you know this. These days, I am blessed to purchase curricula that suit my family, but I still take advantage of free resources.

Please know there are parents who’ve spent a fortune, yet get frustrated by a curriculum because the child is disinterested and/or not thriving. Usually, this is because the curriculum doesn’t fit the child’s preferred learning style. Read the forums! You’ll read all sorts of horror stories regarding the most recommended of curricula. And while these particular materials may work for some children, they do not work for all.

I don’t care who wrote the curriculum, what the author’s credentials are, and how many awards they’ve earned, there is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all curriculum. And just because it costs a fortune doesn’t mean it’s the best fit for your family. I personally know parents who are using free online homeschool curricula and their children are thriving because the parents are involved, innovative, and dedicated. I say this not to steer you away from a boxed curriculum, but to inspire those who cannot afford it. You can do it!

8. Different Types of Homeschoolers

There are all kinds of homeschool families. Some of which are underrepresented on the Web. You don’t have to homeschool the way you see other families on social media do it. Take a look at these alternative methods to homeschool.

  • Eclectic homeschool, or homeschooling that mixes several different learning styles.
  • Classical education, or teaching according to the phases of a child’s cognitive development.
  • Charlotte Mason, or a method that uses real-life experiences to teach a child.
  • Unit studies, or a specific interest that is studied from different angles.
  • Unschooled, or child-led learning that is void of curricula and lesson plans.

I know there’s a stigma against implementing traditional schooling into your homeschool classroom, but hear me out: If this method works for your family, use it! You don’t have to forgo the traditional method just because you’re a homeschool family. In fact, if you have children who are being pulled out of public or private school, they may be most receptive to traditional learning because it’s what they know. That’s okay.

9. You Have Support

Say farewell to the stigma that was once associated with homeschool. Welcome, the days where homeschool has increasingly gained both popularity and respect. The U.S. homeschool population continues to grow each year at a rate anywhere between 2-8 percent. As the population grows, so do social support groups, legal support groups, and resources. The Homeschool Legal Defense Association is probably amongst the most popular support groups. They provide homeschool families with pertinent information regarding homeschool laws, legal services, and may offer peace of mind.

Many public libraries also support homeschoolers. Check out your local library to see what they have to offer. Our local library offers STEM classes, STEM kits, free admissions passes to parks and museums, and much more. Local businesses may also offer “homeschool days” where admission is free or discounted. Our local Skyzone, skating, and bowling center offer homeschool days for a discounted admission. Our state capital building also offers a homeschool day where they give a free tour and low-cost legal classes. Taking advantage of these opportunities is a great way to meet and connect with other homeschool families in your area. So get plugged in!

10. Inevitable Bad Days

If you have a Mary Poppins expectation of what your homeschool days will look like, allow me to bring in a bit of reality—some days will not go so well.  Just as with traditional school, where you’d expect days when your child hates it, expect the same for homeschool. Prepare in advance for how you’d like to handle your uncooperative child (or your uncooperative self!). Here’s what worked for us:

  • Everyone take ten deep breaths—Deep breathing reduces muscle tension, improves mental concentration, and increases the sense of well-being.
  • Let the child talk about it—Sometimes they need to let it all out. Give them a window of opportunity to let their voice be heard.
  • Take a break—Whether it’s just for ten minutes or for the rest of the day. Sometimes we forget that our children need breaks from the monotony of homeschool.
  • Push through—Helping your child to push through something challenging, even when they want to give up, will teach them the value of perseverance.

So, there you have it! Keep in mind that there’s so much pertinent information out there. These are just some of the tips that I’ve found quite useful as a newbie homeschooler, along with other tips I’ve learned along the way. It goes without saying that every homeschool journey is different. So when seeking advice, always consider that you know what works best for your family better than anyone else.

Your Turn!

Let us know in the comments where you are in your homeschool journey and what you’ve learned so far. 

Toddlers and Toys

Toddler Boredom | 10 Ways to Resurrect Old Toys

 

Okay, so let me get this out of the way. The average attention span for a toddler is only 3-5 minutes. By age five, this span increases to a whopping 10-15 minutes. Not very long, huh? I know! It’s no wonder kids seem to run out of things to do so quickly. Nevertheless, I incorporated the following methods to maximize the attention span of my dear children. My boys are now ages 4 and 7, but these straightforward tips have worked for me since their toddlerhood. This week for Toddler Talk Tuesday, I will share simple things you can do to help curb toddler boredom. I hope you find these tips helpful. Enjoy!


 

Toddler Boredom | 10 Ways to Resurrect Old Toys

 

1. Don’t hold onto them. 

Those toys that your children have outgrown or don’t care for? Donate them! Sometimes when the toybox or playroom is overflowing with toys it can be overwhelming for kids, especially the younger ones. Purging toys not only lessens the load and makes playtime more attractive, but helps your children discover those long-lost items they’ve forgotten how much they love. Be sure to involve your little ones in the donation process. Let them know they are making room for new toys in the future. And don’t forget to let your toddler choose a brand-new toy to purchase and include in your donation!

 

2. Keep them in rotation. 

Limiting your child’s toy options may help hold their attention for longer periods—especially when those options are in rotation. Leave your child 1-2 toys to play with and put the rest away for a while. You may find that your child can play for longer periods with just one or two toys. This is because there aren’t a dozen other toys competing for their attention, so your child isn’t rushing to move on to the next best thing. Decide how long you want your rotation to last (every week? every month?) and reintroduce your child to some of the toys you’ve been hiding away. Be sure to keep the cycle going. 

 

3. Organize them. 

Yes! Keep the blocks with the blocks, the dolls with the dolls, the play kitchenware with the play kitchenware—you get the point! Avoid dumping all your children’s toys into one giant toy bin. Instead, get some inexpensive bins (the Dollar Tree is a good place to start) and teach your children how to keep their toys organized and accessible. You’ll be amazed at what a difference this can make during playtime. I recall several meltdowns because certain parts of a playset had gotten lost in the crowded toybox. Organizing toys keeps all those “parts” together, which limits frustration and tantrums. 

 

4. Play with them. 

Sometimes you just have to get on the floor and play with your kids. Doing so is not only great for bonding and building self-esteem, but also gives your child new ideas about how to play with their toys. Show them how to build an amazing tower with their Lego set, how to create an awesome storyline for their toy soldiers or dolls, or how to play a new tune with their pretend (or real) instruments. You may find that your child takes ideas and builds upon them, sparking a new excitement for their toys. 

 

5. Change surroundings. 

Take that play kitchen or workbench station out of the playroom and put it into the family room for a few days. On a sunny day, take a large blanket and place it in the backyard with a few of your child’s beloved toys for a fun toy picnic. During the winter, bring your child’s water table into the kitchen or garage and let them enjoy playing with a “summer toy” during a different season. Sometimes, a different setting can make old toys just as exciting as brand new ones.

 

6. Wrap them!

Yes, you heard it right. Get some fun wrapping paper and wrap some of your child’s toys. Toddlers won’t care that the toy isn’t new. They just love the idea of unwrapping a present! Even better? Give them some extra wrapping paper to wrap the toys themselves. My boys loved wrapping their toys and giving them to me as “gifts.”

 

7. Become a “toy fairy.”

I still love doing this! When my oldest was a toddler, I would sneak into his bedroom while he was asleep and set up his toys in an elaborate display. Trust me, this will buy you some time in the morning! Or even post-naptime! My son would wake up and be so excited to play. These days, since I have my children’s toys on rotation, I simply switch out their toys in the middle of the night for other toys they haven’t played with in a while. It’s like Christmas morning! They never know what toys they’ll wake up to.

 

8. Wash them.

Get a large container, fill it with water and bath bubbles, give your child a toddler-friendly scrubber, and let them “wash” their toys. Make sure the toys are not plush, battery operated, or electronic. They can wash their toys while sitting on the kitchen floor as you cook dinner (place a towel underneath them). Or, like my boys do, they can wash their toys outside in the backyard while you sit on the porch with your favorite book scrolling through Instagram.

 

9. Make them educational.

Place alphabet letters or numbers onto blocks, Legos, mini figures, or dolls and have your toddler arrange them in order. You can simply print out a number or alphabet template, cut them into squares, and tape them onto the toys. If you don’t mind things being permanent, you can even write on blocks and Legos with a permanent marker. You can also have your child group the toys by color; for example, place the red blocks with other toys that are red. Or, try arranging the toys by size. There are so many possibilities and your toddler will love having a little task to do!

 

10. Take them apart.

This is a recent tip I read about in one of my Facebook STEM groups. Whether you have a curious child or a future engineer, old toys that can’t be donated can be safely taken apart for further exploring. Let your child explore what’s inside a stuffed animal, a remote-control car, or that musical toy that plays the same annoying songs over and over. I do not recommend this tip for younger toddlers who still put things in their mouths, as there may be small parts involved. Always remember to provide close supervision.


 

As a disclaimer, I am not an expert. These are just tips that have worked for me and my family. I hope you found at least one of these tips useful. Join me next week for my final post on the Toddler Talk Tuesday series!

Let us know in the comments what you do to help curb toddler boredom!

 

 

Toddler Diet

8 Tips to Get Your Toddler to Eat Veggies

Let’s face it. The best way to get your toddler to eat his vegetables is to introduce them during infancy. Some parents do this and still have trouble getting their kid to eat the green stuff. Other parents have given in to more pleasant foods at the first sign of disapproval. Whatever category you fall into, it doesn’t matter. The truth is that even with the best diet, some toddlers enter the protesting phase once they realize they have an opinion. While this phase often results in barely touched plates and frustrated parents, take heart—this too shall pass. Here are some tips that may help your toddler adopt a more balanced diet.

1. Be an example.

You can’t expect your child to eat healthy foods when you don’t even eat them yourself. Although this should go without saying, you’d be surprised how many parents actually think this is possible. Children are sponges! Their first lesson on a healthy (or unhealthy) diet will come from you. So load up your plate with the green stuff and be an example!

2. Give them variety.

Sometimes we get in a rut and offer our children the same foods day in and day out. If you find that is you, be sure to add new and exciting veggies to your shopping list. Remember that your child may have a different palate than you, so don’t be afraid to buy those vegetables that you don’t care for—your child may love them! My toddler was the only one in the house who liked raw carrots. Look below at the vegetable chart for ideas from Cooksmarts.

Cook-Smarts-Veggie-Prep.jpg

3. Respect their taste buds.

I get it. You’re frustrated and you have your child’s best interest in mind, but please don’t force (or threaten) them to eat their veggies. Just like there are some vegetables that you like and some you can do without; your child also has likes and dislikes. Take into consideration that it may not be stubbornness, but your child may actually prefer the taste or texture of another veggie.

4. Retrain their palate.

Has a weekend at grandma’s got your child refusing to eat anything void of sugar? No problem. You can retrain your child’s palate by either not offering any foods containing sugar (including fruits) or offering a very tiny amount until they are back on track. Vegetables are less tasty after eating something very sweet. So be sure that your little one doesn’t have any fruit, candy, or juice right before lunch or dinner time.

5. Offer them as snacks.

It may seem weird to some of you, but calling a vegetable a snack may encourage your child to eat more of it. Instead of fruit or crackers for snack time, offer your little one some baby carrots and cucumbers (or whatever they like!). When this is practiced on the regular basis, it may not only get your child to eat more vegetables, but also teach them that a snack doesn’t always have to be sweet or come in a package.

6. Eat together.

Many families these days eat their meals on the sofa or in front of a screen. But your toddler will benefit greatly from seeing the entire family (especially their older siblings) partake in, and enjoy, eating their vegetables—which, in turn, will encourage him/her to follow the example.

7. Explain the “why.”

Some kids just want to know why they should eat something green instead of snacking on cookies all day. Take the time to explain to your child about the good foods that will help them grow to be healthier, stronger, and smarter. Explain to them about the bad foods that should be avoided or eaten in moderation. The downside to this is that they may become the food police when you are hanging out with Netflix and a bowl of ice-cream!

8. Be patient.

Yes, it’s easier said than done, but making eating a stressful time for your toddler is not good for either parties involved. Relax! Chances are it’s just a phase. And remember, if you are truly concerned about your child’s change in eating habits, schedule a visit with your pediatrician to rule out any serious conditions.


 

As a disclaimer, your pediatrician’s advice is the best advice. I am not an expert, but I do have two boys who now love eating their favorite veggies! Let us know in the comments below your tips and tricks to surviving the “veggie protesting” phase.