Exploring Free Play- Fostering Imagination and Growth

As a Gen X parent, I never quite understood why we “had” to fill our kids afternoons and free time with 10,000 activities (sports, club meetings, scouting, etc.). My brother and I didn’t have tons of stuff each day after school. By the time I was in the 5th grade, both my parents worked, and frequently we were left home alone for a few hours after school a couple times a week.

We did our homework, played, read, and did chores. Even before that, there were plenty of times where we were home without structured activities. We still had scouts, soccer (my brother did AYSO for one season and decided it wasn’t for him), Key Club, Choir, JV Football. Many kids in my generation were latchkey kids and filled their afternoons with free and imaginative play.

Free play is an incredible learning tool for kids. It fosters imagination and gives kids opportunities to discover and explore. There are all sorts of toys that encourage free play- dolls, food toys, blocks, legos, to name a few.

My two love Playmobil. Playmobil is a German company that has been around since the 1970’s. They have so many different sets and types of toys- everything from princesses and fairies to knights and safari sets.

A jungle adventure after preschool. Complete with a feast

Recently, my son and daughter started pulling out some of their people as well as some of the animals and created their own adventure. Enter Carl the Mongoose and Mr. Chicken. Carl is a Meerkat, and Mr. Chicken is a Bald Eagle, but the names have stuck.  Other characters include The Birdkeeper and The Man with the Gray Hat, and Cleopatrick (my daughter named her). All of these people are from various sets, Cleo was the only one that sort of resembles her name, as she came from an awesome set of Cleopatra and Julius Caesar.

The animals and their people have all sorts of adventures. They have run a food truck, run a zoo, been on a cruise, gone on safari, hunted for wild animals, opened an iron and gold mine, run an orphanage (we have a lot of little kid Playmobil people), gone to college, gone to preschool, and taken a road trip to the “ocean” in Ohio. We paused the game for a bit to look at the US map to discover there is no ocean in Ohio, but they could go to Lake Erie instead. It was deemed the “Lake Erie ocean beach” adventure.

These adventures give the kids a chance to explore themselves and work on interpersonal relationships, even if it’s as a talking Bald Eagle and his keeper.

Even in these crazy times where nothing is certain, give your kids some time to play and explore. Taking a “brain break” (which is what the big kiddos teacher calls them) throughout the day for some playtime may help your kids more than you think.

Right now we are all home together, trying to scramble into some sort of routine of distance learning, being quiet while we all learn/work, breaks, and trying to play after school is over without making too much noise while grown ups work. It’s tough. It’s crazy. The house is messy, we’re frazzled, and we weren’t “with it” last week to follow our meal plan. But we got through it, and we’re trying again this week.

We’re all learning. And that means we should grant ourselves grace.

Be kind to yourself. Wash your paws, wear a mask, flatten the curve. Have a good week!

 

Free Parenting Classes (Online)

I got information about this class in my inbox from our local school district. This class is free and is all online.

Systematic Training for Effective Parenting (STEP) Classes.

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I’ve never taken this class, but it looks like a great opportunity. After Finishing this 7-session course, you will:

  • Receive a Completion Certificate
  • Fulfill court and other requirements under the Welfare and Institution Code
  • Have a Better understanding of your child’s behavior and make steps toward building a happy home.

To sign up or if you have questions, contact Luz Alarcon at 619-203-2108. Pre-registration for this class is required.

Free Baby Snacks and Formula from Kabrita!

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When my littles were wee, they both had delicate tummies. It’s hard to know what kinds of formula to trust, so after lots of research, trying samples, and talking to other moms (really our pediatrician was ZERO help- she’s a nice lady, but formula wasn’t her wheelhouse), I stumbled upon Kabrita.

Our pediatrician is really big on making sure babies get prebiotics and probiotics, especially if they are formula fed. Kabrita has prebiotics, which are a natural digestive aid.

I like Kabrita because it doesn’t have any added white or processed sugar- just lactose, the sweetener from milk! Also, Kabrita formula smells like goats milk and tastes like goats milk. I will confess: after smelling some formulas I wouldn’t want to taste them, but I tried an ounce of Kabrita once just to see. It tastes like goats milk.

I’ve been telling moms about it for a few years now, and one thing I love is that they have a really great sample program.

Sign up here, and you’ll receive:

  • 5.3 oz carton of Goat Milk Toddler Formula
  • 7 oz bag of Organic Goat Milk Porridge
  • 0.53 oz bag of Snack Puffs with Goat Cheese

*$4.99 Shipping & Handling applies at check-out, limited to one offer per household. This is not a subscription. Please note, our Trial Offer may include either the Apple Cinnamon or Multigrain Porridge.

All thoughts and opinions expressed here are my own. I’ve used Kabrita for both of my kids. This post contains affiliate links and I may be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on my links.

 

Parents Helping Parents: Behavior Training 3/10/2020

download.jpgOn Tuesday, March 10, 2020, the Santee School district is presenting a behavior training with a “Make it, Take it” for behavior resources at home.

Visual Schedules: Children benefit from increased structure and predictability. Help take the stress out of your daily routine by providing
your child with a visual schedule.

Behavior Contracts: Contracts help keep kids on track and reduce family battles. Let us help you create one for your home!

Zones of Regulation: Help teach your child how to identify how they’re feeling and then utilize a co teach them about self-control.

Positive Reinforcement: Learn how to shape your child’s behavior with positive discipline. This will help to reinforce behaviors we want to increase in the home.

Santee’s Behavior Team Come meet Santee’s behavior team and find helpful strategies to implement at home. You’ll leave with individualized strategies and resources that you can begin implementing right away. You’ll have access to three team members to help you create individualized systems for your child! Listed above are just a few of the strategies you’ll go home with!

 

This event is free- If you have any questions, or wish to RSVP, contact the school district office at: (619) 258-2300

Date & Time: 3/10/2020 9:30am-11am
Location: Santee School District 9625 Cuyamaca. Santee, CA 92071

MommyCon San Diego is 20 Days Away!

Screen Shot 2019-10-10 at 8.32.03 PM.pngAre you ready? MommyCon San Diego is just 20 days away!

This multi-day event features amazing shopping, interactive workshops, inspirational speakers and so much more. I loved the goody bag that I got last year! And of course, no event for moms (and dads) is complete without a snack station with all kinds of tasty snacks and drinks from some of the sponsors.

To  buy tickets and get more info go to MommyCon.com and use code “MTAH19” for 10% off!

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Here are a couple of classes that will be available to attend:
Friday is for VIP ticket holders only:

2:30 p.m. – 4:30 p.m VIP Registration
3:00 p.m. – 3:45 p.m. How Onbuhimos Inspired Naked Panda Designs & Giveaway! ***VIP Session***
4:00 p.m. – 3:45 p.m. The Parenting Letdown ***VIP Session***

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Registration opens at 8:30am
Exhibitor Hall opens at 9am

10AM:
Room 1
10:00 a.m. – 11:00 a.m.
Managing the Motherload

Room 2
10:00 a.m. – 11:00 a.m.
Nurturing the Development of your Baby’s Brain through Movement and Exploration

Room 3
10:00 a.m. – 11:00 a.m.
Potty Training: Answers to When? Why? and How?

Sleep Consultations
10:00 a.m. – 11:00 a.m.
Sleep Consultation: 0-12 months

11:15AM:
Room 1
11:15 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.
What to Feed Your Baby, presented by Stonyfield Organic

Room 2
11:15 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.
What to Eat When You’re Expecting, presented bythe Weston A. Price Foundation

Room 3
11:15 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.
Play-Based Learning for Infants

Sleep Consultations
11:15 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.
Sleep Consultation: 12-24 months

12:00-1:00PM- Lunch Break

1:00PM:
Room 1
1:00 p.m. – 2:00 p.m.
Preparing for your Breastfeeding Journey, presented by Kindred Bravely

Room 2
1:00 p.m. – 2:00 p.m.
Dental Ages Every Parent Must Know, presented by The Super Dentists

Room 3
1:00 p.m. – 2:00 p.m.
Babywearing 101: From SSC’s to Wrapping, presented by Ergobaby

Sleep Consultations
1:00 p.m. – 2:00 p.m.
Sleep Consultation: 24 months

2:00PM:
Exhibitor Hall
2:00 p.m. – 2:30 p.m.
The Ultimate Giveaway

Exhibitor Hall
2:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m.
Shopping Break

3:00PM:
Room 1
3:00 p.m. – 3:45 p.m.
Peaceful Parenting

Room 2
3:00 p.m. – 3:45 p.m.
Your Baby’s First Year with Homeopathy, presented by Boiron

Sleep Consultations
3:00 p.m. – 3:45 p.m.
Sleep Consultation: All Ages Q&A

Santee, CA Parents: Positive Parenting Program!

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The Positive Parenting Program is a program of Jewish Family Services, funded by the County of San Diego and offered FREE in English and Spanish to any community groups interested. More information is available by calling (858) 637-3375.

  • Dates: November 5, 12, & 19, 2019 (Tuesdays)
  • Time: 6:00-8:00pm (Childcare Available)
  • Location: Cajon Park Elementary School 10300 N. Magnolia Ave Santee, CA 92071
  • RSVP: Meredith Riffel 619-258-2345 or email meredith.riffel@santeesd.net

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The program uses the evidence-based curriculum “Triple P” which has more than 25 years of research supporting the evidence that Positive Parenting is effective at reducing parental depression, anxiety, and stress as well as decreasing instances of child abuse and neglect. In the community, we can offer the three-session Seminar series, which includes:

Seminar 1: The Power of Positive Parenting

  • Ways to help your child learn
  • Strategies for carrying out positive discipline
  • Keeping realistic expectations
  • Creating workable family routines
  • The joys and challenges of being a parent

Seminar 2: Raising Confident, Competent Children
Help your child to:

  • Be respectful and considerate
  • Become a problem solver
  • Learn social skills and build friendships
  • Feel confident in the world

Session 3: Raising Resilient Children

  • Great information for parents experiencing difficult economic times
  • Recognizing and expressing feelings as a family
  • Modeling positive thinking for your children
  • Strategies for dealing with stressful life events

FOR MORE INFORMATION: 
Jewish Family Services (858) 637-3375
www.jfssd.org/positiveparenting

 

Mommycon Scholarships Available!

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Mommycon is coming! Mommycon Anaheim is October 5, and Mommycon San Diego (where I’ll be!) is November 23.

Being a mom is hard, and having a tribe of supportive moms is crucial. That’s why I love Mommycon! There are classes, panels, vendors, and of course FREEBIES, all to support mommies and littles. If you are a first-time mama or a seasoned pro, there is something for every mama!

If the cost of tickets is preventing you, or someone you know, from attending, the Mommycon ladies want to help. Please apply for the scholarship program here.

If you are a military mama, or military dependent, check out this awesome complimentary/discount ticketing program here.

To view the schedule, buy tickets and get more info go to MommyCon.com and use code “MTAH19” for 10% off!

This year will be my third year at Mommycon and I love it!

Top Five Ways to Save Money as a New Parent

765500e0739c9b82c56108534584887c.jpgAhhh, kids. So cute and cuddly (and frustrating sometimes, let’s be honest), but oh my goodness, do they cost a fortune!

A few friends have recently given birth, and I shared with them my tips for saving money the first few years, so I thought I’d share them with you too!

  1. Resale shops, consignment shops, clothing swaps, and hand-me-downs are life (and budget) savers. Kids grow so fast, there is no reason that you need to break the bank buying new clothes. Most of these also have gear and toys too!
  2. Speaking of kids growing quickly, Car seats are a thing that has to be replaced too. Between September 16-30t, 2019, you can trade in an old car seat at Walmart and receive a Free $30 Walmart Gift Card to use on the purchase of a new car seat or other baby gear item. Target sometimes holds similar events.
  3. Mom support groups- Hear me out. Mommy groups get a bad wrap on social media, but it’s nice to know that there are people out there that know what you are going through. You can find mom groups via Facebook and Meetup.
  4. Free Stuff. There are so many companies that cater to parents and kids, everyone is giving away something, you just need to know where to look. Formula companies give away samples and send coupons (I won’t get into the whole debate of breastfed vs. formula fed. If you’ve read my blog long enough, you know about my struggles with IGT– FED IS BEST). Kabrita has a great offer. And as your kids get older, companies like Enfamil/Enfagrow have transitional formulas- and they offer samples and coupons too. I post freebie offers that include stuff for kids and babies each week!
  5. Stores like Walmart and Target usually run free gift bag deals when you start a registry. Right now you can order a Free Walmart Welcome Baby Registry Box when you start a registry.  Huggies has a “Made By You” free sample kit right now as well.

If you aren’t a new parent but know of one, here are a few ways you can help them out (and a recipe, because really, I love cooking!).

 

Is Summer Snacking Wrecking your Grocery Budget?

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Chatting with a friend via Insta yesterday, we were lamenting the “OMG DO THEY EVER STOP EATING!!” of summer vacation.

I’ve never begrudged my kids snackies when they are hungry, but seriously, on days when we are at home, building Legos and watching movies- THEY EAT ALL DAY.  I can’t let them rummage through the cupboard and eat whatever, so I started the snack box (for the pantry) and snack drawer (in the fridge).

We’ve had “The snack box” and the “snack drawer” in our kitchen for about 2 years now.

In the cupboard, I’ve got a basket like this one. It’s full of various types of treats and snacks. Instead of buying individually bagged treats, I often buy a box of whatever (in the photo below it’s animal crackers) and divide the large box into snack-sized Ziploc bags).  It just depends on what is available at Grocery Outlet and 99 Cents Only on my weekly shopping trip. Those are my go-to snack stores.

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The Snack Drawer in the Fridge
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Pantry Snack Box- Refilled weekly

The Pantry Snack Box contains shelf-stable stuff: Juice boxes, crackers, chips, dried fruit, fruit snacks, individual Peanut/nut butter cups. I usually tuck a couple bags of microwave popcorn too. Sadly, we have none left. I was informed that I *must* rectify that matter tomorrow.

The Fridge Snack Drawer contains some of the following: Cheese sticks, yogurt, Ziploc bags of fruit or veggies (watermelon wedges, strawberries, grapes, carrots, celery, and jicama are just a few favorites), little cups of hummus, guac, ranch dip (homemade with greek yogurt and ranch dip mix).

The snacks vary by week, and I took these pics today- It’s midweek and they are pretty picked over- I did refill the Pantry Snack Box with stuff from the cupboard. That’s my secret- don’t put it all out at once. I stash the extras in the back of the pantry, where tiny arms can’t reach.

For those who read my blog regularly, you know that my weekly family grocery budget is $80. I spend about $25 of my weekly budget on stuff for the snack box/drawer. Sometimes more, sometimes less. During the school year, the function of these becomes for packing lunches in the morning. The Big Kid doesn’t really like sandwiches, and as he’s a vegetarian he gets most of his protein from nuts/seed butter and dairy sources.

I also keep Go-gurt style tube yogurts in the freezer- Those are mostly for Bitty, Big Kid doesn’t care for yogurt too often.

For the grown-ups, there is a basket in the pantry full of protein and fiber snack bars (Along with other more “grownup” snacks- which are sometimes new snacks that the kids veto after sampling). I get those at Grocery Outlet or 99 Cents Only. Grocery Outlet locations in my area always have a great variety of protein bars, snack bars, and protein cookie (Like these, which are also a hit with the Big Kid, so I have to dole them out) for a lot less than grocery or club stores.

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Close-up of the Pantry Snack Box. There is a little bit of something for everyone!

This is how my family keeps everyone fed at home and on budget. I’d love to hear about your family’s ideas to solve this issue.

Parents: Give Yourself A Break

DSC06725.JPGA friend posted this article from Motherly this morning about how self-care isn’t enough and parents (especially moms) are burnt out.

I can completely understand. As the mom of a kid with ASD and ADHD, and well as a neurotypical firecracker of a 4-year-old, I feel like I am always going going going. And really, I feel like it’s not enough.

This summer I’ve said NO a lot. No to racing off to an activity each morning, no to lunches out, no to 5 playdates a week, the craft dates, all-day zoo adventures, and sojourns to the beach. Oh, and this would have been just 1 week of summer activities in the past. Imagine that for 8 weeks. Are you tired now?

This is something I want everyone who reads this to take the heart: NO IS A COMPLETE SENTENCE. 

Plus, I still need to do household chores, cook, laundry and make sure the big kid gets to therapy twice a week, I need to exercise at least 4 times a week.

In saying no to all of these activities, the kids are able to relax, which means they are in a better mood, which mommy is in a better mood. We are still doing stuff, but it’s more things that the kids can do at home or in a small group of friends.  We’ve been swimming at our community pool each day in the late afternoon, playing at the local park. We’re going to the YMCA a few times a week in the afternoon so the kids can play while I exercise. Stuff that is low stress.

Why is parenting harder? Why are we burned out? This article gives us some ideas. The increase in activities for kids (If you want to go to an Ivy League school Little Timmy, you need to start your extra-curricular activities at birth!), social media expectations (It’s like Keeping up with the Joneses on crack), the constant barrage of information and data being thrown at us (pics of our kids, nanny/daycare cams being sent to us, text messages, chat apps, always being connected to people and media). It’s overwhelming. It’s tiring. Being expected to be Instagram-ready or Insta -Perfect is frustrating and exhausting.

For special needs parents, it’s harder because, for the most part, our kids aren’t  “like everyone else”, so frequently we are ostracized from activities. It’s the truth, and it sucks. and it hurts. To shield my kids from this hurt and keep myself sane, we’ve stepped back from activities this summer.

I’m not going to give you a list of self-care activities that will help you de-stress. You already know what works for you, your family, your budget.  This is what I do.

What I want you to know, moms and dads that read this post:

You are not alone. There are other parents and caregivers out there that are feeling the same way you do. You don’t have to keep up with everything you see online. You are doing the best you can for your family. YOU ARE ENOUGH!

I found this shirt on Amazon and I had to share it.