All Posts By:

Brittany Doyle

  • Fun Valentine’s Day Themed Activities for Preschoolers

    I call this time of year the winter lull. We’re post holiday season, mostly cooped up indoors, and running out of ideas to keep the littles even mildly entertained. When I’m all out of options and in serious need of a fresh activity to keep my preschooler occupied, I turn to something creative or crafty, and perhaps sensory in nature. And because I’m all about themes, I try to connect the activity to the time of year, which is why these Fun Valentine’s Day themed activities ideas are centered around our favorite February holiday.

    So mama, if you’ve found yourself in a similar boat and the kids are in dire need of a new interest (and for you a moment of silence) give these Fun Valentine’s Day themed activities for preschoolers a whirl, and make sure to tell us what you think in the comments below!

    1. Love Soup

    I LOVE this Valentine themed sensory activity that you can potentially piece together without even leaving the house! Let your child pretend to create cups of “Love soup” with the colored water and foam hearts. Caution: it may get wet!

    You will need:

    • A plastic bin filled with water
    • Red food coloring
    • Foam hearts
    • Heart themed cups
    • Kitchen utensils (for pouring and measuring)
    • Towel for clean up

    It’s important to note that while participating in this Love Soup sensory activity, children build skills in many different areas. Measuring and guesstimating amounts can be applied to math and science. Socially, kids can develop team-working skills. Sensory play can also be used as a calming tool & distraction for tantrums. It also provides your child an opportunity to explore their senses – touch, sight, sound (even smell & taste if you want to go there) while they simultaneously learn and discover. Cheap, easy to make, and a stimulating experience right at home. Yum!

    2. Love Monster Book & Craft

    This children’s book is one of my favorites for the Valentines Day Holiday and has a wonderful message about sharing with friends and the joys of giving. Crafts involving characters are a great way to get your kids excited about reading materials. You can purchase Love Monster and the Last Chocolate here!

    You will need:

    • 1 Paper Plate (per craft)
    • Red Tissue Paper
    • Glue
    • Kid Friendly Scissors
    • Red/White/Black Colored Cardstock

    Directions:

    • First cut your red tissue paper into small squares
    • Put a good amount of glue all over your paper plate
    • Have your child place the tissue paper on top of the glue, until the paper plate is completely covered
    • While your child is working on that, cut out the other “love” monster embellishments from the cardstock. Think eyes, ears, mouth etc.
    • To finish the Love Monster themed kid craft – glue on the facial features to the paper plate and display proudly

    3. Heart Hunt

    This one is excellent for releasing some of that pent up energy! Hide the hearts around your home (much like an easter egg hunt) and have your child perform the exercise listed on each heart as they’re discovered. To keep it interesting, offer a prize at the end once all of the hearts have been collected! I used simple actions like “jump on one foot” and “sing the ABCs” but feel free to cater it to activities your little can execute.

    You will need:

    • Foam or paper hearts of various colors (foam will hold up better but I used paper since I already had it)
    • Marker

     

    And there you have it! The Heart Hunt. We hope these fun Valentine’s Day themed activities for preschoolers help to liven the mood in your household and offer a switch to your normal routine!

    Another super sweet idea for Vday fun: Homemade Air Fryer Donuts!

     

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  • 8 Ways to Pay it Forward this Holiday Season

    Charitable pro-tip: you don’t have to have to be a billion dollar philanthropist to make the world a better place. While the holidays are a wonderful time to reflect on the best aspects of our lives, it can be easy to forget our community members in need.

    As my oldest is becoming more aware of the world around him, it’s increasingly important to me that he understands the true meaning of Christmas and the power of giving. Below we’ve compiled 8 easy (child friendly) ways to bring meaning to your holiday season.

    Toy drive

    Toys for tots is a wonderful organization specializing in toy collection.  Every year dedicated United States Marines and local volunteers host a nationwide campaign to deliver Christmas to millions of less fortunate children. You can find a nearby toys for tots chapter here.

    Sponsoring a family in need is another great way to pay it forward. In lieu of our secret Santa gift exchange one year, my girlfriends and I sponsored a family and each of us selected a child to buy for.  When it was all said and done the entire family had gifts to open on Christmas morning. If you’re interested in getting involved in this incredibly rewarding form of donation, click here.

    Coat drive

    Give the gift of warmth this winter. Clean out the closet and donate old coats and jackets to a homeless or battered women’s shelter. For many Americans living below the poverty line, a new warm coat is considered a budget extra.

    When the time comes that your kids have grown out of their winter gear, consider donating to a coat drive such as the one facilitated by One Warm Coat.

    Canned food drive

    Nonperishable food drives are happening everywhere this time of year. Pick up some extra canned foods during the weekly grocery run and drop them off at a food bank, church or any center accepting canned food donations.

    Also, check with your child’s school, as many collect canned food around the holidays as well.

    Donate Toiletries

    Many people forget the need for hygiene products at shelters and deliver food-oriented goods instead. Its always a great idea to check in with the center and find out what products are in demand.

    Think toilet paper, toothpaste, feminine hygiene, diapers, etc. Another fun way to gather supplies is to host a “toiletry drive”. Have friends come over and bring hygiene product donations and watch the goods pile up.

    Help a Neighbor

    As the old homage goes “Love thy neighbor” and what better time to show kindness than the holiday season, and hint, it doesn’t always have to be in the form of baked goods.

    Maybe your neighbor needs their driveway shoveled or some help with the pets while they travel. It never hurts to ask if there’s anything you can do to help out. There’s also a good chance your good deed will be reciprocated!

    Give Blood

    Donating blood and platelets costs literally nothing, sans maybe an hour or two of your time, and the gift is potentially life saving.

    Look for posters advertising local blood drives or stop by a blood donation center to ensure blood supply for ongoing patient needs and unforeseen trauma situations.

    Volunteer at an Animal Shelter

    Let’s not forget our furry friends. If adoption is just completely out of the question (I mean, what better gift for your loved one than a puppy) volunteer some of your spare time at a local animal shelter.

    Help with dog walking, cleaning or donate pet food and toys. Some shelters will even let you bring home a pet for the holidays so they don’t have to spend this special time of year alone. Our animals deserve love too.

    Start at Home

    Our children are the fingerprints we leave on the world when we’re gone. It is vital to instill the values of kindness, empathy and compassion on the generation we are raising. Kids can be taught with explanation and led by example. Paying for a stranger’s coffee or helping a friend move may seem like simple acts of generosity, but when our children are watching, it is possible to impress upon them a lifelong commitment to kindness and benevolence.

    Do society a favor and get your kids involved in philanthropy early and often. For more information be sure to look into The Kindness Campaign.

    Looking for a quick act of kindness? Check out this sweet, small gift. DIY Scrabble Tile Ornament

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  • 5 Awesome Ideas for Thanksgiving Day

    I seriously feel bad for Thanksgiving.

    I mean, every year we’re driven to leap into Christmas (or whatever your celebration!) and bypass Turkey day. It’s almost as if we will eventually dismiss the Holiday all together.

    In recent years, I’ve tried to give Thanksgiving its due recognition, but I’m ashamed to admit I’m guilty of pulling out the Christmas gear in the second week of November.

    Alfie the Elf on the Shelf has already graced us with his presence. The tree is up, Santa’s face is plastered everywhere, the stockings are hung tenderly with care…you get it.

    Because it’s so easy to get wrapped up in the magic of the holiday season, we’ve listed 5 Awesome Ideas for Thanksgiving Day that’ll allow you to fully acknowledge Turkey day, and perhaps begin a new tradition with the ones you love.

    Picture of 5 Awesome Ideas for Thanksgiving Day

    1. Volunteer

    What could be more appropriate on a day designated for giving than to volunteer and give back to the community. I like this idea because you can put in a few hours of the day volunteering for an organization you’re compelled to get involved with and still have time to feast and drink as you desire. If you’re looking for local charities and non-profits this is a great resource. A couple of tips:

    • Choose a cause you’re passionate about
    • Find an opportunity that matches your skills, interest and schedule

    Volunteering can also be as simple as visiting a nearby senior center or donating goods to a local food bank. Usually in need of assistance, hospitals offer a variety of volunteer opportunities suitable for all ages. I hope to incorporate this idea into our future Thanksgiving plans when my boys get older. It always feels good to pay your good fortune forward.

    2. Turkey Trot

    Want to go for seconds and thirds guilt free this Thanksgiving? The average American will consume 3,000 calories on Turkey day (and honestly you should because, duh, it’s Thanksgiving!). An awesome way to kick off the day and burn some pre-meal calories is to run a turkey trot! My husband and I did this a few years ago and I have to say, indulging was that much sweeter after a solid 10k. You can find fun races in your area using this convenient tool.

    Turkey trots range in size from a just a few runners to thousands. The organizations hosting the event usually use the entrance fee to fund local charities and in some races the 1st place prize is a frozen turkey! Dust off those running shoes and get trotting!

    3. Celebrate Native American Culture

    If you’ve never been, I highly recommend a day trip to the National Museum of the American Indian! I find it immensely important to educate myself and my family on Indigenous People and their many contributions to  modern day society. You can find Native influence in our arts, agriculture, and even modern medicine.

    Make it a quest to discover local tribes or plan a trip to a reservation. Try a Native recipe. Watch a movie starring Native actors. Here is a great list of children’s books to help explain a history that is often depicted inaccurately in school teachings and otherwise.

    4. Get Away

    And I don’t mean to your Great Aunt Linda’s house to have an uncomfortable political discussion at Thanksgiving dinner that ends in hurt feelings and family in-fighting! It is 100% okay to ditch the gatherings and do your own thing. Maybe you need a getaway. You’ve likely been rewarded extended time off for the holiday, so why not use that time to explore?

    Head to NYC for the annual parade or pick a city you’ve never visited. Not into the crowds? Numerous secluded resorts countrywide offer Thanksgiving deals to travelers who, like you, need an alternative. Plenty of awesome destinations and fresh ideas offered up right here. I’d also advise bringing a friend or two to make it a Friendsgiving trip!

     5. Game Time

    Some of my favorite memories from childhood Thanksgivings is playing football with my cousins and family after our feast. It became such a tradition that a trophy was made for the winning team each year. So fun!

    Whatever game you play, because it certainly doesn’t matter, make it light and fun and try and get everyone involved! Play a board game, create a scavenger hunt, or enjoy a round of cards. Pro tip: Put the electronics down and get back to the basics!

    We hope you’ve been inspired by one of our awesome ideas for Thanksgiving Day and decide to include it in your Turkey day festivities. We wish you a Happy and healthy Thanksgiving!

    If you enjoyed our 5 Awesome Ideas for Thanksgiving Day don’t forget to create The Grateful Tree!

    The Best Thanksgiving Traditions

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  • 5 Tips for Raising Emotionally Healthy Boys

    “Don’t cry. Stop crying. Big boys don’t cry.”

    I overheard these commands in a recent exchange between a young boy and caregiver. The child was having a hard time and for his caregiver, this was unacceptable. He wiped his eyes and became stoic, clearly repressing his emotions.

    While I don’t know what caused this child to feel upset, I know that in that moment he was coached to conceal his emotions and silence himself. He was taught that his feelings were invalid and needed to be quelled. He learned that showing emotion is weakness.

    “Real men are strong. Real men are apathetic. Real men are tough. Real men are aggressive and show dominance via violence.”

    We know all of these things to be untrue. So why do we perpetuate these ideas for our boys?

    This is toxic masculinity. These are the dangerous conclusions boys are drawing about themselves and the way they should interact with others.

    Picture of two brothers for emotionally healthy boys post rock it mama

    “Denying boys the opportunity to express themselves and experience their full range of emotion can have everlasting effects on their emotional and mental health.”

    In the age of the all important MeToo movement and focus on female empowerment, it’s easy to overlook our boys, and how important it is to nurture their emotional needs in order to create a place for them to thrive in our ever-changing society.

    Denying boys the opportunity to express themselves and experience their full range of emotion can have everlasting effects on their emotional and mental health. By teaching them that emotion is weakness, we stifle their emotional intelligence and impact the success of their personal relationships and happiness. They begin to adopt the belief that emotional beings are lesser or inferior, which in turn, distorts the way they view their female counterparts.

    I am a mother of boys. I recognize the challenges they face. I’m doing this work for them. And my hope is that in sharing 5 Tips for Raising Emotionally Healthy boys, I can impact the young men who will grow up alongside them. Let’s create a safe space for our children to share, to feel, and to be open with one another.

    Be Mindful of the Ways You May be Contributing to Toxic Masculinity

    Let’s first define toxic masculinity as traditional cultural masculine norms that can be harmful to men, women, and society. Overall, this concept of toxic masculinity is not intended to demonize men or male attributes, but rather to emphasize the harmful effects of conformity to certain traditional masculine ideal behaviors such as dominance, self-reliance, and competition.

    Being mindful of the ways we contribute to toxic masculinity can be uncomfortable, but reflecting on our upbringing and the old-fashioned ideals we carry around can help curb tendencies to perpetuate it. Some examples of this are:

    • Feminizing males as a means of insulting them
    • Shaming males for displaying affection
    • Asserting the notion that men are superior to women

    Toxic masculinity can also be evident in the way we communicate with one another.

    Common phrases (and those similar to these) that discourage emotional health:

      • “Man up.”
      • “Boys don’t cry.”
      • “Thats a female trait.”

    Parents, let him cry. Teach him that crying is human and a healthy way to express sadness, frustration, and anger. Firmly establish the idea that showing emotion is not feminine or weak, but rather a normal form of emotional expression.

    Create a Safe Environment for Emotional Expression

    Subsequent to the point above, cultivating an emotionally friendly environment in which sharing feelings is not only normal but encouraged, is essential to raising emotionally healthy boys. Never shutdown an emotionally charged conversation. Rather, calmly discuss anger and frustrations and allow kids to express themselves safely.

    Teach him to identify his feelings and validate them. The practice of “taking an emotional temperature” is a great one to implement with your child. Describe each feeling (sad, angry, surprised, embarrassed, etc) and have him choose the one that best describes his current “emotional temperature.” Then contemplate what could be triggering these feelings and devise healthy practices for working through them.

    Monitor the Media Your Child Consumes

    Violence is a major theme in most of the media young boys consume including television, movies, and video games. Try to lead  them towards nonviolent shows and games. Teach them that conflict does not have to be resolved with aggression or violence.

    Additionally, exposure to movies or books with female leads or heroes is a good way to bridge the gender gap.

    Model Emotionally Healthy Behaviors

    The American Psychological Association warns that “traditional masculinity ideology” is associated with negative effects on mental and physical health. Men who adhere to traditionally masculine cultural norms, experience increased risk of psychological problems such as depression, stress, body image issues, substance abuse, and poor social functioning.

    To eliminate the negative effects toxic masculinity plays on mental and physical health, model emotional responsibility and lead by example.

    Scenario:

    When a car cuts you off in traffic, try to refrain from aggressive reactions such as tailgating, inappropriate gestures, name-calling, etc. Take a deep breath and assess why this action is affecting you in a such a way. Is it something going on at work? An underlying anger? By practicing emotional responsibility in front of our children, it becomes a natural way of reaction for them as well.

    Encourage Them to Set Healthy Boundaries

    Emotional health requires boundaries and does not include powerless or pushover behavior. Teach assertiveness, strength, and confidence. Remember – we want kids to condemn disrespectful behavior and to stick up for others. We need them to show courage in the face of injustice.

    Encourage him to identify reasonable, safe and permissible ways for other people to behave towards him, and how to respond when someone passes those limits.

    To teach healthy boundaries, ask your kids to play what-if scenarios. Ask them what they would say in certain situations and listen to their responses. Then, offer them several phrases they can use to self-advocate, and remind them to use their words and that violence is never the answer.

    We hope you found our 5 Tips for Raising Emotionally Healthy Boys insightful. For more on building the values that connect us, be sure to read our Simple Methods for Teaching Kids Kindness and Empathy

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  • How to Plan a Halloween Wine Tasting

    I’m going to be real with y’all. I love wine. I have a deep affinity for my evening glass while winding down after a long day with the kiddos. The tannins. Mouthfeel. Aromas. I love it all. I decided recently that I didn’t know enough about this beverage for how intensely I feel about it, so I started doing a ton of research and informing myself about all things wine.

    Image of spooky wine trivia game free printable

    Thats when I came up with the idea of a Halloween Wine Tasting. One: to flex my newfound wine knowledge. Two: to spend time with friends. And Three: to celebrate this macabre time of year. I was delighted in how perfectly the event unfolded and how much fun we all had!

    All of that being said, I want to share with you guys everything I did to plan and host a spooky Halloween wine tasting in the hopes that you will plan your own, revel in some adult time and de-stress in the company of great friends. We deserve it, Mamas!

    ALSO: We’ve made our Halloween Wine Tasting Trivia Printable available for FREE. Simply scroll to the bottom. You’re welcome!

    Find a Sitter

    I was up in the air at first on whether or not to keep the kids at home or send them to the grandparents and now I am so glad I went with the latter. The luxury of uninterrupted conversation is one I don’t take for granted when my kids are gone. Plus, I’m not sure I would have been able to get through a detailed tasting with my two year old calling my name every 5 seconds.

    My advice: find a sitter. Enjoy adult time and encourage your mom friends to leave their babies behind so they can do the same. There is nothing better than spending time with mom friends emancipated from their children for a few hours. As the saying goes, in vino veritas.

    Wine and Food Selection

    I decided to offer a variety of wines at the tasting to keep everyone happy. Reds, whites and even a good Rose. I sought out a few local wineries and some international bottles. Total Wine is my go-to but any grocery store with a decent wine selection will do. I chose wines under $15 that rated highly on the reviews.  That way, I kept costs fairly low and my friends who enjoyed a certain bottle could easily pick it up next time they’re out shopping.

    To add a creepy touch, I found some spooky wines in the seasonal aisle (one was labeled Witching Hour). We served Halloween themed finger foods to match the vibe and decor. I was thrilled with how the mummy jalapeno poppers turned out (recipe here) and I will say, Pinterest was a huge help. For the tasting portion of the event, I typed up small blurbs about each wine and gave a few tips on what to pair it with.

    image of party mummy Halloween jalapeno poppers

    We served Halloween themed finger foods to match the vibe and decor

    Image of Halloween themed party decorations and food display

    Games

    What’s a Halloween wine tasting without a little trivia? Games are a great ice breaker and a fantastic way to get the whole gang involved in the action. Our Spooky Wine Trivia game was a big hit with all of our guests and I could tell they enjoyed learning fun wine facts to take with them.

    I found a cute pumpkin charmed wine stopper as the game prize and stuck it in a Halloween bag with a card which both congratulated and thanked them for coming. Easy Peazy! And in case you didn’t see, our Halloween Wine Tasting Trivia printable is available for download below!

    Costumes

    I have a proclivity for dressing up on Halloween. It is the only time of year I can transform into a mermaid or a Dr. Seuss character without fear of judgment. However, we permitted our guests to make the call on costumes so no-one felt forced to come up with something.

    The different ideas were great conversation pieces and allowed for hilarious photo opportunities. My husband and I decided to do a play on snapchat and personify filter vs. no filter, which meant he was in a skirt all night and that in and of itself was worthing dressing up for. My advice: let your guests make the call! Costumes can be a real hit but you don’t want anyone to feel uncomfortable. Some great ideas for easy DIY costumes here.

    Decor

    Decor for our Spooky Wine Tasting was easy and simple. I used generic Halloween gear that I had collected over the years, some faux cob web on our railings and mirrors and purple lights on the stairwell. The black cauldron was a perfect place to store the wines. I use my felt board for every event that we host at our house so that was a must. Emoji wine markers added a fun touch to each glass you can purchase them here.

    I used generic Halloween gear I have collected over the years, some faux cob web on mirrors and railings and purple lights in the stairwell

    And there you have it! The Spooky Wine Tasting. A unique and entertaining experience for everyone to enjoy. There are so many different things you can do with this event to make it your own. The most important takeaway: set aside time to be kid free with people you care about. You’ll never regret it!

     



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  • 40 Fall Activities to Bring Your Family Closer Together

    You could say I’m a Fall enthusiast, but that would probably be the understatement of the year. I’ve had my Fall decorations up since the beginning of September. Pumpkins, leaves and harvest signs are taking up most of the space in our humble abode, and I’m not one bit sorry about it!

    The Fall traditions run thick in this household, and I can’t think of a better time for family activities than during this festive, gratitude-rich season.

    In order to galvanize your family members and get the Fall flare going, we’ve compiled a list of our 40 favorite Fall activities that will bring your family closer together. All of these ideas are family friendly for kids of varying ages, and can easily become traditions for the harvest season. Eventually, they become activities to look forward to year after year!

    So why are family activities and traditions important?

    A review in the December issues of American Psychological Association’s (APA) Journal of Family Psychology states that “family routines and rituals are alive and well and are associated with marital satisfaction, adolescents’ sense of personal identity, children’s health, academic achievement and stronger family relationships.” We couldn’t agree more!

    Additionally, studies show family traditions are the basis in creating family culture. Some of the many benefits include nurtured bonds between siblings and parents, a further developed sense of belonging, and the making of a memorable childhood. Can’t help but love those perks!

    A few of the Fall activities require prior planning and others can be done on a whim. That’s why we love this list and encourage you to add some family fun in your busy Fall schedule.

    One of our Fall must-dos is a family hike during the weeks of foliage. It’s wonderful to behold the colorful leaves and to appreciate nature’s beauty that only comes around once a year together as a family. Again, the activity doesn’t have to be extravagant. Something as simple as backyard football can bring your family closer together.

    To make planning even more simple here are a few quick links to find Fall activities near you!

    • To find Fall festivals (broken down by state) check out Funtober.com
    • To Find an upcoming 5K near you here is Active.com
    • A list of super scary films for movie night ranked by rotten tomatoes
    • Some family Halloween costume ideas
    • To donate blood and give the gift of life as a family, find a blood drive near you

    Enjoy the season and don’t forget to check out our Grateful Tree Activity!

    What are some of your favorite fall activities? Comment below!

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