All Posts By:

Brittany Doyle

  • 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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  • Help Kids Cool Down with this FREE Printable Workbook

    As part of our passion for social/emotional learning, we’re always looking for healthy cool down strategies for kids. The idea for this printable cool down workbook came to me when my son was having a big, emotional week and I wanted to offer him a solution that would not only deescalate, but help him identify his feelings and cope in a positive way.

    Now, having created 6 different worksheets to be combined into a book, I truly believe this tool will be great for parents and teachers alike!

    This workbook is a process of working through big feelings with multiple worksheets. First, it includes an emotion identifier, with easy to understand emoji graphics. Children experience meltdowns, tantrums and extreme emotions for a variety of reasons. By identifying the correct emotion, it is possible to get to the root of the cause.

    Next, the child will choose a healthy coping mechanism. Then, there is a list of calming affirmations. As we know, studies show affirmations strengthen personal foundations for happy and meaningful lives.

    The final sheets are a grounding exercise for mindfulness, and an emotion thermometer to help kids register emotional zones. Through the emotion thermometer, kids will learn how to assess themselves emotionally and recognize the importance of healthy cool down strategies.

    Our hope is that children will be able to adopt this process and continue to utilize healthy cool down methods as they grow into adulthood.

    Above is the calm down area, and worksheets filed into clear sheet protectors and placed in a binder. The binder is designed to grab & go and can be used repeatedly.

    Use expo markers on the sheet protectors and wipe them off easily to be used next time. Kids should circle their current emotion on the first sheet and circle the chosen cool down method on the next. The affirmations should be voiced out loud.

    For the grounding exercise, have the child start on the “breathe in” cloud and inhale until they reach the “breathe out” cloud. Afterwards, they can color in the rainbow as desired.

    For the final emotion thermometer worksheet, kids should color in the emotional zone they were feeling prior to the cool down exercise in the “before” column. Then, color in the emotional zone for post cool down in the “after” column.

    Easy to grab-and-go printable cool down workbook! Free download below!

    Insert a pencil bag for the expo markers and a few calming items like magnets or a fidget spinner to complete the workbook.

    The goal of teaching social and emotional skills is to build a child’s mental health and resilience—so that as they grow, they can adapt and handle what comes at them. Using this printable cool down workbook can help develop those important skills. It can also aid in self regulation and emotional control.

    For more on the importance of social/emotional learning click here!

    And for tips on fostering your child’s mental health check this out!



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  • Simple Methods for Teaching Kids Kindness and Empathy

    As a child, my parents recited the old adage “treat others the way they want to be treated” often. This message has resonated throughout my life in situations where I feel triggered or compelled to jump to conclusions. It’s important that my children understand the values of empathy and why it should be employed in our social interactions and relationships.

    In fact, years from now when I look back on the job I’ve done as a parent, I will measure my success in the amount of kindness radiating from my kids.

    FREE PRINTABLES BELOW!

    Let’s define empathy as the attempt to understand another person’s thoughts, feelings, and condition from his or her point of view, rather than from one’s own.

    Empathy allows children to assess how others are feeling and respond appropriately. In the age of bullying, it’s vital to the health of our youngest generation to understand and practice empathy and tactful sensitivity. By teaching children to look outward and identify with the experience of others, we can cultivate kindness and foster compassion.

    Below is a printable learning activity, a printable call to action and a list of picture books to help children explore the value of empathy and grow kindness. We hope you make full use of our simple methods for teaching kids kindness and empathy, and in doing so, make the world a better place.

    Wrinkled Heart Learning Activity

    Start with an unwrinkled heart. Have your child cut it out. Explain negative speak and give examples. With each negative phrase, fold the heart until it is completely wrinkled. Discuss how hurtful words can cause another person harm and are not easily forgotten. Lastly, explain that once something is communicated, it can not be retracted, in the same way the heart cannot be unwrinkled.

    A few more talking points:

      • Explain why it is important to think before you speak
      • Talk to your children about the struggles that others go through
      • Have a conversation about how the different life experiences of others can explain their actions
      • Teach them that words can hurt and have consequences
      • Discuss how speaking with care and sensitivity could save someone pain and suffering

    Random Acts of Kindness Jar

    Help children learn to derive pleasure from the happiness of others with this simple and impactful activity. Use the label to create a random acts of kindness jar. Cut the acts of kindness into small strips and fold them up. Then place them in the jar. Every morning (or week, month, whatever works for your family) have your child pull one of the strips from the jar and complete the act of kindness. Watch as they grow in their desire to give and pay it forward.

    Books that Teach & Inspire Empathy

    There is no better method for delivering a message to a child than via picture book. Research indicates that reading improves a child’s emotional intelligence and increases empathy. Be sure to check out the following reads:

    How Full is Your Bucket?

    Each of us has an invisible bucket. When our bucket is full, we feel great. When it’s empty, we feel awful. Yet most children (and many adults) don’t realize the importance of having a full bucket throughout the day. Felix learns how every interaction in a day either fills or empties his bucket. He then realizes that everything he says or does to other people fills or empties their buckets as well. Follow along with Felix as he learns how easy it can be to fill the buckets of his classmates, teachers and family members. Before the day is over, you’ll see how Felix discovers that filling someone else’s bucket also fills his own.

    The Last Stop on Market Street

    Every Sunday after church, CJ and his grandma ride the bus across town. But today, CJ wonders why they don’t own a car like his friend Colby. Why doesn’t he have an iPod like the boys on the bus? How come they always have to get off in the dirty part of town? Each question is met with an encouraging answer from grandma, who helps him see the beauty—and fun—in their routine and the world around them. Help children walk a mile in another’s shoes and gain a different perspective with this award winning read.

    The Invisible Boy

    Meet Brian, the invisible boy. Nobody ever seems to notice him or think to include him in their group, game, or birthday party until a new kid comes to class. When Justin, the new boy, arrives, Brian is the first to make him feel welcome. And when Brian and Justin team up to work on a class project together, Brian finds a way to shine. From esteemed author and speaker Trudy Ludwig this gentle story shows how small acts of kindness can help children feel included and allow them to flourish.

    We hope you’ve enjoyed our Simple Methods for Teaching Kids Kindness and Empathy. Looking for more on early childhood development? Be sure to read our small steps for Raising Confident Kids.



     

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