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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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  • Baby’s First Christmas – Gift Guide!

    This post contains affiliate links, which means that we may receive a commission, at no cost to you, if you make a purchase using these links.

    Check out our list of must-have gifts for Baby’s First Christmas!

    Fat Brain Toys Dimpl Baby Toys & Gifts (here)

    Give the gift of sensory stimulation for baby’s first Christmas with this brightly colored and super durable toy! Babies will love poking and grabbing the colorful silicon bubbles while developing fine motor skills. Easy to take on the go and a fascinating attention keeper, this Dimpl is a wonderful gift for baby’s first Christmas!

    Radio Flyer 3-in-1 Wagon (here)

    You can’t go wrong with a classic! This multi-purpose radio flyer is a gift for babies and parents alike, as it is fun to ride in and easy to pull. It’s compact design folds for simple storage and it includes the UV protective canopy (for rainy days too). Plenty of room for 2, the radio flyer 3-in-1 can also be used as bench for seating. Buy it now!

    My First Library Board Books Boxset (here)

    It is never too early to instill a love for reading in a child, which makes this board book boxset the perfect gift for baby’s first Christmas. These brightly colored reads cover all the basics, including numbers, the alphabet and animals. Great for language development and an awesome introduction to the wonderful world of literature. Baby needs this set like yesterday!

    Spike the Fine-Motor Hedgehog (here)

    Just look at this adorable spike the Hedgehog in all of it’s colorful, fine motor glory! Watch as baby’s skills grow with this super cute peg-in-the-hole toy. The quills are easy to grasp and simple to store when play time is over. Spike is highly educational with it’s sorting, counting and color recognition building features. Exceptional!

    V-Tech Sit to Stand Learning Walker (here)

    What’s not to love about this interactive learning baby walker that features a removable toddler play panel and pretend telephone handset? Help babies learn to walk with this light up, musical push toy that sings songs and spouts fun phrases. Durable wheels work on carpet and hard floors. Intended for babies and toddlers from 9 months to 3 years old, it is also available in pink!  

    Growsland Baby Bath Toys (here)

    Bath time just got more fun with these awesome waterproof books and squeeze toys! This gift is not only educational but unique and guaranteed to keep baby entertained. The first page even squeaks when you press it! Tough but bendable, the books’ smooth edges are safety checked and mold resistant. Great value for everything included. Blub Blub gift these bath toys for baby’s first Christmas and enjoy some fun in the tub!

    Leapfrog My Pal Scout (here)

    Personalized learning, 40+ melodies and lullabies, and night time soothing are just a few of the incredible features to this multi-faceted, educational cuddle toy. Sync with a smartphone or tablet, and Scout will say your child’s name and favorite things. Bedtime just got a lot easier!

    Battat – Wooden Activity Cube (here)

    A beautifully crafted childhood classic, the Battat wooden activity cube is a must have for babies and toddlers. With 5 sides of fun and rounded corners, this child favorite will keep baby safely entertained. Playtime with this toy encourages hand-eye coordination, imaginative play and cause-and-effect. Winning gift right here!

    Melissa & Doug Nesting and Stacking Blocks (here)

    What can’t we say about Melissa & Doug? Their products are amazing. Get back to the basics with these stackable blocks with eye catching alphabet letters and animals.  And when baby is finished they store away seamlessly.  This toy is an incredible value under $10 and is guaranteed by Melissa & Doug. Talk about a no brainer!

    Ball Pit Play Tent (here)

    Kids have a mental, emotional and physical need to learn how to explore by investigating their physical environments. What better place to do it than in this stimulating and safe ball pit? They can learn depth perception and to differentiate colors. It folds up quick and easy and comes with a handy storage bag so you can take just about anywhere!

    If you liked this gift guide for Baby’s First Christmas and would like more gift ideas – be sure to read our post on 50 Christmas Gifts Under $10 (and 75+ Stocking Stuffer Ideas.)

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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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  • Teaching Children about Gratitude – 4 Simple Activities

    In a world where everything is at our fingertips, and a feeling of privilege and entitlement can come natural – it can be difficult to instill an “attitude of gratitude” in our children. And while exercising manners and being courteous are quite satisfactory, teaching gratitude to young minds can have lifelong positive effects. But learning this outlook takes time and practice; after all it is a mindset and a lifestyle. Thankfully, there are techniques you can establish with your child today to begin cultivating feelings and expressions of gratitude – and what better time to develop an “attitude of gratitude” then the start of this holiday season?

    Studies show strong associations between showing gratefulness and improved happiness.

    In many respects, instilling a sense of gratitude is one of the most important lessons to pass along to our children. “Gratitude is a thankful appreciation for what an individual receives, whether tangible or intangible. With gratitude, people acknowledge the goodness in their lives.” Harvard Health. Studies show strong associations between showing gratefulness and improved happiness; and so by teaching our children to find appreciation in the little things around them, they tend to be less materialistic, more empathetic towards others, more satisfied with life and often lead healthier lives physically and psychologically. When you see the positive,  you feel more positive – it only makes sense!
    This week we have put together a collection of activities you and your child can both do together. We encourage using these techniques daily as a way to make gratitude a meaningful part of the day.

    1. Write in a Gratitude Journal

    Gratitude journals are great for both children and adults. Taking time to reflect and report your positive daily experiences can increase your overall happiness. In a 2003 study by Dr. Robert A. Emmons and Michael E. McCullough, participants who kept gratitude journals for 9 weeks resulted in exercising more regularly, reporting fewer physical complaints, expressing optimism concerning the upcoming week and had higher ratings of joy and happiness.

    We have created a simple and fun gratitude journal print-out with both morning and evening prompts your child can use to build a healthy habit of gratitude starting today. Download the FREE printable below.

    2. Go on a Hunt!

    Make learning fun with a Gratitude Scavenger Hunt! We’ve created the perfect list to find the little things to be thankful for – and it’s perfect for adults to play along too.

    3. Serve Others

    An easy way to teach gratitude is by exposing our children to different perspectives. By serving those around us, we are reminded to be grateful for what we have, while also learning to be more empathetic. There are plenty of ways to actively serve others. See some ideas below!

    Image showing different ways to show gratitude by serving others

    4. Turn it into a Conversation

    One of the best ways to express gratitude, is by simply talking about it! By carving out a few minutes of your day or week and playing a conversation game, you and your child will exercise feelings of gratitude and also open up dialogue for deeper and more meaningful conversations.

    And since Thanksgiving is right around the corner, why not start a Grateful Tree? See our post on how to make your own here.

    We hope these activities will help your child to understand and foster feelings of gratefulness into their lives, but its best to remember that leading by example is what makes it stick! If you have a favorite activity or tips on instilling an “attitude of gratitude,” feel free to share in the comments below.



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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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  • 13 Days of Creepy Halloween Crafts

    Like most, the second the fall crisp air begins to roll through, I go gung-ho and break out all the Halloween decor. And since having kids, it has only gotten more extreme as we add more Halloween projects and crafts into the festive tradition.

    Not only is crafting for Halloween a great way to deck the house with meaningful displays and get you into the spooky spirit, it’s also an easy and fun way to spend some time together  and make memories with your littles.

    With Halloween right around the corner, we’ve put together 13 days of creepy Halloween crafts that will make your day a bit more SPOOKTACULAR!

    Pinterest Graphic of 13 Creepy Halloween Crafts

    Click on the projects below to take you to the 13 creepy Halloween craft projects!

    1. Kids will love creating their own haunted house with this Popsicle Stick Haunted House craft

    2. This Oozing Blood Slime is the creepiest and grossest slime you’ll ever make!

    3. Kids can practice their eye/hand coordination with this Spider Paper Plate weaving craft

    4. A free Joke Cootie Catcher activity your child and their friends can enjoy!

    5. Your kid will love these adorable Googly-Eyed Handprint Bats

    6. Try out these fun Yarn Mummies your kids can wrap and make!

    7. You can make these Flying Paper Tube Bats with supplies already at home

    8. Decorate the house with these handmade Yarn Pumpkins

    9. Try this simple and fun Spider Quilling craft

    10. Your kids will love playing with this Paper Bag Frankenstein!

    11. Make a countdown to Halloween with this cute Paper Chain Halloween Decoration

    12. Creepy Halloween inspired Zombie Slime, your kids will love!

    13. Create all kinds of faces with this popsicle stick Mix and Match Pumpkin craft!

    You can also find some Halloween and Fall themed crafts and activities on our Pinterest page here.

    Happy crafting!

    P.S. If you enjoyed this post, you might like our Fall Sensory Bin post or 40 Fall Activities to Bring Your Family Closer Together.

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