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  • First Day of School Book Favorites (+ activities too)

    As the summer comes to an end, so comes change for your child as the new school year begins. We all know that the starting the first day of school can be an anticipating and emotional time, as expected.

    One of the best ways my husband and I have found to ease our son’s impending emotions is through literature. By introducing characters with feelings and situations resembling his everydayness, he gains better insight and expands his perspective. And by forming character connections through literature with your child, you will be able to affirm their feelings and create open dialogue on topics of concern or excitement.

    Below we have listed some of our favorite first day of school books you can read to prepare your child for the new year. With comprehensive subjects such as first-day jitters, meeting new friends, learning the school rules – we’ve listed a book for them all. You will also find some post-reading activities to stimulate follow-up conversations and engage your child even more with some of the characters and topics.

    See Our List of Favorite First Day of School Books and Activities Below!

    Graphic on best books to read for the first day of school with example books

    This post may contain affiliate links, which means that we may receive a commission if you make a purchase using these links.

     

    1. Have You Filled Your Bucket Today? 

    Through sweet, simple prose and vivid illustrations, this book encourages positive behavior as children see how very easy and rewarding it is to express kindness, appreciation, and love on a daily basis.

    Activity:

    How Full Is Your Bucket childrens activity picture Have you child create a bucket of their own by thinking and writing down the things that make them happy and placing them in their bucket.

    Clickable link to download How Full is Your Bucket book activity

    2. First Day Jitters

    Sarah Jane Hartwell is scared and doesn’t want to start over at a new school. She doesn’t know anybody, and nobody knows her. It will be awful. She just knows it. With much prodding from Mr. Hartwell, Sarah Jane reluctantly pulls herself together and goes to school. She is quickly befriended by Mrs. Burton, who helps smooth her jittery transition. First Day Jitters is sure to be treasured by anyone who has ever anticipated a first day of school.

    Activity: 

    Picture of boy holding First Day Jitters book activityHave your child make a “Jitter Juice”. Cut out all the emojis that your child feels about starting school and put them in the jitter juice. You can also make a “Jitter Juice” of your own with Hawaiian Punch and Sprite!

    Clickable image to First Day Jitters book activity

    3. Llama Llama Misses Mama

    It’s Llama Llama’s first day of school, and he’s not too happy about it. Still, he trudges along and makes his bed, brushes his teeth, and eats his breakfast.

    But once he arrives at his classroom — with so many new faces, new names, and new games — little Llama doesn’t know what to do. And when Mama Llama leaves, the little guy feels even more shy and alone. What will this lonely llama do? Will Mama ever return?

    Activity:

    Boy holding up Llama Llama paper plate craft

    With two paper plates, make an outline of Llama Llama’s head, ears and scruffy hair. Cut out the eyes, color and glue together to create a Llama Llama mask!

    4. Brand New Pencils, Brand New Books

    It’s the first day of first grade! Gilbert is looking forward to learning how to read and making new friends, but . . .

    Will the teacher be nice? Will first grade be too hard? Will he like his classmates? Will they like him? Gilbert is excited and nervous at the same time and maybe your littles will relate.

    Activity:

    What's in My Backpack book activity exampleDownload the below activity to help your little one prepare their backpack. They’ll need more than just books and pencils!

    Clickable image to Brand New Pencils, Brand New Books book activity

    5. David Goes to School

    In this sequel, young David heads off to school for the first time and David’s teacher certainly has her hands full! From running, yelling, and pushing with abandon to chewing gum in class, David’s high-energy antics fill each day with trouble. David’s unruly romp through school is sure to bring a smile to the face of even the best-behaved reader. Read along as David learns the school rules.

    Activity:

    Picture of David Goes to School book activitySchool rules are very important. See if your child knows the difference between good school behavior and what is not allowed with this “Yes, David – No, David” activity.

    Clickable link to David Goes to School book activity download

    More First Day of School Favorites!

    Interested in more back-to-school posts? Check out this post to download a free first day of school printable!

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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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  • Fostering Your Child’s Mental Health & Ways to Build a Strong Foundation

    As my son gets older and more submerged into the world around him, I often find myself hard-pressed on how well he will be able to cope. Have I prepared my child for the trials and tribulations of life that is to come? Have I implemented all the tools necessary to ensure a happy life for him? Surely I can’t guarantee his happiness, but I can give him a strong foundation for his mental health – and that could be everything.

    Children learn from the behavior modeled by the important adults in their life.

    The month of May is Mental Health Awareness Month, a topic near and dear to my heart. And as an advocate for mental health (and a parent), it is not lost on me how influential my role is on my sons childhood mental health.

    As described in a 2013 MMWR report, mental health in childhood is characterized by “…the achievement of development and emotional milestones, healthy social development, and effective coping skills, such that mentally healthy children have a positive quality of life and can function well at home, in school, and in their communities.”

    There are many other ways to foster your child’s mental health. Here are some daily steps to keep your child as mentally healthy as possible.

    First and foremost, our children learn by example. As parents, there is so much we can offer to help nurture their mental health during the most developmental stages of their life. Here are just a few:

    1. Build Their Self-esteem

    • Be on Your Child’s Team: Regularly support and encourage your child. Make sure to praise their efforts, not their achievements, and to believe them and believe in them.
    • Let Them Learn Naturally: Promote independent learning. Have your child experience and accept the natural consequences of life and experience the benefits of positive actions as well.
    • Encourage Healthy Self-Talk: Use words of encouragement and daily affirmations. See our list of affirmations for kids here.
    • Ensure Their Sense of Belonging: Your child needs to feel like they are invited, accepted and loved. Make sure to spend family time together, play with them and remind them how valuable they are.

    2. Create a Safe and Comfortable Environment

    Provide an environment that demonstrates love, compassion, trust and understanding every day. Let your child know you are a safe place and confidant when it comes to their feelings and thoughts. Implement a predictable routine in the household, as to create a sense of stability and comfort.

    3. Establish Healthy Habits

    Make sure your child is getting enough rest, eating healthy foods and getting enough play time/exercise. Physical health is just as important.

    4. Explain Feelings and Reactions

    Listen to how your child is feeling and validate their emotions. Guide your child through big feelings and show them important coping mechanisms and ways to manage challenges (like meditation). Teach them the importance of expressing their emotions through language.

    5. Model Healthy Behavior

    Children learn from the behavior modeled by the important adults in their life – so be sure to lead by example the best strategies regarding self-care, healthy social interactions, communication and emotional stability.

    These guidelines aren’t just for children either, but are important for everyone looking to take care of their mental health! If you enjoyed this post, you might want to read this post on building your child’s confidence.

    Note: Through research, I was able to find these helpful tips on nurturing children’s mental health. If you have suggestions or advice, we would love to hear it! Comment below or email us at contact@rockitmama.com.

     

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  • The 4 Best Takeaways From The Whole-Brain Child

    As a stay at home mom who is basically on 24/7,  I’m always looking for new methods to improve the relationships I have with my kids, and solutions for handling the big emotions that come with parenting. Most of my research pointed to The Whole-Brain Child written by Daniel J Siegel, M.D., and Tina Payne Bryson, PH.D. This practical child rearing read is a New York Times Bestseller and for good reason.

    Photo of woman reading The Whole-Brain Child.

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

    The 12 no-drama discipline strategies laid out in the book are game changing. The illustrations and relatable narratives offer parents an effortless implementation and are easy to follow. However, the most beneficial piece to this read was the information regarding brain science and the many links to child emotional development. The authors provide a thorough explanation as to why children are at times highly emotionally reactive and how to better understand their struggles.

    Overall, The Whole-Brain Child can help foster happier and healthier kids which is what we all strive for. Here are the 4 Best Takeaways from The Whole-Brain Child.

    1.) Integration – The Many Parts of the Brain

    Most of us understand that the brain has many different parts with many different functions. There’s the logical left brain and the emotional right brain. There’s an instinctive reptile brain and a mammal brain that helps us foster emotional connections and relationships. New research shows that all of these components of the brain need to work well together in order to flourish and thrive. This concept is called integration.

    Because the human brain isn’t fully developed until the age of 20-25, we can’t expect the littlest among us to be experts in brain functions such us emotional intelligence or sounds decision making.

    The book notes that because children are right brain dominant, they aren’t experts in getting messages across without mastery of the left brain logic. As a result, it is difficult to explain how they’re feeling. This is often the cause of a tantrum or meltdown. Parents can integrate the the child brain by providing them experiences in which the many parts of the brain can collaborate.

    The book expands on these experiences and gives various strategies for integration. However, simply understanding the composition of the brain allows parents to nurture the child brain more effectively.

    2.) Attunement – Allow them to Feel Felt

    “When a child is upset, logic won’t work until we’ve responded to the child’s emotional needs first,” -The Whole-Brain Child

    I love this quote directly from the book. When we respond to our child’s tantrum with a logical answer, it probably won’t connect because the child’s emotional needs are commanding the brain in a way that is all-consuming. That is precisely why responses such as (below) don’t resonate.

    • “You’re fine.”
    • “It’s not a big deal.”
    • “Calm down.”

    Help your child feel heard and felt by affirming their feelings (no matter how irrational), not invalidating them. Assuring a child that they’re not alone and  that we want to know whats happening on the inside can help calm the situation. Once their emotional needs are met, it will be easier to break through to the developing logical left brain, to work through the problem.

    For more on appropriate responses to tantrums read our article 5 Simple Tips for Taming Tantrums.

    3.) Traumas – Name Their Pain

    When a child experiences a trauma, a parent’s first instinct is to avoid it or distract the child from re-living the experience. But due to the inner workings of the developing brain, it’s important to talk about the trauma in order to overcome.

    This section of The Whole-Brain Child points out that while we don’t want our children to hurt, its vital for them to have these experiences to learn how to heal and grow. Traumas should never go unresolved. Recount the fear and walk through it together.

    Trauma is a word that is often misunderstood. Trauma doesn’t have to be the death of a family member or a scary car accident. It can be any deeply distressing or disturbing experience. For children, a perceived trauma can be something that an adult would find silly or irrational. Examples of child trauma:

    • Getting sick at preschool or daycare
    • A scary encounter with an animal
    • A toilet overflowing
    • Falling off the playground

    Though these situations may sound minor, something as simple as a toilet overflowing can create anxiety or discomfort in a child that needs to be worked through.

    4.) Morality

    “A sense of not only right and wrong, but also what is for the greater good beyond their own personal needs,” -The Whole-Brain Child

    This one resonated with me, as its one of the most important values I wish to instill in my kids: a strong sense of morality. The book explains that a well integrated upstairs brain with the following attributes culminates in morality.

    • Sound decision making
    • Controlling emotions and the body
    • Self-understanding
    • Empathy

    A great way to exercise this part of the brain is to place a child in scenarios in which they practice good decision making. A few examples of hypotheticals (that kids love) directly from the book:

    • “Would it be ok to run a red light in an emergency?”
    • “If a bully was picking on someone, would you intervene?”
    • “If you found a toy at the playground that didn’t belong to you, would you take it?”

    By challenging kids to think critically about decisions, and by guiding them through these scenarios, we allow them to build the morality necessary to make good choices. Being able to assess the implications in any situation is a crucial life skill and is important in helping children develop sound decision making skills.

    We hope that our 4 Best Takeaways from The Whole-Brain Child left you wanting more! You can purchase this essential parent read below.

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  • The States I’ve Visited – A Printable Travel Log & Learning Activity for Kids

    It is a personal bucket list item of mine to visit all 50 states and if possible, the National Parks within their limits. With summer road trips and family vacations on the horizon, I wanted to find a way to pass this passion for travel along to my oldest who appears to share the same adventure spirit.

    Additionally, I wanted to create a fun way to learn about the 50 states and the protected lands we call our National Parks.

    The parks offer an exceptional gateway to the unique features each state has to offer. By highlighting each park visited my hope is that he will be encouraged to continue to visit these sites throughout his life.

    Above all, it’s important that my son understands the seriousness of protecting these sacred properties that our memories are made on.

    The printable domestic travel log and learning activity for kids (available for download below!) is a great way to foster an excitement for travel and exploration, and serves as a good introduction to the states that embody this vast, beautiful country. It can be printed and placed in a binder or framed on the wall for display.

    We hope your littles enjoy adding marks to the checklist year after year, and learn more about the 50 states as they color in the shapes on the map.

    Here are a few photos of my son filling out his own domestic travel log and how we’ve decided to display this fun learning activity for kids!

    We decided to make the map colorful but it would be fun to color code each state by year visited or otherwise! It is displayed here in a frame but a binder with page protectors is also a good idea to preserve the log.

    For the 50 states checklist, we added the dates that we traveled to each one (for the ones we could remember) as a memory keeper. We circled the parks that we’ve visited but a highlighter would work too!



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  • Create a Summer Activity Planner – Free Printable Included!

    My son thrives on routines; the consistency not only gives him a sense of security, but it helps him to feel confident in time management as well. Creating an established routine also assists in developing important habits and life skills. Now with summer ending, I knew I needed to create some type of schedule once school ended that will carry on the steadiness in his daily activities.

    If you know me, you know I’m a planner by nature; so in one month’s time…this mama will need an agenda. This year, I decided to add a supplemental summer planner printable to go along with our Printable Family Binder Bundle and I’m so excited to share it with you!

    See what our Summer Activity Planner has inside!

    The Summer Activity Planner has 5 pages included:

    • Weekly Summer Schedule: A guideline of fun summer activities you can do with your child throughout the week.
    • Daily Summer Schedule: A timeline of suggested daily activities. Feel free to have your child choose summer bucket list ideas for their daily activity.
    • Summer Bucket List: A list of obligatory summer ideas for kids.
    • Summer Reading List: Create and track your summer reading list and then have your child rate their books!
    • Summer Chore Chart: Age appropriate chore chart for the summer.

    Image of Summer Planner BinderI printed out ours and put it into our Family Emergency Binder so we have a single place to reference all family items.

    How do you plan your daily summer activities? I’d love to hear your best tips in the comments below!



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