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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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  • 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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  • 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!

    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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