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  • Easy DIY Christmas Ornament for 2020

    Shew. 2020.

    What a ride it has been. I believe I can speak for everyone when I say, we will be happy to put this one behind us.

    When coming up with an idea for an easy DIY 2020 Christmas ornament, I wanted to keep it light, while still featuring an image that will remind us of what we’ve endured this year, when we look back in the future.

    What better way to remember the Holiday season of 2020 than with a masked Santa and reindeer, am I right?

    DIY christmas ornament

    This “Christmasked” DIY craft is easy enough for a child to make (as long as a parent does the drilling!). All you need is our FREE masked Santa and reindeer printable available for download (keep scrolling!) modge podge, a slice of wood, twine, and a drill to create the hole.

    Unless, of course, you use the pre-drilled slices which I’ve found on Amazon and other craft suppliers. Both are linked below!

    Perfect for your family tree, or as a gift to others, let’s work through this Easy DIY 2020 Christmas ornament, and relish in the holiday spirit that even this tumultuous year can’t deny us.

    You will need:

    • Downloadable masked Santa and reindeer printable below
    • Wood slices
    • Twine
    • Modge Podge
    • Drill
    DIY christmas ornament

    Start with the wood slice. Drill a hole for the twine at the top. Pre-drilled natural wood slices are available to purchase as well, if you don’t want the hassle of pulling out the drill, or simply don’t have one.

    String the twine through the hole.

    Cut the graphic in a shape similar to the wood slice so it’s evenly spaced. Apply modge podge to the back of the graphic. Place it on the wood, then cover the image again in more modge podge. I assure you, it does not rip the paper!

    Let the modge podge dry completely. And just like that, the ornament is ready to hang!

    If Christmas isn’t your celebration, we’ve included a “Happy Holidays” version of our printable, which is also included upon downloading our graphic through the form below.

    DIY Christmas ornament

    Download your FREE 2020 Christmasked Ornament printable below!

    This Holiday season may we resolve to hold each other a little closer, connect deeper with those we love, and lead with empathy, good faith, and kindness in our interactions with one another.

    We wish you the most peaceful of Holiday celebrations this year, and to all of our loyal readers, may you stay safe, merry and bright!

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    And if you just can’t get enough DIY Christmas tree ornaments this year, check out our Scrabble Tile ornament tutorial here!

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  • DIY Fall Themed Story Stones

    While I’m sure you’ve heard of painted rocks, the question stands: Have you heard of story stones?

    I had not, until a few short weeks ago while searching for ways to paint fall themed rocks. My son and I have been planting painted rocks around our neighborhood for people to find, and we stumbled upon the idea for story stones during a quick google search.

    Now, we’re having so much fun telling stories with our stones, that we’ve been creating them nonstop. So naturally, I’m ready to share the untold benefits of playing with story stones, and how EASY they are to make!

    story stones

    For some clarity, Story Stones are pictures painted or glued onto smooth pebbles, used as an aid in storytelling.

    They can either represent a known story to be placed in order, or they can be a themed selection of images that prompt children to create their own stories.

    Storytelling through story stones can be an excellent tool for developing skills such as social communication, creativity, logical thinking and support learning through play objectives.

    Stories are an inclusive way to help children learn no matter what their abilities!

    Fall themed Story Stones Printable

    For our homemade stones, we coat the printable images in modge podge to seal to them to the stone. So far, it’s been working great! And, it’s a craft my 4 year old can do alongside me.

    I decided to create a Fall themed printable to inspire stories about all the exciting pieces that make autumn such a special season. Watch this imagination running wild!

    Simple directions:

    1. Cut the images out
    2. Use Modge Podge to glue the image to the stone (the entire image should be glossed over, front and back)
    3. Let dry for an hour or so
    4. The fun begins!

    The modge podge we use for our stones is linked above!

    There are so many ways to enjoy these creative pebbles and promote imaginative play. Try adding them to a sensory bin, or categorizing with flashcards. We like to create narratives with our stones outside under the sunshine.

    Let us know how you use your story stones in the comments below!

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    For more nature based learning, check out these 7 Nature Activities and Ideas for Outdoor Exploration for kids!

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  • Activities for Teaching Gratitude – FREE Printables!

    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 expected behaviors, teaching gratitude to young minds can have lifelong positive effects. However, learning this practice takes time and effort; after all gratitude is a mindset.

    teaching gratitude

    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” than the start of this holiday season?

    Studies show strong associations between showing gratefulness and improved happiness.

    I started practicing intentional gratitude after my first was born in an attempt to ease anxiety. I learned quickly that when I regularly took time to give thanks and share a sense of abundance around me, I attracted a goodness that elevated my mood and carried me through the day.

    So now, instilling the practice of gratitude in my kids is extremely important to me as a parent. What better time to emphasize gratitude than the month of November, when Thanksgiving is at the forefront of our of planning.

    There are many benefits to exercising gratitude, and introducing this practice early on in a child’s life may increase mental strength, boost empathy and augment overall well-being.

     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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    gratitude
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  • Parenting Styles: Guidance vs Control

    In today’s unpredictable world, the route to raising kids who are kind, cooperative and happy can be hard to navigate.

    For parents, there’s an underlying pressure to bring up well-behaved children that meet societal expectations, while also providing them the space to become who they are meant to be. At times, these two concepts seem to be at odds.

    While doing research on the subject, I discovered a method to parenting that emphasizes guidance over control.

    As a positive parenting advocate, I have to say the distinction is a game changer, and I’m a huge fan of the guiding approach. It was a real eye opener to discover that most of my parenting was done via control!

    Guiding a child (rather than controlling) encourages their autonomy and agency as an individual, while allowing the parent to be in control of the situation. 

    Guidance can improve relationships and offer kids the room to explore their own choices within clearly defined boundaries.

    Guidance vs Control Parenting Styles Defined:

    Guidance: Encouraging a child to be their best self, while allowing them to make choices and decisions, with parental support and love.

    Control: Can be coercive, authoritative, manipulative or critical. Controlling a child may hinder their ability to build important decision making skills and impede self identity.

    A critical aspect of guiding a child is respect. Remember, your child is an individual with their own thoughts, feelings and ideas. Respecting their autonomy will instill trust in your relationship.

    It’s also important to have discussions with empathy. Get down on your child’s level to better understand their behavior, before immediately reacting and inflicting consequence. Follow the positive parenting mantra, to share calm, without contributing to escalation.

    Let’s break it down via conversation styles.

    Ordering vs Explaining:

    Examples:

    Order: Clean your room right now.

    Instead, try this:

    Explain: When your room is clean, it’s easier to find things when you need them. It also sets the tone for a good day, to wake up in an organized bedroom. Want to give it a try?

    Cooperation vs Coercion:

    Examples:

    Coercion: Clean your room or I’m going to take your tablet away.

    Instead, try this:

    Cooperation: Let’s clean your room together, and get it done faster.

    Criticism vs Feedback:

    Examples:

    Criticism: Your room is a disaster. You’re messy.

    Instead, try this:

    Feedback: I’ve noticed that your room is a little messy. You may find that you feel more organized if you keep your room clean.

    Dictate vs Discuss

    Examples:

    Dictate: You better have your room cleaned by the time I get home.

    Instead, try this:

    Discuss: Let’s come up with ways to organize your room so it is easier to keep clean.

    Notice the difference?

    Talk to kids about the “why” of what you are requesting. Help them understand, for example, why having a clean room will positively affect them, without criticizing for being messy.

    It’s important to note that yes, while controlling a child, temporary results are possible. For example, most children will act swiftly when a parent threatens removal of a favorite toy or game.

    However, if we place emphasis on raising kids with a growth mindset, control no longer fits in the equation.

    Children with a growth mindset know they can overcome challenges and learn new ways to accomplish things. It is resilience that we want to build, not concession. Ask yourself, do you want your child to comply out of fear? Or because it is the right thing to do?

    If guidance is the key, kids will come to their own conclusions about making good choices, as it is what they’ve been trained to do.

    positive parenting

    Lastly, use your best judgement to determine when control is absolutely necessary. In dangerous situations control over a child becomes paramount. If the behavior is risky or malicious, guidance may not be the correct approach. 

    There are times when controlling a child is the natural parental reaction, and that’s okay too! It’s not practical to assume guidance will always be the go-to method. These tools are meant to guide, not to guilt us into feeling like bad parents.

    And remember, we’re all in this together. 

    For more positive parenting techniques, read up on Positive Language Alternatives

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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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  • Spring Scene Terrarium Activity for Kids

    Spring has (basically) sprung in our neck of the woods, accompanied by all of the outdoor activity we love about warmer weather. Yet with this lovely season of growth and renewal comes a fair share of rainy days as well. With that in mind, we decided to capture and bottle up our own spring scene for the days that outdoor play isn’t optimal. This Spring scene terrarium activity is the perfect creative undertaking, and a wonderful way for kids to exercise the imagination.

    Spring terrarium for kids

    A terrarium is typically a glass vessel that contains real plants and soil, sometimes used to illustrate how an ecosystem works. Because the real ingredients can get a bit messy, we’ve come up with our own kid-friendly version that is also re-usable. We’ve decided to focus on the aformentioned, blooming season of Spring as our theme.

    The best part is, all of the supplies needed to make this springy terrarium can be purchased at the dollar store for a whopping $5. Unless of course, you already have these basic supplies around the house! The base is play-dough, and can be used multiple times to create new spring filled environments. Have kids dream up their own sunny scenes, and add elements they find laying around the playroom or just outside the door.

    Below you’ll find everything needed to create a Spring Scene Terrarium for kids. May the fun ensue!

    Dollar store shopping list:

    1. Glass jars
    2. Play-dough
    3. Green moss (found in seasonal section)
    4. Rocks (or go outside and find your own!)
    5. Various spring elements (butterflies, flowers, bunnies, eggs, etc.!)

    Directions:

    1. Pack the play-dough at the bottom of the jar
    2. Add the rocks for texture
    3. Place the green moss on top of the rocks as the third layer (you can add more rocks later if desired!)
    4. Insert spring elements. Be sure to press them into the play-dough so they stay put
    5. Close the jar and your spring scene terrarium is complete!

    Spring terrarium

    The play-dough serves as a great foundation and sticking element so the eggs, butterflies, flowers, etc. stay nicely in place. Each terrarium creation has it’s own theme. You could use bugs, easter, or fairy garden as concepts; the possibilities are endless. I love watching my son’s imagination run wild while coming up with new ideas. Don’t forget to display them proudly as Spring decor until the next idea comes along!

    Stickers could also be a fun way to add life to the terrarium. Use a sun sticker, clouds or rain drops to capture typical Spring weather patterns. Include a conversation about the changing seasons for educational value.

    As you can see, we’ve done this more than once!

    The finished products!

    One proud little artist happy with the end result. A sweet Spring Scene Terrarium!

    For the sunnier Spring days, check out these 7 Ideas for Nature Activities and Exploration!

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