Thoughts On Kid’s Extracurriculars

Back in February of 2019, I saw Mary’s post about placing her kids in activities and her formula for whether or not they should be in them. Here’s what she came up with, 

“Stress of making activity happen > benefit of activity = CANCEL regret-free!” 

When I read her post, my oldest was not even two years old yet so we were not even thinking about extracurriculars yet. However, I made a mental note about it to remember for the future. 

So far in the last two years, my kids have participated in swim lessons, soccer, dance, tumbling, and a handful of others. Every single time we’ve gone through an activity I have the same thought process, “what is this activity’s worth? Are the stresses of making this activity happen worth it?” 

Soccer? Nope. It was not worth it. But we learned and moved on. 

Swim lessons? Because of the nature of the private swim lessons we did, it was definitely the most commitment, the longest drive, and the most stressful. But having my kids become water safe and able to self-rescue in the water before they were a year old? Worth it. 

Dance? It didn’t interfere with any meal times, it was an easy time of the day to go, and it was close enough for us to walk. But my daughter protested it each week, and that alone made it not worth it. 

Tumbling? Easy time of the day, the location was close, and my daughter loved it and was learning so much. Yes. Worth it. 

Even at our preschool, I try every year to keep it in close proximity to our house and within decent times that are doable for us. 

And I have to say, I love it! I don’t feel like I’m spending all of my free time in my minivan acting as a chauffeur and my kids are spending more time in my backyard and in our playroom with neighbors and friends instead of buckled into their car seats rushing to the next thing. They are getting a great dose of unstructured play because of this handy formula that Mary created. 

And just because the video that Mary shared in her post was so perfect, I wanted to share it again here. 

Questions To Ask At Parent-Teacher Conferences

Parent-teacher conferences can be an overwhelming time for parents. What do I need to be prepared for? What will my child’s teacher say about them? And one of the most daunting questions- what questions do I ask? Here is a list of thought-provoking questions you can bring to parent-teacher conferences with you to get the most out of your experience. 

How is his/her/their social development? 

Are there any concerns I should have? 

What can I do to support my child’s academics at home? 

What can I do to support you as my child’s teacher? 

Is your classroom in need of any school supplies? 

What is something my child did really well this week/month? 

What type of workload can we expect from this class moving forward? 

What strengths and weaknesses does my child have in your classroom? 

And then of course questions specifically for you:

What is the best way to get in contact with you if I need anything? 

Can I talk to you about this concern I have? 

Do you know about this situation my son/daughter has going on at home?  

Is there anything else going on in the classroom that I need to know about?

A #TeacherMom Quandary: To Go Back or Stay Home?

substitute teacher quandry

Current life quandary: do I disrupt the delicate balance of being a mom with a work-from-home job to help in the community in a very understaffed job? Or continue this delicate life balance that we as a family have finally figured out and dismiss the job? 

Basically, what it comes down to, is that our community (and I’m positive the majority of the nation right now) is severely understaffed in regards to substitute teachers. With the fear of teaching in schools during COVID last year and the lack of teachers in general, it created a large gap that needed to be filled. This year may not be as hectic as last year, but regardless, they are still understaffed and struggling. 

My quandary comes with trying to continue my at-home work (this blog and our running scholarship), while still maintaining my status of a stay-at-home mom. While still feeling a pull to also throw “substitute teacher” on my stack of to-dos. I’ve had plenty of past experience subbing and I genuinely enjoyed it, but at what cost would it come to the rest of my responsibilities I need to maintain? 

I’m also feeling a big pull that I owe it to our community to be there for these teachers and students in their time of need. Is commitment to my community enough reason to take on something like this? 

All of these thoughts have been racing through my mind over the last several weeks as the first day of school slowly creeps closer and closer. 

I still have not decided which route to take yet and I will probably stew over this question every day until school starts. If you were faced with this decision, what would you choose? What would help you make your decision? 

A List Of Our Favorite Toys

Toys are an important part of childhood. They may create clutter and stress in our lives as parents and teachers, but the truth is, they can be essential to our kid’s childhood. They don’t have to be noisy and there doesn’t have to be a lot of them, as long as they are intentional. Here are our favorite toys we keep at our house. In fact, the less noisy and flashy they are, the better development wise. 

Magnet tiles- Learning more about magnets AND the ability to build various structures. They are also an easy add-to collection. Where we can continue to purchase more as gifts to my kids, but our abundance of toys doesn’t feel overrun. 

Wooden blocks- Again, building! Imagination! And sustainable materials. 

Kitchen set with food and dishes- More pretend play has happened in our play kitchen (both outdoor and indoor) than anywhere else in our house. 

Pop open tent- I’m a big fan of these because they fold flat for easy storage behind or under the couch. Our next purchase will be a pop up tunnel. 

Baby dolls- Both my son and daughter love playing pretend with our collection of baby dolls. None of them are very fancy and we’ve thrifted the majority of them. 

Outdoor kitchen with real pots and pans- I spent a weekend thrifting old pots, pans, silverware, and other kitchen dishes that we’ve put into our little playhouse in the backyard. These combined with some dirt and water seem to be our most popular toy! 

The toys you choose to have in your home for your kids don’t have to be extravagant and don’t have to be flashy. In fact, the less batteries required, the better! The more work your child has to do in order to play with the toy, the more learning and growing that is happening. 

What are some of the favorite toys in your house? 

The Benefits Of Independent Play

Last week I wrote down some of my thoughts about independent play and how it took time for my daughter to learn how to play. Play is not just something kids do for fun. It’s actual work. It is how their brains put together new experiences and learn to interact with the world. And while I was trying to push my daughter towards more independent play so that I could have a few minutes alone to work on what I needed, there are also many other benefits you can find from independent play. 

  • It fosters imagination. It gives them time to explore a whole new world that has yet to be created. 
  • It aids in problem-solving. When someone else isn’t there helping them solve their problems of blocks not fitting together right or the tower not stacking properly, they start relying on themselves and their own problem-solving skills. 
  • It boosts confidence! Allowing them the opportunity to utilize their own toys and manipulate them in the way they want can create confidence in themselves that otherwise may not be there if there is someone else present playing with them. 
  • Independent play can be a great way to prepare them for school. Working independently is a part of anyone’s education, and learning how to do this through play can prove to be more beneficial in the long run. 
  • It teaches them about alone time. Yes, as a parent you are given a few minutes of alone time to accomplish what you need to, but it’s also teaching your child how to have alone time and use it to recharge or accomplish what they need to. 

The next time you feel bad telling your kids to “go play”, you don’t need to! Allowing them independent playtime can be great for many reasons. Keep your eye out over the next few weeks for my post on how you can foster independent play for your own kids that may not do well with playing on their own. 

Play Is A Learned Trait: It’s Not Always Natural For Kids

Play, play, play! 

If you throw the word “play” up in the search bar of this particular blog, you’ll find a plethora of articles on children and play. 

Here’s a full page with my play articles somewhat organized.

But there’s another point I want to touch on when it comes to play. This article comes from a time a few years ago when my oldest child  was almost two years old. I was trying to make dinner and the typical battle of trying to either keep her busy in the kitchen, or distract her with toys outside of the kitchen ensued. I generally love cooking, but have such a hard time with it when I have a kid standing right at my feet demanding attention! 

I kept saying the same thing over and over to her- 

“Go play! Please! Go find some toys and play!” 

This battle continued for days and weeks on end. Nothing ever worked! 

I started researching online ways I could get my daughter to play on her own, and there were some great ideas out there. However, I read one piece of advice that I so badly wished I would have saved so I could reference! But the article stated this- 

Play is not something that just comes naturally to every kid, it’s a learned skill they all need to develop over time. 

It was such simple advice, yet it was still advice that changed my whole perspective! I was a great parent at pulling out a sensory bin or whipping up a quick color match activity. However, I was never a parent that pulled out the blocks and showed my daughter how to build. Or drive the toy cars. We never played pretend with the baby dolls or made the plastic animals move. If no one ever showed her how to play with the toys, why should I have expected her to know what to do with them? 

Over the next several weeks we spent time down on the floor together building towers and rocking babies to sleep. And then it was a slow transition to “invitations to play” where I would leave out a small set up to spark my daughter’s imagination and I would let her take it from there. 

Eventually, she learned the skill of play, and making dinner became so much easier! We continued to practice playing together and she continued to practice it by herself when I needed the time to be alone. It wasn’t perfect, but it was a start in the right direction. 

My hope is that if you’re struggling with getting your child to play by themselves as well, this article can be eye-opening for you as well. 

Tell me in the comments how you helped your child learn the art of play! 

Why Is Helicopter Parenting Bad?

I’ve written a few posts now on helicopter parenting and how I have been trying to avoid being one. You can read them here:

Helicopter Mom Part 1

Helicopter Mom Part 2

But maybe we need to clarify the why behind these helicopter mom posts. Why is this a parenting style I am avoiding and trying to lean more toward independent kids? 

A helicopter parent is someone who stands over their children making every decision for them and directing their lives. A lot of the motive behind a helicopter parent is to prevent their children from experiencing failure or getting hurt. However, doing so can actually do the opposite. 

The side effects of being parented by a helicopter parent are depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, high stress, fear of failure, low self-confidence, and more. By never letting your child fail, you are sending the message that failure is not okay, therefore, bringing on all of the depression, stress, and anxiety that comes with the inevitable failure in life. This only grows more and more into adulthood. 

To see more about the side effects of a helicopter parent, check out this video. 

What does a helicopter parent look like in each stage of life? 

As a toddler, it’s a parent standing right behind your child as they climb a ladder, even putting their hands and feet in the exact places they need to go to find success. 

As a child, it looks like a parent changing their child’s teacher because they don’t seem to learn well with their current teacher. 

As a teenager, it’s a parent that chooses which friends their children can spend time with. 

As an adult, it looks like a parent that pushes certain colleges to attend (typically based on the closest location to home) and tells the child what the best area of study for them will be. 

How can you change your parenting style to be less helicopter parent? 

Step back and watch your child climb the ladder. Observe their method of movement and don’t step in unless absolutely necessary. Remember that a short tumble may be exactly what they need to learn the correct method for using the rungs. 

Let your child stay in the classroom of this teacher, and give them ways to learn with the style the teacher is using. Teach them how to work with different personality types, then pull them out of the classroom if matters seem to be worsening and you have tried multiple approaches. 

Have conversations with your child about the value of good friendships and what a lasting effect they can have in life. Teach them to identify good vs. bad friends and let them decipher their friend choices on their own. 

Ask your child what their goals for their adult life look like, see what their ambitions and dreams are. Have conversations about what college looks like and means to them, and help guide them to whichever school seems to be the best fit for them. 

By changing the way we interact and teach our children, it will lead to more independent and efficient leaders of tomorrow. 

Featured Photo: Kayla Wright