Car Bucks

If you are traveling this holiday season, you might want to consider bringing some car bucks.  They have definitely brought peace and joy to our car.  🙂

20150512_101611This past summer we went on TWO major road trips, hitting both coasts–I am proud to say that during the course of the summer I drove on the I-10 in every single state it passes through.  All told we visited 15 states (but really Texas should count as like 10 different states since we drove from one end to the other).   And most of it I did alone with the kiddos. Two six-year-olds and a baby can make for a LONG trip.  Trust me.  Enter car bucks…

Car buck tickets

I got the idea on our first trip and we used imaginary ones.   By the second trip, I had my husband design actual “car bucks” for us.  The girls loved them!

So, how do you earn car bucks?

  • Being good during the drive,
  • Helping out when necessary,
  • Passing things back to siblings,
  • Being quick at rest stops,
  • Having good listening skills,
  • Good manners at our stops, etc.

With the baby in the car, my girls earned quite a few by helping keep Colton quiet and happy.  And I’ll admit that I pass the bucks out very freely.  I would rather reward good behavior throughout the trip then have grumps riding with me.  And this gives them more to spend.

Travel tickets

But what do you spend the car bucks on?

  • Buying souvenirs
  • Treats at rest stops
  • Special snacks

    Enjoying a rest stop along the way

    Enjoying a rest stop along the way

These were all things we would buy anyways but this way it was connected to good behavior which helped prevent whining and begging.  The souvenir money wasn’t an arbitrary amount and it allowed the children to practice good financial skills when deciding how to spend their money.  But don’t feel like you have to do a $1 to 1 buck ratio.  Make it work for you.

As for the snacks, of course our regular snacks were all free.  I just also picked up some extra special ones.  Like oreo sticks with creme dip (yum!) and the cups of cookies.  (I’m not very health concious on the road.)  The kids loved being able to choose when they could have something special like the cookies.  They tend to know best when they need a little pick me up.

Print on green paper to make them look more like money

Print on green paper to make them look more like money

Download Car Bucks

Car bucks have made our road trips easier.  I hope they help you!

 

Family Plan for Summertime

It’s summertime.  If you’re anything like me you have big ideas for family fun and projects to get done but before you know it summer has sailed by.  That’s why I loved this idea of my sister’s so much.  (She also came up with the game in the last post which just proves that she provides the best ideas!)

Anyway, last summer she made this chart for her family with spaces for Work, Play, and Learn.  She called a family meeting and then everyone in the family used a different color to write their plans in each category.  Their summer was well-balanced and productive but still a lot of fun.

Summer Chart

We were doing school this summer and the girls would probably blur Work and Learn together so our chart this summer was a little different with Play, Learn, and Projects as our categories.

IMG_1117

This is such a quick easy way to focus your summer plans and make sure that everyone is on the same page.  I just think it’s such a great way to organize your summer!

Your Child’s Growing Mind book review

I recently finished reading Your Child’s Growing Mind: Brain Development and Learning from Birth to Adolescence by Jane Healy and I can’t recommend it enough to parents.  I’ve said before that I really enjoy reading about brain development but I what I especially liked about this book P1050895was that it wasn’t simply interesting facts but also useful information that you could apply to your children’s lives.  Healy explains clearly what is going on in your child’s brain at different stages and then gives practical ideas to support your child.

This book covered questions I didn’t even know I had–things like when to start music lessons, if counting on the figures is okay, how children learn new words.  But the book deals with far more than skill development.  Healy really focuses on emotional aspects of development.  I felt like the book gives you a huge pat on the back and shows that you aren’t ruining your child’s life but it also gave a huge list of ideas to help your child be successful in life.

Many books have lists of milestones or what your child should do at each age but these can simply become a checklist making it seem like every child should be able to do the same thing on the same day.  Here Healy explains more about what the brain is capable of at each stage.  She offers very broad ranges and tends to explain things more in the form of “By age six most children can…”  I felt like the book helped me to have realistic expectations for my children. And I really liked how Healy is able to deal with all different ends of the spectrum.  She addresses everyone from average children to gifted children to different learners.  I say different learners because Healy often points out strengths (and even causes sometimes) when discussing learning disabilities or delays.

backpackWhile I think all parents can benefit from this book, and those with little ones might be more drawn to it, I would especially recommend it to those whose children are getting ready to start school.  Having been in education for 30 years, Healy does a fabulous job explaining what you should expect from your school.  She explains what good schools do and recommends how you can go about getting the best for your child.  She offers tips for helping with homework, talking to teachers, studying with your child, and advocating for your student.  Even if you are schooling at home, like we are, the sections on schools will be useful.  When she says what to look for in a school or teacher, I just applied that to our own home and what we should be incorporating.  This truly is a book for everyone.

Brain TVI also appreciate the way Healy deals with technology.  She definitely discourages overuse and explains why.  For example, babies’ brains need live speakers and don’t process the electronic sounds the same way.  But she also makes suggestions for when to use technology and how to get the most of it.  She points out that math programs for early grades can be bad because it’s important to learn the concepts not just memorize the answers but software for older children can be great because it allows them to practice real world skills.

The first part of the book is all about brain development.  Recently I was at the park with the girls and while watching all the kids play I could actually see things she had described in the book.  The later parts of the book all deal with practical applications, specific things you can do based on the science.  While I must read a book front to back or it drives me crazy, this really is one book where you could jump to the section you want.  Just don’t tell me.

Alright, I now feel like I am president of the Jane Healy fan club.   I will stop singing her praises.  I just really think this is one parenting/development book that many, many people can appreciate.

Our Big Move

We recently moved a few states over due to military orders.  I would love to say that things went perfectly and I have a whole list of tips and tricks to share, but the truth is there is a lot that I would do better or completely differently next time.  Sometimes I felt like I was clutching my seat waiting until it was over.  But our most important goal–making the move a positive experience for our daughters and not scarring them for life–was one that we actually got right.  Well, I think so.  I hope so.

The trucks arriving with the crates filled with all of our belongings.

The trucks arriving with the crates filled with all of our belongings.

When one of our girls ended up in the hospital during the move, we were able to see just how well we had prepared them to deal with this difficult time.  For whatever it’s worth, here is what we tried to do and how it worked out.

Stay positive and get excited. 

I had lived in our last city for over 15 years so moving anywhere would have been hard for me.  But we tried to stay upbeat with our girls.  In fact, when our original orders to North Dakota were cancelled they started crying and wailing, “But I want to go to North Dakota!”
We also went online and looked at pictures and places around our new town to have something to look forward to.

Warn them about what is coming.

We looked at a calendar many times throughout the process and talked about each thing that would happen. After the packers had been to the house, my husband warned the girls that it would “look different and maybe scary but it was just our stuff in boxes.”

Surprising their Nanny by hiding in the packing materials.

Surprising their Nanny by hiding in the packing materials.

Keep them involved.

It’s easy to find jobs for even the littlest helper.  They can pack or unpack their stuffed animals or toys.  We had the girls go through their toys and choose items to donate ahead of time.  We also had them set things on the counter while we unpacked and collect the packing paper after we were done.

Focus on the family.

We tried very hard to make this a family adventure.  This was an exciting time for the four of us to stick together.  When things went awry, such as when we were forced to sleep in our car because bad weather had filled every single hotel in town, the girls just considered it one more adventure.  And they learned that we stick together no matter what.

Our brave patient with her best buddy

Our brave patient with her best buddy

This lesson paid off big time when our daughter ended up in the hospital from a blood disorder.  Riding in the ambulance was just another adventure in her mind (she asked if we could take a picture of her) and there was no question that all four of us would be staying at the hospital together.  It was a Thanksgiving we will never forget!

Have fun!

This is a stressful time for any family–well, it was for ours–but you can still have fun.  It’s part of your family history so make some memories.

A proud Zoe poses next to the R2D2 they created while her sister is inside the robot.

A proud Zoe poses next to the R2D2 they created while her sister is inside the robot.

Endangered Minds

Endangered MindsI recently finished reading Endangered Minds, Why Children Don’t Think–and What We Can Do About It by Jane M. Healy, Ph.D.  I’ll be honest, I’m a big nerd who loves reading books about brain research.  But even if you aren’t a nerd like me, I highly recommend this book to parents of young children, especially if you are concerned about the huge amount of technology in our children’s lives.

One of my favorite brain/parenting books for babies was Bright From the Start and I really feel like Endangered Minds picks up where that book leaves off.  Basically we want kids to be strong readers but often are shaping their brain the opposite way.

We have all heard how bad screentime is for children, but why?  Jane Healy really explains to the layperson what is happening in children’s brains as they are growing and how screentime, TV and computers, impacts the growing brain in such a way it is actually changing the landscape of children’s brains.  But what really made the book interesting to me was that she also explained how this all translates to the classroom and society as a whole.  Some of it comes as no surprise, such as how more children are having trouble paying attention and TV teaches them to tune out.  But Healy also explains how TV makes kids passive learners who expect to be entertained and have information spoonfed to them. This is something I have seen in my own classroom–students expecting the answers to be listed right on the page and either unwilling or unable to work to find answers.

I actually kept wishing that I had read this book sooner, while I was still teaching in the classroom since it explained so much about what I was seeing in my students.  But I also know it would have been very frustrating because the power to change really resides in the home with the parents.

Brain TVIt has already changed the behavior in our home.  We now put more emphasis on listening and focusing skills.  We are listening to more novels on tape as a family and discussing them together.  We have also included a strong phonics program as our children learn to read.  And obviously we are limiting screentime even more.

People have made the argument to me that if kids’ brains are changing due to the huge influx in technology then it could be a disadvantage to restrict screentime, computer use, etc. so that my children have an “old” style brain.  I strongly disagree.  As Jane Healy explains, we still have the same overall expectations in school and the workplace.  Students need to do a huge amount of reading in school but allowing them to watch large amounts of TV or play on a computer from an early age makes it harder for them to be good readers and good learners.  But it is more than just reading.  For our changing world, our children need to be able to think creatively, make connections, and draw conclusions.  In order to do this they need to be active learners able to focus and willing to work hard.

Endangered Minds is a little dated, but overall the message and information is true.  In fact, much has just been further confirmed since the book was first written.  It does focus on TV more than computers but all the arguments hold true for both.  The book also addresses issues such as the increase in ADHD and the decrease in test scores including the SATs and GRE.  Other issues she tackles might come as a surprise such as the problem with shows like Sesame Street.  If you are interested in brain and/or looking at how to give your children every advantage, I high recommend it.

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