Monday, January 30, 2012

De-Cluttering and How to Involve Your Kids

Do you feel like you are drowning in clutter? Do you feel like every time you turn around, you are picking up random things on the floor ranging from those teeny tiny Barbie shoes, puzzle pieces, matchbox cars, crushed crayons to dirty clothes that have not been put away properly? Then, don’t even get me started on the car. It doesn’t matter how hard I try to keep my car de-cluttered, or how many cute containers or bags I buy, I somehow manage to add more and more “stuff” to it…extra snacks, Sippy cups, diapers, wipes, jackets and umbrellas. You name it; I probably have it in my car.
Have I mentioned how much I despise clutter? I admit it, I am a de-cluttering addict. There is a multi-billion dollar industry that targets us. To name a few, The Container Store (heaven!), Bed Bath and Beyond, TJ Maxx Home Goods and then there are your professional organizers that you can hire to de-clutter your home. Hmm...Maybe that could be my next career. Sorry, I digress.
This weekend, I had it with all the clutter in my house. Tripping over the toys or getting hurt on a lonely dress up shoe that forgot to be put away, as I am on my way to check on the girls in the middle of the night.  So I got on a mission to get this house more organized and the people in it too!
I am constantly trying to organize my kids’ toys (especially after the holiday), their closets, my own closet, our pantry, linen closet, laundry room, etc. I cannot stand piles or even my laundry basket to get too full. I know, kind of crazy, but so true. At times, I selfishly say, “If we only had a bigger house, or I wish our house had a “play room” where we could just throw all the toys in there and shut the door. “ Not the answer, as you all know.
As cliché as it sounds, “less is more.” You don’t need to keep buying more bins or color coded baskets to just store more stuff in. You don’t need to hire a professional organizer to just shuffle your things around or get you to buy more bins. Nope, you need to purge, donate to a good cause and just stop buying the unnecessary items. Like the latest toys your kids had to have or maybe the dolphin souvenir  your child had to have at the aquarium and that is now lost at the very bottom on their toy chest.
I really don’t know one mom that loves to constantly feel like they are cleaning, picking up things around the house or that they just can’t keep up with the madness. We want to be more “hands-on” with our kids, to be present, not just someone cleaning behind them as they are playing or getting on to them about how messy their room is. Now, I am not saying all of you moms out there do this either. I am just recognizing what I do and what I have learned to do, instead adding more clutter (or stress) to my life.
So how do you keep your spaces in your house clutter free with kids, a dog and a sweet hubby that doesn’t mind piles at all? Well, let me share with you a few secrets and maybe some of you already do this.
·         Don’t be afraid to share the responsibility of maintaining your house and the chores that come with it. Delegate- and when you delegate the responsibility, don’t just say, “oh it will be faster it I just do it. Hello! By doing this, we are saying, “It’s okay, darling, you be lazy and Mommy will do it for you.”
·         Get them in the habit!  After playtime, get in the habit of putting the toys back in their designated area. For toddlers, get baskets or bins (that you already have), put pictures on them so they know where the items go. Make this a learning experience. For example, ask them “where does the truck go?” and let them find the proper container. For older kids, have them sort their toys by type.
·         Make cleaning up fun! Other ways that I have found helpful in getting my girls to help with the chores is making it fun. I turn on their favorite tunes, and we see if we can get all the toys put away before the next song starts.  
·         Don’t overwhelm them with one big task. For example, don’t say, “Go clean your room!” Big mistake! Been there and have done that. Try to challenge them to do one task at a time, like pick up all their books and put in book basket or pick up stuffed animals and put on shelf.
·         Praise, praise! Congratulate them after they have completed each job. Same goes for the hubs too! They love to get praise just as much as the kids do.
As you might have seen in my last blog, cleaning can be a form of physical activity for your kids, you and your hubby too. So my lesson to you busy moms, let your kids help you keep their rooms and common areas clean and organized. Believe me, kids love to help and they really thrive on the positive reinforcement they get from you once they have completed their task or chore.  They will also take better care of their things when they are responsible for keeping them in order.

Friday, January 27, 2012

It's Peanut Butter Jelly Time People!

Alright, Mommies, instead of our usual inspirational Friday quote, I thought I would give you a link of something my husband showed me a long time ago.

Just like the Bubble Guppies and Little Einsteins theme songs (some of you know what I am talking about), this song will definitely stick in your head. It is catchy, fun, and will definitely get your kids up dancing!

Ok - disclaimer - not sure where this song came from - This is just for pure enjoyment and to exert some energy at the end of a!

Have fun and dance with your kids like nobody is watching! Believe me, it will definitely make you laugh and forget any meltdowns that went down that day.

Happy Friday!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Healthy Tips

To continue our talk about the importance of good nutrition and staying active, we wanted to offer you some ideas of different ways you can teach your children about healthy foods and staying fit. One of the best ways you can start this is by going to your local farmers’ market. You can introduce your child to all the different healthy foods that are in season and you can even let them pick out the ingredients for dinner that night. From my experience, when your child is involved in the dinner preparations, they are more likely to eat the meal. It also makes them feel pretty good about themselves when they are part of the process.
If you are not able to go to a farmers’ market, and there is a day you have extra patience, then let your child tag along with you at the grocery store. Give them a picture list of things that you are going to get that day and have them help you. Make sure you point out which foods are fruit, vegetables, grains and so on and explain to them that these healthy foods help them grow and stay strong.
Along with the farmers’ market and the grocery store, you can introduce your child to books that talk about food. There are so many fun children’s books out there such as Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, If you Give a Pig a Pancake or The Berenstein Bears and Too Much Junk Food that can lead to discussions about which foods are good for you and which are not.
Here is a link (,  for a list of more books about health and nutrition, if you would like to go to your local library and check them out. You could even check out a fun cookbook while you are there.
For our local readers, we have some ideas for you to do with your child, as early as this Wednesday. 
  • Go to Whole Foods Market in Franklin and enjoy its Kids Hour at 9:30 or Health Starts Here store tour at 11. Then afterwards, you can get some free yummy samples. HMMM! Here is Whole Foods’ website so you can check it out for more details and future events.
       Wednesday, January 25th
Kid’s Hour with Rachel Sumner
9:30a.m. Free
Award-winning children's entertainer, Rachel Sumner has performed throughout the U.S. and Europe and is well-known for her lively performances where audience participation is encouraged. Singing songs and telling stories that teach as well as entertain, she has gained fans young and old. 
Visit for more info
Wednesday, January 25th
Health Starts Here Starts With You! Store Tour
11:00 a.m. Free
Eat well, Have fun, Take charge. Learn all about cooking, shopping and saving for a healthy lifestyle.
Other ideas:
  •  Nashville’s Farmers Market-located at 900 Rosa Parks Blvd, take a stroll through the market this weekend and pick out some healthy yummies for your whole family to enjoy. Here is the link to the site to get more details and it will also give you some healthy recipes and tips on what is in season.
  • Get in the spirit of this wintery season and burn some calories at Indoor Ice Skating at A Game Sportsplex (, 215 Gothic Court, Franklin, Tn and at Centennial Sportsplex, 222 25th Ave, N.
  • Tired of sitting inside? Warm up by bowling and playing games at Jaymar Family Entertainment Center (
Remember, it doesn't have to take a lot of time or a lot of fancy meals to be healthy. You can do it. No more excuses!

Monday, January 23, 2012

Benefits of Good Nutrition and Exercise for Kids

Do you feel like you are already in an exercise rut and it is not even February yet? Most of us make New Years’ resolutions to get fit and exercise on a regular basis. We join a gym or buy several home workout DVDs, determined to get up extra early or while the kids are in school, to burn some calories. We even get a new workout wardrobe and eat healthy for a while and then we hit a wall.  Our kids’ extra-curricular activities start to be our excuse, social gatherings or family get togethers get in the way of our healthy habits, or we just plain get burn out!
As moms, whether you work inside or outside the home, at the end of the day, we know it is so hard to get motivated to do anything. You are tired from the long day, chasing kids around or meeting a deadline, and you have no energy left to cook another meal so you opt to order take out. Believe me, I know!  However, I also know the importance of staying fit and eating healthy not only for my well-being, but also to be a good role model for my family.
There are so many benefits to staying active and eating healthy as a family. Yes, this all sounds like common sense, but just hear me out. When you establish good nutrition and encourage physical activity in your child from the very beginning, you are helping them develop life-long healthy habits.  Just like us, when we eat healthy and exercise regularly, we feel better and are able to perform better at work and in our daily lives. So when our kids are provided with nutritional meals and given opportunities to be active, it provides a long list of positives. They not only benefit physically, they can also perform better in school, focus better on the task at hand, and just feel better about themselves.
As a busy family, how do you sneak in healthy meals and exercise? Well, let me first say this, you don’t have to be a gourmet chef to provide nutritious meals.  I am definitely not! You also don’t have to be a gym rat or run a triathlon to say that you are fit and healthy either.  As long as you can make it a habit to slip in just 15 minutes a day of some kind of physical activity, you are on to a great start of healthy living for your family.  
 Here are just a few simple everyday ideas you can do, whether you like to exercise or not.
1.     Hit the neighborhood playground. The monkey bars are great for helping your kids with upper body strength. The rock wall or crossing the bridge helps with building leg muscles. Then, for you, just chasing the kids around or pushing them in the swings is a great workout. Hey! You could even revert back to when you raced to get the swings at recess and swing with your child. What a great core workout for everyone.
2.     Go on a nature walk or scavenger hunt in your neighborhood. If your neighborhood is hilly like mine, you and your family will get a great workout. Then, kids that are in the stroller or wagon, can also join in, by getting out here and there as they look for what’s on their list. Maybe they are searching for dandelions, pine cones or a fall leaf? On rainy or snow days, you can do a scavenger hunt in your house. Just make it fun and active for everyone!
3.     Backyard fun! Play a game in your backyard, like tag, soccer or kickball.
4.     Beat that cabin fever! Inside games on rainy days can be hide and go seek, a pillow fight, build a fort with sheets, pillows and chairs, or wobble around with a balloon between your legs and see who is the fastest.
5.     Commercial Break? During ads, dance, do jump jacks with your kids (helps them with counting), or do sit ups. If you have a baby or toddler, put them on your tummy and do sit ups. They will love the one-on-one attention.
6.     Dance Party! Turn up your favorite tunes and dance in the kitchen while cooking dinner or while cleaning up. Make sure you include the kids when cleaning up, etc.
Some nutritious snack ideas or could even be added to your child’s lunch: my kids love them!
  1. Pretzel Kabobs (got this idea from Parents magazine) Ham, turkey, and cheese rolled up together, sliced, and skewered with pretzel sticks
  2. PB and J on a whole wheat mini bagel
  3. Reduce Fat String cheese and crackers
  4. Hummus with carrot sticks, celery and pita wedges
  5. Strawberry and banana smoothie, great for breakfast too!
  6. Popcorn with light butter or cheese, fun to do on movie nights
  7. Banana nut bread, will post recipe later.
  8. Turkey, cheese and hummus on mini wheat sandwich thin. I use hummus instead of mayo
  9. Almond honey power bar, on December’s recipe list.
  10. Low-fat yogurt and apple slices
Remember, when you are healthy and active, your kids are going to be more motivated and encouraged to maintain a healthier lifestyle. To read more on the benefits of good nutrition and daily exercise for kids, go to:

Friday, January 20, 2012

Quote of the day...

"When you are dealing with a child, keep all your wits about you and sit on the floor."

-A. O'Malley

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The budding architect

Every great architect is - necessarily - a great poet. He must be a great original interpreter of his time, his day, his age.
Frank Lloyd Wright

Following up on forts from yesterday, have you ever thought about the concept of architecture through a child's eyes?  The concept of designing, building, and going inside a "real" building is pretty astounding, even for adults.  So pointing out the architecture around us can be pretty impressive to the preschool set.   A few field trips to consider:

Is your neighborhood growing?  Cruising construction sites, repeatedly during the building process, teaches kids that buildings don't just grow out of the ground.  This is  a good opportunity to teach the names of different types of workers and vehicles on-site, too.  Want to be wowed? The convention center going up in downtown Nashville is downright enormous, and looks like an anthill covered with workers most of the time.

Too cold for outdoor exploration?  Take time to point out the features of the grander buildings on your daily errands.  Schools, malls, groceries, churches, and libraries tend to have interesting features.   Even Target is noteworthy for size and scale.  Estimate how many houses like yours would fit inside.

On your way somewhere, ask the kids to decide what the most interesting building is on the route, and to tell you why they think so.

And you can take it on home--build another fort if you are going for life-size, or bring it down.  Legos, Lincoln Logs, and Tinkertoys all have a place in the playroom.  Likewise, milk cartons, egg cartons, and boxes from pantry staples such as cereal, crackers, mixes and pastas can make great roadside architecture for the streets driven by Matchbox cars.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Build a Fort: The future of our nation depends on it!

"The most important failure was one of imagination."
9/11 Commission Report, topping the list of failures at all levels of government to prevent such an attack

As we talk here about enriching children's lives, it is easy to get into checklist mode.  Alphabet knowledge? Check.  Fine motor skills?  Check. And on and on we go.  As parents, learning to integrate intentional practice of skills that will prepare a child for kindergarten and beyond is a big deal, and making it all feel like fun and games is all the more challenging.  We're here to help make it easier, and agree that it is a big job!

This week, let's take a step back and think about imagination.  It is the driving force of invention and ingenuity, yet it can't be taught.  It's development requires chunks of free time to practice, yet it is impossible to schedule when a great idea might strike.  It comes from within, yet requires some external prompting or influence.  And to top it all off, the best ideas generally emerge from the process of problem solving, but is putting a child in a "problem" situation the best way to teach it?  Developing imagination isn't so easy to cross off the list.  And yet our national security, economic growth, and cultural development rely on it.

One solution:  forts.  Yes folks, we're talking tables covered in sheets.  A mainstay of snow days for generations.  The bigger the better.  There's something magical about creating your own enclosed space. These spaces breed ghost stories and shadow puppets, secrets and knock-knock jokes, and  make a cozy spot to curl up with a teddy bear (or ten) and look at books.  The best fort I was ever associated with involved a pool table covered in sheets, some of which were staked out on to folding chairs to annex more space.  Sleeping bags were both inside and on the the rooftop balcony. Best I remember there was a Lite Brite nearby casting a rainbow glow, but I could be romanticizing things.  All I know is that I am amazed that my very tidy mother allowed that mess to stay up long enough that I could have such vivid memories of it.

Unscheduled, unstructured time (in a fort or elsewhere) is absolutely required for the development of imagination.  In our rush to do all and be all, kids still need time to "be kids,"
and the truth is that building a fort at home just might take you back to a simpler time.

For more ideas, check out this link on creativity and play.


Friday, January 13, 2012

Thought for the day...

"Affection is the most satisfying reward a child can receive. It costs nothing, is readily available, and provides great encouragement."

-from Moments for Mom daily inspirations

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Downtown Nashville Library--worth the trip

As we discussed on Monday, libraries are rich resource for moms of youngsters, so we wanted to give you some links to online library resources as well as a peak at some of the wonderfully enriching FREE programs coming up.

Given that this Monday is Martin Luther King, Jr. day, you must know that the Downtown Nashville Public Library houses a striking history of and tribute to the civil rights movement as it played out mere blocks away.  The Civil Rights Center tells the story of the local movement through photographs from local papers, a timeline of events, and quotes that capture its spirit.

This is only one of the many treasures at the downtown branch. If you are not already acquainted, this next link will introduce you to the magic of Tom Tichenor and his marionettes.  This local artisan and puppeteer extraordinaire bequeathed his collection to the Nashville Public Library, where they are displayed used in delightful productions for young children.  In January and February, the branch will be featuring the puppets of Wood and Strings, a contemporary puppet group hand-crafting these works of art in Centerville, TN.  They are performing Anansazi and the Spider, an African folk-tale.  For showtimes click here.  Shows last 30 minutes, and are very popular, so be sure to arrive a bit early to ensure a good seat (most seating is on the floor, with benches along the sides of the theater).

Like most local libraries, they also host storytimes for children and, by way, the do have books, too.  Lots of them.  And while you are in the children's section, look for the mousehole in baseboard.  When I was a young girl trips downtown to see the shows at the library (in its former location) always included a trip to "check on the mice," who I imagined to be lurking just inside.

Don't be intimidated by the trip downtown--ample parking is available in the garage, you don't have to live in Davidson County to visit (just to check out books), and this space and all of its wonders just might make your child fall in love with libraries (it did my daughter, for sure).  Of course that could be because we always get a cookie at the Panera Bread next door (with access from the main lobby)...
Can't get there?  Please go here:  the Kid Zone link on the Downtown Nashville library's site is definitely worth bookmarking.  In addition to details on all the upcoming events, there are book lists galore--Caledecott Medal winners, Newbery Medal winners, lists by topic (such s "princess books" and "dinosaur books)", and book lists by age and grade level.  They also have some online resources worth checking out.  And while you're online, go to the site of the library nearest you.  You might be surprised how much they have to offer.

Monday, January 9, 2012

This week: Libraries

"Put away your credit card and get out your library card."
-Golinkoff & Hirsch-Pasek in Einstein Never Used Flashcards

This week we're talking books here on the blog.  Reading to and with your child is the best thing you can do to prepare them for school (hmm, that sounds like familiar advice...), and libraries are your community partner.   Did you make new year's resolutions such as
  • more quality family time, at home or out in the community
  • read to your kids more (or read more yourself)
  • get in tune with your child's academic development
  • spend less money on things for the kids
  • spend less money on going out for enterainment
  • spend less money renting movies
  • expose your child to more of the arts?
Yep, the library can help with all of that.  From regular storytimes to special music and theater events, the Nashville area libraries (and those in most other cities) have a ton of high-quality free programming.  We'll spotlight some of these later in the week, but today the focus is on the books. 

Building a home library is important. Kids need to have books that belong to them to read and re-read over and over again.  But the reality is that exposure to a wide range of fiction and non-fiction is highly enriching, and purchasing every book that your child might possibly want to read would cost a small fortune.  Starting a weekly library routine is an excellent way to rotate the books in your house. 

In many libraries the children's department will have lists of suggested books for different age and grade levels.  Consider taking these lists on as a challenge to complete.  We have posted a list of some of our personal favorites over on the right. 

When choosing books to bring home, a nice formula is as follows
  • one your child can "read" to you (this can even include wordless books for a toddler to describe to you),
  • one that rhymes (Dr. Seuss is always a winner, but there are many other choices, too),
  • one that is true (a book about animals, nature, history, science, geography,--anything nonfiction),
  • a great storybook (or two) with good illustrations to read to or with your child,
  • and something you have checked out before.
While you are there, take time to really look around.  Many libraries have collections of art, toys, and historical artifacts that kids find very interesting.  Also look for info on upcoming classes and programs, as these (usually free) programs are some of the hidden jewels in the community.

Need some motivation?  One summer we kept count of all the books we read together, with the promise that we would do something once we hit 100.  We only made it to 50 (hello, reality check), but celebrated anyway with on ice cream outing, with a commitment to keep reading and celebrating along the way.  Many libraries offer summer reading programs with rewards to keep kids interested.

This isn't just kid stuff, by the way.  Studies show that children in homes where parents read regularly and there is a lot of printed material around do better in school.  See this article to learn more.
So while you are there be sure to pick up something for yourself, too.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Getting out into nature

Enjoyed the home zoo activities from yesterday?  Everyone knows that the Nashville Zoo is a fun outing for all ages.  And our community also has some great opportunities to experience nature and wildlife that lives closer to home.  Here are some experiences off the beaten path.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Activity: This house is a zoo!

Need a little indoor fun on these cold winter days?  My house is a zoo, and I bet yours is, too.  Know how many animals are in your menagerie?  Challenge the kids to count all the animals in the house.  This includes not only the obvious pets and stuffed creatures, but critters on pajamas, in artwork, on product labels and, if you dare, in books.
You can do a ton with this concept, but here are a few ideas to get you started:
  • Set a timer for 5 minutes and have them count how many they find.  You can use this to practice making tally marks, writing numerals, and graphing how many animals each family member can find.
  • Set a goal of finding animal types.  Give a young child mammals, and an older child the more challenging amphibian category.
  • Make it a "hunt" and have them "bag" their finds.  As you go through the haul, divide them into groups (farm animals, zoo animals, jungle animals, and ocean animals, as well as categories such as fish, birds, reptiles, etc.).
  • Build language by asking them to come up with three descriptor words for each animal.  
  • Build writing skills by writing out lists of the animals that are found (invented spelling, or even just geting down the first letter, are great for young ones).
You can supplement the activity with books about animals and zoos, coloring, painting or sculpting zoo creatures, and singing songs about animals. 

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Make a resolution to give more of your time...

"Make a memory with your children,
Spend time to show you care;
Toys and trinkets can't replace those
Precious moments that you share.
Money doesn't buy real pleasure,
It doesn't matter where you live;
Children need your own attention,
Something only YOU can give."

-Elaine Hardt

Monday, January 2, 2012

What are your Mommy Resolutions for 2012?

Happy 2012 Hands on Mommy friends! We hope you all have had a wonderful holiday with your family and friends, soaking in every bit of quality time with your loved ones and squeezing in a little rest and relaxation for you too. 

So to ask the traditional question of the New Year, what are your Mommy resolutions? Do you want to cook more for your family? Do you want to take more pictures? Organize your home or get in a better routine?

As we celebrate a new beginning, let's try to set some goals, to better ourselves and our family. At the dinner table tonight, sit down with your kids, talk about all the things that they accomplished last year, pointing out what they couldn't do the year before and what they can do now. For example, riding a bike, writing their name or learning how to skip. Then, talk about what kind of things you would like to do or learn in the New Year. The important thing is to not be too preachy or tell your children what they should do. Encourage them to set goals. Then, be a good role model in keeping your resolution. If you are going to talk the talk, you need to walk the walk.

We have included a link of some of The Today Show working mom's and their resolutions for the New Year. Hopefully, they will inspire you and help you create your own.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Happy New Year!

Glory to God in highest heaven,
Who unto man His Son hath given;
While angels sing with tender mirth,
A glad new year to all the earth.

-Martin Luther

We wish you and your family a very Happy New Year!
-Amy and Heather