Category Archives for "Children"

Dec 09

Giving Kids Responsibility

By Patrick Kansa | Children

Giving Kids ResponsibilityLast month, I covered the topic of giving kids choices, and how we need to be responsible for both the options we give, as well as accepting the choice that the child makes.  Today, I want to dive into what is very much the flipside to the choices coin – and that is responsibility.

Tying It Together With Choices

To see how this ties together, let’s go with the picking-out-their-clothes example that I used in the previous article.  Once your child has their clothing picked out for the day, you’ll go about the activities you have planned.  What if they’ve decided to put on something that isn’t appropriate for the weather (say, shorts in the winter) or the activity (a party dress when headed out to the trails)?  Provided we stick with our earlier decision to abide by their choice (well, perhaps we’ll put a warmer coat and snow pants on in that first example), they’ll start to learn that their decisions have ramifications – and they’re responsible for those choices and their results.

This Is Important!

But why is this important?  As your child begins to pick up on the concept of responsibility, you can begin to instill the lessons that they are more than just an isolated person.  You’ll start off by teaching them to be a contributing (and responsible) member of your immediate family.  This will then be able to be extended to the larger family, perhaps your local congregation.  Ultimately, this will lead to them learning how to be a responsible member of society.

Of course, that’s the end goal.  Before we get there, we’ve got a lot of smaller steps to cover.  This is a journey we ourselves are fairly early on with, as our oldest is just about four.  That isn’t to say we don’t have her being responsible for things, though.  These can be fairly little things, but they’ll be lessons that add up.

Giving Kids ResponsibilityCleaning Up…

For example, we’ve started having her clear her plate from the dinner table once she’s been excused.  When this started out, we had to remind her each night of what was expected of her.  Now, it’s become routine – she knows it’s something she needs to do.   We had a wonderful reminder of her progress over the Thanksgiving weekend.  At both my parents’ and my sister’s house, after being excused (at every meal) she would take her dishes over to the sink without being asking.  She may not realize it yet, but she’s learning the lesson of contributing to the smooth running of our family, aka being a responsible family member.

… and Loading Up

Another lesson she’s been learning has been with what she brings along in her backpack.  We’ll try to give some guidelines for what she packs in there (coloring books, a favorite stuffed toy, etc), but she’s more or less given free reign once she’s got the specific things we want her to have packed in.  Sometimes, she’ll be ready to head out the door, and we’ll put the backpack on her shoulders, only to hear her say “it’s too heavy!”  It’s at this point that I’ll remind her that the weight is from her own activities – she packed in everything she wanted to bring.  While I’ll occasionally help her carry the bag, I’d be more inclined to help her clear things out to lighten the load.  It’s a small lesson, but she’s learning to be responsible for her own belongings, as well as some self sufficiency (in other words, pack what you can carry, not to depend on others to help).

Giving Kids Responsibility

Drawing The Line

Don’t get me wrong – we help our kids as much as we can with many things, especially in areas they’re still learning.  Here and there, though, we’ll take that small step back just to see what happens – what they’re learning, where we need to focus – that sort of thing.  I’ve said it before in these articles, and I’m sure I’ll say it again:  this is yet another one of those areas that we’re working through, and it’s definitely a trial-by-error.  Even for those of you reading this – you might try my examples, and they may or may not work for your kids or your parenting style.  Every child is different, and of course that changes the dynamics of this thing called parenting.

Enjoying the Journey

That all said, I’m curious what other situations our readers have come across with giving their kids more responsibility.  I’m sure there are plenty of stories (good, funny, or otherwise) that we could ultimately all learn from.  In our house, we’re learning as we go, and seeing how our kids react to what we’re opening up to them.  The ultimate goal is to have a productive and responsible member of our family and society.  We’re just enjoying the fun and rolling with the bumps and bruises as we travel the path to getting them there.


Nov 13

Advent Activities for the Whole Family!

By Amy Latta | Children

Hi there, friends!  The holidays are just around the corner, which means it’s time to start thinking about fun ways your family can prepare and celebrate Advent together.

If you’re scratching your head and wondering, “What in the world is Advent?” it’s the four week period leading up to Christmas.  Some churches and denominations put a heavy emphasis on it, while others don’t mention it at all.  The idea, though, is taking four weeks to prepare our hearts and minds to celebrate Jesus’ birth.  It’s a time to get excited, to count down, and to spend time doing the things that matter most.  There are lots of different and fun ways you can incorporate Advent into your home; here are some of the things we like to do in the Artsy Family!

Create and Light an Advent Wreath/Box

Advent Wreath

Advent wreaths can be pretty much any shape or size you want; the important part is to have four candles, one for each of the four weeks preceding Christmas, and a center candle for Christmas Eve or day.  Each week, you light a new candle, in addition to the ones you’ve already lit as a way of counting down.  Sometimes the outer candles are colored {usually three purple and one pink} and in different traditions, they represent things like peace, love, joy, hope, etc.


Sometimes they can be huge, like this one our church used last year…how cool is that?!  But it’s also fun to have one in your home that you can light with your family on a weekly or even nightly basis to help get everyone excited about and focused on the season.


We’ve had several different types of Advent wreaths in the Artsy House over the years.  For several years, we used this simple one where I wrapped berries around a gold candle wreath.  But last year, we attended an event where we made the super cool stenciled wooden box with mason jars and fresh greens pictured above.  For more information on that one and a full tutorial, check out my Advent Box post.  {That one also uses battery operated tea lights…yay for fire safety with kiddos around!}

Make a Countdown Chain


This tradition is really special to me because it’s something I grew up doing every year with my parents!  We make a simple paper chain to help us count down to Christmas.  Each day, we tear off a link of the chain after dinner and it tells us how many days are left!  You can also write activities on the links, or anything else you want!

Make/Use an Advent Calendar

I think my favorite of all the holiday traditions we do is our Advent calendar.  It starts December 1 and what we like to do is come up with a fun family centered activity for each day.  Sometimes it’s as simple as “kiss under the mistletoe” or to read a particular Christmas book.  Other times, it might be making a gingerbread house or gumdrop wreath, baking cookies, doing some holiday shopping, decorating our tree, or driving around to look at Christmas lights.  Each day, we all look forward to finding out what we’re going to do together.  For the past several years, we’ve used a storebought calendar that looks like a bunch of little presents stacked on top of each other.  You open up the doors to find the activities written on slips of paper inside.

But this year, I decided I wanted to make our calendar instead!  Silhouette is my jam, so when I saw this limited edition Silhouette Advent Calendar Kit, I begged for it.

It contains:
– a solid wood frame, painted white
– a 20-shape download card
– 35 hanging clips

I was really looking forward to showing you all how I made it and how crazy-cute it is, but sadly, it still hasn’t come yet!  I stalk the mailman every day to no avail.  But, at least I can show you some photos of what other people have done with it!  Take a look:

Silhouette Advent Calendar

Aaah!  Isn’t it fabulous?!  See why I wanted it!   While I’m waiting for mine to arrive, over at Silhouette, you can get this kit for yourself at 40% off!   To claim your special deal, be sure to use the code ARTSY at checkout!  Of course, there are lots of other options for making or buying your advent calendar; the key is to make it something the whole family will enjoy!  Some people put candies in each day as well as the fun activities…there’s a win-win for you!  What are your favorite traditions leading up to Christmas?

I hope this gives you some fun ideas for ways to celebrate Advent at home with your family this holiday season!

Hugs & Glitter,


Nov 11

Giving Kids Choices

By Patrick Kansa | Children

Giving-Kids-Choices-SignToday, I’d like to cover a topic that one that can be rewarding for the child – and sometimes frustrating for the parent.  That, of course, is giving your children choices.  When they start off in life, we’re obviously making all the decisions for them – what they’ll eat, what they’ll wear, etc.  As they grow and mature, though, we starting letting them make their own choices.

Starting Out

Certainly, at first, those choices are relatively inconsequential – do they want the blue bowl or the red bowl, or what do they want to dip their chicken tenders into – that sort of thing.  Depending on your child’s particular maturity level, you may expand these choices more quickly then other parents.  It’s just one of those things that you have to trust your judgement, as you know your child best.

In our house, that’s something we’ve learned by trial and error.  We started with those easier choices, the things that I gave as examples.  As our oldest has grown, she’s demonstrated in different ways that she’s hit a maturity that’s exceeded her age in many ways (of course, there are other times where we are quickly reminded she’s still rather young).  This led us to opening up her choices in different ways.

Giving-Kids-Choices (1)

Accepting the Choice

When it comes to things like clothes, many times we’ll let her pick out her own clothing – or even just tell her to go into her room and change out of her pajamas, and then we’ll see what she’s gone with.  On one hand, this teaches her some independence – but it’s also a lesson for us as parents.  In short, we’ve got to be willing to accept what we’re allowing her to choose.  Sure, the combination of colors and patterns may not be what we’d go with, but it’s what she chose – so we let it ride.

On the other hand, we will other times give specific guidelines (say, we’re going to be out in the cooler weather all day) – then she has to work within those guidelines.  Or, if it comes to picking out her clothes for church, we narrow down the focus.  We’ll pick out two or three things, and then she can choose from those.  That way, we know what’s selected is going to be appropriate, and she still gets to make some decisions.

The biggest lesson we’ve had to learn from this is that, if something is being presented as a choice, you have to be willing to stand by her choice.  If you give a few options out, and one of them isn’t something you really want (say, a particular book you don’t enjoy reading), they will invariably settle on that option – and you must stand by it.  Otherwise, you’re presenting your child with a confusing situation, and that won’t lead to happy times.

Decision-making is an exciting time for your child, as they start gaining some independence as they learn to think about things for themselves.  At the same time, you have to be careful to not open things up too quickly.  If you do, your child is likely to be overwhelmed because they’re decision processes aren’t built up yet.  As they strengthen those muscles, though, it can be very rewarding for both parent and child to open up those choices.

Giving-Kids-Choices (3)

Know Your Child!

We as parents have to know our children, and when it makes sense to allow our child to make decisions.  Sometimes, it may not be a critical situation, and we can allow them to choose from a wide array of options (for example, what pajamas to wear).  In other situations, we may want to constrain the choices, so that they still have some freedom, but the choice ultimately conforms with what we know to be best for them (for example, what mid-day snack to have).

As with just about everything parent-related, this is a topic where we can get as much advice as possible for a variety of sources, but we won’t really know the correct path to go down until we try it out with our own children.  While it can be frustrating at times, it’s ultimately for the good of our children, so it’s important to figure it out!

Oct 14

Be Careful of What You Say

By Patrick Kansa | Children , Communication

Be Careful of What You SayBe Careful of What You SayRemember that old phrase “little pitchers have big ears” ? That’s a phrase that my wife and I have really gained a better appreciation for in our house. And, no, it’s not that we’re worried about them picking up bad language (since we simply don’t use it). But we’ve really be quite surprised by what our oldest will pick up, even when we think she’s not really paying attention.

Of course, it’s a bit of fine line to walk, with what she listens to or not. For example, many times I’ll be talking directly to her, and think that’s she’s listening, only to have her response be “What did you say?” Now, depending on what else is going on, I might repeat myself. Or, as I’ve been doing more frequently, I’ll ask her what she thought I said. Nine times out of ten, she picked up most (if not all) of what I was saying. I use this not so much as an example of daily life communicating with a child (as most parents likely go through this repeatedly), but as an illustration of what she’s picking up on, even when she doesn’t think she was listening.

What Are You Guys Talking About?

The next example pops up from when my wife and I are talking about something that we just need to cover (upcoming plans, what needs to get done, that sort of thing), while our daughter is occupied playing with some toys or doing some coloring. She’s pretty good about diving into some of those sorts of things, so it can be easier for us to forget that she’s nearby as our conversation continues. That is, until we hear a little voice pipe up asking for some clarification on something that was just said.

On one hand, this is a good thing. She’s there, somewhat listening, as mom and dad talk about things relevant and important to the functioning of our family. This lets her know that things are moving along as they should be, in harmony. In some measure, this should also stick with her as a point of reference that we work together as a family to accomplish things, rather than everyone doing what they think needs to be done, then recapping after all is said and done to see what was missed (I think that’s just the nature of our household, though – my wife and I are both planners, and like to know things in advance going into them).

Be Careful of What You SayThe flip side of that coin is that perhaps it isn’t a conversation those little ears need to be picking up on, or it’s just plain something she’s not quite ready (developmentally) to understand. And, on a basic level, we already self-censor some things. There are topics that are ok to talk about in front of the kids, and then there’s the other category of stuff (good, bad, or otherwise) that you simply wait until the kids are asleep to dive into. Then there’s a third category, that gives you some (generally funny) unintended consequences.

Sometimes, It’s Funny!

That third category recently came to light on a recent trip to a toy store. Now, as some background to this, we’ve been talking about (and making steps towards) simplifying things in our house and lives. This mostly entails going over what things we truly need to have in a particular room (or in the house, to begin with), or what things we can get rid of (sell, donate, etc). In short, we think it’s the right path for our family to take – get rid of unnecessary clutter, and focus on quality and enjoyment of the things we do hold on to.clutt

Now, back to the toy store. My daughter loves going in to toy stores, primarily to go and play with their train table (for a long time, she would bring along her own Thomas and Percy). At some point while my wife, father-in-law, and kids were in the store, my oldest told her grandfather that it was ok to look around, but he couldn’t buy her anything, as she had too many things. Needless to say, this sounds pretty funny coming from a little kid! But it also demonstrates that she’s listening and processing in everything that goes on around her at home.

Be Careful of What You SayYes, the clutter and chaos in some parts of the house comes from the kids’ stuff, but it’s not like my wife and I were living some spartan existence prior to their arrival. And while I appreciate that she’s picking up on the concept of what we’re trying to do, things like this can be tricky for her to put into the proper words (though, with her, vocabulary is certainly not an issue!) And while this is a fairly benign sort of thing going on in our house, it’s underscoring the fact that she’s picking up (intentionally or not) the conversations and activities going on around her, no matter how involved it may seem she is in something else.

Something To Nuture

While this hasn’t forced any drastic changes in when (or what) we talk about at the dinner table, it does give us another thing to be aware of – this little child of ours is growing up, and very aware of what’s going on around her. Rather than see this as something working against us, I choose to see it as a strength, albeit one we have to carefully nurture. For you parents out there, I’m curious to hear what your experiences are around this subject, be it a funny story, or some practical tips you’d like to share.


Oct 09

Festive Fall Cupcakes

By Amy Latta | Children

Fall is officially here, and what better way to celebrate than with some festive cupcakes the whole family can help create?  Since Halloween is just around the corner, Jack-o-Lanterns and monsters are everywhere, so you might as well have some on your plate too {or in your tummy}!


You’ll need:
– 12-24 cupcakes
– assorted candies {we used jelly beans, gumdrops, and shoestring licorice, but you could substitute all kinds of other things}
– canned frosting
– food coloring

We made our Jack-o-Lanterns first, so we started by mixing red and yellow food coloring into our canned white frosting until we had a nice shade of orange.  This is a great job for little helpers, who will enjoy dropping the coloring in as well as mixing it all up!


The next step was frosting a dozen of our cupcakes…this part was a Mommy-job, but luckily I had a good supervisor to oversee my work and make sure I was doing everything just right.


Then, it was time to add the faces!  My Little Crafter loved giving each pumpkin eyes, nose, a mouth, and a stem using various pieces of candy.


To make the gumdrops into the shapes we wanted, I laid down some parchment paper, put the gumdrop on top, then rolled it flat with a rolling pin.  Then, I took a knife and cut it into a triangle or whatever shape we wanted it to be.  Little Crafter had fun choosing the colors he wanted for each part and making the pumpkins have different expressions, like happy, silly, and serious.


But of course, we couldn’t make the whole batch into Jack-o-Lanterns because how do you make cupcakes without having some chocolate?!  Since the only brown pumpkins I’ve ever seen are rotten ones, we decided to get creative and make some monsters out of these instead.


We used our same candy supplies here, but I think LC actually enjoyed making these even more because of the creative freedom he had…I mean, monsters can have one eye or four, or anything in between!  They can have antennae, ears, or whatever you like.  Noses and mouths are optional.  LC’s favorite thing was looping the licorice to make it look like a few of them were sticking out their tongues.


Seriously, now.  How fun are these?!  And they couldn’t be easier to make, even for your smallest helpers.


If you’re looking for a relatively easy fall activity, this is a great one, especially because when you’re done, you get to EAT them!  I’d love for you to stop by One Artsy Mama for more Fall Fun inspiration like our Candy Corn Treat Jars, BOO Bottles, Fall Coasters, and more!

Hugs & Glitter,


Sep 11

Fall Tree Craft

By Amy Latta | Children , General

fall tree craft

Fall is in the air, and that means it’s a fun time to do some seasonal craft activities as a family!

Today, I’m excited to share with you a cute autumn craft that’s simple enough to do with even younger kiddos and won’t break the budget.  Take a look:


– styrofoam ball {1 per tree}
– assorted pom poms in fall colors
– stick from a real tree
– glue
– air dry clay

Step 1:  Glue your stick to the styrofoam ball.  Push it in and twist a bit so that the stick is firmly inserted, then add some glue to hold it in place.  We used low-temp hot glue so that it dried quickly but wasn’t hot enough to burn little fingers.

Fall Tree Craft

Step 2: Glue pom poms around the entire ball so that it’s totally covered.  Again, we used low-temp hot glue because otherwise this process would take forever.  The adults put a tiny bit of hot glue on the ball, and the kids pressed a pom pom in place, then we repeated that as we worked our way around.

fall tree craft

Fall Tree Craft

Step 3: Create a base for your tree using air-dry clay.

Pom Pom Tree Craft

Step 4: Enjoy!  Use your creations as decorations to bring a little fall color inside your home!

tree craft

Amy Latta is the author of One Artsy Mama, where she shares a variety of project types including home decor, kids’ crafts, sewing, jewelry, and more.  Recently, she published her first e-book, Crochet 101, to help beginners learn basic crochet stitches and techniques.  She is happiest when creating something and enjoys making all kinds of projects with her 5 year old “Little Crafter.” In her spare time, Amy is a professional ballroom, latin, and swing dancer.  When not on the dance floor or crafting, you can probably find her at Starbucks.

Sep 09

As Parents, You Must Be Unified

By Patrick Kansa | Children , Communication

holding-handsBefore my wife and I became parents, we went through a series of parenting sessions (with other couples and parents) that our church congregation offered. One of the recommendations that came from those classes is the subject for my article today – unity at the top.

At a very high level, both parents being unified is a simple concept to grasp, and one that makes a lot of sense. If both parents are on the same page (of the same book, mind you!) then your child knows exactly what to expect when it comes to things like privileges, boundaries, and the like. In practice, however, this can be more involved than you might think.

Talk To Each Other!

First off, you and your spouse must communicate with each other for what you think the rules should be. Sometimes, this might be something you discuss in advance (say, what time bedtime is), or things that you’re kind of talking through as the question or situation comes up (Hmm, can you have another snack today?). Whatever it is, no matter how mundane, you and your spouse need to come to an agreement.

mom-dad-sonThe trickier times crop up when there is a snap call that needs to be made, and your spouse isn’t immediately available for a quick level set. In our house, I generally take more of stricter position it seems, and I’ll be quick to deny something, or tell our older daughter that she needs to stop doing something. While that isn’t intrinsically a bad thing, it can set a dangerous precedent.

Say, for example, I told my daughter that she wasn’t allowed to do some certain thing with her art supplies (maybe cutting and gluing), for whatever reason. However, earlier in the day, my wife may have gone through with her how they were supposed to be used, and she (my daughter) used them responsibly. If I’m changing the rules now, that’s going to cause confusion.

This is especially critical if you’re dealing with young children, as we have. Their first instinct won’t be to tell you about the earlier permission that was granted – they’ll react in disappointment and frustration. And I can say from experience that that particular path is not a fun one to travel – for either parent or child.

Is There A Better Way?

There is a much different way this can go – and it’s the way I try to direct myself. Let’s go back to that earlier crafting example. I could, instead of shutting it down, ask her to wait while I went to check with my wife, and see if there was something that occurred earlier that would allow my daughter to be doing what she was doing.

parents-talking-on-couchThis nets us two very positive things. First, our daughter sees that we’re talking (and talking about her!), so she can know that her parents are on the same page about things. Next, it helps the both of us parents to make sure that we have the same baseline for permissiveness. This then leads (I hope) to our daughter knowing that she can’t try to get away with something.

How would that happen? Well, think back to your own childhood. Say, you wanted a cookie. Now, when I was growing up, I knew I had a much better chance if I asked my dad of actually getting that cookie. Even if it was a situation where I was told to go ask the other parent, I knew where my chances lie.

This is situational, of course – there are some things that parents are more inclined to do (or not do) based on interests, level of busyness, and the like. For example, I’m not about to be ready to teach my daughter to sew, but if she wants to practice using a hammer, I can probably find a project for her. At a low level, we just don’t want things to get to the point where a child knows that they can try to play parents off of each other, or even just play games to try and get what they want.

There Are Wonderful Benefits

This will all come to fruition if your child sees that you and your spouse are unified. This can happen in many ways throughout a day or evening. It could be at the dinner table, where we’re teaching our daughter to say “Excuse me” and then wait to be acknowledged when my wife and I are talking to each other. It could be your child seeing you and your mate holding hands as you walk down the sidewalk, or embracing each other when you get home from work.

parents-kissingFrom what I recall (on this topic) from the class, this not only avoids scenarios where the child tries to play parents against each other, it also allows the child to have a feeling of safety, of being loved. They see the discussions, the hugs and kisses, and they not only know, but they feel that things are good with Mom and Dad. This keeps them free to be children who are learning and growing, secure in the fact that they are part of a cohesive, loving family.

Easier Said Then Done

As I mentioned at the start, this is one of those concepts that is very simple on paper, and it’s easy to see the benefits. Of course, parenting is never as clean cut as the plans we might lay out for ourselves, and seeking and maintaining unity is something the both of you will have to work through to find the right level of give and take, in order to provide that loving environment for your children. There’s no guarantee that it’ll be easy, and if you’re like me, you’re liable to slip up now and again. We can keep at it, though, and the rewards that you AND your children will gain are immeasurable.

On this topic, I’m curious – what do you and your spouse do to make sure that you’re unified when it comes to raising your children? Sound off in the comments and let us know – I’m sure there’s good tips out there from our readers that would be beneficial to everyone.


Aug 14

Academic Skills Treasure Hunt

By Amy Latta | Children

Believe it or not, friends, August is almost halfway over!  And for most of us, that means it’s time to start thinking about the new school year!  Maybe your kids have already headed back to the classroom, or maybe they have a few more weeks to wait, like my little man does.  But no matter what the schedule, it’s a good time to start reviewing and practicing some academic skills in a fun way!

Academic Skills Treasure Hunt

The family that plays together, stays together, right?

Here is a fun family activity you can adapt for kids of all ages to help reinforce some of the skills they need to succeed in school.  Or, if you homeschool, you can work it right into your curriculum!

Academic Skills Treasure Hunt


– index cards
– coins or other small “treasures”
– tape {I used decorative washi tape for fun}
– marker
– pirate costumes {optional}

STEP 1: Label ten index cards with numbers.  Starting with card #1, write a clue on each card through #9  for where the next treasure/clue can be found.  Then, tape a coin or another small treasure {like a chocolate coin, a lollipop, a ring, or something else your child would enjoy} to cards 2-10.  Card 10 should not have a clue because it is the last one, just a treasure and a “Well done, matey!”

Academic Skills Treasure Hunt

STEP 2: Beginning with card #2, hide each card based on the clue written on the previous card.  For example, if card #1 says “Look in a cold place,” you can put #2 in the refrigerator.  If #2 says, “Look near books,” hide #3 on the bookshelf, and so on.

STEP 3: Hand card #1 to the child and let him/her begin the search!

Academic Skills Treasure Hunt

STEP 4: Once all the treasure has been found, remove it from the cards and have your child sort and count it.  Since we used money, we had him sort the coins by type and size, count how many of each coin type he found, and finally count up the value of the money.  If you used a different type of treasure, you can do your own variation; sorting by candy type, color, etc.

Academic Skills Treasure Hunt

This fun activity reinforces a number of different skills…and your child probably won’t even realize it’s educational!  Here are the things my son practiced as he searched for and found his treasures:

Sight words, Reading, Reading aloud, Sequencing, Following Directions, Counting, Sorting, Adding, Money values

If you have an older child, you can try variations to make the game age-appropriate, like incorporating vocabulary words into the directions on the cards.  You could also ask him/her to solve a math problem or spell a particular word before finding the next clue.  It might be fun to scramble a word in the clues too, like, “Look near the hocuc” and ask them to unscramble it {“couch”} to know where to search.  If your child is learning geography, you can incorporate things like north, south, east, and west and have them plot the location of each clue on a map of the house.  There are tons of ways you can personalize this basic activity, and I promise your kids will enjoy it!  For extra fun, locate a few props like a bandana, a scarf, or some face paint and get the whole family in on the fun by dressing up like pirates.

Academic Skills Treasure Hunt

What are your family’s favorite ways to play together?

Hugs & Glitter,


Aug 12

Put The Phone Down!

By Patrick Kansa | Children

Put The Phone Down!Given that the name of this site in Engaged Marriage, I think that today’s parenting post is rather fitting, as I want to talk to you about another aspect of engaging in your marriage – and that would be being fully engaged with your children.

But, before we get into that, you’re probably wondering what might make me an expert in parenting.

Who Is This Guy?

I’m not an expert. I don’t have any degrees that relate, nor have I devoured stacks of books.

However, as with most things in life, I’m learning as I go along. My wife and I are doing the best we can for our two little girls. Sure, we’ve learned by doing our share of reading on the topic, but parenting is just one of those things that you truly have to experience.

And it’s that experience – and the mistakes that we’ve learned from – that I’m hoping to share with you here.

Back to my original premise of engaging with our children.

We’ve always had distractions in our lives – our jobs, chores around the house, errands that need running, things of that nature. More recently, of course, we’ve had all manner of mobile devices (phones, iPods, and tablets) crop up that many of us carry everywhere we go. And it’s those devices that can cause us to become disengaged from our children.

Put The Phone Down!When our oldest was still relatively little (under 6 months old, say), I would often rock her to sleep at night. Of course, once she was asleep on my shoulder, I couldn’t immediately lay her down, as the odds were she would wake up. I needed to wait awhile to ensure she was truly asleep.

With a sleeping baby in your arms in a dark room, how do you pass the time?

For me, that was easy – I’d fire up the iPod, and hop on over to Facebook, or perhaps play a game. And that was the pattern I kind of established for myself.

It was easy to follow, as I generally always had the iPod in my pocket when I was at home (never know when you need to check your email, right?) As our daughter got older, however, both my wife and I realized that perhaps that wasn’t the best course of action.

Distracted_parents text addedA Lesson Learned

Where it really struck home for us was when she was a toddler.

We’d set a phone or iPod down somewhere, and if it was in her eyesight, she’d pick it up and bring it over to us. Yes, in some sense, she was being helpful. But that action also carried a message.

It seemed like, since she always saw us with a device, that she thought we must have set it down by accident, and was bringing it over.

For us, that cut deeply.

I know for myself, I’d often sneak a quick peek at my email while she was distracted for a few minutes playing with her toys. But that device was pulling me away from my child. Sure, I wasn’t missing out on any milestones, but I was still missing out.

And I certainly wasn’t doing anything constructive to help her to learn and grow – or just simply have fun.

Put The Phone Down!The end result of this was a  decision – when we’re with the kids, the devices stay tucked away.

Often, my cellphone is in a different part of the house once I get home, so I don’t have any distractions from that. Sure, I may have the iPod tucked away somewhere, but it stays tucked away.

This way I can be engaged with my daughters, enjoying their laughter and curiosity. If that means being the crazy customer at their “restaurant” or building an amazing track for Thomas, then that’s what we do. We engage them, and do our best to take their imaginations on a journey.

Why Make This Choice?

And if you think about it, there’s a relatively simple equation behind this decision: Time spent on a device plus time with your kids is equal to the time you have before they go to sleep.

Decrease one, and the other increases. And even though they may not have the vocabulary to form the idea, your children will interpret what they think is most important to you – it’s what you spend your time doing.

Put The Phone Down!

This is one of those lessons that we learned the hard way, via our oldest bringing us the phone that we set down somewhere in the house to get away from it. She had that image of it in our hands set in her mind, and she was restoring the picture of what she saw as normal.

This isn’t to say that we don’t use the devices in kids presence. Sometimes, there may be a question that comes up that a quick YouTube search pulls up a video that explains something we can’t quite describe. Or maybe they want to see a silly picture we took of them.

But that’s the root of why the device may be out in their presence – it’s focused on something for the children, not necessarily for us.

And lest you think I’m preaching from on high on this topic, let me assure you – while I’ve personally made strides to improve this, I’m by no means perfect in this regard. If I was, I probably wouldn’t even have the iPod on my person when I’m at home, and would need to go hunting for it.

The Winding Path Of A Parent

But that illustration is representative of parenting, at least in my mind.

You pursue a course of action, and then you make corrections as you realize a change needs to be made, for the benefit of your children. Email and Facebook messages will be waiting for you once you have some downtime when the kids are asleep.

Your children, however, will only be the way they are in a moment for that moment – and once it’s gone, it’s gone! At the same time, we’re also setting an expectation – by our example – of how we expect our children to act when they (one day) have their own electronic distractions – we will want their full attention when we’re talking to them.

Put The Phone Down!What I’d like to encourage you to do is simple: once you get home, set your phone up on a cabinet somewhere where it’s out of sight (and hopefully out of mind).

For the few hours you have at night before your kids go to bed, really focus on your family (children AND spouse), and make the most of that time that you have. For extra credit, you might even consider an electronics-free day (or weekend) – it’s something we’ve talked about in our house, but haven’t quite gotten there.

And for those of you already further along this path, I’d be curious to hear your thoughts, and some of your “tips and tricks” around this particular subject.

As with many things parenting-related, it’s not always an easy path to walk along – but it is certainly one of the most rewarding ones we’ll find ourselves on.

Jul 17

Make an At-Home Photo Booth for Free Family Fun!

By Amy Latta | Children

How to Make an At Home Photo Booth

The family that plays together stays together, right?

It can be a real struggle for families to find and spend quality time together these days.  Many moms and dads work long hours and are exhausted by the end of the day.  Not to mention the fact that in today’s economy, most families don’t have a lot of extra money to spend on various activities.

In our family, we are constantly trying to find the balance between giving each person time to recharge alone, getting date time as husband and wife, and having fun all together.

One of the things I’m constantly brainstorming is what kinds of family activities we all can enjoy even on weeknights that will strengthen our relationships for years to come!

Here’s a quick, easy, and totally free idea for something to do that will bring out the silly side in everyone!

At-Home Photo Booth

You’ll need:

– a camera/smartphone
– access to a computer
– props and backgrounds {optional}

Recently, my son and I were at the mall when he spotted a photo booth and asked me what it was.  I explained that you pay money, sit inside, and it takes several photos of you that print out on a strip.  He, of course, was immediately sold.  I, on the other hand, could think of lots of better uses for my $3.  Then it hit me, photo booths are fun.

 Why not do it on our own?  

To have your own photo booth experience, you can either put up a sheet or blanket to make a background, or use a plain wall behind you.  Then, pose in as many silly ways as you can imagine and take the photos either by flipping the camera on your phone or setting up a tripod.  Here are a few ideas for making your photos memorable:

1. Face It

We tried all the crazy faces we could think of: bunny ears, big grins, serious faces, “deep in thought” faces, fish faces, sticking our tongues out…well, you’ll see for yourself.   It can actually be a funny way to see how similar your facial features really are to those of your children…

2. Give Yourself Props

For New Year’s Eve, I used my Silhouette Cameo cutting machine to make hats, mustaches, masks, and more out of cardstock and popsicle sticks for us to use.

We even got the extended family, my parents, to play along!

If you don’t want to make your own props, use things you already have around the house!  Get out various sunglasses, hats, or even old Halloween costumes.

3. You’ve Been Framed

Holding an empty photo frame can add another fun element to your snapshots.

4. Strip It

There are online photo editors like and where you can upload your photos and turn them into collages totally free!  If you want that authentic photo booth feel, you can have it!  Just create your collage, print, cut, and voil·!

The best part about it?  Well, there are actually a few.

It’s easy, it’s free, and it’s fun for the whole family.  Plus, you can have all the entertainment you want without even having to leave the house.

And hey, some of the photos might turn out to be useful in the future, like on your Christmas cards or to embarrass your kids in front of their prom dates.

Here’s to families and fun!

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