Peanut’s Frozen Birthday Party with FREE Printables

It’s been 9 months, but I’m finally getting around to posting about Peanut’s birthday party. A lot of my ideas were taken from other places (I’ll provide links as much as possible, check out the board for anything I missed), but a couple of things came right out of my brain. Yay creativity! For more ideas that I didn’t use, you can check out my Pinterest board.

First off, this was a surprise party. Peanut specifically asked for a surprise party for her birthday, so she didn’t get to choose the details. I almost didn’t do a Frozen party because I knew that I got to choose, but it’s just too much fun planning parties, so I went for it! I’m happy I did because she loved it. Here are the invites:

I got the idea for the invites from a surprise birthday party invite I saw online, then put them together myself. I just used different fonts and positioned things until I got it how I wanted it.

Next the decorations:

I put this on our front door a couple week before the party “for fun” so Peanut wouldn’t be suspicious when she saw it. I just printed and cut out this and printed out the quote, then cut it into a sound bubble.

My brother made this amazing banner. Free printable below.

I got all the things hanging from the ceiling at a local party store. The snowflakes are from this tutorial. I put these all over the three rooms we were doing stuff in.

Next the food:

 

My brother made all the food labels. Free printables below. This one is “Anna’s Roast Beef Sandwiches” since she mentions they’ll eat roast beef at the wedding.

Olaf Noses with Peppered Slush (carrots and ranch).

Melted Snow (my brother made these labels too, free printables below). Idea from here.

I was planning on hanging these (like seen here) from the ceiling as “icicles” (and we actually made some ourselves that we hung, which was fun, but didn’t work out very well). I couldn’t figure out a way to get them secure, so they went on the table instead.

Sven’s Carrot and Spice Muffins. These were delicious. Recipe here.

Kristoff’s Ice Cubes (blue jello that I failed at making, should have been cubes like here).

And the cake! I just took some white frosting and swirled some blue food coloring into it, leaving some white spots on purpose. Then the Anna and Elsa are from Target.

Next, the activities:

When the guests arrived, they got to color in these books. I found free Frozen coloring pages online and printed them (check out my board for some of them). Then for each guest I made a cover that said “Princess NAME of Arendelle” in a fancy font. They got to take these home.

Then Peanut arrived! Here’s a cute picture of her being surprised.

Next we made ribbons for their hair. I just cut up ribbons in the same colors as the party decorations and bought some hair clips from the dollar store. I had the girls choose three ribbons, then bring them to me so I could hot glue them on. They wore them in their hair for the rest of the party and got to take them home.

Then we played Pin the Nose on Olaf (idea from here, my brother drew Olaf for me). Everyone got to color a nose (printables on the same link) and cut it out before playing.

Next we played Throw Snowballs at Marshmallow. I liked this idea, but decided that they should throw them at a “bad guy” and made the snowballs out of pom poms. The kids really liked this one.

Lastly we had dancing like in the coronation scene. I just put on the songs from Frozen and everyone danced around and had a ball.

Now for the printables! Thanks again to my brother for making all these and allowing me to share them with ya’ll. Happy Birthday Banner. Melted Snow Water Bottle Labels. Olaf Noses with Peppered Slush. Sven’s Carrot and Spice Muffins. Anna’s Roast Beef Sandwiches. Kristoff’s Ice Cubes. Obviously, don’t use these to make money for yourself or try to pass them off as your own. That’s just rude dude.

Thanks for reading! Make sure to comment if you do your own Frozen party!

Sunday Surf – Adjusting to a New Normal

Sunday Surf with Authentic Parenting and Hobo MamaI’m joining Authentic Parenting and Hobo Mama for Sunday Surf. Share your best reading of the week, and link up your post at either blog!

For more great reading, visit Hobo Mama or Authentic Parenting for the latest Sunday Surf and linky.

Happy Surfing!

Banana is 3 weeks and 3 days old! Wow time is flying. He’s already looking and acting less like a newborn and more like a baby.

And as a family we’re getting back into our routines. Every morning my husband drops Peanut off at school (after either I get her ready or he does if I’ve had a rough night with Banana and need to sleep more). Banana usually sleeps all morning, either on me or in the swing, and I play with Twig and get her ready. Then at 11am we go pick up Peanut from school, spend some time at the park or running errands or just hanging out at home. Lunch around 1-1:30, then naptime (thankfully Twig started napping again) and quiet time for the girls, Banana usually naps here too (even sometimes in the bed with Twig for a while). Usually Peanut gets some mama time after she finishes quiet time (an hour) and before Twig wakes up from her nap (usually 2 hours) and we read books, play games, and do her homework. Then more playing and daddy comes home at five, we eat dinner and hang out and/or watch a show as a family. Obviously weekends are different, but it still follows the general formula.

The adjustment is going much better this time than when Twig was born. I’m sure that’s in large part my lack of postpartum depression, which is still baffling to me. I’ve had a lot better support this time around, especially from my husband and in-laws. I’ve still felt a little bit overwhelmed and a few times I’ve gotten that barely keeping my head above water feeling, but I think that’s normal for this time period. I’ve also been getting a decent amount of sleep most nights (yay for breastfeeding and co-sleeping!), though Banana having a minor cold through a wrench in the works for the last few days. Even then it hasn’t been terrible. Anyway, on to the surf!

The magic way I get crabby evening baby to sleep.

I got bangs!

Peanut just adores him.

25 Ways To Ask Your Kids “So how was school today?” Without Asking them “So how was school today?” at Simple Simon and Company. We’ve been using some of these and it’s working really well. I’m still getting used to Peanut being in a school that doesn’t have a one way mirror window. We especially like to use #1 thus far.

13 Great Things to Say to a Sleep Deprived Parent at Belly Baby. This list is great! I love that it has so many positive reinforcement messages for the parents. When parents, especially first time parents, are constantly told that their baby shouldn’t need to be held so much/needs to stop using mom as a pacifier/should already be sleeping through the night it undermines the parents’ natural instincts. Telling someone how wonderful and happy their baby is and how they’re doing a great job can make all the difference.

5 Things Not To Say To A Woman With Postpartum Depression — And What To Say Instead at The Huffington Post. Like I said, I’m not suffering from postpartum depression this time (yet. knock on wood), but this is great information to have for anyone who is around a mom who does have PPD (which is likely you, as something like 10% of moms have it). I especially like the one about how your symptoms are not you, but just your symptoms. I think it would have been nice to hear some of these things after Twig was born (and thankfully I didn’t hear any of the bad ones!).

And a funny little video Things You Can’t Do When You’re Not a Toddler.

My Little Helper

breastfeedingcafecarnivalWelcome to The Breastfeeding Cafe Carnival!

This post was written as part of the Breastfeeding Cafe’s Carnival. For more info on the Breastfeeding Cafe, go to www.breastfeedingcafe.wordpress.com. For more info on the Carnival or if you want to participate, contact Claire at clindstrom2 {at} gmail {dot} com. Today’s post is about people who have supported your breastfeeding goals. Please read the other blogs in today’s carnival listed below and check back for more posts July 18th-31st!

Traditionally, when thinking of breastfeeding support, one may think of an adult. A husband, family member, friend, organization that helped them succeed. I definitely had a lot of help from those people, but today I want to talk about my little helper, Peanut.

Peanut was almost 3 when little sister Twig was born. I had, at least what seems to me, pretty severe postpartum depression. I’ve spent a good deal of time feeling guilty about that time period and my relationship with Peanut because she took such a large amount of the anger and depression from me. Our relationship really deteriorated and I still sometimes feel like we’re working on getting back to normal. I am determined to not let that happen again and have a plan for this time around, which I’ll share later. Anyway, today I want to focus on the good parts of that time period in our lives.

When we discuss breastfeeding support, it’s often more of an emotional aspect. It’s who told you you’re doing a great job, encouraged you to keep going, and so on. Not that the emotional side isn’t a very important part of support, but there’s a big physical side to it also. Peanut took care of so much of that for me and I am incredibly grateful she was there for help. She brought me burp rags when her sister spit up (which was all the time). She brought me diapers. She helped me carry things up and down the stairs when my arms were full of baby. She went to go get me my water or phone when I sat down to nurse and realized that I had forgotten to grab them.

She was especially helpful when we were out and about. I remember one day when we were in the store and Twig was starting to fuss. I was feeling rushed and anxious and kept ignoring her cues. Peanut very calmly told me that maybe I should sit down and nurse. Isn’t it amazing how a three year old can put you in your place? I told her she was right and I found somewhere I could sit. Not only was Twig’s belly full afterwards, but I was much more calm. Sometimes it takes a tiny human just to remind you what’s important.

This time around, I’m expecting an even higher amount of help from Peanut. Not that I’m going to force her to be my little helper all the time, but I know that she loves to take on that role. She’s so excited for Banana to arrive and has already told me about all the things she wants to help me do. I’m sure this time it’ll extend into small chores (it’s her job to unload the dishwasher) and playing with her little sister to keep her entertained. She’s such an amazing big sister and in so many ways my best friend. I am lucky to have her support.

Here are more post by the Breastfeeding Cafe Carnival participants! Check back because more will be added throughout the day.

Peanut’s New Car Seat (or Lack Thereof)

I was not paid in any way, shape, or form for this post. I was not given product for this post. This is all of my own accord and for your information. 🙂

In this semester, I’m in a lab twice a week. The problem with this (besides long days) is that I have to pick up Peanut before 1:30 (or pay another $200 to up her hours for hours I technically don’t need). Since my in-laws are awesome they offered to pick her up on those days. They were going to buy a booster seat to take her home in so it would be easy to take in and out of the car.

Problem is that I didn’t really want her in a booster seat yet. She was currently in a harness and I didn’t want to rush moving to a seatbelt before we needed to. Here are some reasons for extended harnessing. My biggest concern was that I didn’t think she was mature enough to understand that she can’t wiggle all over (something that I feel is confirmed now that she has a bit more freedom).

So I started looking for other options for seats that could be easier to get in and out of the car. Sadly, there aren’t many. I was about to admit defeat (or offer to install the seat every time myself) and when I stumbled upon the RideSafer Vehicle Safety Vest. I was initially cautious. Could this possibly be safe? Yes. Is it legal? In my state at least. Will this really work for us?

Well that last one I couldn’t answer without buying it. It just sounded too good to pass up, even at it’s relatively high price point (we paid $115 on Amazon for ours). This could be her safety device for all cars for quite some time (there is a bigger size that she’ll need later on, but we figure that Twig can use it by that point). And it’s so light and easy. So we bought it.

Well, it’s been a month now. And how are we liking it? We love it! It’s super easy to put on (just make sure to tug it down after so the bottom belt is positioned right). Peanut loves it (she feels like such a big girl!) and she says it’s comfortable. I always feel like she’s in right and I know she’s just as protected (if not more so because of the lower center of gravity) as a harness seat.

There are a couple of “downsides” though I think that’s too harsh of a term. More like things we have to get used to. Biggest one is that she doesn’t have sides! So when she falls asleep in the car (which isn’t super frequent, but does happen) we need to put a blanket next to her head to keep her upright. Otherwise she ends up falling kind of sideways. Second, she does have a bit more freedom than in a harness seat. Since the seatbelt is still moveable, she can lean forward a bit. I’ve had to tell her about how she can’t do that because it’s not safe. Just makes me even more sure that, while she did meet the requirements for going into a booster physically, she wasn’t there mentally.

Some upsides? First off, it’s so light! I could literally stick this in her backpack next year if someone else is picking her up at school. It wouldn’t even take all the room! And it’s easy enough to get right that I never feel concerned that other people won’t understand (once I’ve made them read the manual). Second, it really came in handy when she was sick and wanted me to sit next to her in the back. I was able to put my arm around her and comfort her. Which brings me to benefit three, we can fit three in the back! It was kind of possible with her other seat, but it was difficult. If you’re looking to fit three across in a smaller car, I’d definitely consider this seat.

So, this is Peanut’s new car seat. It’s working great and I’m really happy we got it. I’m happy this option is available now. This company is brilliant for coming up with it! If you’re looking for an option for car pool or even just your older kid who needs a seat, definitely check them out.

A New Version of Co-sleeping

For those of you with an eagle eye, you may have noticed that the last photo in Twig’s birthday post was the girls in their very own bed. I’ll go ahead and post it here too because it’s just ridiculously cute.

 

A few weeks ago, we bought a full sized mattress and put both girls in it to sleep at night and it’s been wonderful! We had a hunch that Peanut would sleep much better if Twig was in the bed with her. My husband has been sleeping in Peanut’s room most nights because she would wake up and come downstairs to him (he’s a night owl, so he’s up quite late) and he’d come to lay down with her and fall asleep. We were slowly working on her sleeping on her own (mostly because his back hurt from being squished on a twin mattress with her), but it wasn’t making much progress. So we decided to take a different route. Twig had recently night weaned (following Dr. Jay Gordon’s method again and it was quick and successful) so we decided to try it out.

First off, if you have a second child you know how much they love doing things just like their big brother/sister. So when we asked Twig if she wanted to sleep in Peanut’s bed, she was ecstatic. They were actually both so excited that we let them sleep in the twin mattress for a night or two because we hadn’t bought the full mattress yet. The first couple of nights Twig woke up after a few hours and came back into the bed with me, but I expected that. Peanut did that for a long time the first time she moved into her own bed.

Over the course of a couple of weeks though, she slowly stopped coming into our bed! For the last week she’s been sleeping completely through the night in the bed with big sister. We often put them to bed separately and then I move Twig into their bed because she gets distracted and takes a long time falling to sleep with Peanut, but I don’t mind. They also have been waking up at 6am (sometimes earlier!) which we need to work on, but have just been putting them down earlier to account for it. All in all, it’s been a smooth transition! And my husband is in the bed with me again! Yay co-sleeping!

Preschoolers and Allowance

I first got the idea of giving Peanut an allowance long before she was really ready for it from this post by Hobo Mama. I loved the idea of using allowance as a way to teach my children about money, rather than a system of rewards. A month or two before her fourth birthday, I started to look into it more.

As I’ve said on here, we follow a lot of Dave Ramsey’s philosophies about money. This is a case where I disagreed with what he says though. He believes that children shouldn’t get allowance, but rather should be paid for “work” through chores. While I understand this and it pretty closely meshes with what I did as a child, I don’t necessarily agree with it (and there’s a big debate between experts too). If you give money for doing their chores, it gives them an out. So you don’t want to clean your room? Okay then, you don’t get money. Then they are allowed to not clean their room with this stipulation. And it takes away their intrinsic motivation.

So we decided to do an allowance without chores. The main purpose of this allowance is to teach her (and eventually them) about money. Teach them how to save and how to spend. How much things cost. How to not beg for things in the store (which does help! A quick reminder that she can buy it with her own money most often makes her decide she really doesn’t need it). How to be altruistic. And it’s working.

For the past about 8 or 9 months, we’ve been giving Peanut an allowance every Sunday. It’s on her calendar and she knows what the dollar sign means. She gets her age divided in half every week (so originally it was $1.50 and now it’s $2.00). One fourth of it goes into her piggybank immediately (trying to teach the idea of saving early, though we’re not sure if we’re going to allow her to spend it on some large pre-determined item or if it goes into her college savings or if it goes into her own bank account, we’ll figure that out soon as it’s already up to $20). The rest goes into her wallet, in which we keep a ledger so we know how much she has.

In the beginning, it was mostly just spending money whenever we were at a store and she thought of her wallet. She would go searching around trying to find something that she wanted that was low enough. One time when we went to the dollar store she got 7 separate things with the $7 she had in her wallet. A while back though, she didn’t think to buy anything for a couple months, so I reminded her one day that she had $10 in her wallet. We went around Target looking for something for her to buy, but many of the things she wanted were more than what she had. I told her that she could save for something or buy something now (I try to give her specific options, but stay out of the decision making process as much as possible). After searching around, she found a Doc McStuffins doctor set that she absolutely loved. It was $20 and I told her that she would have to save if she wanted it. He decided to put back the couple smaller things she had picked out and save all her money for the set.

I think it was harder for me to let her save than it was for her to do it. I wanted so badly to just give her a couple dollars towards the end so she could go get it already! Every time she’d find something in the store I would tell her she had money for it, but remind her that she was saving for the doctor set. Every time she decided on her own to put whatever she had back. She saved for another two months and bought her set, all with her own money. Of course her biggest memory is her grandpa giving her the last 50 cents she needed to get the set so she didn’t have to wait another week, but that’s okay.

IMG_1474

It is one of her favorite toys and she’s done countless check-ups since getting it. Keeping it away from sister (which we’ve been strict with since Peanut bought it with her own money) has been difficult at times, but we just remind Peanut to put it away where Twig can’t get it. Now she’s saving for a Big Book of Boo Boos to go with it.

I’m really happy with how this whole experiment is going. I wasn’t quite sure if we were doing it right when we started, but I’m happy with this method now. I think in the future I’ll start adding in some money for chores (not things that are regularly expected of her, but things that go above and beyond), but for now I’m happy with where we’re at with that too. She loves to “surprise” me by hanging up her own and her sister’s laundry when I put it in front of their closet. Right now just the fact that she’s doing it to make me happy is great.

I’m also interested to see where it will go in the future with donating. She understands the idea of donating things pretty well and will help me gather old toys and clothes to donate, but I’m thinking this Christmas-time I’ll start introducing the idea of donating her own money. Many people separate out allowance to include church or donations right from the get go, but I figure we’ll introduce it more slowly. I want her giving to be from the heart, not because it’s forced. And beyond that, I don’t know! I figure, as all things with money, that we’ll learn as we go.

Do you do allowance? How much do you give your kids? Do you tie it to chores? Any advice?

Hard, But Worth It

Welcome to the August 2013 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Sibling Revelry

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama. This month our participants have written about siblings — their own, their hopes for their kids, and more. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.

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I remember towards the end of my pregnancy with Twig, I absolutely freaked out about what I was doing. How could I possibly be having another baby? How was this fair to Peanut? Was this going to ruin our relationship? Was I going to go crazy?

Obviously, by that point there was no turning back. And I’m happy that I couldn’t change my mind like that because the moment Twig was born, I was so happy not only for my new baby, but for giving my new “big girl” her little sister.

Sure, there are still times when I wonder what in the world I was thinking, but in the end I’m always happy that I have two children instead of one.

I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with being an only child, but there certain things you just don’t get from not having a sibling. You don’t get that constant playmate. From the beginning, Twig has adored Peanut. When Peanut was a baby I could never leave the room without her or I would face her wrath. Twig though, so long as sister stayed, she was mostly good. Of course it was only for a moment, but I could go one room away to put the laundry away without picking up the baby.

With one child, silence is bad. If you don’t hear your child then they’ve probably found a marker to draw all over the wall with or figured out how to get their poopy diaper off by themselves. With two though, silence is often great. As early as 6 months after Twig was born, I would find them together playing happily. Peanut would be playing peek-a-boo or showing her a toy. And even before that, as early as 2 months, they would play together in the tub. Peanut has always been Twig’s favorite person, making her laugh (when no one could) and playing with her. It’s been amazing to watch, both on the side of Peanut being the big sister and Twig loving her big sister.

On the flip side, there are difficulties that siblings experience and only children don’t. Lately, they’ve been driving me crazy with their arguing. Now that Twig is 18 months old, she’s much more grabby. Peanut doesn’t react well and generally starts grabbing things back from her, which ends in Twig melting down. Or Peanut gets bossy with Twig and that ends with Twig in tears. One second they’re happily playing together and the next either one or both is running to me crying. We’ve had lots of talks and we’ll get through it, but I have a feeling this is just the beginning of their arguing.

And then there’s the copying. Twig loves to do everything that Peanut does, even when it’s completely out of her ability (and threatening serious injury). Or even when I’m asking Peanut not to do something (thought the opposite often works and if I ask Peanut to come to me when I really want Twig, Twig follows her). Or when Twig is climbing on me because she’s feeling insecure, suddenly Peanut starts to feel insecure too and copies every move that Twig makes. It’s pretty difficult to handle two children climbing and trying to cuddle on you at the same time without dropping one, let alone if I had anything else in my hands when they started.

There’s definitely good and bad when it comes to having siblings. Some days I’m so frustrated that I wish I could sell them both. Sometimes I’m so happy that it makes me want to have 5 more (don’t worry, I’ll never actually do that!). All in all, I’m happy that we decided to give Peanut a sibling. It’s not always easy, but it’s definitely always worth it.

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Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

  • The Damage of Comparing Siblings — Comparing siblings can lead to hurt feelings and poor relationships. What Jana Falls has learned and why she hopes for more for her son.
  • Connecting Through Sibling Rivalry — With four children who are spaced so that each child grows up in a pair, Destany at They are All of Me shares her method for minimizing the competition so her children can focus on bonding, rather than besting each other.
  • Sibling Revelry — Lucy at Dreaming Aloud shares the two-week transition that happens every summer as her kids transform from bickering to learning how to play.
  • Baby Brother born from an OceanAbby Jaramillo describes how her toddler connects in a possibly mystical way with her new baby brother and his birth at home, and Abby draws parallels with her own sister’s new baby.
  • Hard, But Worth It — Claire at The Adventures of Lactating Girl discusses how difficult having two children can be, but how it’s definitely worth it.
  • Raising Attached Siblings — At Living Peacefully with Children, Mandy and her husband are making conscious choices about how they raise their children to foster sibling connection and attachment.
  • It’s Complicated — Henrietta at Angel Wings and Herb Tea reflects on how life’s twists and turns have taken her from a childhood with no siblings to a constantly changing family life with five children, including one in spirit.
  • Supportsustainablemum reflects on how the differences between her relationship with her siblings and her husband’s have affected their family and at a time of need.
  • Peas in a Pod — Kellie at Our Mindful Life enjoys the special relationship her oldest two children share.
  • Lessening the competitive enviornment in the homeLisa at The Squishable Baby discusses how downplaying competition in the home has led to cooperation, not competition.
  • The complex and wonderful world of siblings — Lauren at Hobo Mamareflects on her choices to have not too many children, spaced far apart — and how that’s maybe limited how close their sibling relationship can be.
  • 5 Ways to Help Young Siblings Have a Loving Relationship — Charise I Thought I Knew Mama shares the strategies that help her three year old and 14 month old have a somewhat beautiful relationship and aid in keeping peace in their home.
  • 4 Steps to Encourage Sibling Revelry, even in Hot Moments of Rivalry — Sheila Pai of A Living Family share 4 Steps she uses to shift hot moments of sibling rivalry towards connected moments of sibling revelry and human compassion.
  • Twins Are Fun — Mercedes at Project Procrastinot witnesses the development of her twins’ sibling bond.
  • Growing Up Together- Sibling Revelry in Our House — Amy at Me, Mothering, and Making it All Work realizes that there is great utility in raising siblings that are close in age, and is grateful to have been blessed with healthy siblings that both love and challenge one another every day.
  • Top 5 Ways to Reduce Sibling Rivalry — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now shares ideas that helped her two children be best friends along with Montessori resources for peace education and conflict resolution.
  • Sibling Uncertainty — Alisha at Cinnamon and Sassafras wonders how her children’s relationship will change now that the baby is mobile.
  • Living with the Longing — Rachael at The Variegated Life sees that she can live with her longing for another — without changing her plans.
  • For My One and Only DaughterPlaying for Peace mommy reflects on her choice to not have more children in order to focus on other dreams.
  • Siblings: A Crash Course in Relationship Training — How have your siblings prepared you for later relationships? One of Dionna at Code Name: Mama’s top priorities as mama of siblings is to help them learn how to navigate relationships.
  • The Joys of Siblings: An Inside Joke — Ana at Panda & Ananaso shares the a glimpse into the joys of having siblings through sharing a perplexing yet hilarious inside joke betwixt her and her own.
  • Sibling Support, even in the potty! — Even though Laura at Pug in the Kitchen‘s children didn’t start out best friends, they are joined at the hip these days, including cheering each other on with potty successes!
  • Don’t Seek What Isn’t There – On Sibling Jealousy — Laura from Authentic Parenting analyzes the seeming desire people harbor for seeking out hints of sibling jealousy.
  • Sibling Love / Sibling Hate?Momma Jorje speculates whether her children will have a different sibling experience than her own. Did she make the right choices based on her own history?

Free-range Parenting

The girls playing outside by themselves.

The girls playing outside by themselves.

This post contains affiliate links for your convenience. Affiliate links support this blog with no cost to you, so if you purchase, please consider doing it through the link!

I’ve mentioned the blog Free-range Kids on here before, but I realized that I hadn’t ever really delved into why I love it. So here we go!

I first came across Free-range Kids when Twig kept falling down the stairs. First off, calm down. Our house is a split level, so we only have 6 stairs in each staircase. I check her every time she falls and the only time that she’s fallen all the way from the top, she’s made her way to the doctor (and was just fine). We do not have gates at the top or bottom of either case and I was beginning to doubt myself.

You see, when deciding if my kids should be allowed to do something, I ask myself “Will it send them to the ER?” If the answer is no, it’ll make them cry and I’ll have to console them and then they’re fine, they get to do it. If the answer is a trip straight to the ER being very likely (not likely in a sense that if they fall in just the right way they could break something), such as crossing the road without holding my hand, then it’s a no go on the safety front. Yes, this means that my children climb on the coffee table, but I don’t mind it. Of course there are other things they’re not allowed to do even if they won’t go to the hospital over it (like climbing on the kitchen table, which I don’t let them do because I don’t want dirty children climbing around where I eat). Anyway, when it comes to safety, if they won’t go to the hospital I’ll allow it.

But I was starting to doubt my parenting when Twig kept falling. It started as learning to go up the stairs, which I supervised because she was so slow and so clumsy. Very few tumbles happened in the beginning. When she got good at it, I stopped watching quite as well. We go up and down these stairs all day so it’s just not practical to wait behind her Every. Single. Time. she goes up or down. But then she decided to get a little too confident about her abilities and start turning around to look at things as she was going up or down, so she tumbled. Then once she got over that, she decided she had to walk up the stairs. That made some more tumbles happen. Then she decided she needed to sit and play on the stairs and more tumbling happened. Really, none of these were a big deal (other than that one that I was concerned about and took her to the doctor over) and most of the time she stopped crying the second she saw me coming. Anyway, it happened so many times that I was doubting myself.

So I started searching online. Was there anyone else like me who refused to buy something (or four some things) that cost at least $100 each (for the ones that wall mount like you’re supposed to have for stairs) and make living life a huge pain in the bottom? I couldn’t be! Well I never did find someone online who said they were like me (hello anyone who was searching similar things and found me! You’re not alone!), but I did find Free-range Kids. I also found her book (Kindle version here) and saw that my library had an eAudiobook copy available right then. I downloaded it and finished it in less than 48 hours.

I had no idea how many things I was doing based on fear.

You know the feeling when you’re at the park and you suddenly can’t find your kid? Logically, you know they’re on the other side of the playground so you just can’t see them. Still though, my heart starts thumping and I immediately jump to the conclusion that my child has been kidnapped. She’s cute and little and those kind disappear all the time! Right? Well, actually wrong. The chances of a child being kidnapped by a stranger (most lost children are either runaways or have been kidnapped by someone they know) are astronomically small.

So many things that I was worried about without even knowing it aren’t that big of a deal. So many of my little practices that I hadn’t ever realized I was doing for “safety” (like never letting my preschooler out of my sight) were beyond what’s necessary. Not only that, it’s damaging to kids to never get out and experience the world without their parent holding their hand. Some of my favorite memories growing up are those of going to my grandma’s house and promptly running off to play in a small forest hidden in an unused lot in her neighborhood. Yes, once I got stung by a bee, but that little risk doesn’t negate all of the other times of learning and having fun.

So I’ve changed a few things since reading that book. Of course my children are small, so they can’t do something like running around the neighborhood without supervision, but they can do a lot of things unsupervised. Like going in the backyard. Even Twig, who is less than a year and a half old (and was more like a year old when we started doing this) is okay to play in the yard with big sister with me inside. I can hear them if something goes wrong (often Twig falling off the swing or a disagreement about who gets to play with that particular shovel) and they know to come inside if I don’t hear. It’s my favorite way to prepare dinner and I will miss it when it gets cold outside and they can’t go out as long. I’m not worried that anyone will snatch them or some sex offender is going to come flash them through the fence (really, there’s a lot about the sex offender list that I didn’t know, like how it doesn’t really work and just creates hell for a lot of people).

Even as small children and toddlers, they need to explore. They need to get out into nature. And they need to deal with relationships with others on their own. I used to be that mom at the playground that jumped in every time that my child had a disagreement with another child. It’s taken some getting used to on her end, but I’ve started letting her handle things herself. Sometimes this means that I’m stepping in still, but it’s to help her handle it, not to handle it myself. And she’s doing grand with it. She has friends across the fences on all sides (though most are grandkids, so not always around) that she chats with. She  makes friends with all sorts of kids at the park. She’ll chat anyone’s ear off if you let her (even another mom the other day at the park, which was hilarious). She did all these things before I backed off, but not to the same extent. I think letting her learn to navigate the social waters alone has helped her confidence.

I’m loving this whole philosophy. We teach our kids to handle life and then we let them handle it. This wasn’t even some big movement back when I was a kid, it was just life. And things are actually safer now than they were then, regardless of what the media is telling you. So if you’re interested, read the book. Check out her blog. Let your kids explore the world without hovering and see how much that can change things.

Quiet Time

She called me in yesterday to show me the cat in her closet.

She called me in yesterday to show me the cat in her closet.

As I type, my four year old is purposely isolated in her room.

That sentence seems really weird for me. How is it respectful to force my child to be in her room alone every day for an hour? How is that gentle? Well, I’ve figured out some ways to make it so.

We first tried out “Quiet Time” back in January. With a combination of preschool every day and Peanut’s severe hatred of being alone in her room, we stopped shortly after. But when the semester ended, which meant that we were all together for 24 hours a day, things got stressful pretty quickly. Peanut’s preschool was only 2.5 hours four days a week, but it’s still a break. Just a bit of time for Peanut to be away from little sister all over her and me to be away from having two kids all over me. Time for me to accomplish something like loading the dishwasher without two little “helpers” (which I’m completely grateful to have, but jeeze chores take longer with “help”!). Just time for a little bit of alone.

So when I was reading this guest post on Free Range Kids (great site and great book, by the way!), it occurred to me that I should try again. A quick summary is that every day, her children go to their rooms for one hour and she is left alone to do what she wishes. And not only is it good for her, but it’s good for her kids too! This sounded like a dream! When your child stops napping, it makes life both easier and harder. Yes there’s less timing around naps, but man everyone is grumpy by day’s end. Most definitely including me. A little break in the middle of the day sounded devine!

So, I decided to make it so. And thus far, it’s been going great. There have been a few key things that I did in order to make this gentle and respectful and honestly, it couldn’t be going better.

1. Be matter of fact. Quiet time must be announced very matter of factly. Quiet time doesn’t start while you’re upset or in a “being sent to your room” fashion. It’s simply time for quiet time so it starts. When my daughter comes out of quiet time (for a variety of reasons), I just tell her I’m pausing the timer (I use the timer on my iPhone) and she does what she needs to (e.g. goes to the bathroom) and tells me when she’s going back into her room. Handling it in a matter of fact way has turned this from something to get emotional about (either angry or sad that she’s going into quiet time) into something we just do.

2. Use a specific time. I have an alarm that goes off on my phone every day at 1PM (except Sundays, where we eat lunch at my in-laws’ at 1PM, so it goes off at 11AM in order to do quiet time before we leave). Quiet time is always one hour long. There’s no arguing either of these times. When the timer goes off, it goes off.

3. Be flexible. Just like I said in number one, I don’t get upset when she leaves her room. I just pause the timer (because otherwise she’d sit on the toilet for 20 minutes just to be outside of her room, because somehow that’s better) and start it up again when she’s done. She still leaves her room plenty, but she still gets her hour in and she understands that she is going to get her hour no matter how many times she goes potty or needs a drink or needs to tell me just one thing. I have started a rule that if she comes out purely to ask how much longer quiet time is that she gets 5 minutes added (because she started coming out every 2-3 minutes to ask), but since imposing the rule, all I have to do is remind her. She’s never actually had the 5 minutes added. Also, if we’re out and about when the alarm rings, Peanut knows that we’ll do quiet time when we get home.

4. Focus on my needs. Peanut is 4. Sure, that’s not really that old, but it is old enough for her to understand that I have needs. I’ve explained to her (and re-explained when she wants to hear about it again) that mama needs quiet time too. I’ve told her that it makes me a happier person and a nicer mama when I get a little break. She seems to understand this and it negates her arguments when she tries to tell me that she’s happy so she doesn’t need quiet time. I just tell her mama still needs it and she understands.

I plan on continuing with “quiet time” for the foreseeable future. Once Twig stops napping (crossing my fingers that it’s not any time soon!), she’ll get quiet time too. I also think this is a great way to get Peanut used to her school’s “nap time” (during which the children aren’t forced to nap, but must lay quietly with the lights off on their cots) that she’ll have to start doing again in the fall. It will mean that she doesn’t get quiet time at home when we start that, but we’ll all be getting breaks from each other while I’m in class anyway. So if this sounds like something you’d like to do, give it a try. Remember you can be a separate person while still being respectful to your child. And remember that it’s good for both of you to get some alone time.