parenting

Tips for Talking to Your Kids About the Birds & the Bees

Mom and daughter chatting on couchMom and daughter chatting on couch

Amy Lang Birds and Bees Cover Image

A guest post from sexual health educator Amy Lang

No matter how open, informed, or confident you may be, talking to kids about sex can be tough! It can feel awkward and uncomfortable for everyone to have these conversations, but don’t let these feelings deter you–because there is good news! 

Over and over again, when teens are surveyed, they say the people who have the most influence over their sexual decision-making are their parents and primary caregivers!

We are powerful, we have influence, and they want and need to hear from us.

Sex education at school is in no way enough. Their peers, pornography, and media are the last places kids should go to for information, so that means it’s up to YOU. 

Just like every other parent, you are probably pretty clueless as to how and when these conversations should start, let alone what kids should know at each age and stage. But like every other hard part of parenting, this is something you can learn to do with confidence. 

These conversations are about physical and emotional health and safety and preparing kids for one of the biggest and most important parts of life. The sooner you start (age five isn’t too young) the better, because they’ll come to expect these conversations and learn you are their go-to birds and bees source. 

Another important fact is that kids who have open communication with their parents about sexuality are offered some protection from sexual abuse. 

You can do this! You probably want your kids to make better decisions than you did about this part of life and to be more prepared for it as well. Using your teen-confirmed power and influence is the way to make this happen. 

Here are 10 tips to help you with the birds and bees talks: 

  1. The very first thing you need to do is clarify your values about sexuality, love, and relationships. Start the conversations early, and remember, it’s NEVER too late to start. Always say “this is not for kids, and for when you’re older” when you talk about sexual behaviors.
  2. “When they’re ready to know about sex, they’ll ask,” is not a thing. When you wait for them to ask, you make them responsible for their own sex education.
  3. These are a series of short and sweet conversations throughout childhood and adolescence; it’s not one big “talk” that traumatizes you both.
  4. Talk to your kids in the car, text them, email them, or write them notes. You don’t have to do this face-to-face all the time.
  5. Look for teachable moments – while watching movies or TV, or even from observing their friends’ lives.
  6. Get age-appropriate books for them to read with or without you. Include books about puberty and adolescence.
  7. Acknowledge their discomfort and your own, and then dive in. They need this information to make great choices.
  8. Make sure they know they are in charge of their bodies and have the right to say NO if anyone touches them in a way that feels uncomfortable.
  9. Sexuality is core to nearly every aspect of healthy development, and your kids deserve to be as smart about this as they are about what they learn at school. Hardly anyone uses what they learned in calculus in their everyday life.
  10. Sex is about responsibility and joy; pleasure and trust; health and safety; communication and information.*

There is more information to help you become your kids’ go-to birds and bees expert on my website, podcast and in my Birds & Bees Solutions center, where you’ll find 95% of what you need to rock the talks. You’ve got this! 

*Author Peggy Orenstein said “responsibility and joy; pleasure and trust.” I added “health and safety; communication and information,” because they are integral to comprehensive sexuality education.

About the Author

Amy Lang

Amy Lang, MA teaches parents of all beliefs how to talk to kids about sex through consultations, workshops, videos, teleclasses, and talks. She is a three-time Mom’s Choice Award® winner for her products and books. A sexual health educator for over 20 years, Amy also has an MA in Applied Behavioral Science.

Follow Amy on Twitter @BirdsAndBees, where she Tweets funny things kids say about sex ,or be her Fan on Facebook!

Guide for Starting Solids: Tips for Feeding Babies & Toddlers Using PPS

Toddler playing with sibling and Dad and drinking bottle of milkToddler playing with sibling and Dad and drinking bottle of milk

Toddler playing with sibling and Dad and drinking bottle of milk

Guest post from food writer and owner of The Picky Eater, Anjali Shah

Has your baby reached the stage when they are ready to start solids? Do you want to begin this journey with them in a nurturing and positive way? 

This guide will help you and your child through this transition and will set them up for success in the future to embrace healthy foods and avoid becoming a picky eater. 

We’ll give you tips and tricks using the principles of Positive Parenting Solutions so that you don’t end up with any power struggles at mealtime!

Introducing solid foods to your baby is an exciting milestone! However, it can also be a step in your parenting journey that causes some trepidation. 

There are many different brands of foods marketed to parents to feed their babies at this stage. Then, there is the option of making homemade baby food.  

You may also be wondering if using the baby-led weaning approach to feeding is best, and how to ensure you raise a child that embraces fruits and vegetables. 

As you begin to introduce solids, you will find the approach that works best for you and your baby, which is likely to include some combination of homemade purees, store-bought baby food pouches, formula, breast milk, and finger foods.

While there are many different ways to approach starting solids with your baby, I have found that using the foundations taught in the Positive Parenting Solutions (PPS) course helps make the transition easy and seamless. 

In this post, I will review how to know when your baby is ready for solids, how to introduce different foods, and how to use the principles of PPS to introduce your baby to solids when they are ready.

I’ll also take a look at how to use PPS to avoid mealtime battles with toddlers, and encourage your picky eaters to give new foods a try!

What is Positive Parenting Solutions?

Positive Parenting Solutions is an online parenting course aimed at helping parents end power struggles, stop yelling and nagging, and let go of guilt. It’s a step-by-step process to become the best parent you always wanted to be! 

How do I know when my baby is ready to start solids?

Babies are typically ready to start trying solid foods when they reach the age of five or six months. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends six months as a good age to start introducing solids, but for some babies, it will be slightly earlier or later than this. Four months really is the minimum age, though. 

You’ll know when your baby is ready for solids when…

  • He or she is able to sit in a high chair and can hold his or her head up. 
  • Your baby begins to put objects in their mouths, including their hands and toys. 
  • Your baby has put on enough weight to be approximately double his or her birth weight. 

Once you’ve noticed your baby has reached these milestones, schedule an appointment with your pediatrician to be sure your baby is ready to start eating solids.

Using the Principles of PPS to Start Solids with Your Baby

How do you use the principles of PPS to start solids with your baby and avoid mealtime drama?

Create a Conducive Environment for Mealtime

Prepare for mealtime by creating a happy and comfortable environment. 

Provide your baby with a secure high chair that they can easily sit in and manipulate their food, and give them a spoon to hold onto while you’re feeding them. This helps them to develop the fine motor skills to use a spoon later and gives them a sense of independence. 

By using the tools in Step 3 from the 7-Step Parenting Success System, parents can create a conducive environment for mealtime that helps your baby know what to expect. It also creates some boundaries around mealtime. 

When your baby knows that sitting in their high chair means it’s time to eat, and you provide them with the expected tools to eat, they will approach the situation with more ease and confidence.

"Prepare for mealtime by creating a happy and comfortable environment."

Start Introducing New Foods

Your baby is naturally used to the taste of sweet and starchy foods because that is what breastmilk and formula taste like. 

In order to encourage them to try other flavors, start with foods that are bitter, pungent, and savory. This means trying vegetable purees, such as a vegetable puree with spinach, broccoli, and cauliflower, or a zucchini puree

I recommend starting with vegetable purees before giving your baby cereal, because cereal is starchy and sweet. Avoid sweet fruit purees at the start, and don’t introduce those until later when your baby has become accustomed to other flavors. 

Foods to start with…

  • Avocado, carrots, green beans, sweet potato, butternut squash, pears, apples, broccoli, spinach, cauliflower.
  • Then, add other fruits and vegetables that you like, and start introducing meats and fish. 

When you start giving purees to your baby, make sure to avoid anything that has added sugar or salt. It’s a good idea to introduce one food at a time and then wait a few days before trying something new, in order to ensure that your baby doesn’t develop a negative reaction such as diarrhea, vomiting, or rash. 

Once you’ve made sure your baby will tolerate different foods, you can combine them in your purees.

Step 4 of the PPS 7-Step Parenting Success System gives power to the child while allowing you as the parent to set boundaries. When mealtime rolls around, you decide what is offered, when it is served, and where eating happens. 

However, your child has some power as well. They decide how much of what is offered they eat. Allow your child to stop eating when they are done, and if they don’t like something you have offered, don’t try to force-feed them. This will create a positive environment for mealtime, and avoid mealtime battles.

FAQs About Feeding Methods

What if my baby doesn’t like purees?

If your baby doesn’t like the puree you introduce, don’t worry! It’s to be expected that your baby will not like everything you give him or her. Just give it some time and try again in a few days or a week. However, don’t try to force your baby to eat something they reject. 

What is baby-led weaning (BLW)?

The goal of baby-led weaning (BLW) is for babies to become more independent, better at regulating portion size, and more interested in trying new foods. 

Rather than spoon-feeding infants with purees, parents wait until their baby is old enough to handle small finger foods, usually around the age of six months. 

During baby-led weaning, infants can still eat purees, but they aren’t spoon-fed, so they learn to feed themselves with their fingers or by holding a baby spoon.

Which is better, feeding your baby purees or following BLW?

There is no right or wrong way when it comes to feeding your baby purees or following the BLW system. Not every baby and every family are the same. 

You need to choose what works best for you and your child, but you don’t need to choose between one or the other. You can do a combination of both! 

How to Manage Picky Eaters 

As your baby gets older and grows into a toddler, different problems may present themselves around mealtime. If your toddler is a picky eater, this doesn’t mean that you did anything wrong! Some children are simply pickier than others. 

When you have a picky eater, as a parent, one of the biggest worries you have is whether your child is eating enough to grow sufficiently, and whether they are getting a balanced diet to ensure they have all the vitamins and nutrients they need for growth and development.

As a result, mealtime can become a stressful experience–when it should be a time to sit and reconnect with your family.

These 11 tips will help avoid power struggles at mealtime, and help your toddler eat a balanced diet you feel good about!

1. Listen to Your Child’s Appetite

Your child knows when they are hungry and when they are full. As a result, respect their appetite and allow them to listen to their body’s signals. Don’t force meals or snacks on your child or beg them to try bites. This creates a power struggle. 

This doesn’t mean you allow them to eat whenever they want to, but instead during mealtime, allow them to eat what they want to. That might be all of their meal, or only a portion of their meal. 

Serve small portions to your toddler. They do not need to eat as much as adults. This will also help them feel less overwhelmed when they see the food on their plate. 

Allow them the opportunity to ask for more if they are still hungry. 

2. Create a Mealtime Routine

As mentioned above with introducing solids, create a mealtime routine. 

Offer your child three meals a day, plus two opportunities for a snack. If they don’t want to eat during one of their mealtimes, they can have their meal during one of their snack times. 

Instead of offering your toddler snacks throughout the day, which will likely cause them to not be hungry during mealtime, offer them a snack at specific times (which could be just finishing what they didn’t eat in the prior meal), and provide them with water to drink between meals so that they don’t fill up on other foods or drinks between meals. 

3. Be Patient with the Introduction of New Foods, Keep Trying, Be Consistent!

New foods are exciting for kids, but also they may not be sure how to react to them. The first time it is offered, they may only try a small bit. Reintroducing new foods as repeated exposure will encourage them to give them a try. 

It may take up to 100 tries before your child accepts a new food! 

"It may take up to 100 tries before your child accepts a new food!"

Instead of talking about how a new food tastes, talk to them about the color, shape, texture, and smell. Continue to serve your child nutritious foods until they become accustomed to it — they may even start to prefer it. 

4. Don’t Offer a Child an Alternative Meal

While your child may turn up their nose at the meal put in front of them, do not offer to make them something else. This reinforces the idea that if they say they don’t like something, you’ll give them a preferred food. 

5. Don’t Keep “Junk” In The House

For the same reason as above, you also don’t want to keep snacks and “junk food” in the house for easy access! 

If it’s not in your house, your child pretty much won’t be able to eat it, and it won’t be tempting. 

So if your child asks for ice cream instead of their dinner, and you don’t have any ice cream, it becomes pretty easy to gently say no and remind them what their dinner is!

6. Allow them to Choose Fruits and Vegetables to Try

Kids of all ages need some choices in their lives. 

Imagine that every single minute is decided for you, and you’re constantly being told what to do. It’s normal for kids to want to take control, but it’s your job to set boundaries and limit choices. 

It’s ok to give your child two choices for a meal (but don’t give them 10 choices)! You can say, “Do you want a peanut butter sandwich or a cheese sandwich for lunch” for example. 

You can also take your child to the grocery store or farmer’s market with you and ask for their help in choosing fruits and vegetables. This will help them feel in control and excited about trying the foods they choose. 

7. Don’t Compare Kids

If you have more than one kid, and one child happens to be pickier, don’t compare them to their siblings! That’s going to have the opposite effect you want and will be discouraging for your child to try new foods. 

8. Limit Distractions

It’s not always possible to sit down as a family and eat together with everyone’s different schedules these days, but do your best to make mealtime special and limit distractions. Turn off the TV, take away toys and other distractions, so that your child can focus on their food. 

9. Don’t Offer Dessert as a Reward

When you offer dessert as a reward for finishing their meal, it sends the message that dessert is the best type of food to eat. This encourages your child to have a stronger desire for sweets. It also doesn’t provide any intrinsic motivation to eat well during mealtime. 

Instead of offering dessert after every meal, offer it as an option a few nights a week, or make dessert something like fruit or another healthy choice served with the meal.

10. Don’t Label Behavior or Foods!

I would avoid saying things like “you’re such a picky eater” or “don’t be a picky eater” to or around your child. This is because kids will adopt the labels we give them, and it’ll just reinforce picky eating behavior! 

Instead, don’t give a lot of attention to when they’re being picky, and just say something like “it seems like you don’t want to eat right now, that’s ok, your meal will be here when you are ready.” 

I would also avoid giving too much praise for “healthy eating” since your child may only end up eating healthy when you’re around to receive that praise, but it won’t build the long-term tools they’ll need for healthy eating throughout their life.

11. Make Mealtime Fun! 

Eat together as a family; make mealtime “together time”. Talk to each other about your day and allow your kids to ask questions and be curious at the dinner table. Serve a variety of colors and textures, cut their foods into fun shapes, and serve veggies with a dipping sauce you know they like!

Final Thoughts

Introducing your child to solids, and encouraging them to eat a healthy, well-balanced diet as they grow into the toddler stage is both exciting and challenging. By using the Positive Parenting Solutions approach, you can avoid mealtime battles, while encouraging your child to try new foods and allowing them to feel control over their food choices. 

About the Author

Photo of author Anjali ShahAnjali Shah is a food writer, published author, board-certified health coach, nutritionist, mom of two, and owner of The Picky Eater, a healthy food and lifestyle blog. Her work has garnered nationwide attention as she has been featured on Oprah.com, Women’s Health, Cooking Light, Reader’s Digest, CNN, Food Network, SELF, Glamour, BuzzFeed, Huffington Post, Ladies’ Home Journal, Whole Foods, SHAPE, and at Kaiser Permanente. Anjali grew up a “whole wheat” girl but married a “white bread” kind of guy. Hoping to prove that nutritious food could in fact be delicious and desirable, she taught herself how to cook and successfully transformed her husband’s eating habits from a diet of frozen pizzas and Taco Bell to her healthy, yet flavorful recipes made with simple, wholesome ingredients. Anjali’s programs are focused on teaching individuals and families how to make healthy choices and pick the right foods at the grocery store for overall wellness and maintenance. After becoming a mom, Anjali expanded her programs to include strategies and techniques to combat picky eating in kids of all ages. Anjali started The Picky Eater in 2011 to make healthy food accessible, tasty, easy to make at home, and picky-eater-proof. Follow her on Facebook, Pinterest, or Instagram.

Helping Shy Kids Reach Their Full Potential

boy hiding in mom's lapboy hiding in mom's lap

 

boy hiding in mom's lap

Every time family or friends are over for dinner, your 5-year-old won’t even say “hi.” He hides behind your leg, refusing eye contact instead. 

It’s been three weeks since school started, and your daughter still hasn’t spoken to anyone. Her teacher asks, in all seriousness, if she’s mute. 

Many parents feel at a loss with their child’s timidness. They think they need to defend or excuse their child’s hesitation to acknowledge others, speak up, and participate. 

Parents also fear shyness will be received as rude or inept.

They even worry their child’s bashfulness will lead to missed opportunities and a lusterless life.

Of course, children have different temperaments. Some are less outgoing than others. Their shyness may be ongoing, temporary, or situation-dependent. 

Shyness itself isn’t a one-size-fits-all term. Children’s social reservations stem from a variety of causes. These tendencies may be normal and harmless. Others may require professional intervention (5 Key Signs Your Shy Child Might Need Help).

Insider Tip: An amazing way to build kids’ confidence is through Encouragement. Use our FREE list of encouraging words and phrases as a starting point.  

Here at Positive Parenting Solutions, we know the importance of not labeling kids or pigeonholing them into a particular bucket. 

When we use the term “shy” in this article, it’s a loose definition of a child’s more bashful actions. It’s not a label, diagnosis, or judgment, because social reluctance can be complex. 

What isn’t complex is that it’s just one small facet of the human being you love and cherish.

Timidity can actually be a sign of thoughtfulness and other exceptional traits. But emboldening kids to speak up and engage is important, too.

Maybe your butterfly just needs a little more time in the cocoon. But you know that inside, there are truly magnificent wings.

If you have a kid who tends towards shyness, you can embrace and gently challenge that reticence. It’s a balance that nurtures natural tendencies while still helping your child learn and grow. 

Here are six strategies to help shy kids bloom–in their way and in their time:

1. Trade the ‘Shy’ Label for Encouragement

Labels are an easy way to categorize a person or a personality trait. 

The problem is, they can be dismissive, oversimplified, and downright incorrect. 

For example, being shy is not necessarily the same thing as having stage fright, introversion, or social anxiety. It can be confusing and harmful for a child when we unintentionally lump these distinctions into one.

Verbally labeling children as “shy” might lead them to believe there’s something wrong with them. Why else would he mention that, unless it’s bad? When labeled in front of siblings, it can even enhance sibling rivalry and competition. 

The idea can become deeply implanted. Kids may start to believe their shyness defines them. 

Even our positive labels are problematic: She keeps telling me I’m pretty. Beauty must be really important. 

Instead of labeling personality traits or behavior–whether positive or negative–we can encourage our children’s positive actions.

For a 4-year-old refusing to speak at his well-check exam, you may be inclined to tell the doctor he’s shy. Instead, you can encourage your child when you notice positive behavior:

“I appreciate that you’re cooperating with the doctor when she asks you to breathe deeply for her stethoscope. That’s really helpful!”

The doctor will likely notice your cues and help encourage your son’s helpful actions, too. Despite his silence, there is no need for labels! 

To the 12-year-old too reluctant to strike up a conversation with her new basketball teammates, withhold saying, “It’s hard being shy,” or “I know you’re shy, but you’ve got this!” 

Instead, you can say: 

“I know it can be hard meeting new people. Especially if you’re worried they won’t be very receptive. But I’ve noticed you’re a good team player and doing lots of passing on the court!”

Even when the bad outweighs the good, we can encourage a silver lining.

When kids feel positive, they begin to gain confidence. And confident kids are more likely to emerge, at least partly, from their protective shells.

2. Help Shy Kids by Practicing Social Skills Together

Not all kids are born bounding around the playground making friends with everyone they meet. 

Some enjoy playing alone. Others want to make friends but don’t know where to start. 

All children, whether they’re withdrawn or more gregarious, benefit from rehearsing their skills in hypothetical social settings.

One excellent way to practice is to Take Time for Training:

Take Time for Training

Like learning to brush their teeth or ride a bike, kids can practice social interaction with us at home.

It can start with the Ps and Qs of manners. Then, we can go far beyond these important pleasantries. 

When we take time to train our kids on social behaviors, we start by modeling those actions ourselves. Next, we let them practice that etiquette at home or in other safe surroundings.

It could be pretending to strike a dialogue or introduce themselves to new people. For outgoing kids, it could be training them to take turns speaking, listen intently, and to recognize personal boundaries. 

The gist is, we can’t assume socializing is innate knowledge. Kids often need a crash course.    

Two-Way Role Play

Training isn’t just going through basic vocabulary and motions. You can really have fun with it when you use Two-Way Role Play.

This, like Take Time for Training, is a tool we use in our Positive Parenting Solutions course

Not only is it more fun and engaging for kids when we role-play scenarios–it solidifies the lessons we’re trying to convey. 

Your child can begin with his usual role–maybe the socially timid kid at Cub Scouts–while you play a fellow cub. In this scenario, the imaginary den leader has just asked the scouts to pick partners for a team-building activity. 

Walk up to your son (you’re playing an equally shy “kid” or a more outgoing one) and say, “Would you like to be my partner?” Or, “I’m available if you still need to pair up.”

Now, switch roles! Your son can ask you to partner up. You can say “yes” or even say “no, I don’t want to partner with you,” to let him practice his response to rejection. 

That could be walking up to the den leader (your next starring role) and quietly saying, “I’m still looking for a partner. Can you help?” Then, your son can play the den leader while you, the scout, ask for partnering assistance. 

Kids love to pretend, and any skit you enact together is a dress rehearsal for life. 

And anything that’s been rehearsed well has a better chance of succeeding.

Amy McCready quote

3. Avoid Shoving Shy Kids Into the Limelight

Training eases kids into real-world challenges. But they’re likely not ready for an immediate onslaught.

While we ideally want to expose our kids to as many new experiences as possible, we don’t want to pressure them to overly participate or perform. 

Maybe you convinced your wallflower to attend the Homecoming dance with a friend. The thought of her missing such an iconic event broke your heart. But when her stag date ditches her at the last minute, she begs you not to make her go. She doesn’t want to be there without her good friend; she says she’d feel embarrassed.

You already bought the tickets and the dress. You know she could still have fun with a more adventurous attitude. (Clearly, you have FOMO on her behalf.) 

But going could also leave her traumatized.

Sometimes kids do need a little boost. But other times, we need to take a moment and listen to their concerns. Pressuring them into a trial by fire may not help them through their shy feelings–it could force them to dig deeper. 

Instead, you could encourage your daughter to take a smaller baby step, like going to the pre-dance dinner with everyone. It’s still a way of putting herself out there, without as much pressure. This is a great technique that Renee Jain mentions in her program for anxious kids, Go Zen!

Or, maybe your reserved 6-year-old has been taking piano lessons for two years and loves it. But, when her teacher suggests she participate in an upcoming piano recital, the idea terrifies her. 

You can say, “I think everyone would love to hear you play, and you should be proud of all the practice you’ve put into the piano. But, if you really don’t want to perform, that’s okay.”

Then, you can not only encourage her to try again next time, but you can recommend she take the small first step of attending–this go around–as an audience member. She can still cheer on the other friends’ performances and support her instructor. 

But you don’t have to force her to directly participate. (As much as it would fill your heart to see her on that stage.)

free encouraging words download

Pro Tip: When it comes to school, parties, or any group activity, it helps timid kids to arrive early. This keeps the spotlight off them and allows time to settle and adjust.

4. Trust in Your Shy Child’s Strengths

We don’t want to force reluctant kids into the limelight. It can backfire. 

But, we do want to set shy kids up for success. This includes having faith in their abilities. 

When your 4-year-old refuses to answer a fawning passerby saying, “You’re so cute, how old are you,” you once again feel embarrassed. The urge to say, “Sorry, my kid is shy,” creeps up. 

But here’s the thing. As hard as it may be, there is no need to coax or answer on her behalf. Simply wait in silence and give your daughter a chance to think of her own response. 

Giving her this opportunity to struggle a bit–in a safe, non-traumatic scenario–reinforces that you have faith she will speak up. It also gives her practice responding. And, the more opportunities she has to speak for herself, the easier it will be for her in the future.

If she still doesn’t speak after a generous while–and you feel the need to keep appearances–you can change the subject with the nice passerby. 

You can say, “Thank you. Beautiful weather today, isn’t it?” 

There’s no need to excuse your daughter’s silence or chastise her for not responding, especially in front of the stranger. You can just model your own response and leave it at that.

Maybe, she’ll be ready to answer next time.

5. Raise Shy Kids to be Confident

When we trust in our kids, we are telling them we believe in them. 

This is the beginning of convincing them it’s worth believing in themselves

It starts by not labeling them as “shy.” Even if they are sometimes shy.

Then, it means granting them choices, like in a Decision-Rich Environment. Providing age-appropriate choices throughout the day allows kids the freedom to make mistakes, learn from them, and move on–possibly leading to a different decision next time with better results. 

Pro Tip: For Positive Parenting Solutions Members, review our Decision-Rich Environment tool in Step 3, Lesson 21 of the 7-Step Parenting Success System course.

With some success at managing life’s little challenges under their belts, kids realize they can rely on themselves to work through bigger hurdles like social awkwardness and occasional shyness and will be well on their way towards satisfaction and independence

Even if kids are never fully confident in social situations, they can be self-assured in other areas of life. 

Encouraging them to help around the house, do homework on their own, and dedicate themselves to their passions and strengths are all great ways to build confidence, make them comfortable in their own skin, and enable them to contribute to the greater good in ways other than making great conversation.

6. Establish Routine Family Meetings

Don’t let the word “meeting” deter you! This isn’t all business. Family Meetings can be beneficial and enjoyable! 

Family Meetings offer kids the chance to voice their concerns–whether it’s wanting a break from martial arts lessons or frustration with a sibling who’s grabbing toys. They can also bring solutions to the table. 

Through Family Meetings, children learn their value within the family and as individuals. They understand that their opinion matters. And, they learn that communication is an integral part of problem-solving and healthy dynamics. 

It’s also fun to rotate meeting leaders each week! With a little guidance, kids as young as four can take turns keeping the meeting organized and on task. It’s a great way to practice leadership and communication skills!

Especially when held routinely (ideally, once a week), Family Meetings add rungs to the ladder of confidence and allow shy children to shine. 

Speaking to well-known family members around the dining room may not be identical to working with classmates in an assigned group project or making new friends. But, like training, it’s one step closer. 

Final Thoughts

Your child is on a personal social journey. 

It may not look like your friend’s kid, who spoke to anyone who would listen at age two. 

It probably won’t look like your teenage niece, who craves attention and has a bazillion friends. 

Your child’s journey may not even be remotely similar to yours

But with these six strategies–along with your love and patience–your child is right where he should be. 

Don’t sell his potential short.

How To Make ‘Yes Days’ A Reality in Your Home

family jumping for joy on the beachfamily jumping for joy on the beach

family jumping for joy on the beach

Your kids watched Yes Day on Netflix and are begging to have their own whirlwind adventure with you. While you viewed the movie as humorous fiction, they viewed it as an imminent fact. 

Maybe you want to say “yes” to a Yes Day. But you just can’t wrap your head around the logistics. Or, maybe you don’t. Because the idea petrifies you. 

Your kids have amazing imaginations. Last year, your 4-year-old asked for a rainbow unicorn for Christmas. A real one. And your 8-year-old really wants a mosquito petrified in amber for his bringing-dinosaurs-back-to-life project.

Your kids aren’t afraid to push buttons. Your twelve-year-old is always asking for mature-rated video games. And your seventeen-year-old has been insisting on an unsupervised spring break adventure with friends. 

You find yourself saying “no” a lot, and with good reason. But the atmosphere at home can feel relentlessly fraught. (If you feel trapped in endless power struggles like these, our free online class will teach you how you can give kids power and satisfaction without the struggle or ‘giving in.’) 

I mean, your kids can–and do–ask for everything. A Yes Day could be a total disaster. 

But, despite all implications, this doesn’t have to be a free-for-all. That would be scary!

In reality, a day like this requires ground rules. These aren’t meant as buzzkills or to make you less committed. They’ll actually make your day more efficient and effective. 

We have some ideas for how you and your family can design a Yes Day that everyone will enjoy. But, first, are you wondering if the payoff is worth the effort?

Why You Should Have a Yes Day

Connection 

A Yes Day is an opportunity to connect with our children as fellow, life-loving humans–not just as parents.

Just think…

You were a child once. But at this very moment, those childhood memories may not ring a bell. Bells sound joyous and resonant. Your adult bell is dampened by the weight of stress and responsibility. It’s rusted, inflexible, and barely makes a ding. 

They say that’s one of the greatest gifts of parenthood, though; the opportunity to see the world anew through a child’s eager, awe-filled eyes. 

Plus, it feels good to reacquaint with our inner fountains of youth. And the bonus? Our kids love it when we do. 

At Positive Parenting Solutions, we rave about a tool called Mind, Body, and Soul Time. It constitutes spending 10-15 minutes–every day–with each of your kids (one parent per child) doing something they choose. 

Mind, Body, and Soul Time can be enhanced (though not replaced!) to include the entire household (or any combination of household adults and kids). This is considered family Mind, Body, and Soul Time, and it’s beneficial bonding for all. 

You can think of a Yes Day as family Mind, Body, and Soul Time times ten. Kids still choose the activities while you play along for 24 hours (or 12, if you all like to sleep!)

When parents play with their kids in a fun, silly, and even childlike state of mind, a deep connection is formed. It reminds kids you aren’t just mom/dad (teenagers may find you particularly antiquated), and it shows them you value your quality time together. 

This gives kids an amazing, irreplaceable boost of confidence and significance. 

“Although the downside might be extreme tiredness and sugar shock, the upside (to a Yes Day) is a boost to your child’s self-confidence.” — The Guardian

Bonding with our kids on multiple levels also increases trust, communication, and cooperation

Empowerment

Another benefit of a Yes Day is it offers kids some choice and freedom over their increasingly scheduled and micromanaged lives. 

According to CNN:

Though most parents know they should leave some space, temporal and psychological, for their kids to be themselves, many of us appear to be struggling with it. In recent decades, anxiety has spiked among children and teens. Mental health experts attribute this spike to a rise in external pressures and feeling as though someone else is calling all the shots.

If you encourage kids to plan a Yes Day, it can grant them a little breathing room. 

It also provides opportunities for growth and empowerment. 

Kids brainstorming their ideal day practice decision-making, organization, prioritization, and logistics–all crucial life skills that many kids are either robbed of or exposed to too late. 

They may even learn how hard YOUR daily job as a parent can be. Wouldn’t that be nice?

So, You Definitely Should Have a Yes Day. But When, and How Often?

Your Yes Day can be once a year or every few months. That’s up to your family and your preferences. 

A Yes Day can be strategized during a difficult time for a family, like the loss of a loved one, stress from moving, or a divorce. It can be a much-needed, carefree kind of day that eliminates stress for a brief but helpful time.

Or, you can plan one just because

But please…a Yes Day should not occur just because kids feel entitled to one. And it should be put on the calendar in advance, so everyone can look forward to and plan for it (you included!).

A Yes Day isn’t a mandatory or essential part of a solid, happy childhood. Nor is it designed for child-appeasing, spoiling, and ignoring important boundaries that your kids need. 

A responsible Yes Day is simply about empowerment and relationship-building–and the vessel is FUN! 

‘Yes Day’ Parameters Everyone Can Agree On

If you’re going to execute a Yes Day successfully, you know it has to feel right. 

We completely understand. To make the biggest impact, this day should be authentic for everyone. 

Since Yes Days aren’t a last-minute surprise, kids have the opportunity to understand and agree to the ground rules beforehand.

Amy McCready Yes Day quote

The parents in the Yes Day movie, for example, create guidelines that make the day reasonable and fair to all (this day isn’t JUST about kids)! 

These rules offer a great template for your Yes Day too, and they include:

  • A budget (either for the family or per child)
  • Nothing can be requested that permanently affects the future (like adopting a pet or getting a tattoo)
  • Obviously, nothing dangerous or illegal 
  • Nothing that involves travel beyond 20-50 miles (or some unreasonable) distance

One caveat: In the movie, the kids are told the Yes Day must be earned (by getting good grades and doing their chores). But we disagree. 

Positive parenting highly discourages the use of rewards for motivation in any situation, so it’s important never to frame a Yes Day as a reward for good behavior or celebrated achievements. 

If we do, we may undermine the magic of the day. It’s no longer about fun, connection, and empowerment; it’s now tied to a child’s performance.

If you are struggling to motivate your kids, trust me, there are much better tools at a parent’s disposal that avoid contributing to expectation and entitlement.

free parenting class

Ideally, your kids are already encouraged to act appropriately, finish their homework, and commit to family contributions, regardless of having a Yes Day. 

(Still, you might not want to plan the day right after a bombed report card or a substantial sibling fight). 

Another good rule is to encourage kids to remain sincere on Yes Day and not attempt to trick you into saying yes to something out of bounds. Putting a parent in an awkward position, where they feel forced to say yes is, first: manipulative, and second: not going to work

Here’s another consideration: should you stray from reliable family morning and bedtime routines on Yes Day? 

This depends on your kids and what you’re comfortable with. Routines are ideally followed every day, regardless of weekends and holidays, school time, or summer. But, if your kids easily adapt to a brief blip in a solid schedule–and one of the Yes Day requests breaks routine parameters–feel free to roll with the craziness! 

The bottom line is: you can use any rules you deem necessary for your family.

It’s also important to remember that your family’s Yes Day isn’t going to look like the neighbor’s Yes Day or your kid’s friend’s Yes Day. Your Yes Day will be unique and bring out everyone’s distinct personalities. You may even learn one or two things about one another. 

Sticking to the ‘Yes’ Plan

The hardest part of Yes Day, as you can imagine, is staying committed through thick and thin. You may have to take a deep breath before you utter some of those “Yeses.” You may have to force a smile through others. 

While solidifying your rules and parameters for the day, consider putting them in writing. Kids can sign this agreement (or make an “X”), and parents too! This way, when kids ask for something out of bounds, there’s no reason to say “no.” Instead, you can simply remind them, “We’ve already agreed we can’t do that.” 

Because your Yes Day is pre-planned (either by your kids specifically or all of you), you may have foresight into the day’s activities. Take that opportunity to mentally prepare for anything that may be especially challenging to you (spinning rides that make you sick at the theme park, watching your kids consume much more sugar than you’d normally allow, learning the latest TikTok dances in front of strangers…). 

Minimizing unpleasant surprises will help you stay positive and say Yes–with emphasis!!   

And if you absolutely have to say “no,” that’s fine! You’re still the parent, and you have “veto” power. But you can also try to say “no” in a roundabout way or make your “no” sound like a “yes.” This can be through a diversion, another question, or an alternative solution. You can even use a predetermined symbol, like crossed pointer fingers, meaning“sorry, try again.”

If both parents will be involved in Yes Day, make sure you are equally on board with strategies for the challenges the day brings. 

Final Thoughts

Your family’s Yes Day is likely to be everything from eye-opening, inspiring, exhausting, frustrating, and downright fantastic–and that will be the first ten minutes. 

While you decompress the following day, consider a debrief of your Yes Day. Start by asking which parts your kids loved the best. Ask what they’re most grateful for. And talk about what may have gone wrong…and why. 

This can become a helpful guideline for future Yes Days. You’ll remember what worked and what you’d like to do differently. It also gives your kids an opportunity to practice reflection and additional planning skills!

Each Yes Day can always get better. 

But, whether grandiose or low-key, your Yes Day will be an adventure to remember. So, don’t let it intimidate you. Using these strategies, you can make Yes Day a reality!

5 Ways to Connect With Your Child…On Their Level

Mom playing with daughter and sonMom playing with daughter and son

Mom playing with daughter and son

“Marco!” 

“Polo!” 

Through the darkness, you hear the sound of your children stifling their giggles as you wave your hands around, trying to catch them. 

To be honest, this has never been your favorite game. You can think of loads of activities you’d rather be doing than fumbling around the house blindfolded. (Ouch! Was that coffee table always there?) 

But to your kids, it’s the best game on the planet! So you play. 

A lot.

But despite your lack of enthusiasm for the game, you have started to notice that something interesting happens after every play session.

Your kids’ attitudes change…for the better!

But do you know why?

It has nothing to do with the game itself and everything to do with how you as a parent interact with them. 

I can’t tell you how many parents have taken our FREE WEBINAR or purchased the full 7-Step Parenting Success System, all looking for answers to this very same question.

How do I change my child’s misbehavior?

And my answer always begins the same way. It all starts with YOU!

That’s right; your actions as a parent have a powerful correlation with the misbehavior you’re seeing in your children. 

Now, please don’t think I’m here to point fingers! At some point in time, every parent comes to realize the role they play in their children’s behavior. I’m just here to help!

Believe it or not, one of the key ways you can change misbehavior (for the better!) is to connect with your kids on their level. Because you can’t expect your kids to think like adults. They’ve never been there before!

But you can certainly think like your kids. And I promise, when you shift your mindset to one that more closely reflects your child’s–that’s where the magic happens! You’ll enjoy deeper connections, more cooperation, and better behavior in no time.

Want a little help getting into that mindset? Here are five strategies to help get you out of your world…and into theirs!

1. Channel Your Inner Child

One of the best ways to connect with your child is to shift your mindset to one that more closely resembles their own.

In other words, I want you to act, play, and think…like a kid!

You see, we all start out in life with that beautiful childlike mentality. Do you remember looking up at the sky and seeing the shapes made in the clouds?

There’s a rhino chasing a bunny rabbit! That one looks like a donut with a bite taken out of it!

But now, when you look up at the sky, all you see are puffy, white, cumulonimbus clouds. Each shape is an obscure blob that doesn’t look like anything at all. 

You remember that childish imagination and sense of wonder, but you lost the ability to channel it somewhere along the path to adulthood.

And, oh, what you wouldn’t give to have it back!

Here’s the thing. For adults, it is harder to channel our inner child. And for good reason! After all, how much of our day do we spend at work, in meetings, doing chores, and taking care of our children?

All of those tasks require us to be in an adult mindset. So naturally, that’s where we default to most often.

But if you want to connect with your child on a deeper, more meaningful level, something’s got to give. And I think you know what that something is…

You need to enter what is known as the Child Ego State. This is the state of thinking your kids are engaged in during a significant portion of their day. And it’s (usually) a wonderful place to be! 

Now, this comes with a bit of a Catch 22. Because, as all parents know, the child mindset is highly emotional. Which is not always a good thing. (Remember those terrible two tantrums?)

Your job is to stick to the fun end of the spectrum. 

Let’s say you want to bond with your 5-year-old son. Try and remember what it was like to be his age. What did that feel like? How amazing was it to just play? What sort of things did you love when your parents played with you?

Perhaps you enjoyed building LEGO cities with your mom or roughhousing with your dad in the backyard. It was so easy to live in the moment, forget every problem in your life, and simply be a kid. 

Now take that feeling and bring it to life. The chores can wait. Dinner can be pushed. Age yourself down and engage with your child.

I promise if you make it a habit to bring out your inner child at least once each day, as time goes on it will get easier to make that mental shift. And the more you engage in childlike play with your kid, the better behavior you’re going to see on their end. 

Because when we play with our kids, we send them a very important message without saying a word.

I love our time together. You’re so special to me.

It gives them a massive boost of positive attention that they’ll gladly exchange for better behavior.

Helpful Hint: Did you know there are two other ego states we engage in that often escalate power struggles? The 7-Step Parenting Success System unpacks each one, giving you valuable insight into how your state of personality affects your child’s behavior.

2. Schedule Daily One-on-One Time

Want to know the best medicine for treating misbehavior? Spending quality time with your child!

It’s no secret our children desire our time and attention. Okay, if you’re the parent of a teenager, you may be rolling your eyes right now. But it’s still important!

In fact, the most powerful tool in the Positive Parenting Solutions toolbox is what we refer to as Mind, Body and Soul Time (MBST). 

Mind, Body and Soul Time occurs when we intentionally set aside time each day to emotionally connect and pour attention into our kids one-on-one. This time is absolutely critical because not only does it tell our children how much we value them–it shows them! 

What child wouldn’t want that?

However, for this prescription to work, you’ve got to give your kids a daily dose. Two if you can spare it! 

It doesn’t have to be long–10-15 minutes will do just fine–but it does need to happen regularly. Your kids need to know they can count on receiving that special time with you. Because if you don’t give them your full attention in a controlled and calm environment, they will get it other ways.

This is also the best time to get into that Child Ego State we just covered.

Start by asking your child what they would like to do during your special time together. 

“I’m so excited for our special time today! What sounds fun?”

Maybe your 3-year-old wants to play a round of Candy Land, or your 13-year-old is just dying to show you his perfected ollie at the skate park. Try to go along with whatever they chose for the activity, even if it’s not your favorite. 

When you take the time to connect with your child by doing something they want to do (rather than what you want to do), you’re giving yourself a fantastic gift: a peek into your child’s world! 

Pro Tip: Positive Parenting Solutions Members–learn more about the benefits of Mind, Body and Soul Time by reviewing Step 1 of the 7-Step Parenting Success System. And also, review the advanced module, “The Busy Parent’s Guide to Mind, Body and Soul Time.”

3. Take Time Away From Technology

At the end of a long workday, I understand how appealing it is to slip on your most comfortable pajamas, and lay in bed mindlessly scrolling through social media while the kids are in bed fast asleep.

Because nothing says “distraction” from life’s hardships quite like technology.

Plus, it’s a wonderful tool that serves a purpose. BUT it’s important to set limits both for yourself and your children when it comes to its use. 

Because for as many positives technology brings to our lives as parents, it can be equally problematic.

For instance…

How discouraging is it when you ask your child to finish their Family Contributions, but they’re stuck playing on the iPad? Honestly, it’s probably just as discouraging for them when they ask you a question, and you’re glued to your phone. 

Too much tech time isn’t just a kid issue. We all face the urge to overdo it now and again. But when you’re looking to build a connection with your child, it’s important to put aside those external distractions and live in the moment.

So, where are some areas of life you can cut the tech?

How about in the car? Turn down the radio, have your child put away any games they may be playing, and strike up a conversation! You can ask them what they are most looking forward to that day or even play a few rounds of I Spy.  

I’m telling you, some of the best heart-to-hearts you’ll ever have with your children will take place on the road.

Another great place to cut out technology is at the family table.

It seems to be a dying tradition with the modern family’s busy schedule, but making time to eat dinner (or another meal) together as a family without technology is a connection-building goldmine!

Sometimes family meals are the only opportunity you have for the entire family to get together at once. So don’t waste that precious time by bringing technology into the mix. 

Set the phones in the kitchen, turn off the television, and enjoy one another’s company. If you’re unsure how to get the conversation rolling, get yourself a set of Table Topics or Google some ideas beforehand. You’d be surprised how quickly conversations spark when the right questions are asked.

Finally, try adding in an occasional tech-free day or weekend. This doesn’t have to happen all the time, or even on a regular schedule (unless you want it to!). Make it memorable by picking a fun activity to do together–something out of the norm. 

Maybe you take a trip to the mountains for a family hike or spend the afternoon playing mini-golf and riding go-karts at your local adventure park. What you do isn’t important, as long as the time you spend together is meaningful and uninterrupted.

Before too long, you and your kids will crave the special time together. Technology will be nothing but an afterthought.

free parenting class

4. Slow Down

“Hurry up and finish your breakfast, or you’ll miss the bus!” 

“Don’t dawdle through the grocery store aisles; we’ve got places to be.” 

“Piano lessons start at 3:45, so no playing around after school today!” 

Do any of these sound familiar? 

As parents, it’s natural for us to place the schedule above all else. After all, having a well-oiled daily routine can feel like a matter of survival, especially when our children thrive on routines.

But as the saying goes, sometimes you need to stop and smell the roses. 

Because children conceptualize time differently than adults.

Every year that goes by, time seems to speed up more and more. Yesterday you were your child’s age, then you blinked, and here you are. You think, Where did the time go?

Of course, we know time operates the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. There will always be 60 seconds in a minute, 60 minutes in an hour, and 24 hours in a day. But that doesn’t mean it feels the same for everyone.

In fact, the younger you are, the slower time feels. 

That’s because children absorb an abundance of new information every single day. They feel each of those seconds passing because their young minds are working overtime trying to make sense of what’s going on around them!

But as much as you may want them to hurry up, you’re going to get so much more out of your interaction if, instead, you slow down.

That ladybug on the sidewalk may seem unimportant to you as you hurry your toddler to daycare. But to her, it’s the most important thing in her ever-expanding world.

So if you can, ignore the pressing schedule for just a few moments and admire it with her. By slowing down for her, you’ll be giving her an extra dose of your time and attention–something she most definitely craves!

amy mccready quote

5. Schedule a Yes Day 

How many times each day do you say the word “no” to your child?

My guess is a lot. 

“No, you can’t eat ice cream right before dinner.” 

“No video games until you’ve finished all your homework.”

“No, you can’t jump from the roof to the trampoline–that’s crazy!”

“No. No. No. No. NO!”

The problem with “no” is that it’s disheartening for both them and us. Our kids can’t stand having their requests constantly turned down, and we dislike always having to be the bad guy.

We know there are some situations where “no” is unavoidable. Like, “No, you can’t play with that chainsaw!”

But I challenge you to focus on turning some of those “no” answers into “yes” answers. 

One way to do this is to simply shift your phrasing. In other words, make your “no” sound like a “yes.” 

For example, you could say, “Unfortunately, only adults are allowed to use the chainsaw. But I’d love it if you brought your play tools out to help me in the yard!”

See how I snuck that “no” in there without ever having to actually say it?

Of course, you also want to start handing out more real “yes” answers too. And one fantastic way to do that is by scheduling a Yes Day.

A Yes Day is precisely what it sounds like. It’s one full day making an active effort to say “yes” to all your child’s requests. 

You’ll want to use your discretion and keep the requests within reason. Otherwise, your twelve-year-old who desperately wants to go skydiving may take advantage. But this isn’t the time to be stingy with the little things, either.

In other words, step out of your comfort zone and say “yes” to ice cream for breakfast or Christmas pajamas all day long (even in July).

Just be sure that your Yes Day is not a last-minute decision. This is one event you need to schedule in advance. Also, bring your kids in on it. Let them know when this will be taking place, so they have time to plan out what they will be asking that day.

This will also allow you to go over the ground rules and mentally prepare yourself for the day.

As terrifying as a Yes Day may sound to you, I promise, this is going to be a major highlight when your kids look back on their childhoods. They’ll think, Wow, Mom and Dad not only listened to what I wanted to do–they actually did it! 

The amount of belonging and significance they’ll feel will be astronomical. 

Final Thoughts

If you’ve been longing to connect with your child on a deeper level, don’t wait another minute to take action. Now is the time to reach out and get on their level!

Because the truth is, it wasn’t that long ago you were a child yourself. It may take some time, energy, and practice on your part, but connecting with your children on their level is a surefire way to reduce the amount of misbehavior you see every day

Now get out there, and think like a kid! 

Ultimate 2021 Gift Guide: Gifts the Whole Family will Love

family gathered opening christmas presentfamily gathered opening christmas present

family gathered opening christmas present

While it is our absolute joy to bring you a list of our favorite products, we may receive a small commission if you purchase products through some of the links on this page (don’t worry, this doesn’t affect the price you pay). But please know, even though we are constantly asked to review products, we only recommend products we absolutely LOVE, so you can trust that this list contains only our shout-it-from-the-rooftops favorites!

When gifts suit the giftee, there is no greater glee. 

Now try saying that 10 times, fast.

It’s true, though. The best gifts bring joy to those who give and receive. And when a gift is truly loved and appreciated? It’s a gift that keeps on giving.

The problem is, finding ideal presents can take a toll on our time and add stress each holiday season.

We draw blanks brainstorming what to give extended family and shrewdly narrow down the gift list for present-loving kids.  

We try our best to spend the same amount of money on everyone, without spending too much. 

We want our gifts to be enjoyed, not unappreciated or wasted. (Thank goodness for gift receipts and gift cards though, right?) 

AND, as parents, we try to spread love and fun–without the materialism that can come with it

But whether we tend to purchase everything in July or shop frantically online the week before Christmas, the best gifts take careful consideration. 

To help out, we’ve compiled a list of super easy ideas to save you some sanity (and a few brain cells) when choosing this year’s presents.

Table of Contents

pricing guide

Gifts That Encourage FUN Family Time 

Family time should be about quality, not just quantity. 

The last thing we need is to create more work for ourselves as parents. And sometimes, family activities can be just that. 

Instead, we’ve pulled together some thoughtful gift ideas for the whole family–all void of too much effort or extravagance.

Individual Mind, Body, and Soul Time Gifts

Kids love presents, but the truth is, the gift of time–from parent to child–is the ultimate present. 

At Positive Parenting Solutions, we always highly encourage one-on-one time with your kids. We call it Mind, Body, and Soul Time.

We recommend this activity between each parent and each child for 10-15 minutes EVERY DAY. And while even this brief amount of time can be hard to set aside, it truly does help with everything from misbehavior to parent-child connection. 

best gift is you

Our FREE ONLINE WEBINAR further explains why positive connection is so crucial, but it’s true: Mind, Body, and Soul Time is one of the best ways to make our kids feel loved and appreciated. 

But beyond the fact that this attention is a gift in and of itself, it can still be wrapped up in a bow:

Build-a-Fort
Ages: All Ages
Cost: $$$

HearthSong has a fun collection of Build-a-Fort kits that you and your child can build and rebuild to your hearts’ content. This can work as a larger group activity too! This particular set is sold on Amazon.

Chasing Fireflies
Ages: 3+
Cost: $

Hide and Seek is a timeless, classic game kids love. With this fun toy, you can combine the game with cute, light-up fireflies and even hunt for the bugs alone.

Laser X
Ages: 12+ (In our opinion, kids much younger will enjoy this game, too.)
Cost: $

Kids always like a fun game of laser tag. With this set, you can play one-on-one at home. Some also come in larger sets for the whole family.

Family Time Gifts 

Since most of us are spending more time with our kids than ever before, why not make it as fun–and as sane–as possible?

Family Paint Night
Ages: 6+
Cost: $-$$$

Painting To Gogh will mail paint kits to your doorstep. All you have to do is link to the tutorial when you and the fam are ready for your paint party! Recommended for kids ages 6+.

Escape Room
Ages: 10+
Cost: $-$$$

Escape rooms are an excellent source of entertainment, especially for older kids. They help families work together and problem-solve. Check this link to find an escape room near you and look for a family-friendly challenge! You can still wrap this by printing out a gift certificate or hand-written coupon detailing the experience. Or, for a family night in, purchase an escape-room-in-a-box kit, which are plentiful anywhere games are sold.

TableTopics
Ages: All Ages
Cost: $

Family dinners are always a wonderful time for families to connect. But if it’s been a long day for us parents, or the kids don’t feel like sitting, we often need motivation and icebreakers. There is also a teen edition.

Family Adventure Challenge
Ages: All Ages
Cost: $$

This is a book that takes family activities to an awesome new level. Families scratch off an adventure together and must complete it before taking on the next challenge. This is a great gift from kids to their parents, too!

Board Games: Family game night can’t be beaten. With a little set-up and patience for the rules, these board games deliver good, old-fashioned fun. Here are our favorites:

Ages 2-3+

Ages 5-6+

Ages 10+

Educational Gifts That Kids Still Consider “Cool”

Educational gifts can be purchased for Mind, Body, and Soul Time, family activities, or solo play. 

And sometimes, we really want kids to cherish their individual time–without the screens and while doing something educational. 

Of course, when we do encourage that solo play, it’s important to find age-appropriate toys to eliminate frustration for everyone.

Subscription Boxes
Ages: Varies
Cost: $-$$$

Kids love receiving packages not just once a year, but once a month! KiwiCo offers monthly science and STEM subscription kits for kids ages 3-16, while MEL Science is for ages 10+ and includes virtual reality science lessons. You can also purchase single kits through KiwiCo.

Unofficial Minecraft Lab for Kids
Ages: 8+
Cost: $

Minecraft is an uber-popular video game, but getting our tweens off the screen is always ideal. According to this book’s description, “you can balance your child’s screen time with real-life learning and interaction.”

Crayola Color Chemistry Labcolour chemistry
Ages: All Ages
Cost: $$

This is packed with science experiments suitable for all ages.  

Cooking Classes
Ages: 2+
Cost: $-$$$

In-person cooking classes or their virtual counterparts are always excellent for a budding, food-loving chef. Plus, your child can learn to cook for the whole family! We absolutely LOVE Kids Cook Real Food eCourse if you want to get your kids helping in the kitchen..

Telescope
Ages: All Ages
Cost: $$$

A life-long love of astronomy–even philosophy–can come from a telescope. According to the brand website, the FunScope is “A great first telescope for beginners and families to test the waters of stargazing at an affordable price.”

Mindful Buddiez
Ages: All Ages
Cost: $$

Calming techniques are an important part of a child’s emotional education. These adorable, interactive stuffed animals help kids manage big feelings (while offering a soft, warm cuddle).

IlluStory by Lulu Jr.
Ages: 4+
Cost: $

You can nurture your child’s love for storytelling with this book-making kit.

My Comic Book by Lulu Jr.
Ages: 6+
Cost: $

This is a similar kit, with an additional focus on artwork.

LEGO Technic
Ages: 7+
Cost: $-$$$

For kids ages 7-8 and up, LEGO Technic will get your children’s mechanical gears turning. 

Gifts That Inspire Gratitude

As we all know, the holidays have become a time of excess. And while this is fun and exhilarating for kids and parents alike, it can also create feelings of entitlement.

Yes, we train our kids to say thank you for the gifts they open, especially in front of the loved ones who gave them. But sometimes, the sentiment isn’t there. And it’s not necessarily because they’re ungrateful. 

Kids are simply conditioned to receive and to expect each holiday, without much afterthought.

One battle tactic is to purchase fewer gifts–or even just one–that may have more meaning to our kids. 

We can also purchase gifts that instill gratefulness:

Time Capsules
Ages: 4+
Cost: $-$$$

Encouraging kids to think of something meaningful to them–which also represents themselves or their setting–is one of the many advantages of a time capsule. When kids have time to both reflect and consider the future, they learn about perspective. These suggestions will help you pick out a time capsule that you wrap, and they fill. Just include a DO NOT OPEN UNTIL date! (These make great gifts again at high school or college graduations!)

Kind Kids Company
Ages: 4-8
Cost: $$-$$$

Gratitude and kindness are interlinked. Grateful kids are more likely to spread kindness, and kind kids are more likely to experience gratitude. This company understands the value of teaching kids these essential qualities. You can gift kids either a single box or a monthly subscription.

Repurposed Items

Recycle and Remake
Ages: 9+
Cost: $-$$

If our goal is to minimize commercialism and waste, we can repurpose trash and encourage our kids to do the same. This book does just that.

Eco Stars Recycled Crayons
Ages: 3+
Cost: $

Turn the purchase of recycled crayons into a learning lesson for your youngest kiddos, or even make your own! Thou shall not waste! 

Love for Animals and the Outdoors

WWF Donation
Ages: 4+
Cost: $$$

With a $75 donation to the World Wildlife Foundation, they’ll send you three stuffed animals of your choice. It’s a great way to give while also getting something fun in return. But the true lesson, of course, is explaining to our kids that these toys weren’t just purchased for them, but for the greater (animal) good.

Outdoor Explorer and Bug Catcher Kit
Ages: 3+
Cost: $$

A love of the outdoors and tiny insects will make kids more appreciative of the massive–and miniature–worlds around them.

The Ultimate Book of Scavenger Hunts
Ages: 4+
Cost: $

This contains 42 outdoor hunts. It helps engage kids when they’re bored without their screens (the horror!) and instills a sense of wonder and gratitude for the great outdoors.

Classes & Private Lessons

Private lessons can come in any shape and size. They even come virtually! 

From music to sports, these one-on-one lessons with an instructor deliver much more than one package ever could. They can inspire a life-long love of creative and athletic pursuits. 

Anything that your child has shown interest in can be gifted as a private lesson. And gratitude for this gift will only grow as your child learns more and excels at something new!

Music Lessons
Ages: All Ages
Cost: $-$$$

Music & Arts offers in-person and virtual music classes alike. 

Sports/Fitness Lessons
Ages: Varies
Cost: $-$$$

Takelessons.com offers private lessons in sports and fitness. 

TakeLessons.com
Ages: Varies
Cost: $-$$$

Not only does this site offer individualized lessons in sports and fitness as mentioned above, but it also offers lessons in languages and other academics.

Heirlooms

Ages: 7+
Cost: Free

Handing down heirlooms is something kids take to heart.

The older kids are, the more meaningful these gifts can be. But younger kids can appreciate them, too. 

You can even go through an old box of vintage toys you had when you were little and let them pick out toys to be fixed, re-painted, or enjoyed as-is. 

Here are some other ideas: Heirloom Gift Ideas

Fun and Frivolous Gifts (That Won’t Annoy Parents)

We’ve all had that doll that makes sudden, creepy cries in the middle of the night, and the high-pitched monotonous toy you feel the need to make “disappear.”

Let’s not forget the flashy, obnoxious, battery-eating toys that stop working after 5-minutes and leave us regretting our purchase. 

Kids love these toys, though. They don the top of wish lists and catch their eyes at every store. 

We’re bound to buy one or two–or a few–each season.

One idea is to save these toys, when they’re small enough, as stocking stuffers. That way we can keep more valuable and meaningful gifts under the tree. 

But when we still want to wrap a few gifts for pure fun, here are some solid ideas:

Eco-Friendly Marble Run
Ages: 4+
Cost: $$$

We’ll admit, this toy still has educational value and the marbles can get everywhere, but it’s a classic game that always sparks joy. 

SoapSox Bath Plushes
Ages: 0-10
Cost: $

These are also more than just fun. They’re functional. Your child can bring a stuffed animal sponge into the bath that cleans them and doesn’t leave a big toy mess for you to clean up. Awe.Some. 

Superhero Costumes
Ages: 4-12
Cost: $

Playing dress-up never goes out of style and is a gift that encourages confidence and imagination!

Build-a-Bouquet
Ages: 3-6
Cost: $

This sweet flower set made by Green Toys (from recycled plastics) helps kids create, build, and practice their gardening skills!

Hanging Solar System
Ages: 3+
Cost: $

This is fun to both unwrap and hang in their rooms. 

Flybar Pogo Ball
Ages: 6+
Cost: $

Let kids expend some energy with this indoor/outdoor activity.

Little Live Pets Cozy Dozy cozy dozy
Ages: 3+
Cost: $

Kids will love these cute teddy bear and koala babies. They can play animal, house, doctor, and dolls with these nap-friendly, soothing toys. 

Gifts FROM Kids (That They Really Did Help With)

We’ve all presented gifts on behalf of our kids. 

When a gift tag says “To Mom, from Liam,” it’s probably really “To Mom, from Dad Pretending to be Liam.” Because Liam’s only four. 

Or, even more realistically, “To Mom, from Mom, Pretending to be Dad, Pretending to be Liam.”

Still, from an early age, kids can be encouraged to give thoughtfully. The earlier they learn the joy of giving, the less they’ll want. Really. 

But how can a 4-year-old give something, at least monetarily? Well, that’s for each family to decide. 

We can either encourage our children to contemplate and choose gifts while we cover the cost, or we can encourage them to use their allowance to budget for gifts. 

With an Allowance

At Positive Parenting Solutions, we see an allowance as a fantastic financial training tool. We believe kids even as young as four or five can benefit from monetary management. 

Ideally, an allowance isn’t just about spending. It’s about saving and giving. If kids do this successfully, they’ll have enough money of their own to spend on gifts.

It may not be much, but even a little can go a long way. 

Toys for Tots
Ages: 4+ (So kids grasp the donation concept)
Cost: $-$$$

The well-established Toys for Tots is a great way for kids to consider those less fortunate. Children can choose a toy and donate it–all online. 

4 Ocean
Ages: 4+ (So kids grasp the donation concept)
Cost: $-$$$

Buy a gift–some under $25.00–and help save the ocean! For example, kids can gift moms, grandmas, sisters–anyone!–the beautiful bracelets on offer. 

Indoor Curling, Golf/Pool, Shuffleboard, or Darts
Ages: 8+ 
Cost: $$-$$$

Dad and Mom might both like these fun indoor options that encourage fun family time. Parents can even pitch in with the costs. 

Starbucks Gift Card
Ages: 4+ 
Cost: $-$$$

Kids know what picks their parents up–and contributing to that joy is something almost any child can afford with basic budgeting. Naturally, kids can substitute other options for siblings, grandparents, and the rest of their peeps.

Small Gifts for Siblings
Ages: 3+ 
Cost: $

Many kids have just a few dollars to spend, but it’s impactful when kids remember not just Mom and Dad, but each other. One idea is to gift a LEGO-loving sibling a unique Minifigure. Another is to wrap some neon or glitter crayons.   

Without an Allowance

Repurposed Toys
Ages: All Ages
Cost: Free

We talked above about repurposing trash, but kids can also repurpose their toys to make new gifts for family and friends. 

Used Toy Donations
Ages: All Ages
Cost: Free

Kids can turn their excess into something valuable for another child.

A Helpful Activity
Ages: All Ages
Cost: Free

When kids give presents, a little can go a long way. It may be unrealistic to expect them to make breakfast in bed for mom and dad on Christmas morning, but they could make a dessert for holiday dinner or clean the house after the presents are opened. 

DIY Crafts
Ages: All Ages
Cost: Free

Depending on a child’s age (and the type of craft), a DIY project may be something an adult needs to assist with. Still, if we let our kids choose the crafts and help substantially with the project, they will feel pride in a hand-made gift. And the recipient will love the thought and work put into it.

Gift Exchanges

Many of us are familiar with the annual White Elephant or Secret Santa exchanges at work and at school. But kids will adore playing these games with family members. They’re a clever way to receive a gift while giving something in return. 

Secret Santa encourages kids to consider what others care about, while White Elephant teaches, “We get what we get and don’t throw a fit.” 

Best of all, they’re both riotous fun.

Final Thoughts

The art of gifting is legit–as in legitimately nuanced, thoughtful, impactful, stressful, and tricky.

Just remember that starting a tradition of substantial, meaningful gifting is the most priceless gift of all. 

And everyone will benefit.

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