5 Ways to Teach Children Gratitude

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There’s nothing more powerful in changing our lives than having an attitude of gratitude. But in today’s society, it is SOOOO easy to overwhelmed with wants, efficiency, and discontent. I love November because of Thanksgiving, but if you are like me, I don’t want November to be the only month my kids show thankfulness. You too?

So here are 5 simple ways you can teach your children how to have a heart of thankfulness. I mean after all, those who are more thankful and content have an overall more satisfied and happier life (there’s tons of research out regarding how it effects so many areas of life like self-esteem, optimism, etc. Go check it out!)… And isn’t that what we want most for our children?

Daily Gratitude

This one is SO simple and something I try to practice myself. Each day as I tuck my ids away to bed (or even periodically throughout the day), I’ll ask them to name something they are thankful for. Some of the answers are TO DIE FOR cute. Seriously! I think my son is thankful for garbage trucks nearly every day 😉

Encourage Generosity

This past year we’ve been attempting to make major changes in our clutter around the house.  As a part of that, we’ve all given away a TON of stuff (Checkout my 5 Steps To Break Free From Clutter if you want to ditch clutter). We encouraged the kids to choose one thing to give away each day. I was actually amazed at how little resistance we experienced from them.  They were actually very excited to give to others.

Turn around the No

It’s sometimes so hard to go into a store with my kids because I feel like I get bombarded with the “I need this” or “will you buy me this” questions.  I hate using the word no and try to use it sparingly but geesh….shopping can be downright exhausting.  A huge focus for us this year is to eliminate ‘stuff’ so that we have more time and space to focus on our relationships.  So now, instead of just saying no I remind them of why we are saying no…. so that we have more time and money to spend on things we all enjoy like vacation, trips to the zoo, or Disneyland.  The no to the impulse buy becomes now something they are excited about and willingly put the item back on the shelf.  Kids crave relationship. And while they would love the latest and greatest toy, they more desire YOU.

Encourage them to Serve Others

I grew up serving people who were homeless or living on the streets and I cannot say enough about how it shaped my view of the world, gratitude, politics, and so much more.  Last year our family took coffee and breakfast to people who were homeless the day after Christmas.  It was an AMAZING experience for them. But in this stage of life, I just don’t feel it’s practical for us to do on a regular and ongoing basis.  So we’ve found other ways to serve.  We’ve connected with an amazing organization called Safe Families.  It’s given us the opportunity to bring children into our home, love them, and serve them.  My kids then have hands on real life, tangible exposure to serving those in need.  There are so many ways for families to serve together, whether it be as simple as picking up trash, serving food in a homeless shelter, giving gifts for Operation Christmas Child and others.

Please and Thank You’s

There is some thing so fundamental in manners that can have profound impacts on gratitude.  But rather than forcing your kids to say them just out of formality, make them meaningful (this is similar to why I never force my kids to say sorry).  When saying something is forced, it loses its value and meaning.  A gentle reminder such as “did you say thank you when Maya gave you a flower” reminds kids that even simple actions are something to be grateful for.  Just the same, encouraging them to write thank you notes reminds them of how many things in our lives we have to be thankful for.

 

Do you have any fun ways you teach gratefulness? I’m going to share some of my favorites in the next month and would love to highlight yours! Drop them below or email me renae@renaefieck.com

Secret to Saving Kids Artwork without Clutter

What the heck do we do with all the pictures, drawings, school projects, and little gifts from our kids? I mean, I love them all but my daughter’s love language is gifts.  So we are ALWAYS getting special pictures, drawings, or crafts from her because that’s her way of showing how she loves us.  But I’m on a journey to eliminating clutter from my life.  I want more space.  I want a chance to breathe and not feel like I’m CONSTANTLY cleaning.  Is it wrong to want a clean house AND be able to enjoy time with my kids?

I saw somewhere a picture of a triangle that showed mom’s sanity, a clean house, and happy kids on each of the points.  The meme stated, you can only choose 2, which 2 are you going to choose.  For a long time, hands down, I wanted happy kids and happy mom to be my choice.  But you know what I realized….a clean house was a HUGE contributor to my sanity.  I don’t think you have to choose between the 3. I think you CAN have a balance of all 3.

So in my quest to eliminate stuff without losing the memories (or breaking my dear daughter’s heart), I found an app called Keepy. It’s been amazing.  It has both a free and a paid version (with the amount of drawings we get, I totally bought the paid version).

You can take snapshots of your children’s drawings, crafts, projects, whatever and store them. You can have multiple kids all stored in the same account. You can store voice recordings of your child telling you about the picture or take a picture of your child holding the drawing so you can document age too. And best! You can add “Fans” so grandparents, aunts, uncles, and friends can see all the magical drawings and leave messages too.

 

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It’s definitely a timeless way to preserve and capture memories without all the clutter.  And if you did want to print all of it in a book, they make it pretty seamless too with having photobook  and other photo gift options (although I haven’t tried that part yet).

If you haven’t snagged a copy of my FREE 5 Steps to Breaking Free From Clutter, you should totally do that! Breaking free from clutter has changed my life. I finally feel like I can enjoy time with my kids because I’m not spending day in and day out picking stuff up.

6 Steps to End Picky Eating

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Picky eating is SO hard for parents! It’s the struggle between feeding your child what they’ll eat just to make sure they eat, even if it’s NOT healthy or nutritious versus holding your ground and them not eating anything. It’s a really really hard spot for you to be in.  When I work with some of my clients, families are often struggling with a kiddo who will eat only a handful of items (commonly goldfish crackers and chicken nuggets). And while not all picky eating is that extreme, you may benefit from some of my tips with your own kids.

Here are my top 6 tips to turn around the struggle with picky eating and the endless mealtime battles. They can be exhausting, I know!

  1. Make meal times enjoyable. Meals should be a social experience. Eat together. Talk about your day or what you’re thankful for. Engage. Meals should be a family experience, not with kids eating individually.
  2. You are responsible for providing a meal, and your child is responsible for what they eat. No pressure, no force feeding, no bargaining, no polite bites. It’s hard sometimes to resist the urges, I know!
  3. Keep meals and snacks consistent throughout the day. Both you and your kiddos should have regularly schedule times to eat every 2-3 hours. It’s good for your metabolism, your satiation, energy, sugar levels and so much more.
  4. Always have at least 75% of your child’s plate be preferred foods with 25% being non preferred foods. And try to create family meals that are composed of both preferred and non-preferred foods so you are all eating the same foods. No more short order cooking!
  5. Learn to play with your food. It doesn’t have to necessarily be at meal times but creating spaceships, boats, mustaches or the like with non-preferred foods can desensitize aversions and increase the likelihood that your kiddo will try one those non-preferred foods. I encourage families to play with food in lots of different environments.
  6. Even if your kiddo refuses a food once, feel free to continue to expose them to that food. It can take between 7-10 exposures to determine whether or not they actually like a food or just opposing it because it’s new!

Was any of this new to you? Comment below with what you plan to implement.

P.S.- If you’re looking for an awesome kids nutritional shake, my kids LOVE this one!

Scrub a Dub Dub, What do you have in the tub?

My husband calls me a hippie.  I don’t think he realized it when we got married (neither did I!) but time as slowly progressed me into a more and more natural person, parent, and professional.  I know I still have lots of areas to improve upon but it’s one slow step at at time (did I mention that we just got a chicken coop!?!? sooo excited! I will blog more about that when we get the process rolling. We bought it off craigslist and have a few things in the next few weeks so chickens probably won’t happen for a few weeks!).

But as a part of this journey, I’ve started trading out chemicals for more natural products.  Our skin is the largest organ of our body and it absorbs whatever we put onto it. I’m picky with our sunscreen (and have a homemade recipe here) and we use coconut oil as a moisturizer 99% of the time.  I’ve been playing with homemade cosmetics (I will share!). But being frugal, I just can’t throw away soaps people give me (aka…I get lots of Bath & Body soaps as gifts).  So when I was given a bar of Believe Soap, I was thrilled to be using something way more natural that didn’t require me to buy soap when we still have some in the shower.

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(I meant to take a picture before I started using it but forgot, so here’s a picture from their website).

I got a full bar of Winter Citrus and a couple small samples of Lavender Oatmeal and Refreshing Mint.  So here are my thoughts.

  • 100% vegan (A+)
  • All Natural products, literally the ingredient list was mostly essential oils 
  • Handmade

Their website says they even use herbs freshly picked from their garden when possible! And even can custom order soaps for you because they hand make them.

  • They are $5/bar (it’s really not that much!)
  • Safe for the whole family

Because there is nothing toxic and these are natural products, I feel comfortable and safe using it on anyone in my family (do you know what kinds of  toxins are in baby soaps??)

  • Made in California 

if you are a Californian, you are supporting local business!–if you aren’t, then you are supporting small business! (A+ for both)

  • Lathers well 
  • Scent is pleasant and subtle 

Being an OT I am acutely aware that many people are sensitive to smells. This would be the soap for you if you are overwhelmed by many of the scented products.  It smells earthy, pleasant, and is subtle enough that you don’t think you are washing yourself with a slice of orange.  I tend to like things with a little more scent but I know many don’t so it’s a great middle road.  If you are one that likes stronger scents, maybe try one of the other flavors. My guess would be Rosemary & Mint or similar would smell a little more.

  • Long Lasting

I’ve been using the soap for a few weeks now and it really doesn’t look like I’ve made a dent in the size of the bar. I could see it lasting awhile.

  • Can be used on your face, or body

When I tried it on my face, I got a little in my eye and it wasn’t super pleasant but most soap isn’t. So if you use it on your face, just be sure to wash extra carefully

  • Essential oils can promote healing

It’s one thing to wash your body with just soap, but soaps using essential oils can promote healing while you use them.

My overall opinion…

I don’t know if I will order more soap for awhile (I still have lots) but if you are looking for a natural, vegan, handmade, local option, this is a great place to start.  My only preference would be to have a little stronger scent but it gets an A+ from me in all other categories!

Check them out! Have you used Believe Soap??

Homeschool Preschool Program

We’re on a budget, as most people should. But we anticipate that budget getting smaller and smaller in the next few months as my disability/maternity payments end. I don’t want to return to work as much as I was which means we have to make budget cuts. I’d love for my daughter to still take advantage of a “preschool-like” program but we can’t afford to send her to a formal preschool at this point.  Being an OT, who works with children, I am aware of many skills they need to develop.  As well, I can be quite creative.  The key words in that…”can be.”  I don’t feel I have the time to be creative and intentional like I want to be in educating her.  I set out trying to find some material to use and ran across this program.

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God’s Little Explorers Preschool Program.  I love it.  It incorporates gross motor skills, fine motor skills, alphabet learning, number learning, sensory exploration, Bible stories, and more.  The thing I love about it most…I can look at what I’m supposed to do each day and do it! I don’t have to come up with it all on my own. This feature alone makes doing it 4 days a week practical for me.  It cost my $14 and I downloaded it. I knew it was exactly what I was looking for right away. I’m still incorporating things of my own and from my OT world as well, such as using the Handwriting Without Tears wooden pieces (she’s still not quite 3 and I don’t want to push writing letters yet, but will do more with actual formation of letters later, using HWT).

I do wish that it followed more a developmental approach to learning the letters (i.e. it starts off with X and diagonal lines are the hardest to learn.), but I’m just adapting it and not expecting that she’ll perfect any of it right away.  I’m just wanting her to engage with the material for exposure rather than expecting that by the end of it she’ll be able to write all her letters.

There are 28 weeks of lesson plans, 4 days a week. It gives suggestions for books to read, sensory activities to do, self-care activities, bible songs, etc.

We started this week. My daughter was super excited to wake up to find little X’s around the house for our “X marks the spot” treasure hunt.  We made a pair of binoculars, a journal for her to keep her letters and projects in, a box for her to store all her supplies in, and a learning map.  Today we went on a scavenger hunt around the neighborhood identifying objects that were shaped like rectangles, forming the letter X with various mediums (wikistix, wooden sticks, etc), and making the sound of “ks.”

I’ve been using it as special time for her alone during my son’s first nap.  But we  try to incorporate the information throughout the rest of the day too. Singing the song we learned, “The B-I-B-L-E” song. cross (1 of 4) cross (2 of 4) cross (3 of 4) cross (4 of 4)

 

Naturally Dyed Easter Eggs

Do you eat your Easter eggs? Growing up, we always ate them but it never occurred to me that some people don’t till today.  As I was chopping away at all of our ingredients to make these Easter eggs, my husband made a comment about the amount of work to get natural eggs when we don’t eat them.  I was surprised because I always have and had planned to make an egg salad sandwich with these eggs in a day or so. If you don’t eat them, it may be worth your while to just buy the boxed dye because this isn’t super quick.  But it is also fun to see how natural ingredients can turn the eggs colors.
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We had great success with some and not with others.  If you’ve tried any, let me know what you’ve had success with.

Our greatest success: Turmeric. I’ll list the ingredients below in order of success. We had no success with the cabbage.

  • Add 2 tbsp turmeric to 1 cup of boiling water. Then add 2 tsp of white vinegar (YELLOW EGG)
  • 1 cup grape juice to 1 tablespoon of vinegar (SUPPOSED TO BE LAVENDER EGG. OURS TURNED OUT SORT OF GREEN)
  • Peels of 6 yellow onions. Add 2 cups of boiling water and let set for at least 15 minutes. Add 1 tbsp of vinegar (ORANGE EGG)
  • Peels of 6 red onions. Add 2 cups of boiling water and let set for at least 15 minutes. Add 1 tbsp of vinegar (SUPPOSED TO BE SORT OF GREEN EGG. OURS TURNED OUT BROWN)
  • Dice 1 medium beet and add to 4 cups boiling water. Add 2tbsp of vinegar and let cool completely before extracting the beets.  (PINK EGG)
  • Add 1/4 cup cabbage to 4 cups boiling water. Add 2 tbsp of vinegar. Let cool completely before extracting the cabbage (we added the vinegar after straining the cabbage. That may have been our error.  I re-added it to the cabbage and put the egg into the bowl with the cabbage and still didn’t get any color). (SUPPOSED TO BE BLUE EGG. OURS DID NOTHING).

Also, I was wondering why our pink eggs came out sort of speckled and found an article online that said if you leave the foods in the liquid, rather than straining them that you can get some fun effects like that.  When our pink wasn’t working really well, I added the eggs in with the liquid and the beets.  They colored up quickly that way and came out sort of speckled.

This definitely isn’t the way to dye eggs with toddlers either.  The time it took for the color to show up on the eggs is significantly longer than with standard dye methods.  My little toddler lost patience waiting and had a grand time sticking her fingers in the bowls playing with the eggs.  I would suppose leaving the eggs longer or using more condensed liquid (more food to water ratio) would help create more vibrant colors. I may put a few eggs into the liquid in the fridge and see what color changes I notice with increased time.

In order to make your eggs shiny, you can polish them with a little oil (vegetable, olive, or coconut).

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I thought I’d throw in this picture because I was really surprised.  The left is the cabbage strained juice prior to vinegar and the right is after adding the vinegar.  It’s the only one that changed colors when I added the vinegar but it was pretty crazy. Not really sure what I did wrong with the cabbage to get no color on our eggs.  Maybe next time.IMG_7244IMG_7251 IMG_7254

Teaching Kids about Money with DIY Money Jars

Americans in total owe $11.68 trillion in debt (according to here). That’s crazy! We need to train the next generation to get out of debt.

My parents did a great job of trying to teach me about money as I was growing up, but I sure wish I knew more and managed my money better.  I am grateful for all they taught me and hope to teach my children the value of money.

When my daughter’s piggy bank was unexpectedly broken recently, we decided to be a little more money wise with her rather than just saving.  Because even the Bible talks about not just saving our money but using it wisely to make it grow (Matthew 25:14-28), and at the same time not serving money as a master (Matthew 6:24).

I wanted to teach my daughter how to give the first fruits of her money to God and to others. Thus we created a “Give” jar.  She contributes to this jar first.  She then has a “Save” jar which is used for saving and making investments for growth.  She also has a “Spend” jar in which she contributes to last.

I look forward to teaching her more in depth and with more complexity about money as time goes on but being only 2, this is a great place for us to start.

Here’s what we did…And again, we used supplies we already had around the house (teaching the value of conserving money by recycling).

Supplies Needed

  • Glass jars
  • Food Coloring
  • Mod Podge
  • Various craft supplies

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1. Add tablespoon of mod podge, 1/2 tbs of water and about 5 drops of food color

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2. Swirl it around in the jar till covered and then flip upside down and let liquid run outbanks (3 of 5)

3. After about 30 min put them on wax paper in the oven on warm for 10 min.

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4. Remove from oven and let continue to dry.

5. We painted the lids too with just acrylic craft paintbanks (5 of 5)

DIY Easter Empty Tomb Craft

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Our empty tomb after the chia seeds grew! Love it!

Easter is just around the corner! One off my favorite times of the year.  Not only is it a spring, with all things new, beautiful flowers, and bright colors, it’s also the celebration of Jesus dying on the cross and raising from the dead.

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This was our inspiration photo that has been floating around the internet. My mom shared the photo with me.

My mom sent me a picture to make an empty tomb decoration with my daughter.  My daughter was incredibly excited about it (she loves watching the stories of Jesus on my iphone Bible for Kids app by YouVersion and reading in her Bible).  We got so excited we set out looking around the house for the supplies.  Luckily, we found everything we needed…thus also learning the value of recycling, re-purposing, and saving our financial resources.  I love craft projects that don’t require purchasing anything and yet you are still able to make something new and beautiful.

Here’s what you need:

  • A small terracotta pot (ours might be a little big but again, we were trying to repurpose things we had)
  • A round pan, or pot bottom/tray
  • Some rocks
  • Some dirt
  • Chia seed, grass seed, or moss
  • Some sticks
  • Pipe cleaner, glue, or other means of fastening the cross

It’s pretty simple to complete once you have all the supplies (and feel free to improvise as needed). We used chia seeds and after the first few days, the dirt was so dry I was worried that they wouldn’t grow and was planning to go buy some moss.  However, today I noticed  a few little sprouts. I’ll post a picture as it gets green!  I was just too excited not to share this now so that others could do it for Easter too! (SEE OUR PICTURE AT THE TOP OF THIS POST!)easter (1 of 2) easter (2 of 2)

Does my child have the power to pray for miracles?

When I became a parent, I knew I wanted to impart my faith onto my family’s next generation.  I wasn’t really entirely sure how to do it, aside from the way it was modeled to me through my parents.  I’ve had friends that I’ve watched and picked up on little bits and pieces here and there.  But aside from that, I wasn’t really sure where to start.

We did the usual praying bedtime prayers, occasionally talk about God, attend church on Sundays, etc. But I truly felt like there was something deeper and more meaningful; I just didn’t know how to get there.

Upon happenstance my husband and I attended a one night seminar at our church for parents.  I absolutely LOVED it! It was exactly what I had been looking for and I wanted to learn more.  I picked up his book Give Your Kids the Keys: Navigating your Child to a Personable and Sustainable Faith. Within no time at all, I felt like I had little things I could do  to help move my daughter into a direction of establishing her own faith and reliance on God.  And the biggest thing….she doesn’t have to be grown to do it! I was floored with the way God showed up in her and our family within days of attending the seminar and beginning to read the book. (For example, the next morning, she independently came into my room, picked up my bible, and asked to read about God).

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A few things I learned (or were refreshed for me)…

  1. My 2 year old can pray for people and see God heal them! Yes, powerful! Why do we sometimes believe that children’s prayers are any less powerful than prayers from adults.  Honestly, their humility and innocence probably lends themselves to pray more powerful prayers than most adults can pray.
  2. It doesn’t take a lot to begin the journey.  I started talking about God in small ways. Whenever I saw evidence of Him, I shared it with her.  And honestly, this really helped open my eyes to all the ways God IS moving in our lives.  When you are diligent to point things out to someone else, you begin to see and notice them way more.  Instead of saying things like “that’s just the way it is” to her unending “why” questions, I know reply with “God thought it would be beautiful to make it that color so he did” (for example).
  3. My bedtime prayers with her are much different than they were before.  I pray with her modeling how we should pray…for those in need, those who are sick, with thanksgiving, etc.  I give her the real nitty-gritty stuff and don’t dumb down my prayers to what I feel is “child appropriate.”  I pray for world problems, family problems, finances, health, whatever needs prayer and is on my heart at that time.
  4. When I do my prayer/devotional time (which isn’t as often as it should be I will admit), I let her do it too.  With her bible in hand, I show her how to look through the pictures.  Sometimes I’ll ask her to look for a particular thing (such as a rainbow or a bird)…thus teaching her to search the Bible for things or answers.  I feel like the bible is usually the last place I look for answers and in all honesty, it should be the first place I go.
  5. The most recent thing I feel God has placed on my heart is the lack of scripture I can readily recall.  As a child, teen, and even young adult I was able to recite, locate, and flip through scripture very easily.  Those skills have dwindled over the years.  So a habit my family has decided to start is to pick a bible verse of the week.  We’ll read that verse daily (maybe even multiple times a day).  If my daughter can recite pages from a book that we’ve read only a few times, think of how powerful it’ll be if she begins to be exposed to the word of God in that sort of repetition as well!  Not to mention, we’ll be doing it as a family, growing closer to God together! Powerful stuff!