Sunday, November 25, 2012

5 Ways to Save Money on Christmas Toys

As everyone is well aware, Christmas is around the corner, and for parents of large families, that news can be scary. The reason is obvious - the more children you have, the more presents you have to buy.

For families with limited budgets, buying Christmas gifts can create dilemmas.

- Should you set a limited budget for each child in your family and stick to it?
- Should you listen to your child and provide them with the gifts they want?

This is a hard decision to make and there is no straight answer, considering children know that Santa has no budget.

Quality is always a good bet

Don't skimp on quality! It's better to spend more money on a solid, but sensible gift or toy, rather than something that will break within a few minutes or days.

Focus on One Good Present

It's always a good idea to buy one expensive and solid gift for each child, and then a few smaller gifts. Most children will be more than happy with a few more sensible secondary gifts, such as socks or sweaters, if the main Christmas gift that they receive is something they have dreamed about all year round.

Do not wait until the last minute

Toy stores traditionally will raise their prices, or at least do not offer the best sales as the festive season approaches, so if you have the funds available, the sensible move would be to buy the major presents in the off-season. Starting your Christmas shopping in July and August is often the best way to get good bargains. If you wait until the last week before Christmas to fulfill holiday wish lists, you may find yourself paying full price.

Do not discount second hand toys

There should be no shame attached in looking around for second-hand bargains in good quality used toys. Also, there are a lot of families with only one child who have outgrown some of their toys and may advertise them for sale in the local paper. Sometimes you can pick up a real bargain, make your child happy and spread your Christmas toy budget even farther.

Shop Online: Get deals and avoid the crowd

Take your time and thoroughly scan the Internet for bargains on toys. Once again, do your best to shop during the off-season, if possible. And, don't give those early purchased gifts to the recipients early! Wait until Christmas! Take into account such things as delivery charges and shipping times. Buying your Christmas toys online is a great way to save money and ensure that your budget goes even further.

Mike has been blogging about toys and has contributed several articles on the topics at Aside from blogging, Mike is a regular toys reviewer for various children magazines.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Are You a Mom or a Shrink? Yes and Yes

Mom and Daniel

Having kids is a humongous responsibility, as every parent knows. As a mother, you juggle the roles of nurse, day-care provider, maid, taxi-driver and even psychologist on a daily basis. You may not realize it, but the decisions that you make and the discussions that you have with your child every day are peppered with child psychology.

1.Reading the Signs

Every mother quickly learns the signals that her baby shows. According to Paul C. Holinger, working at Rush-Presbyterian-St. Luke's Medical Center as a professor of psychiatry, there are nine innate signals that babies use to communicate their feelings. Every time you head off a tan-trum, make your baby giggle or calm your child's fears before they set in, simply because you recognize his or her signals, you are using child psychology in your role as a mom.

2.Making Time for Play

Did you know that each time you play with your baby or toddler, you're helping to develop inter-ests that will last a lifetime? Ask any parent and they will tell you that babies are sponges, soak-ing up everything around them. Even when you think that you are merely playing with your child and enjoying your time together, you could be teaching her to sort, count, build, invent or create. According to child development professionals, children between the ages of six and 36 months are developing their fine motor skills; by playing with your child, you are not only helping to enrich their minds, but you are helping them perfect their physical abilities as well.

3.Establishing a Schedule

Do you have a set schedule or routine that you follow on a daily basis? You may think that this is merely a convenience for you but, in reality, it is doing wonders for your child's emotional state. According to child care experts, children who follow routine develop a trusting relationship with their care providers, have feelings of security and are more emotionally consistent. If you haven't established a routine for your child, give it a try. You'll experience fewer tantrums, less anxiety and witness your child's happiness blossom.
To develop a routine for your child, look at your daily schedule. Your little one should have a set bed time, eat at the same times every day, have play times and other daily routines. Once your child has a schedule, he or she will develop into a more confident, happy and secure child, and that will lead to a happier you.

4.If/Then Patterns

Have you ever noticed that your children are more compliant when you give them options? You may tell your child that he has to brush his teeth but can pick out his own toothbrush. You might tell your daughter that you will read a story but then she has to go to bed. You may even give your son choices like "if I let you...then you have to...". These if/then patterns all have roots in child psychology. Providing your child with choices is the key component to the democratic parenting style. Studies have shown that children raised in this manner tend to become more mature, better able to make decisions for themselves and more responsible overall.

5.Articulating Feelings

Talking about feelings goes a long way towards helping your child become emotionally ma-ture. Each time you tell your child what he has done to make you happy or what she has done to make you angry, you are helping him or her mature. Whether you're happy or frustrated, turning your emotions into a lesson will help you teach your child how to behave. For example, if your son behaved well in the restaurant, tell him so and tell him why it made you happy. If your daughter sprinted off in the middle of Walmart, tell her that you're angry and why. Give your child options when he misbehaves. For example, tell your son "I'm angry that you chose to mis-behave at Grandma's house; a better choice would have been to pet the dog nicely instead of pulling his ears."
You don't have to have attended one of the best psychology schools to under-stand that being a mom involves a heaping dose of child psychology. There's little doubt that you act as part mom, part shrink every day. If you would like to use a little bit more psychology in your parenting, there is a wealth of information online and in books; see what you can find! Chances are you're practicing child psychology without even knowing it.

Author Karen Boyarsky is an avid blogger. You can follow her on Twitter @Boyarsky_kareni.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Work-At-Home Parents - Coping With Children While You Work

As a work-at-home mom, I can attest to the difficulty level of trying to manage a household and work in the same environment that the children are constantly running around in.  For those who have what I would call the "luxury" of children in school during the day, you are so lucky! Although I have five children in school during the day, my three year old and my one year old are constantly home.

Until just recently, I worked in the middle of all of the action, at a computer desk situated either in the living room, the dining room, or sometimes my bedroom, when I really needed to try to separate myself from the chaos. However, it always seemed that I was so discouraged with the inability to work during the day that I took on the night shift, too.

This created two major problems:

a) I wasn't getting enough sleep, playing mommy all day and then working until 2 am, and then getting back up to play mommy again at 6 or 7 am.
b) I was severely limiting the amount of hours I could work.

Now that we've moved into a house with enough space for it, I have my own office to work in. :)

Despite the fact that I have a wonderful office that my dear hubby decorated to be nature-esque and calm and soothing, with a door that is kept closed when I'm working, I'm consistently telling children who think nothing of opening the door and calling out, "Mom!", followed by a question, comment, complaint, announcement, tattle tail, etc. Um, did you see that the door was closed??? What's the point of even closing the door?

So, how does a work at home parent set the boundaries that separate work from home on a level that the children understand?

Setting the Rules

Children need to know their boundaries and the rules. Surely, you already know this. And, although you would think that a dedicated office in the home setting adorned with a closed door would SIGNAL that you are working, that's simply not enough to keep the children from entering when they think they need you.

Therefore, a vital first step to making the home office work for both you and your children is to set down the ground rules. And, keep it simple, like, "When mommy - (or daddy) - has the office door closed, it means that I'm working". You will find yourself repeating this rule about 999 times before it really sinks in, but don't give up.

Now, you may not have the "luxury" of having an office, and I totally understand how this can be! You will still need to create a way to differentiate "work hours" from "mommy - or daddy - hours". Maybe you wear your "working shirt" or maybe when you are on the laptop, that signifies you are working. Come up with your own strategy and explain the ground rule.

Keeping them Busy

Once the rules are laid out, you can't just expect your kids to keep themselves busy...unless you're REALLY REALLY lucky! Make sure that all of their needs have been met - they're fed, they've had their drink, their diapers are fresh. Only then can you show them how to "work" while you work. :)

By the Ages

For little ones, grab two or three buckets of toys, organized into separate bins according to toy type. For example, a bucket of legos, a bucket of Hot Wheels and a bucket of building blocks...or army men, or baby toys. You know what makes your child tick - find it and start to play with them. Then, after about 5 minutes of play, tell them that you have to work and they can continue to build something beautiful for you - or something encouraging to help them on their way to individual play. While I'm lucky enough to have a 3 year old who will keep the one year old busy building and playing, this may prove to be another difficult task for those who don't. Keep working on it...they will eventually realize that they need to play while you work.

I've even given my littlest an old computer keyboard to bang on while I'm working - that seems to work for a little while. He thinks he's working, too!

For children ages 3-8 or 9, I would suggest movie or computer time if you need an hour or two to work during their waking hours. Yes, I know that doctors and child specialists will tell you to limit their television and computer time, but if you have to work, you have to work, right? Also, don't forget about little learning systems like Leap Frog and computer laptops for youngsters.

For parents with children who are older than 8 or 9, it shouldn't be as hard. Do they have homework to do? Can they read a book for an hour or two? Again, movies and games could be the ticket.

Don't forget coloring books and crayons for any age. You can even have the child/ren in your office, coloring quietly while you work.

Additionally, for those of you who simply cannot work until the older children come home, because your little one won't let you breathe, let alone work, you can recruit your older children to keep the little ones busy for a while.

Use Incentives!

Sometimes, nothing helps a parent more than a quick little negotiation session. "If you let mommy work for an hour, I will give you (fill in the blank). I will set the timer now, and when it beeps, you get (the reward).". Hey, a little bribing can go a long way!

Set A Schedule/Routine

It's a well-known fact that children adjust better to any situation when it's predictable. Therefore, if you set a schedule or routine for working during the day, you child/ren will get used to it. Yes, new schedules take time to get accustomed to, but it's worth every bit of effort.

So, look at a daily schedule that will work for your family. For example:

7:00-9:00 playtime - spend TIME with your child, that way this need of theirs is fulfilled
9:00 -9:30 breakfast
9:30-9:45 Introduce them to their "work" activity
9:45 to 11:45 Work time for you (you may have to insert a snacktime during this time frame, possibly a drink time, but if you get it prepared during breakfast time, it will be a quick 5 or 10 minute block out of your work time
11:45 to 12:45 lunch time/spend time with your child (and make sure you eat, too!)
12:45- 1:00 play with child, get child ready for movie or afternoon nap time (if you're lucky!), etc.
1:00 - 3:00 Work time for you (again, you may need a snack time in there)

Of course, you will need to adjust the times according to your child's needs, too, but there you have it, 4 hours of work time, even with the children home. No, it won't be easy, and it WILL require some work to get it right, but eventually, if you stick to the rules, the incentives, and the routine, you will find that you CAN work at home with children.

Please share your tricks of the trade in the comments!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Happy Election Day!

Don't forget to get out there and vote!!! 

While you're at it, check out Twitter! People are tweeting their "voted" status to show that they cast their vote for their favorite candidate. 
Get out there and #rockthevote ! 

Friday, November 2, 2012

Creating the Perfect Homework Environment for Your Child

Every parent knows that great students are organized, motivated and equipped with tools and resources. Most of the time, good study and homework habits do not come naturally to children, and these habits often need to be taught. Part of a child’s intrinsic desire to do well lies within the support and guidance of parents from an early age. Establishing and maintaining an environment in your home that fosters learning is an important part of your child’s potential to gain essential knowledge and skills

Set Up a “Homework-Only” Location

Ideally, this location should be a desk or a table with a hard surface. Supplies such as paper and writing utensils should be readily available as well. Most importantly, this location should be free of any distractions. Children who are able to concentrate are also more able to fully engage in their work, which may result in efficient work and study completion.

Create a Routine

Children who do their homework according to a schedule are often times more successful than those children who lack a routine. Routines help children to stay on task, which also fosters the child’s ability to self-discipline. Choose a time that is convenient for both you and your child and stick to your schedule. Repetition and follow-through will enable your child to autonomously adhere to his or her routine.

Have Help Available

When a child needs a little extra assistance, parents are often encouraged to “help children help themselves”. For example, having a dictionary nearby the homework location may be useful if a child does not understand a word. A computer or a local homework helpline number are also excellent resources to have handy. When a child is struggling or is having difficulty understanding their homework, make sure you are available as a resource as well.

Get Organized

Organization is highly conducive to educational success. In fact, a lack of organization can lead to missing assignments, confusion or poor grades. Help your child to get their notebooks, assignment notebooks and folders organized so that they can properly utilize them both at home and at school. Getting into the habit of writing in an assignment notebook is especially helpful for young children, and this habit will be equally significant down the road. Many parents like to check their child’s assignment notebook to help hold them accountable for the completion of their work.

When parents create an environment using the above tenants, they increase the likelihood that their children will have success in school. Most importantly, children will gain skills that will serve them well in the future and they will develop a natural motivation and love for learning.

Author Bio

Jennie is an Oshawa based private tutor who helps enjoying children master the fundamentals of math, English and science.

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