Archive for the ‘Family’ Category

Should You Watch Over Your Tween Online?

April 16, 2015

How to walk the fine line between giving them personal space and keeping them safe.
Originally posted on WebMD Magazine

In the early 1980s, in the evening after dinner, you could often find my 11-year-old self looking for privacy under my father’s desk — the looped phone cord stretched taut — talking to one of my girlfriends, Jenny, Amy, or Caitlin.

What we talked about — crushes, clothes, classes — is much like what our daughters are “talking” about today. But they’re doing it with their fingers as they engage in text messaging, IMs, taking and sending photos, and online chatting. And, like many parents I know, I often feel intimidated by these tools, even a touch afraid. Who might be trying to communicate with my kid? Will my children’s private texts and emails be forwarded? How exactly is IM used?

Nancy Willard, director of the Center for Safe and Responsible Internet Use, says helping young people navigate these new social landscapes requires a rational head and engaged parenting. Willard is the author of Cyber-Safe Kids, Cyber-Savvy Teens: Helping Young People Learn to Use the Internet Safely and Responsibly. The good news is she believes the risk of predators and other dangers is wildly overestimated in the public’s imagination.

Teaching Your Kids Online Values

While it is true that many of today’s parents are “technological immigrants” — accommodating but not fully at home with new communication methods — Willard says the core values parents strive to teach children about social interactions remain the same: consideration, respect, and kindness.

Staying involved in your tween’s communications is step one, Willard says. “If your daughter is texting, you need to be one of the people she’s texting,” she says. By being in the mix, you are better situated to know whom your kids are communicating with and what they’re communicating about. And you will be more likely to be aware of a bullying text or an intrusive IM.

“It’s all about teachable moments,” Willard says. Help your children learn how to handle a bully’s email, just as you would offer them strategies for dealing with a bully on the school bus.

Another important element is to avoid overreacting if something goes wrong – for instance, if your child forwards a gossipy email or posts an inappropriate picture. “Your child needs to know that he or she can come to you and you’re going to work together to solve problems,” Willard says.

Three Digital Do’s for Parents

Think, then send.“The more embarrassing or damaging the material you post, the greater the likelihood it will spread widely,” Willard says. Parents need to teach kids not to write or type anything they wouldn’t say to someone face to face.

Face your own fear.Being hyper-concerned about kids’ texting and instant messaging can be dangerous. “Fear is interfering with the positive relationship we need to have between parents and kids to protect them,” Willard says. “It’s causing kids not to report because parents overreact.”

Get involved.“One time, some boys were sending my daughter sexually harassing messages,” Willard says. “I told her, ‘If you get a message from any of these people or about the situation, I need to see it so we can look at it and make sure you’re resolving it.'” When your child needs help negotiating a situation, be there.


What to Expect from a Vacation Nanny

April 1, 2015

Originally posted on the INA Blog.

When planning a vacation with children it is an option when traveling with children to have a vacation nanny.  There are several reasons why people opt to have help on their vacation or during a family or business travel trip.  The reasons range from needing an extra set of hands during the family vacation, to planning date nights, providing coverage when working or at a conference, and providing household assistance and or cleaning services.  Below are various ways that visitors use a vacation nanny when traveling.

Vacation Nanny:

Many families when traveling simply want the luxury of having an extra set of hands while on their trip.  They may have someone who works full days traveling around the city with them or spends the days at the beach or the pool acting as a nanny/entertainer for young children.  They may utilize the nanny not only during the day but as night as well, providing nanny services while the adults have dinner out/do a date night.  A vacation nanny should be expected not only to provide safe and reliable child care, but assist the family in covering nap times, planning fun activities for the kids, and educating the family about activities appropriate for the kids in the local area.  They can provide light housekeeping services as well to make things run smoother so the family is better able to fully enjoy their trip.

Hotel Nanny:

From time to time families will request a nanny for a single night out or a few nights out during a trip.  Many of the times these a date night vacation nanny will arrive with some games, activities, and the ability to be nurturing and put the kids to bed while the parent’s go out on the town.  They are used to working in a hotel environment with different kids who need “warming up” and the nanny should have a strong capability to be energetic and easily adaptable.  Vacation nannies are used to coming in to a situation where they do not know the kids and quickly building a relationship where the kids are able to have a great time and feel comfortable.

Conference/Work Trip Nanny:

There are a lot of families who come to town and need a nanny to cover time when they will be working or attending an event. A nanny that comes to a hotel to cover work time usually plans an outing or activities for the kids/babies.  They follow the regular or requested schedule of the family and are used to working in hotel rooms.  They are able to provide a fun, safe, environment while Mom or Dad is busy working for the day and adapt quickly and easily to the needs of the family.

Housekeeper Nanny:

From time to time when families are traveling they rent vacation homes and like to have daily assistance in the home cooking and cleaning.  This is considered a Housekeeper Nanny and can be very helpful in creating a great environment in a vacation rental.  This nanny can also provide childcare services within reason of being able to maintain the housekeeping tasks and cover things like parent’s night.

Hiring a vacation nanny can meet many different types of needs and requests.  If you are interested in learning more about the different types of coverage that can be provided when traveling and considering a vacation nanny consult with an INA member nanny agency for options and availability in your destination.

Talking to Children About Race – Where to Begin

March 26, 2015

Originally posted on Nanny Magazine.

When we encourage children to ignore the ethnic and racial differences around them, we often hope that this will result in creating a “color-blind” child.   There’s nothing wrong with wanting children to recognize the shared humanity in one another, but this “color-blind” approach is flawed for several key reasons.  First, it ignores the fact that children notice difference all the time.  Young children often sort their toys and other materials into color groups, and children of all ages are asked to engage in this kind of sorting and categorizing in school.  The lack of open discussion around race can also inadvertently contribute to the formation of biases and stereotypes.  On the one hand, children are told that race is a superficial difference that should be ignored.  On the other hand, they observe real inequities across racial lines, such as more people of color living in impoverished neighborhoods in their communities.   They are left to draw their own conclusions, which will most likely not be based on a historic or systemic understanding of racism.   In order to promote equity and inclusivity, we would do better to give our children a basic understanding of race and racism from early on.

Developmental guide to talking about race for ages 3-8.

3-4 year olds

At this age, children are full of curiosity about the world. Read picture books that celebrate all the different shades we come in.  Some of my favorites are: The Skin You Live In by Michael Tyler, All the Colors of the Earth by Sheila Hamanaka and Skin Again by Bell Hooks. Emphasize that the diversity of skin tones makes the world a richer, more beautiful, and interesting place!  Go to a paint store and get all different colors of paint chips.  Compare your skin tones to the paint chips and use these names as inspiration for poetry or artwork. Use the book Tan to Tamarind by Malathi Michelle Lyengar to explore poems about the color brown, a color often left out of children’s poetry and songs.  After reading the poems, use brown spices such as cinnamon, cloves, coffee grounds, and nutmeg to make art.  Help children come up with descriptive language around how these spices feel and smell.  The result is a collection of beautiful associations with the color brown, and this activity can work to combat and prevent any biases that may be forming. 

5-6 year olds

At this age, children begin to voice their questions about why we are the way we are. Read books that give a more scientific explanation of where skin colors come from, such as All the Colors We Are by Katie Kissinger.  This is also the time to give children language they can use to be inclusive with one another, and to build their empathy around differences.  For example, when a child expresses curiosity about a friend or classmate’s hair, take the opportunity to read books about different hair types in order to teach about why we have different hair and why it’s important to appreciate and respect this difference.  Two good books for this are Hair Dance by Dinah Johnson and Hairs/Pelitos by Sandra Cisneros.

It is also important to talk explicitly about racism, so that children can recognize situations of bias and racism when they occur.  Use puppets to act out scenarios of exclusion around skin color and engage children as problem solvers to come up with inclusive solutions.  As they learn about the Civil Rights Movement, help children make sense of the larger themes around social justice by connecting these themes to something familiar and personal.  Read children’s books that have “change-makers” in them.  The Lorax by Dr. Seuss is a good one!  Also, seek out stories of key figures of the Civil Rights Movement of all races, genders, and ages, in order to help children appreciate that diverse groups work together to bring about big changes, and to allow all children to find anti-racist role models.  Learn about Claudette Colvin, the black teenager who refused to sit in the back of the bus, James Reeb, the white pastor and Civil Rights activist in Washington D.C., and Ruby Bridges, the young black girl in New Orleans who attended an all white school in 1960.

7-8 year olds

At this age, children should have a basic understanding of where skin color comes from, how to be inclusive with one another, and how to recognize bias or racism when they see it.  If they don’t have this basic understanding, go back to the section on 3-4 year olds and start there!  Think of it as how you might approach helping a child gain a basic understanding of math in order to be prepared for higher math classes.  There’s no shame in “skilling up” in any important learning area, whether it be math or learning about race, racism, and empathy.

Help children find books to read that feature characters of all different races, and not just the books that tell stories around racism, though those are important.  It is also important that children see characters of all races in “every day” books, experiencing relatable problems and situations.  This will help expand their ability to empathize with all different kinds of people.  This is especially important as children begin to pay attention to, and receive more, messages about people of color in TV shows, advertisements, and movies that are not always positive or affirming.

It is also important to monitor the media that children are watching, and to point out instances of stereotyping when they occur.  Ask children to think critically about the characters in the movies, television shows, and music videos they watch, or the video games they play.  Are there an equal number of characters of color and white characters?  Who are the “good” characters and the “bad” ones?  Who gets to be the main character?  One of the best ways to prevent or combat biases is to become critical thinkers, rather than passive absorbers, of the often explicit, and at times, implicit, media messages about race.

Continue to create space for children to ask their growing questions about race and racism.  And if you don’t know the answers or how to respond, it’s okay to say, “I need to think about that and get back to you,’ and then do some reading to increase your own knowledge.

10 Things You Should Never Say to Your Kids

March 20, 2015

l_101765248Originally posted here.

You probably wouldn’t use old-school phrases like “Wait until your father gets home” or “I wish you were more like your sister” with your kids. But there are lots of less obvious ones that you should avoid, for their sake and yours.

1. “Great Job.”

Research has shown that tossing out a generic phrase like “Good girl” or “Way to go” every time your child masters a skill makes her dependent on your affirmation rather than her own motivation, says Parents advisor Jenn Berman, Psy.D., author of The A to Z Guide to Raising Happy, Confident Kids. Save the kudos for when they’re truly warranted, and be as specific as you can. Instead of “Super game,” say, “That was a nice assist. I like how you looked for your teammate.”

2. “Practice makes perfect.”

It’s true that the more time your child devotes, the sharper his skills will become. However, this adage can ramp up the pressure he feels to win or excel. “It sends the message that if you make mistakes, you didn’t train hard enough,” says Joel Fish, Ph.D., author of 101 Ways to Be a Terrific Sports Parent. “I’ve seen kids beat themselves up, wondering, ‘What’s wrong with me? I practice, practice, practice, and I’m still not the best.'” Instead, encourage your child to work hard because he’ll improve and feel proud of his progress.

3. “You’re okay.”

When your child scrapes his knee and bursts into tears, your instinct may be to reassure him that he’s not badly hurt. But telling him he’s fine may only make him feel worse. “Your kid is crying because he’s not okay,” says Dr. Berman. Your job is to help him understand and deal with his emotions, not discount them. Try giving him a hug and acknowledging what he’s feeling by saying something like, “That was a scary fall.” Then ask whether he’d like a bandage or a kiss (or both).

4. “Hurry up!”

Your child dawdles over her breakfast, insists on tying her own sneakers (even though she hasn’t quite mastered the technique yet), and is on pace to be late for school — again. But pushing her to get a move on creates additional stress, says Linda Acredolo, Ph.D., coauthor of Baby Minds. Soften your tone slightly by saying, “Let’s hurry,” which sends the message that the two of you are on the same team. You can also turn the act of getting ready into a game: “Why don’t we race to see who can get her pants on first?”

5. “I’m on a diet.”

Watching your weight? Keep it to yourself. If your child sees you stepping on the scale every day and hears you talk about being “fat,” she may develop an unhealthy body image, says Marc S. Jacobson, M.D., professor of pediatrics and epidemiology at Nassau University Medical Center, in East Meadow, New York. It’s better to say, “I’m eating healthy because I like the way it makes me feel.” Take the same tack with working out. “I need to exercise” can sound like a complaint, but “It’s beautiful outside — I’m going to take a walk” may inspire her to join you.

6. “We can’t afford that.”

It’s easy to use this default response when your child begs you for the latest toy. But doing so sends the message that you’re not in control of your finances, which can be scary for kids, says Jayne Pearl, the author of Kids and Money. Grade-schoolers may also call you on this claim if you turn around and make an expensive household purchase. Choose an alternative way to convey the same idea, such as, “We’re not going to buy that because we’re saving our money for more important things.” If she insists on discussing it further, you have a perfect window to start a conversation about how to budget and manage money.

7. “Don’t talk to strangers.”

This is a tough concept for a young child to grasp. Even if a person is unfamiliar, she may not think of him as a stranger if he’s nice to her. Plus, kids may take this rule the wrong way and resist the help of police officers or firefighters whom they don’t know, says Nancy McBride, executive director for the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, Florida Regional Office, in Lake Park. Instead of warning her about strangers, bring up scenarios (“What would you do if a man you don’t know offers you candy and a ride home?”), have her explain what she’d do, then guide her to the proper course of action. Since the vast majority of child-abduction cases involve someone a kid already knows, you might also adopt McBride’s favorite safety mantra: “If anyone makes you feel sad, scared, or confused, you need to tell me right away.”

8. “Be careful.”

Saying this while your child is balancing on the monkey bars at the playground actually makes it more likely that he’ll fall. “Your words distract him from what he’s doing, so he loses focus,” says Deborah Carlisle Solomon, author of Baby Knows Best. If you’re feeling anxious, move close to spot him in case he takes a tumble, being as still and quiet as you can.

9. “No dessert unless you finish your dinner.”

Using this expression increases a child’s perceived value of the treat and diminishes his enjoyment of the meal itself — the opposite of what you want to accomplish, says Parents advisor David Ludwig, M.D., Ph.D., director of the New Balance Foundation Obesity Prevention Center at Boston Children’s Hospital and author of Ending the Food Fight. Tweak your message along these lines: “First we eat our meal and then we have dessert.” The wording change, though subtle, has a far more positive impact on your child.

10. “Let me help.”

When your child is struggling to build a block tower or finish a puzzle, it’s natural to want to give him a hand. Don’t. “If you jump in too soon, that can undermine your child’s independence because he’ll always be looking to others for answers,” says Myrna Shure, Ph.D., professor emeritus of psychology at Drexel University in Philadelphia and author of Raising a Thinking Child. Instead, ask guiding questions to help him solve the problem: “Do you think the big piece or the little one should go at the bottom? Why do you think that? Let’s give it a try.”

10 Things Every Parent Should Know About Play

March 4, 2015

2girlsOriginally posted here.

1.  Children learn through their play.
Don’t underestimate the value of play. Children learn and develop:

cognitive skills – like math and problem solving in a pretend grocery store

physical abilities – like balancing blocks and running on the playground

new vocabulary – like the words they need to play with toy dinosaurs

social skills – like playing together in a pretend car wash

literacy skills – like creating a menu for a pretend restaurant

2. Play is healthy.
Play helps children grow strong and healthy. It also counteracts obesity issues facing many children today.3. Play reduces stress.
Play helps your children grow emotionally. It is joyful and provides an outlet for anxiety and stress.
4. Play is more than meets the eye.
Play is simple and complex.  There are many types of play: symbolic, sociodramatic, functional, and games with rules-–to name just a few. Researchers study play’s many aspects:  how children learn through play, how outdoor play impacts children’s health, the effects of screen time on play, to the need for recess in the school day.5. Make time for play.
As parents, you are the biggest supporters of your children’s learning. You can make sure they have as much time to play as possible during the day to promote cognitive, language, physical, social, and emotional development.6. Play and learning go hand-in-hand.
They are not separate  activities. They are intertwined. Think about them as a science lecture with a lab. Play is the child’s lab.

7. Play outside.
Remember your own outdoor experiences of building forts, playing on the beach, sledding in the winter, or playing with other children in the neighborhood. Make sure your children create outdoor memories too.
8. There’s a lot to learn about play.
There’s a lot written on children and play. Here are some NAEYC articles and books about play. David Elkind’s The Power of Play (Da Capo, 2007 reprint) is also a great resource.9. Trust your own playful instincts.
Remember as a child how play just came naturally? Give your children time for play and see all that they are capable of when given the opportunity.
10. Play is a child’s context for learning.
Children practice and reinforce their learning in multiple areas during play. It gives them a place and a time for learning that cannot be achieved through completing a worksheet. For example, in playing restaurant, children write and draw menus, set prices, take orders, and  make out checks.  Play provides rich learning opportunities and leads to children’s success and self-esteem.

Things to Do in January with Your Family

January 19, 2015

mom-daughter-musicOriginally posted here.

January may seem like a dreary month since it can get so cold outside. But you can find plenty of fun things do in January with your family in this first month of the new year with activities and celebrations that make all of you forget about the weather outside.

Enjoy Winter Activities Together
Kids are playing indoors more these days. Keep them busy without video games. Try a complete list of winter activities for kids that will entertain your children until the spring thaw.

Play Indoors
Staying in the house doesn’t mean the kids have to park it in front of the TV. There are plenty of indoor activities for kids that involve active games, pretend play and creativity exercises.

Sign Up for Music Classes
New sessions of kids’ music classes start this month and many programs are geared toward the school-age child, all the way down to classes for mommies and babies. Not interested in classes? Try music activities with kids that allow you to strike up the band on your own terms.

National Hobby Month
Find a new hobby to enjoy with your children during National Hobby Month. Explore many fun hobbies, such as jewelry making, rubber stamping, origami, painting and more.

National Soup Month
Warm up your winter days with hot soup. National Soup Month is the perfect time to get your kids in the kitchen to make soup together. Whip up a batch of chicken soup,vegetable beef soup, bean soup and more.

National Staying Healthy Month
Cold and flu season is kicking into high gear. Keep kids safe and healthy with these winter health tips. Get your children involved with health, safety and nutrition worksheets.

National Thank You Month
Practice the gift of “thank you” during National Thank You Month. Encourage your kids to write thank you notes and show them how to make those thank you cards special.

Oatmeal Month
When else do you get to celebrate all things oatmeal? Make oatmeal cookies together. Send them off to school with a bowl of warm oatmeal in their bellies.

33 Fun Christmas Activities for Kids (and Big Kids)

December 16, 2014

Make this your family’s most festive season ever with these great new Christmas activities for kids.

Originally posted here.

1. On the fridge, post a holiday-gift wish list for every family member.2. Each year let the kids pick out one ornament to buy.3. E-mail Santa at

4. Capture fun holiday moments: Place disposable cameras all over the house.

5. Have the kids stage a reenactment of the Christmas or Hanukkah story.

6. Give small 1st-of-December gifts to family members.

7. Go to a tree farm and cut down your own evergreen.

8. Host a holiday hair-wrap party for your daughter’s friends.

9. Enjoy wine and cheese while you and your guy fill the stockings.

10. Remind Santa to write a thank-you note for the milk and cookies.

11. Have the kids leave a bowl of baby carrots on the lawn for the reindeer.

12. Buy everyone striped long johns (

13. Create a Kwanzaa family-history book. For details, see

14. Grab hot cocoa and go caroling.

15. Attend a religious service entirely different from your own.

16. Leave “Ho, ho, ho, it’s off to the mall we go” on your answering machine.

17. Ask grandparents to recall their holiday memories on a tape recorder.

18. Love advent calendars? Find cool ones at

19. Tour the neighborhood in search of dramatic decorations.

20. Ask each family member to write a verse for a special holiday poem.

21. Let the kids hand out the gifts on Christmas morning.

22. Open presents slowly, so everyone has time to “ooh” and “ahh.”

23. Call your chamber of commerce to track down any holiday festivals.

24. Turn out all the lights, then get dazzled by your sparkling tree.

8 Things Teachers Wish Parents Knew

October 8, 2014

Originally posted here.

The parent-teacher relationship is indeed a special one. When you’re both on the same page, you can pave the way for a (hopefully!) smooth school year. But often parents don’t realize it’s their own common misconceptions that are causing bumps in the road. So we asked teachers what they’d tell parents point-blank if they had the chance — and some of their answers might surprise you.

1. “Attending back-to-school night can really help us both.”
It’s not just the same spiel every year. Often, your child’s new teachers will also have new policies and procedures to tell you about. If you miss out, you might not know to look in your kid’s backpack for important papers each day (like information on picture day or the school play) or what sort of homework schedule to expect.

2. “If your kid’s having a bad morning (or a bad week, or a bad month), let me know when you drop him off.”
You don’t have to go into detail, but it can make for an easier day if your child’s teacher knows that he might be feeling a little bit off.

3. “I can tell when your kid isn’t getting enough sleep.”
Teachers are noticing that kids just don’t have bedtimes like they used to. If your kid stays up too late watching TV or playing on the computer, it can affect how he feels and acts during the day.

4. “I buy school supplies (with my own money) for a reason.”
It’s a sad truth, but many schools just don’t provide teachers with the budget they need to help their classroom activities run smoothly. So take care to not lose that sturdy folder (filled with helpful memos) that the teacher sends home with your kid every day. And if he or she asks you to chip in for classrooms supplies, do what you can.

5. “If you have younger kids, you can’t trust them to tell you everything that happens at school.”
So check their backpacks for homework assignments, permission slips, or notes home. And take advantage of parent-teacher conferences to get some undivided time with the teacher.

6. “When your kid gets older, it doesn’t mean you can start being less involved.”
In high school and middle school, you might be tempted to ease off the gas when it comes to checking in on what your child does at school. But teachers report that setting a positive example, and taking interest in your kid’s education, is still critical in the later years.

7. “I work on the weekends.”
If you still believe that teaching is a part-time job, educators would like to remind you that they regularly put in extra long days and catch-up on classroom prep on the weekend.

8.  “You can ask me anything.”
If there’s one thing teachers want from their students’ parents, it’s more communication. Teachers view education as a collaborative process between them and the parent, so if you have a question or concern, definitely speak up! The clearer you are with other, the easier and more productive the year will be.

Successful Nanny Shares: The Parent’s Perspective

October 1, 2014

Originally posted here.

One of the things I often hear people say about hiring a Nanny is that it is “only for the rich”.

While it is obviously true that using in-home childcare may be more expensive than using a childcare center, the benefits of a Nanny can be made more accessible when a Nanny is shared.

Share a Nanny? I didn’t know you could do that,” I hear you say. Well, yes, it is possible to share a Nanny in many circumstances, and it is a great way to get access to all the wonderful things that in-home childcare can provide, for a fraction of the cost. It also has the extra bonus of providing extra socialization for the children involved.

Nanny share is quite simple. It involves one Nanny caring for the children of two families at once – up to four children in total. (Our agency’s ratio of 1 to 4 precludes more than four children being cared for in this way.)

In practice, Nanny sharing works best when all the children gather in one of their homes. Most often the home used alternates between the two families in some pattern – it can be daily, or week-about, or whatever works.

Typically each family pays the nanny for their share separately. This is a best practice from a tax perspective, making employment tax reporting simple, and qualifying each family for child care tax advantages.

Other than payroll, all aspects of care are handled jointly. At the start, we interview parents from both families together, and we select potential nannies based on the families’ joint needs. Later, all client liaison visits are held jointly, which presents an opportunity for any issues – including between families – to be ironed out quickly.

Before considering Nanny sharing, there are some things that need to be thought about.

In particular, you and your potential ‘share parents’ need to make sure that you are at one on matters of discipline, nutrition (e.g. sugar ‘allowances’), education (e.g. reading expectations) and screen time (TV, computers and games – and what can and cannot be watched or played on them). Nanny sharing simply won’t work if there is one set of rules for the children of one family and a different set of rules for the other. Where these things are in sync, and the two homes aren’t too far apart, Nanny sharing between two families can be a realistic and money-saving option well worth considering.

5 Simple Tips For Stress-Free Homework Time

September 25, 2014

Originally posted here.

We all know how hectic after school time can be and getting kids to sit down and focus on their homework is a daily battle that we all have to face as parents. I’ve so been there! After nagging, reminding….even forcing my kids to sit and get their homework done for too long, we started to make some changes that have helped our family.

Below you’ll find some simple tips that have made homework time more manageable in our home.

1. Have a snack.  Having a snack prepared for when the kids get home has made a big difference for us in cutting down on the chaos that comes with after school. I like to have a few healthy choices laid out on the table when the kids get home, my preschooler loves helping me set this out and when everyone arrives home I can focus on them and not snack. Snack doesn’t have to be elaborate. I like it to be something simple and healthy that the kids can eat while they work on their homework. Pretzels, apple slices, grapes, cheese strings. Sometimes I make a yummy batch of their favorite muffins. Getting the kids refueled after school is important and having a snack prepared ahead of time helps us get right down to business and get homework done!

2. Keep Homework supplies handy. Keeping homework supplies well stocked and in a central location has really helped us cut down on the amount of time we spend doing homework each afternoon and eased the stress of after school time. When the kids came home they used to spend 5 or more minutes searching for a pencil or other supplies they needed to complete their work, not to mention getting distracted at some point during their search. I set up a very simple and inexpensive homework station in our home that houses all things homework related – from filing the kids school paper work, to supplies like clipboards, pencils, erasers, crayons, rulers, etc. Everything is located right next to the table where we do homework and the kids know where to find everything they need.

3. Have clear expectations. Our kids know that when they get home from school it’s clean up and put away their school things, have a snack and complete their homework before screen time or playing with friends. After countless battles with getting kids to turn off the tv, or trying to gather them in from outside playing with friends to finish homework, this is what works for us. Without the distraction of tv or screens, homework gets done quicker and getting to watch a favorite show or go play with friends is just the incentive they need to stay on task and get their homework done quickly.

4. Activities for younger siblings. If you have preschoolers in your home it can be tricky to devote your time to helping older siblings with homework. What I’ve found works for my preschooler is to have an activity book set out with us at the table while the big kids do their homework. This is a special activity book that only comes out at this time of day and it’s become a special daily ritual that she enjoys!  She loves feeling like she’s a part of everything and doing her “homework” with the big kids, all the while she is occupied so that I can focus my attention on the older kids.

5. Develop a routine. Find an after school routine that works for you and stick with it. The key to having a stress-free after school time for our family has been having a regular routine, which includes putting shoes, backpacks and lunch supplies away first thing when the kids arrive home. Placing homework and papers at their spot at the table where we do homework. The kids sit down for snack and start on homework while they eat. We’ve fine tuned this routine and practiced it. We keep things the same and consistent and because the kids know what’s expected when they get home from school it’s taken the nagging from me out of the equation.

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