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11 Fun Outdoor Activities to Entertain Your Kids

Now that summer’s almost here, it’s time to put away the iPad and enjoy the great outdoors with our kids!

I’m not saying that you and your family need to partake in extreme sports; I am saying that you need to get outdoors. From a simple game in the backyard to a family camping trip, there are quite a few fun outside activities that will not only keep the kids entertained and active, but you too!

You don’t always need to spend a fortune on family fun, but you do need a good imagination and some energy (hello coffee—or sports drink!) to keep up with the kids! Here are 11 fun outdoor activities to enjoy the summer months with your favorite little people:

1. Backyard Camping

No need to go to the woods for a campout—just have one in your backyard! Don’t have a tent? Build a fort outside with old bed sheets and a few cushions.

If building a small fire isn’t an option, heat up some marshmallows in the kitchen—for s’mores of course! Throw in some more camping-type snacks (beef jerky, trail mix, etc.), some ghost stories, and a ball or frisbee to throw around, and you’re good to go!

2. Green Thumbs

This is for all you gardeners out there—get your kids involved in the garden too! It’s not only a fun activity for you and the kids, but it’s also a chance to combine fun and learning.

Give each child some seeds of their own to plant. Teach them how to water and tend to the plant as it grows. This fun activity helps teach kids a sense of responsibility for taking care of other living things (a great first step for that puppy they keep demanding!).

3. Kid-Friendly Paintball

If water balloons and paintball had a baby, this would be it! Fill the balloons with non-toxic, water-soluble paint, wear some old white t-shirts, and let the fun begin! Run around the grass and try to hit each other with as many balloons as possible, all while avoiding getting hit yourself.

Whoever has the least amount of paint on their t-shirt wins! This is the perfect game for some backyard fun or to play at a local park (just be sure to wash down the grass after the game is over).

4. Go Fish!

Fishing is not only fun, it’s an important survival skill. Plus, it teaches your kids to work for their food, helps them learn patience, and allows them to get hands-on with nature (and a little dirty!): putting worms on the hook, taking the fish off the hook, cleaning and filleting their catch—or throwing it back, depending on your own comfort level.

Find a local lake or river where fishing is allowed, and look up the rules for getting a fishing license—usually a simple process. Or if you live seaside and your budget permits, you might even consider taking the family deep sea fishing!

5. Take a Hike

Instead of relying on the tablet to keep your kids occupied, let nature take the lead. If you’re lucky, there should be a nature reserve nearby; if not, you may have to take a drive out of town. Either way, it’s worth it.

You’ll find that there’s plenty along the trail to keep them entertained, and a little physical activity never hurt anybody! Look up the trails ahead of time and choose a hike that meets your family’s comfort level—from a one-mile loop to a mountain hike, there are options for all activity levels! Just remember to stick to the marked trail and allow for plenty of daylight to finish the hike.

6. Slip ‘n Slide—Without Water

Say what?! Water is a precious thing and we shouldn’t waste it, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have some fun. Use shaving cream instead! Slipping down the slide will be just as fun (create a simple slip ‘n slide by spreading some plastic sheeting over the grass in your yard).

But don’t just watch—unleash your inner child and join your kids!

7. Play a Sport

Soccer, touch football, tennis, swimming—the list is endless. You and the kids can get some fun exercise (and it’ll tire them out for an early bedtime, fingers crossed!).

8. Have an Archery Tournament

All you need is some paint, a bull’s eye, and the kids’ toy bow and arrows. This activity is great for children’s hand-eye coordination, and hey—parents can show off their archery skills too!

9. Host a Family Olympics

Get the whole family involved and be creative with the sports and activities you include. Pair up with your kids so that each team has an adult and a kid (or three!)—or do kids vs. parents for the ultimate face-off!

10. Arts and Crafts

We could all do with some useful DIY projects now and then. Why not get the kids involved? They could help paint or assemble their playhouse, or even make some useful things for your home. Head out to the arts and crafts supply store for some kid-friendly home decor ideas.

11. Family Cookout

Family barbeques are always fun. Teach the kids some of your favorite family recipes and incorporate some of these outdoor activities into the day—whether it’s in your backyard or on a fun family vacation.

Imagination and Creativity is Where It’s At!

The sky’s the limit when it comes to outdoor activities. With some imagination and creativity, fun can be had by the whole family. Now that the weather is nice, get out there and enjoy some sunshine.

Don’t forget to snap some pictures to capture the moment!

emotional expression Family purposeful play

How Play Facilitates Learning in Children

“All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.” There might be more to this quote than you realize!

When it comes to our children, “play” isn’t just about fun—it’s also about healthy development. One important aspect of preparing our kids for school is providing them with plenty of opportunities for play and exploration during their toddler and pre-K years. Why? Because it facilitates social, physical, and emotional development—all instrumental areas for children’s growth.

What does this mean for us as moms? Simply put: prioritizing play and appreciating its importance in our kids’ lives. Let’s delve a little deeper into how play facilitates learning in children—and ways to incorporate it into our kids’ routines.

The Importance of Play in Learning

1. Emotional Expression and Social Development

Have you ever spent so much time with your toddler that you’re able to understand what they’re trying to say even if it’s mostly gibberish? While it’s great that you’re so in tune with your child, as they grow it becomes increasingly important for them to be able to communicate with others outside of their family circle. Their social world will continue to expand as they get older, and with that comes the need for them to express their emotions accurately—not only for others to understand them, but for them to understand others as well. So where does play come into this?

Play with siblings or other children exposes your kids to the emotions of others, and teaches them how to express and regulate their own emotions, as well as understand the emotions of others. Play helps children transition from being fully dependent on adults to regulate their emotions (such as comforting when they cry) to being able to regulate their emotions themselves by relating their own feelings to those of other children.

Action step: Day care or preschool are both excellent environments for children to play and interact safely with their peers. However, if you’ve opted to keep your toddlers home in lieu of day care, no need to worry: you can facilitate their healthy social interaction through frequent play dates and age-appropriate activities with other kids like storytimes, trips to the playground, mommy and me classes, Gymboree, etc.

2. Creativity

Imagination is at its purest when we’re children, and it’s easy see this in our own kids—their carefree outlook on life and the way they’re completely fascinated by the simplest of things. A cardboard box can become a car or spaceship, or a broomstick can become a horse. While we as moms may brush this off as kids being kids, our children are actually learning something in the process.

As they become older, kids begin to take up creative activities, and as messy as these projects may be (cleaning up their messes is always a struggle!), they actually learn basic math skills and problem-solving skills through creative play like finger painting, puppet making, dress-up, etc. They begin asking themselves questions like, “If I cut here, will it fit there?” and “Is this enough paint?” As they start translating imagination into something real, their thinking becomes more complex and they apply these skills in other aspects of their lives.

Action step: Look up some DIY art projects to do at home with your kids whenever you have some free time (evenings, weekends, or vacations for you working moms). These can be as simple as drawing with sidewalk chalk on the driveway, or more intricate such as dyeing Easter eggs. Also look for art-themed kids’ activities in your community—many children’s centers and libraries offer such programs for free.

3. Physical Skills

According to a report by Dr. David Whitebread of the University of Cambridge, physical play is related to the development of whole hand-eye and body coordination; and as you already know, it’s vital to building physical strength in children.

But what about “rough” play (chasing, wrestling) that’s often more of a nuisance than anything (because it easily ends in an injury or someone crying)? According to the same report, this type of play facilitates development of both emotional and social skills, as well as understanding. Furthermore, more physically rigorous outdoor play encourages self-regulation, resourcefulness, and independence. When we take the easier route and let our children play on the iPad or watch TV for hours at a time, we’re denying them the chance to develop these critical skills—and remain physically fit.

Action step: This type of play isn’t just for boys! The best way to encourage more rigorous physical activity in your sons and daughters is to model it for them: go to the park and challenge them to a race, or set up a mini soccer game with them. Toddler sports teams are also an excellent way to facilitate this type of play—most communities have different types of organized sports for even the littlest of tikes.

Purposeful Play

Play is an important part of our children’s development. Problem-solving, sharing, negotiation, and self-restraint are just a few of the skills children learn while they play.

As parents and teachers, we shouldn’t try to control or take over playtime, but we should provide additional opportunities for it and help redirect their thinking during regular play. For example, when children are having a “tea party,” rather than continuing to play it with them in the same way, parents can add a new component by saying, “Be careful, the teapot is hot.” Our little ones will then learn that teapots can be hot, and will repeat it to their peers the next time they play. Purposeful play provides a context to learning that children can understand.

The goods news? No need to feel guilty if your little ones are “playing too much.” They’re learning valuable life skills. Remember, it all starts at home!

Career Family

“Is This Job Right for Me?” Making the Right Career Choice for Your Family

One problem many of us face in life is picking a career. Either we have so many options, or, for whatever reason, our options are extremely limited. Do you go with what you really want to do, or do you go with the more “sensible” choice?

Making the right career choice becomes even tougher when you become a parent. Your priorities change, meaning your career values may change also. How do you make the tough decision between fulfilling your career goals while maintaining that work-life balance that will allow you to focus on your family as well? We’ve put together a list of questions you can ask yourself to help guide you through this difficult decision.

Does My Job Compromise My Responsibilities at Home?

Before you became a mom, your job was probably the main focus of your life. Now that you are a mom, your priorities have changed. Does your job fit into your lifestyle? Consider the following points:

Do company policies allow for flexibility in your schedule?
Does your job permit you to go to your kids’ school plays, football practices, or even sit down and eat dinner as a family?
If you have a newborn, are you still expected to travel for work?
What about dropping off and picking up kids at school?

In other words, does your job give you work-life balance, or is it slowly draining the life out of you and making you miss out on your children’s lives? Sure, that’s a loaded question, but try to be honest with yourself when answering.

Is it Adding Value to My Life?

Your career should allow you to make progress as an individual. So many of us stay stuck in the same job for years and years without challenging ourselves, mainly because it’s comfortable. Are you teaching your children to chase their dreams, or are you teaching them to settle? For many of us, it’s important to lead by example as parents.

Are you doing what you love and learning along the way or are you simply doing what you must to pay the bills? Does your job meet or even exceed your financial needs? Remember that you’re not only a mom, but you’re an individual with interests and goals. Going after those goals will make you—and your family—happier in the long run.

What’s Stopping Me From Making a Change?

Sure, we all have bills to pay, but don’t let that be your go-to excuse for staying in a job that doesn’t bring fulfillment in your life.

Oftentimes, we get in our own way. Either we think we’ll fail and won’t take the risk, or we convince ourselves that our goals are unrealistic. Check in with yourself to see if fear or uncertainty are standing in the way, or whether you are truly fulfilled in your current position.

What Are My Options?

Perhaps you chose your career because you wanted to help people. Find out if there are other ways you can serve your community that fit into your life as a mom and match your personality.

For example, as a doctor, you may find that the working hours are simply too demanding.
Why not venture into another branch of healthcare—one that would allow you to work from home and spend time with your family while still allowing you to help other people? Do some research into what these types of alternatives might look like.

You Do Have a Say!

The mere fact that you’re questioning whether your current job is right for you should serve as a red flag. Chances are that one or more aspects of your life are suffering because of your lack of fulfilment. Perhaps you rarely see your family because your working hours are demanding; maybe your career is at a standstill because of your family commitments; perhaps you barely have time for yourself because of both and so you’re unable to give your career or family the attention they deserve. You feel caught between a rock and a hard place. We get it!

We at Moms Making Six Figures are here to tell you that you don’t have to stay stuck. You can take back control of your life and do what’s right for you and your family. Work-life balance is within reach! Contact us at (858) 837-1505 or www.momsmakingsixfigures.com to learn more about joining our team.

Cleaning Family Life Hack

Life Hacks: Spring Cleaning Made Easy

As the saying goes, “Cleanliness is next to godliness.” Although a spotless, meticulously organized home feels great, the process to get there isn’t usually much fun.

Spring cleaning takes effort, time, and money—three things that many working moms don’t have enough of to spare. But either way, it needs to get done. With these spring cleaning hacks, not only will you need less effort, time, and money, but it’ll be more fun than ever before. Here’s how!

Hack 1: Out With the Old

Spring cleaning often seems like a mammoth task, but that’s probably because you’ve collected a whole lot of stuff that you don’t use anymore. Purging unused items is the first step to any successful spring cleaning process.

For example, if you’re packing away your winter clothes for the season, donate what you haven’t worn this winter. Ask the kids to put toys and games they don’t use anymore into a box, and donate those too. The furniture you inherited that’s been gathering dust in the garage? Sell it.

You’ll find that removing the clutter of unnecessary stuff will make the job much easier.

Hack 2: Get Everyone Involved

Many moms (myself included!) feel that tasks get done faster when we just do them ourselves. How many times have you asked your kids to do something, but then they mess it up and you end up having to do it yourself anyways? I get it! But, it’s only fair for everyone to chip in when it comes to spring cleaning. And, if you’re smart about it, your kids can be pretty successful at certain helpful tasks!

First, assign each child a task based on their age. It can be as small as having them make a pile of clothes that are too small, or place unused/broken outdoor toys in a box to get rid of—or as big as cleaning out the basement or the car.

The key is to take the time to show them what you want to be done and give clear instructions. A little family treat afterwards might help (dinner at the kids’ favorite restaurant, maybe?).

Hack 3: Use Multi-Purpose Products

This hack is all about killing two birds with one stone. Ideally, you want a cleaning product that multi-tasks for you, both cleaning and accomplishing another task simultaneously. Whether it’s a furniture cleaner that also conditions or a stain remover and deodorizer, it will save you time and money—especially when doing the deep cleaning that’s required this time of year!

Depending on your floor, you may want to invest in a floor cleaner that washes and waxes. This will help protect your floors and keep them cleaner—or at least make cleaning easier in the long run. You could also invest in a floor cleaner that cleans and shines at the same time, cutting the time you spend on the floors in half, and saving you money since you’ll need only one product.

Hack 4: DIY It!

Sometimes you don’t need all these fancy products to get the job done—what you have in your kitchen often works just as well! Here are a few household staples that can double as cleaning supplies:

Microwave to clean sponges: If you don’t have time to run to the store to get new sponges or simply want to save some money, don’t throw out your old sponges! Soak them in a mixture of water and lemon juice and then pop them in the microwave for one minute to disinfect them.
Vinegar to clean taps: To help remove lime scale and other stains around your taps, soak cotton wool pads in vinegar and use them to clean the area. Say goodbye to lime scale and hello to shiny taps!
Coca-Cola: Perfect to get rid of those oil stains on the garage floor: simply cover the area, let it soak, and rinse off.
Baking Soda: Sprinkle some baking soda on your bed or carpet to deodorize it and eliminate musty, moldy stains and odors.

Hack 5: Scale it Down

Avoid spring cleaning overwhelm by tackling one mess at a time. Clean one room or area completely before moving on to another. Dealing with a single area at once helps you avoid that feeling of frustration and enables you to better budget your time—and as working moms, our time is precious!

Hack 6: Make it Fun!

For many of us, spring cleaning isn’t something we look forward to. So why not try to make it a little more enjoyable? Crank up your favorite music, and feel free to throw in some dance moves while you’re at it! Or, instead of allocating rooms to everyone, clean certain areas together with the family, using that time to bond and maybe even engage in a little friendly competition (who can finish their clean-up faster?!)!

There are so many other life hacks to make spring cleaning easy, but these six tips are a good place to start. The key is not to get overwhelmed—so accept some help, break it down into smaller tasks, and congratulate yourself on a job well done!

Education Family Organization

Simple Life Hacks: Stay on Top of Your Kids’ School Paperwork

Life Hacks: What to Do With All The School Paperwork Kids Bring Home

Ever feel like you’ve just cleaned up, but then you look around and your living room is already full of your kids’ stuff? Me too!

As a working mom, your time is precious. The last thing you want is to spend most of it organizing the paperwork your kids seem to bring home constantly. It piles up pretty quickly, and then what?

If you’re tired of spending the school year frustrated with mountains of school paperwork, there’s no better time than the new year to put an end to the madness! But before you resort to throwing it all away (or find yourself starring in Hoarding: Buried Alive), I’ve got some simple life hacks that will help you manage, organize, and keep track of your kids’ school paperwork.

First Things First: Change Your Thinking

Many of us might think of anything that our kids bring home from school as important and worth saving. Not necessarily! Not every single bit of paperwork is important, and not everything is worthless either.

In order to stay organized, you need to realize that some things are worth keeping, and some just aren’t. With this thinking in place, let’s get down to the business of maintaining your sanity.

Digitize and Minimize

Scan or take photos of any of your kids’ school paperwork that can be kept in soft copy. This will allow you to recycle these papers, while still retaining the information or work you need. The bonus is that storage of soft copies takes significantly less space than storage of actual printed paperwork and creates zero clutter (YES to having less to clean up)!

As with all digital data, remember to back it up, just in case.

Set Up a Homework Station

It doesn’t have to be too fancy, just a desk and some shelves will do. But don’t be afraid to let your imagination run wild either. Setting up a homework station allows you and your kids to keep all school supplies (paperwork included) in one designated area, making it easier to deal with.

Start here: Label and/or color code desk drawers and shelves to keep papers organized. Create file folders for each class or subject matter and encourage your children to put all papers away as part of clean up before bedtime each night.

Invest in a Filing System

You and your kids should have separate filing systems. Your kids’ files belong in the homework station; yours belong elsewhere—your home office or a desk area where you keep other important papers like bills.

A great filing system will help you keep things organized and will give you a designated place to put paperwork as soon as it comes home. However, keep the number of files you have per child to a minimum – 2 should do:

One for class-related information
One for extracurriculars and forms

Get Your Kids Involved: Establish an After-School Routine

This will not only save you time but can be used to teach your children how to stay organized and responsible at home. An example of an after-school routine could be:

Notices, newsletters, schedules, upcoming events, and anything that needs to be signed, completed, or created should be placed in mom’s designated inbox for school paperwork.
Homework that needs to be done should be placed in mom’s action box.
Artwork, awards, and report cards can be pinned up on a wall, or displayed temporarily on the fridge.

Whatever your routine looks like, make sure it works for you and your family. Just be sure to get your kids involved in the process of organizing paperwork.

Temporary Art Gallery

As a proud mom, sometimes you can’t help but want to display your little Picasso’s pieces of art. Reuse old frames, tap into your DIY skills, and hang them up for a week.

If you really want to keep them long term, digitize and get rid of the originals. Yes, they’ll be cute to look at in a couple decades when they’re all grown up, but I guarantee the originals won’t last that long—and they’ll take up much-needed space!

Schedule Frequent Cleanups

Sometimes life gets hectic and despite our best efforts, school paperwork still piles up. Stay on top of it by scheduling one day each week or month (whatever works for you) to get rid of all the paperwork you no longer need or that is no longer valid.

Make this a family cleanup day—it’s another opportunity to get the kids involved in the organization and cleanup process!

Life Hacks: Consistency is Key

Life hacks are all about making small changes; and when it comes to organizing your kids’ school paperwork, staying consistent is key. These small changes are designed to make your life easier in the long run, and let’s face it—as moms, we could use all the life hacks we can get!

Take the time to implement these small changes, saving yourself time in the long run—moments that could be better spent on some me time (you deserve it)!

Family Holidays Work at Home

A Mom’s Guide to Being Present During the Holidays

The holiday season can be overwhelming for many of us as we juggle our various commitments to work, family, and hosting. After all, as working moms, our daily schedules are already never ending! While some of us are lucky enough to have helpful kids, spouses, and in-laws, chances are that mom’s still doing more than her fair share of the holiday prep.

With so much on our plates, it’s no wonder that some of us get a bit overwhelmed during what is supposed to be the happiest time of the year.

Take a deep breath and remember: Your time and love is the most valuable gift of all. The best thing that you can do for your family and other loved ones during this holiday season is to be present as much as possible and take care of yourself. It’s hard to accept that no holiday will be “perfect,” but it really is true that the little quirks and imperfections are what make each of our families unique and loveable.

Follow these tips to help you be more present during this especially meaningful time of year and ensure that this season will be fun, joyous, and truly memorable for all—especially you!

1. Set Your Intentions

It’s particularly important to prioritize things during the holiday season. After all, there can be so many fun events to take the kiddos to, so many gifts to buy, and so many meals to cook that it’s impossible to do everything! Instead of trying to fit it all in, take a few moments to figure out the three events and/or traditions that your kids, spouse, and you enjoy the most.
Whether it’s the community holiday parade, the school Christmas pageant, caroling with friends, or just a fun night of Christmas cookie baking, try to make sure that there’s at least one thing that each family member enjoys. While it’s likely that no one will get to do everything on their list, chances are that by considering each family member’s wishes, no one will end up dissatisfied.

As for gifts, while you will likely put more thought and money into gifts for your immediate family, there’s no rule that says you can’t institute a White Elephant gift exchange or even a Secret Santa system for groups of friends or extended family. This practice can add a sense of whimsy to your holidays while helping all of us avoid the post-Christmas credit card hangover.

2. Keep Up With Healthy Routines

This doesn’t mean that you can’t have a Christmas cookie (or two!). However, by keeping up with some healthy routines – or modifying routines to maintain some health benefits – you ensure that you (and the kids!) can physically and mentally handle all that the season has to offer. Your usually healthy practices may change dramatically this time of year, especially with holiday breaks for the kids, which is perfectly fine!

The good news is that there are fun ways to modify your healthy routines in moderation so that you and your family don’t get completely off-track during these fun-filled weeks. Take these scenarios, for example:
• Do you usually run to the gym after dropping the kids at school? Instead, let yourself get your exercise sledding or ice skating with the family over winter break.
• Used to eating salad and avoiding having sweets in the house? Don’t deny yourself that slice of pie, just make sure to eat a few extra veggies to even things out.
• Not sure how to handle all the down time with the kids? Go for a family walk around the neighborhood to look at Christmas lights – you’ll tire them out and get a little exercise at the same time!

This commitment to your holistic health will not only keep you feeling good (and ready for New Year’s resolutions) but also show your kids that health and wellness are consistent family values.

3. Give Yourself Free Time

Even if you need to literally write it into your day planner, make sure to allow yourself some “me time” during this busy season. Maybe just decide to spend an inordinate amount of time “wrapping gifts” in front of the TV or enjoying your favorite podcast. Or head out shopping but treat yourself to your favorite holiday drink on the way home.

Many of us may initially feel selfish by taking such time to ourselves, but remember that you don’t do your family any good if you’re grumpy and burnt out! Simply being well rested and energized will make you more fun to be around and elevate the mood of your loved ones.

4. Nurture Gratitude

In her classic novel, The Color Purple, Alice Walker offers the perfect remedy to frustration and gloom. Two of her characters cross through a field of flowers every day on their way to work until, one day, one of them suddenly realizes that these blossoms are actually a beautiful purple color. All throughout their lives, they had seen this gorgeous detail without ever really noticing it.

This story reminds us that we are surrounded by wonder and beauty. There are so many things to be grateful for, and this is especially true during the holiday season—whether it’s a classic Christmas song on the radio, some ridiculously cute wrapping paper, your child’s delight at holiday decorations, or even the joy of indulging in hot cocoa with marshmallows, there truly is infinite beauty in the details.

5. Find Joy in the Imperfections

As much as we try to convince ourselves otherwise, no matter how far in advance we plan and no matter how hard we try, something is bound to go wrong this holiday season. Someone is going to bring up politics or religion at a family event (I’m looking at you, Dave!). One of the gifts will likely get tagged for the wrong person. And, in our rush to cook everything, we may even forget to add eggs to the Christmas cookies.

Chances are, this holiday season is going to be far from perfect in a million tiny ways because, after all, to err is human! Allow yourself these small failures—that is, allow yourself to be an imperfect mom. Because, in reality, no one really remembers the disappointment of burnt turkey five years down the road when they have the memory of everyone laughing the mistake off and ordering Chinese afterward (a new holiday tradition?!).

Take a moment to think back to your favorite holiday memories. While, sure, they may involve a fabulous new bike or an adorable puppy, chances are that you cherish the moments spent learning to ride that bike with your dad or taking the dog for a walk with your mom more than the object itself. You may even remember the look of pride on your parents’ faces—joy from the fact that they were able to make you happy.

The fact is, we really can’t buy or cook or decorate our way to happiness—the real present lies in simply being present for our families and loved ones. Spending time together is what makes this season truly magical. Happy holidays!