Kids birthday parties are notorious for being extravagant wasteful affairs these days. The market is huge for all the party gear that is needed…the balloons, plates, napkins, favors, confetti, etc. They come in every theme known to man so that the birthday celebration can be a perfect example of the commercialization of our children. All of it has held very little appeal to me as a parent and I have chosen to “just say no” for years. For us that means we don’t do “themes” and we usually don’t even invite guests beyond family. In fact instead of parties we usually just plan a special event… a night at a hotel with a waterpark (for our two winter birthdays) and cake and gifts with parents and grandparents. Our summer birthday boy usually gets a paintball adventure.
It has been a very conscious decision not to buy into the commercialization of birthdays but I recently read a book that softened my heart to the idea of more traditional parties. The book is Naturally Fun Parties for Kids; Creating Handmade, Earth-Friendly Celebrations for All Seasons and Occasions. The book is gorgeous and some of the parties outlined in it reminded me of parties that might have been thrown for kids decades ago. They are simple yet elegant and fun for everyone, not just the wee birthdays guests. THESE are parties I can get behind…where Buzz Lightyear and Dora are nowhere to be found and there aren’t huge bags of garbage to be thrown out at the end.
The book is broken up into sections for each season, which is helpful but the intro talks about shopping thrift stores for party stuff, using regular plates and flatware, cloth napkins, and using nature as the centerpiece and backdrop of the party. I loved the themes too…pancake party, forest fairy party, natural spa party, strawberry picking/jam making party, winter solstice party, cooking party, upcycle art party and so on. There are plenty of ideas for both boys and girls and every party is perfectly outlined so you can reproduce it on your own. The pictures are sensational as well. I know my daughter would be thrilled by the spa party and the book includes recipes for facials and scrubs made with natural ingredients so that the attendees can have a spa experience without the toxins in conventional products. It is perfect for slumber parties too if you ask me.
I suggest that parents look a little less on Pinterest for birthday party ideas and check this book out instead. I highly recommend it! Enjoy!
See also: How to Host a Green Birthday Party
Spotted a few killer deals on Zulily today. I LOVE spotting deals for organics and for green toys because these things can get spendy! Might be time to start Christmas shopping…
Organic Leg Warmers:
Organic sheets sets for babies and toddlers:
If you are local, check out the giveaway at the end of the post…
Last week my two youngest kiddos, (my daughter’s friend), and my hubby hit up one of our favorite places in Columbus…the Science Center, COSI. We have been season pass holders off and on throughout the years but not of late so it had been awhile since we had been there for any length of time (minus that preschooler event in June). We were excited to check out the new Lego Castle exhibit though since all three of my kids are crazy for Legos. At their grandparents house they have ”Lego Room” filled with many, many thousands of Legos and work tables for all their marvelous creations. They are pretty serious about their Lego love.
So obviously this exhibit was a big hit with them. It had numerous places for them to build with Legos big and small, play with Castle props (dress up , joust, etc.), and of course see elaborate Lego creations built by other people, many of them children.
After spending the morning in this Lego wonderland we spent some time visiting the rest of the museum…the Ocean wing is always a favorite. My kids always manage to get wet…always.
Another new to us exhibit were the Jelly Bean works of art. Love!
A good time was had by all…
If you are local and want some passes, COSI was kind enough to give me a set of 4 free entry passes with 4 extreme screen passes. If you want a chance to win just comment and tell me what you love about COSI. Good luck!
Disclosure: I was given free passes/parking to attend this event. All opinions are my own.
When you are a kid, money can seem like a really huge deal. Any amount of money that a child gets can make them feel very important, and the first thing they want to do is go out and spend their money. That is exactly what consumer America encourages them to do in fact. In this day and age however, it might be a better idea for a child to save the money they get instead of going out to spend it. This is something we all need to learn how to do unless we want to live paycheck to paycheck. Here are some tips on teaching kids how to save money.
Try a money jar: Nothing can get your kid more excited about saving money than a money jar because it provides a visual reminder of their progress. Heck I still have a money jar and so do my parents! Try using a large glass Ball jar, and store it in a place where it is not likely to be broken, right in their room on a shelf or on their dresser perhaps. Want to make things even more exciting for your child? To really encourage your child to fill that jar with coins, let your child decorate that jar with colors or stickers or paint it any way they want!
Make a chart: Maybe you can turn saving money into a reward system! The more the kids fill that jar with coins, and with their savings they can earn special prizes. Another use for that chart is to help them save for a goal like a movie or toy they may want. When you create your chart, paste or tape a picture of whatever they want right at the top of the chart, so they will see them getting closer to that goal.
Children learn by example: Experts say that children learn things by the example they see from their parents. Do you have a change jar that you keep your loose change in? If you want your kids to start saving money, then you need to create a change jar or some of other visual way to measure savings of your own so you can set a good example.
Play the match game: To really encourage your children to save, try matching them dollar for dollar. Not only will your child be able to reach their savings goal. But you will really get them excited about starting to save for a new goal.
Use a banking program like ‘S’ is for Savings: This particular program involves a children’s savings account designed to give kids a financial foundation and it is modeled after their popular virtual wallet program. It helps kids practice saving, sharing, and spending. They literally drag and drop their money into different virtual jars showing how they want to divide it up. Parents can automatically deposit money into their kids account, like allowance. I like this concept because it not only teaches them to save it also teaches them how to manage a bank account.
Do you want your child to understand the importance of saving money? Teaching your kids to save money is important because it can show them what it can get them. You will be teaching your child an important lesson that they will take with them for the rest of their lives.
Disclosure: I was compensated by PNC for participating in this campaign. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
More and more frequently I get comments on this blog or on Facebook about how I should be homeschooling. Many are well meaning. They think homeschool rocks and they want me to experience this bliss myself. A handful are a tad condescending. I do understand that many parents concerned with self sufficiency, natural learning and living, homesteading, minimalism, etc do opt to homeschool. I do not.
Here are some of the reasons why:
1. I do not want to spend every waking moment with my kids. Yeah I said it and yes I will OWN it. I have always been an attached parent. I became a work at home mom and built my own business so that I could be the primiary caregiver for my kids. I breastfed on demand, tandem nursed, co-slept with all my babes, washed their nappies by hand, wore them in slings and carriers, and generally devoted myself to their care in their younger years. They never experienced daycare (aside from my oldest), nannies, or babysitters. I almost never spent an evening away from them or a day even since I was pretty much single parenting for 6ish years while my hubby had an over-the-road job. This took a toll on me and my marriage and I am now taking a look at other parenting philosophies that don’t put so much stress on mom to be all for her children, all the time. I may still sleep with a six year old wrapped around me at night like a pretzel but I also make sure that my husband and I are having our needs met for child-free time. Having our kids in public school creates a window of time for the adults, especially since my husband works second shift. I enjoy the time. I need the time.
2. I want my kids to be exposed to lots of different ideas and concepts, not just those I personally teach and endorse. On one hand I may tell you that I will happily “brainwash” my kids when it comes to my ideas about equality, sustainability, and some aspects of politics. I want them to believe what I believe. I am not going to be all militant if they choose to believe something else but I have no problems with my opinion being the one they hear most on some matters. On the other hand I don’t want them to take my word for it. I want them to be exposed to many different ideas and opinions so they can make up their own mind. I am agnostic for instance but I rarely talk about that at home because I want them to make up their own minds. I even sent one of my kids to a Christian preschool so that they would have exposure to religion that I am not willing to provide. My youngest would likely have gone to the same school if he had not required early intervention.
Many, many parents who homeschool (especially deeply religious families) homeschool to insulate their kids and keep them from being exposed to thoughts and ideas that conflict with what they are teaching at home. I want no part of that. This is not to say that I will not try to dissuade them from opinions and behavior that I strongly disagree with but how can we truly discuss things if they have no frame of reference?
3. I want my kids to experience lots of diversity. Homeschool groups often tend to have many of the same kind of kids and families in them. If you are homeschooling solo then trips to the zoo or the science museum do not qualify as exposure to diversity. In our local public schools there are kids of many different races and religions. There are kids with two parent families, single parent families, and families with parents of the same sex. There are children with special needs and handicaps. My oldest son’s school even has classrooms with varied age groups all lumped together so that he might be sitting next to an 11th grader and an 8th grader. It is important for my kids to see that not everyone looks, acts, and thinks like they do and that this should be accepted and celebrated.
4. We tried homeschool and it was not for us. I actually DID homeschool for 1.5 years of my oldest son’s school career and it was in reaction to issues he was having at public school. I feel that overall it was a big mistake. He has Asperger’s and ODD and was unwilling to do any sort of school at home. Unschooling, which we also tried, was no help either. When I took him to a public school to be tested when he should have been entering 4th grade I was shocked by the results and by how far behind he was. I had to admit to myself that not only did I not enjoy homeschooling, I am just not cut out for it AND my son did not respond well to his mom also being his teacher. The stuff that any teacher could get away with requesting or requiring was cruel and unusual punishment coming from mom. Also, I am not a patient person. I have to admit that my personality limits my effectiveness as a home educator.
But to those that DO homeschool…I salute you and very often over the years I have wished that I could be you.
5. We require interventions (aka care provided to improve a situation). Hubby and I have two autistic boys and this puts them several steps behind their peers academically and socially. With special assistance I have seen my oldest son catch up to and even surpass his peers, depending upon the subject. Instead of being distracted by all the kids in a classroom full of 30 kids, he is now in a classroom with only 3 others. He gets one on one instruction in areas where he needs it.
My youngest child is now entering Kindergarten after three years of public preschool and is still nowhere near ready for it. He is going to seriously struggle with the academics and he is going to need lots of resources and help that I would have difficulty providing for him on my own. I am amazed every day by what public school can do for special needs children. Admittedly it can be like pulling teeth to get them to acknowledge that there ARE special needs but once you do establish what you need to, it is a gift that keeps on giving. Need a private car service to transport your kid to school because he cannot handle the stimulation of all the kids on a bus? No problem. Need a classroom with only 2-3 other kids in it? No problem. Need a physical therapist, occupational therapist, or speech therapist (or perhaps all three)? No problem. We pay more taxes in our current district than anywhere else we have lived but how can I complain?
6. Public schooling won’t improve unless caring, motivated parents are there to encourage change. I have often accused public schooling of being cookie cutter education and I have my fair share of complaints (despite what I just said above). I get pretty mad when I think teachers are being inflexible and unreasonable. I get hoppin mad when one of my kids is afraid to voice their opinion to a teacher or administrator about something that concerns them because they feel they will be punished for dissent. I have concerns when too many of the songs in chorus are about Jesus since schools are supposed to honor a separation of church and state. I think they need to relax when it comes to homework and stop being so laid back about bullying. I have concerns. You have concerns. We can’t do anything about those concerns if we pull our kids out of that environment and school them at home. Who will fight for the kids and parents who don’t have that option?
When I pulled my oldest child out of public school I was essentially giving up. I felt they were doing wrong by him and I could not get them to change. Who benefited when I gave up? No one. My son slipped further behind because homeschooling was not a good fit for us and the school got to wipe their hands clean of him and his issues. I did them a favor. That all changed when I was introduced by chance to a lawyer and special education advocate. She heard my son’s experience and jumped at the chance to do right by him. If I had chosen to return him to his old school she would have helped to force them to acknowledge his special needs and then accommodate them as required by law. Instead I chose to put him in a school created especially for children with special needs.
Now I am starting this process all over again with my six year old. This time I am determined to be the advocate my child needs and the parent who works for change from the inside.
7. You can still have an active role in educating your child even if they ARE in public school. Public schooling does not mean lazy parenting. Well, it can mean that but it doesn’t have to. If your child is struggling to learn because their teacher is not willing or able to adapt lessons to their learning style then get creative and work on these issues at home. Help them with gaps. Have fun with “unschooling” nights and weekends by playing educational board games or taking them to museums. You can expose to them all sorts of wonderful opportunities and experiences. You are not limited just because they go to public school.
Have them complete their homework with you. Volunteer at their school and become informed of the issues and see what they are learning. Join the PTA. Get to know their teachers so well they are practically on speed dial. And I don’t mean come to them with bad stuff (ie complaints) all the time…build a positive relationship. Don’t feel as though you need to relinquish control of your child’s education…think of yourself as a partner in their education. Everyone wins.
8. Private schools are flippin expensive! They are not an option for us but even if they were I am not so sure we would utilize them. My limited experience with private schools left me feeling that they were just as likely to provide cookie cutter education. At the religious school where my daughter went there was entirely too much shaming going on as well. Not so much a fan of that. If we did private schooling it would likely be Montessori or similar.
So, time for you to weight in. Agree or disagree. What have you chosen for your family?