May 152015
 

I thought we wouldn't need as many wipes as my kids got older and outgrew diapers, but boy, was I wrong! Here's why they are so great--with a bunch of cuteness to boot! Go stock up on this bow--you'll thank yourself later! Messy kids are here to stay!I have an announcement, a very important announcement, friends: WE ARE DONE WITH DIAPERS! I know, I know. It’s basically the best news to happen around these parts in forever. But, silly, new-to-this-post-diaper life mom that I am, I wondered if this also meant it was time to bid adieu to my ginormous stockpile of wipes?

The answer: NO. Now, more than ever, it seems necessary to permanently strap a pack of Huggies® Wipes to myself as we go about our day-to-day. Maybe I can bill it as the new fashion in fanny packs?? The thing is, while we don’t have bums to wipe any more in our house, we have loads of other fun things that need wiping–like messy meals (spaghetti for dinner, anyone?) and very “exciting” playtimes that leave Mommy fantasizing about an early Happy Hour.

I love my kids and I love that they throw themselves so wholey into this life, but I’m thankful for Huggies® Wipes to see us through all the messy moments–Because Kids Outgrow Diapers, Not Messes*

I thought we wouldn't need as many wipes as my kids got older and outgrew diapers, but boy, was I wrong! Here's why they are so great--with a bunch of cuteness to boot! Go stock up on this bow--you'll thank yourself later! Messy kids are here to stay!

Why are Huggies® Wipes a fantastic solution? They are the only brand with TripleClean™ technology and clean better than other national brand’s sensitive wipes. These new and improved wipes have Triple Clean layers, are perfect for not only gently wiping up my little baby niece when she comes to visit, but also for tackling the bigger messes of my own kids, like when we busted out the paint this week. Behold the chaos!

I thought we wouldn't need as many wipes as my kids got older and outgrew diapers, but boy, was I wrong! Here's why they are so great--with a bunch of cuteness to boot! Go stock up on this bow--you'll thank yourself later! Messy kids are here to stay!

Huggies® Wipes come in a variety of cool, convenient packaging, from Designer Tubs to Refill packs, great for on-the-go or stashing them up at home. Look for Huggies Natural Care ®, Huggies ® One & Done ® or Huggies ® Simply Clean ® and find out what works best for you.

And Walmart not only has all of these wipes, but they also have five cute videos on their site to let you know that you’re not alone in your quest to tackle kid messes! Go check them out, snag few smiles, and then raise your wipes pack in solidarity with all the other parents out there. From muddy outdoor exploring to ice cream spills to dirty playtimes to the universal ability of little ones to smear pasta sauce all over their face within two seconds, you aren’t alone and Huggies® Wipes has you covered.

I thought we wouldn't need as many wipes as my kids got older and outgrew diapers, but boy, was I wrong! Here's why they are so great--with a bunch of cuteness to boot! Go stock up on this bow--you'll thank yourself later! Messy kids are here to stay!

Grab the wipes, friends, Because Kids Outgrow Diapers, Not Messes*!

****Many thanks to Huggies for sponsoring today’s story and encouraging me to purchase Huggies® Wipes at Walmart!****

May 052015
 

Don't have a superstar player? No sweat; you can still enjoy the game for what it's worth. Delight in your child's unique gifts and enjoy!Hello, I’d like to introduce you to the Green Plane Shark Attacks. Lest your nerves quake in fear over the ferocity of this name, rest easy. This is merely what my 5 year old son’s soccer team calls themselves. As best as I can figure, the coach gave up on reaching a consensus and allowed each of the four players who showed up to the second practice to throw a word into the mix.

It works. Rather perfectly, actually, as the team themselves is quite a mix.

You see, we were terrified of this whole soccer jazz. I shared honestly about our son’s attention struggles last week. We were pretty darn certain his general out-to-lunchness would transfer to the soccer field.

Living in an area where soccer is no joke with travel teams, indoor leagues and private coaching being standard fare, we had more than a little angst that hopping in on the game for fun might not be well received. People around here play, and they play like they mean it.

I’m shocked that I managed to get myself to his first game without a sedative of strong sorts. After a very confused mess of lawn chairs, awkward hellos to fellow team parents, and an abundance of occupying snacks provided to my younger daughter, one of the coaches blew a whistle and we were off.

Off in the sense that the ball was sent rolling on the field while most of the Green Plane Shark Attacks ran as a herd in the opposite direction while staring intently at the clouds. Praise God.

Praise God that my son was not the only one that had not been raised on a steady diet of intense soccer tutorials beginning with in utero drills.

Praise God that the other parents didn’t throw things at us while uttering cruel comments under their breath. My friend once told me a story of how her non-superstar son was subjected to some nasty remarks and I’ve never forgotten it.

Praise God that there were at least two other little dudes who were as hopeless as my son so we didn’t feel like we alone were keeping the team from The World Cup qualification.

Praise God also that there are a few gifted players (namely, the two girls on the team) who score goals once in a while to keep the general, prevailing Bad News Bears-esque defeat to overtake their games.

We put our son in soccer because he asked to play. We keep him in soccer because he loves it. He delights in each practice and game.

I’ll be straight: I have no idea what he sees in it (other than the trees on the edge of the field and the edge of his jersey he’s constantly chewing on). But…but he likes it. He’s happy.

There will come a day when enjoying sports for sports-sake isn’t enough. Probably next year, when the field gets larger and the on-field coach hand-holding steps back. But for today, it’s so much fun for him.

For today, it’s so much fun for us. That first panic-inducing game? The most laughs I’ve had on a Saturday in ages. Cheering our son and his teammates while encouraging them to stop lying down on the field and stand upright? It really doesn’t get any better, friends. It’s basically the most fun you can have as a parent–ever.

Don't have a superstar player? No sweat; you can still enjoy the game for what it's worth. Delight in your child's unique gifts and enjoy!

We were recently chatting with a cool friend who coaches a high school community league. He spoke of his passion of his game for its sustainability. Let’s face it. Not every player is going to go pro. Allowing kids a safe space to play while exercising and soaking up some fresh air? Instilling a value for this is a healthy, realistic way to care for our children into their adulthood.

Our personal future with soccer looks grim; mostly because our son is not only not a serious player, but not even a player who checks in come game time. But for this one season that I feared, the season over which I nervously, repeatedly tugged on my hair, I am so thankful.

I am thankful to know that we aren’t the only ones in our community who have kids who just want to run around and play soccer sans any veritable skills.

I am thankful to know that adults working with far older children see value in joining a sports league solely for the intent of exercise and being active outside.

I am thankful to know that my husband and I can show up, watch our child fail, and still take tremendous pride in who he was created to be.

I love my son. I love the vigor and enthusiasm he throws into his soccer. I love the beautiful way in which he fails and then still laughs and delights in the game he is playing.

Because it is a game, you know. A game meant for fun and for playing.

Happy soccer, friends. Here’s hoping you find a play a game in your corner of the world, however it looks.

 

Second image credit: depositphotos.com, image ID:24811879, copyright:diego_cervo

 

Apr 212015
 

Thrilled to share this very seasonally smart post by Jane Blanchard! Fantastic ideas!

Having the cool backyard where the kids love to play and hang-out is such a fun thing! Do these easy steps to make it happen and keep your children entertained and happy for hours! Sunshine soaking-up is yours!

If you’ve been around kids for any length of time, you know they have copious amounts of energy — so much that it can sometimes feel exhausting to watch. Outdoor play is a great way for children to run out their energy, develop their imaginations and explore the world around them. With a few simple additions to your backyard, you can transform your space into every child’s dream playground.

Chalk It Up

For endless hours of artsy fun, convert a section of your fence into a chalkboard. As a great weekend DIY project, simply gather some blackboard paint, paintbrushes and a sheet of wood.

In addition to traditional chalk, you can use brightly colored pastels, chalk markers and even spray chalk for your children to draw and design.

Trifle in the Tree Tops

Let your kids soar to new heights by building a fort in the trees. While the model pictured is a five-star design, a more simplistic tree house would be just as enjoyable. Especially entertaining for your little explorer who loves to climb, tree houses with ladders, ropes and windows offer clean outdoor fun surrounded by the beauty of nature. With memories flooding in from your own childhood, you may just find yourself monkeying around out there more than the kids.

Set Up a Sand Pit

Bring the beach to your backyard by creating a sand pit. With buckets, shovels and other sand sidekicks, they can create to their hearts’ content. As shown in this picture, enclosing the pit with large rocks helps keep the sand contained while adding a unique design element to your backyard.

Pitch a Tent

For cool shade during the day and starry slumber at night, try building forts and teepees. Since children love little hideaways and spaces they can call their own, miniature camps like these are sure to be a hit. While you can purchase wee wigwams similar to those in this photo, half the fun is building them. A few poles and a sheet are all you need to create this amusing tent. Invite a few friends over, build a fire and roast marshmallows for a slumber party they will never forget.

For more design ideas, head to Modernize.com.

 

First image credit: depositphotos.com, image ID:19671301, copyright:AnnaOmelchenko

 

Feb 252015
 

Visiting the Crayola Experience was the perfect way to encourage my kids creative efforts and explore the delights of crayons, markers and other art-supplies! I loved the DIY fun and this was the perfect diversion for my active kids--read on to find out the can't-miss highlights!Every once in a while, I decide to be That Mom. You know, the mom who does something really cool with her kids.

It all started with an episode of our beloved Daniel Tiger. When the crew took a trek to “the crayon factory”, my children began a vivid love affair with the notion of making a visit to The Crayola Experience and have never looked back. That was two years ago.

We first visited over a year ago, and my kids were so enamored they’ve been begging to go back since. It wasn’t a hard sell, as I have very fond memories of going myself as a child with my grandparents. And while the design of the crayon box may have changed, the fact that it is an awesome thing to do with kids has not.

Throw in the fact that I might totally lose my crap if I hear the tinny tune of an electronic toy one more time while hibernating down in these arctic temps, and a chance to get out and let my kids loose on some creative play sounded beyond sweet. My husband was in for taking off so we could make a day of it, and The Crayola Experience was on!

There are crayons and markers to make, Model Magic to shape, molds to melt crayons in, colorful wax to draw with, and an entire floor dedicated to craft-making. With the live factory demonstration (we saw it twice and my kids would have happily sat through the interactive show a zillion times more) and the two-story high gynasium for kids to run wild in (a separate smaller structure for toddlers is available too), we had found the perfect cure for winter blehs.

Visiting the Crayola Experience was the perfect way to encourage my kids creative efforts and explore the delights of crayons, markers and other art-supplies! I loved the DIY fun and this was the perfect diversion for my active kids--read on to find out the can't-miss highlights!

They had so much fun. The Art Alive! section left their mouths gaping; kids create digital works to be displayed on an interactive big screen–their work was being broadcast! And Doodle in the Dark lead to endless giggles. As they interacted with animated crayons and played with an interactive floor screen, I did the unthinkable: I sat down on a bench in contented relaxation and said to my husband “They will sleep so well tonight.” Bliss.

And since I’m sucker and we only do adventurous things as a family once in forever, the kids were each allowed to pick one special treat from the gift shop. Truth told, I love the gift shop: it is chock full of nifty gift ideas for creative play with lots of products you can’t find in stores. Also true? I am thrilled with my kids’ picks. The umbrella my daughter chose was perfect (I’ve wanted one for her for forever for rainy preschool drop-offs and pick-ups), and I can’t tell you how many fascinated minutes my son’s marker-maker has filled. And we’ve only made half of the markers in the kit, so lots more fun to come!

Visiting the Crayola Experience was the perfect way to encourage my kids creative efforts and explore the delights of crayons, markers and other art-supplies! I loved the DIY fun and this was the perfect diversion for my active kids--read on to find out the can't-miss highlights!

Our visit to The Crayola Experience was fantastic. We made, we created, we got tons of artwork to bring home, and a boatload of fun memories were made. And then we got in the car, and my son’s first words were, “Mommy, can we go back to the crayon factory?” I think they had a good time?

Good news for you, friends? The Crayola Experience is offering an exclusive discount to my readers. To get this sweet discount, go HERE and enter code “Mom of the Year”.

Trust me, a trip to Easton is worth it. The kids will have a blast, creative genius will be sparked, and really, they will sleep like angels all night after you get home. Perfect fun for kids and parents 😉

Go get your Crayola on!

****Thank you to The Crayola Experience for providing my family with tickets to their attraction; our delight in our visit is 100% genuine!****

Feb 182015
 

This brilliant no-pedal bike solution to teaching your kids to ride a bicycle comes in 7 different colors. Find the one that is the right match for your family and get to the fun part--riding your way into Spring! Score a free one here!Every now and again, I look out the window at the endless, tedious landscape of frozen tundra and fantasize about things like flowers. And grass. And anything green versus endless sluggish grayish-white.  Surely in some world, this must exist??

But it’s coming, really. I know Spring is on it’s way. I see prompts of it’s arrival on my calendar and in the pile of sweet pretty dresses hanging in my daughter’s closet. We will get there.

In the meantime, as we await daffodils and warm rain showers, we’re hanging out with another fun reminder of warmer days with our shiny new Strider Bike.

When Strider first contacted me, I asked my husband what he thought of these bikes. He said, “If we don’t get a Strider bike this year, I’m cutting the pedals off one of our bikes so the kids can learn properly.”

Okay then…

He knew that Strider is onto an important concept: their 12 Sport’s simple, no-pedal design builds confidence and eliminates fear by allowing kids to have their feet on the ground and progress at their own pace. This unique design teaches young children balance on two wheels right from the start, avoiding developmental delays typical with tricycles and training-wheel bikes.

The age range? Perfect for toddler up to age 5.

This brilliant no-pedal bike solution to teaching your kids to ride a bicycle comes in 7 different colors. Find the one that is the right match for your family and get to the fun part--riding your way into Spring!

Huh. Apparently Strider’s no-pedal design was a super idea for my 3 and 5 year old, who are still learning to ride, especially as my son’s leg break issues have made this trickier for us. Strider’s 12 Sport model offers a bunch of features that make getting the hang of bike-riding easy and fun: there are custom grips, a padded saddle, handlebar pads, and quick release clamps (no-tool adjustment). A perfect balance of performance, options, and value.

This brilliant no-pedal bike solution to teaching your kids to ride a bicycle comes in 7 different colors. Find the one that is the right match for your family and get to the fun part--riding your way into Spring!

So we snatched up the green model (it comes in a choice of seven colors) and gave it lots of test runs in our basement--we’ll tackle the driveway when it’s a tad less snow-covered.

The thing is, my kids love it. They love the challenge it presents, but more they love that they feel capable in navigating this bike. I love that is growing their skills and improving their balance.

We’re all delighted with this bike. Also, we’re insanely ready for Spring. The good news for you? YOU can get hyped up for the warmer temps with us as I’m giving away one Strider Bike here, in the color of your choice! As long as you are 18 or above and live in the Continental United States, you are eligible to enter. Giveaway will close on 2/26/15 at 5am ET.

This is only open to my readers, so hop in on this giveaway and get ready to win! I can’t wait to share this genius, Spring-ready bike with one of you!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

This brilliant no-pedal bike solution to teaching your kids to ride a bicycle comes in 7 different colors. Find the one that is the right match for your family and get to the fun part--riding your way into Spring! Score a free one here!****Strider provided bikes for review and giveaway purposes for this post, but my family’s delight in our new bike is 100% genuine!*****

2/27/15 UPDATE: Congrats to winner Diane B.!

Feb 112015
 

Keeping a close eye on little ones all the time is TOUGH! Here is the perfect gadget to letting you make sure your kids are safe--while tackling your looming dish pile. It really works!We are entering a new stage in our household: independent play in our rooms. To those of you with older kids, this probably doesn’t sound like a big deal. For those of you with kids younger than my 3 yr. old and 5 yr. old, your mind is blown, “How does this even happen?!?”

But it does happen, trust me. Somehow baby gates get booted from staircases and your kids start saying wild things like, “Mommy, I am going to go up and play with my Legos.” The first few times, you will just nod numbly in shocked disbelief , stand at the bottom of the steps and hyper-vigilantly listen for the first possible indication that your child has injured himself.

Then, after a few successful unsupervised playtimes, you will start to relax a bit. You will enjoy the five minutes your children are happily occupied and begin to tackle the 16,000 tasks on your to-do list. Yet while the breathing room thrills you, your mom instinct won’t quit: “What are they doing up there?” “What is that thumping noise?” “Are they okay??” 

Obviously, we can’t watch our children for forever, but during this stage of not-quite independent, I would love to have an extra set of eyes. One that I could put upstairs so I can wash the dishes downstairs without panicking over the sounds coming from upstairs.

Enter the Safe&Sound® Pan & Tilt Full Color Video Baby Monitor from VTech. With a camera that pans up to 270 degrees side-to-side and tilts as many as 124 degrees up and down, it has your little ones covered. With a feature that allows you to zoom in up to 2x and a range of up to 1,000 feet, it can fully be your eyes even when you’re in another room!

Have more than one kid you want to keep an eye on? The monitor is expandable up to four handsets from one parent unit. And the transmission, however many handsets you use, is quality and secure. It is equipped with digital transmission. The signal is digitized and encrypted, ensuring video and audio transmission is always private. There is high resolution with a 2.8-inch color LCD and full-motion video with up to 25 frames per second and automatic night vision.

  • Talk-back intercom: Sometimes all your baby needs is to hear the sound of your voice. Comfort your infant from any room with the built-in intercom on the portable parent unit.
  • Temperature sensor
  • Wall-mount bracket
  • Vibrating sound-alert on the parent unit
  • Rechargeable battery with low-battery alert on the parent unit
  • Zoom the camera from the parent unit
  • 5-level sound indicator
  • Volume control

Keeping a close eye on little ones all the time is TOUGH! Here is the perfect gadget to letting you make sure your kids are safe--while tackling your looming dish pile. It really works!

The best news for you, readers? You have a chance to win one of five nursery safety baskets featuring VTech Safe&Sound® Pan & Tilt Full Color Video Baby Monitors! Hop in the Twitter party on Wednesday, 2/18/15 at 1pm ET for your chance to win. Winner will be randomly selected from participants who answer the trivia questions correctly. Prizes limited to U.S. participants only.

Follow the #VTechBaby hashtag to track the conversation. You can see the details and RSVP via this Vite: http://vite.io/themotherhood

I will be there, hosting the fun and eager to share more about this high-tech monitor while giving out a bunch of sweet prizes! Can’t wait to see you there–and here’s to keeping an extra eye on those young kiddos!

******This post is brought to you by VTech and The Motherhood. All opinions are my own.******

First image credit: depositphotos.com, image ID:10837621, copyright:Wavebreakmedia

Dec 172014
 

If I can do this Christmas craft with my kids, ANYONE can...trust me. I and my non-crafty self are sharing all the secrets with you...happy Christmas crafting!

This is one of my favorite Christmas stories of all time, first published here two years ago.  We’re now all a bit older, but I continue to have active fantasies of the shirts I noted at the end of the post. Godspeed with the Christmas crafts, my friends…

***********************************************************

Gosh, yes…I actually tried to craft with my kids.  I am so annoyingly stupid…

Once upon a time in the not-so far off land of Suburbia, there was a Mommy who was a very good at caring for her home and her family, except for the fact that she sucked at cleaning and cooking, wasn’t awesome with young kids, and was generally terrified of crafting.  This Mommy was married to a very good man; we’ll call him Daddy.  Daddy was reading a book to their little boy and chanced upon cute idea for a fun project to do with kids.  Daddy mentioned this to Mommy, and apparently Mommy had skimped on her daily sanity meds, because she thought this craft would be fun to try with the kids.  She planned to give it a whirl one morning the next week.

In general, anytime Mommy decides to “give something a whirl”, it’s best for all nearby parties to run quickly into a cave and hide.  And so this is the point where our tale takes a very nasty turn south…

Preparations for the crafting event were going relatively well until Mommy realized she needed supplies to create the popsicle stick Christmas tree craft.  Dastardly truth of crafting: supplies are necessary.  Queue to Mommy diving headfirst into several scary large Rubbermaid totes in the basement where the glitter was conveniently stored.  Listen carefully now for the sounds of angry grunts, muffled explicatives and panicked screams for baby daughter to NOT start crawling up the un-baby-gated cement steps.

After some further desperate searching and a minor hiccup when Mommy’s sweet angelic son locked her in the basement as she was juggling the glitter, the baby, a psychotic dog and a laundry basket under arm (there is always, always a laundry basket involved, right?), the necessary materials were finally secured upstairs.  Mommy then felt insanely wise for setting daughter up in her chair with some Color Wonder markers so the rest of this fun event could ensue.  The scene was mostly set with only the paper plates still needed.

For the record, paper plates are definitively integral to all craft projects.  All of them.  If you are looking to go into crafting, start buying paper plates in bulk, and stash them in every nook and cranny throughout your house.  You will always need them and you will never have them when you need them.  There can never be enough paper plates.

While Mommy went in search of the necessary paper plates, her daughter took the opportunity to eat the tip off of a marker.  After a certain amount of hysteria and speculation that Color Wonder ingestion would lead to brain damage of some sort, it was determined that everyone would survive, and the festivities could joyfully continue.

As goldfish crackers flew at Mommy’s head (an alternative activity was needed for daughter after the unfortunate incident in which she ate the provided markers), she learned that hot glue gun glue is indeed rather hot when squirted all over her hand.  As Mommy screamed through the pain, her son fled the room in terror.  But with a little convincing, he soon returned to participate in this delightful experience.

Bring our engaging tale to a close, you can tell from the pictures below, the end result was stunning.  Clearly entirely worth all the effort and served to completely re-educate Mommy, who will now be running gleefully headfirst into the next crafting opportunity after having such a blessedly positive experience.  Bring on the crafts.

Christmas tree craft

Just thought you would appreciate
that I’m still using paper plates from
my daughter’s birthday in July

Mommy is now making “I Heart Crafting” t-shirts which will be available for sale in the very near future.  Stay tuned for this one.  She’s entirely sold out for crafting and wants the world to know.

*************************************************************************

Also, pop on over to Hollow Tree Ventures and check out As (Never) Seen on Pinterest for further evidence of how crafty and artsy I am and snag some top-notch creative ideas from some of my favorite bloggers.  As a teaser, my fantastic design inspiration for your child’s train table is pictured below:

Child's Train Table Design @mererdithspidel @RobynHTV

Yes, yes we are awesome parents…

 

Nov 202014
 

Anxious to get your kids away from the videos games and doing something active or creative with their minds? This new version of Tic Tac Toe is so much fun for the whole family! Family game night is ON!I won’t lie. Sometimes when we’re on our 1600th round of Candyland for the afternoon, I am saying silent passionate prayers for the UPS man to ring the door bell…or for the washing machine to start shooting bubbles at the ceiling…or any kind of anything that could be an excuse to toss down my plastic gingerbread dude and walk away from the game.

Playing games with my kids can be very cool, but every once in a while, shaking it up is a good idea, especially as we break into these long stretch of indoor months.

When my family received a Tic Stac Toe game to check out, I was pretty excited. Tic Tac Toe is a classic!

Except this isn’t Tic Tac Toe. It’s Tic STAC Toe, and this is not the old game.

No, Tic Stac Toe is an incredibly creative spin on the classic concept. Winner of the 2014 Creative Child Award, the Tillywig Best Family Fun Award and the Parents Choice Recommended Game Award, this is an exciting new 3D strategy game. It’s the kind of game that the whole family enjoys and engages in (nothing against Candyland, of course…)

But this isn’t why I love it.

While it’s fantastic to have something that pleases everyone for Family Game Night, what’s really cool about this game is the way that it encourages my children to build and play. Creator Robert Appelblatt and Tim Crean talk about how it “helps kids with spacial thinking”. For my son who loves to construct, piece things together and look for patterns, it is a perfect fit!

Tic Tac Toe has been rebooted in this cool new board game. Endless ways for kids of all ages to learn and grow with this as an educational tool and perfect fun for family game night!

When I’m busy juggling something online with trying to get dinner together and cranking out a few zillion other things, my son is happily set up at the table with his new toy. He will group the X’s and O’s, add them up, build towers, and then proudly ask me to check out his work before he dismantles it all and starts all over again. The pieces easily snap together and come apart–no sweat for younger child. Like I said, perfect toy.

So go get it! Tic Stac Toe is a fun, original game that will be a hit for all ages on your shopping list. Not just for the game itself, but for all the other learning and play it offers. Snatch up a bunch now and go be the cool holiday gift-giver that impresses everyone by having such a creative gift idea.

It’s truly Tic Stac Toe for the win!

Playing board games with our kids is so valuable for so many reasons! Take the time for a family game night tonight!

****Compensation for this post was provided by Tic Stac Toe, but my family’s enjoyment of this game is 100% genuine!****

 

First image credit: depositphotos.com, image ID:25835207,copyright:alistairjcotton

 Third image credit: depositphotos.com, image ID:10503233,copyright:photography33

Oct 232014
 

Looking for a fun family fall treat? Dutch Wonderland in Lancaster has it all, or check out a similar amusement in your area--this truly was the perfect fall outing for our young family!

Remember that sweet place in Lancaster County where we love to hang out, Dutch Wonderland?

We are kind of totally in love with it.

So when they invited my family back to check out their Halloween Happy Hauntings, there wasn’t a whole lot of arm-twisting that had to happen to get us there. In fact, there was none.

We excitedly packed our daypack and costumes (yes, the park encourages guests to delight in the season and dress-up!), and headed off. Factor in a few temper tantrums and about 10 trips back to the house for things we forgot, and you’ll get the accurate picture of what goes down when my so-together family decides on a day out.

I like visiting Dutch Wonderland in the fall because all of the rides and attractions, excepting those with water, are still open.  Granted, my kids love the water park, but there is still loads to do on the drier side of the fun. This also allows for a cheaper admission price and a slightly less packed agenda–more time to simply explore and play always works for us!

Dutch Wonderland’s Happy Hauntings is perfect fit for young ones. The rides are still smaller-kid friendly as they always are, and the park does an excellent job of embracing the season–without being too scary. Pumpkins, costumes, and cobwebs galore adorn the park, but there are no horrifying super-spooky ghosts or goblins. This works for us–my children battle fears of the dark without any extra reasons for nightmares.

The smaller-kid friendly rides and attractions at Dutch Wonderland are a young family's dream come true! Visit next time you're in Lancaster County, PA, or check out a kid-friendly amusement park in your area!

The highlight of our visit was the Trick or Treat trail.  Crossing over the bridge into the back of the park, we found Exploration Island transformed into a Halloween wonderland! At each dinosaur exhibit, the kids were treated to some yummy candy by the very creatively costumed-employees. I won’t spoil all the fun in case you are planning to visit (Happy Hauntings is open both this weekend, 10/25-26, and next, 11/2-3), but my favorite dinosaur exhibit themes were the Dr. Seuss and the Crayola crayon box–you haven’t really lived until you’ve seen a dinosaur dressed as a pink crayon…

The Trick or Treat Trail was the perfect way for some safe trick-or-treating fun with a lot at some of the coolest costumes themes around!

 

I can’t say how fun it was to let the kids run around in their costumes and have a blast in a family-friendly environment. I even felt sort of vindicated when the hood of my son’s knight costume started to tear a bit after some very active sliding board fun. “See!”, I plead to my husband, “They DO get enough wear out of their costumes!” I may have slight obsession with gearing my children up in adorable coordinated costume themes each year.

The coordinated costume at mention, our little knight and princess combo couldn’t have been more perfect for the royalty theme that Dutch Wonderland is known for year round.  Now if they just start letting us bring in our dog dressed as the dragon, we’ll be all set…

Dutch Wonderland Happy Hauntings @meredithspidel

Head out to Dutch Wonderland, friends.  In a season when there are so many options for fall fun, this is the one that truly brings it all together and creates a whole autumn-full of special memories!

****Thanks to Dutch Wonderland for hosting my family for the day. All opinions expressed remain 100% my own.****

Oct 152014
 

Knowing how to handle your kids' imaginary friends can be tricky. Read what a psychologist has to say and feel more confident with this (unseen) member of your family!Friends, I need to introduce you to someone.

His name is Luke, and he is VERY IMPORTANT.

He has become the newest member of our family.  No worries! I haven’t gotten myself knocked up again. I know, we can all exhale together now. No, Luke is the product of my daughter–her imagination, that is.

I took all my child psych classes and fully get that imaginary friends are “normal”, but it’s still a mind-bender.  A mind-bender in that my son never even came close to having one.

In that she never falters in her dedication to Luke’s reality. We reached a new level of Luke-ness last week when she wrote him notes and put them in our mailbox one evening. The next morning, as we checked the mailbox on our way back from the bus stop (as she always insists on doing), she found the notes and became convinced that he had sent her mail. There was no rationalizing; in her mind, my daughter had begun written communication with her love.

In that her brother totally accepts and almost shares the delusion:

“Isaac, I saw Luke at your school today!”

“Oh yeah, was he there?”

In that, while everyone says it’s a natural part of childhood, very few of my friends’ kids have actually had such a committed imaginary friend.

In that he is omnipresent.  We “see his house” multiple times a day–in different towns. His dad not only mows the lawn at preschool, he works at the bank as well.

In that everyone in our life knows Luke. My sitter will text me, “Just saw Luke at the grocery store!” My sister asks how Luke is doing.

In that he is an opinionated soul. “Luke does NOT want me to wear the green outfit today!”

In that she most definitively uses him to process things in her life that she is not able to otherwise process. “Luke’s grandma died. But he’s not that upset about it.”  This makes me tear up; I won’t lie. Why shouldn’t the sweet young thing find a way to process her grandma’s premature death? My own grandma died before I was born and I still ache from the unrecognized pain of that.  Go you, daughter, for figuring out a way to address the sadness.

I like to think my recollection of my education is pretty accurate (please tell me I didn’t throw thousands of dollars down the drain for nothing), but I wanted to make sure I wasn’t off in my general acceptance and appreciation of Luke.  I asked Dr. Tricia Groff to weigh in on imaginary friends:

 “Is an imaginary friend normal?”

It is common for preschool children to invent imaginary friends. The imaginary friends usually disappear during the grade school years. Rather than being a problem, the presence of imaginary friends often illustrates a child’s creativity and use of imagination. Imaginary friends provide a way for children to relate to someone their own age and/or to discuss issues that they may not be comfortable saying directly to an adult.

 “How should parents handle it?”

Rather than trying to ignore or minimize their presence, adults can use the imaginary friend to better understand the child’s thoughts and emotions.

 “When are imaginary friends a concern?”

If children have mean or angry imaginary friend, the child may be experiencing deep emotional distress which should be investigated. Similarly, parents should be concerned if the child plays with the imaginary friend at the exclusion of developing friendships with real children.

With Dr. Groff’s input and my awareness that Luke is not mean, angry, nor preventing her from real-life friendships, I feel pretty secure about his existence.  I am so thankful for her confirmation and information. Dr. Groff is one of the experts that truly get it and care, and I can fully recommend any counseling she provides.  Thank you, Dr. Groff.

We might not always understand our kids' friendships, but this is why, as long as they are healthy, it is important to encourage and support them.

All of this in mind, I am outlining some key strategies for handling imaginary friend, from the perspective of being a mom, no expertise assumed:

1) Accept. It may not be real, but your kid believes that it is. Go with it. You’ll save yourself a lot of frustration.

2) Acknowledge, but don’t encourage. It would be so easy, so many times to say, “But Luke wants you to do what Mommy is saying!” Yet, I have always had some innate awareness that Luke is her delusion, not mine. I’m not sure feeding it is wrong or right, but it is her thing. I need to allow her to develop and use it as she will.

3) Allow conversation as your child offers.  As Dr. Groff said above, imaginary friends are a tool parents can use to better understand their kids–use it as such.  If my gal wants to tell me all about Luke’s lawn-mowing dad, why not? It’s obviously something that matters to her; whether I get it or not.

4) Listen. Dude, I would be an idiot not recognize the way she uses Luke to process her own grandma’s death. I am relatively new at this parenting thing, but I have heard getting your kids to talk about their inner feelings is a beast.  This one is right there, and she’s giving it to me–I’d tune my ears into what she actually saying.

5) Don’t cry over goodbyes.  My daughter has yet to bid adeui to Luke, but there are days he doesn’t come up at all, nor does his dad drive by in the mower.  Again, this is her thing.  There are days that she may need him and there are days that she may not. I don’t get to choose when Luke shows up.

I don’t determine how my children present in this world, but I can allow them to explore it with the safe reassurance that I’m here, whatever here is–imaginary friends included.  And honestly, what they bring to the table is often pretty darn cool. Who wouldn’t want a friend who can change his hair color by the day and be in ten places at once?

Modern day super-hero? Maybe.  But for today, we’ll just call him Luke.

First image credit: depositphotos.com, ID:4890633, copyright:gjohnstonphoto

Second image credit: depositphotos.com, ID:11633196, copyright:pressmaster

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