mindful living, effortless style

Today’s post is brought to you by MPMK’s newest sponsor, Upromise, a company dedicated to helping parents find small ways to do a really big thing- save for college!

If you’re not familiar with how the Upromise program works, here’s a quick 1-minute video to get you up to speed on how the things you already do every day, from shopping online to ordering pizza for movie night, can earn you money for your child’s college fund.

Check out the Upromise program today and then check out these tips from our contributor Janssen on other ways to help your kids become savers. 

And! Right now, when you invite friends and family to join Upromise you can both earn $20!

We all want our children to grow up to be wise with their money, but little kids often are most interested in spending their coins as fast as they earn them. If your children are anything like mine, the moment they see the candy aisle, they’re desperate to spend everything they’ve earned.

How do you turn a kid who just wants a lollipop (and right this minute, please) into a child who can save for bigger items like a big toy or bike and eventually for a car and college tuition?

Here are 6 strategies to try:

Set both small and large savings goals

Saving for something as distant as college can be hard for an elementary-schooler to grasp. Try having multiple savings goals instead. Some can be long-term like a car or college tuition someday, and some can be smaller and shorter-term like a bike or a day at the local amusement park. It’s so motivating to actually save for something and then be able to buy it and helps boost motivation to save for bigger and more long-term purchases. Read More

Now that it’s March, we’re definitely due a Project Organize Your ENTIRE Life spring cleaning post… have you gotten started yet?  Yeah, me neither. But I’m giving myself some grace and saying there’s still time!

In that spirit, Kristin has rounded up for us some of the best FREE spring cleaning checklists around to help get you started.  

And, as a special bonus, there’s a free 4-week spring cleaning calendar at the end of this post.

  1. If there’s anyone that can inspire us to Spring Clean, it’s Martha.  Stewart, that is.  It’s that time of year we get the itch to clean out cupboards, organize drawers and basically purge dirt from the house. So let’s start with Martha Stewart’s Spring Cleaning Checklist.  She has a printable checklist with an overview of everything we need to know about the proper way to clean and organize. (Surprise, surprise.)
  2. There are some like The Complete Guide to Imperfect Homemaking that say they LOVE cleaning.  I don’t know if I’d say I love cleaning, but
    I’m going to follow your Spring Cleaning Checklist if it will make me love to clean!
  3. I love the inspiration from I Dream of Clean to start the spring cleaning process with a checklist and then join in on Spring Clean 365, so it’s not just a once a year process.
  4. Room by room checklists, like this one from Ask Anna and this one from Right at Home, make an overwhelming task doable.  Personally, I love breaking up spring cleaning into several days.  I just don’t have the time to dedicate an entire day or weekend to this project.  But, I can find 15 minutes here or there.  And there’s something about checking things off a list that makes me feel so accomplished at the end of the day.
  5. Living Well Spending Less suggests breaking the home up into zones (from top to bottom) that help to organize the effort.  Her checklist will show you how pre-cleaning, which kids can totally help with, speeds up the process.
  6. If you need to just get in and get out, take a look at the printable from Glitter Guide.  She tells us how to Spring Clean in one day.  And it’s thorough too!  Plus, her list is so pretty, you’ll want to clean so you can come back to check off boxes.

So there you go – take 15 minutes or an entire day this week to start the spring cleaning process.  We all know how great a clean house feels.  Especially when you’re able to put up your feet at the end of the day and enjoy it!

free printable: spring cleaning calendar

Also, don’t forget to sign up for our newsletter to get our free and simple tool for making spring cleaning easy:

Looking for some potty training tips? You might want to start with our super popular post, The 5 Biggest Potty Training Mistakes (and maybe also this potty training tip for some self-sustaining humor). 

After that, head over to Amazon or your local library because as with almost all parenting challenges, it’s always helpful to have a book for both you and your kiddo to help tackle it! 

Here’s our resident children’s librarian, Janssen, with her best picks on the topic…

Are there any words that strike fear into the heart of a parent like “potty training?” I’m inclined to think not.

We all want a potty-trained child, but the actual training can bring out the worst in all of us, from frustrated parents to tantruming toddlers who just want a diaper back on.

Fortunately, like on many subjects, there are books galore to help you and your child through this milestone. Some of these books are perfect for reading together to help broach the topic and help your child get familiar with the idea, and others are for parents, whether you’re just starting to entertain the idea or whether you are pulling your hair out.

Grab one or all of them from the library or bookstore, and remind yourself that you’ve never seen a fifth grader wearing a diaper.

7 Best Books About Potty Training

I Use the Potty: Big Kid Power by Maria van Lieshout 

This brand-new series from one of my favorite author/illustrators is perfect for helping kids feel like superheroes as they learn to use the toilet or achieve other milestones like getting rid of a pacifier. They have a really fun tri-color design and illustrations reminiscent of superhero comic books. Plus, they’re the perfect size for little hands.

Potty by Leslie Patricelli

One thing I love about this book is that your child is probably already familiar with Leslie Patricelli and so this book will feel familiar even if the topic is new. With simple text and illustrations, a smiling baby investigates how the dog and cat use the bathroom and eventually decides to try out the toilet himself. Success and applause finishes off the book happily.

Where’s the Poop? by Julie Markes and Susan Kathleen Hartung

For your animal-loving child, this is a perfect book to introduce the idea of going to the bathroom. In this fun lift-the-flap volume, you can see where every animal in the wild goes the bathroom, whether it lives in the Australian Outback or in the rain forest. And, of course, a child has a place to go too.

The Princess and the Potty by Wendy Cheyette Lewison and Rick Brown

Even being royalty doesn’t get you out of having to be potty-trained, unfortunately. This stubborn little princess is displeased by every potty her royal parents choose for her, including musical and patterned potties. Finally, the desperate parents call for a wizard who assures them that the princess will, in due time, learn to use the toilet, and as promised, eventually the princess discovers a solution that appeals to her: the prettiest pair of pantalettes in the land.

Oh Crap! Potty Training: Everything Modern Parents Need to Know to Do It Once and Do It Right by Jamie Glowacki

If there is anything worse than potty-training once, it’s potty-training the same child multiple times. Get it right on the very first try with Glowacki’s 6-step process that’s worked for thousands of kids and parents. Plus, she’ll answer all your questions about how to know if your child is ready, how to deal with accidents, regressions, and night-time training. Basically, all the answers to questions you didn’t even know you had. Read More

I received the most gorgeous picture book in the mail the other day courtesy of Jumbo Minds’ Science. It’s called ABCs of Earth Science and is part of the larger ABCs of Science series.

The thing I really loved about the book was that it appealed to all three of my kids, ages 7, 5 and nearly 2.

The vibrant pictures drew in everybody, my youngest really liked the ABCs and my bigger kids were really into learning new science terms they’d never heard before.

A little about the author- A.C. Lemonwood is the author of Jumbo Minds’ Science ABCs. She is inspired by children’s enthusiasm and curiosity, qualities that make youngsters natural scientists. In addition to having a great respect for scientific discovery and the pursuit of knowledge, she enjoys making the language and concepts of science fun and easy to understand.

ABCs of Earth Science - Coolest ABC picture book ever! (There's also the ABCs of Biology, Chemistry, and Physics)

Along with the ABCs of Earth Science pictured above, there are also the ABCs of Chemistry, Physics and Biology– all of which I plan on gifting to the kids (one to each kid) for Easter.

These little books make the best gifts to your own kids for holidays (or to other’s kids for birthdays) and you can buy one or all four as a pack. Go get ’em all!

And if you’re looking for lots more great STEM Toys and books for your kiddos, be sure to check out our famous gift guide:

Best STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) Toys for Kids of All Ages

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With all the different parenting styles, it can be no joke figuring out how to discipline a toddler.

Jessica is here today with our parenting section, newly re-named Parenting Styles, with some great insight on what to do when your toddler starts acting like a teenager.

I read this great article the other day that was wildly reassuring to my future self, the one who’s a mom of a teenage girl.

It covered the many purposes that the ol’ eye roll serves in the life of an adolescent. And they aren’t all bad.

Basically, the eye roll is a wildly effective way of displaying resistance and broadcasting objection. It’s also a defensive tactic when a girl is close to tears or thinking her parents have crossed a line. And, yeah, it can be a total act of aggression – the eye roll is a classic sign of dismissal.

So I’m prepared, as the author asks in the last line of the piece, to see the eye roll for what it is some seven years from now, and to try to consider the situation from my daughter’s perspective instead of leaping to the conclusion that she’s rolling her eyes like that because she’s acting like a raging, entitled brat.

But see, my daughter is already quite the little eye roller.

She’s six. Read More

Looking for a simple St. Patrick’s Day dessert to make and share with your little? We’re all about the kid friendly recipes here and we think you’re going to love this one.

I have a little corner of my pantry where I keep seasonal baking supplies.  Every year I add something new and this year it’s the Wilton 8 Cavity Silicone Shamrock Mold

It’s a petite treat mold that makes seasonal treats a cinch.  All I have to do is decide what to put inside the molds and just-like-that, I have something fun ready to go.  

This particular mold is freezable and you can put it in the oven, so the possibilities are endless.  

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Have you guys seen the rad little lenses made from Photojojo for your smartphone? The company sent me a set around Christmas and they’ve been sitting on my desk beckoning me to come play with them ever since.

Then I saw that the lenses are currently on sale and realized now was the time to get to using them and sharing with you, so you could grab your own at a discount. When I finally did pick them up, I couldn’t put them down!

Pictured up top is probably the most fun of the three in the Iris Lens Series– the fisheye. Don’t you love how it makes Beatbo practically jump- or in his case dance while teaching about colors, numbers and letters– right out of the photo? (P.S. If you don’t know Beatbo, be sure to consult our famous gift guide: Best Toys for Babies & Young Toddlers.)

Most of us aren’t professional photographers and would never get to play with taking interesting photos of our kids (and our kids’ creations) with lenses like these. But Photojojo totally makes it possible to do without a fancy SLR camera.

Love this wide angle lens for my smart phone!

This set makes it so simple! Check out the closeup I was able to achieve on my son’s LEGO man. (right: regular phone, left: macro lens)

The most useful of the three lenses, for me, is definitely Read More

I was reading one of my favorite MPMK posts the other day, How to Maintain Your Zen When the Kids Have Lost Their Ever-Loving Minds, and I was reminded of how much we used to play with beach balls in the house when the kids were younger.

It was such a simple way to keep the kids active and happy when we were stuck indoors – plus it was super inexpensive and easy to set up (two of my favorite qualities in a kids’ activity).

Back in the day, this one was right up there with our Life-Sized Building Blocks, Construction Sensory Box and Upcycled Inventor’s Box.

The idea is so great, I just had to re-visit it, so I sent out the call to our contributor Alli to help me freshen it up a bit and, as usual, she didn’t disappoint. And now me and my nearly 2-year-old are ready to go!

Here are Alli’s 10 fabulously fun ways to keep your littles active and happy with our friend the beach ballEnjoy!

Will this Winter ever end? I am so ready for Spring I can taste it.

Here in Texas, we get a few warm days mixed in with the cold. So I can’t complain too much. But so many of you across the nation have been covered in snow for what seems like months.

Regardless of where you live, or what season it is, there are ALWAYS days that need to be spent inside. And those are the days that tend to drive us crazy as Moms. Am I right?

Enter the beach ball.

Such a simple toy. And the simplest toys are usually the best. Know why?

Because they’re unexpected fun. Beach balls are kind of a novelty when brought indoors so they seem to draw kids in.

They are also a great way to help those kids burn off some energy.

We’ve noticed, though, that after a while even the most enthusiastic kiddos can get bored (or it goes the other way, things get a little out of hand and a lamp or two is sacrificed in the process). But it doesn’t have to be that way –  just by adding a little structure and creativity, a once simple toy becomes one big ball of fun.

If you’re stuck inside, grab a beach ball (or any large bouncy ball for that matter) and try any one of these games to not only pass the time, but challenge your kids to get up and get moving.

BeachBall7

1. Letter/Color Smash: (Gross Motor Skills, Letter/Color Recognition)

Use colored construction paper to write letters and attach to any wall/door. The older your children are, the more complicated you can make it (using sight words, the answers to math equations, etc.). Read More

Who’s up for a super simple STEM activity you can do at home with the kids this week? (I see all you moms with kids home for winter break like mine waving their hands!)

The other day I walked into my mom friend’s kitchen and found the top of a pineapple sitting in a jar of water. I thought it was odd so I immediately quizzed her about it and she politely told little-ol-woefully-uninformed-me that if you plant the top of a pineapple, it will sprout.  What?!

I was still digesting this info. a few days later when my contributor Kaley (a wonderfully creative mom in her own right) emailed to ask if she could do her next post on growing stuff from food scraps.  Clearly this was a thing – a very cool thing that kids are sure to love as it turns out.  Read on for all the details.

Do you look at all of the food scraps going into the garbage or compost and wish you could do something with them? I always do.

And after reading that a lot of fruit and vegetable scraps will grow again, I went from throwing them in the compost to turning them into a mini science experiment in our kitchen. It is so easy, can be done with things that you already have (and were going to be thrown out anyway), and it’s super fun for the kids. Read More

This time of year I love finding ways to keep my kids warm and cozy all day (and night) and recently there have been so many finds at great prices!

Today’s Friday Finds is a roundup of the extra warm leggings, dresses, and even sheets my friends and I are loving for our littles right now.

    1. Target has these footless fleece lined leggings that do a great job of keeping my 5-year-old warm in her dresses throughout winter. Our favorites include basics like heather grey and black plus the super fun rainbow stars and gold geometrics.
    2. And speaking of those dresses, it never hurts to double up on the warmth by adding fleece to both the leggings AND the dress. Old Navy has the sweet Micro Fleece Striped Cocoon Dress and this bluebird dress in both baby and big kids sizes.
    3. There really is nothing more cozy then sliding into warm flannel sheets on a cold winter night. These Circo kids’ flannel sheet sets from Target were a huge hit when I ordered them for our two big kids a few weeks ago. For S we went with the horses set (runner up: kittens). For C we chose the sports zone  (runner up camp creature which also comes in toddler bed size).
    4. Just like the leggings above, fleece lined pants are an easy way to add a layer of warmth. Plus all of the following option are nice and durable on the outside for playing. Check out these Gymboree fleece-lined classic jeans and fleece-lined twill pants plus Old Navy fleece-lined track pants for both babies and big kids
    5. Finally, we can’t talk fleece without including hoodies. All three of my kids have a big, thick fleece hoodie that they wear pretty much any time they leave the house. Check out the Gymboree fleece lined hoodies, sporty for boys and cat/bear (?) for girls… I love the pattern inside the hood in the white!

*Post contains affiliate links

More MPMK Fashion Finds

The Ultimate 21 Piece “Minimalist Mom” Wardrobe

Lately my family has been having a bit of a time with their health. Actually, it’s more like a heck of a time. One that has lasted for more than a month and has only this week left us.

I won’t get too much into the gory details. Suffice to say that it was a stomach bug/flu that hit everyone, except for me, for over a week at a time (some of us multiple times). It. Was. Awful.

And it was somewhere around the moments I was alternating between rubbing the back of my 21-month-old while he slept on the bathroom floor and trying to comfort him as he woke and scream-cried while throwing up into the sink (all while my 5-year-old was left to fend for herself with a bucket on the couch downstairs) that I realized there must be a better way.

Clearly, my complacency that had developed from having sickness-prone kids for my first 5 years of mothering was not serving me well now.

We went through a similar episode last April where all three kids got terrible infections, the baby and the 4-year-old ending up with pneumonia, follow a few weeks later buy a stomach virus that lasted for 12 days (per kid!).

Something needed to be done to help build up our family’s immune systems. So I researched. Both on the web and by reaching out to friends. Today I’m sharing what I’ve found with you in hopes it will be helpful.

First, on the advice of a trusted friend we’ve started:

Kids’ Immune-Boosting Daily Regiment

  1. This Elderberry syrup
  2. These Gummy Probiotics
  3. These Vitamin D Gummies (my kids love Franklin the turtle)

I haven’t decided yet if we’ll keep up the probiotics all the time or just do a two week course when needed. Also, I am not a medical expert, so please consult your pediatrician before starting a similar regiment for yourself or your kids.

Second, I’ve got some new recipes up my sleeve to help us combat sickness all-together and to quickly show it the door when it does show up.

Here are 10 of my new favorites…

Master Immunity Booster Smoothie via The Awesome Green (top left)

The pure beauty of this smoothie will have you jumping to blend one up at the first sign of a sniffle.

Ultimate Cold Killer Shots via Fermented Food Lab (top right)

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Valentine’s Day is right around the corner, are you ready? If, like me, you’ve just realized that you still haven’t gotten together class valentines or the treat you’re signed up to bring to the class party- don’t fret.

We’re here to help with some of our best Valentine printables, recipes and DIYs.

Ready? Here we go…

Books

Check out our post on LOVE-ly Valentine Reads. The two books pictured above are still some of my kiddos’ absolute favorites. And if you’re looking for a brand new V-Day book, here are a few featuring a few classic literary characters:

Valentines

Whether you’re looking for simple printables, cute packaging, or candy-free ideas, we’ve got you covered.

15 No-Candy Valentine Ideas

15 Free Printable Valentines to Bring to Class

DIY Photo Valentine Favors

Free Printable: DIY Animal Herd Valentines

Treats

3 Healthy Strawberry Valentine Treats (The heart kabobs are always such a huge hit!)

DIY Fruit Juice Heart Gummies

Valentine Red Velvet Pancakes

Homemade Chocolate Pomegranate Bon Bons

Valentine Activity for Baby: Decorating Healthy Heart Pancakes

Crafts

Valentine Knock-Knock Jokes and Fortune Teller Folding Tutorial

Make Heart Photo Bookmarks with the Kids

DIY Instagram Valentine Display

Valentine Keepsake: Simple Memory Garland

plush heart pillow craft

And if you’re looking for a small valentine gift for your child, I highly recommend this Plush Craft Heart Pillow Kit! My daughter had so much fun making hers and she loves cuddling it every night… My son totally wants one too now and is eyeing this fox version.

 

*Post contains affiliate links.

If your child has ever suggested you just pay with your credit card when you said you couldn’t afford something or wondered why your family vacations are less grandiose than the neighbors (or cousins!), you know how early money education can and should start.

There’s so much you want your child to know about money before they leave home, whether it’s about spending and saving, investing, interest rates, and real estate. And frankly, if you’re like me, there are some of those things you’re a little shaky on yourself.

It’s never too early to start thinking about how to teach your child foundational financial principles and these books all offer excellent ways to start the discussion, whether it’s with a children’s book you read together or advice aimed at parents.

Here are eight that will have your whole family ready to make smart decisions about money, now and for decades to come: Read More

The “Screenagers” documentary poster on a wall outside the theater at Sir Francis Drake High School in San Anselmo, California, on Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2016.

Photo: Connor Radnovich, The Chronicle

Have you guys seen the preview for this new documentary? It looks amazing (and also a little terrifying).

As a mom who started having kids at almost exactly the same time that the smartphone was born, the issue of kids and screens is one that I think about A LOT. I agree whole-heartedly with the viewpoint of the director who is quoted in this San Francisco Chronicle piece about the documentary:

This is the parenting issue of our time,” said Berkeley native Delaney Ruston, a doctor and filmmaker who created the documentary “Screenagers: Growing Up In The Digital Age.” “Tech on its own isn’t bad, but it’s bad when it’s out of balance.”

Ruston, a mental health and internal medicine specialist, began to wonder about the effect screens were having on kids and teens when her daughter, Tessa, turned 12 and began asking for her first smartphone.

Other parents, she said, were struggling too.

Parents are clamoring for this information,” she said. “This is a problem bigger than ourselves. Given the biology that we’re up against and the culture of technology, it’s hard to try to balance and tackle on your own.”

American teenagers spend nearly seven hours a day in front of a screen — be it watching television or online videos, playing games, texting or using social media, according to a study released in November by San Francisco’s Common Sense Media.

More than 90 percent of teens go online on a daily basis, with nearly a quarter using the Internet “almost constantly,” according to a Pew Research Center survey.

I haven’t met a single parent who feels good about the amount of time their kids are spending on screens,” Ruston said. “There’s a lot of talk about no screen time or too much screen time, but what we need to be teaching, really, is balance.

 

I’m so, so interested to see what this film reveals (although I fear I already know some of it) and am hopeful it will have some helpful ideas for those of us grappling with this, or preparing to do so in the future. Get more info. on the film and where you can catch a screening here.

Interested in reading more on parenting teens? Check out:

The 5 Love Languages of Teenagers: The Secret to Loving Teens Effectively

 

I hear it’s a great place to start. (No surprise considering how much people adore The 5 Love Languages of Children and The 5 Love Langagues: The Secret to Love that Lasts!)

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More from MPMK on Kids & Tech

How to Connect at Dinner Time: Conversation Starters & Parked Phone Stations

The Newbie Mom’s Guide to Kids & Phones

Using Technology to Get the Chores Done Whine-Free

Did you know that cake decorators sometimes use rice krispie treats to mold under fondant for things like, say a giant cowboy hat?

It’s true! The rice krispie treat recipe can be used as a type of playdough. Once it has slightly cooled, you can mold it into any shape you like.

IMG_1521

In honor of the upcoming holiday, we decided to make up a batch and shape them into Valentine hearts.

You can stop there, or you can really take it up a notch by dipping them in white chocolate and adding red sprinkles.  Why wouldn’t you?

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