Teaching with Heart – Printables from Love. Laugh. Teach.

20% off #teachercreated resources #printablesA couple years ago when I was doing preschool at home with my Certain Little Someone, I came across an amazing resource that I wished had been around back in the day when I was teaching K5. And now that I’m once again teaching preschool (K3 this time), I’m ever so grateful I live in this age of internet technology when I can access creative printables and other teacher tools at the drop of a hat… without dropping a ton of money! 

Teachers Pay Teachers

The resource I speak of is Teachers Pay Teachers, and I love the concept: all the material available is developed by actual teachers who’ve actually used what they’re selling. It’s totally a win-win all around, because the teacher who developed the material gets a little money on the side for all her (or his) hard work, and the teacher who purchases it receives a high-quality resource that does exactly what she needs without costing an arm and a leg.

Another thing I love about Teachers Pay Teachers is that the majority of what is available is very specific, so instead of buying a big huge $20 book full of printables, and using only a few pages, you can find – and pay for – only exactly what you need and only what will work for you.

So far, I haven’t created a lot of my own printables to sell on TPT, but my sister, who teaches K4/K5, has her own store on TPT where she offers printable worksheets for math and phonics. She currently targets a K5/1st grade level with the various worksheets she has available.

file0001694774604Love. Laugh. Teach.

Each of her sets focuses on a particular skill – patterning, for example, or consonant blends – and drills through that skill in a progressive fashion, starting with easier tasks, and continuing until the student achieves mastery of the skill in question. Because of their targeted focus, her printable sets are perfect for anyone who needs extra work on a particular skill, or to use as supplementary seatwork or homework to really internalize a concept.

One of my favorite resources she offers is Simple Addition Word Problems for Beginner Readers. What I love about this one in particular is that it is uniquely designed for emerging readers who are just figuring out how to sound out simple words – I don’t think I’ve ever seen word problem practice worksheets written with that skill level in mind! It’s perfect for your student who loves math but isn’t so great with reading, and/or your little kindergartener/first-grader who could use a little practice with word problem skills but can’t quite read the more complicated ones.

My sister’s store on TPT is very appropriately called “Love. Laugh. Teach.” Since my class is right next door to hers, I can attest to the fact that she loves her students and they love her… and there certainly is a great deal of laughter going on! Follow her on Facebook here.

From now until Tuesday, April 8, you can purchase any product in the Love. Laugh. Teach. store for 20% off! No coupon code or secret handshake necessary. This is your perfect opportunity to check out the wonderfulness that is Teachers Pay Teachers, while supporting a teacher at the same time… and getting a good deal for yourself! I tell ya, win-win all around.

Whether you are a homeschooler or a school teacher, trust me, you’ll love what you find at Teachers Pay Teachers. So what are ya waiting for? Go check it out!

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Super Simple Learning {Review & Giveaway}

Win a copy of Super Simple Songs DVD

Win a copy of Super Simple Songs DVD

Boy you guys are spoiled! Right on the heels of the Einkorn Berries giveaway from Tropical Traditions, I have another awesome little gift for one lucky reader.

Today it’s a copy of the “Super Simple Songs” DVD from the folks over at Super Simple Learning, a great company with some wonderful resources for anyone working in early childhood education… or any mom of littles. 

Learning with Songs

My class of 2- and 3-year-olds got to review this gem of a DVD during our weekly Friday morning “movie” time, and they thoroughly enjoyed it. The songs are easy to sing along with and engaging, which can sometimes be quite the feat for children this age. What’s more, I found the graphics and videography to be very professional and well-done, a refreshing sight in a world full of cheap and (let’s be honest) crappy children’s videos.

Trust me, children know when a video is of less than stellar quality, and it won’t hold their attention for very long at all. You’ll have no such problems with this DVD, which was designed to match the pace and attention span of preschool-aged viewers. I think any child 18 months to 3 years of age will have fun watching and singing along with all the short clips found on Super Simple Songs.

Sample Super Simple Learning’s work by checking out their YouTube channelI particularly love the phonetic alphabet song, which introduces the letters by their sound rather than their name. My phonics-teaching heart thrills a little at the thought! Watch it right here:

If you’d like to purchase the DVD for yourself (ahem, I mean for your children), you can get a digital download for $13.99 or order a hard copy for $16.99. Whether or not you’ve embarked on formal preschool education for your sweet little one, the songs on this DVD will help them learn the basics of their age range: letters, numbers, days, months, etc. Plus, they’ll get a chance to work on their motor skills as well by mimicking the actions shown on the video. All of that put to music means a well-rounded mini-education in 30 minutes at a time! 

Super Simple Learning also has some great resources for moms and teachers on their website, including printables, flash cards, crafts, and more.

Win a copy of Super Simple Songs

If you’d like a chance to win this DVD, enter below. Please note this giveaway is only open to US residents aged 18 or older. The giveaway will end on Wednesday, March 26, 2014 at midnight, at which time a winner will be chosen randomly by Giveaway Tools. This giveaway is sponsored and fulfilled by Super Simple Learning, and I am not responsible for ensuring that you receive your prize. The winner will be contacted and will have 48 hours to respond with their information in order to receive their prize, or another winner will be selected.

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How to Win Your Child’s Heart

How to Win Your Child's Heart

How to Win Your Child’s Heart -

Image(s) courtesy VintageHolidayCrafts.com

You hear a lot in various circles these days about the importance of “winning your child’s heart” … but what does that mean exactly? And more importantly, is it even a Biblical concept?

I’ve been contemplating both of those questions for a little while now, and I’ve arrived at some satisfactory conclusions for myself. (I’ve also realized how terrible I have been in this department!)


Image(s) courtesy VintageHolidayCrafts.com

I’ll start with my thoughts on the latter question:

Is “winning your child’s heart” a Biblical concept?

Well, certainly the Bible does not command us to do as such, at least not in the way it commands us to discipline, train, and teach our children. I haven’t found a verse yet that says, “Go win your child’s heart!” But here are some verses and Biblical principles for your consideration:

  • Obedience springs from a heart of love. John 14:23 Jesus answered and said to him, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him.
  • God instructs children to give their hearts to their parents. Proverbs 23:26 My son, give me your heart, and let your eyes observe my ways.
  • Our Heavenly Father pursues us. I John 4:9 We love Him because He first loved us.
  • Parents are to engage with their children in a loving manner. Matthew 18:5, 6 “Whoever receives one little child like this in My name receives Me. “But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to sin, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were drowned in the depth of the sea.” and Ephesians 6:4 And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord.
  • Jesus rebuked the disciples for disregarding children, and made a point of reaching out to them. Matthew 19:13, 14 Then little children were brought to Him that He might put His hands on them and pray, but the disciples rebuked them. But Jesus said, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of heaven.”

Win Your Child's Heart

Image(s) courtesy VintageHolidayCrafts.com

How to Win Your Child’s Heart

I think it’s safe to say that it’s a Biblical concept, so now what about the question of how exactly to go about it? I’m embarrassed to admit this one has stumped me for some time. The best I could come up with until recently was that I needed to spend more time with my children. Relationships are built on time, right? But that didn’t seem to be cutting it for my love-hungry Certain Little Someone, and I could sense a building anger and frustration in his heart that worried me. We could spend the whole day together doing all kinds of fun things, but it was like his love tank still wasn’t quite full.

As I pondered the problem, I lightbulb went on in my (admittedly dim-witted!) head: “Winning someone’s heart” is exactly what goes on in a courtship! Now, clearly, at some point this analogy totally breaks down, but there are a lot of similarities that are applicable to the parent-child relationship.

Win Your Child's Heart

Image(s) courtesy VintageHolidayCrafts.com

I mean, think about it. Exactly what happens when a young man has an eye on a girl and sets out to woo her? As I imagined a courting couple, I began to develop a clear picture of what it would look like to win my child’s heart (minus the googly eyes and raging hormones):

  1. I must spend time with him. This is where it all starts. Time – copious amounts of time – spent together, doing whatever. What’s being done doesn’t matter so much as the actual fact of spending time together. Typically, a couple falling in love can’t wait until the next time they get to see each other or talk on the phone because they just love spending as much time as possible with that person.
  2. Time together is a good starting point, but it’s not enough: What’s even more important is the interaction that takes place during the time spent together. For one thing, a courting couple will generally participate in activities they don’t necessarily enjoy simply for the sake of spending time with the other person. This means, I must sometimes play games and other activities I do not enjoy simply because my son enjoys them and I want to spend time with him. This is hard for me because I’m a girly-girl and both my boys are ALL. BOY. Playing outside is something I just do not love to do – never have – and yet, I must do it if I want to win their heart. My Certain Little Someone, in particular, absolutely loves the challenge of trying to hit a baseball with his big foam bat and literally could spend HOURS practicing this skill. I have never ever enjoyed baseball in any form, and it’s sheer torture for me to throw him the ball over and over and over and over… and over … and over again! (It’s probably also sheer torture for him to try to hit my wild throws, poor guy!) But I’m learning that this is something very important to him that I need to do – with a good attitude – whenever I can, just to show him that I love him.
  3. I must speak kindly, gently, and respectfully to him. A fledgling courtship will break up pretty quickly if harsh words are exchanged! And yet, harsh words escape my mouth so often when speaking to both of my sons. Harsh words and harsh tones build walls and drive wedges between people; they don’t win hearts and they don’t build relationships, and they certainly don’t win a child’s heart! I find my boys respond to me so much better when my words are spoken in kind tones. And when they are misbehaving and require correction, I still must guard my tongue and my tone of voice and make sure my words are respectful and loving even as I discipline them in one way or another.
  4. I must praise his success… and his effort! Flattery will get you nowhere, but well-worded sincere praise can secure a heart better than anything else. Just think of how a courting couple compliments each other on just about everything. I have never seen a child who didn’t blossom when praised, and it’s common knowledge that the more you praise a little one, the harder they try to please you and earn that praise. Whether they experience success in behavior, academics, sports, or some other endeavor, I need to pay attention to it, notice it, and praise them for it. And even if they don’t succeed, if they tried their best, I want to notice and praise that, too.
  5. I must see his potential. One of the quickest ways to a person’s heart (besides food, of course) is to notice not so much what they are but what they can be. See the person hidden deep inside (sometimes pretty deep) and seek to draw it out by making the other person aware of it. This is particularly an area I need to improve in with my children! I’m oh-so-quick to see their faults and failings that I overlook their potential to be more. I don’t want to tromple on their potential; I want to bring it out!

WaysYou Can Win Your Child's Heart I could go on, but I think you get the general idea! What it comes down to is this: a courting couple is generally on their best behavior, treating the other person in the best way they can in a concerted effort to win their heart. Parents can do the same thing for their children, but it’s a lot harder because it has to be balanced with the need to train and disciple them. It’s also a lot harder because in the parent-child relationship the heart-winning is usually one-sided; whereas in a courtship, as long as there’s mutual interest, both parties have their best foot forward.

And clearly, the analogy falls all to pieces at some point, because in a courtship there’s that added element we’ll call “romance”. Obviously, that doesn’t come into play here!

But I’m taking a cue from the lovelorn and making a concerted effort this Valentine’s Day (and all year long) to win my child’s heart so that they will more willingly accept my instruction and discipline.

What steps do you take to ensure you win your child’s heart? 

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Brush Teeth with An All Natural, Affordable Toothpaste

This is not a sponsored post. Tom’s of Maine gave me some product to try, but all opinions are my own. This post does contain affiliate and referral links. Thank you for supporting Authentic Simplicity!

Although you know that healthy teeth have more to do with diet than oral hygiene, you still want to keep them clean, yes? (Ain’t nobody wants to catch wind of stinky breath, ya know?) And cleaning said teeth with toothpastes laden with nasty chemicals seems counter-productive, yes?

But natural toothpaste is so expensive, yes? 


Thankfully, affordable yet natural (even fluoride-free!) toothpaste is available at just about every grocery store, as well as the ubiquitous Walmart and Target. I’m talking about Tom’s of Maine, whose line of kids’ toothpastes I was recently able to try.

What I Like About Tom’s of Maine

  • Availability: You can find their products in just about any store, or online at Amazon.com or Vitacost.com. Some other highly recommended natural toothpastes are a little more obscure and harder to come by, so it’s nice to know there’s an option close at hand.
  • Affordability: The Silly Strawberry Kids’ Toothpaste which I tried is currently $2.61 at Vitacost (normally $5.17). A pack of 3 is currently $7.83 at Amazon.com. If you want to pick it up at Walmart, you’ll find the price to be somewhere around $3.00.
  • Skin Deep Rating: EWG’s Skin Deep Database rates products based on their safety and environmental impact. Tom’s of Maine’s kids’ toothpastes get a rating of “2″, which is an excellent rating.
  • Natural Flavors: One thing that I despise about most kids’ toothpastes is the artificial flavors they all contain. My kids love that fake flavor, but I cannot abide it! My Certain Little Someone is very particular about the flavor of his toothpaste, and has turned his nose up at other natural brands. At first, he didn’t take to the Silly Strawberry flavor (which comes from actual strawberry juice!) but it wasn’t long before he adjusted, and then he loved it as much as any of the other fake ones. Now the Wicked Cool Mint flavor, which comes from actual mint leaves, is definitely not his favorite, but that’s no surprise since he doesn’t even like peppermint candy canes!
  • Transparency: I love how Toms of Maine is very transparent in detailing the ingredients in their products so you always know what you’re getting. Their Ingredients List details what ingredients they use in their products and from what those ingredients are derived (a very important detail!).
  • Fluoride-Free: Fluoride-free toothpaste is hard to come by for children past the toddler stage, so I love that Toms of Maine makes fluoride-free versions of all their children’s toothpastes.
  • What’s Missing: Tom’s of Maine uses no artificial flavors, preservatives, fragrances, or colors.

What I Don’t Like

Honestly, there’s not a lot I don’t like about Tom’s of Maine, although some of their ingredients (sodium lauryl sulfate) are not *quite* as natural and unprocessed as I would prefer. However, the alternatives are a lot pricier and extremely difficult to find, which makes Toms of Maine an excellent choice.


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A Redeemed Jack-O-Lantern

As much as I love to cook up a good pumpkin and throw it into just about everything, I’ve found that there are other – non-culinary – uses for those big fat squashes that might not be edible, per se, but are just as much fun. 

This Redeemed Jack-O-Lantern, for example. I found the instructions in the files left by the previous K3 teacher in my classroom, and found further inspiration in the fabulous children’s book, The Pumpkin Patch Parable (that right there is an affiliate link), written by one of my favorite authors, Liz Curtis Higgs (That is not. An affiliate link, I mean.). Instead of glorifying death and fear, it celebrates life and hope; and it radiates faith. That’s my kind o’ pumpkin!

How a Jack-O-Lantern is Redeemed

  1. Choose a big fat pumpkin, the best you can find. No bitsy pie pumpkins this time around! “… just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world…” Eph 1:4
  2. Use a sharp knife to cut a lid out of the top of the pumpkin, making it large enough for you to fit your hand in comfortably.
  3. Scoop out all the icky yucky slimy junk stuck inside the pumpkin. It kind of reminds one of all the yuckiness (aka, sin) that resides in each of our hearts. “What comes out of a man, that defiles a man. For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lewdness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within and defile a man.” Mark 7:20-23
  4. Throw away the icky yucky slimy junk. (If your frugal heart cannot bear to part with the seeds… save them discreetly! The eliminating of the yucky junk is an essential element of the redemption illustration.) “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” I John 1:9
  5. Take a star-shaped cookie cutter and place it on the pumpkin in the general approximation of where it would have eyes if it were a face. Use a hammer to tap the cookie cutter into the pumpkin, and remove the star shaped piece of pumpkin to reveal a star-shaped eye. Repeat for the second eye. (Note: Plastic cookie cutters work, but metal cookie cutters work better. And if you have neither, just use a sharp knife and free-hand it.) Because our sin separated us from God, He had to redeem us. He sent His Son Jesus to earth to live a perfect life and be the perfect sacrifice for our sin. He announced the arrival of His Son on earth with, among other things, a very special star. “Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him.” Mat 2:1-3
  6. Use the sharp knife to cut a cross-shaped piece where a nose would be on your pumpkin’s face. God’s redemption plan culminated in the death of Jesus on the cross and His subsequent resurrection. “Without shedding of blood there is no remission.” Heb 9:22
  7. Use a fish-shaped cookie cutter (What? No such thing in your house? Just use a knife.) and a hammer to punch out the mouth of the pumpkin face. No Bible verse here, but a little bit of Christian history: the persecuted early church used a fish as a symbol whereby they identified one another. Hence it is now a symbol of our belief and faith in Jesus Christ as our Redeemer. 
  8. Place a tea light candle (I like the fake ones from the dollar store) inside the pumpkin and watch the light shine through the pumpkin’s face. “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” Mat 5:16

And that’s how a pumpkin (and a person) is redeemed.

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Safety Online

I was provided a year’s subscription to Covenant Eyes in exchange for this post, but all opinions and thoughts are my own. This is not a commercial; just my thoughts about a very real problem each of us faces in our world today.  CovenantEyes.com Good and evil run on parallel tracks and they both arrive at the same time. 

I heard a sermon once where the pastor repeatedly quoted that statement until it was stuck in my brain forever, and I’ve since repeatedly thought how true of a statement it was! The internet is a perfect illustration of its truth: it can be both good and evil.

The Internet Can Be Good

Very good. In fact, I make a little spare change for myself and my family via my little enterprises on the internet. I know many have established entire businesses and careers online to support themselves, and I think it’s so wonderful that they can stay home with their families (both mom AND dad!) and still earn a living. That’s a beautiful thing, in my opinion.

I’ve also learned SO much from the internet: my blogging friends have inspired me time and time again with fresh ideas and challenges on all sorts of fronts, and of course, there’s Google, which is always ready to help you find the answers to burning questions of any level of importance.

I use the internet all the time in planning for my preschool class; I’ve found it to be indispensable!

The internet helps me manage my household, decorate the house, decorate birthday cakes, raise my children, love my husband, keep up-to-date with friends and family, keep up-to-date (to the extent I want) with world events, and find fabulously new recipes.


The Internet Can Be Evil

Very, very evil. Men love darkness rather than light because their deeds are evil, and the internet provides the dark cover of what appears to be a cloak of secrecy that encourages all manner of evil deeds to take place.

Like cyber bullying for example.

Or trapping victims in an online web in order to perpetrate crimes in person.

Or porn. Or any other manner of deviant immoral behavior.

The internet can be evil indeed.

Arm Yourself for Battle

Thankfully, there are ways to reap the benefits of the internet without succumbing to the dangers. Just arm yourself and your family with a the right tools, and you can do battle with confidence!

One important step my family took recently was to install a filtering and monitoring service on all our devices: PC, laptop, phones, and tablets. This service, offered by Covenant Eyes, is completely customizable and adjustable to the particular needs of your family, and gives us a great peace of mind as The Boys get older and are exposed to the internet more and more. I highly recommend that every family take this proactive step to protect themselves against the dangers that can be found online.

There are, of course, other measures families can take, most of them involving a lot of time, attention, and discernment on the part of the parents. My DH and I have discussed at length how we will approach our growing boys’ time online as they get older, and there are various strategies we’ve heard about and read about that we’ll probably implement at one point or another. But ultimately, it comes down to how we train them. I am reminded more and more recently of the instruction God gave to the Israelites to teach their children about His commandments when they were at home, when they were on their way somewhere, when they wake up and when they go to sleep. Our goal right now is to fill our sons’ minds with the Word of God so that when they are older, the Holy Spirit can use it to give them wisdom to know what is right and the courage to do it.

What about you? How do you protect your family from online dangers?


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Take a Staycation… One Day at a Time!

Except for the occasions when we’ve joined one or the other of our families for a “real” vacation, my DH and I have mostly enjoyed “staycations” throughout our married life. This year is no different, except that instead of taking one whole week to enjoy our staycation, we’re spreading it out through the summer. My DH’s work schedule is kind of erratic, so we take our little mini staycations whenever he has a day off during the week. Our goal is to go somewhere one day a week throughout the summer, but in reality, it will probably be slightly less than that. Still, we plan to pack our summer full of fun and exciting memories despite the fact that we’re not truly “going on vacation”. 

Just in case you are in a similar boat (no time off, no money, no inclination for a real vacation), here are some ideas to help you enjoy your summer anyway! And on the cheap, too, of course, because that’s how I roll.

Family Self Portrait taken at Maymont Estate in Richmond, VA

1. Scout Out NearBy Tourist Spots

We are lucky to live in an area where we are approximately 2 hours away from a whole host of hot tourist spots: Washington DC, Baltimore, Annapolis, Richmond, Gettysburg, the Shenandoah Valley, and more. Day trips to places like Williamsburg or the Eastern shore are not out of the question. Not to mention the whole host of local, lesser-known historic towns and spots that boast all sorts of free or nearly-free touristy fun, like historic home tours, botanical gardens, zoos and the like. So we can literally spend the whole summer being tourists in our own town without visiting the same place twice.

You may or may not be so blessed, but I bet if you take the time to look at your area through the eyes of a tourist, you’ll find more options than you thought possible for stay-at-home fun, entertainment, and even learning. Chances are, the city (or big town) nearest to you has a website (or possibly even an app) with all sorts of tips on the best sites for tourists to see. Find favorite local spots like restaurants, historic homes, parks, recreation, museums, and more.

Don’t forget to think outside the immediate area as well. Decide how far you’re willing to drive for a day trip (maybe an hour? Two? Three, perhaps?) and widen your scope to check out what’s available in that radius.

Depending on what sort of things your family likes to do, you might enjoy any of the following types of tourist spots:

  • national/state parks
  • museums
  • historic homes
  • gardens
  • nature preserves
  • zoos
  • amusement parks or entertainment parks
  • historic old town centers
  • scenic drives
  • natural sites (like caverns, waterfalls, and the like)

He found a car just his size at the local coffee shop car show.

2. Visit Favorite Local Haunts

Let’s switch gears a little bit and get hyper-local here. Whether or not you’re already plugged into the local scene, make it a priority to visit all of your town’s hot spots this summer. I’m talking about the ice cream parlor that has lines out the door every day through the season, or the pizza joint that everybody knows about and has been to at least once. What’s the favorite playground or park that all the mommies know about? The coffee shop that’s crowded on Saturday mornings because of the uh-may-zing donuts and fresh lattes they carry? (Or maybe, as in my case, the local coffee shop that hosts a car show every Saturday morning? Now that’s a fun – and free – summer activity!)

If you don’t know where these local favorites are, you can find  them simply by giving  a little shout-out on Facebook. Your friends should be able to point you in the right direction.  Or if your town newspaper/magazine hosts a “Best of” contest every year, check those out.

Cheap Fun: Train Rides at the Mall

3. Plan a Day of Fun

You don’t even need to “get away” for your day-by-day staycation! Really, all you need to do is plan a day around activities that are enjoyable to everyone in your family, and just a little different from your usual routine. Think about what your perfect relaxing day would look like, and make it happen!

Here’s an idea for a “Staycation Schedule”:

  • Sleep in.
  • Enjoy brunch at a leisurely hour.
  • Go to a local pool for the afternoon (or play water games in your back yard). AND/OR go to the mall and get cheap carousel rides or train rides, or play in the mall’s playground.
  • Make everybody’s favorite food for dinner as a family.
  • Go to the town’s free outdoor concert or movie (many towns host these on a weekly basis through the summer).
  • Finish the day by “camping” in your own backyard. Borrow a tent if you don’t have one, or put sleeping bags in the living room!

A day trip to a lavender farm, sponsored in part by a daily deal my sister bought.

4. Check Daily Deal Sites

Sites like Groupon, Eversave, Living Social (and/or the local version in your area – around here, we have Specialicious) are a great source of good deals on local entertainment. You’ll get vouchers for at least half off to such local places as:

  • restaurants
  • bowling
  • mini golf
  • local events
  • concerts
  • sporting events
  • classes
  • pool/water parks
  • and lots more!

Using deal sites like this might make summer fun activities affordable for your family when they wouldn’t be otherwise. We’ve used these deal sites to get half priced entry to the local water park, which The Boys absolutely loved! It’s not something we’d pay full price for, but half price was totally do-able, and definitely worth it.

Playing in the sandbox at the local botanical gardens.

5. Attend Local Festivals & Events

It seems like there’s always a festival nearby around here. Some of them cost, some of them don’t. Some of them are worth it, some of them are not! The county fair is always free, and is always fun for the kids – animals to pet, shows to watch, and exhibits to enjoy. Other festivals celebrate local crops or industries, or even just townships. Do a quick Google search by combining your town or county’s name with the word “festival” and you’re sure to find some fun events to attend this summer.

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5 Potty Training Tips

This post contains affiliate links. 5 Potty Training Tips

Potty training. The very words tend to elicit groans from even the most seasoned parents. It’s not exactly the funnest stage of toddlerhood, not even close. However, if one wants to get from Point A (Diaper World) to Point B (Underwear!) – kind of essential to daily life at some point before the age of 5 – one must go through the Land of Potty Training.

I have potty-trained a total of 2 children in my life, so I  do not by any means consider myself an expert on the subject! In fact, I have no advice of my own to offer. However, before I ever embarked on the Great Adventure of Potty Training, I did some serious thinking and studying and learning. There was no way I was about to attempt something so seemingly complicated without a hefty store of knowledge on my side! I spoke to countless moms who had been there and done that, moms in real life, and moms online. I read blog posts. I read articles from experts. I even read a book or two. I sifted through all the information given to me (and wow, was it a lot!), found the common threads, and came up with my own potty-training philosophy. And then, with a heavy dose of apprehension and skepticism, I dove in.

And I was successful! Twice! With Boys! And they were only two years old! 

Honestly? I still kind of can’t believe it. Everyone – and I mean everyone – warned me how difficult it was to potty train boys. I was seriously dreading the whole entire process, and could not believe my good fortune when the deed was done. And in a relatively short amount of time, too! I have to say that it was so much easier than I had been led to believe, and success came much more quickly than I expected. 

And it’s not because I’m SuperMom. Ahem. No way. It’s because all those mommies and experts I consulted were totally onto something… and I was smart and listened to them!

So now, I’m going to give you the nuggets of advice that were given to me that were such a tremendous help, and, I think, were so effective in our potty-training endeavors.

Tip No. 1: Use Cloth Diapers

Truthfully, I believe the fact that we used cloth diapers is the number one reason both my boys were so easy to potty train. I didn’t even use them exclusively (my younger son struggled a lot with diaper rash, so I used disposable diapers fairly frequently with him), but I don’t think anything else can prepare a child for successful potty-training like cloth diapers can. When wearing cloth, an infant and young toddler can learn to recognize and associate the feelings of needing to pee and poop with the sensations of a wet and dirty diaper. Since disposables pull the moisture away from the bottom, it’s a lot harder for a small child to feel a wet diaper and create those associations. (By the way, my friend Erin has written THE ultimate resource on cloth-diapering if you want to look into that.)

But if it’s too late, and you haven’t been using cloth diapers, don’t despair! There is still much you can do.

Tip No. 2: Timing is Everything

One of the most oft-repeated pieces of potty-training advice is “Wait until your child is ready”, and there is much truth to this. You will only frustrate yourself and your child if you attempt to start potty-training before they are physically and emotionally ready… not to mention mature enough! I think it’s also easier the more verbal your child is, and the more easily he or she can communicate. I actually first attempted to potty-train my younger son right after he turned two, and while he was physically ready… he was definitely not mature enough, so we paused the potty-training and waited a few more months.

Typically, a child is physically ready to potty-train if they exhibit the following signs of readiness:

  • fewer diaper changes (indicating they have more control and can hold it)
  • communicating when they need a diaper change and/or insisting on a diaper change
  • knowing when they need to go and indicating that by finding a special place to do their business
  • understands his/her bodily functions
  • can follow directions
  • is physically capable of pulling pants up and down, sitting on the potty, etc.

Many parents take this advice to heart and wait until their child is 3 or even 4 years old before attempting to potty-train, but there are 2 sides to this timing coin. Prior to the age of 3, the average child tends to be a little more cooperative and malleable in their character. As toddlers get older, they gain independence with every new skill, and with that independence comes a fair amount of stubbornness and obstinance. Those character traits will not be on your side when you begin attempting to potty-train!

Furthermore, prior to the advent of disposable diapers (see Tip #1), the average age of potty-training in the United States was 18 months. (Read Diaper-Free Before Three for in-depth information on the history of diapering and potty-training in the United States.) It’s only been in the last few decades since disposable diapers have become the norm that the average potty-training age has doubled!

By the way, before I read that statistic, I had intended to wait until the age of 3 or so before attempting to potty-train, assuming it would be easier then. The fact that previous generations had continuously and successfully potty-trained their babies a lot sooner than that convinced me that there was no real need to wait until my children were “old enough”. 

Tip No. 3: Get Your Child Ready

Here’s the step I think a lot of parents miss. They see the wisdom in waiting for their child to be ready, so they watch and wait for the signs of readiness, all the while unaware that they as parents can do an awful lot to help their child get ready. Instead of passively waiting for your child to show you he or she is ready (which could take forever), there are plenty of steps you can take to ensure your child is ready for potty-training long before they reach the age of 3:

  • Purchase a child-size potty (or a contraption that fits on the regular toilet) as soon as your child is capable of sitting up (I’m serious!), and give them plenty of chances to use it. At the very least, have them sit on it whenever they take a bath. If you have time when you’re changing their diaper, have them sit on it for a little while. Whether or not they do anything on it is immaterial at first; it’s just the whole concept of sitting on there and becoming familiar with it.
  • If your child exhibits signs when they need to go (mine never did), then watch for those cues and put them on the potty as soon as you can.
  • Talk to your child incessantly about their bodily functions. Whenever I changed my boys’ diapers, I talked about that part of their body and its function, and I talked about how it felt when their diaper was wet or dirty. I talked about what was in their diaper and the difference between a clean and dirty diaper. We talked “potty talk” a LOT!
  • Give your kids opportunity to observe an adult doing their business. It might be awkward, but it helps them understand the proper way to go about things.
  • Make it clear that you expect your little one to – sooner or later – learn to do their business in the potty and not in their diaper. They need to understand from an early age that there’s an end to the whole diaper experience.

If you begin putting into practice all those elements from an early age, your child will be “ready” to potty-train a lot sooner than if you just let time go by without so much as a mention of the whole concept. Both of my boys started exhibiting signs of readiness around 15-18 months of age.

Tip No. 4: Don’t Use “Pull-Ups”

I learned this one when I was a teacher and wasn’t even thinking about having kids, let alone thinking of potty-training. Hands down – and it doesn’t take a study to prove this - the children I encountered who were having difficulty potty-training all used pull-ups. To a kid, a pull-up is just a diaper. It feels the same, no matter what you call it. There is no incentive to take care of their needs anywhere other than where they always have… in the diaper. And the longer they wear the pull-up, the more deeply those habits become entrenched.

As a mom, though, I recognize the need to get out of the house and go places with your kid even during the potty-training phase. Of course, you don’t want to be cleaning up messes while you’re out! A friend of mine has a unique solution – she puts underwear on her child first, then puts a pull-up over that. The sensation of cloth is there, but the pull-up helps contain any mess. I used this method on several occasions with my older son and it was very effective.

With my younger son, however, I just take him out and deal with the mess if it happens. I bring along a few sets of clean underwear and shorts just in case, but I dont’ have to use them very often. (It happens, of course, and usually when you least want it to!)

Tip No. 5: Get Down to the Bare Essentials

And by this I mean, your child should have nothing on from the waist-down when you first begin to potty-train. I have to admit, I ignored this advice with my first son, and just kept him in underwear (no shorts) the first few days of potty-training. He had no problems grasping the concept of using the potty, though, and I didn’t even think about it when I started potty-training Son #2.

Then the common sense underlying that advice began to make perfect sense to me! Even a small child doesn’t want to experience the mess that is made by eliminating all over his legs and onto the floor, so foregoing underwear is a definite incentive for using the potty! Our little Tiger Cub (which is what we call the aforementioned Son #2) was very happy to do number one in the potty whenever he needed to, and that part was relatively easy to train. Going number two in the potty was another story altogether! He eventually discovered that going just a little at a time in his underwear was  a lot more comfortable than going in the potty. However, when we removed the security of his underwear, he didn’t have any choice but to relieve himself in the right place. Periodically, he’ll test us on this, so we’ll take off his underwear until he poops in the right place. It takes less time each time, and the occasions when we need to do that are becoming fewer and farther between.


Of course, the very next day after I wrote this post and scheduled it to publish, Tiger Cub had a serious regression in his potty-training. Prior to that point, he had been regularly doing all his business on the potty, needing only occasional encouragement on our part, with rare accidents. Then, suddenly, he seemingly forgot HOW to go in the potty. He would run into the bathroom, and then just stand there while he did his business. Even worse, he both peed AND pooped in his underwear. At church. In the nursery.

*sigh* After a great deal of mental angst and deep pondering, it occurred to me that just a day or two prior to that, my DH and I had stopped rewarding little Mr. Tiger Cub with Skittles (his treat of choice – it’s amazing how motivating one little ball of sugar and additives can be!) every time he peed on the potty. Aha! Little Mr. Attitude apparently decided that if we weren’t going to reward him every time he did what he was supposed to… well, then, he just wouldn’t.

We have since reinstated the Skittles, and Tiger Cub appears to be recovering his ability to do his business in the right place. Moral of the story? (And the BONUS TIP?!) Keep up the incentives until your kid is good and potty-trained. And I mean GOOD and POTTY-TRAINED!

As I consider our approach to potty-training and the road bumps we encountered (or avoided) along the way, I believe these 5 tips have made the difference between success and failure for us. I hope they are as helpful to you as they have been to me, and I wish you the best of luck in your potty-training efforts!

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Healthy Frozen Treats {Raising Healthy Families}

Welcome Back to the Raising Healthy Family Series! In this final installment,
Kelly at The Nourishing Home is sharing a healthy way to beat the heat of summer without compromising good nutrition.

Making your own homemade ice pops and frozen treats is so easy and it’s fun too! And best of all, you’ll feel good knowing that your
family is enjoying a healthy boost of wholesome nutrients in each and every yummy bite!

So be sure to join Kelly at The Nourishing Home as she helps us celebrate summer
with some delicious and nutritious real food frozen treats certain to bring a smile to your kids faces, while keeping the ice cream man at bay!

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How to Get Your Kids to Eat More Vegetables {Raising Healthy Families}

Welcome back to the Raising Healthy Families Series! 


We hope you’ve enjoyed joining us each Friday as we’ve shared different ways to keep your family healthy and vibrant in a not-so-healthy world!

Be sure to join us next Friday for our final post in this series from Kelly at The Nourishing Home, as she shares delicious, real food frozen treats that your family can enjoy all summer long.


Written by Jill of Jill’s Home Remedies


Getting a child to eat vegetables can be a monumental task that most moms hope to accomplish in their lifetime.
We all know that many kids balk at vegetables.
Moms therefore try to find ways to “hide” vegetables in meals and casseroles, hoping their children do not notice the “green and orange stuff” hidden within their food. They whisper to their older children that they “better not say the word ‘vegetable’ or their younger siblings won’t eat supper!”
My girls eat vegetables every day.  I’m not talking about vegetables hidden in food; I’m talking about fresh, raw, healthy vegetables!  My girls cheer when they see I’m chopping up a plate of celery, carrots and green pepper!
Hop on over to Jill’s Home Remedies for fun and practical tips on teaching your own kids to eat more vegetables!


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