Author Archives: Melinda

About Melinda

Melinda is half of the mom-and-dad blogging team from LookWhatMomFound...and Dad too! Over four years ago, Melinda left the corporate world to focus on raising her children. Fifteen years of parenting three children has provided her with many experiences that she uses to educate her family on morals, ethics, and the difference between right and wrong. While she believes academics are very important, she holds fast to the idea that an education goes beyond books and grades. Melinda strives to raise children with good hearts, strong principles, and a foundation built on love and respect for others.

Gift Giving Ideas for Kids #unplugged

Battery Free Fun Gifts

When holidays and birthdays come around I have to field questions from every aunt, grandparent, babysitter and neighbor about what to get for the kids. Luckily my kids have lots of interests so we can get away so many things. They would ultimately choose gifts associated with gaming if it was left to them but would also be excited to receive any of the below gifts and ideas that I want to share.

Gift giving to kids that aren’t yours can be stressful. You want the child to not only appreciate the gift but to also really enjoy it. A gift that ends up in a re-gift or return pile is no fun. These fun and battery free ideas can make you the hit of the party.

Costumes-Dress -up can be the start of dreams for a bright future. Capes, masks and microphones can transform a simple bedroom into a stage or pool of hot lava.

Puzzles- Aim for a theme such as animals or trains that the child is already very interested in. Even the littlest fingers enjoy chunky wooden puzzles.

Blocks-Blocks come in all types of sizes, shapes and technical difficulty. Invest in a little engineer’s future with a set that fits their age and interests.

Board Games-Stick with classics such as Life or Sorry for years and years worth of use.

Arts & Crafts-Everyone has even the littlest creative bone in their body. Spark a new passion for painting, beading, paper-crafts or even sewing with a gift that will get their fingers and minds moving.

Food Play-Playing pretend restaurant or kitchen is one of the best past-times. Gift a set of realistic felt or wooden food or pots and pans to get their kitchen going with the next best meal.

Trains-A train-set is an instant magnet for children of all ages. Sets can be built out to extraordinary size and elaborate design to engage many children at once.

Outdoor Toys-Get them up and moving with a gift of classic toys such as a kite, basketball, jump rope, hula hoop and sidewalk chalk. No more excuses to be sitting in the house.

These are just a handful of ideas for getting your kids unplugged and playing something new or old. What kind of battery-free gifts do you like to gift to the children in your life.

Surviving Motion Sickness in the Car

Surviving Motion Sickness in the Car with Kids

This summer was spent in the car. We took lots of trips to the beach, parks, local attractions and even took a 12 drive to South Carolina and back. With each of these trips, whether it was short or long, we were faced with the likely possibility that two of our children were going to battle with with car sickness.

Car sickness or motion sickness is triggered when the motion sensors of the body, eyes, inner ear and extremities, aren’t agreeing with each other. The body then reacts with nausea, sweating, dizziness and vomiting.  Babies and younger children don’t tend to suffer from motion sickness, it tends to crop up in the toddler years

As a back seat passenger I often suffer from car sickness but over the years I’ve learned some tricks that I’ve passed onto my child to avoid car sickness.

Turn on the AC. A cool breeze on your child’s face prevents any strong odors from upsetting or irritating their stomach.  Keep the car prepared with a small blanket for chilly legs.

Eating right before hitting the road. Encourage a low fat, mild meal. This also helps reduce an upset stomach. Fruits, veggies and pasta are easier on the stomach than fat laden fast food or junky snacks. Keeping light snacks such as crackers and fruit on hand may help.

Ginger ale and candies help may help with nausea.  As long as it contains REAL ginger a cookie, candy or drink should really help with nausea. Stay about from items with just ginger flavoring.

Chose the road smoothly traveled. A bumpy ride or one that encounters lots of stop and go can add to your motion sickness. Stick to highways and long country roads with fewer stop signs and stop lights.

Focus on something on the horizon. Keep the reading and device playing to a minimum. The movement will only exacerbate the symptoms and lead to headaches and dizziness.  Look out the window at the farthest point like the horizon.

Talk to your doctor about medicines and over the counter remedies. There are choices of the pharmaceutical nature that could be of help. Talk with your doctor before administrating anything to yourself or your children.

Motion Sickness is no fun for anyone. While driivng if you or your child isn’t feeling well it’s best to pull over and remove yourself from the situation for a few moments.  Fresh air, cool water and a stretch can do wonders.  Resume your trip when the dizziness has passed. Of course arm yourself with car sickness bags IN the car if you aren’t able to make frequent stops or aren’t able to stop in enough time.

Educational Activities for the Summer

educational activities for summer

No more pencils no more books!! Remember that old song. We’re deep into summer, but I’m already thinking about how to keep their brains sharp and free from any brain drain. I’m all for a super fun summer but I know we have to fit in some educational activities so the kids don’t forget everything they’ve learned this far.

With a good list of summer learning activities to lean on you’ll never be at a loss for finding something fun but instructive for the kids to do when there have been maybe too many popsicles.

Assign a book report. This may sound utterly cruel but a book report doesn’t have to be a 5 page summary of a boring story. Choose any age appropriate book or section of chapters and then chose 3-4 questions that your child about the plot, characters or even the emotion that characters are feeling. It doesn’t have to be difficult but it should be enough to get them thinking about the story as they read it.

Play online games. Rusty and Rosy Reading has been a part of our home for more than 2 years. It grows with our youngest child so she is never at a loss for games that match her ability. Set a timer and let your child explore their favorite educational software. Find one that gives you scores or a review of your child’s progress.

Visit with nature. We’ll enjoy lots of visits to our parks to enjoy the playground, ride bikes or have a picnic. What about arming yourselves with binoculars, notebook & pen and a smartphone. Look for birds, bugs, plants and flowers and see if you can identify them by looking up characteristics. This is a great time to learn the “Leaves of Three, Let Them Be” rhyme.leaves of three let it be rhyme

Leaves of three, let it be!
Leaves of five, let it thrive!
Hairy vine? No friend of mine!
Berries white, danger in sight!
Red leaflets in spring are a dangerous thing.
Side leaflets like mittens will itch like the dickens!
Berries of red will soon be dead!
White and yellow, kill a fellow.
Plants get too thick, run away quick!
Berries of blue will do harm to you!

Host a lemonade stand. Give the kids a lesson in math by helping them run a lemonade stand. Let them know that it doesn’t just take the sale of a cup of lemonade to make a profit. What about the cost of making the lemonade, creating signs and buying supplies.

Take a field trip. Museums of all kinds are found in cities big and small. Research what can be found in your neck of the woods and see if the kids will learn something new. Don’t dismiss the obscure finds, they can often be the most fun.

Learn the history.  With just a few clicks on a computer you can find a history lesson in your own backyard. Find out about the first settlers in your area or your states leading agricultural producer or who your highway is named after.

Keeping the summer productive with educational activities doesn’t have to be boring. Look at things in a different way to hold your kid’s attention and keep them happy.

Poison Ivy image provided via Flickr from Carterse

Reading List for Tween Boys

Reading List for Teen Boys

In my experience as a mother to a tween boy is they are so engulfed in technology that reading is the last thing in the world they want to do. Like I said, this is just MY experience. My son is a good student, gets good grades and glowing reviews from his teachers about his personality and participation but his comments about effort or eh. His attention to detail leaves much to the imagination.

Everyone tells me that reading is a great way to get the creative juices flowing. He doesn’t HATE to read but it definitely isn’t his favorite activity. I’m constantly looking for new authors or series that I think he would enjoy. Humor is his go-to. I don’t mind too much as long as he’s reading. I’ve introduced a few non-fiction stories and graphic novels to hopefully get his thinking and emotional side stirring too.summer reading tween boys

Here are my reading recommendations for boys 9-12

Wonder by R. J. Palaci
August Pullman is a 10-year-old boy who likes Star Wars and Xbox, ordinary except for his jarring facial anomalies. Homeschooled all his life, August heads to public school for fifth grade and he is not the only one changed by the experience–something we learn about first-hand through the narratives of those who orbit his world.

Heart of Champion by Carl Deuker
Jimmy Winter is a born star on the baseball field, and Seth Barnam can only dream of being as talented. Still, the two baseball fanatics have the kind of friendship that should last forever. But when Seth experiences an unthinkable loss, he’s forced to find his own personal strength–on and off the field.Heart of Champion

Treasure Hunters by James Patterson and Chris Grabenstein
The Kidd siblings have grown up diving down to shipwrecks and traveling the world, helping their famous parents recover everything from swords to gold doubloons from the bottom of the ocean.

Diary of a Sixth Grade Ninja (series) by Marcus Emerson
My name is Chase Cooper, and I’m a 6th grade ninja. It’s my first day at a different school and the only person I know is my cousin, Zoe (but she might be a little too cool for me). I was just another scrawny kid until a group of ninjas recruited me into their clan.

Supernatural Hero by Eran Gadot
“I’m the class nerd, the only kid who doesn’t get invited to birthday parties… Maybe it would be better if everyone gave me the silent treatment. At least they would be paying attention to me…”

Out of My Mind by Sharon M. Draper
Eleven-year-old Melody has a photographic memory. Her head is like a video camera that is always recording. Always. And there’s no delete button. She’s the smartest kid in her whole school—but no one knows it. Most people—her teachers and doctors included—don’t think she’s capable of learning, and up until recently her school days consisted of listening to the same preschool-level alphabet lessons again and again and again.Out of My Mind

Counting by 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan
Willow Chance is a twelve-year-old genius, obsessed with nature and diagnosing medical conditions, who finds it comforting to count by 7s. It has never been easy for her to connect with anyone other than her adoptive parents, but that hasn’t kept her from leading a quietly happy life . . . until now.

The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate
Having spent 27 years behind the glass walls of his enclosure in a shopping mall, Ivan has grown accustomed to humans watching him. He hardly ever thinks about his life in the jungle. Instead, Ivan occupies himself with television, his friends Stella and Bob, and painting. But when he meets Ruby, a baby elephant taken from the wild, he is forced to see their home, and his art, through new eyes.

Slob by Ellen Potter
Twelve-year-old Owen Birnbaum is the fattest kid in school. But he?s also a genius who invents cool contraptions? like a TV that shows the past. Something happened two years ago that he needs to see. But genius or not, there is much Owen can’t outthink.Slob

Every child’s reading ability and genre preference is different. My son won’t read all of these but he’ll at least try.  We’ve going through many many authors to find the few he favors and the few he’ll experiment with. Use your library as a resource. It’s an inexpensive way to “try things on” without committing to a purchase.

 

Amusement and Water Park Safety Tips

SONY DSC

A trip to the amusement park or carnival should be an exciting family activity. Roller coasters, bumper cars and cotton candy should put a smile on everyone’s face. But in the eyes of a little one this can all be very overwhelming. The loud music, the shrieks of exhilaration and of course the crowds can be an overload to the senses. Before you head out the door be sure you’ve talked with your family about amusement and water park safety tips.

Get Packing
Packing the essentials is probably the first thing a parent does. but is your list complete? Pack a backpack or tote bag so it’s organized and everything you need has a place. Don’t over pack. Keep lunch in a cooler in the car and spend a few moments of quiet time before heading back in for round two.

  • Sunscreen for every member of the family
  • Water and drinks to stay hydrated
  • Food and snacks to stay nourished
  • First aid supplies for minor incidents (bandages, ointment, sanitizing wipes
  • Extra clothing in case of accidents
  • Comfy shoes
  • Sunglasses and/or hats to keep eyes protected from sun

waterpark safety tipsBe Aware of Surroundings
Always know where you’re at in an unfamiliar place. As you walk around locate the restrooms, first aid stations or even guest services. You don’t’ want to be unprepared when someone starts their own rendition of the potty dance.

Missing in Action
The biggest nightmare of any parent is losing their child in a crowded space. Develop a plan before your excursion.

  • Small children are wanderers. An easy way to locate them within a few feet is by clipping a balloon to the back of their shirt or pants. It can be seen above adults head.
  • Older children can easily get distracted too. We’ve taught our children to find the closest bench and sit down. Family will come back to the place where they last saw you.
  • Invest in a harness for the runners. Some people don’t like it because it resembles a leash but there are cuter options out there now.
  • Use temporary tattoos that display the parents contact information in case security or guest services need to get involved.
  • Walkie-talkies are fun but they can also be functional. These can work at the beach, vacation resorts and cruise ships.
  • Dress in brightly colored clothing.
  • Have a current photo of your child, even one on your phone would be helpful if you get separated.
  • Discuss stranger danger. Point out employees that they know who to turn to when lost.

Rules are for Following
Rules for rides and attractions are created haphazardly. Don’t let your child become a statistic by allowing them to go on a ride they aren’t emotionally or physically ready for.

  • Follow the height/weight guidelines of any attraction. Read the precaution and ensure your child is able to participate all the way through.
  • Listen to the operator when they say hands in, jewelry off or bags left at the station.
  • A crying child will NOT calm down during the ride. In fact you’ve only impacted their experience negatively. Watch the caterpillar roller coaster five times instead.

Enjoy your time as a family, capture the moments on camera and hold onto those memories forever. Children grow up fast, take pleasure in the time you have today.

What Type of Learner is Your Child?

What Type of Learner is Your Child

One size doesn’t fit all. This goes for clothing, shoes, bicycles and individual learning. Kids are different. Their abilities are different. The efforts are different. Their struggles are different. Their successes are different.

Each year as the school year begins we are faced with choices on how to deal with achievements and disappointments. Having multiple children with different learning speeds makes homework and report card time stressful as parents.

Our eldest daughter is given leeway on her work and study time. She’s trusted to complete her work with little micro management from us. She’s already completed 11 years of school and is quickly finishing her senior year of high school. That’s not to say her school career hasn’t been without bumps but overall her learning personality has been easy to work with. School conferences have been uneventful, reports cards have been mostly excellent. When the instances presented themselves that classes were more difficult we approached them with revised study methods.

Studying has never been our son’s strong suit. Entering fifth grade brought a whole new world of teaching that he didn’t know was out there. For his first few years of school his effort was always appreciated. It was enough to please teachers and provide good grades. This year his teacher is expecting more. She’s looking at the details and wants her students to do the same. He’s now spending more time on penmanship and research than he’s used to. Homework is sometimes a struggle but when he completes a story summary with complex details I do a little dance of joy. While he may need more supervision to finalize his work it’s worth it to see the high grades coming home. His passion for reading grows each day and that in of itself is something to celebrate.

The youngest has always craved learning. Since she was a toddler she’d find a book to look through or a scrap of paper to scribble on. These days as she’s waiting for her school day to start she’ll work on an art project or new story to show to her teacher. Her first half of first grade has gone very well. She’s been introduced to advanced reading work and is working more independently versus other students. She comes home ready to tackle her weekly homework in just one night. Her enthusiasm to learn is refreshing and I hope she never loses that excitement.

My child are smart cookies. Each have their own passion and zeal for life. Each have their own interests and hobbies. We work on a harmonious blend of all of these traits to hopefully end up with well rounded, educated, productive members of society.

Learning achievements are one of the best motivators to get children more excited about earning better test scores and grades. Celebrating each child’s achievements in their own way encourages them to keep striving for the best of their ability.

List of Must Haves for Attending Youth Sports

youth sports

It’s that time of year again, sports season. And every time it rolls around I’m left trying to remember everything we need to pack up to survive a day sitting on the sidelines. We arrive, set up our chairs and instantly realize something has been forgotten.  It’s taken many years of many sports with many children in  many seasons to come up with a solid list of must haves for sitting on the sidelines during youth sports.

Our spring sport is lacrosse. It is a daylong adventure with multiple games on the schedule so while this may seem like overpacking these things are essential especially when we’re 2 hours from home. If you’re closer to home or your day is shorter condense the list to what is NEEDED.

Foldable chairs-I tend to stand when my children are on the field, I like to watch them in action. There are times when they aren’t playing or are in-between games and I need a place to rest my body. I never bring as many chairs as we have family members.

Waterproof blanket-My favorite is a style that shakes off easily and fold into itself for easy carrying. This comes in handy for more than just watching a game. When it’s time to eat there is no need to look for a picnic table. If there is a gap between games parents or siblings can take a quick nap. It the rain is coming down it can be draped over chairs for a tent. This stays in the car at all times.

Water and more water-Don’t be fooled by cool weather and cloudy skies, you’ll need to hydrate more than you think. Don’t forget about extra water for your athlete too.

Healthy snacks and/or lunch-Concessions tend to benefit youth sports leagues by pulling profits to buy equipment, pay officials and maintain grounds, but don’t depend on them to feed an entire family all day long. Support your team with a snack purchase but don’t bog your body down with hotdogs, ice cream and soda. Packing sandwiches, cut up fruit and cheese is a simple way to nourish hungry bellies without the overindulgence of junk food.

Hand wipes-If you’re outdoors chances are you’re getting dirty. Towelettes are an easy way to stay somewhat clean when bathroom facilities aren’t available.

Hand sanitizer-No one is a fan of the port-a-potty. Small hand-sanitizers can be clipped to backpacks and handbags with no fuss.

Sunscreen & bug spray-Don’t let cool weather and cloudy skies fool you. Protect your family from the sun’s harmful rays and pesky biting bugs. Don’t forget about your athlete.

Layers of clothing-Wearing layers is key to stay cool or warm during outdoor sports games. Pack or wear an extra jacket or t-shirt in the car just in case the weather turns drastically. Keep hats and gloves in the car.

Activities for siblings-Sidewalk chalk, bubbles and soccer balls are small, portable and great ways to keep groups of kids entertained while their siblings are playing on the field.

Camera-Capture those memories.

First aid kit-The team should be covered by the staff but what about yourself and the rest of the family.  This is something we keep in the car all the time.

A plan for dinner- This is a great time to bust out the slow cooker or rely on a freezer meal.

Remember this list is adjustable for the amount of time you’ll be at a game or practice or who is attending. A little preparedness is all that is needed to make it fun and comfortable. Most important thing to have is a positive attitude and supportive spirit as you cheer your child on as they are reaching for a goal, point or win.

Showing Teacher Appreciation

teacher

The end of the school year is drawing near. For my daughter, the end of the year is coming very soon and she’s graduating high school. She’s had a couple very special teachers in the last four years and she’s working on special gifts for them. One teacher has decorated ceiling tiles in his classroom from previous students. Another has a collection of owls decorating an entire wall, all gifts from students.

At the end of the year we want to make a special effort to show our teachers how much they’ve meant to our children’s lives. These tokens of appreciation don’t have to cost much or require a lot of work but they should be thoughtful, useful and fit the teacher’s lifestyle or personality.

The art teacher is always looking for new ways to display creations from the students.  Gift a portable memo board, decorative heavy duty magnets or a handmade display board like this card display.

The gym teacher is always on the move so help them stay that way with a brand new whistle, a hat to cheer on their favorite sports team or a large capacity water bottle so there are less trips to the water fountain.

The student teacher is studying to start a career in the education field. Their experience might be minimal but they’ve been there for the kids all semester. Start them off right with supplies they’ll need for their own classroom. Rubber stamps and canvas totes can last a lifetime. Pencils might be inexpensive but they are invaluable and a necessity.

Everyone in the school system is important and deserves some recognition for taking care of and teaching your children every year. A simple note of thanks and well wishes is perfectly ok. It’s especially better if it’s written and delivered by the student themselves. No matter what actions you take to end the school year on a good note make it heartfelt and sincere.

Discipline Tips for Children

Effective Discipline Tips for Children

Parenting doesn’t come with an instruction manual. Each decision we make as parents comes with its own set of costs that we might have to pay for at a later date. As you toddler plays in the dog’s water bowl we let out a giggle and let the behavior go as “cute”. As that child gets older and starts swatting at the dog’s tail we can no longer look away with a smile.

Introducing boundaries and restrictions to your children has to become second nature. Living a life of complete freedom may sound magnificent but how would we know accountability and responsibility for our actions.

Disciplining our children can be one of the hardest things we do. We don’t want to be seen as the bad guy but we know we have to guide our children to be truthful, inspired and kind. Following our own hearts is usually the best way but we often get caught up in some traps.

Never threaten bad behavior with empty threats. You child WILL catch on that you won’t follow through. Taking away toys or electronics for a month is excessive and we’ll often cave just after a few days. Stick with a punishment that “fits the crime” and that you’ll really follow through with.

Develop a way to minimize the whining and talking back. Sending children away to another room until the complaining is over is what works best for me. Children know how the best ways to get their parents to cave and getting under our skin often works. Find a way to keep that behavior away from your especially when you’re upset.

Negotiation skills are extremely important and are definitely something we want to develop within our children but not when it comes to setting rules and doling out punishments. Discuss the offending behavior, determine your child’s consequence and then it’s end of discussion. Stay unwavering, they’ll start to realize that you mean business.

Lay down family rules first. If your children don’t know it’s not OK to dig in the garden then it’s not fair to punish them for it the 1st time it’s done. Once it’s been discussed then an appropriate consequence should be upheld. Make the rules clear for everyone and talk about it often so they aren’t conveniently forgotten.

Bribing your baby to crawl by offering a new toy is a great incentive but it’s not the best practice for children who understand right from wrong. Rewarding good behavior with treats, stickers, money and quality time spent together will work much better than disingenuous behavior in the beginning.

Parenting is often about trial and error. We can turn in any direction and fin a new resource that tells us what is best. We have to make our own decisions that make sense for our families. These aren’t rules on how to discipline your children but instead guidelines on how to take the best approach to maintaining a respectful and organized home. Work with your own child’s ages, abilities and awareness to bring out the best in them.

Outdoor Activities for Spring for the Family

Spring Outdoor Activities

The warmth has started peaking through the cold winds and snow flurries. That could only mean spring is on its way.  With the ground warming up the local parks and trails are calling our name just wanting us to get some fresh air and exercise and spend some fun quality time with our family.

To take advantage of these bursts of sunshine I’ve put together a few easy activities that can be done outside with little work or effort but loads of fun and excitement.

Grab a hula hoop and see who can last the longest. Yes, hula hooping can be done indoors but there is never enough room for EVERYONE to do it at the same time. If you have the extra large hula hoops try jumping them like a rope.

Feed the ducks with bread ends, berries and thawed frozen peas at the local pond.  Be careful with those Canadian geese though, they can get aggressive toward the food.

Start a garden with just a few seeds. Now is the perfect time to work with a planter or flower pot to get a jump on flowers or herbs.  Placing your seedlings in the sunshine during the day and bringing it inside at night ensures it will survive the remaining weeks of winter.

Paint the landscape with watercolors, pencils or even crayons. Bring your art supplies to the park or backyard. Find that perfect subject and bring it to life on a canvas.  Create a new piece of artwork for each season.

Visit a farm and watch the animals enjoy the weather.  It’s not just people that take pleasure in the changing seasons. Pull over and observe horses gallop through green meadows and cows munch on sprouting grasses. Animals of all kinds thrive in the warm sunshine.

Fly a kite on a windy day.  Make sure kids are getting some help from adults so their kite isn’t lost in a tree, power lines or into the sky. Kite flying can be tricky so practice each chance you get.

These activities don’t require extra special resources. Most of these things we have on hand but take advantage of swaps to have any kind of fun you can muster up just to enjoy your family in the great outdoors. The point is to spend time together creating memories, smiles and good times.