Archives for May 2014

Good Question: What’s Your “Sick Leave” Policy for Kids?

Sick kids

This month’s Good Question comes from a friend who wondered what’s the appropriate way to handle sick kids and social and/or school situations. I realize this is probably odd timing for this particular topic. But the true spirit of a Good Question, it had me wondering, “What does everyone else do?” So even though I realize cold and flu season is (mostly) behind us, and school is winding down for the year, kids still get sick and we still have to deal with the dilemmas that surround illness all year long.

Her question specifically delves into the grey area surrounding illness. We’re not talking about the obvious: fever, vomiting, raging pink eye. I think we can all agree that when our kids are obviously ill and contagious, it’s in everyone’s best interest to hunker down. She referenced a family situation in which one set of parents were very concerned about illness of any kind, while another family was more lax. If there was an upcoming family gathering at Grandma’s, and any of the cousins had been sick recently or had runny noses, the one family wanted to err on the side of caution. Either Grandma had to call it off, or they weren’t coming if the recovering kids were going to be there. It was beginning to cause strife in the family. Was one party over-reacting to potential germs? Or was the other party under-reacting, and selfishly putting other kids at risk for a nasty bug? And whose side was poor Grandma supposed to be on?!

I haven’t dealt with this myself personally, but I can understand the dilemma it poses for families. Beyond social situations, I can see how parents who work full-time must wrestle with where the line is. Are the kids sick enough that they shouldn’t be in school, causing a parent to miss work? Or is it okay for kids to go to school, say, at 75% of their functioning level, or with a runny nose from a cold that just won’t go away?

This might not seem like a normal topic of conversation for The Risky Kids, but I think it touches on a subject that has everything to do with The Risky Kids. Are we living in a society that believes we have (near) complete control over the health and safety of our kids? That if we just do everything right, if we are vigilant enough, not only are we superior parents, but we can protect our children from just about any harm or discomfort?

As you can imagine, I lean to the side of being under-cautious. If my kids are obviously sick, we’re not going to school or to Grandma’s house. But if they’re fever-free, not puking, and not oozing suspect bodily fluids … and they’re up to going to school or being around other kids, I’m okay with it. And by saying I’m okay with it (and I think this is key here if you’re going to make this judgement call), that means I’m okay with you doing the same thing with your kids. Of course we take the polite and responsible precautions: we wash hands a lot, blow our noses, and keep our food and drinks to ourselves. And if for some reason we’re going to be around kids who are in a special situation, such as being immuno-compromised, then we absolutely stay away.

What do you say? Have you ever been on either end of this situation? I’d love to hear from both camps. As with most Good Questions, I’m sure there are some view points and situations I’m just not aware of. And if you have a Good Question you’d like to ask, let me know in the comments or on our Facebook page!

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Life Skills Every Kid Should Know: How to Manage Personal Finances (Part 2)

This post is part of a Risky Kids series: Life Skills Every Kid Should Know. You can find all the posts in the series on the Life Skills Every Kids Should Know page. This is Part 2 of How to Manage Personal Finances. You can read Part 1 here

Personal Finance Skills For Kids

In our last post, I gave you the background on our journey to learning about personal finance, and explained why we’re so adamant that our kids will master this essential life skill. In this post I’ll share how we’re passing the knowledge on to the kids, as well as give tips and resources to help you along. Just like we struggled with finding our own footing on the path to financial competency, we also struggled with how best to get the kids started on the path with us. There are so many opinions and ideas on the subject, that it’s easy to get overwhelmed and just throw your hands (and their money!) up in the air. Your options basically boil down to three philosophies on kids and money:

  • Pay for everything, throw a few lessons in along the way, and let them figure it out.
  • Give them an allowance that is unrelated to chores and personal responsibilities.
  • Give them an allowance that is tied to completing chores and personal responsibilities.

As parents who have tried all three methods at different times along this journey, we feel pretty confident that we can speak to all of them. They each have their pros and cons (yes, even the first one!). I’m happy to talk about what the advantages and disadvantages are with anyone who has questions, but I won’t do that here. Why? Because after dabbling in them all, I truly feel that there is no right answer. It all depends on the age of your children, your core beliefs about money and work, and (most importantly), which philosophy feels right to you. Because if you struggle with it and feel like it’s out of sync with the way you parent? You won’t stick with it. In the end, I don’t think it matters so much what you choose to do. I think what matters is that you pick a system that works for you and stick with it. As long as you are consistently teaching kids financial literacy and giving them opportunities to learn and practice finance skills along the way, your kids will be way ahead of the game when it comes time for them to live independently of you.

Here’s what we’ve done with our kids at various ages and stages:

Preschoolers

At this age, we didn’t do much. We basically paid for everything. We did introduce basic chores and responsibilities at this age, but they weren’t tied to money. I find in this stage, kids are eager to help around the house and don’t need any financial incentive to do so. See the chore list in the Resources section for a great listing of chores by age group.

Elementary

We began this stage using Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace Junior with Elena. Along with financial lessons geared toward younger kids, Financial Peace Junior introduces the concept  of working for “commission.” You do your chores, you get paid. No chores? No money. This system works great  if 1.) You are committed and consistent with keeping up with some kind of chore chart and 2.) Your child is motivated by money. We were neither of those things. We could never quite find a system that we could keep up with, and Elena was never motivated by money at this age. She’d rather go without money if it meant never lifting a finger around the house!

So what do you do if you find yourself the same situation? Well, you could just give up, pay for everything, and never require your child to help around the house. But I’m guessing that if you’ve read this far, that’s not the plan you were looking for. Instead, we opted to still give an allowance, but not tie it to chores. You’re still giving your child the opportunity to learn about money, but taking the chore aspect out of the equation. Here’s the thing: every kid has their own “currency.” Elena’s wasn’t  money, so taking away her allowance did nothing for her work ethic. However if we took away screen time or friend time, she took notice. Please don’t do what we did and feel that this is somehow selling out, because you don’t have a chore chart and you’re not doling out money every time your kid dusts or empties the dishwasher. There are plenty of other ways to teach your kids personal responsibility!

One part of Financial Peace Junior we did hold on to was the Give, Save, Spend system. When the kids receive their allowance, they must put 10% into a fund for Giving, at least 10% in Savings (they can opt to do more if they’re saving up for something in particular), and the other 80% is for Spending.

Tweens

This year we took the system we’d been using for Elena and put it in overdrive. Once she hit 6th grade and was more independent, we found that she was requiring more money. Trips to Taco Bell with friends, ice skating on Friday nights, clothing she wanted (but didn’t need) … it felt like every day we were handing her money for something else. It was time to put her in more control of the money.

Through our bank, we set up a separate account for her with her own debit card. We decided to up her allowance quite a bit, and instead put the responsibility of how to spend her money on her own shoulders. Where previously her allowance was for discretionary spending, now she has to budget her money for some expenses. Things we previously paid for that are now her responsibility include: cell phone bill, school lunches, clothing (beyond basic necessities), and entertainment. We still don’t directly tie allowance to chores, but if she’s slacking we retain the right to cut her budget (which affects her social life, which is a HUGE motivator for her).

This has been a huge success for us. She’s already made some really mature decisions, such as deciding to pack her lunch more often in lieu of expensive school lunches, researching her cell phone plan to cut out unnecessary charges, and budgeting. These are the kinds of financial thinking skills that are so important as an adult. She’s made mistakes as well, making purchases she’s regretted as well as overspending early and not having money to do some things she wanted to do at the end of the month. These lessons are no fun, but much easier to learn at 11, when running out of money means no Baja Blasts with your friends, as opposed to not being able to pay the rent and getting evicted.

How much should you pay?

Ask and you’ll receive a hundred different answers. We give Eli (age 6) $10 a month. Elena (age 11) gets $125. You want to find the sweet spot between giving them too little (where they are discouraged and can never buy or save up for anything of value), and giving them too much (where they have no incentive to budget or save).

When should you pay?

Whenever you find is the time that you’ll consistently pay. We could never remember to pay on a weekly basis. Now we pay on the first of the month, when we do our personal budget.

Resources

What are some good resources for teaching kids how to manage their personal finances? Here are some of our favorites we’ve relied on through the years:

The Plan:

A fabulously comprehensive outline of what chores and responsibilities can be expected of kids at developmentally appropriate ages, via Merrilee Boyack’s “Training Children To Be Independent.” It includes some non-applicable (for us) religious aspects, but when modified for your own family it is extremely helpful.

Books:

Websites:

  • The Queen of Free: Written by my good friend, Cherie Lowe, she offers practical advice on saving money, getting out of debt, and teaching kids important money lessons.
  • The Simple Dollar: Covers all kinds of personal finance issues, including younger kids and money.
  • Life Your Way: I rely on this site for all things home related, but Mandi has some great ideas on kids and money, as well as some useful printables if you’re looking to utilize chore charts.

Are we doing it perfectly? Of course not, and you will most likely find a different, better way that works for your family. But hopefully you’ve found something helpful here, or have been inspired to finally get moving down this path with your kids. The only wrong way to teach your kids personal finance skills is to never teach them anything at all.

How are you helping your kids learn this essential life skill? Where have you struggled, and what’s worked especially well for you?  

Looking for more resources? Check out our board Life Skills Every Kid Should Know on Pinterest!

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Life Skills Every Kid Should Know: How to Manage Personal Finances (Part 1)

In March I announced that we’d be starting a new series on The Risky Kids: Life Skills Every Kid Should Know. The response was wonderful – it turns out you agree that there are many things kids need to know beyond what they’re taught in school. You agreed with our suggestions for the series, and came up with many more life skills you’d like to see added to the list. You can find posts from the entire series on the Life Skills Every Kid Should Know page.

My vision for the series is not so much a tutorial or a set of instructions, but more of a personal reflection on how we’re trying to teach these skills to our kids, with tips and resources. I’d love for it to turn into a discussion and sharing of ideas between us of what we can do to help each other help our kids. We’re all in this together, after all, and what we teach (or don’t teach) our kids to do for themselves will ultimately affect an entire generation. So I encourage you to read, comment, and share with your friends. I also have a board on Pinterest dedicated to these life skills, with ideas and inspiration to further help us all out as we empower our kids to be responsible, competent adults.

Plasectomy

I’m kicking off the series with a hefty topic: personal finance. Because it’s such a weighty issue, and a skill that many adults haven’t mastered, I’m splitting it into two posts. Today I’ll give a little background on our journey to learning about personal finance, and why we’re so adamant that our kids will master this essential life skill. In the next post I’ll share how we’re passing the knowledge on to the kids, as well as give tips and resources to help you along.

Personal finance is a topic near and dear to our hearts. Like most couples, Mike and I were raised quite differently when it came to how finances were handled in our homes. In Mike’s home, you just didn’t talk about it. In my home, it was talked about, but I was never really included in the conversations. What we had in common was that we didn’t  know what we were doing! We were both raised with a strong work ethic, and had part-time jobs throughout high school and college. But what we were supposed to do with that money once we earned it was somewhat of a mystery.

One of my first and strongest memories of handling my own finances was a traumatic one. My parents sent me off to college with my first debit card. Until then, if I needed cash I simply went to the local credit and withdrew money from the real, live teller behind the counter. I had no idea how to use a debit card! A few days into school, I found myself getting low on cash. I think I circled the ATM machine a few times, uncertain how to proceed. I finally worked up the courage to make a transaction, and quickly realized that I should’ve memorized my PIN. I thought I knew it, so I kept plugging in numbers. After the third try, the machine ate my card as a security measure. I went straight back to my dorm room and cried, both panicked (how would I get money?) and humiliated.

I eventually figured out not only how to use an ATM, but also how to use a credit card. I saw my parents use them, but I never knew that they only charged a few things and paid the bill in full every month. Mike and I graduated from college, got married, and immediately started doing what we thought all adults did. We bought cars and furniture for our new apartment. We didn’t budget, we just assumed that we’d make enough in our grown-up jobs to cover it all. We didn’t save, because we’d never really learned how much we should be saving, or why it was important. And just like kids who are thrown in the water without being taught how to swim, we soon found ourselves drowning. Just a year into our marriage, we were over $100,000 in debt. Credit cards, car payments, rent, school loans … you name it, we’d signed up for it.

Some people spend their entire lives living that way, but we were lucky enough to wake up and realize that there was a different way. That we could pay off our debt, live on less than we make, and save for the the things we wanted. You can read the rest of our personal finance turnaround here. We learned a lot from that experience, but the biggest take home for us was that we would equip our kids to handle money wisely.

Like so many essential life skills, we can easily assume as parents that our kids just inherently know what to do. We’ve been doing these things for so long, they are second nature to us. We also wrongly assume that just because they’ve seen us doing these things, whether it’s the dishes, how to make a doctor’s appointment, or making financial decisions, they are silently absorbing the lessons. It’s simply not true.

I was reminded of this myself as an adult not long ago. We’ve visited Mike’s hometown in Ohio several times a year from the time we first began dating in the 90s. Every single time, when we reached the last leg of the trip there, or drove around during our visit, he would drive. For whatever reason, a few years ago I found myself in the driver’s seat and Mike sleeping as we drove into his hometown. I had to wake him up because I had no idea where to get off the highway, and no clue as to how to find his childhood home. He couldn’t believe that after all these years, I didn’t know the directions.

On those countless trips, much like our kids today, I had simply been a passenger along for the ride. I didn’t pay attention, because I didn’t have to. Somebody else would get me where I needed to be. It wasn’t until I did it myself, first with directions, and then with practice, that I could get myself there. And that’s exactly what kids need to master important life skills that we, as adults, take for granted: personal, hands-on instruction and plenty of practice.

It takes time, it takes your active presence, and it takes lots of patience. But like the things that are most worth doing in life, it’s 100% worth the effort on your part. They might roll their eyes, or complain, or insist they have better things to do. Heck, I feel that way about it, too, at times! But I always think back to my younger self, crying hot, embarrassed tears in my dorm room, and know that it’s my job to empower my kids with skills and knowledge.

Stay tuned for the next post, where we’ll get into the nitty gritty of how we’re helping our kids learn to manage their own personal finances. In the meantime, I’d love to hear from you. Did you start your adult life knowing how to manage your finances? What do you wish you had known when you were just starting out?

 

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50 Dangerous Things (You Should Let Your Children Do): Boil Water in a Paper Cup

boil water paper cup

Task: Boil water in paper and watch two seemingly incompatible elements – fire and water – coexist!

 

Requires:

  • Gas or electric stove (sadly and inductive cooktop won’t work)
  • Paper cup (must be unwaxed)
  • Water

Possible Hazards: 

  • Burns
  • Fire
  • Setting off the smoke alarm

How It All Went Down:

Boil water in a paper cup? Impossible, you say! I didn’t believe it either, but we had to try.

This was the first task we’ve encountered where I was legitimately worried that someone or something would get hurt! I had visions of flaming paper and torrents of boiling water spewing out at us. If you’re a little concerned as well, it’s a good idea to have a plan in place before starting. Make sure your cup is stable on your stove. If it’s tippy or doesn’t want to stand upright, wait to try until you’ve found a better cup. Have some tongs and a pan nearby in case you need to move the cup off the burner quickly.  Now on to the fun …

Fill the cup 3/4 full with water. Place it on the hottest part of the burner (over the flame or on the heating coil). Turn the burner on high and wait for the water to boil.

It takes longer than you think, and we were sure that our cup was going to burn or disintegrate before the water boiled. The bottom of the cup got very black … but it never caught on fire before the water boiled! How is this possible?

Water boils at 212°F … but paper doesn’t actually burn until close to 500°F. And while the water is (technically) very hot, compared to a flame it is much cooler.  Notice the spots on the cup that actually begin to burn – the very bottom edge and the top 1/4 of the cup – are the parts of the cup not directly touching the water.

50 dangerous things boil water
Once the water boils, you can either turn the heat off and VERY carefully lift the cup into a pan with tongs, or you can boil away the water until you’re just left with a charred, wet piece of paper. We quit while we were ahead (i.e. no flaming pyre or boiling water geysers) and turned off the flame. It was all over in a matter of minutes, but it’s something we won’t forget about for a long time!

You can read about the rest of our experiences with 50 Dangerous Things. Inspired by Gever Tulley’s book 50 Dangerous Things (You Should Let Your Children Do).

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Awesome Games to Play for National Backyard Games Week

National Backyard Game Week

Today kicks off National Backyard Game Week! You know how we feel about the rules here at The Risky Kids, so if you want to play your backyard games in the front yard we won’t tattle. The important part is to get outside and play some games! We’ve taken the time to round up some inspiration to get you outdoors and playing this week.

The-ULTIMATE-backyard-bucket-list1

32 Fun DIY Backyard Games & Activities via Listotic

10 Playground Games Every Kids Should Know via Spoonful

15_fun_backyard_games_600px

15 Fun Backyard Games (with printable game cards and instructions) via iMom

clif kid backyard game of the year

CLIF Kid has a great tool on their website where you can plug in the number of kids who want to play and what you want to use to play your game with (nature, household items, toys, water, or your imagination) and it generates a game for you to play (a game of Card Sharks, perhaps?!). Of course, you can always enter your own game in the CLIF Kid Backyard Game of the Year contest!

It’s still a little chilly here, but last summer we had lots of fun playing squirt gun cup races in our backyard:

Squirt gun cup race

What awesome backyard game will your kids be playing this week?

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Risky Reads: The Egg Toss Edition

Egg Toss

My neighbor and I hosted the neighborhood Easter egg hunt in our cul-de-sac last month. We thought it would be fun to get the parents involved and have a friendly little egg toss competition. Kids and their adult partner started off face-to-face. After each successful toss, the adult took one big step back. We’d made a few tosses before one kid piped up, “WAIT. These eggs aren’t hard-boiled?!” Lots of fun, lots of mess, and something that may just become a neighborhood Easter tradition.

Here are a few things I found around the Internet last month that I thought you might enjoy:

What if we chose practice over perfect? Imagine the message we’d send to kids if we weren’t so worried about perfection ourselves.

This earth loom would be so easy to do, and make such a cool community project in any backyard.

I found another cool photography series called “kids were here.” I think these little reminders that are scattered throughout our homes, yards and cars will be one of the things I miss the most when the kids are grown.

This article on how to motivate teens was very eye-opening. Not only do we need to find ways to motivate our kids to work independently, we need to check our own motivation to shield our kids from disappointment and failure at the door. We tend to think about helicopter parenting in terms of keeping kids safe, but what about the kind of over-involved parenting that seeks to keep us from looking bad as parents?

I want to buy these stickers and plaster them everywhere!

And in case you missed it, here’s what we’ve been up to over at Bedtime Math:

For more risky inspiration, follow us on Pinterest and like us on Facebook.  And if you ever see anything you think we’d like, please share it with us!

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Screen-Free Week Reflections

Girls on the Run 5K Indiana

Well, did you survive Screen-Free Week? Or more importantly – did the kids survive?!

I’m happy to report that we not only survived, we thrived with less time on screens last week. Here are a few things that occupied our time instead of technology:

Monday: The kids came home from school and went right for the iPad, only to find it missing! Either they forgot it was the beginning of Screen-Free Week or they were hoping I’d forget! Eli and the neighbor got creative with a cardboard box:

Elena had to practice recorder for school. Instead of practicing for the requisite amount of time and moving on to screens, she spent time composing her own song on the recorder.

Tuesday: Eli got into the stash of leftover crafts from Kiwi Crate and made a boat, which turned into water play outside, which turned into a handful of kids using chalk on our driveway.

Kiwi Crate boat
Wednesday: More outdoor free play – did I mention the weather was amazing?

Thursday: We visited our local Children’s Museum for a grand opening of a new exhibit (which if you’re anywhere near Indianapolis you MUST go see Take Me There: China and the Terra Cotta Warriors).

Children's Museum of Indianapolis

Friday: Was Screen-Free Week catching on? The entire neighborhood was out after school! Kids were playing and adults were relaxing and chatting. What a perfect way to kick off the weekend.

Screen-Free Neighborhood

Saturday: Elena and I ran a 5K, and Eli had a soccer game in the morning. In the afternoon, Eli helped me with yardwork and Elena rode her penny board to Taco Bell. That evening she camped outside at a friend’s house. Mike spent the afternoon building a firepit in the backyard, and that evening we fired it up and invited the neighbors.

Bonfire

A few things that really helped make the week a success:

  • My neighbor also participated in Screen-Free Week, so always had at least one buddy that wasn’t choosing screens as an activity. Next year I think I will give all the neighbors on the cul-de-sac a heads-up that Screen-Free Week is coming up and see if we can get a bunch of us participating.
  • The weather was amazing all week. I realize how much harder you have to work to come up with fun alternatives to screens when you can’t go outside.
  • Out of sight, out of mind! Before the kids got home from school, I shut my laptop, closed the doors to the TV, and put away the iPad. It’s so simple, but it really does help.

A few observations:

  •  I noticed a big difference in the kids’ attitudes about play. My gut reaction is to let them have screen time right after school. I figure they’ve had a long day, and that will relax them. After observing an entire school week without screens, I realize it doesn’t relax them – it zones them out. Without screens, they have a snack and move on to something else. With screens, it can be very difficult to get them to transition from screens to outdoor play.
  • I didn’t realize how much time I spend on screens between the hours of 4 p.m. and bedtime. I often depend on that time to catch up on social media, browse Pinterest, or catch up on blogging. I’m not going to lie – I felt a little lost at first! But I found other ways to fill the time, and as an added bonus? I went to bed earlier each night.

So what’s the takeaway from Screen-Free Week? We could all stand to spend a significantly smaller amount of time on screens. It was just the restart we needed, and from here on out I’ll be making a concerted effort to limit the time we spend on screens in the afternoon and evenings.

How did Screen-Free Week go for you? Any surprises? Did you have any fun adventures you might have missed out on had you been occupied with screens? 

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Our Riskiest Adventure Yet!

So we have some exciting news here at The Risky Kids! In just one month, we’ll be embarking on our biggest, riskiest adventure to date.

#SixesInSpain

We’re headed to Spain for a month!

The four of us are headed to sunny Spain, with a possible side trip to London, next month. We’ve been planning this trip for years, and we’re thrilled that it’s almost here. We’re obviously excited for the food, the sights, and the people. But from a Risky Kid perspective, I’m also excited to see how another culture approaches parenting and play. We’re already prepping the kids for a much different schedule and lifestyle – later nights, meals in bars, and less hurrying and scurrying.

If you’ve been to Spain and have any recommendations of things we can’t miss, please share them with us! Of course you know me – I’m especially interested in cool playgrounds and parks. We’ll be in Madrid, Barcelona, Seville, and southern Spain.

What can you expect while we’re gone? Well, I’m in the process of getting some posts ready ahead of time. I’ll also be reposting a few oldies but goodies, revamped for your reading pleasure. I’ll be posting less – once or twice a week instead of my normal three times, but I’m sure you all understand! I’ll be posting updates about our trip on my personal blog, Just Like The Number. Be sure to follow me on Instagram (@angiesix) for some fun pictures as well.

In the meantime, I’d love to have some guests posts lined up! If you’re interested in writing a guest post for The Risky Kids, email me (theriskykids@gmail.com) with your idea. If you happen to have kids who walk to school by themselves, I’d love to hear from you. That’s one of the tasks in 50 Dangerous Things (You Should Let Your Children Do) that we (unfortunately) aren’t able to do where we live.

Moms, have a wonderful Mother’s Day weekend! I hope it’s lovely and idle!

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Sleepaway Camp: An Essential Childhood Experience

Sleepaway camp essential childhood experience
Portions of this post originally appeared on The Risky Kids last summer. As summer camp season approaches yet again, I thought it would be a good time to revisit the topic of sleepaway camp for kids. If your kids are headed to camp this summer, I highly recommend the Camp Combo label pack from Mabel’s Labels (affiliate link). I’ve used them 2 years in a row now – they’re still holding on strong and we haven’t lost a single thing at camp yet!

Last summer we sent Elena, age 10 (almost 11) at the time, to two weeks of sleepaway camp. It wasn’t her first experience – she’d gone to the same Girl Scout camp for a week the summer before – but it was the longest she’d ever been away from us.

For 11 days and 10 nights we had absolutely no contact with her.  We could send bunk notes (essentially email), but she couldn’t email back.  I sent her with enough stationary and stamps for a trip to Europe, but she’d been too busy having fun to send home more than one postcard.

My husband and I didn’t grow up going to sleepaway camps.  I tried sleep away camp “lite” once and hated it.  It was a day camp that culminated in sleeping outside on the last evening.  I was 5 miles away from home and only gone for 24 hours, but that didn’t stop me from trying every trick in the book to get my mom to pick me up before the night was over.  Elena, on the other hand, really enjoys camp.  Every year we offer her the chance to buddy up and choose a week with friends.  She brushes us off and instead chooses her weeks based on the theme.  Last year it was Harry Potter one week and the Hunger Games (Kamp Katniss) the next.  Every time she went without knowing a soul.

Why do we think it’s important for her to go away to camp, when neither of us have good memories to draw upon?  For so many reasons that I think are essential to growing up.  It’s often a child’s first experience of pulling away.  I want her to learn how to be away from us, and to have fun while doing it.  I want her to start building that treasure chest of memories that don’t include us.  I want her to have that sense of pride of doing something on your own.  I want her to be able to survive for stretches of days without apps and texting and TV and be okay without it.

She came home with the smelliest laundry and the best stories.  The 90-minute ride home is full of chatter about all the amazing things they did during the week.  Any parent of a tween or teen will tell you they would gladly pay whatever the camp fee is just to get a kid that wants to talk to you uninterrupted for 90 minutes.

I hope that summer camper turns into a camp counselor.  I hope the camp counselor turns into an eager college student.  I hope the eager college student turns into a world traveler.  And I hope she is never too homesick and she sends more postcards.

Do you send your kids to sleepaway camp? How did you know they were old enough to go? If you went as a kid, what were your favorite memories?

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Disconnect & Reconnect: Screen-Free Family Activities

screen-free family activites

Today kicks off Screen-Free Week 2014! Last week I wrote about the purpose behind Screen-Free Week, and how the details of disconnecting can be different for each family.

Screen Free Week 2014

What does Screen-Free Week look like for The Risky Family? Well, in full disclosure we’re not disconnecting completely. However, as a holdover from the winter that would never end, we’ve fallen into a bit of screen dependency. I’m viewing Screen-Free Week as a chance for us to cut way back on our consumption of media and reboot our tech habits, if you will. Here’s our plan for the week:

  • The kids are allowed to use the iPad or watch a show in the morning before school. We are not a morning people, and this always eases them into the day. It’s a very short amount of time that they’re using screens, and I never have issues with it interfering with getting ready or getting out the door in the morning.
  • During the school week, we won’t be using screens after school, unless needed for homework.
  • I will also refrain from using television, social media or mindlessly surfing the web from the time the kids get home from school until the next morning, unless it pertains directly to work.
  • On Saturday we can have an hour of screen time.
  • On Sunday all bets are off. It’s Mother’s Day, after all, and I would like to have a relaxing day! For me, that means catching up on reading other blogs and perusing Pinterest (as well as non-screen related activities such as sleeping, reading, more sleeping … you get the idea).

For some of you, this may look like a normal week, and for that I applaud you! But I want to be transparent, and show other families that we struggle with screen usage just like many of you.

If you’re taking the plunge, you’ll most likely be faced with kids who aren’t sure what to do with themselves. Here are a few screen-free ideas to help you celebrate Screen-Free Week:

Read Outside Screen-Free Week

Turn to Books

After school we’ll be making a trip to the library to load up on books for the week. Besides fiction, there are lots of non-fiction books to inspire you with projects and ideas. Some of our favorites are:

Reconnect with nature Screen-Free Week

Reconnect with Nature

Hopefully the weather will cooperate. Even if it doesn’t, there’s nothing wrong with playing in the rain! A few other ideas for getting outdoors:

Tinkersketch art journal

Unleash your inner tinkerer, scientist, or artist

Mancala

Try a new family game each night and find your new favorite. We love:

Slackline screen-free week

Master a new skill

Perhaps your somersault needs perfecting. Work on your fire-building skills and treat yourselves to dinner or s’mores cooked over the open flame. Give slacklining a try. Go kayaking with the kids.

whip cream fight screen free week

Take the time to be silly.

Between school, work, and spending mindless time in front of screens, one of the first things to disappear is our ability to goof off. While screens can certainly relax us and take our minds off of things, we forget about the restorative power of laughter. Roughhouse with the kids. Have a whip cream fight. We like to play a game to see where we stand in a circle and each do something ridiculous at the same time. The last one to laugh wins. The truth is, when we let our guard down and get silly, we all win.

Do you have anything fun planned for Screen-Free Week? Or are you just seeing where your undistracted imaginations take you?

 

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