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Fun Games for the Whole Family

Each Sunday, our family has a tradition that we play a game together. Our children cherish this tradition. There are a lot of games out there, and because we love games so much, we do own a lot of them. Five years ago (FIVE!) I wrote a post review on some games.

Some games that seem like the perfect game for little ones don't always work out. For example, Candy Land can be tricky in figuring out how to move along the path, and little ones aren't always super interested in moving a game piece along a path. I can see why.

I have also noticed throughout my four children that a game that was great for one wasn't a favorite for all. Children have their own interests, strengths, and likes.  This post contains affiliate links. 

Let me note that for a lot of the games I will list, there are fun themed versions. For example, for the game Trouble, you have versions for FrozenStar Wars, and Despicable Me. If your child has a passion, it can be fun to get these. However, if you have multiple passions among your children, these can be difficult to get everyone excited over. Children also outgrow passions faster than they outgrow games. 

Great Games For Toddlers
Toddlers are not competitive, so games that have some cooperation, goal they can visually see, or are exciting will hold their interest best. It is also best if they game can be over relatively quickly. 

Brinley loves the Uno Attack Game. It makes me a bit nervous because I don't want cards bent, but so far, she has done well. She can match colors and numbers and she finds the cards shooting out quite exciting.

Another great game is UNO MOO Game. It uses farm animals instead of cards and you put your animals into the barn, matching color or animal. 

If your toddler doesn't put everything into his/her mouth, Hi Ho Cherry-O is a fun game. This is especially fun if your child likes counting things. 

I talked about Cootie in m other post. That is a good type of game for a toddler because you are building something and your toddler can see the progress easily. A game that is a similar concept that I like better is Disney Princess Enchanted Cupcake Party Game. This is obviously very girly, but the same concept. Instead of building bugs, you build cupcakes. 

Our favorite game when playing with toddlers up to grown ups is Cranium Hullabaloo. It is a fantastic game. It is extremely expensive on Amazon, and hard to find in stores, so you might have your work cut out for you to track one down that is affordable, but you will love the game.

Great Games for Preschoolers
All of the games already listed are great for Preschoolers. Classic games like Candy Land or Chutes and Ladders are better suited for the preschooler age group (3-4) than the toddler age group (two year olds). Trouble  is another fun game. This would be for an older preschooler. It is similar to Sorry, but easier for a preschooler to play since it is more straightforward. 

A favorite for our children as preschoolers has been Memory. This is fun for preschoolers on up. Children have amazing memories, so playing memory with a child is a nice way to be humbled. Memory has a lot of versions, from Curious George, to Frozen, to Dr. Seuess, to Super you can find something of interest. If playing the game with all of the cards is overwhelming, and it can be for younger players, take out half of them and play with that. 

Connect 4 can be played by older preschoolers and is a game that can be fun for the parents, as well. 

Zingo is a very well rated game that is fun for multi-age groups. It is like Bingo, but it has a twist. 

Spot It is another fantastic game that works across age groups. It is a card game. I think you can play the original version (or one of the fun themed versions) with your preschooler and have fun, but there are Spot It Junior versions if you are wanting an easier version to play.

Great Games for Children
This age range is the 5-8 crowd. They will still like most of the games already mentioned. Something fun for this age group is to look into the "junior" versions of your favorite games. Yahtzee Jr.Sequence for Kids, and Clue Junior are some ideas. This is a fun transition because you can choose games you enjoy--game night is getting more exciting!

Sorry has always been one of my very favorite games, and this is a great age range to introduce it in. It is a great game for teaching children to be good sports.

Bananagrams is a favorite for us. The recommended age for it is 7 and up. As soon as your child can spell words, your child can participate in this game. Ours have been able to do it in Kindergarten.

Qwirkle is another great one. It is recommended for 6 and up, but our 5 year olds have always been able to play. 

Guess Who? is another great one that I have loved since the time I was a child and still do! Another fun one is Dominoes.

If you have a LEGO lover in the home, you need to check out LEGO Creationary Game or the other games made by LEGO. Brayden loves these games. Creationary is my favorite of the ones we have played--it is like Pictionary but with LEGOs. You could always make your own version up--write up your own things to build from LEGOs and use LEGOs you have already.

Pay Day was one of my favorite games growing up. It is as fun game we play that works well for the 5 and up crowd.

Of all of the games our family plays right now, my favorite is Kinder Bunnies Card Game. This game is easy enough that McKenna can play on her own (and wins at times), but I find it fun also. If you like strategy games, you will really enjoy Kinderbunnies.

Great Games for PreTeens
Telestrations is a very fun game. We play this with my extended family often. Your child needs to be able to read independently before playing this game. It is a great group game!

We play the Game of Life every so often. It takes a long time to play this game, but the kids enjoy it. They make a The Game of Life Junior Game. I love games and don't mind having quite the collection, but perhaps because I want a lot of games, I  don't want a "Jr." of games unless the original is just too challenging. The Game of Life Junior Game is rated 5 and up, and McKenna is 5 and plays the original fine, so I don't know how necessary the "JR." is here (although maybe it is faster, then it could be nice!).

Full disclosure, Monopoly is my least favorite game. I am to Monopoly what the Grinch is to Christmas. It takes SO LONG! It is one of Brayden's favorite games, though, so it gets played every so often (this is one I should get the Monopoly Junior of so we can play a short version of it).

Battleship is a great two-player game for the pre-teen crowd.

We have only played 7 Wonders once, but Brayden loved it. It is quite involved. I obviously haven't played it enough to give full commentary on it. It rates extremely well on Amazon and is aimed for 10-14 years, so it is worth your consideration.

Ticket To Ride - Europe is another one of our overall favorite games to play as a family. It is over McKenna's head, but she busies herself with "washing" the trains and placing trains on the board. The game involves strategy but doesn't take forever to play.

Great Games For Grown Ups
Like I said, we love to play games. We play with friends often. In addition to some of the games already listed above, we have some we like to play with friends. Dominion is one of our favorites and in the main rotation right now. It is great because it can change so much from game to game. It also doesn't take an extremely long time.

Most anyone who is into strategy games loves The Settlers of Catan. This is a favorite of ours, also, although it can take a long time so we don't pull it out often these days (we must be getting older). This is probably my favorite game of all time. You need strategy, social skills, luck, and good planning.

BANG is a fun card game. This is a good one for more of a party setting than a game night setting.

Killer Bunnies is a game that frustrates me to no end, but my husband loves it as do some in our game crowd, so it has to happen from time to time. It drives me crazy because the person who wins is completely random--it has very little to do with your strategy and skill and very much to do with your luck.

Imaginiff Game is a fun one for a party setting. It is not intense and is a fun way to get to know people. Wits & Wagers is another great party game. People who don't love games seem to still enjoy this game.

Finally, one of my favorite games is Cranium. This is a great game for a group of people.

There you have my all-star favorite games. There are so many great games out there.

I would love to hear your recommendations! What are your favorite games?

The How and Why of Knowing Our Children's Love Languages

For our Babywise Friendly Blog Network Pinterest Day this month, we wanted to do something around the idea of love. The obvious choice seemed to be Love Languages. I have written a lot about the Love Languages over the years. I have covered everything I found of particular interest in the books.

How: Take the Test
As I thought on what to write about, I realized that three of my children are actually old enough now to take the official "test" in the back of the book to identify Love Languages. Before they took the test, I went through on my own paper and predicted which answer I thought they would choose before they took the test. I was right on almost every question! This post contains affiliate links. 

The test found in the book The 5 Love Languages of Children by Chapman and Campbell is a great guide to helping you know your child's primary love language, but it definitely shouldn't be the only thing you use. I have talked about Identifying Primary Love Language. The tips there are very helpful. Here are the problems with the test:
  • The instructions are to choose what you would like your parent to say to you. Which would you rather your parent say to you. So one is "Let's watch TV together!" or "Tag, you're it!" Well, McKenna choose the TV one because if I am just saying it, she likes that statement better. After the test I asked if she would rather watch TV with me or play tag with me. Tag wins. So for a very literal 5 year old, the choices weren't always put in a way that made her choose what she would actually prefer. 
  • A lot of the choices are one option versus receiving a gift of some sort. I don't know about you, but my kids love gifts. Between "Wow! You did it!" and "There is a special present for you under your bed," I think a lot of kids would go present even if gifts is not the primary love language. Although while I say that, all three of my children picked "Wow! You did it!" over the present on that specific example. So I might be wrong on this. 
  • It is a short test--only 20 questions long. That makes sense for young children, but I think that a longer test would be nice to help really get a full picture on what is the primary love language. Because of this, you might not get the exact results that are accurate. That is why I say to look at the other factors, as well. 
How: Talk About the Results
After you have taken the test and added up the results, talk with your child about what the results said and if they feel it is true. More on that in the discussion of our results below.

How: Look At Other Factors
The authors of the book and test recognize that the test has limitations, which is why they offer a list of ways to know your child's love language. I discuss it in Identifying Primary Love Language

Our Results
I have always said Brayden's is Words of Affirmation. I was correct. That is what he got as his highest and he agreed with that result. He was very close on Quality Time and Acts of Service as well. Brayden really shows his love through service, and I think most kids just love quality time (like the quote goes, children spell "love" as "time." Time is very important and significant to children). He got zero on Physical Touch (shocking to no one) and low on Gifts. His top three were all quite close.

When we tallied up Kaitlyn's results, her highest was Quality Time. Like I said, I think this is high for everyone, but my husband and I both think Kaitlyn is very obviously a Physical Touch person. As I was explaining quality time to her, she said, "Well, Mommy, isn't there one that is hugs and kisses and stuff like that?" To me, that means she is Physical Touch over Quality time. Physical Touch was her second and off by one. The flaw here is that some of the physical touch things on the test are playing tag, racing, and giving a high five. Racing each other is not a way Kaitlyn feels loved.  Kaitlyn is also high in gifts. This did not surprise me because she is someone who shows a lot of excitement when you give her a gift. It really doesn't matter what it is, she is thrilled, and to me that means she appreciates it for more than simply what it is. Low for her are words of affirmation and acts of service. 

McKenna's highest is Quality Time. This is something I see as being true even knowing how high quality time is for children in general. McKenna asks to spend time with people specifically quite frequently. She is then also high on words of affirmation and acts of service. She was low on gifts and physical touch. She is only five, which is the youngest the authors recommend doing this test. I will be interested to do this again in the future. My feeling is that when she can understand the test better, she will be higher on physical touch and lower on acts of service than she is currently. Like I saisd earlier, she would rather me tell her she did a great job than tell her "Tag, you're it," but in practice, she would much rather play tag than me tell her great job (although I think that could be argued that is a quality time thing and not a physical touch thing). 

I may be mis-reading her, however. She uses physical touch to show love, but that doesn't mean that is how she feels it. We don't always feel the same way we express. And it is weird to say, but when McKenna cuddles up to me, I always feel like she is sharing and giving, and conversely, when Kaitlyn cuddles with me, I always feel like she is taking. Their physical actions aren't different; the intent seems different. 

Being Multi-Lingual
I found it interesting, in a good way, that all three were very high on three types of love. I have written on Love Language: Why Be Multi-Lingual?. Our children will grow up and have a spouse and children who feel and express love in different ways, so it is great for them to have many love languages that can be tapped into. 

Why Know?
You may wonder why bother knowing if being multi-linqual is desirable. It is great to be able to be sure you give your child love in the primary ways. For me, physical touch is basically a zero just like Brayden is. Knowing Kaitlyn is a physical touch girl means I need to step my physical touch game up with her. She knows that I know her love language, and she knows that when I give her a kiss or a hug or when I cuddle with her on the couch, that is me making an effort to express love to her because I know it matters to her. She completely appreciates it. She recognizes my efforts and it makes her feel even better. 

It is also really helpful to know so when your child is having a bad day, you know the best way to respond. If Kaitlyn had a bad day, I know a hug and some time sitting together on the couch will do more for her than me making her a treat. She would prefer my time be put into physical touch, not an act of service. If Brayden has a bad day, he isn't going to feel comfortable and loved if I cuddle up with him on the couch, but he will if I talk it out with him or play a game with him. McKenna will prefer I play a game with her over me giving her some flowers I picked in the front yard. 

There are many times in our children's lives that they need to know firmly how much they are loved at home. The world can be harsh and lonely at times, and us knowing exactly how to reach their hearts will help us quickly show them that home is a safe place and the refuge from the storm. They will know home is the place to go when things get rough. That is where we want them to turn--not to the things the world has to offer. 

See Also: 

Don't forget to check out my eBook: Babes, Tots, and Kids.

Be sure to check out the other ladies in the BFBN today to see their posts on Love Languages!

Guilt as a Mother: Consider the Source

I know we all have those moments. Those moments when we feel like we have messed up as a mom. I very often see posts on Facebook that go something along the lines of "Worst parenting day ever." We have all been there.

Sometimes, we feel guilty because we have made some mistake. We handled a situation poorly. We lost our cool. We slacked off in some way.

But sometimes, we feel guilty for really no justified reason at all. We just start to doubt ourselves. 

So how do you tell the difference between legitimate guilt and the guilt that seems to come just because we are female?

At church this past Sunday, my friend Annette made a wonderful comment. Wonderful. She said there are times she feels bad as a mom. She feels like she is a complete failure and will never be able to get it right. She feels hopeless.

Those are moments the Adversary is trying to bring her down. 

On the flip side, there are moments she feels convicted. She knows she made a mistake and needs to do better. But those feelings are accompanied by hope. She is able to think of ways to improve and she feels like she can do it. She recognizes her weaknesses but also recognizes ways to improve upon them.

Those are moments the Lord is being her father and telling her how to be a better mother. Those are gentle admonishments from the Lord letting her know how to improve. 

What a wonderful observation!

As women, we need to recognize these moments and only give the promptings from the Lord our time. As Annette pointed out, a lot of times the thoughts from the Adversary come when she is actually doing pretty well.

The Lord wants you to succeed as a mom. The Adversary does not. The Lord wants you to improve and do your best. He wants what is best for you and your children. He will guide you and help you to do so. Seek to recognize His voice in your life and ignore that of the Adversary. 

As I have pondered this further, I also thought that as parents, we need to emulate the correct way of admonishment. When we need to correct our children, we need to do so in a way that is loving and offers hope for improvement. We don't need to cut them down and make them feel worthless or like they can't ever possibly get better. We need to show them love and help them recognize areas that need improvement, but help them execute that improvement. 

And I know it is hard! It is not easy to be kind, patient, and loving when you are telling your child for the fifth time in 3 minutes to put her shoes on so you can leave. You will mess up. There will be times you lose your patience and respond to that moment in a way that isn't ideal. 

But you can try your best to not mess up. You can pray for help. You can resolve to do better. You can figure out what you need to do as a parent to avoid those many reminders. There is always a way to improve if you will seek it. 

The next time you feel guilty, determine the source. If it is a legitimate source, think of ways to improve the next time that situation happens and ways to avoid the situation all together. If it is not legitimate, cast it out! 

Kaitlyn Child Summary: 7.75 Years

This shows how sweet Kaitlyn is. Every time she goes out with Brinley, she pulls her around on the sled.
This is a summary for Kaitlyn from 7.5-7.75 years old.

Eating is going very well. She really is doing well. She had several days where she ate an insane amount of food for her. I don't know that I have had any child make such a large difference in the amount eaten. She had a major growth spurt. Her pants went from touching the floor to being floods--all in a week. It made me realize why size 7 must be what it is!

Speaking of, tangent vent, going from a size 6 to a 7 for Kaitlyn has been obnoxious. I don't remember any issues with Brayden. For Kaitlyn, the 7's were way to huge on her. Most difference between sizes is about 1/2 an inch or so, but for 6-7, it is more like 3-4 inches in many brands. Kaitlyn is always right about in the middle of the height of the girls in her grade, too, and measures right around 50% at her well checks so I don't think it is that she is strangely short.

Sleeping is great. She is used to sleeping with McKenna by now and has no trouble with the noises McKenna makes. 

Kaitlyn decided she wasn't that into gymnastics. I was surprised she ever wanted to start because she didn't see like the gymnastics type, but I didn't say anything and signed her up. She enjoyed it a lot for the year she did it. I think it was beneficial to her. She wanted to cut back on her activities, though, and gymnastics was her least favorite of what she was doing. 

Kaitlyn continued with piano. She is doing well with that and is getting good enough that her songs are exciting to her. She has a hard time following being Brayden in the piano world because he is obviously always playing songs that are more complicated than hers are. This means his songs are more entertaining, which means she spent a lot of time trying to figure out how to play his songs (always with a fair amount of success). But her level is finally at a place she is content with those songs and she is focusing on her own stuff.

Dance is still going well. She loves both of her dance classes. 

Kaitlyn passed off all of her swimming skills! She has graduated from swimming lessons. She will still have them, though. We pay our teacher by the hour, so we will have her review for part of the time, at least until Brinley is old enough to start lessons (I am thinking we will try when summer starts). Brayden still has time with our teacher even though he is on the swim team and has that three days a week. He has lots of things to refine and improve on, so that definitely means Kaitlyn has room for improvement, too. I don't know if she will have interest in swim team or not. The team is full, so we will discuss that when it is even an option.

The school year is still going very well. 

Last time, I shared how Kaitlyn latches on to any opportunity to get "fart" into her vernacular. She is improving, but she isn't all the way past that. I don't know if she will really ever be past loving that, but I hope to at least eradicate it from any meal time conversation. It no longer happens daily, so that is an improvement. 

This post contains affiliate links.  Kaitlyn's favorite books are any that are about unicorns or dragons. She love this series Into the Land of the Unicorns (Unicorn Chronicles). She also loves this series: Moonsilver (The Unicorn's Secret #1). She also enjoys Dragon Masters #1: Rise of the Earth Dragon (A Branches Book). I am currently reading A Wrinkle in Time to her and she is loving that. 

As far as activities, her favorite thing to do is art. All art, all the time. We had an evening of art at the school. Kaitlyn entered every category and got first or second place in every one of them. Art and stuffed animals are her favorite gifts. 

This is Kaitlyn's photograph that earned her a first place ribbon

Here is her schedule on school days.

7:00--wake up. Eat breakfast. Get Ready, practice piano, chores, then sibling play.
4:00--back home. Snack if needed and homework. Then free play.
6:00--Family time
7:30--get ready for bed



Surviving Witching Hour

Your days go smoothly for life with a newborn. Then some point in the evening comes along each day and your baby seems to flip a switch. It is like your baby isn't really even there. There is crying and your baby is hard to soothe. Witching hour. For more on what witching hour is, what causes it, and things you can do to help, see my post on it

I recently asked readers on Facebook how they survived witching hour. If there is anything "survived" applies well to in parenting, witching hour is in the top five. It really is something you get through. Here are the ideas from the readers. Now, please resist the urge to punch some people in the face. You will see lots of "it will end" type of thoughts here and "enjoy it." Just know it is moms who have been there who are trying to help you find a way to get through this. Believe me, we all know how awful it is. 

Relax About It and Accept It
One way to survive is to not stress so much about it. It isn't something you are doing wrong. It is just there, with or without anything you have done that day. 

Jessie said: I survived by relaxing about it — baby's okay, he's just gunna be fussy, and that's okay, too! We usually just hold our babies during this period until they fall into nighttime sleep.

Tiffany said: I fought it tooth and nail with my first couple of kids, trying to make them sleep or be happy without being held all the time. For #3 and #4, though, I just accepted it for what it was and did what it took to keep everybody sane. Fortunately, it seemed to be the worst after the older ones were asleep anyway, so I just snuggled up in a big comfy chair/recliner with baby and held them until it passed every night. Looking back, it was actually a sweet bonding opportunity.

I love Tiffany's perspective there. It really can be a great bonding time for you and your baby! Though, let's be real, when it happens at dinner prep time and your spouse is at work and your two older kids are hungry and clingy...not so bonding. 

Anita said: Curl up on the bed and cry with them?  ...I worked out she would settle quickly if I carried her around face down on my arm. No idea why, but it worked. I agree with above, I think just accept it and hold them, either in your arms or in a baby carrier. Don't be too hard on yourself about it, it happens

Remember the sense of humor--that is always helpful for parenting in general.

Rachel said: Baby wearing, turn on a good tv show and nurse nurse nurse! Baby swing. Daddy! And chocolate!

A couple of great things to pull out from this comment, find something you can do to distract yourself (TV), get help from others (Daddy), and chocolate always helps (that is for mom, not baby). 

Erin said: It was frustrating but at the same time it was nice that we had that time alone together every night. By the time #3 came with his (less intense) witching hour, I kind of looked forward to it.

Time It and Be Prepared
I loved the thoughts on being prepared for it. Witching hour is pretty predictable. You can do your best to plan around it.

Normarie said: We survived by timing it. I knew that around 6pm he would get cranky so I managed to get ready for it, and when it started the only thing that worked calming him a little bit was dancing with him around the house. He loved that, so that became our dancing/singing time together. He's 18 weeks old now and even though he still gets fuzzy around that time because he's tired (I put him to bed around 7:00pm - book, bath, feeding, bed), I can say he dropped the rough witching hour phase around his 12-13 weeks.

I have also heard a common tactic is to get baby to be asleep before witching hour typically sets in. So if witching hour starts at 6:30, you make sure baby's schedule is such that a nap or bedtime starts at 6. If you go for this, just don't let yourself get too stressed out about making it. A tense mom leads to a tense baby.

Mindy said: Try to get them to sleep before it hit. That 5pm nap is the best of the day!!

Alyson said: most surviving trick was having my meal plan done and supper in the crock pot.

Katie said: I just took it as their way of telling me they were ready for bed so that became their bedtime. For both of mine it was around 6-6:30pm. It worked great for us and allowed my husband and I to have some much needed marriage time in the evenings

Swaddling, offering the pacifier, singing, holding, and Cluster Feeding are all great ideas for how you can comfort and distract your little one during this time. 

Christina said: Cluster feeding definitely helped me.. Bottle at 3 and 5, a power nap somewhere around 430/5 and then a bath every night at 630, last bottle before being put down at 7. My LO is almost 5 mo and I'm still using this routine and it's working great.

Erin said: With #2 I would let him cry for a little bit because sometimes he would fall immediately asleep after just a couple of minutes. If he didn't, I would get him up, make sure he was hungry or gassy or uncomfortable, then just put on a TV show and hold him while he slept. He'd always sleep through the WH in my arms. At about 9-10 pm I could lay him down in his bed and he'd be fine the rest of the night. Near 10-11 weeks he started occasionally going down at bedtime and staying asleep, and by 12 weeks it was essentially over. I started a DF at that point and he was sleeping DF to DWT by 13 weeks.

Rebecca said: My husband and I would simply take turns. Also, on nights when he was away, I would walk around with her and sing lullabies or hymns which helped to soothe me as well.

Swings, Ergo (baby wearing), Rock and Play, dance parties...movement can be just the ticket your baby needs. This can be just the ticket you need when you have other children with needs during witching hour.

Amanda said: Try the swing. If that doesn't work within 5-10 minutes, put them in a baby carrier and wear them. My girls would usually fall asleep that way, but if not, they were at least happy.

Amanda (different one) said: Using the swing saved us! He was fussy from about 5-9 pm and would stay in there close to nap time and would take his last nap in there as well. Sometimes if he was having a really hard time I would swaddle him and put him back in and he would usually fall asleep that way.

Get Out of the House
With McKenna, we just did not stay home during her witching hour if we could help it. Walks, errands, park trips...whatever could get us out. It was nice, actually, because otherwise we would have been very house bound. It was nice to have a reason to have to leave.

Rachel said: The swing was great for DS, but our DD would not sleep in a swing for the longest time, so the Ergo carrier was the only way to get her through the witching hour. Thankfully it was summer time so we'd go for family walks at the park before dinner, while she snoozed off/on in the carrier. DS's witching hour lasted a long time - 3 months, but DD's was very short lived.

Alexis said: Swing, going to the market, running errands, watching tv with baby, take a warm bath with baby. We didn't even try to get them down just passed the time some days others the swing worked

Wait it Out
There are a lot of things to try during the time, but always keep in mind it will not last forever. I think a really hard time with these type of things is not knowing the end date. It is pretty bearable to do just about anything when you know the day and time it will end. The unknown is what is killer. That is why we can all look back and say things like "relax" and "just enjoy it!" At the time, we were all stressed out, too. 

Katie said: I think what helped me most was knowing it was a season and WOULD END - even if my most difficult child had an evening witching hour until 10 months old (despite me "knowing what I was doing" by that point!) My other two kids were done with the evening witching hour between 4-6 months old.

Rebecca said:  It wasn't fun, but it knew I could put her down for bed soon, and I also tried to concentrate on the memories that we were making, even though that sort of sounds ridiculous when you are in the middle of it. Thankfully, this stage DOES pass, and pretty quickly. 

I hope this helps you. It does end, and when it does, you will look back and think, "Oh that wasn't so bad!" See these posts for more:

Pinteresting Fridays: Valentines Day

Valentines is coming up fast! Here are some of my favorite Valentine Pinterest finds. 

You can take this in many directions if you don't want to do numbers. Match colors (for older children, you could match complimentary colors), uppercase and lowercase letters, mommy animal to baby animal...there are lots of options if you get your brain going.

You can write sweet notes to your kids, or do fun activities--have your child paint and tell you what letter, number, shape, etc. she uncovered.

I am not against candy at all, but sometimes it is nice to have something other than candy when you are getting hoards of it.

Love these games!

And this just brings it all back to focus. 

Want to see more? See my boards:

Helping Siblings Like Each Other

Siblings fight. They just do. It is going to happen no matter how much they get along in general. In a family, you live under the same roof and spend a lot of time together. You see each other at your worst moments. There are bound to be times you do not all get along.  This post contains affiliate links. 

That doesn't mean siblings can't get along and even enjoy each other as children. There are things you can do as parents to encourage a friendship among your children. Here are ideas taken from both NurtureShock: New Thinking About Children by Bronson and Merryman and Siblings Without Rivalry: How to Help Your Children Live Together So You Can Live Too by Faber. 

Have Time to Play Together
Having friends over is very fun, but it is important to also have days and times when the siblings get to just play together--just them. Have time that your children play with each other without your intervention and without friends. You can even schedule this in--see Sibling Playtime and Structured Playtime With Siblings.

Teach Children Conflict Prevention
You don't want to just throw your children in a room together and say, "Play together! Have fun and good luck!" We are the teachers of our children and need to teach them life skills. This includes how to get along with people.

We aren't talking conflict resolution or conflict avoidance. We are talking conflict prevention. A lot of times, parents talk about the right way to respond to conflict with our children. NurtureShock talks about a program designed to help siblings become friends and their focus is on teaching children how to work together to prevent the conflict. "...fewer fights are the consequence of teaching the children the proactive skills of initiating play on terms they can both enjoy" (page 123).

If you have young children, this is an easier concept to work into them. You start young (read Sibling Playtime and Structured Playtime With Siblings.) You teach them to think of the other person and to show the other person love. You teach about taking turns and sharing. 

If your children are older and you are wanting to change something about their dynamic, you do the same, but you have to expect some rewiring. Remember your Training in Times of Non-Conflict. You walk them through scenarios on how they can compromise and work together so they can both have fun when playing.

Let Children Work Things Out Alone
When the conflict arises, you need to allow the children to work things out on their own. If you eaves drop, do it out of their sight. Do not rush in to solve the problem. This is mentioned in NurtureShock and discussed in great detail in Siblings Without Rivalry. "Children should have the freedom to resolve their own differences" (page 142). 

YES, you do need to intervene if things are getting abusive either verbally or physically. "But here's the difference: We intervene, not for the purpose of settling their argument or making a judgement, but to open the blocked channels of communication so they can get back to dealing with each other" (page 142). Basically, you help be a mediator. 

Personally, at our house, if the kids can't work things out, then they need to take a break from each other. They don't wan to not play with each other, so they do put in effort to work it out. 

Acknowledge Bad Feelings
Siblings Without Rivalry suggests you allow your children to express frustrations and negative feelings about the siblings. The author says, "Acknowledging bad feelings between the children led to good feelings" (page 49). 

We all need to vent sometimes. I would caution a few things here. Do not join the venting. Also, there is a difference between a vent and nurturing anger. You want to encourage your child toward forgiveness, not on stroking the bitterness and allowing it to grow. 

Think Twice About Books and Shows that "Teach" About Sibling Relationships
This is something I so completely agree with, in any fashion. We have to be careful with media. I love books, and I know books can be very helpful in helping our children work out worries they have, from potty training to a new baby to a big move. 

But you have to be careful what you expose them to. You know the book Junie B. Jones and the Stupid Smelly Bus? I have never liked that. I know it is wildly popular. I have always viewed it as a book that will teach my children to hate the bus and school. It will plant the seed, and if they want to nurture it, it will grow. You can imagine my vindication when I read this in NurtureShock in discussing books that are supposed to teach children to get along. Research has found children fight more when exposed to these books and shows. Researchers said:

"From these books, the kids were learning novel ways to be mean to their younger siblings they'd never considered" (page 126). "The average book demonstrated virtually as many negative behaviors as positive ones" (page 127). 

Ignore Certain Factors
We can make excuses for the sibling relationship. "They are fighting for my attention" "It is because one is a boy and one is a girl" or "It is because they are both girls" or "It is because they are both boys" or "It is because they are too close in age" or "It is because they are too far apart in age." Studies have shown that fights aren't about those things so much as about physical possessions. Teach children to love, to share, to respect property of others, to care about the feelings of others...research shows forcing children to share is not effective, but you can teach them to share. See How to Teach Respect for Personal Property

Avoid Comparisons
I think this is one of the hardest things to do as a parent. I don't think we compare maliciously. We do it in awe. How can two people we created, who live in the same house with the same parents and rules, who have the same genetic heritage, be so different? How can they have such different natural talents and abilities? How can they all have such different weaknesses? 

When I was due to have Kaitlyn, Jeffrey R. Holland gave a talk in which he said,
"And try not to compare your children, even if you think you are skillful at it. You may say most positively that “Susan is pretty and Sandra is bright,” but all Susan will remember is that she isn’t bright and Sandra that she isn’t pretty. Praise each child individually for what that child is, and help him or her escape our culture’s obsession with comparing, competing, and never feeling we are “enough.”"
This is hard people! Very hard. Siblings Without Rivalry agrees. There is an entire chapter on the Perils of Comparisons. "Children often experience praise of a brother or sister as a put-down of themselves. They automatically translate 'Your brother is so considerate' into 'Mom thinks I'm not.' It's a good idea to save your enthusiastic comments for the ear of the deserving child" (page 58). 

This is something I have pondered a lot over the years. A whole lot. I don't think the point is to never compliment children in front of each other--or ever. I think children should learn to recognize and celebrate the good and accomplishments of others. Part of it is to not compliment everyone for the sake of complimenting. I think you can solve a lot by sticking to Praise Effort, Not Results

There is another chapter that has similar sentiments in Siblings Without Rivalry. It is titled "Siblings in Roles." 
"Let's be wary of statements like, 'He's the musician in the family'...'She is the scholar'...'He's the athlete'...'She's the artist.' No child should be allowed to corner the market on any area of human endeavor. We want to make it clear to each of our children that the joys of scholarship, dance, drama, poetry, sport are for everyone and not reserved for those who have a special aptitude" (page 98). 
That sounds easy on paper, but is hard. The fact is, people have natural talents and abilities. I have a child who is far more artistic naturally than any other of my children. I have a child is who is far more naturally athletic than any of my other children. These things are there. 

I love the last part of that last quote, though. Anyone can be good at something if they really want to be. Your child might not be the best artist in her class, but if she wants to be great and she puts the effort into becoming great, she can be great. You don't want to dissuade improvement upon skills and talents. 

Know the Difference Between Fair and Equal
This concept is such a passion of mine. I have written on it in the past: 
Trying to make things equal among your children will not result in content children. It will result in jealous children. They won't just be jealous of each other, either, but of everyone around them. They will always be comparing and declaring what isn't fair. You will find yourself constantly needing to point out what in their life is "better" than those they are jealous of. That is not a happy way for people to be! It will eat at your soul. 

Siblings Without Rivalry devotes an entire chapter to this topic in "Equal is Less." Do not treat your children "equally." Treat them "fairly."

Your children can be friends and they can get along in general. Yes, they will fight. They are humans. They can be great friends with some relatively easy efforts from you.