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Tips for Organizing Your Family Schedule

Whether you are trying to organize your baby's schedule or trying to figure out how to make a schedule fit together for your entire family, you are facing a big task. It can be tricky finding a balance that meets as many needs as possible while ensuring you can hold on to the core of what really matters to you. Once you have that schedule in place, you might find it can be hard to keep track of it all!

So how do people do it? I recently posed this question to my Facebook readers. Here is their advice. 

Have One Schedule Keeper
Just as I talked about last week on how to distribute responsibilities in marriage, it is wise to have one person who really organizes the family life. For most couples, the mother will organize the baby's daily schedule, but it might not be so cut and dry when it comes to the schedule for the full family. 

Caitlin said: Having me be the "schedule keeper" helps minimize conflicts. I manage the family calendar and any travel dates, guys nights , or work events my husband has he texts me and asks me to add to the calendar. We have found that using only one calendar and having one person in charge of if ( as opposed to both adding to it) helps eliminate conflicts that one of us might be unaware of. Plus I'm type A so it fills my need for control. Lol

We do this in our home. I am the schedule keeper. I keep our schedules on a shared calendar (more on that below). I plan out the kids' activities. I schedule the time each year for piano lessons. I decide which day works best for dance class or gymnastics. Even when my husband is the coach of the soccer team, I tell him which day and time is best to have soccer practice. 

Have one person be over all and aware of everything. 

This doesn't mean the other person can't have opinions, input, or ideas. It doesn't even  have to mean the other person can't add things to the calendar. If you share a calendar, then it is easy to see what is open and what isn't. 

In your initial setup at transition points, like the beginning of summer or a new school year, have one person be over making sure it all fits. If that doesn't work for both of you (maybe you are both Type A :) ), then sit and plan it all out together at the same time. There needs to be consistency and full understanding of the big picture when planning a schedule out.

Limit Activities
A great way to keep a schedule manageable is to set limits on that schedule. How limits would look at your house will vary from how it looks at someone else's house. We all have different capacities and various levels of help. If you have a great system of carpoolers with other families doing certain activities, you probably can allow more activities than a parent driving to everything solo. If you have a firefighter spouse whose shift changes week to week, you probably won't be able to schedule as much as someone whose husband has a very consistent and predictable schedule from week to week. The family with five kids might need to put more limitations on activities than the family with two. 
  • Limit number of activities: One way to limit is to limit the number of activities each child can do. Some people say one or two at a time. Some people allow a lot more. Figure out what works for your family.
  • Limit ages that activities can be done: Another way to limit is to not allow certain activities until certain ages. If a child has to be 4 before soccer can start, that makes soccer season that much easier for four years. 
Angela said: "We only allow one child to do one extra activity at a time. Given that we only have 2 and they are still young and not begging to do all the things, this works for us. If the brother wants basketball, the sister waits till spring to do gymnastics. If the sister is doing ballet, the brother waits till summer swim lessons. I'm sure this will change as they enter jr high and high school, but right now it works for us. Obviously not the answer for all families, but it helps to have minimal activities for the moment."

Use a Synced Calendar
Once you have a schedule set, you need to make sure everyone can see what is going on. There are multiple apps sand programs that can help with this. I find the two most popular to be Cozi and Google Calendar. 

If one of you needs to use Google Calendar for work, it makes sense to use that for home, too. Then anything from work that will impact the family can be kept track of.

Our family uses the app Cozi. We use the free version. My husband and I can both access it from our phones or the internet. We can both add or delete things. We can easily see what is going on where an when. Each person is color coded.

Having a calendar that automatically syncs that you can both access is the best way to make your schedules easier and more manageable. It also makes it so the one who is not the schedule keeper can safely add something to the schedule. He can see what is planned and what is free. 

Faith said: "We use Google calendar and have multiple color-coded calendars syncing. For instance, my hubby's work is green, my events are pink, events for both of us are red, meals are yellow, church events are blue, etc. I love it because I have access to his schedule but can also hide his calendar so only events that involve me show on the calendar so i don't get overwhelmed. I'm a paper and pencil girl and moving to an electronic calendar was difficult at first, but now I love it!"

These few tips are a great starting point to get things manageable and under control. Organizing the family schedule can be daunting, but if you apply these three ideas to your family, you will find it much easier!

 Babywise Sample Schedules 0-12 Months

What to Do When Your Toddler Refuses to Take a Nap

"But I don't want to sleep! I want to plaaaayyyy!" Does this phrase have a familiar ring to it? It is quite common for a toddler to start to decide nap-time is not quite fun-time. Staying awake is much more exciting and interesting. 

You might take this resistance to nap time as a sign that it is time to drop naps all together. (This post contains affiliate links). Before you take that step, please reconsider! In the book Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child, Weissbluth says, "Between twenty-two and thirty-six months, most children still need to nap" (page 313). I fully agree with this. Wants and needs are very different things, and just because your child doesn't want to nap, doesn't mean your child doesn't need to nap.

Of course the process of keeping the nap in place is easier said than done. So what should your do when your child wants to drop that nap but you still need nap to happen?

1-Do Not Drop It
I have been told how lucky I am that my children nap until they are quite old. This is no luck! Do not not be fooled; I have had some resistance to naps over the years. Of course a toddler has better things in mind other than napping! They want to delay, prevent, and stop the nap at all costs. Little toddlers get quite creative. Some get quite angry. 

But you don't drop it. You stick with it. Keep nap time in place if you want nap time to continue. 

For help knowing when to drop naps, see my post on how to know when your child is ready to stop napping. When your child is ready to cut back on napping, implement rest time. You have some time yet before you will be totally dropping this chunk of time in the afternoon known as nap time. 

2-Have Enough Physical and Mental Stimulation
Your child will sleep better if you have some activity in the morning that challenges her mentally. Learning activities will help work her brain and give her body need of sleep to process what she has learned. You also want physical movement. Gross motor movement. Go for a walk. Blow bubbles for her to chase. Get a little trampoline for inside the house or a ball house so she can move and get physically tired.

3-Analyze Nap Start Time
Your child will show the least amount of resistance to nap time if you get the start time of naps correct. This takes us back to thinking about waketime length just like we did with babies. Some children are incredibly sensitive to the timing of this nap. When Brayden was a toddler, we had a ten minute window, and if I didn't meet it, nap didn't happen that day. He stayed awake. Keep a log and find patterns for when nap works and when it doesn't.

4-Analyze Bedtime
A possible reason for no naps is having bedtime either too early or too late. It can be either one, so you will need to experiment with earlier or later bedtime to see if that solves the issue.

5-Be Honest With Yourself
Weissbluth says, "Ask yourself whether napping is your child's problem or your problem" (page 327). This is a moment where you need to be really honest with yourself. Do you have a hard time being home each day for nap time? If so, you are not providing the consistency your child needs to get a nap in. I promise your day will come when you will have the freedom to take off and go shopping, go out to eat, or just run errands during the afternoon. For now, get out in the morning hours if you must get out and be home in time for nap.

6-Be Aware of Sleep Regressions
Two year olds often have a sleep regression. It is normal, it happens, and it isn't anything to freak out about. Remember back to the four month sleep regression? Baby's sleep went crazy? You are facing the same thing. Sometimes the answer is to just keep going as you have and wait for the regression to end.

Why Not Drop the Nap?
You might be thinking the effort to keep the nap is too great or that it would actually be really nice to be done with naps. So why not just drop it?

Dropping sleep before the child is ready for it leads to a sleep deficit. Sleep begets sleep, and in the same way, lack of sleep leads to lack of sleep. The child who should be napping but isn't will eventually start having a hart time falling asleep at night or start waking earlier and earlier in the mornings. Sleep deficits usually take a few weeks to build up, so you often don't put the cause and effect together.

Your toddler won't always thank you. Your toddler probably won't thank you at all for requiring sleep! When your little one emphatically proclaims that she doesn't want to sleep, gently tell her you know that, you understand it, but her body needs sleep.

Stainless Steel Tumbler {Friday Finds}

I feel so much better when I am drinking a lot of water each day. I aim for about 82 ounces a day, which is about ten cups of water (more than the common recommendation of 8 cups a day, which gets you to 64 ounces). I have more energy, sleep better, have fewer sugar cravings, and have fewer headaches when I am getting my water in each day.

I have always found that I am much more successful at drinking enough water each day if I have it in a tumbler. I prefer to guzzle my water through a straw. I have used plastic tumblers for years, but somehow I ALWAYS end up breaking them. I carry the thing with me all over the house and often on car rides, and somehow I manage to bust the thing in some way. This post contains affiliate links.

I spent months and months pondering the purchase of a stainless steel tumbler. I think about purchases for a while before taking the plunge. I debated between the lauded Yeti and a cheaper knock off. I have a friend who absolutely loves her Yeti and can't say enough good about it. But of course there are cheaper options out there that many people say work just as well, or at least well enough that it is worth spending at least half as much.

I find I drink water better if it is cold (my version of cold, which is not freezing). Because of this, having a tumbler that could maintain a cool temperature is a smart move for me.

So I finally went with the RTIC. I figured it is a less expensive way to see how much I like the stainless steel option and see if I am talented at somehow breaking one of these, also. I hope not, but if I am, I would rather be talented on the RTIC than the Yeti. 

I also went for a pack of stainless steel straws. Excellent move for me. I do NOT like the flavor of anything made of silicon. Ugh. You could do disposable. I have liked the stainless steel and I would do that add-on again.

I have had this for two months now and still use it daily and I am still liking it. I also have not broken it thus far, so that is a win. If you are on the hunt for a good tumbler that is relatively inexpensive, this might be your answer!

How to Divide Responsibilities in a Marriage

Chances are high that when you came into your marriage, you and your spouse had different views of exactly how to divide labor in the home. Who is in charge of cooking? Cleaning? Dishes? Diapers? Laundry? Garbages? The list of household chores is extensive, and once you add children to the mix, there are even more responsibilities to be added to the daily list.

How to Divide Responsibilities in a Marriage

The question is, how will you divide responsibilities? Someone needs to be in charge of each thing. Even if you are both all on board with an idea of "everything is both of our jobs," you need someone to take point. That's nice if you are both willing to cook, but there needs to be order or else you will both be planning meals (and possibly even taking steps to prep) or you will both be waiting around for the other one to get started on dinner. Maybe you both cook each meal? Maybe it varies from day to day depending on what is going on? You just don't want to end up with resentment because expectations are not expressed. 

Oftentimes, our expectations for who will do what is shaped by what our parents did as we grew up. We might want to emulate what they did, or we might want to radically change what they did. Sometimes we are raised differently than how our parents did things. My husband is an example of this. His father was raised in a home where traditional roles were kept. His father continued that on as my husband grew up (though that has changed by today). His mother, however, was raised in a home where her father contributed extensively to household duties, which was rare for the era. She raised my husband to be an equal contributor at home, and he always has been. 

People can have strong opinions about how responsibilities should be divided. Some couples are happy in a fully traditional setup. Some are equal. Others do some sort of hybrid and even an ebb and flow where things can shift as circumstances change. 

While you might think there is only one right way, there really isn't one right way for everyone. What is important is that both people in the marriage are on the same page and willing to compromise to come to a consensus so that both people feel satisfied with the arrangement. 

You must communicate about the division of responsibilities. You may have grown up in a home where your father emptied every garbage in the home and you feel fully offended that your husband leaves garbages for your hands to touch at times, but he doesn't know that if  you don't share that.

You both need to talk about what you prefer as you divide responsibilities. Write down what needs to be done and talk about who will be the main person in charge of those things.

Be frank about if/thens, also. My husband knows that if he does the dishes after dinner, I am going to make more elaborate meals. If I am making dinner and then cleaning dinner up, what we eat will be heavily influenced by how many dishes I have to dirty. My husband loves food, so he is happy to take on the dishes. 

2-Be More Concerned for Each Other
If you spend your time more concerned for your spouse than yourself, you will find yourself much  happier. Rather than grumbling because your life is so hard, think of how you can make your spouses life easier. When you see a need, fill a need. Don't think, "Not my job! Not my problem!" If you are more concerned for your spouse than yourself, then you will see a need and do what you can to fill it.

3-Don't Keep Score
Life isn't going to be 50/50. It just won't. If you keep track of how much more you do around the house than your spouse, you will live very miserably.

4-Step Up When Your Spouse is Overburdened
When your husband is working longer hours than usual, step up and help cover things he usually does. When your wife just delivered a baby, step up and cover some of her usual responsibilities. Also, as your children get older, use them! With my husband building an addition on our home for almost the last year, my children have had to step up and take on more household responsibilities. It has been great for them to contribute to the home more.

5-Take Back Over When Things Calm Down
If your spouse is a rockstar and takes on some of your jobs while you are stressed, step back in to those jobs when things calm down, or take on some of his jobs. Don't leave him overburdened, or he will likely be hesitant to step in and help next time. A cute older woman in my church once warned me, "Don't take on anything that he does unless you want to do it forever." Sage advice! Advice based on observation and real-life experience. We do that, right? Someone does something nice for us and we step back, dust our hands off, and think, "Whew! Got that one off my plate!" Remember, see a need, fill a need.

6-Always Contribute
Look, working outside the home is rough. Sure. That doesn't mean when you get home, you get to be "off." Being a stay at home parent is never-endingly exhausting. Yes. That doesn't mean when your spouse gets home from work that you are now off duty. You both need to help when you are both around. Sometimes one of you will need a break. You will need a night out every so often or even just someone to box out when the kids try to talk to you in the bathroom. We all have our days when we just need a moment. We don't need every day, though. We might want every day, but we don't need it. 

Many hands make light work, so help each other out. See a need, fill a need.
How to Divide Responsibilities in a Marriage

7-Don't Be Afraid to Change Things
When my husband and I first got married, I had total control over the finances. I did the budget, I paid the bills, and I knew where our money was. This was a great thing at the time. While we are both frugal, I am even more so than he is. By a lot, really. He lives life more spontaneously while I am always planning and preparing for the future. We were both going to school full time and working part time, so we didn't have a lot of money. It was good for me to be over the finances.

When Kaitlyn came along, I had two children under the age of two, and keeping on top of the bills got overwhelming for me. So my husband took over.

This was a great move at that point in our marriage. It helped him be more aware of the state of our finances, so he was more conscientious about what we spent where. I was not always the "no, we shouldn't spend money on that" person. He got more frugal. It helped me relax some on spending money. By that time, he had a real job so it was a good time for me to relax. It also helped bills be paid on time, which is a plus!

My point is, as life changes and circumstances change, mix up who is responsible for what. As you get to know each other and yourselves better, mix up who is over what. Play to your strengths to make a strong team. Nothing needs to be set in stone.

I will give you another example.

When we have a nursing baby, I am the one who puts the baby to bed at night. As soon as the baby turns one and is weaned, my husband takes over bedtime for that little one. We do this so that he can get some good, quality time with that child each day. He works full time, so while I spend all day every day with the little one, he has only hours. I have a couple of naptimes to do, so I get plenty of opportunity for the cuddling and reading stories. Being in charge of bedtime for that child helps my husband form a bond with that little one.

One of the best tools you will have as you divide up responsibilities in marriage is to communicate. Talk. Share your expectations, hopes, likes, and dislikes. Listen to his. Find something that works for both of you. Keep those lines of communication open and talk about changes that might need to be made as they arise.

The ladies of the BFBN are all talking about marriage today. Check them out:

If We Don't Teach Our Children, Someone Else Will

If we don't teach our children, someone else will

I recently read a new study discussing how to raise an honest child. The Science of Us discussed the study and what to learn from it, "The real-world takeaway, the researchers argue, is that kids are more inclined to be honest when they know honesty will please their parents." So children are more likely to be honest when they know honesty matters to you. 

It is then a safe leap to say that children are impacted by what their parents teach them. If they stress honesty, honesty will be a value the child cares about. 

Sometimes as parents, we might feel hesitant to push our beliefs or values on our children. We might want them to choose moral behavior on their own or we might worry about pushing them the opposite direction when we stress good morals and values. If we stress honesty, it might make them lie to us even more!

The question becomes, however, if you don't teach your child, who will? Because someone, or something, will be the teacher of your child. Humans learn things. So if you do not teach, who will? And do you want to leave that to chance?

Sometimes parents step back and totally luck out. Someone comes along to have a positive influence on the child and the child learns good values. 

On the other side, many times parents step back and their child is left trying to find direction from somewhere, anywhere, and is left confused and floundering.

If you don't teach your child, someone will.
If we don't teach our children, someone else will

This statement can be taken down to simple tasks, also.

If you don't teach your child how to share, someone will. That someone might be a three year old. Chances are, a three year old won't be the best model on how to "share." 

If you want your child to learn a certain trait, value, or virtue, you need to be the one to teach it. You can proactively find helps--maybe a great storybook or a fun show can help you drive the point home. You can strategically surround your child with good role models of the values and virtues you love. You are the strongest role model and example to your child. Your child will emulate everything about you for a time, right down to the way you clear your throat. 

If you don't teach your child, someone will. Don't leave that all to chance. Take initiative and be the one to influence your child.

 When kids lie, and what to do about it (click to read)

Should You Bail Your Child Out?

"Hi Mom," came the timid voice on the other end of the line.
"Hi sweetie, what's up?" I responded. I knew what was up. She had forgotten something at home.
"I forgot my tennis shoes and I have P.E. today. Can you bring them to me?" she sweetly inquired.

YES! I wanted to shout. I will bring them right to you! I know you fear getting in trouble. I know you want to be the perfect student who always does what she is supposed to do. I know you love P.E. It is one of your favorite classes and you want to be able to participate. 

And I? I want to be the hero mom. I want to be the sweet mom every kid looks at and says, "Wow, you are so lucky! You have the best mom!" 

So I held my breath for a few seconds and fought with myself. 

"No, sweetie. I am sorry. I won't," came my reply.

We said our good-byes and hung-up. 

For the next couple of hours, I still fought with myself. P.E. was right before lunch, so I had time to debate. I didn't have anything else to do. No appointment I needed to get to. The school is just right down the street. It is easy for me to get there and back, even with a four year old in tow. 

So why didn't I take the dang shoes?!?

Because I want my daughter to learn to have personal responsibility. 

I can't bail her out every single time she forgets something or makes a mistake. Some day, she will be in a situation where she needs to remember and I won't be there to save her. She needs to be capable of taking care of herself before she is in a situation where it really matters.

Does it really matter if she forgot her gym shoes in fourth grade? No. Not in the grand scheme of her life. She might get a lecture from her P.E. teacher, but that is it. No grade is dependent upon her shoes, only her pride and her ability to play along fully this one day.

I couldn't bail her out that day because I want her to grow to be her best self.

Teaching personal responsibility is a fine balancing act. 

I want my children to be responsible, but I also want them to grow up knowing grace so they can show grace to others. I have pondered this over the years. Initially I started our school years out with a strict, "No bail-outs" policy in mind, but I quickly grew concerned that my children wouldn't learn to show patience and grace with others if they were never saved by their mother. 

My policy now is that I will definitely save you if it is not a habit you have developed. If it is the first time you have called me all year and you forgot something, I will be there in less than five minutes. If it is only the second time this year, and the first was a couple of months ago, no problem. I will bring it to you.

People are human and people make mistakes. I want my children to understand that is okay.

But as soon as it becomes a habit, we have a problem and you need to learn to take care of yourself.

This was not the second, third, or even fourth time my sweet daughter had called this school year.

The last time she called, I talked with her and told her this was becoming a habit. She had forgotten something, from her homework to her shoes, several times in the last few weeks. The last time she called, I told her I would bring it that time, but that she needed to work on remembering because I wouldn't bring it the next time. 

That day that I said no, when she had been getting ready for school that morning, she sat reading a book. I asked if she was all the way ready for school. Yes she had told me. I asked if she was sure she had everything she needed in her backpack. "Yep!" She read on. 

So when she called me that morning, timidly because she knew what the answer would be before she even called, I had to be her mother. Not the "cool" mom, "nicest" mom, nor the "best" mom in the eyes of the other kids. I had to be a responsible mom. A mom focused on helping my daughter learn responsibility in life. So even though it hurt my heart to tell that sweet girl no, it was the best thing I could do for her.

When she got home from school that day, we talked about it. I explained what had happened that morning. I reminded her of her many times she had left something home. I reminded her of the last time she forgot her shoes and I told her it would be the last time I would bring them.

I told her I didn't bring her shoes to her that day because I love her.

"Huh?" she asked, clearly confused. She wasn't mad or upset, but she didn't see how my not bringing the shoes had to do with my love for her.

I explained to her that my job was to help her learn to be responsible for herself so she can grow up to be a responsible adult who can take care of herself and others. I asked her if she thought she would try to remember her shoes if I kept bringing them to her. She told me no. I asked her if she thought she would try to remember now. She responded she would. I explained that her not having her P.E. shoes was a low-risk time to learn to have personal responsibility. When she was an adult and had bills to pay, a job to do, or a child to take care of, the consequences wouldn't be so mild. 

She understood. 

Since that day, she hasn't forgotten a single thing. She carefully checks to make sure she has everything in her backpack. She knows her bail-outs have run out. She is taking responsibility for herself.

Should you bail your child out? Sometimes, yes. But sometimes, no. Sometimes, we need to let our children struggle through the consequences of these situations they brought upon themselves so they can learn to take better control of their lives and have more favorable consequences in the future. 

"I am sorry, sweetie, but no" might just be the best phrase you can speak to your child that day.

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Top 18 Games for Family Game Night

Top board games for families

One of our favorite traditions as a family is to play games together each Sunday. We all have a lot of fun! Beyond the fun and the family bonding, which are worth it all by themselves to me, we are able to teach life lessons like sportsmanship, turn-taking, and graciousness in winning and losing.

These are our favorite games that work well with a family with a varied span of ages. These games work from our youngest on up through the parents. We all enjoy them. I have shared in the past about some great board games. These are great games for younger children. If you have all really young children, that is a great list for you to consult on what is worth adding to your family game closet. This list can keep the whole family happy. This post contains affiliate links.

This is probably our current overall favorite. It is basically charades, but instead of one actor and the rest guessers, it is all actors and one guesser per team. You can use props that are in the room. We have so much fun with this game. This game works so well with a family of ages because the youngest can join in the actors and feel like he/she is contributing.

This is the game Kaitlyn often chooses when it is her turn to pick. This game is basically the Telephone game, except you draw pictures. We always spend a fair amount of time laughing as we play this game. It is obviously appealing to the artistic type, but I am not artistic and still have a blast with the game. It is also a great way to instill what happens to information as it gets passed from person to person. The way Brinley plays is she chooses a word to draw first, then as she gets the books passed to her, I either read the word she is supposed to draw to her, or ask her to guess what the picture is and write the word for her. When she was younger, she would be content to just draw with markers while we played. 

This is from the maker of Killer Bunnies. I do not see it on Amazon anymore, but if you ever come across it in a game store or on the classifieds, I highly recommend it! We have a lot of fun with this game. It is so random. It makes it a great game for people like Brayden and me to learn to loosen up and accept crazy things happening. It is also so random on who wins that the last time we played, Brinley won and she played all by herself.

This is a great game for a family. The pieces are shapes, so it can be easily played by young players. There is enough strategy to it that it keeps older players engaged, but not so much that younger players can't be part of the game. 

UNO Attack
This is another one with enough random nature to it to keep the people who have a hard time with spontaneity looser. This is the fun of UNO, except when you have to draw a card, you might get zero and you might get more than ten. You never know. It keeps things quite interesting and keeps the family laughing. The great thing is younger kids usually want the cards to come flying out, so they are happy when the cards come their way.

Pie Face 
This is a great game when you want to laugh and want total randomness to the outcome of the game. 

LEGO Creationary
This is another game that is hard to find. You can find it on Amazon, but I think for too much money. Creationary is just looking at a card and building out of LEGOs what was on the card--so like pictionary but instead of drawing, you build. This is obviously very fun for LEGO lovers. You can easily do this game at home with your LEGOs and just writing some words on some slips of paper before you start. 

Yahtzee is a classic by now. It is easy enough to have children play, and you can help any child who needs it on their turn. If you want it geared more toward younger players, they do have Yahtzee Jr. games. They have different themes: Star Wars, Toy Story, Mickey Mouse, princess... You can find something fun for your family and still have fun playing. We have the Toy Story Jr. version, and it was one we enjoyed when the kids were younger. We enjoyed it more than the endless rounds of Candy Land.

Sorry or Trouble
Sorry was my favorite game when I was a child and teenager. It is simple and fun and it teaches children to be good sports in an intense environment. Trouble is very similar to Sorry overall. In Sorry, you have more options on who you can damage with different cards to send back to home, where in trouble you have limited options. Trouble also doesn't involve any reading, so Trouble can be better for younger players. 

Life isn't and hasn't ever been a game I love, but my kids all like it so it makes it into the rotation. Something I don't like about this game is you start by deciding between college or no college, but it seldom benefits you to do college. That bothers me. That is just my soapbox on the game. Ha! I just make sure they understand that sometimes in life, you might be able to get a job without getting education beyond high school and make good money (my dad didn't go to college...though he did go to trade school).

This is my favorite! This is a game that allows me to put what is in my head at all times into effect to win this game every time. You have a word and have to come up with a song to go with the word. This is every moment in my head. Someone says a sentence, and a song pops in my head. This game is harder for younger players because they don't know as many songs, but I had to add it because it is my fave.  I often choose this game when it is my turn, but no one else usually does because I am the champion. My friends.  

Payday is another game that is sadly hard to come by without paying a lot of money for it. This was my other favorite game growing up, and my children love it, also. You go through the month, getting bills, buying deals, selling deals...

Ticket to Ride
We really enjoy this game, and our favorite is probably the Europe edition. This is a game Brinley doesn't actually play with us. She sits and plays with the trains, playing something in her imagination. She is happy to be there with us and doesn't mind. I don't think all children would be content with this setup, so if not, Ticket to Ride might not be a good family game for you. It is, however, a fun game without kids, and can be played with two players. So it is a fun idea even if just for you and your spouse on date night. 

Say Anything Family Edition
This is another one of our major favorites. You have a judge. Then you draw the question. "What would make car rides more fun?" All players other than the judge write down an answer. Then you flip them over and choose which answer you think the judge will choose. The judge chooses the favorite. This is fun and gets kids thinking about appealing to an audience. For the question above, my husband would say something like, "If you are on your way to Disneyland" for a few of the kids. We had a spurt where he threw Disneyland into every answer (insert eye-roll emoji here). And it worked. 

Las Vegas
This is a new game in our collection. My sister-in-law mentioned the game and that they liked it, so we got it for them for Christmas, with some hesitation. We played it at the Christmas party and it was a lot of fun! There is a little strategy, but you can easily coach your children through the strategy each time. There is also a lot of dumb luck.

7 Wonders
This one is not the best for a full family, but it is fun for children and parents to play together, so I wanted to bring it to your attention. It is a strategy game, like Settlers of Catan and those types of games, but made for preteens and young teens. Brayden and Kaitlyn have played it since 8 and 10, so you can definitely try it with younger kids than the recommended 10-14 years. It is a great stepping stone game for kids interested in strategy games.

Spot It!
My favorite type of games to play by far are the strategy games, but if you know me well, you know I love variety in life. I can't eat the same meal in a 30 day period. I can't do my girls' hair the same way twice in a week. I just need variety, and games are no different. Spot It! is a great game that is fast paced. It is a lot of fun and doesn't require strategy, just a keen eye and speed. They have Spot It JR games, but the original is easy enough a young child can participate, so I would try buying the original first. If it totally frustrated your child, go for a JR and put the original on the shelf for a few years. You won't be sorry you own the original, and you might not need to own a JR, so this can possibly save you money.

Sleeping Queens
This is a new game in our house. The description doesn't accurately explain the fun of this game, but the 5 star rating with 118 reviews should give you a hint. I had this on a wish list for a couple of years before finally buying it, and we have enjoyed it! It is a great introduction to strategy for young players--simple and yet fun.

Do you have any favorites that didn't make this list? I would love to hear about them! We love games, and I love variety, so I would love to hear your recommendations.

Top board games for families

How To Tell the Difference Between Smart and Gifted

Differences between smart and gifted

At some point in your parenting, you might start to realize your child is quite smart. The word gifted might even pop into your head. At same time, you will find yourself wondering, is she gifted or just really smart? How do you even determine that?

The answer is in degrees. Not temperature, but the degree to which your child displays certain traits. For example, all children are curious. Smart children are more curious than the average child. This post contains affiliate links. "...gifted children are far more curious about more things..." (Parenting the Gifted Child page 28-). Here are six traits to consider.

1-Questioning Style: "Smart children as questions that have answers. Gifted children ask questions about abstract ideas, concepts, and theories that may not have easy answers." page 28

2-Learning Speed and Application of Concepts: Smart children learn step-by-step. They can easily learn a concept, and learn one step at a time. Gifted children can skip steps. They will do something like start with step one, move to step two, then catch on to what is going on and leap to step 10. 

3-Emotional Outlook: Smart children can get over "an upsetting incident fairly easily" (page 28). Gifted children can be all-consumed by the emotions. "Their intense concerns may intrude into their thoughts for days or weeks following an event" (page 29). 

4-Level of Interest: Smart children ask a lot of questions and want to know a lot about a lot of things. "Gifted children show an intense curiosity about nearly everything or immerse themselves in an area that interests them" (page 29). 

5-Language Ability: Smart children have a high vocabulary but typically speak words on their age level. Gifted children use advanced vocabulary. They also "...understand verbal nuances that escape others, enjoy wordplay and puns, and often talk over the heads of their playmates (and sometimes over adults, too)" (page 29). 

6-Concern With Fairness: Smart children worry about fair, but usually in relation to themselves. Gifted children are concerned with fairness for people besides themselves. 

All of these six traits can be strengths, but can of course create difficulties among relationships. An intense level of interest, for example,  can lead to exasperation to you as a parent as you hear about something over, and over, and over again (enough with the LEGOs already!!!). Concern with fairness can lead to your child bossing other children (or adults!) around when they see injustice and inserting themselves into situations that aren't their place. A child who takes a long time to get over something emotionally might appear spoiled. 

As you consider if your smart child is gifted or simply really smart, consider the intensity level of these six areas. Be sure to also read up on the 15 Common Characteristics of Gifted Children

 Characteristics of Gifted Children