Playing with a Purpose

Good Afternoon,

A few weeks ago the family for whom I nanny asked me to start incorporating more academics into our daily routine.  Their daughter, who just turned 4, is really starting to get excited about reading, writing, and general academic concepts.  Although I have been sneaking in academics all along the way, this request really got me thinking about how to add more focused learning into casual play.

I have concluded that you don’t have to change the type of play, just your focus.  I love Pinterest especially for all the amazing ideas people put up for specific learning techniques.  There are tons of ways to introduce math, reading, and writing concepts to your child and people keep inventing more each day.  I also love that parents can go to a website and access lots of these ideas the instant they are stuck or need more strategies to help their child.  Never before have so many wonderful and unique ideas been at our fingertips.  But I am left asking why?  Parents can easily add academics into everyday life without spending money, and even without referring to a website like Pinterest for ideas.  Here’s how.

Focused play is the idea that you are introducing or teaching concepts through casual play with your child.  You don’t have to get super creative or spend lots of time, energy, or money inventing new ways to learn common concepts.

Steps in Focused Play

  • Before engaging in play with your child, set a goal or concept you would like to focus on.  It is much easier if your choose a very specific goal or concept.
  • Communicate with your child that you would like to work on _____.  “While we play with these blocks I want to work on counting.”  This reinforces the goal for you and introduces the concept to your child.
  • While playing ask age/level appropriate questions related to your goal.  “How many blocks do you have in your hand?” or “How many purple blocks are on the table?”  Keep the questions focused and relate them back to your goal or concept.
  • Keep a mental note of how your child does.  Does your child understand your questions?  Do they know how to respond correctly?  Are they responding with the correct answer?  Are there areas that could use some extra work?
  • Don’t force focused play.  I believe that we achieve the best learning when a child is ready, willing, and able to learn.  If they are not interested in what you are trying to introduce, take a break and try again another day.
  • Always praise your child for trying, participating, or accomplishing the goal.  This will earn you points towards another focused play time later as well as make your child feel like they did a good job.
  • Match concepts with those being covered in school.  This will give your child a double dose of the same ideas and allow them to learn in different settings, from different people, and in new ways.

Parents know what activities and toys their children love.  Use that to your advantage and make up new games and ways to play with the same favorites.  Lots of times this is fun for the child and the parent!

How do you incorporate news ways to learn into everyday play?  Chime in below with your ideas.  Have questions specific to your family or situation?  Ask away!  Questions, comments, thoughts, and ideas are always welcome. 

For more great ideas on focused play, check out these links:

Displaying Kids Artwork

Improving Academic Skills

20 Indoor Activities for Kids

Good Luck,




Working Out with Children (Guest Post)

Good Afternoon,

Today I feature a friend of mine as my first guest poster!  Leslie St. Louis has some great first-hand experience as well as some strategies for getting back into shape or starting a new workout routine post-baby.

On a beautiful Colorado fall day,  I gracefully bound up the rugged trail, leaves crunching satisfyingly, my ponytail bobbing jauntily. Meanwhile my two precious toddler daughters are holding hands, grinning from ear to ear —  too satisfied to even make a sound.

And if you believe that, I have some great nutritional and cleaning supplies to tell you about too!

Before kids, this is the scene I envisioned that justified plunking down way too much money for a super-duper, highly-recommended running stroller. As with nearly everything in parenting, the reality was far different than the dream. Instead, I have finally come to accept that I paid nearly $500 for a water bottle carrier or large diaper bag holder.
I’ve tried Stroller Strides: Yes, I did get a workout, but it was the upper body kind from holding my daughters and pushing the stroller, attempting to catch them as they jumped out, strapping them in while they threw a fit, or picking them up again and again and again.
I’ve tried bribery: How many times can I run around this lake while tossing in various treats and toys and reminding them that if they are good we can go to the park? One and a half times, it turns out. But on the upside, that last half lap of screaming is always the fastest!
I’ve tried peer pressure: I entered three “stroller friendly” races. The stroller is always fine, it’s just the children inside. Last fall, I even did Run the Rocks with friends who also brought their children. Pushing the double stroller, I knew I had made a mistake after we depleted all snacks and stopped for two side-of-the-road diaper changes within the first 10 minutes.
In the past, when I’ve thought about all my stroller troubles, I always tended to blame myself or wonder what was wrong with my children. Lately, I have come to realize my girls are just a lot like me – they would rather be moving than sitting.
I’ve also come to realize that while there are times I can integrate my children into my workouts, I need to find ways to stay fit on my own. A few things that have helped me:

Pick a Goal
Last summer, a few friends invited me to do the Dirty Girl Mud Run with them. Knowing that I needed to be able to run 3 miles and complete mud-laden obstacles along the way was motivation to find ways to stick with a workout program.  Without this goal I don’t think I would have looked into the child care at my gym, bought a workout deal off groupon or researched bootcamp groups on When I felt too busy or too tired, the reality of my goal helped keep me going.

·         Carve out a few nights a week, stick with it and don’t feel guilty
After signing up for the Dirty Girl, I found a twice-a-week bootcamp that was at a time that worked for my husband to be home. I committed to that class and tried to never_ever_miss.  Even if the house was a mess. Even if one of the girls was cranky. Unless there was a dire circumstance, I tried to assure myself the household would survive if I left for two one hour classes a week. Sure enough, after a few weeks these classes became part of our schedule, and I always felt better knowing I would have those times to reclaim my fitness (and sanity) each week.

·         Find Support
Once you have a goal, there IS a lot of support out there to help you succeed. First, look to your friends and family. After signing up for the Dirty Girl, I found that many of my mom friends faced the same dilemma as me – it is really really hard to actually workout with your children! We started finding parks that had trails nearby and switching off. Some places that tended to work well:

Red Rocks Amphitheater – We would bring picnic lunches and rotate playing and supervising children, then running the stairs for 10-15 minutes at a time. We also used the stair climb up as exercise (see pics).

Clement Park – kiddos play at the park, while moms switch off running around the lake

Home playdates – pick a house and bring a lunch. Children play while one or two moms go for a 20-30 minute run or workout

Besides family and your current friends, some other places to find support (and make new friends in the process):
Meetup groups – ex.  Littleton Playdate Exchange and Active Mammas and Mammas-to-be Denver Club.

Local businesses – the Boulder Running Company has many weekly bootcamps, speed classes or group runs. Most are free or only a few dollars.

Facebook Groups – While both of these are obstacle racing groups, there is lots of mom support on each! Spartan Chicked and Colorado Obstacle Racers.

·         Finally, remember that being a mom is an asset!
Recently, when I was perusing the Spartan Chicked Facebook page,  I read this post:

“Spartan my ass. Not today I’m not. I have 4 loads of laundry in the living room, cheerios all over the floor, dishes that need to be put away, my carport and back porch are covered in consignment and “yard sale” crap, twins with runny noses and a 3 year old who vapor rubbed all her dolls which I still haven’t washed, and my shirt is on inside out. For $119.00 plus an insurance waiver you can come to my house and I’ll give you 3 hours of obstacles, strength, agility, tears, laughter and a boatload of drool….the elite heat starts at 7am.”

There were over 120 likes and I was one of them!

In the past, I often felt bad about buying an expensive stroller we didn’t use or failing to find the magic combination of running with my children. Once I finally gave myself permission to stop trying to get a great workout with my kids, we were all much, much happier.
In obstacle racing, I am often asked to carry barrels of rocks or flip over a giant tire. These tasks are never a problem for me! Compared to juggling two temper-tantrum-throwing toddlers and navigating a shopping cart through the parking lot, doing these obstacles or hauling a concrete slab up a hill is actually pretty easy.
Even when things get messy, loud or downright embarrassing, I try to remember that if I am a mom, I am already “training” every day!

Leslie St. Louis lives in Morrison, is married to Tom and has two young daughters, Lucy and Sky, ages three and four. Leslie started obstacle racing in 2011, about a year after her second daughter was born. She was surprised to find she was pretty good at it, and enjoyed the competition. “So much of my energy in my past profession as a teacher, and especially in my current one as a mom, was spent helping and nurturing others,” she said. “Within obstacle racing, I felt I finally had “permission” to be competitive…and within a really friendly community of other athletes too!”

Since her first race, she has lost over 15 pounds, been ranked in the Top 10 point earners among Spartan racers, and competed in five other obstacle races, coming in 3rd in the Colorado Spartan Sprint elite heat, 6th in the Utah Spartan Beast elite heat, 1st in the Rugged Maniac elite heat, 4th in the Survivor Mud Run and 4th in the Warrior Dash. Her two daughters have also joined in on the fun, participating in the Kids’ Rugged Maniac and Spartan Races. According to Leslie’s girls, they win every race!

Leslie just started a community website and facebook page, Colorado Obstacle Racers, where you can find event schedules, pictures, deals, racer reviews, racer stories, trainer tips and workouts. It also a place where local racers (and moms) can connect!

How are you getting back into shape?  Have tips and tricks that you want to add?  Please use the comment section below.  Thanks to Leslie for lots of great information.  If you enjoyed this post please pass it along to your friends. 

Good Luck,


First Day Back

Good Morning,
For many kids, this week marks the first day back to school, the end of summer, and the return to a schedule.  For me, this week marks my return to this blog.  Over the past several months I have taken a break from writing.  While there were many reasons for the hiatus, mainly I was burned out and wanted to pursue other ideas I had regarding my business.  Now, the time has come for me to get back into the swing of things and return to writing.  I will not be posting everyday, as that is what killed me last time, but I will be posting bi-weekly.  I have lots of topics I want to cover so let’s get started!

Going back to school is tough.  We have created a giant ritual around back to school.  To me it is like a volcano churning until just the right moment.  Shopping for new supplies and clothes, getting classroom assignments, and figuring out which classes friends are in.  The whole thing is tough.  There is so much physical, mental, and emotional effort that goes into the ritual that by the time school actually starts you’re exhausted.

Let me offer a few tips to make this time of year more enjoyable for everyone.

  • Plan ahead (seems obvious, but it is the first to be forgotten)
  • Get your kids to help (make lunches, pick out clothes, etc.)
  • Plan for problems (allow extra time and be mentally ready)
  • Make lists (for everyone in the house)
  • Get enough rest/down time
  • Make a schedule and stick to it
  • Get excited with them
  • Jump right in!

Now that you are somewhat ready for the chaos of back-to-school, look for more ideas on academic motivation, building a routine that works, and getting a head start on holiday preparations in the weeks to come.

Good Luck,


If you found this post helpful please pass it along, retweet, or like me on Facebook.

Letters To Santa

Good Morning,

The holidays are almost here and I am sure you are already busy shopping, eating, and caroling.  If you are not in full holiday mode, there is still time!

Each year the post office is inundated with letters written to Santa.  Many children spend some time before Christmas creating a list of gifts they would like to receive.  As fun as this activity is, why not take it one step further?  Include an academic bent, and invite your kids to think a little deeper about the year past.

What you will need

  • Paper or Stationary
  • Pens, markers, pencils
  • Stickers
  • Craft supplies
  • Envelope
  • Stamps
  • An hour or more
  • Clean spot to work with lots of space

There are several ways your child can add an academic aspect to writing letters to Santa.

  • Use their best handwriting
  • Check spelling and grammar
  • Open and close the letter correctly
  • Write their first and last name
  • Use paragraphs
  • Tell Santa what they have done to deserve the gifts

If you have a child that is not able to write a letter or doesn’t want to, there are several ways to get around that issue.

  • They dictate a letter that you write
  • Fill in the blanks
  • Draw pictures
  • Act/talk it out while you record them
  • Sing a song to Santa

Encourage your children to take part in this fun activity.  You can write back to them and praise their writing, singing, and good behavior over the past year.  Make this a family activity by having family members pose as Santa and write letters back.  Just have fun with this seasonal craft.

Good Luck,


When Your Child Lies

Good Morning,

At some point in life everyone has lied.  It doesn’t matter who you lied to or what you lied about, the fact is we have all done it.  Maybe we lied out of fear?  Maybe we got away with a lie and felt that it was a good way to handle a stressful situation.  Kids lie about all sorts of things.  For most kids lying is like a coat that they try on and take off when it doesn’t fit.  For others it becomes more of a lifestyle.  How do we get kids to stop lying, while simultaneously building a trusting relationship where they feel secure in their actions and words?

Over the past few weeks I have followed other bloggers and family professionals.   I would like to showcase some of their ideas as they relate to this blog and the families that I professionally support. I feel that their work goes hand in hand with my own and that they bring clarity to specific situations while offering concise strategies.

Dr. Bryan Post of the Post Institute has worked with families that have adopted children from abused and neglected situations.  His breakdown of why kids lie and how to handle a situation is very closely related to my own thoughts and process.

  • Kids often lie because they feel stress, fear, confusion, or are overwhelmed
  • Look to the emotion behind the lie to determine the cause
  • When you determine the underlying emotion you can ignore the lie and help the child deal with the emotion
  • When a child lies, check your own level of stress to handle the situation calmly and effectively
  • The goal is to build a trusting and secure relationship where your child feels that they do not ever have to lie

What to do when you are in the situation

  1. Check your stress level: are you able to approach your child in a calm and controlled way?
  2. Approach your child and let them know that everything is going to be ok and things will work out.
  3. Walk away and give your child some space.  Allow them to process your words and body language.
  4. Come back to them after some time and let them know that it hurts you when they lie.  Tell them that they can always trust you and that their safety and well-being is your priority.
  5. Let it rest.

There is no need to bring up the lie, because it doesn’t matter what they lied about.  Becoming upset about the lie teaches your child to become a better liar.  What matters is that your child knows that they can come to you when they are feeling stressed, sad, angry, overwhelmed, etc., and that you will help them through their emotions.

This video by Bryan Post plays out this situation and shows you how to approach your child when they lie.  If you have caught your child in this situation, it is worth taking a look.

As you may have noticed I will be cutting down on the number of posts per week.  I would like to spend less time blogging and more time with my clients.  As always, if you would like my support or strategies for a handling a difficult situation please contact me directly.

Good Luck,



Traveling with Kids

Kid on a leash

Image by cote via Flickr

Note:  This week I will be re-posting two blogs.  I feel that the topics covered will especially help families during the Thanksgiving holiday.  See below for the second post.  I’ll be resuming my posts next week.  Happy Thanksgiving!

Good Morning,

With the holidays approaching, I think now is a good time to start the discussion about traveling with your family.  Many people know that Thanksgiving travel is the busiest of the year, and with the holidays and crazy travel come a mountain of stress.  It is well worth the extra time upfront to gain confidence and control on the back-end.

Plan ahead
The weeks leading up to your travel are the most important planning period.  Getting laundry ready, snacks bought or prepared, deciding on luggage, and setting out all the things you will need are essential for a low-stress, successful trip.  Make lists to help you remember who is taking what and in which suit case.  Write down everything so that nothing is left or overlooked.

Seek advice
Check out this and other blogs and websites for tips and tricks to make your trip go smoothly.  I will be posting links to great sites at the bottom and sprinkling a few in the blog as well.  Ask friends, family, and school staff for help and advice regarding your child.  The DadLabs site has tons of great video blogs about traveling with the kids.

Car travel
If you are headed to the in-laws via car, you will want to consider several things.  Keep plenty of snacks and drinks handy for the kids to have while riding.  Make sure their seats and travel clothes are comfortable and can go the distance needed to get to grandma’s house.  You might want to travel during nap or sleep times like early morning, late evening, or in the afternoon so that the kids are naturally tired and more likely to sleep.  Plan stops along the way for stretching your legs, bathroom breaks, snacking, or running around.  It is very hard for young kids to sit for long periods of time.  Honestly, it is hard for most people.  Incentivize your trip by giving them treats, money, or toys to play with when you reach certain mile markers, towns, or minutes.  Check that all electronics are working properly before you leave home.  Extra batteries, cds, and movies are smart to have on hand.

Plane travel
Traveling via plane to your destination is somewhat of a different story and requires some different planning strategies.  Many experts say to travel early in the day.  Planes are often less crowded and more likely to take off and land on time.  Make sure your child has a good night’s sleep the night before your travel day.  This will ensure your child is well-rested and well-behaved for the flight.  It also allows them (and you) to better handle rough situations and chaos.  Take snacks, toys, blankets, or whatever your child needs to feel safe and comfortable on the flight.  Be reasonable with these items, ultimately you will be the one carrying your child and all the stuff they bring.  If your child gets motion sickness, you should speak with your doctor about some possible remedies.  I do not recommend self-medicating your child without the benefit of your healthcare provider’s wisdom.

Take the least amount of clothes and extras as possible.  The less you have to carry and keep track of, the better.  Bring a bib or two that covers your child during meals that you can easily wipe down.  Jeans and dark-colored clothes are easily worn for a few days.  Bring two pairs of pajamas in case there is an accident.  One or two pairs of shoes should be sufficient.  Remember that you can always buy things that are disposable, like diapers and wipes.  Ask friends or relatives to borrow large items such as a stroller, crib/playpen, high chair, and car seat.

I encourage you to take some time planning your trip and considering the needs of your family.  They deserve a vacation just as much as you do, so make it easy on yourself and enjoyable for them.  There are lots of great websites out there that talk about traveling with kids and lots of great products that help parents.  If you know a site or product from which others may benefit, please add it in the comments section below.  I wish everyone safe and enjoyable holiday planning and traveling this season!

Sites that you will want to check out:

Up with kids
15 Holiday Travel Don’ts

How to travel like a kid…

If you found these tips helpful subscribe/like/pass along this blog.

Good Luck,


Caretakers – Tips to Make it Work

Good  Morning,

This week I have talked about caretakers for your child.  Finding a perfect match, exchanging important information, and having a nuts and bolts discussion are all key elements to making the relationship between you and your child’s caretaker really work.  The breadth of information that I have covered may not all pertain to you or your situation, but I hope to give you a realistic look at what it takes to find and hire the right person for you, and more importantly for your child.

Today, I would like to end this series with a look at how to make it work.  You’ve found the right person, asked the right questions, talked about the details…now what?  Here are my tips on taking the final step and going from good to great.

  • View the caretaker as a partner
  • Include them in decisions about your child
  • Invite them to milestones in your child’s life, like birthdays and school events
  • Ask them for advice and input
  • Introduce them to family, friends, and neighbors that they should contact and that have other kids to play with
  • Have food and snacks that they enjoy on hand
  • Stick to the schedule you have agreed upon
  • Thank them for their work and commitment – words or small gifts, birthdays, holidays, etc.
  • Coordinate changes to the schedule in advance
  • Keep the house, child’s room and general supplies organized and well-supplied

At the end of the day, go with your gut feeling.  This is probably the single most important aspect of choosing a caretaker.  This person will be taking care of your child in your home, and you need to trust them completely.  I have laid out the ground work for you to take the correct steps in finding a perfect caretaker for your children.  As I mentioned yesterday it is well worth the time, effort, and money upfront to gain a champion for your child.

Please let me know if you have any questions.  Feel free to contact me if you would like recommendations for your specific situation.  I would love to help you find the perfect caretaker!

Good Luck,



Caretakers – Topics to Discuss

Good Morning,

This week I am looking at the four steps in finding and selecting a caretaker for your child.  Yesterday’s post covered the information you will want to know before you invite them for an interview.  Today, I will cover some discussion topics that will be helpful in weeding out the pool of applicants.  If you plan on a family member or a friend taking care of your child, the questions and information exchanged should be the same but presented in a more casual way.  It is very important that you set the stage for a successful relationship between you and your child’s caretaker, no matter who they are.  It is also important that all caretakers know the same information and that the expectations and rules stay consistent.  This benefits your child and allows them to have a positive, consistent experience when someone else is in charge.

Some topics to discuss:

  • Pay
  • Paid vacation days – holidays, vacation days, when you take vacation (full-time)
  • Sick days (full-time)
  • Insurance offered (full-time)
  • Providing food
  • How often and to where your child can be driven
  • Pay for mileage
  • Other duties – baby’s laundry, making food, accepting deliveries, etc.
  • What to do in case of emergency
  • Time sheet
  • Family calendar
  • Reviews and pay raises – how often and using what scale
  • Classes, play-dates, school
  • Babysitter vs. Nanny
  • Overtime, nights, and weekends (full-time)
  • Pet information

You may have other questions that you will add to this list.  Not all topics above will pertain to you and you may not offer things like insurance, paid vacation, or food.  Be upfront and clear with your caretaker.  As I mentioned above, it is very important to set the stage for success.  Create an environment that allows for questions to be asked and respected.  Ultimately, you want to find a person that wants to work for you.  This is important for the well-being of your child as well as the care and respect of your things.

Take the time to do your research and find a person that is great.  It is well worth your time and money in the long run.  Being thoughtful throughout this process will better your chances of finding a perfect fit for your family.

Good Luck,


Caretakers – Exchange of Information

Good Morning,

As I mentioned yesterday, I will be covering the process of finding a caretaker for your child this week.  It takes time, research, and commitment to find the right person for your family.  Exchanging important information is an essential part of narrowing down your prospective hires.  They will have questions for you as well.  Be ready to answer their questions so that they, too, can make sure that the chemistry is right.  Here is the second of four steps you will want to consider when looking for a caretaker.

What you need to know about your prospective caretaker:

  • History with kids and the ages of those children
  • Discipline methods
  • Job history
  • References
  • Driving record
  • Insurance (health, car)
  • Proximity to your house from theirs
  • CPR certification
  • Desired schedule
  • Family situation

What they need to know about you:

  • Schedule – yours and your child’s
  • Your expectations for them
  • Health issues regarding your child

It is helpful to discuss this information with your partner before meeting with a potential caretaker.  Keeping things written down and having a log of discussion points will allow you to streamline the information.  Tomorrow I will be diving deeper into the process of finding a caretaker and offering suggestions on topics to discuss during the interview.

If you are struggling to find a caretaker for your family’s unique situation, please contact me for more personalized strategies.

Good Luck,