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Make a Fortune Teller

How many times have you heard, “Mooooom, I’m boooored!”? A hundred? A million? In our homes, the digital natives get particularly restless when their screen time is up. Next time you hear the refrain in your house, have the kids make an old-school fortune teller. Yep, the same kind you probably made during lunch in elementary school! But instead of filling it with predictions about who you’ll marry or what kind of house you’ll have, write in fun ideas of things to do.

All you need to get started is a square piece of paper. If you don’t have any origami paper laying around, just use a sheet from the printer. Grab a bottom corner and pull it diagonally across to meet the opposite edge. Crease the paper. You’ll be left with a band across the top. Fold that down, crease, and then trim it off. You’ll be left with a perfect square!

Before you start folding (we’ve got the instructions!), have the kids make a list of eight activities they enjoy doing. The only rule? Nothing can involve screens! Some of our favorite screen-free activities:

• Go for a bike ride
• Go to the playground
• Read a book
• Build a block tower
• Play in the sprinkler
• Jump rope
• Shoot some hoops
• Play catch
• Play hide and seek
• Play Four Square
• Play hopscotch
• Draw a picture

No doubt your kids will have plenty of their own ideas to add to the list! For more keep-’em-busy activities, check out our printable word games and puzzles. And if you feel like the whole family needs to cut back on screen time, check out our Screen Time Family Agreement.

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7 Long-distance Games & Activities

Just because grandparents, cousins, and friends live far away doesn’t mean you can’t hang out! We’re big fans of making weekly dates to video-chat with long-distance loved ones. Here are a few of our favorite ideas that you can try with your kids:

ASK FUN QUESTIONS!
Before the call, print out our 24 Convo Starters  (and make sure your relative prints out a copy too.) Each week, take turns asking and answering two or three questions. You’ll all learn a lot!

SINK A BATTLESHIP!
This is a perfect game to play when you’re in different places. You each grab a board, set up your ships, and go! We recommend playing over Wi-Fi though to save your data.

BAKE TOGETHER
Decorate cookies or cupcakes and show each other your work. Check out some of the Kidstir Happy Cooking Kit recipes for inspiration.

START A FAMILY BOOK CLUB
Most video chat apps allow you to call multiple people at the same time so you can all talk at once—perfect for a book club.

PLAY CHARADES
No picking out of a hat with this version. Each person can take turns acting out favorite books, movies, characters…or whatever you like!

BEDTIME STORIES
Even if Grandma or Grandpa can’t be there to snuggle, they can still help tuck in your little ones with a story. Kids can follow along with their own copies, or just relax and listen.

PREDICT THE FUTURE
Show your kids how to make a fortune teller (we’ve got the instructions!) and fill it with all sorts of silly predictions for the future. Laughter definitely guaranteed!

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Screen Time You Can Feel Good About

We get it: Managing kids’ screen time can feel like a constant battle…especially when they’re lost in mindless games or YouTube videos. Oh, the meltdowns we have survived! But when kids use their screentime to create something new, well, that’s a whole different story. Engaging with technology in a positive way leaves them motivated and energized—not comatose. Next time your kids are begging for an extra session, try to point them in one of these creative directions:

PHOTOGRAPHY
Encourage your kids to explore their environment through a lens. Make a list of things to photograph around the house or neighborhood and go on a photo scavenger hunt. You can give this an alphabetical twist by challenging them to find things that represent each letter of the alphabet. Be sure to teach them some of the basics of taking great photos like following the rule of thirds (put the subject of the photo in either the top, right, left, or bottom third of the viewfinder) and showing them how to fill the frame (especially great for close-ups!).

VIDEOS
Do your kids love to make up stories and pretend? Encourage them to write a script and then act it out (improv also works!). Maybe your kid has an opinion on everything. Have him record reviews of snacks, books, movies, whatever his passion is. Also super-fun: how-to videos. Have your star skateboarder teach his trademark kick-flip. Your mini baker can demo her mad cake-decorating skills. Set up a private YouTube channel and invite your friends and family to check ’em out.

PODCAST
Most devices have a voice-recording app, so let your kids try creating their own podcast. Before they get started, have them do a little brainstorming: What do they want to talk about? What should they call their show? Who will do the talking? Will they interview anyone…if so, what questions do they want to ask? If they’re stumped for themes, float one of these ideas:

• Family history interviews (here’s a list of questions!)
• Family news of the week
• Recaps of their favorite shows, games, whatevers!

You can simply email the mP3 files to friends and family, but if they really want to go pro, check out free podcasting platforms like Podbean and Anchor.

 

 

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Teaching Kids How to Find Lost Things

Next time your kids can’t find their supermostimportantspecial thing, walk them through these steps (P.S. They work for grown-ups too!)

TAKE A DEEEP BREATH (OR 10!) Before you look, it’s important to get your body and mind calm. When you’re stressed out, it’s hard to focus and “see” what could be right in front of you.

PICTURE WHERE YOU HAD IT LAST Go to that place. If you can’t remember, go to the area where your lost thing is supposed to be. If you are positive it’s not there, start in the messiest place in the house.

PUT ON YOUR X-RAY VISION GOGGLES Ok, you may have to pretend, but when you start searching, really imagine that you can see through things!

START LOOKING Slowly look under and around large pieces of furniture. Lift up papers, or books that might be covering your item. Check all the nooks and crannies: in between cushions, inside bins, in corners. You get the idea.

NO LUCK IN YOUR FIRST SPOT? Move on to the next likely area. Search there following the same careful steps. If you feel yourself getting very worried, take a break until you feel calmer.

Chances are, they’ll eventually find whatever they’re looking for (even if it takes a couple of days). But if they don’t, let the kids know it’s ok to feel sad and upset. Talking to you will help!

One the best ways not to lose track of stuff? Clear out the clutter! We’ve got advice on how to get your kids to help

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Should You Pay for Chores?

This has got to be one of the most enduring parenting dilemmas of all time. We conducted an informal poll on Facebook, and even though 87 percent of parents said the answer is No, there was still a wide range of practices in real life. Which is pretty much how it works with all family issues. Ultimately, you figure out what works best for your family. Still sussing it out for your clan? Take a look at what these parents had to say:

(For more on why kids benefit from doing chores, check out 6 Things Housework Teaches Kids.)

“They help around the house because it’s the right thing to do. Not for a kiddie paycheck. My kids know that their parents work hard to provide shelter, clothes, food, transportation, entertainment, holidays, extracurriculars, etc. They also know they can help us out by pitching in with daily/weekly chores, so they do. If they are looking to raise money for a special event or item, they can ask me and I will give them that opportunity with a chore outside of daily upkeep… like cleaning out my car or a deep spring-cleaning task. They can raise as much as they are willing to work for that way. With five kids and a dog in this house…I never run out of special tasks.” —Amy, New York

“I pay thousands for his soccer club. He does what I say when I say it.”
—Christine, New Jersey

“No, mostly because they need to learn to be responsible and take care of themselves. I’m not just raising my boys, I’m raising someone’s future husband and father. Also, I’m not a maid LOL!”
—Courtney, New York

“I think paying them to do chores puts the focus on the money rather than being about teaching responsibility and being a contributing member of the household. Also, they really want to help at their current age. (And hey, I don’t get paid for doing chores!) That said, I may change my mind when my young kids are a bit older (but still too young for a paying job) and want to earn money. I suppose earning money through chores is still better than just handing it to them like you’re a money tree.” —Rachel, California

“I need a maybe! We pay for chores that help the entire family— different from caring for their own rooms/belongings (which is expected as part of the household).” —Melissa, California

“I used to be a no but now I’m a yes. I’m using it as a way to teach them a work ethic and how to manage money. When they work for their money, they are more particular about how they spend it.” —Kim, Florida

“We’ve gone back and forth on this. It seems that when we pay directly for chores EVERYTHING starts to have a price. When we provide an allowance and expect them to do their chores they help out more freely. We do pay “extra” for some bigger items like keeping the pool clean.”
—Gretchen, Florida

“Yes. You will end up giving them the money they need anyway. Teaching your children to manage money when they are young creates such a great foundation. And asking them for work in exchange for the money they manage is another amazing lesson. At my home when we were young- there wasn’t an option- you HAD to do you chores…period…no excuses…but you were given an allowance in exchange.” —Holly, New York

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Kids & Clutter: How to Win the Battle

Ok, the war against clutter is never really over—you’ve got to stay on it!—but you can make sure you don’t lose any ground. Your most important move? Rally all your troops: This isn’t a one-person campaign. When kids support the anti-clutter cause, they practice important life skills, such as organization and even time-management. After all, five minutes of picking up now might save them 20 minutes later looking for that lost notebook. It won’t happen overnight, but if you start basic training with these four tips, you will win the fight!

1. Give everything a home base. Art supplies go in the art cart. Dolls in the orange bin, blocks in the green. Use labels if you have to! Do a tour so kids see where things belong, then make a game of it. Set a timer for 2 minutes, and see how many things they can put away.

2. Use a stash box. This can go next to your stairs or in the room where kid clutter collects fastest. Before it’s time for bed, have the kids do a quick lap and pick up whatever’s out of place. They can toss it in the stash box until they have time to put them away.

3. Implement the floor rule. As in, the room doesn’t have to be perfect but everything needs to off the floor at the end of the day. Clothes go in the hamper, pillows back on the bed, books on the shelf. You get the idea.

4. Do a weekly blitz. Set aside 30 minutes on the weekend when everyone is home and tidy up room by room. Recycle any old paper or mail, have the kids empty their stash box, put away laundry, whatever needs to be done. Half an hour is hardly torture (no matter what the kids say!) and you’ll be able to accomplish a lot!

For more on cleaning up with kids, check out:
6 Things Housework Teaches Kids
Printable: Kidstir Responsibility Wheel

 

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6 Things Housework Teaches Kids

Sure, we bet there are some kids out in the world who happily grab a sponge to wash the dishes after dinner without a reminder of any kind. (If you have one of those unicorns, feel free to skip to the next article!) The rest of us, however, are probably more familiar with the common species of youth who moan and groan through each and every task. Despite their (vastly) exaggerated pain, doing routine chores and housework teaches kids important life skills, including independence and collaboration. 

That’s because they learn how to do various tasks on their own—while also contributing to the greater good of the family. After all, when everybody helps, everybody wins. Now, it may be years before they cop to any of this. Totally fine. That’s their prerogative.  In the meantime, you can keep (gently) reminding them of all the benefits that come along with helping to create a clean, organized, and cozy home:

We feel calmer. Living in a constantly messy house can be stressful and makes it difficult to concentrate.

We feel proud. We worked together as a family to create a comfortable living space.

We have easier mornings. No one needs to run up, down, and all around to find their sneakers or homework or backpacks because everything is in its place.

 We learn how to do important jobs like loading the dishwasher, scooping the litter, and even cleaning the toilet. (Download our kid-safe cleaning-solution recipe cards!)

We can have fun while we’re doing what needs to get done. Blast some music and turn it into a dance party (brooms make excellent microphones!).

We have more time to do what we want. When everyone pitches in, the jobs get done fast. Truth!

We’re big fans of using a responsibility wheel to divide up the housework. Download our printable version and try it with your kids.

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Hosting Happier Playdates

Lucky is the parent who has never sweated through a playdate that’s gone south. You know, when the kids suddenly don’t seem interested in being together, have no idea what to do, or just sit couch-adjacent absorbed in their individual screens. Learning how to host friends is a life skill that will not only help your children forge stronger connections, but also help them practice planning, organizing, and reading social cues.

Kidstir founder and CEO, Aparna Pande, has twin 9-year-old boys, which automatically makes her a playdate expert! Try her playdate game plan with your kids:

1. Do a little recon. Encourage your child to talk to her friend ahead of time about things they both like to do. (If you have a specific screen-time policy, be sure to share that with the other parent ahead of time so there’s no disappointment. Aparna prefers to keep them screen-free so kids have more opportunity to actually be together. )

2. Curate the ideas. Have your child take out three items or activities that she knows they both enjoy. Three is enough to have back-ups without overwhelming the kids with too many options. (Baking together can be excellent playdate activity for kids who like to be in the kitchen. Our apple cupcake recipe will give them a chance to decorate too!)

3. Welcome warmly! When the pal arrives, let your kid show her guest around and offer up her ideas. Remind her to let her guest choose first. Sometimes the excitement makes it easy to forget!

4. Try to be flexible. If an activity turns out to be not so fun, your child can say, “How about we play this for another five minutes and then switch?” It’s important to remember not to say things like, “I’m bored!” If you overhear something similar, you might take your child aside for a quick reminder: “As host, it’s our job to make sure our guests are happy and comfortable.”

5. Keep ‘em short and sweet. Two hours is a good place to start! There’s still enough time to something, but not so much that kids start to lose interest. Happy hosting! 

 

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Dealing With a Tattletale

Starting around preschool, you might notice that an official member of The Rule Police has suddenly joined your family. These tiny people have an uncanny knack for spotting—and reporting—every act of wrongdoing within a 100-yard radius. If something amiss happened, you know you’ll hear about it. With younger kids, tattling is actually really normal. Kids this age are extremely literal: They understand there are rules and those rules are not supposed to be broken. Period. That’s an important early life skill.

As kids get older though, their motivation for tattling may start to evolve. Yes, their sense of moral duty may be compelling them, but school-age kids may also be trying to one-up a sibling, get some attention, or test the boundaries. When you’re sure that the report in question doesn’t involve an actual serious issue, you can try some of these tips to redirect the unwanted behavior:

Ask him why he’s sharing this information with you. What does he hope will happen now that you know? This conversation can help him begin to understand his motivation. You can then ask him to think about how he would feel if his sibling told on him for the same thing. Just this little prompt can help kids understand how hurtful tattling can be and help them develop deeper empathy.

Avoid rewarding the tattler by punishing the “wrongdoer.” This will only reinforce the behavior you’re trying to stop. It also deprives the kids of the opportunity to learn how to work out their own problems. Instead, offer to help him figure out an alternative. Tattling isn’t going to solve the issue, but what else might? If it’s a case of not sharing a toy, for instance, you can suggest that he ask for another turn or just find something else to do for a little while. If it clearly seems like a bid for attention, you might say, “I’m happy to talk about anything else you’d like except what your brother is doing right now.”

Make him work for it. For your repeat offenders, you might ask them to draw a picture or write a paragraph about the situation for you to look at later. Chances are, he’ll move on pretty quickly!

These strategies reinforce something else: That you will always listen to what kids have to say. That’s crucial because you do want kids to know you’ll be there when the situation is in fact dangerous. Here’s a little cheat sheet to help them remember the difference between telling and tattling:

Tattling gets someone IN trouble. The problem is kid-sized.

Telling gets someone OUT of trouble and/or keeps them safe. Grown-up help is definitely required.

Need more help? Read Helping Siblings Get Along, which includes a printable Peace Pact for your kids to sign! 

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Family History Interview for Kids

There’s something so incredibly powerful about knowing your family’s story. Even more powerful, especially for kids, is hearing that family history directly from the people who lived it. Encourage your children to interview their older relatives and record their conversations. Not only will they get to practice basic life skills like communication, attention, and listening, but they’ll forge even deeper connections with their relatives. Over time, you’ll create a rich oral history that your entire family will value for years to come.

We’ve come up with 20 questions to get kids started, but they should feel free to veer off script! Ultimately, the goal is to have a true back-and-forth conversation. This is a great activity for a big family reunion, or on an everyday visit to Grandma’s house. Help your child keep track of the audio or video files with a simple naming convention that includes the name of the relative and the date.

Looking for more family history activities for kids? Have fun with our family tree craft or design your family’s coat of arms

Family History Interview Questions for Kids

  1. Where did you grow up?
  2. What was your house like?
  3. Who were your brothers and sisters?
  4. Which ones were you closest too?
  5. What do you remember about your grandparents?
  6. How did you celebrate the holidays?
  7. What did your parents do for a living?
  8. What was your favorite subject in school?
  9. When did you learn to drive?
  10. What were you like as a teenager? Did you follow all the rules…or get in trouble?!
  11. What did you want to be when you grew up?
  12. What did you do for fun with friends, siblings, and your family?
  13. How did you meet your spouse/partner?
  14. What drew you to him/her?
  15. What’s the most surprising advance in technology that you’ve seen?
  16. What was one of the hardest things you had to overcome?
  17. What was one of your best experiences?
  18. What, if anything, do you wish you could change about the past?
  19. What would you never change?
  20. What do you hope people remember about you?

Want a printable, fill-in-the blank version of the Qs? We’ve got you covered!