How to Pull it Together When You’re Parenting on Empty

stressed parent

Gretchen Rubin, Author of a book called “The Happiness Project” said that the days are long, but the years are short. I try to focus on the fact that the years are short.  As my six-year-old grandson is having surgery, I sit in the waiting room thinking how can he be six years old? He was just born yesterday.  In fact my twenty-five year old son was born just the day before. J These years are passing so quickly, and I want to enjoy every moment with my family\

But it’s also true that the days can be long. Long and loud and messy. We all have those days — or string of days — when we feel like we’re at the end of a very frayed and quickly unraveling rope.  You spent half of the night awake, cleaning up vomit or holding a baby who decided it was time to party.  Or maybe both.  In your bleary-eyed state, you enjoy a breakfast of Mountain Dew as you simultaneously listen to one child tell a compelling (and very detailed) story about how to defeat super-villains with ordinary household objects, soothe another whose path through the kitchen coincided perfectly with the refrigerator door you just opened, and watch your toddler set off a rapid chain reaction of destruction across the entire counter top that ends with dumping out the pitcher of milk.  The entire pitcher.   Sometimes you feel as empty as that darn pitcher.


It’s hard to be your kids’ everything when you feel like you’re running on nothing.  (Well, Mountain Dew and nothing.) Sometimes you might feel like you are the only one having those days.  But I guarantee you aren’t. Knowing there are plenty of other parents exhausted and dealing with the same strenuous days and weeks we all find ourselves in now and then I thought I’d share some thoughts with you.  Keep in mind you don’t have to wait for a crisis to take care of yourself!


Reassess Your Habits. Many of us, self-included, live by our calendars. But we forget to schedule fun.  Realizing that alone has salvaged several days for me.  A quick game of Uno with the boys before bed time, or a morning spent at the park can change the entire tone of the day.


Let it Go (You started singing to yourself there, didn’t you?)

The yellow ring around the bathroom sink will live to see another day. Remind yourself during those stressful days to pick just ONE task to try to accomplish each day (in addition to keeping everyone alive, of course).  A trip to the grocery store? Congratulations! Laundry done?  Major accomplishment!  Laundry only started?  Good enough! Sometimes the key to lowering stress is to reduce the demands or commitments from the outside, but often the biggest thing is simply lowering the expectations we issue from within ourselves.


Loosen Up, But Keep a Rhythm, as you let go a bit, don’t go too far.  Keep a “loose rhythm”.  In high-stress parenting seasons we are tempted to “throw routine out the window, but that always backfires.”  So instead I encourage you to keep an adjusted routine and go easy, particularly when it comes to managing expectations.


Feed Your Soul.   You know the analogy.  Airlines remind us to put on our own oxygen masks before attending to others.  We aren’t much help to others if we haven’t helped ourselves.  Though it seems counter-intuitive when stress is high, we benefit greatly from doing something for ourselves first so we can better serve our little ones. Try to create a moment now and then for something that feeds your soul.  Even if it has to take on an abbreviated form.


And finally, Let People Help. This advice came from my big brother, who shares the same genetic flaw I have that causes chronic and obstinate independence.  Like my own grandson, I have the tendency to stubbornly declare I will do it all myself.  And, just as I do with my grandson, the people around me stand by, waiting for me to finally realize I need their help.


Accept offers to help.  Dare to ask for help.  Hire help if you have to and can afford it. Asking for help isn’t a weakness.  It’s a strong cord that weaves us together with those around us in a sense of belonging and community.  Open yourself up to your village!



Make summer reading a FUN priority

siblings readingWith your children home for the summer, you are probably trying to find ways to keep them busy, and engaged.  Why not try to make reading both a priority, and fun?

Did you know that during the summer, your children could experience was is called “summer learning loss”  if they are not involved in activities that use their math and reading skills?  It is true. This “loss” means that your kids could forget up to two months of math and reading learning.

Tools for keeping literacy alive this summer:

One great thing that parents and older siblings can do to keep the young ones interested in reading is simply lead by example. If your children see older children and adults reading, they will want to emulate you.

Always have a book on hand, for you, and for your children. Rainy afternoon?  Pull out the books! If you have to run errands or go to the doctor, dentist or eye doctor and find yourself sitting around a waiting room, pull out your books.  Leading by example really makes your children see just how great reading can be.

Another fun way to get your kids involved in reading is to make it a game.  Hang a chart in your kitchen or other high traffic area. Put everyone’s name on it, and then track progress. Give out gold stars for finishing a book, and set goals. First person to five books gets to choose dinner (or dessert!), first person to ten books picks where you go on Saturday afternoon, etc.  Having goals, and prizes, is a great way to instill a desire to read!

Finally, do not limit your young readers to ‘just’ books.  If your kids love comic books, encourage them to read on!  Every piece of ‘literature’ has value, even if they are just reading the back of their cereal boxes in the morning.  Magazines geared towards kids, comics, the newspaper, whatever they want to read, encourage them.

There are even a number of free e-books online as well as free children’s magazine subscriptions.  Find those and increase your kids’ libraries.  Speaking of library, this is the perfect summer afternoon outing!  Pack up the family and head over. Typically summertime at the library includes fun activities for kids, so grab a schedule or call your local library today!


Have preschoolers at home?  Making reading fun for preschoolers is actually very easy and will keep parents (and siblings) entertained, too.  At the preschool age, reading too your kids is key.  Enlist the entire family.  Maybe take turns reading to your preschooler (brother or sister takes one night, you take a night, and offer incentives to the older siblings for helping out), find fun new books they will love, or take them to story time at the library.

The key here is fun.  If you make reading fun at an early age, they will never forget it!

Parenting Tips: It’s National Crafts Month! Easy Bird Feeders

birds feeding

We’re going to focus on fun, affordable, kid friendly crafts to do with your kids all month to celebrate National Crafts Month.  Our first entry is for 2 simple bird feeders (squirrels like ’em too)


I. You will need a pine cone, peanut butter, and bird seeds or sunflower seeds and yarn or twine

Just cover the pine cone with peanut butter- use a plastic knife and spread it, or roll it in peanut butter- whatever works for you is fine.

Now roll the peanut butter cone in birdseed that you’ve put in a shallow pan until the cone is covered with seeds,

Finally, use the twine or yarn to hand the pinecone from a tree or eave.  You can watch the animals feed on it.  It’s the end of Winter and they’re hungry!

II  Don’t feel like picking up birdseed?  No worries.  You can use stale bread or bread crusts and yarn to make a great feeder too.  Just put a pencil sized hole in the bread and let it dry out.  Thread a string through the dry bread and hang it where ever the birds can find it.  Yum (for the birds anyway)

bread crumbs

You can also help the small animals by putting out a bowl of water.  And it’s fun to just put pieces of yarn in the yard.  It will disappear into bird nests.


Thomas Learning Centers provides NECPA accredited preschool and childcare at the most affordable rates in the Denver Metro Area.  Check us out at , click on the offers below, drop in for a visit to get to know more about us. We’d love to meet you!

Call  877-938-1442 for general info

Lakewood 303-237-0917 or Westminster 303-427-8831

How to be a Health Ninja: Avoiding Colds and Flu with Healthy Habits

describe the imageCold and flu season is beginning.  While that’s always a stressful season for parents, especially when it is their child’s first year in childcare, it can be comforting to remember that illness is another part of life and kids usually recover in a day or two.   With over 200 cold viruses and flu strains that change every year  and are EVERYWHERE; school, church, the grocery store, and other people’s homes staying healthy can feel impossible.

You can follow the 3 C’s

  • Clean – Wash your hands frequently.
  • Cover  – Cover your mouth whenever you cough or sneeze.
  • Contain – Stay at home if you are sick to prevent the spread of germs.

The best way to follow the 3 C’s is to make them a regular part of your daily routine.

When teaching healthy habits, focus on what’s important. You probably don’t need to lecture toddlers on the germ theory of disease. Concepts like contagion are probably too hard to grasp for little kids.

So instead of explaining, the key is to practice and ritualize some good behaviors. After a while they will be routine and the kids will follow them without thinking

Hand Washing

When it comes to healthy habits for kids, hand washing is the most important one. To make it work, it’s got to be built into their daily routines.

“Parents should make hand washing a ritual, like brushing their teeth,” says Jana. You don’t have to do it so obsessively that their hands get chapped. But you should always have your kids wash their hands:

  •                     When they arrive at day care or preschool
  •                     Before they eat
  •                     After changes or after using the potty or toilet
  •                     After a play date
  •                     As soon as they come in the house — whether it’s from      school or from playing in the yard

It’s also important to do hand washing well. Always use warm water and soap. The CDC recommends that people wash their hands for the amount of time it takes to sing “Happy Birthday” twice — about 15 to 20 seconds.

If soap and water aren’t available, an alcohol-based gel will work too. Just make sure that your kids really scrub their hands for about 20 seconds. They’re done when the gel has completely evaporated.

Tricks to promote great handwashing;

  • Have them do dishes. Lots of toddlers and preschool age kids love playing in the sink. So instead of getting into a struggle about hand washing, just stand them on a chair by the sink, give them the soap and a dish to wash. If they keep at it for a few minutes, they’ll probably get their hands pretty clean.
  • Choose the right soap. A bar of white soap can seem pretty dull. But if you can find a soap that catches their attention — with a fruity smell, or maybe a cartoon character on the bottle — you might have better luck with hand washing. To add to the mystique, you could make the soap especially for your child’s use. Keep it on a high shelf and take it down only when she needs it.

After hand washing there a few other things you can do:

Cough into the arm. Many of us were told as kids to cover our mouths with our hands when we coughed or sneezed. The problem with that old advice is that it results in a handful of germs — which are then spread on everything a kid touches.

Experts now recommend that kids — and adults — cough and sneeze into the crook of their arms. That way, the germs are less likely to wind up coating every surface in the room. 

Use tissues. It won’t always work, but you can try.”Some preschool kids are capable of blowing their noses,” says Altmann. “Whether the tissue ends up in the trash can or on the floor is another story, of course.”

Teach by example. As any parent knows, trying to get a toddler to do something can be maddening. Asking, or demanding, or begging your kid to adopt healthy habits might seem hopeless.

The best strategy is to  model good behavior.  Make a show of hand washing when you get home from work — and do it for the full 20 seconds. Always cough and sneeze into your own arm. Your kids will probably notice, and over time it could really have the desired effect.


Thomas Learning Centers provides NECPA accredited preschool and childcare at the most affordable rates in the Denver Metro Area.  Check us out at , click on the offers below, drop in for a visit to get to know more about us. We’d love to meet you!

Call  877-938-1442 for general info

Lakewood 303-237-0917 or Westminster 303-427-8831

PreSchool Sports and Fitness: Keep ‘Em Moving

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Keeping kids fit is an increasing concern for anyone raising children today. Getting kids moving at an early age and shaping great habits is the best way to ensure a lifetime of fitness for your kids. Preschool fitness activities don’t have to involve organized sports, and don’t have to include complicated equipment. Sometimes the best fun is had with some items around the house and a willing parent.

Get Outside
The first and easiest way to help build strong kids is to get them outside. Most kids are naturally creative and curious, and given the very basic of tools and toys, simply being outside will inspire kids to create their own preschool fitness activities. Bikes and trikes, balls of different sizes and types, sidewalk chalk and bubbles, all will inspire play. Try to get kids out every day, even if it’s only for a short time, to set the stage for a lifetime of outdoor sports and activities.

Simple Outdoor Games
Everyone needs a little inspiration now and then. If your preschoolers are looking bored out in the yard, these backyard preschool fitness activities are sure to liven things up a bit.

  • Golf. A few plastic cups, some sticks, and small balls make a great impromptu golf set. After a few rounds, kids will be coming up with tricks and “hazards” and having fun.
  • Obstacle Course. Arrange a few items like lawn chairs and hula hoops to create an obstacle course.
  • Backyard Bowling. Line up empty containers from cereal, oatmeal, drinks, etc., and roll a small ball to knock down as many as you can. This can be transferred indoors on a rainy day as well.
  • Mother May I. Some of you might remember these games from your own childhood. One person stands several feet away from the others who stand in a line. Kids take turns asking “Mother” if they can move forward using different steps. For example, “Mother may I take three giant steps”, or “Mother may I take six baby steps”. The first one to reach “Mother” wins.

Rainy Day Ideas
If the weather is preventing you from getting outside, try these indoor games to get kids moving.

  • Balloon volleyball. Get kids up and moving without risking any broken windows. Be careful, of course, when playing with balloons around babies and toddlers as they pose a serious choking hazard.
  • Treasure Hunt. Make lists of several things for kids to find around the house like pencils, books, buttons, etc. Draw pictures for kids that can’t read, and have a prize for the winner.
  • Hide ‘n Seek. Kids may be terrible at hiding, but play along and a game of hide ‘n seek can keep a preschooler busy for hours.
  • Forts and Boats. Couch cushions and bed sheets can transform a simple living room to an adventure island. The couch is the “island” and the floor is the “water”.  Use wooden spoons or other items for paddles, and start telling a story. It usually only takes a few sentences before kids are off and running on an imaginary adventure.

Preschool fitness activities shouldn’t be a chore, and they don’t have to involve organized sports or regimented exercise. Preschoolers just want to have fun and to play. Making sure that your kids are running, jumping, and moving around as often as possible will keep their bodies strong and their minds sharp. Getting them used to plenty of activity every day will establish a lifetime of good habits and a love for being active that will stick with them through adulthood


Thomas Learning Centers provides NECPA accredited preschool and childcare at the most affordable rates in the Denver Metro Area.  Check us out at , click on the offers below, drop in for a visit to get to know more about us. We’d love to meet you!

Call  877-938-1442 for general info

Lakewood 303-237-0917 or Westminster 303-427-8831

Giving our Children the Gift of Independence

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Teaching your child problem solving skills is a gift that will become more valuable over time.  Allowing them to practice on the seemingly little problems that arise day-to-day will prepare them for the major problems that arrive with the increase of age.

Peer Pressure

Studies have shown a correlation between drug and alcohol use and lack of problem-solving skills.  A child who is confident can more easily walk away from the pressure of others her age when they offer such things.  Problem-solving skills increase a child’s self-confidence and let her know the power to choose is within her.  Being able to draw on that strength when nobody is around to help will help keep her from making the incorrect choices.


Another correlation has been discovered between lack of problem-solving skills and suicide.  In an age where bullying has caused many young kids to feel trapped and see no way out but suicide, it is essential that problem solving skills be strong.  Starting early, you can give your child the knowledge she needs to stand up to bullying and have the confidence to say “I won’t stand for this because I know how to end the bullying.”  Knowledge is indeed power.

Life Decisions

Down the road, your child will need to choose a career, a life partner and make other life changing decisions.  A strong grasp of problem solving skills will help help make the best choices without having to rely on others.  We won’t always be there to hold her hand and guide her and it is good to know she has the knowledge and strength to handle these decisions adequately.

The Future

Don’t be surprised if, once your child begins to grasp problem-solving skills, they jump in readily to help others.  They get to the point where it is automatic.  Two children and their parents were outside a store and near one of those horses you put a quarter in to ride.  Both were no more than 4 years old.  The mother of the little girl on the horse was having a horrible time trying to find change while her daughter screamed and cried.  Holding his mother’s hand, the little boy looked up at his mother and asked, “Mommy, why doesn’t she just use her imagination?”

Even if your child is already in grade school, it is not too late to teach necessary problem solving skills. Adults who missed out on learning have been able to pick up the skills, often after years of trial and error and much frustration. Start now and your gift becomes not only one of problem solving skills, but also one of self confidence and inner strength.  Other than your love, what better gift can you give?


Thomas Learning Centers provides NECPA accredited preschool and childcare at the most affordable rates in the Denver Metro Area.  Check us out at , click on the offers below, drop in for a visit to get to know more about us. We’d love to meet you!

Call  877-938-1442 for general info

Lakewood 303-237-0917 or Westminster 303-427-8831

Empathy and Managing Emotions: the Beginning of Problem Solving

thinking by the river

Very young children are full of fun and curiosity. Interacting with children this age can be a complete joy–until frustration sets in.  Tiny fists ball up, faces turn red and any adult present wonders how such a loud wail can emit from such a tiny being.  This typical reaction to frustration can be lessened, and eventually eliminated, by helping your child learn positive problem-solving skills.
Children are natural learners and they do this best by modeling those they interact with on regularly, which is most often their parents.  It has been found that using a five-step approach, you can teach your child to master problem-solving skills. Each step builds on the one before it. These steps are:

*Model a passive problem-solving method

*Model active problem-solving skills

*Place your child in situations where they need to use problem-solving skills

*Use naturally-occurring events to teach problem-solving skills

*Allow your child to attempt problem-solving skills without interfering

We will be discussing each of these steps in greater detail in the next few articles.  These steps can began as soon as a child starts taking an interest in her surroundings.  Children who can’t yet talk still watch for cues from those around them on how to behave and deal with situations they are learning. It will take time and patience, however, because to fully understand what a problem is, a child needs to be able to identify emotions- their own and those of others.  Below are some ways you can start teaching your verbal child to do that.  It is something you can start now as you anticipate learning the five problem-solving steps.

What is that feeling?

Once a child starts talking, you can help them learn to identify their feelings.  This is an important skill necessary for being able to handle emotions.  Making it fun to learn will go help make this easier.

*Print out one of the many worksheets that show faces with different expressions.  At first, you can have your child repeat each emotion as you point at it.  Let this progress to you naming an emotion and having your child choose the correct face.

*Use television time and reading time to discuss emotions.  Ask your little one what he thinks a certain character is feeling at that moment.  Is she happy with her present or nervous about making a new friend?

*Teach your child to associate the body sensations accompanying different emotions by first acknowledging what the child is feeling and then describing what usually happens when a person feels that way.  For example, if she is excited about going somewhere, you can say you bet she is excited and then go on to say something like, “I bet it is very hard to be still.  Do you feel like you might explode if we have to wait too long?”

Looking ahead

When we touch base again, we will discuss modeling a passive problem-solving method, the first step in this process.  I promise you it is not as difficult as it sounds.


Thomas Learning Centers provides NECPA accredited preschool and childcare at the most affordable rates in the Denver Metro Area.  Check us out at , click on the offers below, drop in for a visit to get to know more about us. We’d love to meet you!

Call  877-938-1442 for general info

Lakewood 303-237-0917 or Westminster 303-427-8831