The choice of education for kids is something that is at the back of my head basically from the moment of getting pregnant (like it is with many other parents out there). This not only in the context of choosing the right school or opting for homeschooling, but also in general how to equip kids for life in the best way possible. I started talking about this subject in two previous posts – about future-proofing kids (link) and about choosing extracurricular activities (link). Today I would like to elaborate on my list of essential everyday life skills to teach a kid before he or she is off to a grown-up life, namely somewhat before the age of 18 years. Continue reading Equipped right for a solo-flight: Essential everyday life skills to learn before eighteen
Category Archives: Kids
Little Pinocchios: Is it possible to spot a lying toddler?
One day our 3.5-year-old daughter came from school with rings on her fingers. These cheap couple of cents ones, but that’s not the point. She told us that these were her rings, totally believing this herself. When we started the “interrogation”, she reluctantly revealed that her friend gave them to her because she didn’t want them anymore.
The other day there was Continue reading Little Pinocchios: Is it possible to spot a lying toddler?
Balancing act: Choosing extracurricular activities for kids – Part 1
Already for a while I am pondering about extracurricular activities for our kids. When I was a kid myself I did a whole bunch of stuff – gymnastics, figure skating, languages (English, French, Spanish, Modern Greek), self-defense (street fight), aikido, theater, modern dance, salsa and some others. I was a busy kid. However, I also studied in a different system. During my school years we had much more time for extracurricular activities (further – ECA) with lessons starting at 8 o’clock in the morning and frequently ending shortly after noon. On the contrary, the schooling system in Belgium is different than that in Latvia. Our kids will study longer hours and basically will only have time on Wednesday afternoons or on Saturdays to do something else. Additional issue here is that every kid in Belgium has, for instance, Wednesday afternoons off, meaning that there are a lot of different ECA organized at the same time slot. All this calls for a fairly selective approach – you simply cannot have it all!
The subject of ECA in general has two main aspects: Continue reading Balancing act: Choosing extracurricular activities for kids – Part 1
Parents online: What are we searching for?
I have recently read an interesting research article on “Think with Google” about parenting searches, namely about what parents tend to search for when they go online. It made me think about my own Internet browsing behavior. However, before I elaborate on that, first a couple of words about that research article.
There are several interesting findings:
First, new parents in their Internet search seem to show a curious pattern: when they search for “pregnant” they are simultaneously also searching for “school” and even for “college“. This and some other analytical insights lead researchers to conclusion that during pregnancy future parents seem to have a very long-term orientation, trying to plan and think through way ahead. A funny shift occurs when the baby is there, as analysis reveals that together with the search for “newborn” people tend to search for more immediate needs like “diapers” or “feeding” and so on. Thus, it seems that once the baby is actually born the focus of parents evolves from long-term to short-term. Truth be said that once the baby becomes a toddler, searches for “school” and “college” are once again spiking.
Second, the only thing constant across parenting searches at all times is “health“. But here are some nuances as well, as expecting and new parents tend to be more concerned with the “weight” of their precious bean; once it becomes a toddler “fever” gets on top of the search list.
I guess that it also matters if this is your first child or not. It is actually funny to remember this stuff! When I was still pregnant with our first kid I was very much interested in questions like: “How do you know that you are in labor?“. The answer “you will know!” seemed to be so far from satisfactory that I kept on digging. My next hit with the first child was all the “how to’s“: how to swaddle, how to put a kid in a sling, how to massage, how to teach to roll… I became a real storehouse of information! The first child, you know (smiling). When I was expecting our second I was very much into searching for different articles in the field of psychology about how to ensure that there is no jealousy between kids, how to find a balance between the needs of an infant and those of a toddler.
With both kids being toddlers and happily co-existing my current kid-related Internet searches are mostly in the following categories:
- education (raising bilingual/ multilingual kids; how to teach life skills to kids; what are the tendencies in education in general; homeschooling or not; new approaches in teaching and so on)
- entertainment / development (what is out there for kids: museums, exhibitions, events, extracurricular activities; here also – on psychology: how to choose extracurricular activities for your child)
- DIY with kids (interesting experiments; interesting crafts)
I must admit that “clothes” and “toys” which are categories also seemingly often searched for by parents are not really on my priority list. For me there is no need to especially look for that as some of my friends are very much into searching and trying new clothes’ brands and new toys that I am convinced I will receive the information without actively searching for it!
Even though the article that triggered me to write this post talked only about kid-related searches, I believe that when talking about “Parents online” it is unfair to exclude other interests that parents might be searching for when they browse the Web. Here I am not talking about specific hobbies or interests of a specific parent, but mostly about issues pertaining to being a parent.
In this context what I personally was very interested in was:
- how to “restore” yourself after giving birth – both physically and mentally;
- how to spot the first signs of a postpartum depression and what to do to avoid it;
- how to ensure a good balance of interests for everyone in the family after “adding a new member”;
- how to find and secure “me-time”.
So mostly all the psychological issues related to becoming a mother.
It might be tempting to go to mothers’ forums or discussion groups for advice, but what is very important here is that not all “mum groups” are friendly places. And what you definitely don’t need as a new parent is to have a heated unnecessary discussion and leave it with no real useful information. Thus, even though it is very interesting to hear personal experiences of other people who have been in a similar situation, my first resort is still psychological articles on reputed sources, then some personal blogs sharing experiences and only as a last point – some very selected forums and discussion groups.
And what about you: as a parent what are you searching for when you go online?
Back to real life: Some tips on making your life easier when coming home from vacations
Coming home from vacations can be tough. Coming home from vacations with kids? Well, raise to the power of your liking. This is of course not about a short trip or a day-out, it is more the issue for coming back from at least a 7 to 10 day vacation or longer. I am not going to be talking about dealing with that psychological phenomena that you might feel down or depressed when you come home; I just want to touch upon purely practical issues and share some of my tips on how to get back to “real life” as smoothly as possible.
- If you are flying and you happen to have a choice, pick an early flight back. The day of departure is anyway a lost day in a sense, so if you can just get home in the morning and still have some time for a smooth transition to your everyday life and for adjusting back kid’s schedules, use that! In general try to have at least a day to breathe out before jumping back to work, school and all the everyday chores. If you are able to schedule your vacation so that you have a weekend at home that’s even better. During your vacations you tend to loosen up daily schedules, you tend to have somewhat different eating habits and in general vacation time is obviously not the same as your daily routine. Additionally travel itself from point A to point B tends to be tiresome, especially for the little ones. Thus, if you arrive on Sunday and on the next day your kids need to go to school that will be very harsh on them! That will also be very harsh on you. So if you have a chance – take it easy and factor in the “adjustment time”. Small note on a daily schedule: on the day of arrival try to get kids to sleep at the usual hour and also get them up at the usual hour the next day – even if the next day is Sunday. Yes, 7 a.m. on Sunday might sound counter-intuitive, but trust me that would make the following Monday much easier.
- If you have that possibility do the laundry on the pre-last day of your vacation to arrive back with clean clothes instead of two-three full machines work. Big-big “but” here – only in case it is not too much of a hassle, as it is not the idea to actually ruin one of your vacation days! For us this time we just came back from our vacation at my mom’s, so doing the laundry for us was totally not a problem. Also if you were on vacation in a country where laundry service doesn’t cost the same as renting a limo you might consider using that. But to be honest the beauty of having laundry already done is worth even some extra bucks.
- Try sorting your clothes in your luggage in a way that it is possible to immediately take them out and put them in your closet. To be able to do that you need 1) to sort them at least per person (use plastic or paper bags; or just “divide the luggage in necessary amount of parts and assign a part for each of the travelers) and 2) to fold them in the same way you usually fold your clothes to put in your closet at home. What I mean by the latter is that if you for example usually fold your t-shirts flat to put them in the closet there is no point of rolling them to put them in your luggage, as you will get yourself an additional work when you come home.
- If this option is available to you – order your groceries online in advance, as your fridge is probably empty, isn’t it? What we usually do is order everything to be ready for a pick up on the day of our arrival. All we need then is just to quickly pass the supermarket and pick the boxes assembled for us. If that would not be possible we would need to physically go to the supermarket and lose at least an hour. If that can be avoided – by all means avoid it!
- Unless you have been away for just couple of days the amount of dust everywhere will be surprising in a bad sense of the word. You will have some time for a thorough cleaning later on, but upon arrival try quickly going over some common surfaces like a table, night stand, TV with a wet cloth (or a cleaning tissue). Same for the floor – “Swiffer” or analogues works perfect as a quick so-to-say “in-between cleaning” solution. You can of course skip this point if sounds irrelevant for you, but I personally prefer to have it relatively clean around at all times, and that way according to me is also a nice “take-it-easy transition to reality”.
As you have probably noticed I have a lot of “ifs” in my suggestions. Obviously. Some of the options will not be available for everyone (like a possibility to order groceries online, or an option to choose the morning flight), thus you have to see for yourself. The main point I want to make is – just have it at the back of your head that there are various ways how you can simplify your life upon arrival back home if you just do some homework in advance.
P.S. Some additional alarms on the first workday after vacations might also be a nice-to-have – like an alarm to remind you that you need to pick up your toddler from school! 🙂