Smart Parenting
Practical advice about raising children

How to Comfortably Fit Children’s Things Into a Tiny Home

When we began exploring the possibility of moving into a home that was approximately 15% of the square footage of the house we were currently living in, we kept our children involved with every aspect of the move that they could understand. Although we expected to be met with some resistance, our children did not have any trouble with getting rid of some of their toys.

If you are considering a move to a tiny house or perhaps just looking to downsize in some way, here are some things that we did that you may want to consider to help make the transition smoother.

kids toys
Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

1. Downsize toys and only keep the open-ended toys. Most children have more than enough toys and most likely have many that they never play with. There will be a large amount that should be easy to clean out. For the rest, use the trick that we used, tell your children they can have the money for any of the toys they sell!

2. Consider what clothing is truly needed. Does each child really need 15-20 shirts? A good rule of thumb is to keep enough clothing for a week or possibly up to two, depending on how often you are able to wash laundry. We keep enough regular clothing for a week for each child (tops, bottoms, pjs) and then also have a few extras, such as a couple of nicer shirts, a pair of nice pants, and heavy and light jackets. All seasonal clothing is put away in a plastic tote until it’s needed.

3. If your children have a lot of books, have them pick out their favorites to keep within their space in your new home. If they are too young to do this on their own, pick the ones that you know they enjoy hearing over and over. Remind your children that they can always borrow any number of books from the local library.

girl outdoors making bubbles
Photo by Maxime Bhm on Unsplash

4. If your children are worried where they will play, remind them that they are always able to play outside. A home is just a place for s to gather and rest our heads, the great outdoors is what we really need for play and exploring. Having some kind of defined outdoor space can help with this, even if your tiny home is mobile. A large rug can work if you have very limited space or create a playhouse haven for your little ones in your yard.

5. Create a small, indoor space for each person in your home. Even if your children are sharing a room, make sure that they have their own bunk, or at least their own corner of the home that they can retreat to when they need to.

6. Have a plan for the rainy days. There will be plenty of rainy or snowy days unless you live in the desert so be sure and make plans for those days. Have a list of places that you can visit outside or home, or perhaps have a special stack of movies/books that only get pulled out during those days.

Moving into any new home can be a big transition. Moving into a tiny or small home can be overwhelming, especially if you are coming from a home that is the typical American square footage. Since everyone will have to make sacrifices during this time, it’s important to include each family member in the process, even the ones that we think might be too little to understand. Doing this can help prepare their minds (and yours!) for what is to come and will remind everyone in your family that you are all in this journey together.

3 Valuable Life Lessons Children Can Learn From Gardening

Children can learn valuable life lessons by gardening. They can use these skills throughout their childhood and into their adult lives. Let's learn what these life lessons are.

nicole's daughters
Photo by Nicole Cagle

Life Cycle

In my beliefs, I think that if you give a child a plant of their own they will learn how delicate life is. They will take care of it by watering it and nurturing it. Often, they see plants grow into beautiful, healthy-to-eat vegetables that they can provide for their family. However sometimes due to weather, poor soil conditions, or neglect they will die.

This death will be heartbreaking, but it will teach them about death in the least heartbreaking way possible. Some time in their lives, they will have a family member pass away. Watching their plant shrivel away and die will prepare them for when they lose someone extremely close to them. It will help lessen their pain a little bit because they will understand that lives cannot go on forever. I believe that by gardening small children will learn about the grief process.

Responsibility

When they garden children learn responsibility. They realize that they provide their family with food if the plant fully develops. They also are responsible for checking it every day. If they neglect it, they will notice it being droopy and starting to die. They can fix their mistake by watering it as soon as they notice their error.

They will be responsible for homework, money, and even possibly a family when they grow up. Gardening allows them to gain a sense of responsibility beforehand. Even a small child can care for a plant and can begin around the age of three with a parent’s assistance. This is a great way for any child to learn responsibility.

Food Source

Many small children, living in an urban environments, don’t know where their food comes from, or have access to healthy fruits and vegetables. This is a devastating fact, which could lead to them to develop an unhealthy diet that could lead to obesity, diabetes, or even heart disease.

By gardening, they can learn that food is grown from a seed in a garden. They will want to taste the veggies that they have grown. This will lead to a healthy diet, full of enough nutrients to grow into healthy adults.

The future of children's health depends on knowing where their food comes from. If they know where their food is coming from, children will want to choose healthy food sources. They might enjoy the crisp of peppers and the sweetness of strawberries. Each child has their own favorite fruits and pepper and you can assist them in discovering their favorites.

You may not think it is much, but gardening is one of the best things you can teach your children. They can learn how to overcome grief, learn responsibility, and provide healthy food for their family. They may even develop healthy eating habits. If you are a parent, please consider teaching your children how to grow a garden.

12 Ways to Get Outside with Your Family This Spring

Your family has been cooped up indoors for the past few months, waiting for cold weather to pass and for the sun to return. That moment is just around the corner — at least, according to our calendars — so it’s time to start planning ways to take full advantage of the warm weather. Here are 12 of the most fun outdoor activities for you and your family to try this spring and beyond.

cutting pie at picnic
Photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash

1. Pack a Picnic

It’s the outdoor version of dinner in a restaurant: grab a blanket and pack a cooler with sandwiches, drinks and snacks for the whole family. You can make it a spring tradition by visiting different parks each week, exploring them, and finishing with a family picnic.

2. Take a Hike

Another way to explore and appreciate nature is on a family hike. The sights might surprise you in your hometown: Even if you don’t live in the mountains, you can still find walking trails through local parks, woods and other natural areas. If you want to make a weekend out of it, load everyone into the car, and head to your nearest national park or trail.

3. Set Up a Sports Competition

Your driveway and backyard could become the backdrop for an intense family sports tournament this spring. You could go with a good old game of basketball, dividing your brood into teams and playing for an exciting prize, like choosing what’s for dessert later. You could buy and set up a badminton net in the backyard. Or, you could play classic playground games, like foursquare or kickball, if you have space.

4. Go to an Extra-Large Playground

You could probably drive to the local playground with your eyes closed because you’re there so often. Mark the start of spring by mixing things up and heading to one of the world’s largest playgrounds, most of which are in the United States. If the trek is too far — and if you’re up for making a pretty substantial investment — you could surprise your kiddos with a play-set in your backyard instead.

5. Play 18 Holes

Your little ones might not have the strength to play grown-up golf just yet, so we propose taking the family for a round of miniature golf in the interim. Just like an at-home sports competition, you can up the ante for winning — ice cream or dinner on the way home, as chosen by the winner?

6. Pitch a Tent

Warm weather means you can spend your days — and nights — outside. This could be the year your kids are old enough to try camping. Pack up all of the supplies you need and head out for a night or weekend to give it a shot.

If they’re a little too young for a full-on camping experience, there’s always your backyard. Set up a tent out there, make s’mores and tell stories, just as you would on a normal campsite.

7. Watch Baseball

Spring marks the start of baseball season, and your kids will love the experience of watching a game in real life. Not only will they learn about the sport and its rules, but they’ll also get to watch the wacky games and mascot appearances that take place between innings. Plus, what child doesn’t love stadium food? Hello, hot dogs, cotton candy, and popcorn.

8. Plant a Family Garden

Spring is, of course, the time of year when plants start growing post-winter chill. Take advantage of the perfect growing conditions by planting a family garden of your own.

It’s up to you to choose the type of garden you’ll cultivate. You might go for traditional flowers in pots or beds leading up to your front door. Or, you could go for a fruit and vegetable garden that’ll feed your family throughout the summer. The latter will also teach your kids a bit of responsibility if you enlist them to help you water your plants and pick the ripe produce once it’s grown. Plus, you’ll have the freshest ingredients for family meals, and everyone will appreciate that.

sister giving brother piggyback ride
Photo by Jenn Evelyn-Ann on Unsplash

9. Feed Backyard Wildlife

Even though spring brings them plenty of food to eat, your kids will still love to make feeders for the birds, squirrels, and other wildlife living in your backyard. This is a fantastic indoor activity for you to save for a rainy spring day. Once the sun’s shining again, let your brood choose where they want to hang their creations — they’ll be so excited to see animals enjoying the snacks they’ve left behind.

10. Dance in the Rain

April showers tend to force you indoors, but you could also use a warmer rainstorm as an excuse to play outside. You already know, because you’ve been a kid before: there’s nothing quite as fun as dancing, playing and splashing in the rain. We promise you’ll love to watch as your kids discover the joy of that experience.

11. Fly a Kite

Springtime breezes are not only refreshing, but they have the right amount of power to get a kite flying. So, grab a kite at your local toy store or make one with just four simple supplies. Then, find a nearby sports field or otherwise open stretch of land and teach your kids how to fly a kite. They’ll love it so much that you might just find yourself grabbing your kite every time you feel a spring — or summer, or fall — breeze roll into town.

12. Ride Bikes as a Family

Your kids are used to you supervising their bike rides. Now that they’ve mastered the art of cycling on four wheels or two, it’s time to try a family bike ride. Choose somewhere with plenty of protected, car-free pathways, like the local park. Strap everyone into their helmets and give it a go. And, if your little ones are still too little to keep up with their parents’ pedaling, you can always strap them into a seat on the back of your bike and whiz them around town.

Get Out There

With these 12 ideas, you can get outside and fill your family itinerary with memorable spring activities this year and beyond. Don’t be shy about your creativity, either: There are countless fun times to be had, and you could plan the most fun to-do of all. All you have to do is get out there and enjoy the season with the ones you love most. 

Eat Your Crusts!

One of my eleven-year-old’s tasks in the morning is to make his own breakfast. As a parent, handing your child responsibilities sometimes means allowing them to do things their way as we work towards the greater goal of independence. This morning, however, I couldn’t step back. After pouring his bowl of cereal, he removed the almost, not quite, empty carton of milk from the refrigerator and casually tossed it on the counter. When I strongly suggested that the first carton be emptied before the second carton opened, he shrugged his shoulders in his pre-teen sort of way, ignored my suggestion and went along his merry way. I decided this was a good time to talk about waste.

Ryan recited several reasons for this habit of leaving almost, not quite empty containers of food. “It’s been sitting there too long….it’s probably sour…there’s barely anything left anyway.”

I flashbacked to my own childhood when my Dad would scold me for the uneaten crusts from my sandwich left on my plate. “There are starving children in Africa,” he would say. “They can have my crust,” I would tartly reply. Respect for the earth and its resources (not to mention a parent’s wallet) is not something we are born with; it is something to be learned.

And so went my lesson on this particular morning. I began with my Dad’s “starving children in Africa” argument. We need to be grateful for the plentiful food that we have, I explained.It is something that we middle class Americans take for granted. Aside from the vast number of people in third world countries who don’t have enough to eat, many Americans go without nutritious food. Despite the safety net in the U.S. not found in some countries [Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC)] 41 million people in the United States struggle with food insecurity including 13 million children, according to the nonprofit organization, Feeding America. Cultivating gratitude for one’s own food could lead to creating a society that shares its resources with one another.

In addition to gratitude, maintaining a sustainable lifestyle is something that I want to teach my kids. Though I have my extravagances, I do attempt to consume only what I need, I told Ryan. This means using what we have and being thoughtful in buying only what we need.

It was at this point that my husband chimed in. Sustainability is a lifestyle, he repeated. Throwing away something such as a small piece of aluminum foil seems insignificant, but multiplied by thousands, millions, those small pieces of foil would bloat a landfill. The waste we create does make a difference because we are part of a larger community.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, in 2013, Americans recycled and composted approximately 87 million tons of material while sending about 254 million tons of material to landfills.  This equates to a 34.3 percent recycling rate. We could do better, and it all starts at home.

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Photo by Hermes Rivera

Back to that carton of milk. John explained the resources needed to feed the cows who produce the milk, the energy needed to sustain the farm, the fuel needed to transport the milk. I put it in eleven-year-old terms. Cows make poop. Lots of cows means lots of poop. In fact, livestock emit 14.5 percent of all greenhouse gases and over half of that comes from cows. If we care about reducing our carbon footprint, we need to be cognizant of using only what we need and reducing our waste.

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Photo by Ryan Song

Each generation considers themselves caretakers of our planet. Yet for our youngest generation, the challenges have never been so consequential. The habits and values we instill could lead them to take on the imperative role of environmental stewards.

As Ryan watched, I put the almost not quite empty carton of milk back in the refrigerator. At some point I heeded my Dad’s advice and began to eat my crusts. If there is hope for me, Ryan may learn too.

The Benefits of Early Nut Introduction in Your Child's Diet

Peanuts have been taboo in diets for children in the past, but now new health guidelines released by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases recommend early nut introduction in children’s diets.

The new recommendations include adding peanut extract or powder to finger foods or pureed food even before six months of age and even if your child is allergy-prone. Doctors say it is safe. However, whole peanuts shouldn’t be given to young children who aren’t ready for whole foods — they’re a choking hazard.

peanuts with jar of peanut butter
Photo by Adobe Stock/sergojpg

The science-backed theory is this: If these guidelines are widely implemented, the amount of children who typically develop a lethal nut allergy should dramatically drop. Sadly, peanut allergies resulting in death from anaphylaxis are higher than any food allergy recorded. Deaths are rare, but children who have developed peanut allergies usually don’t grow out of it.

The latest national health guidelines are set to change all that by encouraging early exposure to nuts. At this young age, the body is more likely to tolerate a potential allergen than it is to react to it.

The Great Nut Allergy Switcheroo

So what’s up with the about-face when it comes to nut allergies — and everything else? As parents, it’s challenging to decide what’s best for your kid when conventional wisdom shifts so frequently.

In 2000, the American Academy of Pediatrics advised parents to keep peanuts out of the diets of children who posed a high allergy risk until the age of three. However, peanut allergies were here to stay and their numbers were on the rise. In 2010, about two percent of U.S. children had a nut allergy, increasing from one percent in 1999, but luckily the AAP stopped recommending this in 2008.

What’s different about the Great Nut Allergy Switcheroo? And why should parents follow this advice?

The new recommendations arise from various studies done over the last few years challenging the banning of peanuts during infancy. This has long been a standard practice in the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia. Some believed there must be a better way.

Introducing Nuts Early and Safely Into a Child’s Diet

The latest guidelines section off children by risk. Infants who are low-risk, without an egg allergy or eczema, and who are consuming solid foods, may be introduced to peanuts as early as six months. Children who are a moderate risk and have mild eczema may sample peanut-containing foods around the same age.

However, infants who are high-risk, with an egg allergy or severe eczema, should be introduced to foods that contain peanuts around four to six months — after they’ve started solid foods and had a doctor evaluation.

An allergy specialist is the best doctor for the evaluation. They will order an allergy test and likely try out a peanut-containing food during your child’s visit to test the waters. If a slight sensitivity to peanuts is revealed, that doesn’t mean the child is allergic — they could still benefit from eating foods that contain peanuts. A child who has a very strong reaction to a sensitivity test may have the allergy already. The doctor could recommend total avoidance of nuts and peanut-containing products.

So how do you begin introducing nut foods into your child’s diet at such a young age? You can do it safely by mixing a teaspoon or more of creamy peanut butter and warm water until it reaches a pureed or soupy consistency. You could also mix in a little of this peanut puree with pumpkin or other preferred fruit or vegetable purees.

Do not let peanuts be the first solid food your child eats. Start with peanut-containing foods like creamy peanut butter and keep your child on a regular intake schedule, such as two or three times every week, over the course of childhood. When your child has moved on to other solid foods, try introducing whole peanuts with a flavorful twist, such as chocolate-covered peanuts or toffee peanuts. It’s more likely your child will eat and like them this way.

Nuts in Your Child’s Diet Benefit Longevity

If your child welcomes nuts into their diet, they also get a delicious nutritional boost. Many kids were told that nuts were constipating and fattening as they grew up, but science is here once again to set the record straight.

Nuts are a powerhouse of nutrition and various studies have shown that the consumption of nuts significantly lowers mortality rates — even in those who are at high risk for cardiovascular disease:

• The Nurses’ Health Study involving 76,464 females and the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study involving 42,498 men discovered that people were less likely to die when they consumed more nuts — especially from heart disease and cancer.

• A study conducted by the Vanderbilt University of Medicine, with over 200,000 male and female participants, revealed lower mortality rates, when more nuts were eaten, from “all causes” and especially stroke and heart disease.

• Another study featured in JAMA Pediatrics found pregnant women who consumed the most peanuts or nuts, in general, were less likely to give birth to children with a nut allergy. The risk reduction was at its highest in children whose mothers had consumed nuts at least five times a month.

Parents feeding their children nuts from an early age won’t prevent every individual case of an allergy. However, it is strongly likely that the number of cases of nut allergies will be reduced in the coming years, and the nutritional benefits of nut consumption in the long run are powerful reasons to introduce nuts earlier into a child’s diet.

Parents feel like nuts when they’re trying to decide what’s best for their child and they’re bombarded by contradicting information. But sometimes it’s better just to eat the nuts than to feel like one.

Limitless Possibilities: 3 Ways to Lead By Example for Your Kids

When it comes to teaching children, leading by example is critical. As a parent, one of your main responsibilities is to teach your child how to become a caring and kind, self-sufficient adult. In order to do this, you need to hold a mirror up to yourself and really see what behaviors and traits you want your child to adopt. Here are three things you can do to set a great example for your kids and show them that anything is possible with some hard work.

mother and daughter traveling
Photo by Shutterstock

Never Stop Learning

The Aristotle quote is true. The more that you know, the more you realize you don't know, but that's all the more reason seek new knowledge in any way that you can. A commitment to learning will not only help you continue to expand your mind and grow intellectually, but it is also great exercise for your brain. By learning new things frequently, you can keep your mind sharp and nimble as you age, and even possibly counteract the natural slowing of your brain's processing speed over time.

By setting the example for your kids that learning new things is as a lifelong experience, you can show your kind the value of learning a variety of skills and the overall value of education. This can help strengthen your child's commitment to his or her own studies from childhood through adulthood.

To put this into practice, all you have to do is devote some time to learning about a new subject or a new skill. It can be as simple as learning a new hobby like how to knit or as complex as learning another language. You can take classes at a local college or university or simply teach yourself by trial and error after watching a few YouTube tutorials. Do whatever works best for your learning style and busy schedule. It doesn't matter how you approach learning new things, the most important part is simply doing the work and challenging yourself.

Run Your Own Business

Another way that you can help your child realize their limitless potential is by running your own business. While these two subjects may seem unrelated, they are not. The fact is that by being exposed to business owners and the challenges and triumphs that come with having your own business, your child can cement the understanding that they can do anything they set their mind to as long as they are diligent and determined.

So if you have always wanted to start your own company, do it. Be as transparent as possible to show your child an age-appropriate, realistic perspective of the work that goes into getting a business off the ground. You could even follow a more established framework and start your own franchise or network marketing business with a company like Amway.

See the World

Travel is the ultimate education. By exploring the world, you can step outside of your comfort zone and learn how to thrive in an unfamiliar environment. From the language and culture to the food and the landscape, exploring other countries is a great way to expand your family's horizons and gain an appreciation for your own daily opportunities. You can see how local people live and work and in many cases even happily thrive with much less than the typical American middle-class family expects to have.


As a mom, wife, writer, runner and amateur chef, adventure is the name of the game for Allison. When she’s not exploring with her toddler, she’s researching her next family vacation, trying to answer the never-ending question of what to make for dinner or taking some me time on her yoga mat.

5 Tips for Doing Household Chores With a Baby

My apartment is a mess. Most new parents have messy houses, but I feel like ours is especially chaotic. Granted, both my husband and I work full-time and I just finished my undergrad within the last month. However, it is important that my son has a clean and safe living space. While my son is only a little under three months old, he is starting to scoot on his stomach—crawling isn’t all that far away. While we want to move into a house eventually, we will need to baby-poof and clean everything in our current space. I’m planning to share a before-and-after of cleaning and organizing my apartment. To do that, I need to actually clean. It’s overwhelming to know where to start, especially when my little one wants Mommy-R time. Here are a few tips on getting chores done as a new parent.

Towels
You can fold towels during nap time or your lunch break. Photo by Pixabay/Stevepb.

A little at a time

I like to throw myself into projects full-force. When I make a lifestyle change, I want to switch everything overnight, but that’s not usually realistic. Break your larger chore list (such as organizing the living room or cleaning the bathroom) into smaller tasks. You will feel much less disappointed about not completing your to-do-list if you turn your chores into smaller and more attainable jobs.Try creating a list of tasks that should be done daily, weekly, monthly, or seasonally.

Naptime

Everyone says to sleep when your child sleeps. As much as I enjoy sleeping, my body doesn’t always allow me to fall asleep when he’s laying down. If I can’t rest while he is in blissful sleep, I tackle some projects (or spoil myself with a longer-than-5-minute shower). The other night, he fell asleep around an hour before his normal bedtime, but I wasn’t able to fall asleep. Instead, my husband and I cleaned some trash from the living room and worked on cleaning up messes in the kitchen. Just make sure to keep an ear out your child wakes up.

Babywearing

Sometimes R doesn’t want to be put down. He craves attention and interaction, and I love spending time with him after work or on weekends. My solution to getting small tasks done while also interacting with him is to set him in a baby carrier and have him rest against my chest. I can keep an eye on him (and give him kisses whenever I want), but can also keep my hands free. The key to doing this successfully is to use safe practices and common sense. I’m careful not to do a whole lot of bending or lifting heavy objects while I’m wearing him, because my center of gravity is a tad off.

Lunch break

I’m lucky enough to work close to home. I usually go home for an hour during my lunch break and tackle a small project. The other day, I, somewhat successfully, tried to clean the carpets. Other days, I work on dishes or hanging clothes in the closet. I normally just warm up some leftovers or eat snacks at my desk during the work day to fill me up. I recommend doing some less-messy tasks during your lunch break, so you won’t waste time by changing clothes before you return to work.

Set your child nearby, but talk to them.

If your baby is content, you may be able to place them in a bassinet (or playpen, bouncer, playmat, etc) in the same room that you are working in. For example, I place R in his bassinet while I’m putting clothes away in our room, or put him in his swing when I’m clearing up messes in the living room. I make sure that I interact with him—although I’ve been guilty of just having him watch Sesame Street while I multitask in different rooms. I narrate what I’m doing or turn on music and sing/dance for him. He thinks it’s a hoot when I sing and sway while hanging clothes on the hangers.

What tricks do you use to clean with a child? Tweet your tips to @MLC_Consulting, and I will share your helpful tips with other busy parents!


Marissa is a Digital Content Assistant for Ogden Publications, a freelance digital marketing consultant, and a new mother. In her free time, she enjoys snuggling her son, learning to sew, and spending copious amounts of time on Pinterest.