Smart Parenting
Practical advice about raising children

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
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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.

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.


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.


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.

4 Tips for Connecting Your Kids with Nature

Richard Louv, author of Last Child in the Woods, cites that children today are becoming more and more removed from the outdoors and nature, which comes at the expense of their physical and psychological well-being. Instead of spending time outdoors, kids are spending most of their time in structured environments or behind an illuminated screen. Louv shares that nature has extraordinary benefits, some of which include improved concentration, exercise, and greater ability to engage in creative play. Spending time in nature is even able to an aid in mental illness, particularly depression and ADHD. Furthermore, kids who spend more time outdoors are said to develop better coordination and motor fitness, as well as greater mental acuity, sustained intellectual development and inventiveness. Unplug and spend more time out in nature with these tips.

family enjoying nature
Photo by Shutterstock.

Make Time for Outdoor Play

Make it a priority to make time for outdoor play. This can be as simple as nightly or weekly outdoor walks on a nearby trail or neighborhood green space. Research conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation shows that kids spend, on average, 45 hours behind a screen each week. Your kids need a break from all of that screen time. And chances are, you do too. Take a frisbee along on your walk or non-tech toys that can inspire creative play.

Foster Curiosity

In this case, it’s a good thing to be curious. Inspire curiosity by showing your own excitement for nature and the outdoors. Consider starting a backyard garden. Even if you’ve never tried your hand at gardening and don’t quite fancy yourself as having green thumb, this outdoor hobby can allow you and your child to learn, grow and discover answers to questions that you didn’t know before. A garden also gives you the opportunity to teach your child about food.

Seek Out the Outdoors and Visit Often

Pick a nature spot, any spot, and return to it every so often. Doing so allows you and your child to observe the changing of the seasons and cycles of life. Take a trip to the country or find a green space near your home to try this out. Visiting the same fishing hole every three months or so can do the trick. Pack up your fishing gear, apply the sunscreen and head out to nature. This can allow for repetitive sensory stimulation that can give children a more connected feeling to nature.

Nature Sense

Ignite the senses on your family nature walk. Whether a leisurely walk in the park or a moderate hike on the trail, use this time spent outdoors to discuss the five senses: sound, sight, touch, smell and taste. Take a moment every few minutes to ask your child what they sense in that particular spot. It could be hearing the sound of birds chirping or touching a smooth, round rock.

Remember, not all time spent outdoors has to be a lesson or a learning experience. Introduce your child to the wonders of nature first, then start creating learning experiences. It is critical to make time for unstructured outdoor play. Let your kids be kids. Let your son dip his toes into a cold creek. Allow your daughter to get mud on her boots. Let your children pick flowers. Let them explore all that nature has to offer.

Lauren Topor full-time freelance writer and alumna of Arizona State University. Her professional work has appeared in a variety of publications from lifestyle mags to business websites. Follow Lauren on Twitter @laurentopor.

How to Identify and Treat Childhood Eczema

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From itchy skin to red rashes, atopic dermatitis affects between 10 to 20 percent of all children, according to the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS). This common childhood skin condition tends to appear before children reach the age of five, and for some, it disappears by age 10. About 60 percent of kids never grow out of it and struggle with flare-ups for life.

The condition really affects quality of life for both parent and child. Itchy and irritable skin makes simple actions like dressing and sleeping painful. School-aged children with atopic dermatitis are also at greater risk for developing psychological difficulties and self-consciousness, affecting both academic and social development.

As a parent, arming yourself with knowledge about this skin problem can help your child battle the disease. Proper treatment can make it manageable.

What Is Eczema?

Eczema is a skin disease that manifests in various forms. The most common form affecting children is atopic dermatitis. A genetic history of allergies, asthma or hay fever can make children more prone to eczema.

Although medical experts are not certain about the cause of condition, it is suspected the disease is a result of the immune system overreacting to irritants. Common irritants that trigger eczema flare-ups include:

• Allergies to foods, pet dander or environment • Overheating
• Stress
• Colds or other infections
• Contact with abrasive materials

How to Spot Eczema

If a child develops eczema, one of their most noticeable symptoms will be itchiness. Sometimes itchiness begins even before rashes are formed. Red rashes most commonly appear on the backs of the knees or elbows or on the face. Hand rashes can also occur on occasion.

The appearance of eczema varies by person. One child may develop raised bumps and pimples that burst and ooze. Another child may have thickening skin that looks dry and cracked. Most people with eczema notice inflammation.

What to Do When You Suspect Eczema

First, have your child’s diagnosis confirmed by a doctor. A doctor can typically diagnose the skin disease by asking questions and examining the rash. Your doctor may make recommendations for home treatment such as a bleach bath or, if the eczema is severe, offer prescription medications. They may ask you to regularly follow up when your child has flare-ups since the skin condition can worsen and become infected.

Once eczema is confirmed, you can take several steps to help relieve your child’s symptoms.

Natural Eczema Relief

Managing childhood eczema is often possible through simple home remedies and care strategies — like dressing your child in softer clothing and soothing the skin through topical treatment.

Moisturize the Skin

A common symptom of eczema is dry skin. Moisturizing with baby lotion or a lotion designed for small children can relieve itchiness and help heal rashes. Aquaphor Healing Ointment works great as daily moisturizer and doubles as diaper rash cream. Humidifiers can also provide a moist environment for the skin.

Opt for Therapeutic Cleansing

Doctors often recommended diluted bleach baths for treatment of eczema. As another option, many doctors recommend CLn BodyWash. It bottles up the most important ingredient of a bleach bath, sodium hypochlorite, into a gentle, clinically proven and non-drying cleanser. It's a safe alternative for cleaning red, itchy, dry or flaky skin while also being free of steroids, antibiotics, parabens, and triclosan.

Avoid Irritants

Sometimes eczema has an obvious trigger — your child develops a rash after petting a dog or after wearing a particular sweater. Identify triggers and then avoid them.

Stick with Cotton

Clothing comes in contact with your child’s skin the most, so stick to organic cotton material. Other materials, even if they seem soft, can be irritating to the skin. Choose cotton for bedding, towels and other fabrics your child touches regularly.

Switch to Coconut

Coconut oil can be soothing if applied to directly to skin affected by eczema. This healthy ingredient contributes to skin care overall because its proteins promote cellular health and tissue repair. Coconut oil may even prevent or reduce some eczema flare-ups.

Keep Your Child Cool

Overheating and sweating can exacerbate or perpetuate eczema flare-ups. Keep your child cool by dressing them in layers. Keep them away from radiators and sunny windows at school, and make sure they take lukewarm baths. You can also use cool washcloths to soothe itchy rashes.

Eczema is manageable with some knowledge and natural remedies. As a parent, you can help your infant or child identify symptoms and ways to address them.

A lifelong learner, Bethany McIlrath is curious by nature. Researching diverse topics in order to explain them to others through her writing is both a hobby and a career.

Winter Activities for Kids

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It can sometimes be difficult to come up with creative and simple holiday activities for kids that are eco-friendly as well. The important thing to remember is that it’s not impossible and may simply require a little out-of-the-box thinking. Before you know it, you’ll be enjoying these eco-friendly holiday activities with your kids.

Make Jewelry by Reusing Bread

This concept is likely one you haven’t heard of, but it’s a gem. You can use bread, lemon juice and glue to make beads that are like air-dry clay. After the beads have dried, paint them and string them to make a necklace or a bracelet that is eco-friendly and cute.

These bread beads can be made anytime of the year and are great for making seasonal jewelry or fun friendship gifts for school. To make the beads for Christmas time, use red and green paints or even paint snowy scenes or Christmas trees on the beads.

While you’re making them with your kids, remember to point out that you aren’t wasting the old bread by throwing it away, but are reusing and recycling it instead.

Make Amish Friendship Bread

The Amish Friendship Bread recipe is one of the most popular recipes available. The recipe is symbolic of one of the main Amish values: community. Someone makes a friendship bread starter for the recipe and shares a portion of it with a friend, so they make their bread using the same starter. This recipe reminds you that everyone is connected in one way or another and everyone has something to contribute.

Transform Magazines Into Paper Snowflakes

Making paper snowflakes is a holiday tradition in some homes. It’s a simple and fun activity to do with kids of almost any age, and it creates beautiful results. You can turn this craft into an eco-friendly one by using magazines, newspapers and other papers to make the snowflakes.

Once the snowflakes are finished, you can string them up to make a fun holiday banner or tie a loop of string to the top and let your kids hang them on the tree. Get creative and enjoy the process!

Make Your Own Snow Globes

Recycle glass jars into creative and fun snow globes with your kids. Once the bottles are clean and dry, you add a little Styrofoam to the lid and build your snow globe scene on top of that so it’s visible when the snow globe is put together.

Add in distilled water, glycerin and glitter before gluing the jar shut. Be sure to let everything dry before flipping it over or shaking it. The end result is magical and a great reminder to your kids that recycled things can be beautiful.

Bake an Edible Gingerbread Terrarium

Making a terrarium is always a fun idea, but making an edible gingerbread terrarium with a special holiday scene is even more exciting. Start with clean glass jars. Whip up and cool a gingerbread cake. Your kids can help you make the batter for added fun.

Once the cake is cool, let your kids crumble it up into the glass jars to make an even layer of “dirt.” Get creative with the materials you use to create the scenes. For example, coconut can be fluffy snow, animal crackers can be reindeer and sprigs of rosemary can be beautiful mini-trees. Leave it to your kids and their imaginations to create something festive and fun.

Remember that holiday crafts can be both kid-friendly and eco-friendly without taking much time or requiring many materials. Come equipped with your imagination and your desire to have fun and make memories with your kids — and the rest will take care of itself.

10 Reasons to Advocate for More Recess in Schools

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“All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy” is a terrifying proverb when uttered maniacally by Jack Nicholson, but all work and no play shouldn’t remain a fictional thrill for moviegoers, it should be a scary warning for every parent.


Because all work and no play is exactly what many kids are getting. With the pressure to perform constantly increasing, schools are nixing recess in favor of more classwork. In fact, compared to the 1970s, children spend 50 percent less time in unstructured outdoor activities – including recess.  Expected to remain still and silent while they take in more and more instruction, it’s no wonder kids are getting stressed out, worn out and are acting out.

It’s easy to feel vaguely upset that your kid’s recess has disappeared, but it’s harder to articulate recess’ importance and advocate for its inclusion in the school day. Need a reason to fight for recess? Here are 10:

It Works at Work

Let’s start close to home: If your boss said you could only take a 20-minute, silent, at-your-desk lunch break, would you be happy with that? No!

Unfortunately, that’s exactly what is happening in many classrooms across the United States. Kids of all ages are expected to sit still and work perfectly all day, with only a single, short, silent break for lunch.

Research shows that regular breaks help adult employees boost their creativity and concentration, lower their stress and promote physical health, among other benefits. If you would advocate for those benefits for yourself, why wouldn’t you advocate just as passionately for your kids?

It Promotes Fitness

Physical activity is one of the keys to a healthy lifestyle. It’s not hard to draw connections between an increasing lack of physical activity and the ever-increasing number of childhood obesity cases in the U.S.

Over the past 30 years, childhood obesity has doubled in children (6-11) and quadrupled in adolescents (12-19). Unstructured play during recess provides critical exercise for kids, encouraging them to run, jump and explore. Although PE classes can provide some structured exercise, the importance of opportunities to get active because it’s fun rather than because a teacher told you to can’t be ignored.

It Feeds Their Focus

Lest you think that improved concentration and performance were just benefits of adult work breaks, a Gallup poll of 1,951 elementary school principals is here to set you straight.

The principals were asked for their views on recess and reported an overwhelmingly positive impact on academics. They reported that kids “listened better and were more focused after recess.”

Photo by Fotolia

It Encourages Problem Solving

Do you know why your kids are better at new tech than you are? It’s because they’re not afraid to play, fail and try again until they master it.

That’s why recess is so important. It’s a free period where kids can try new things, allowing them to learn about themselves, others and the world around them naturally and effectively. It’s the unstructured play opportunities at recess that give kids crucial opportunities to master new skills and develop innovation solutions.

It Frees the Imagination

Innovation can’t happen without imagination. That’s why you have to advocate for opportunities for your child to utilize their imagination. A day spent sitting still in a classroom doesn’t provide the same scope for the imagination that a half hour swinging on the monkey bars or running through the grass does.

By stretching those imagination muscles now, kids develop the open and creative minds they’ll need to tackle life as an adult.

It Supplements Classroom Learning

With so much pressure on schools to teach to the test and secure funding needs through test scores, it’s no wonder that seemingly nonessential activities like recess are the first to go.

However, even putting aside recess’s benefits on focus and problem solving, recess isn’t wasted time. If anything, play should be viewed as a supplement to or extension of classroom learning.

A chance to get out in nature and explore the world around them gives kids a chance to take what they’re learning in the classroom from theory to practice. It could be as simple as a preschooler identifying new colors in autumn leaves or an elementary schooler observing weather patterns they just discussed in science class.

It Teaches Risk Management

Testing pressures are only one of the reasons schools are turning their backs on recess. There’s also the fear of liability over playground injuries.

Playground injuries are unfortunately inevitable. You can’t make any playtime 100 percent risk free and still allow room for physical play and limitless imagination. However, risk is part of what makes recess important. Kids need opportunities to assess risks for themselves and learn to make their own decisions about which rewards are worth it and which aren’t.

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It Creates Friendships

For kids and adults alike, shared activities make for fantastic icebreakers. At recess, kids can forge the fledgling bonds of friendship through cooperative games like hopscotch, foursquare or kickball, through games of make believe or simply by swinging side by side.

These icebreaking activities give them a starting point for building friendships that will carry over inside the classroom and outside of school grounds.

It Fosters Cooperation

Cooperation is a critical, fundamental life skill, one that – unfortunately – many adults still lack. That’s why it’s so important that kids have a chance to develop that skill early.

Recess requires cooperation for it to be fun. Kids have to navigate shared games, sports and works of make believe. By working together to act out their imagination or complete a game, kids get the chance to hone a lifelong skill.

It Instills Social Skills

Cooperation isn’t the only social skill kids learn on the playground. Kids also learn how to take turns, share, be respectful of others, negotiate, work out disputes and reconcile differences.

Like cooperation, these are all critical skills that help kids grow into responsible, positive, functioning adults.

Why advocate for more recess in your child’s school? With so many academic and lifelong benefits to its credit, you’d have a harder time coming up with a single reason why you shouldn’t.

Restful Tips for Sleep-Deprived Parents

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A full night’s sleep can look a little different for everyone. With kids — well, it can look somewhat grim. If you’ve found this article, chances are that grimness is what brought you here. Yes, those of us who have been blessed with non-sleepers know what it’s like to struggle with the morning light — even after a few cups of coffee.

But sleeplessness doesn’t last forever. Let’s hope not, anyway, or the world can just quit reproducing. The secret to actually sleeping in with kids is to take charge of your sleep. Here’s how:

Redefine “Sleeping In”

With diapers taking over your dreams, even sleeping until 7 a.m. can feel like heaven. Instead of considering what time you’re getting up in the morning, focus on the best way to maximize the times when you can sleep. Getting a good seven hours of sleep each night can improve your mood, focus and overall health. If you happen to get eight hours one night — well, you lucky dog, you.

Delegate Your To-Dos

Moms and dads these days are loaded with to-dos. Though asking for help may seem like some sort of weakness, it’s actually a truly valuable and strong skill. Take a look at what you need to get done for the week, and then see which tasks absolutely need to be completed by you. That teenager down the street may be grateful for a few extra bucks, so hire her to cut your lawn once a week. Time is money, and money can buy you time to sleep.

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Sleep When Your Babes Do

Many prenatal programs tell you this tidbit in their spiels: Sleep when your babies are sleeping. Why do they tell you that? Because it may just be your saving grace. Let the laundry pile up a little, drop your vacuum routine down to once a week and get some rest. And most importantly: Don’t feel guilty about it. If catching a few precious minutes of shut-eye during your kid’s downtime is what gets you through the rest of the day, don’t hesitate — just do it.

Go to Bed Earlier

Night owls, you know who you are! It’s hard to say this, but you may be doing more harm to yourself with your late-night routines. In fact, there are several reasons why going to bed late can be harmful to your health, many of which are caused by sleep deprivation. So, you see, sleep is super important for your overall well-being. With that in mind, raise your right hand and say the following:

“Yes, I love late-night television, but I love sleeping more. I swear to head to bed at least ten minutes earlier tonight so I can catch some much-needed zzzs.”

If you felt embarrassed doing that, don’t — your rest is important. If you just didn’t do it, press rewind and do it — your rest is important.

Establish a baby bedtime routine

A bedtime routine is important for the kiddos — and for you. When it comes to nighttime with little ones, 7 - 8 p.m. is your sweet spot for sleeping. Get that bedtime routine going with calming activities. Have your kids turn off their electronics, take a warm bath, and snuggle up in their pajamas with a good book before you tuck them in. Once they’re in bed enjoy your own calming bedtime routine.

Don’t Add Unnecessary Activities

If you’re the type to keep a detailed calendar, go over it to look for unnecessary activities. Prioritize your duties into must-dos, want-to-dos and those that can take a walk out the door. Once you’ve purged, don’t add anything else.

Eliminate Bedtime Screen Watching

Though it’s tempting to scan social media before bed or turn on a kid’s show for your toddler to watch while eating his bedtime snack, try to keep the temptation at bay. Use of electronics before bed can actually lead to restlessness and up to an hour of lost sleep. Instead, power down the screens a good 30 minutes to an hour before bedtime and opt for leisurely, calm activities, like reading, doing puzzles or listening to relaxing music. 

Watch What You Eat

Your kids have bedtime snacks, so why shouldn’t you? Well, it turns out that late night eating may actually be harming your sleep patterns. Eating late at night can actually cause your sugar to spike, which — in turn — can make you antsy. It can also be a mindless activity as you relax in front of the tube. This, in turn, can lead to overeating and stress out your digestive system. If you must grab a bite, grab a piece of fruit or a cheese stick.

Having kids is one of the best things in the world, but having kids and sleeping seven hours a night is something shy of nirvana. Take control of your sleeping with these tips and tricks, and wake up refreshed no matter what ungodly hour your little one decides is best for morning.