10 Fun Conversation Starters for Kids


With the school year in full swing, you are probably up to your eyeballs in great after school conversations with your kids.  Wait, you’re not? Don’t worry, most parents are sitting in the same after school boat.

If you seem to be getting nowhere with the traditional “How was your day?”, try one of these with your kids:

  1. Did you smile or laugh extra today?
  2. Did you learn anything that surprised you today?
  3. What part of school do you enjoy the best besides recess?
  4. What did you enjoy about your lunch today?
  5. What was the most boring part of your day?
  6. Who did you play with today at recess (sit with at lunch, etc.)?
  7. How did someone help you today? Did you help someone?
  8. Tell me the top two things from the day. Why are they your top two?
  9. If you had a camera at school today, what picture would you have taken?
  10. What are you looking forward to tomorrow?

Looking for more great after school conversation starters?  Check out this list from Momalot.

Michael Bublé’s New Video Has Parents Grabbing the Kleenex


Although it appears this song was launched back in March, the video has been making the social media rounds lately–perfectly timed for those parents who are sending their children off to college.

They say that when it comes to parenthood, the days are a long, but the years are short.  This video proves that for sure is a fact.

Grab the Kleenex and give it a watch.

This Girl is Nails What First Day of School Feels Like


This is one of the best before/after photos we have ever seen.


Looking at the picture taken before she left in the morning, five-year-old Lucie from Glasgow, Scotland, was certainly ready for her first day of school. Her uniform was pressed, tie was straight, and her bow was perfectly positioned in her perfectly coifed hair.

And then she came home after a long day at school.

Her pulled together look from the morning couldn’t quite hold itself together after a hard day of learning, playing and seeing her friends.  “I think she was just excited to see her friends after the summer break,” her mom told reporters.  “Nothing specific happened.”

I don’t know about you, but I can totally relate to this.  Nothing big has to happen during my day either and I still feel a little disheveled when I walk through the door at the end of the day. This little girl is all of us—both parents and kids.

“Anyone can relate to it, either going to school or after a night out,” says her mom.  “It’s a before-or-after I think adults can relate to because of that, and parents can relate to it because their kids may come home in the same state.”

Did you take a before-and-after first day of school pic?  Or do you have one of yourself that shows how even the best of days can leave us feeling a bit overwhelmed?  We’d love to see it—share it with us in the comments or on our Facebook page.

Tips for How to Positively Parent Toddlers


Now that the school year is back in full swing, those long days of meltdowns and crying are a thing of the past. Unless you are the parent of a toddler.

“When you have a toddler, there are days that are so utterly exasperating that you don’t even know if you’ll survive until sunset,” writes Jennifer Parris for Romper.  “And when you’re at your wit’s end (and it’s only 9:43 a.m.), you wonder if that snarling beast looking back at you in the mirror is really your own reflection. (Sadly, it is.) That’s when you need to breathe deeply, mama, and try to practice positive parenting techniques for toddlers.”

Here are some of Jennifer’s best parenting toddler techniques:

Slow Your Speech
“Children do not process sound at the same rate and pace as adults,” says Dr. Rebecca Jackson, VP of Programs and Outcomes at Brain Balance Achievement Centers. “To have young children comprehend what you are saying use fewer words, with bigger spaces in between your words.”

Have Realistic Expectations
“You have to match their age and their ability,” says Dr. Jackson. “A child’s development does not always match their age in all areas, so to set them up for success pay attention to what they can do, and set expectations at that level.”

Pay Attention to Your Child’s Physical Cues
Since a toddler doesn’t always have the ability to communicate through words what he’s thinking or feeling, you can get a good guesstimate if you’re headed towards naptime (or a meltdown) from his physical cues. Closely watch his facial expression and body language to gain a greater sense of how he’s feeling so that you can better help him.

Get Down to Their Level
When you want to convey a message to your child, perhaps when he’s upset or needs to be spoken to, you should kneel down and make eye contact, advises Dr. Jackson. By doing so, “you are just simplifying your message so they capture more of your key content,” she says.

Enforce Limits
Positive parenting does not mean that your child has no boundaries. It’s important to set limits with your toddler in a realistic way. One way to do this is to be empathetic. If your kiddo cries when you put her to bed, empathize and validate her emotions. Saying things like “It’s hard going to sleep early, right?” shows your child that bedtime isn’t a punishment and that you understand her frustration.

Read all 10 of Jennifer’s parenting toddler tips here. Share with us your best tips for keeping your toddler happy, healthy & entertained in the comments below or on our Facebook page.

15 Things Every College Freshman Should Know


Sending your child off to their first year of college?  If you’re like New York Times writer Kelly Corrigan, you might be worried they won’t remember all the important things.  “To every child everywhere who is leaving home soon, could we agree that we love each other and that’s what matters?  And real quick, before you go, let’s just make sure we covered everything. “

According to Kelly, here are a few of the important things every kid headed off to college should remember (read all of them here—it’s worth your time!):

  1. Don’t take other people’s Adderall to help you study.
  2. When you see a soldier in uniform you should say “Thank you for your service”
  3. When you’re in your dorm room, prop your door open so people can lean in.
  4. When you’re walking around on campus, put your phone in your backpack so you can say hi.
  5. Make your Uber driver say your name and let a friend track your location before you get into the car.
  6. Don’t let anyone make you a drink.
  7. Don’t be afraid to stay home sometimes.
  8. The stamp goes in the upper right-hand corner of the envelope.
  9. One minute of meditation is the world’s easiest mood reset.
  10. Go to the professor’s office hours—not enough people do that.
  11. Activism often works.
  12. Go abroad.
  13. Get some sleep.
  14. Be patient.
  15. Be nice. To yourself too.

What things are you making sure your child knows before you leave them at school?  We’d love to hear your advice.  Share it with us on our Facebook page.

Click here to read Kelly’s entire piece and if you are a parent who is—or who will soon be—leaving a child at college, grab some tissue.

5 Rules for Hosting a Crappy Dinner Party


If having friends over for dinner causes you great anxiety, have we got an idea for you!

In an article for The Kitchn, writer Kelley Powell is giving us permission to throw away our dinner party stress by hosting a Crappy Dinner Party.

Yes, that’s right, a Crappy Dinner Party.

When Kelley’s friend Laura moved away to a smaller community she discovered that people just showed up to each other’s houses, unannounced. “People feed each other whatever happens to be in their fridge that day.  There’s no preparation, no stress–just pure enjoyment.”

Pure enjoyment!  “Crappy dinner is all about placing the priority on what truly matters, and accepting life–and motherhood–for all of the beautiful, crappy things it throws your way,” says Kelley.  “Tension is who you think you should be. Relaxation is who you are.”

Ready to throw your own Crappy Dinner Party?  Here’s how:

  1. No housework is to be done prior to a guest’s arrival.
  2. The menu must be simple and not involve a special grocery shop.
  3. You must wear whatever you happen to have on.
  4. No hostess gifts allowed.
  5. You must act like you’re surprised when your friend and her family just happen to show up at your door (optional).

Click here to read Kelley’s entire piece–and let us know how your first Crappy Dinner Party goes!




Toni Morrison’s Parenting Advice


Last week, we were saddened to hear of the passing of author Toni Morrison.  There has been an outpouring of tributes, but the one that has stuck with us is this gem from one of our other favorite authors Brené Brown.

Brené writes:

“Morrison was on Oprah talking about her book The Bluest Eye. Oprah said, “Toni says a beautiful thing about the messages that we get about who we are when a child first walks into a room,” and she asked her to talk about it.

Toni Morrison explained that it’s interesting to watch what happens when a child walks into a room. She asked, “Does your face light up?”

She explained, “When my children used to walk in the room when they were little, I looked at them to see if they had buckled their trousers or if their hair was combed or if their socks were up. You think your affection and your deep love is on display because you’re caring for them. It’s not. When they see you, they see the critical face. What’s wrong now?”

Her advice was simple, but paradigm-shifting for me. She said:

“Let your face speak what’s in your heart. When they walk in the room my face says I’m glad to see them. It’s just as small as that, you see?”

As most of us head back into the busyness of a school year this week or next, let us remember to stay present in each parenting moment—conveying how happy we are to just be with our kids even when book bags are thrown on the floor or homework is left on the dining room table.

To read the entire article from Brené, click here.

How to Raise a Resilient Child


We were so happy to see our friend Adam Russo, on the cover of this month’s Naperville Magazine.  The magazine published an excerpt from his book, Unwritten Rules, including these 4 strategies parents can use to help their kids become successful adults.

Delay Gratification
While our culture becomes more “instant,” the things that lead to success haven’t changed. It still takes hard work, determination, motivation, failure, and perseverance to be successful. No matter how convenient our culture becomes, or how many barriers get removed in order to streamline processes to make our lives easier, or how many devices are created to help us be productive, being able to delay gratification will be essential to success in any field.

Teach Resiliency
We must be real. Life is hard and filled with many struggles. Our ability to respond in effective ways to these struggles is what makes people great. Kids will all have different fights to fight. But if they’re not prepared to manage the negative emotions when these battles come, they’re being set up to lose. As parents, we can’t guarantee their success, but we can ensure that they are best prepared for the fight.

Manage Emotion
Most kids can’t learn how to manage emotions independently and adaptively—that must be taught. Anxiety is just a feeling that we all have. The ones who are able to keep anxiety in its place are the ones who can learn what this feeling is, how they experience it, and how to best cope with it.

Require Accountability
Parents can make many excuses for themselves in order to let the little things go. But if that’s all they do, then there is no way the child will learn how to be responsible for themselves and cope with the anxiety and frustration they will inevitably face when they enter the adult world.

To read the entire article—including Adam’s tactics for making the above strategies stick—click here.





and we couldn’t wait to share some of it with our Branch community.


How to Talk to Kids about Scary Events


With today’s constant stream of information, it isn’t always easy to shield our children from the scary events and situations that happen around the world.  Although we can’t control what happens, we can control how we–and our children–respond to such tragedies.

We found these tips from Loyola University Medical Center to be very helpful when it comes to talking to your children about scary world events:

Ask Them What They’ve Heard
…And correct any errors or misconceptions. “I would inform them that the information they may have received from school or classmates may not be entirely correct or may have missed important details,” says Loyola pediatrician Dr. Hannah Chow.

Use News Coverage as a Teaching Moment
If you can, watch the news first and use your best judgments at to letting your children watch it as well.  “Have a discussion while watching the news and help them digest the information afterward,” suggests Dr. Chow. “The older they are, the more they will be able to comprehend and process.”

Assure Them They Are Safe
“Let them know you are here for them and that you will do your best to protect them,” says Dr. Chow. “Also, remind them of how protected they have been in the past.” For children old enough to understand, create a safety plan. “Talk to your kids about safety, how to find safe places and how to locate the nearest exit wherever they are,” Dr. Chow said. “Have a plan for how they can communicate with you in case a tragedy occurs.”

Remind Them Not All People Are Bad
Talk about character and how to identify adults who can be trusted. “Point out that the majority of people can be trusted,” Dr. Chow says. “Teachers, firefighters, police officers, medical professionals — they are there to help you in the event you need them.” She adds, “I would let them know that only a small number of people want to hurt people and that people are usually kind to one another.”

And if your young child seems to still be feeling anxious and unable to to express his or her feelings?  Carolyn Klinkert, LCPC at Edgewood Clinical Services shares these tips:

Identify the Emotion– It’s important to understand what your child is feeling. If they can’t express it in words, try using pictures of emojis to get the conversation going.

Nurture the Emotion– Provide comfort and reassurance that the emotion is okay. During anxious times, take extra care to soothe your child and provide the extra attention they may need.

Give your Child a Sense of Control– Creativity and service can give children a sense of control for an event that was out of control. Examples include painting, writing a letter, donating to a charity, volunteer work, or any other activity that creates an outlet for your child to acknowledge their feelings.

It may be hard to know if your child’s reaction to unusual events is typical. If you have any concerns at all, consult your pediatrician, mental health professional or counselor.

8 Tips to Prepare Your Child for School!


Whether it is your child’s 1st day of school or their 5th year, going back to school can be stressful!

Here are Catherine’s top strategies to help you prepare for the beginning of the school year:

1. Get the details
Find out what the school will and will not provide so you can create your shopping list accordingly. I remember we made a big deal about buying the matching (and monogrammed) Cars backpack, lunchbox and water bottle only to find out that my son’s school issues clear backpacks and provides all drinks and snacks. Make sure to also get the 411 on the dress code before you click “Add to Cart”.

2. Refresh your child’s closet and dresser
A cluttered closet and dresser are huge sources of frustration (not to mention total time thieves!) for parents and children. Schedule time to declutter and tidy your child’s closet and dresser before the first day. Adding simple picture labels to drawers makes it easy for your child to find his/her undergarments, shirts, pants, etc. This will not only encourage independence and the
development of good organizational skills – it will save you time in the morning and evening.

3. Create a “daily drawer”
Organize daily essentials, like a toothbrush, toothpaste, comb/brush, gel, and hair ties in a shallow bathroom drawer that is easy for your child to access. Having all of these items in one place will save you time and hassle.

4. Use a checklist
Similar to the picture labels, a visual checklist outlining what your child has to do before heading out the door (i.e., make bed, put dirty clothes away, eat breakfast, get dressed, brush teeth, and comb hair) is a great tool to set expectations and establish routine.

5. Create a drop zone
Just like at school, add a hook and a basket by the front door or in a coat closet so that when your child comes home, they have a place to neatly stash their gear. This doesn’t need to be Pinterest perfect to function well – Command hooks and a simple Target bin do the job well.

6. Adjust your nighttime routine
Make lunch, pick an outfit, and pack the backpack and put it by the door each night before school. The more you prepare and plan the night before, the less you have to worry about in the morning, especially if there’s a “But I wanted almond butter, not peanut butter!” meltdown.

7. Plan for paper
There will be forms and LOTS of artwork. Without a plan, it will quickly accumulate on all your flats surfaces. Read 4 Simple Steps for Eliminating Paper Clutter and The Foolproof Way to Organize Your Kids’ Artwork for easy and helpful tips on how to manage both.

8. Build 5 minutes of “talk time” into your morning routine
Even if your child is an up-for-anything adventurer, the transition to school can be tough. Many children require extra attention and support during this time. I found that when I took five minutes with my son to snuggle, talk, and reconnect first thing in the morning that his anxiety started to go down. Three years into school and we still do this. It helps us both ease into the morning instead of starting the day on a rushed note. I also love that even if the rest of the morning (or day for that matter!) doesn’t go as planned, at least we had those few minutes.


Article Written By Catherine Gibel, MSW, Professional Organizer
Less is More Organizing Services Naperville

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