Gardening with Kids

The weather is finally (!) starting to warm up, which means it’s finally time to start your summer garden here in the Pacific Northwest. While cool weather vegetables, like snap peas, lettuce, kale, and chard can be started as early as mid-March, now we can start  warm weather vegetables like peppers, cucumbers, tomatoes, corn, and squash.

The peas that we planted in early April have been languishing through all this cold wet weather, but they are still hanging on. Last week we spread some lettuce seeds, and they’ve sprouted this week. It’s made me excited about the summer garden.

Gardening is a delightful activity to share with kids, young and old alike. There are so many benefits to having a family backyard garden. It gets you out in the fresh air and sunshine and is an activity that can include all ages.

Here are a few tips to make it fun for everyone.

Begin with soil prep

Helping prepare the soil for planting means dirt and shovels and digging! What fun! If you work in raised beds, little ones will have an easier time knowing where their feet can go (outside the garden bed) and where their shovels go (inside!). It’s better not to walk  on the prepared soil, as that makes it harder for seeds to sprout. Seeds like the soil slightly tamped down, but not compacted. If you’re working in a garden with rows and paths, using straw to mark the paths for walking can be helpful for kids.

Start with quick to germinate crops

Choose seeds that are quick to sprout to maintain interest in the process. Green beans are one of the quickest to sprout and easy to care for. If you choose a bush variety there is no need to build a lattice to support vines.  But if a trellis is needed, you can easily make one with garden stakes and some twine. Tie the top ends of four stakes together using twine. Position the bottom ends about three feet apart, pushing them down into the prepared soil, then wrap the twine in a spiral on the outside of the stakes to form a trellis for the growing plants. Plant the seeds between the stakes, so plants grow up the twine to the top.

Create a garden log

Invite older kids to keep track of the garden’s progress with a daily log. They can record what was planted and when. You can also track daily temperatures, rainfall, and sunshine. Note when each crop sprouts. They can even measure growth rates and record flowering and harvest dates, for a full picture of how long it takes for a vegetable to go from seed to the table. Next year, your garden log will help you know when to start seeds and when to expect produce as the garden grows.

Don’t forget the flowers

I have one kiddo who loves to plant flower seeds and watch them grow and bloom. Marigolds are great at helping keep pests away from vegetable plants, so we often have marigolds at the end of each row, or around the edges of a raised bed.

Kids who participate in growing vegetables in a garden are often more willing to try new foods and eat what they have grown. 

Fresh vegetables, better eaters, and better nutrition – all brought to you by your backyard garden.

Board Games That Secretly Educate

April sure was a wet one! If you were anything like me, you were looking for ideas for yet another day indoors. We played a LOT of board games in April. 

That got me thinking about the games we played when these teens were younger. Not only is playing games fun but there is also a lot of great learning involved when you gather together for family game time.

Here are a few of my favorites, which are fun for parents, fun for kids, and a sneaky way to build on language, numeracy, geography skills, and more.

Bingo

Bingo is a great option for everyone. As soon as your preschooler is recognizing numbers and letters they can manage their own board. At our house, we invite early learners to help with calling out the numbers, giving them practice in identifying the letters and numbers. In addition to letter and number recognition, Bingo offers practice in fine motor skills and sequencing. 

Racko

Another great game for number recognition, Racko takes it up a notch and requires players to practice their counting skills. Kids who are skip-counting at school will love this game, where the goal is to be the first one to exchange randomly dealt cards for ones that create a rack that goes from lowest to highest. Players will work with numbers from 1 to 60 and practice waiting for their turn.

Uno

Uno is a great game for early learners, helping them practice color matching, number matching, and taking turns. If your players are really young, teaming up with an adult can keep the game fun for everyone. The adult on the team can help read the action cards while letting the child choose the cards to play when it is their turn.

Carcasonne

At first glance, this may not seem like a game suited for preschoolers, but our family has loved this game from the time my youngest was four years old. When they were younger we eliminated the scoring and competition, instead working cooperatively to build long roads and big cities. (I can’t take credit for this strategy. It evolved naturally out of my son’s natural inclination to help others. But it is a great way to play with preschoolers.)  The game is great for practicing pattern matching, as you must match the features on each side of your tile that connects to another tile. As the kids get older you can add more complexity, eventually adding actual scoring and strategy.

Ticket to Ride

Ticket to Ride takes the learning up a level, offering actual geography and language lessons. There are a number of different versions available, which provide lots of opportunities to spend time with maps and inadvertently learn the names of cities and harbors around the world. We had so much fun introducing some Japanese exchange students to Ticket to Ride that we sent our United States version home with them. These days we primarily play the Rails and Sails version, which is a world map and involves boats as well as trains. Like many of the best games, Ticket to Ride can grow with your family. Start with a simplified version for younger children and expand in complexity as they mature.

Power Grid

This one is definitely for kids who have reached double digits. It took us a long time to learn how to play, but once we figured it out, we discovered that this is a game that teaches not just gameplay and strategy, but also energy economics. Played on a board with a number of different cities represented, the object is to build and power the most cities. To do so, you must bid on power plants and acquire the raw materials to power your plants. As the game goes on, the value of the raw materials (and the power plants) shifts, creating the need to balance expansion with power plant upgrades. It took us a while to learn it well enough to enjoy it, but it was worth the effort.

How about you?

Does your family have a favorite game? Share with us in the comments below!

Cooking with kids

In the Montessori preschool classroom, an entire section of the curriculum is devoted to “Practical Life”. Practical Life activities embrace care of oneself and care for the environment. It includes things like learning to lace and tie shoes, close a door quietly, clean a table, sweep the floor, and sew a button. Preparing food for snack is also part of the practical life curriculum in the classroom. 

Even the youngest toddler enjoys activities involving food preparation. Toddlers can peel and slice bananas, stir together the ingredients for biscuits, and knead and shape them (think edible playdough!). They can help peel and separate oranges and hull strawberries.

Including children in meal prep is a wonderful way to combine time together with practical learning and skill development. Here’s how to make the experience fun for everyone.

Slow Down and Let Go

Remember that every child is still developing fine motor skills. Let go of any expectations that every step of the process will be executed quickly or neatly. Expect a little more mess and adjust the time needed for prep. Allow your child to go at their own pace, which may be much slower than doing it yourself. Give yourselves time to stop and clean up as you go along. 

Remind yourself that practice is the path to improvement. Let them try. Each time they will get better and faster, but in the beginning, we need to allow for the mishaps of early experience with a task. Not all the flour will end up in the bowl. Some of the eggshells will end up in the bowl. Carrots won’t be as neatly peeled as you might have done. Diced may look more like chopped. The imperfections won’t matter to the finished dish and there is value in providing the opportunity to learn a new skill or practice a familiar one

Prepare the workspace

Before you begin working together, get organized. If you are cooking with 2-4 year olds, you may choose to measure out the ingredients ahead of time. On the other hand, letting them help gather supplies and ingredients is good practice in following directions, provided items are stored on low shelves that are accessible to small people.

Lay out a large plastic cutting board to work on, so that it can be lifted and carried to the sink for cleaning. Have appropriate utensils at hand. Soft foods, like bananas and strawberries, can be safely cut by young children with specially designed knives that are not sharp. Smaller spoons and whisks can also help smaller children be more successful.

Don’t Show and Tell

Talking as you are demonstrating requires the child to simultaneously process both what they are seeing and what they are hearing. Instead, when helping your child do a new task, take a tip from the Montessori classroom and separate the telling from the showing. Begin by saying what you are going to show them, without any movement. 

Then show them slowly and carefully how to do it, without speaking. This allows them to focus on watching what you are doing and eliminates the need to also process what they are hearing. This video from Viola Montessori is a great example of what this looks like.

Cooking together provides children with practical skills they will use for a lifetime. By the time they are tweens, they will have the experience to prepare meals for themselves and their family. 

Enjoy your time together in the kitchen! Leave a comment and let us know how it goes.

How to answer when you don’t know

Our children look up to us as if we are experts in all things. We know so much that they are just learning. We are all grown up and they are still growing. Most of the time, we have the answers to their questions.

But there are times when we don’t. Hard things happen in the world and we struggle with our own feelings and understanding of the situation. We may feel like we are falling down on the job when our kids ask a question we can’t answer. But rest assured, you don’t have to have all the answers.

It’s ok to say, “I don’t know.” Or “Let’s see if we can find out together.”

Says Lindsay Braman, in a recent Instagram post, “Big questions from young kids are hard. The balance between dismissing or overwhelming with too-grown-up answers is hard to navigate. Here’s a north star to follow: most kids aren’t looking for facts and forecasting, they are looking for safety. We can soothe kids AND help build resilience to future adversity when our responses to these questions highlight strength, identity, and relationships [and help them] know that they are in a family that will keep them safe and support them even through really hard things.”

Here are a few tips for helping kids feel safe and supported when you don’t know how to answer their questions.

Give Yourself Time to Think

Sometimes, a child’s big questions catch us off guard. Maybe we are enjoying the flowers along the path during a walk, when suddenly the child feels safe enough to ask a big question. Give yourself time to attune to the subject by using an active listening technique. Rephrase the question and confirm your understanding of what was asked.

It’s possible that what you heard is not what they are really curious about. Taking the time to say, “It sounds like you…” and waiting for their answer buys you some time and lets them clarify exactly what they are curious about. 

Use the 4 Ws

Ask them one or more of the ‘who, what, where ,when and why’ questions. What made you think of that? Where did you hear about this? Who were you talking with about this? When did this come up? (Or How long have you been thinking about this?) Why are you wondering right now? Their answers to these questions will give you insight into what is prompting their concern, and help you respond in a way that addresses the underlying concerns even if you don’t have an answer to the question they asked.

Know that it’s OK to not know

If you don’t have an answer, be honest. It’s ok to say, “I don’t know.” Often, our body language and tone of voice are more important than the words we say. Even without an answer, we can be reassuring. 

Have they asked a factual question? If it’s something you can learn together, let them know you can find the answer together.  If it’s a question that involves family values or relationships and you don’t have an immediate answer, reassure them that the topic is something you will revisit when you’ve had some time to think about it.  (And be sure to revisit it, so they know their concerns have been heard and valued.)

Despite our kids’ impression that we know everything, we are all imperfect human beings doing the best we can from one day to the next. When we don’t have the answers to their questions, honesty and reassurance that we will keep them safe and supported will go a long way to addressing their concerns.

Power Hour Workshop: Building Healthy, Secure Attachment

Between birth and age 5, children develop rapidly across a range of areas: physical, cognitive, communication (language), social and emotional. Social and emotional development influences a child’s self-confidence, empathy, and the ability to develop meaningful and lasting friendships.

One of the best predictors for how happy and successful a child is in adulthood, according to Daniel Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson, is the degree to which they had at least one adult consistently showing up for them throughout their childhood.

Siegel and Bryson argue that ‘showing up’ doesn’t require a lot of money, time, or energy, but is really about the quality of presence. In their book, The Power of Showing Up, they outline the four building blocks of healthy development and secure attachment: that children feel safe, seen, soothed, and secure. 

They offer the following tips:

  • Safe: We can’t always insulate a child from injury or avoid doing something that leads to hurt feelings. But when we give a child a sense of safe harbor, she will be able to take the needed risks for growth and change.
  • Seen: Truly seeing a child means we pay attention to his emotions—both positive and negative—and strive to attune to what’s happening in his mind beneath his behavior.
  • Soothed: Soothing isn’t about providing a life of ease; it’s about teaching your child how to cope when life gets hard, and showing him that you’ll be there with him along the way. A soothed child knows that he’ll never have to suffer alone.
  • Secure: When a child knows she can count on you, time and again, to show up—when you reliably provide safety, focus on seeing her, and soothe her in times of need, she will trust in a feeling of secure attachment. And thrive!

On Wednesday, March 23rd, Heather Siewell, from Hearts With A Mission, will look at how to ‘show up’ for the children in your life. Join us for this one-hour online workshop where we’ll learn how to respond and react in ways that help kids feel safe, seen, soothed, and secure.

 

Lynne Brown is a freelance writer, former Montessori teacher, and mom to seven amazing kids, some of whom now have kids of their own. She loves writing on parenting and early childhood education. You can learn more about her at www.lynnebrownwriting.com.

Healthy Heart – body and emotions

February is American Heart Health Month, designed to bring awareness to the importance of heart health and encourage healthy habits to reduce the risk of heart disease.

What better time to raise awareness of heart health than the month we celebrate love with Valentines, hearts, and flowers.

Healthy Eating for a Happy Heart

One way to help keep our hearts healthy is with healthy eating habits.

The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) has designed a heart-healthy eating plan called DASH: Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension. The secret to this eating plan, says Charlotte Pratt, Ph.D., M.S., R.D., a nutrition expert at NHLBI,  is “eating nutrient-dense foods and meals that are lower in sodium and saturated fat, rich in fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy, and legumes.”

DASH includes recipes that are easy to make and family-friendly. Some of the recipes feature healthy versions of comfort foods, such as oven-baked french fries, chicken chile stew, and sweet potato custard. They include traditional African American, American Indian/Alaska Native, Vietnamese, Latino, and Filipino dishes. 

You can find these recipes, along with tips about safe cooking, what to stock in your kitchen, and food shopping at healthyeating.nhlbi.nih.gov.

“The DASH eating plan is scientifically proven to lower your blood pressure and cholesterol levels,” said Pratt. And NHLBI research shows that increasing your physical activity and watching your calories while following DASH guidelines will not only make your heart happier, it can also help you lose weight. 

DASH requires no special foods, and it helps you set daily and weekly nutritional goals using these simple guides:

  • Eat vegetables, fruits, and whole grains,
  • Include fat-free or low-fat dairy products, fish, poultry, beans, nuts, and vegetable oils,
  • Limit foods that are high in saturated fat, such as fatty meats, full-fat dairy foods, and tropical oils such as coconut, palm kernel, and palm oils; and
  • Limit sugar-sweetened drinks and desserts.

Combining these healthy eating habits with other self-care activities can help us handle stress and take care of the heart. 

Top of the list: move more throughout the day, get 7 to 8 hours of sleep, and try relaxation exercises such as meditation or yoga. If you smoke, try quitting, and develop a strong social support system to help keep you motivated. Learn more about DASH at www.nhlbi.nih.gov.

Managing Emotions for a Healthier Heart

Heart health is also impacted by stress. With chronic stress, your blood pressure, heart, lungs, and gut can all take a hit. 

The NHLBI also has tips for responding to stress that can help your heart be happier. Try these techniques on your own or find a teacher or class to help you get started. 

Don’t get discouraged if you don’t get the hang of it quickly. And if one approach doesn’t work for you, try something new. There are lots of options for destressing. 

Meditation. One of the most studied approaches for managing stress, meditation involves developing your ability to stay focused on the present, instead of worrying about the past or future. Find a quiet location with as few distractions as possible. Get comfortable by either sitting, lying, or walking. Focus your attention on a specific word or set of words, an object, or your breathing. And let distractions, including thoughts, come and go without judgment. 

Progressive muscle relaxation. To feel the effect, first tense your muscles for a few seconds, then relax them. Start by tensing and relaxing your toes, then your calves, and on up to your face. Do one muscle group at a time.

Deep breathing. Take in a slow, deep breath, let your stomach or chest expand, and then exhale slowly. Repeat a few times. Many people don’t breathe deeply, but it is relaxing and something you can do anytime, anywhere.

Guided imagery. This involves a series of steps that include relaxing and visualizing the details of a calm, peaceful setting, such as a garden. 

Getting your mind and body to a place of calm doesn’t always mean being still, however. Other healthy ways to manage stress include taking a yoga or tai chi class, talking to a professional counselor, joining a stress management program or an art class, or meeting up with friends for a brisk walk. Being in nature can be very soothing for some people.

Combining de-stressors like these with other healthy habits can go a long way toward strengthening your heart. Find exercises you actually love and do them regularly. Get enough good, quality sleep. And develop a strong social support system. Then rethink some of the familiar ways you may be coping with stress, such as drinking alcohol frequently or overeating.

Taking care of our heart health is a lifelong journey. To learn more about heart health from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, visit www.nhlbi.nih.gov.

 

Lynne Brown is a freelance writer, former Montessori teacher, and mom to seven amazing kids, some of whom now have kids of their own. She loves writing on parenting and early childhood education. You can learn more about her at www.lynnebrownwriting.com.

Who needs parenting classes?

When you are pregnant, childbirth classes are the norm. Expectant parents attend childbirth classes to learn what to expect during labor and delivery. 

Regardless of the choices you’ll make about where to deliver or medications to use during delivery, attending childbirth classes is one of those things most everyone does to prepare for birthing a baby.

Immediately after the birth, whether recovering in a hospital, a birthing center, or at home, follow-up visits by nurses or doulas will include discussions of lactation, bathing a newborn, and typical sleep patterns during the early days and weeks.

Many new parents buy a book or two from the myriad books that have been written to help new parents care for their newborns over the coming months. But sometimes, there is a stigma around parenting classes. While childbirth classes are the norm for most pregnant women, once home, attending parenting classes is sometimes seen as something done only by people who struggle with parenting.

Everybody can benefit

But the reality is, parenting classes are designed to support all parents, not just those who feel like they are struggling.

Parenting classes provide a community for parents, both new and seasoned, to come together with others who are in the same stages of parenting. In parenting classes, parents have the opportunity to hear how others are handling situations that are familiar, to learn new approaches when something isn’t working for their family, and reassure them that what they are going through might not be that unusual.

NPEN, the National Parenting Education Network, explains the benefit of parenting education thus:

Parenting education empowers parents’ confidence and competence.

At the Parenting Success network, we believe that parenting classes are for every parent.

The Parenting Success Network is a coalition of organizations in Benton, Lincoln, and Linn Counties that have come together to support and encourage parents with children from birth to 18 years of age. A primary component of this support is offering the opportunity for parents to join together in workshops and classes. 

Parenting Success Network

Classes vary in focus. Some are specific to parenting for different ages, like Live & Learn with your Wobbler, for parents of children 9-18 months, or Living with Your Middle Schooler for parents of young teens. 

Others focus on specific parenting topics, like co-parenting and parenting a child on the autism spectrum. 

No matter where you feel you are on the parenting success spectrum, joining with other parents for community and support will strengthen your parenting.

Parenting classes are for everyone. Because all parents can benefit from the support and community found in workshops and classes led by trained parenting education professionals. 

Take a look at the programs being offered and sign up for some parenting support today.

 

Lynne Brown is a freelance writer, former Montessori teacher, and mom to seven amazing kids, some of whom now have kids of their own. She loves writing on parenting and early childhood education. You can learn more about her at www.lynnebrownwriting.com.

Outdoors Fun in Winter

If we never went outside when the weather was rainy, or cold, or windy, those of us in the wet Pacific Northwest, would be locked up inside most of the year. 

Winter is a time of renewal in Oregon. Rains bring needed water to fill the rivers and lakes, soaking the forests and nourishing the grasses across the valley. Cold air sweeps down from Canada, and warmer winds float up from the south, making our weather alternately cold and wet, then mild and a little less wet.

But that variability doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy the great outdoors. Even during our cold and wet winters there is fun to be had in the Willamette Valley.

Take a Hike

As in all our other seasons, hiking is a great option during the winter. Should we luck into a little bit of snow that sticks to the ground and builds, hikers have the fun of finding animal tracks left in the snow. If it’s just wet, experience the way the trees create a canopy like an open umbrella and make a game of dashing from one dry spot to the next.

Look for birds

Many of our native bird species overwinter in the Willamette Valley. Spend some time seeing how many you can identify. Just this week I watched a tiny hummingbird perched at the top of my cherry tree and a regal Cooper’s hawk make a meal out of a recently killed raccoon on the side of the road.

Bundle Up

Make any outdoor adventure more fun with the proper clothing. Lined, waterproof boots keep your feet dry in all weather. Pair them with a pair of wool socks for extra warmth. A pair of rain pants over trousers will add a second layer of insulation to any pair of legs. Not just for the kids, rain pants keep adults warm and dry too. Keep that body heat in with a well-fitting warm hat, an insulated rain or snow coat, and pair of gloves or mittens. Bundled up with the right gear you’ll be warm for even the wettest adventure.

Find a Festival

Festivals don’t stop when summer winds down. Throughout the year there are festivals celebrating many Oregonian favorites. Hazelnuts, Wine, Music, Dancing, Bird Watching. So many choices, even in winter. Visit the Willamette Valley Visitors website for ideas, locations, and dates.

Get Moving

Simply taking a walk in the neighborhood gives bodies the chance to get moving, with all the benefits of exercise and movement. Shake off the doldrums and get the blood flowing. Let your little ones hunt for treasures – that perfect pebble or shapely stick, while you enjoy our great, wet, outdoors this winter.

Don’t let the rain put the brakes on your family’s outdoor adventures. Dress for the weather, and continue to get out there and enjoy this beautiful area we call home.

 

Lynne Brown is a freelance writer, former Montessori teacher, and mom to seven amazing kids, some of whom now have kids of their own. She loves writing on parenting and early childhood education. You can learn more about her at www.lynnebrownwriting.com.

How to build community in a socially distanced neighborhood

Kids are heading back to school, sort of, but COVID mitigation strategies mean that even schools that are offering in-person classes might not continue for long. Mask mandates are back, and social distancing is recommended. As quarantines continue and the delta variant sends hospitalizations rising among kids as well as adults, it’s clear that the pandemic is far from over. 

COVID-19 won’t last forever. But with no end currently in sight, it’s time to rethink how we approach social capital and neighborhood relationships. Is it possible to build community in a world where social distancing isn’t a short-term solution, but a long-haul necessity?

Familiar neighborhood connections like carpools, sleepovers, and after-school parties may have to wait, but building relationships is more important than ever. Here are some ideas for how you can continue to strengthen connections with your neighbors, even while we have to stay distanced. 

Hold a neighborhood zoom party  

Neighborhood porch parties may be a thing of the past – for now – but community starts with communication, and the internet makes digital communication easy. At this point, everyone’s an expert at zoom, so why not invite your neighbors for a zoom party? Play games, split into breakout rooms for small group discussions or hold a contest for the funniest zoom background. 

Start a silly collaborative art project.

Even a simple art project can become a trend that takes off. In one neighborhood, a family started putting googly eyes on random objects throughout the neighborhood and posting pictures on social media, and the trend took off. In another neighborhood, one family posted a mayoral campaign poster for their cat, and other families quickly took up the project, with competing posters urging people to vote for Rover the Dog or Luna the Cat. It’s impossible not to laugh when you see a rock with googly eyes, and silly projects like this make it easy and fun for everyone to participate. 

Plant a community garden.

If you don’t yet have a community garden, there’s never been a better time to start one. If there’s a vacant, unused lot in your neighborhood, reach out to the landowner for permission to start gardening there. Even small plots provide an automatic boundary for social distancing while enabling you and your kids to socialize with neighbors. 

Build a little library. 

A little library is a wooden box in your yard for trading used books. Put books in it that you don’t want, and encourage neighbors to take books they want or bring books they don’t. You can download free plans for building a little library and do a construction project with your kids, or if that sounds intimidating, buy a premade kit to put together. 

Make a chalk obstacle course.

Get your kids – and the rest of the neighborhood kids – moving and jumping with a sidewalk chalk obstacle course. Use different colored chalk to design different activities such as a maze to walk through, a dance challenge, or a classic hopscotch path. Have older kids design and draw obstacles for younger ones. To get the whole neighborhood involved, draw your course on a public sidewalk that’s used frequently so everyone can enjoy it. 

Organize a car parade. 

Car parades are a great COVID-safe activity since each family in the parade is essentially inside their own “bubble” while in their car. Although it takes more time to set up than the other activities, the fun is worth the effort! Reach out to neighbors to recruit families who want to participate in the parade, and choose a theme for car decorations. Then spread the word to everyone about the date and time, and encourage families who are watching to gather at the end of their driveways. If someone in your neighborhood has a speaker, you can put it in a truck at the front of the parade to provide music.  

Hold a screen on the green

Although the delta variant is more contagious than earlier versions of COVID-19, most experts agree that outdoor gatherings are still relatively safe when combined with social distancing. All you need for a neighborhood screen on the green is a large grassy field, a spot to hang a sheet, and a projector and speaker. Make sure that everyone sits at least six feet apart from other families, and encourage everyone to bring popcorn. Choose a family-friendly movie so everyone can enjoy it, and start the show as soon as it’s dark.

Sharing activities together is one of the biggest ways that people build relationships in a neighborhood. While the pandemic has made that more difficult, it’s not impossible. With a little creativity, you can continue to get to know your neighbors and show your kids what community looks like – even in a pandemic.

Could This One Day Transform Your Relationship with Your Kids?

In 2009, an intriguing children’s book by Amy Krouse Rosenthal introduced a novel idea that many parents decided to try for themselves. 

Jennifer Garner popularized the idea – one she enjoys annually with her own kids – in a Netflix movie

The concept is simple: Give your kids a “Yes Day.” It’s exactly what it sounds like: For one day, your answer to your kids’ requests is always yes. 

If you’re picturing your kids running wild for a day, eating candy for breakfast, and jumping on the couches, you’re not entirely wrong. For families who’ve tried it, the fun of it lies in saying yes to requests that would normally trigger an automatic “no.” But if you think that sounds impossible, think again. With a few guidelines in place, many parents have found that a Yes Day can be feasible for their family.

Before you start planning your wild day, though, you might wonder why. Why would any parent want to agree to everything their kids ask for a day? It can sound intimidating to follow your kids’ lead, especially if you’ve gotten used to constantly saying no. But you might find that saying “yes” is worth the risk. 

Saying no is often the easy option for us as parents. But the truth is, circumstances will say no to your kid more often than not – and that’s been more true than ever in the past year. For many kids, the pandemic year has brought circumstances that forced many new “no’s”: No, you can’t go to school in person. No, you can’t go to a movie theater. No, you can’t see your friends. No, you can’t go inside the store without a mask. 

Choosing to say yes to our kids when we can – as difficult and scary as it may be – sends a message much bigger than the activity we’re saying yes to. A Yes Day can help you gain a deeper understanding of your kids’ interests and passions. It can grant your kids a new level of autonomy, sending them a message that you trust them and that you’re on their side. Most of all, it helps you reconnect your relationship because, for one day, you’re not fighting with your kids. You’re not trying to convince them to do the things they have to do, and you’re not focused on the tasks you need to accomplish. It’s a day to follow your kids’ lead – no matter where it takes you. 

Ready to give it a try? Here’s how to hold a Yes Day for your family without breaking the bank or losing your mind. 

Start by setting some boundaries. Deciding to say yes doesn’t mean you have to keep every option in the world on the table. Unless you have limitless money to spend, set a budget limit (you don’t want to spend the next three months paying off your Yes Day bills!). You can do this per child or per activity, or you can set a total budget for the day and let your kids decide how to spend it. 

You might also want to set a location limit so you don’t spend the whole day driving. This could mean you tell your kids that all activities have to be within a certain number of miles or a certain driving time from your house, or it could mean you set a total mileage limit for the day – whatever works best for your family and your location. A time limit on each activity is also a good idea so you don’t spend the entire day doing just one thing (unless there’s one all-day activity that the kids really want).

If you only have one child (or if you have two parents and two kids who can split up), then choosing activities will be easy – your only child can get full say and follow any whim that catches their fancy. But if you’ve got several siblings and only one adult for the day, you’ll need to decide how the kids will choose activities if they disagree. You could have them take turns, so each sibling gets to pick an activity (time limits on activities will be essential if you take this route), or you could set a rule that they all have to agree (and you might be surprised how good they can be at compromising when you opt-out of your usual veto power). 

And speaking of time limits, many experienced Yes Day parents recommend one final rule: No activities with long-term consequences. That means no signing up for six months of expensive archery lessons (but one trial lesson today is totally ok!), no dropping out of school (but playing hooky for the day might be an option), and absolutely no new puppies. 

Once you’ve agreed on the rules, you’ll have to decide how to plan your Yes Day. Parents are divided on this one: some like it to be a total surprise for kids when it happens, while others prefer to pick a date in advance and let the kids plan what they want to do. Both options can be a lot of fun, and you’ll probably be inclined to decide based on your own personal preference for planning or spontaneity.

But since Yes Day is a day for your kids, not for you, you might be better off letting them choose whether they want to be surprised or not. Keep in mind that this sudden decrease in structure (and increase in power) can be unsettling for kids as well as empowering. Some kids will be overwhelmed by choices if you surprise them with a Yes Day, and they’ll end up feeling stressed and disappointed by all the things they would have wanted to do if they’d had more time to think about it. Other kids will get overwhelmed by trying to plan, and they’ll enjoy the day more if they just go with the flow and choose what they want at the moment. If you’re not sure, consider talking with your kids about the theoretical idea of a Yes Day and how they would want to do it if they could.

Even if you do end up surprising your kids with the date, it’s generally a good idea to spend some time talking about it in advance so your kids aren’t overwhelmed by too many choices on the big day. Some parents like to plant ideas and suggestions ahead of time, while others encourage kids to make a list of 1-3 big things they definitely want to ask for when Yes Day arrives. Other families plan the entire day in advance. You can also write ideas on pieces of paper and put them in a bowl to draw from if your kids get paralyzed by indecision during the day. The key is to prioritize saying yes to what your kids want in the moment – and to remember that your kids’ needs and desires on the big day could be different from what they planned. If your kids plan a packed schedule and get exhausted halfway through, don’t insist on sticking to the plan – be prepared to say “yes” to going home and watching TV the rest of the day if you need to. 

Finally, once Yes Day is over, try to bring some of the spirit of Yes Day into everyday life. For many parents, one day of saying “yes” to their kids can help them recognize how often they say no – and how often it’s not really necessary. As parents, we often say “no” reflexively, feeling that it’s our job to set limits as much as possible. But often, the truth is that 10 more minutes of TV won’t really have much of an impact on bedtime, and two cookies instead of one won’t really give your child a sugar high.

Yes  Day can help you to reconsider which of your family limits are reasonable and necessary and which could use a little more flexibility. Saying “yes” when you can is a way to increase kids’ autonomy and ultimately teach them responsibility. Saying yes can be an expression of respect and trust toward your kids. And the more you practice saying “yes” as a parent, the more your kids, in turn, will respect your “no,” because they’ll learn that when you set a limit, you have a good reason.