Creating traditions, not just rules

The evolution of “Syrup Days”

Naming what kids can do is one of my default strategies, especially when I find myself in a negative place with my kids. See my post here if you missed it.

The other day at the park, Keener was throwing mulch and instead of naming all of the things he couldn’t throw it on (me, my sister, his sister, other kids, etc.), I dusted off the ole’ strategy of naming what he could do with mulch. While it doesn’t always correct the misbehavior, in this instance it did. Keener you can dig with mulch and you can fill up containers with it. Why don’t you fill up this car with mulch? Done.

A speaker I heard recently reminded me about a similar idea, but phrased a different way: have traditions, not just rules. Of course, rules need to exist and should exist. However, traditions name for kids what they can do and are positive. Other key benefits of traditions:

  • Predictable. Kids know they can expect them and there is such comfort in knowing that in their crazy lives, there are certain areas that remain the same
  • Family Focused. It could be as simple as “Mexican dinner Monday” or Technology free Tuesday – where everyone in the house participates.
  • Enjoyable. Who doesn’t love Friday night pizza? Parents don’t have to think about cooking and the kids know they will get one of their favorite meals at the end of the week. Everyone wins!
  • Lasting Legacy. Traditions are carried down in the family and don’t have to just be about the holidays! This is a great time to think about which traditions you want to continue from your own upbringing as well as introduce some new ones.

In our house, a tradition is “Syrup Days.” Keener loves pancakes. No, I don’t make him pancakes every day (you can buy them frozen and cook them in a toaster oven in 90 seconds!) But I try to limit the amount of sugar he eats, especially before 8:00 AM. Therefore, Syrup Days were born. Syrup Days are the weekends, Saturday and Sunday (and holidays). The weekdays are Butter Days. Therefore, we turned what could have been a daily battle or a “rule” of no syrup on the weekdays into a fun tradition of syrup on the weekends. He knows, and loves this tradition and never asks for syrup during the week. He will only ask, “Is today a syrup day or a butter day?” and then understands from there what this means for his pancakes.

What traditions do you have in your house? What rules could you change into traditions to focus on the positive? Especially when you feel yourself saying “no, can’t or don’t” over and over, consider ways in which you can form a new tradition for your family.

Keeping new toys organized; hide them

Keener received these awesome alphabet locks for Christmas from his great grandmother. A mom at Keener’s preschool recommended them and so far both kids are loving them. The only problem is, in total, there are 52 pieces… There are 26 letter locks and 26 keys with which to unlock them. And there is no master key! Therefore, the only way for this toy to be fun is to not lose any of the parts.

In this house, that is a problem. While I do my best to help my kids keep their toys organized, it is a daily struggle. One thing that has helped for toys like this is putting away part of the toy. There are four different colored locks and after scattering all 52 pieces across our family room, we are starting with just the 7 blue ones.

Having been a teacher for the past 12 years, my mind is always thinking about modifications. How can I make this (toy, lesson, skill, etc.) accessible to all of my students/kids? Putting away part of the toy is one way in which I am doing that for my own kids. My 2 and 3 year old simply can’t handle keeping track of 52 pieces. Therefore, I am modifying it by not allowing them access to all of it right away. They are starting with 14 parts, 7 locks and 7 keys.

Another reason for this modification is that Keener does not know all of his letters. The teacher in me really checks myself when it comes to “teaching” my kids academic skills. Keener loves locks, opening things, gadgets/etc. and as an added bonus, he can match the letter on the key/lock. I do not make letter recognition the focus of our play. Instead, we talk about the shapes of the letters (straight lines and curved lines) and see if the letter on the key matches the letter on the lock. There are also pictures on the back to work on phonemic awareness skills such as letter sounds.

I love these containers from Target to store toys. Since they are clear, the kids can see in them and know which toys go in which container. Right now, they are on sale for $0.80 if you have Target Circle. They are shoebox size and easy for little fingers to open and close. (FYI all of Target’s storage and organization is an additional 10% off until January 4 if you are part of Target Circle.)

Before it occurred to me to hide part of this toy, I used these circle stickers (which I also love – more posts to come on other uses) to label the blue keys. It was too overwhelming for Keener to look through 26 keys to find the one he was looking for so I eliminated that obstacle by color coding the keys. Then, he only had to look through 7 blue keys to find the one that matched the blue lock.

I was feeling overwhelmed with all of the new toys and keeping track of all the parts. I also was anticipating the disappointment when the keys would have gone missing and the locks would no longer open. While in a way it seems silly, a little organization can go a long way to feeling less stressed.

Think about which toys may be able to be partially put away, or fully put away. Sometimes, putting toys away for a month or so can make them seem “brand new” when they resurface — an added bonus! Now’s a good time to go through the toys and consider placing a few in the closet until the spring to allow room for new toys and declutter your toy space.

The new year is also a good time to weed through toys and decide with your kids which can be put away for good. Perhaps they have outgrown some of their toys which are ready to be stored for another baby or given away to someone else who would appreciate them. Brainstorm with your child potential neighbors, friends, church nurseries, or organizations that serve kids who don’t have much. It starts the new year providing your kids with a chance to think about others and build their empathy muscle.

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