How To Help Your Boys Balance Fun And School

Kevin Doyle, over at Toys Advisors Blog has written a great guest post today about balancing. It’s tough with kids but especially with boys, if like mine, love to keep their heads buried in video games. Check out what Kevin has to say…..

Do you stand looking at the calendar and dread that awful date when school starts? Do you stand and recall the seemingly, interminable arguments that arise around school, homework, sports, computer games and hanging out? Does the incessant bowed head over a play station or tablet drive you nuts when you know there are school projects to be done?

Did you look into the bright eyes of your young son and know that there is an intelligent, curious being inside that fun-loving body and yearn for a time when he simply did as you said instead of rolling his eyes when you tried to get him out of play mode and into work mode?

If you answer yes to any of these questions, then read on, perhaps we can give you some idea of how to balance that schedule, so there is time for everything.

Draw up a schedule.

The first place to start is to have a schedule to which the entire family can stick. In our busy lives, it pays to have things laid out, so everyone knows what they are supposed to be doing, what their responsibilities are and when there is time to have fun.

The place to start is to give everybody a notebook with the days of the week on each page and the day broken up into 15-minute intervals. Ask everyone to take time in the week to jot down what they have been doing and how long it took them. In this way, you can show your boys that doing chores does not take for-EVER but take little time and make things so much better for everyone.

Get everyone around the dinner table and on a large sheet of paper draw up a schedule using input from the whole family. Record the time for chores, the time school, time for homework, and make sure there is time for play. Children will be more likely to stick to the schedule if you include them when drawing it up.

Be reasonable about the time set aside for each activity. It is pointless to say that a young child must do homework for three hours. They will not concentrate for that length of time, and you will end up with a recalcitrant child and many hours of fighting on your hands. Set time periods commensurate with the child’s age so that they learn to enjoy learning new things and don’t become bored or despondent.Blog guest 1

Make time for play.

It is very important that children see that there is time for fun in their lives, but it needs to be balanced with their responsibilities. So, when drawing up your schedule, block in the time at school, but don’t put homework immediately after school.
Allow a period for a sport to be played or for play and then block in some time for homework. Again, after homework find time for more play. In this way, children develop an understanding that responsibilities must be taken care of, but they can be balanced with fun times.

blog guest 2Fun can be educational too!

If your son is struggling at school, find ways to make his fun time educational too. For example, if he is struggling with math then find some games for his play station or tablet that will help him with his math problems. If you do not have electronic means of playing, then look around for educational toys that you can use to help him overcome some of his problems at school. Obviously, this supposes that there is no medical reason that he is struggling.

If your son is a little older, use his hobbies as a basis for helping him overcome some problem areas. Math is needed to calculate batting averages, touchdowns or yards gained, as well as calculating the cost of costumes for a play or working out the money saved by reading on an electronic device versus buying paper books.

All of these things can be made fun while helping him to understand where math fits into the world. There are many examples on the internet, so spend some time browsing and get some ideas on how to make his fun time educational as well.

blog guest 3Teach your son to multitask.

Take the time to show your son how seemingly wasted time can be used to achieve his goals. Is he sitting in the back-seat while being driven to soccer practice? Perhaps he could read that book on which he has to submit a report? Another idea is to get him to write out facts for a test on flash cards and take them with him in the car. He can learn the facts and you can make a game of testing him on the answers on the way home.

Set boundaries and don’t deviate.

To become responsible adults, children must learn that they have rights but all rights come with responsibilities. They need to be guided towards an understanding that at this young age school is their most important responsibility and while they have the right to a good education they have the responsibility to apply themselves to that education.

Applying themselves to that responsibility is a top priority, but there is time set aside for fun. When the schedule says it is time for homework then games, sports, and other distractions are turned off, and we apply ourselves to work.

Emphasize that removing the game box is NOT a punishment but a favor. Removing the temptation will help them to concentrate on the task at hand. A small treat after work goes a long way to making that task more bearable so break out the cookies after homework.

Teaching your son to set up and keep to a schedule will not be a walk in the park, but it is an important skill and life lesson that he will need to learn.
It is vital that children develop discipline and self-control as one day they will be off to college and into the working world where these life skills will make a huge difference to how they respond.

I am Kevin, co-founder of Toys Advisors blog. I have a lovely family with my wife Anna, my son Tom and my daughter Jane. I spend most of time with my family, I learn and share about parenting and DIY.

Crazy Blended Family Holidays: What’s a Stepmom to Do?

huff-po-christmaIn nuclear families, Christmas can be very hectic. There’s grandparents and extended family to visit and gatherings galore. If you have a blended family, let’s face it. Holidays can all out suck. The delicate schedule gets out of whack. The kids get shuffled and shuttled back and forth more than normal. Even parents can become selfish and accusing. Can you say cray cray?

Often times, stepmoms can get caught up in the middle of the whirlwind. But, hey, relax. The good news is there are still some things you can focus on to keep the season merry and bright without losing your jingle bells.

Focus on the season rather than the day. So much emphasis is placed upon the magical December 24th and 25th. However, if you’re like us, our Christmas is celebrated every other year on December 26th and the world does not end. The season of the holidays is a whole month so get out and enjoy it with the kids whenever you get the chance.

Don’t obsess with when but focus more on how. How to make it memorable. How to make it special for your family. With social media, it is easier than ever to find cool events and seasonal happenings. Last year, we took the boys to a woodworking toy making shop where we learned the entire process of how a limb off of a tree becomes a toy.

Focus on giving to others. For several years, my daughter and I have gotten involved with our local church to assist families in need. Gifts are donated through angel trees and we help them shop, wrap and load up their gifts to take home to their family on a designated night.

Last year, I took the money we set aside for my gifts and donated it to a soldier and his family through Vet Tix. “Vet Tix provides tickets to events which reduce stress, strengthen family bonds, build life-long memories and encourage service members and veterans to stay engaged with local communities and American life.” My husband wrapped the receipt as my gift, placed it under the tree and when we opened presents, I shared the story of the soldier we were helping. There is nothing better to take the focus off of the stress and ourselves like giving to others.

Focus on making new traditions unique to your family. Since we’ve moved into our neighborhood, we’ve tried to make little gifts for our close neighbors and friends and we give them out as a family every year.

For instance, one year I wrapped a can of soda and bag of microwave popcorn in a gift bag and attached a little message card to it that said Pop pop fizz fizz oh what a good neighbor you is. Last year, we decided to make homemade healthy baked dog treats and give them to our neighborhood dog owners.

Instead of having to decorate the tree on a specific day, we always wait and decorate the tree together. Each of our kids has special ornaments that they love to hang on the tree themselves. That way, now matter how the schedule falls, they still feel a part of the celebration of the season.

Focus on the reason for the season. The holidays can mean different things to different families. Christmas for us is a time to reflect on what we value and what we hold most dear and a time to remember the love born on Christmas. What ever makes this season special for your family is what’s important.

We have a special snow white stocking that hangs over the fireplace in front of the rest. All during the season, we write down special things and place it inside its soft shimmery folds. We write things that we are thankful for in each other or maybe something we have seen the other do and we are proud of them, or something that has touched our heart. When we celebrate our Christmas, we read them and try to guess who wrote it or who it’s about. It is one of my favorite times we have together!

I’ve shared about some of our holiday fun and ideas on how to keep the crazy to a minimum. However, there is one thing that should not be the focus. Don’t focus on the negative.  It’s toxic and unhealthy. The holidays with stepfamilies are already complicated so don’t poison it by focusing on the Grinches who would love to steal your Christmas. Reflect on what you value and what you hold most dear, the love that you have for each other.

The grass really isn’t always greener!


It’s fall and it’s beautiful out there!  We are fortunate enough to live fairly close to beautiful fall color so we took the kids to a state park for a picnic and hiking for the day recently.  In today’s world, on today’s income, money is very tight so we have always tried to do day trips and things that are low cost or my personal favorite, free.  The kids love it.  When I was first divorced and when we first got married, it would really bother me because the other parent would buy so much and take the kids on expensive trips.  (Ouch! I know I just hit a nerve!)  Yes admit it!  You have probably even been more than bothered, you may have even been a little jealous of some of the things the ex was doing and buying!  (Ouch! I said jealous, haha!) After my little “moments”, however I would realize there is not a thing I could do about it other than be the best parent I could be.  I would think of ideas that I or we could do with the kids to make memories.  When I was a single mom with my two kids, I took my kids in the middle of February to the beach for the night.  During the winter, alot of hotels offer very low rates at the beach so I was able to get a room with a queen bed and bunk beds as well as an indoor pool!  At the time teen was 8 and lil man was 3.  They were in awe!  I took them swimming that evening and to the aquarium the next day before going home.  Do you know my kids to this day still talk about that trip!  Another time the same year my husband and I were married we took the kids about 4 hours away to a theme park and stayed for one night.  I had gotten discounts on the room and the tickets.  My husband was just starting college and we again did not have much money but wanted to do something fun before school started back.  We had an amazing time, the five of us!  All the kids, again to this day, still talk about it and beg to go back.  Between my single mom days up until now, a couple of our kids have been given costly gifts and taken on expensive trips with the other parent, but here is something that surprised me…..they never really talked about it that much, or seemed to be as impressed as I thought they would be!  They talk more about the little things that we have done than anything else.  So here is the absolute best advice I could ever give from one blendermom to another: If you really want to impress your kids give them your TIME.  I know you have heard that before but I can’t emphasize enough just how true it is.  When you find yourself focusing on what the other parent or ex is doing, spending, etc….stop right there and start thinking about what you can do to give of yourself, your time to your kids.  It’s not about what the other parent is doing or buying its about you loving the kids and making memories.  We have watched the movie “Flubber” and then made flubber.  We made pudding art with painting chocolate pudding all over waxed paper.  We have got the kids up to watch a meteor shower or see a gigantic full moon rising while singing the moon song.  We have been to countless parks and tried new walking trails.  We have turned off all the lights, especially in the summer evenings, opened all the blinds, and watched a lightening storm.  We have on numerous occasions when the weather was bad, gone to a local bookstore and had coffee (for us) and hot chocolate.  Then the kids would each get a new book and we would come home and read them to the kids.  The list goes on and on but you get the idea.  It doesn’t have to be expensive.  It doesn’t have to be grand.  Whenever you think the grass is greener, that’s when you need to water your own.  For other ideas, read my blog  I would love to get comments and messages on what you have done to water your own grass and make memories.