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Saturday, December 31, 2011


We love grapes, but they go bad before we can finish them. The problem? I have been washing the entire bunch and setting them in a bowl on the counter. Washing the grapes speeds up the decay process, and leaving them at room temperature is a sure way for them to wind up in the garbage.

I've found that by putting them in the fridge and washing a small portion right before serving, the grapes will last up to a week. For a cold, delicious treat, try freezing your grapes.

I'm all for finding ways to save money and make our food last longer.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Secret Word

One person leaves the room while the rest of the group decides on a secret word such as "toothbrush."

When the player returns to the group, the other players engage him in conversation and try to get him to say the secret word.

Once he says the word, another player leaves the room and a different word is chosen.


Saturday, December 3, 2011

Mood Music

Give everyone (including yourself) a few sheets of paper and crayons or colored pencils. Tell your crew that you are going to play several different songs and, while each song is playing everyone is to draw how the music makes them feel.

For the first song, you might put on something slow and mellow. For the second song, crank up a tune with plenty of loud guitars. You may even want to try something fun like Irish folk music.

After you've finished your pictures, compare the mood of each piece. Can everyone see how the music affected their feelings?

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The Spelling Chain

This is a game that you can play whether you're on the road or you need something to lighten the mood around the dinner table:

One person starts the game by calling out a letter, and each person in the group takes turns calling out letters in an attempt to spell a word. For example:

Player 1: D
Player 2: O
Player 3: G

After the word is completed, the next player in line gets to start the next word. The fun thing is that when you choose the starting letter, you have no idea what the finished word will be.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Sort it Out

Well, it's another cold, rainy morning which means the kids will be trapped in the house all day. One of the things we'll do today is play a game called Sort it Out.

I'll gather up a bunch of pennies, buttons, safety pins and small pieces of uncooked pasta and mix them together. Then, I'll have the kids sit near each other and then divide the mixture between them. On the "go" signal, the kids will start sorting the objects into piles: a pile of pennies, a pile of buttons, etc.

Whoever sorts all of their objects into piles first is the winner, and the winner gets to decide where everyone sits at the table for lunch.

This game can also be played by one child. He can either compete against himself by timing himself on an egg timer and then trying to beat his previous time, or he can play without a time limit and simply sort the objects for fun.

Saturday, November 5, 2011


One of the great joys of traveling is taking in the scenery, but, what do you do during those long stretches of empty desert or endless farmland?

Family trips are a time for us to connect and I do everything I can to ensure that nobody "tunes out." We don't have a television in our car, we don't play video games on trips, and iPods are not welcome in our vehicle, so I have to be creative in order to keep our journeys fun for the kids. One of the games that we play is called "Next."

Have each person guess what color the next car coming in the other direction will be. After everyone calls out their chosen color, wait until you see the next car on the horizon. It's such a kick when the kids are on the edge of their seats trying desperately to see what color it is. When the color is confirmed, the person who chose it does a fun little victory dance.

We also play "Next" when sitting in a restaurant or waiting room. Take turns guessing what color shirt/dress the next person through the door will be wearing.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Supermarket Detective

Why is grocery shopping with kids such a nightmare? The problem is that it is SO boring. Here’s how you can turn your next shopping trip into a fun-filled activity:

 Tell your kids that they are going to be “supermarket detectives,” and it’s their job to find every letter of the alphabet in order somewhere in the store. Ask them to start out by looking for the letter “A,” then move on to the letter “B.” They can find the letters on signs, packages, and even on those annoying TV screens that bombard you with commercials while you’re shopping.

Once they complete the alphabet, have them start with the number 1 and repeat the search. What’s the largest number they can find before reaching the car? HINT: when looking for double or triple digit numbers, you can pull them out of numbers in a series. For example, if I’m looking for the number 132, I could call it on a product code like 7813265.

Believe it or not, by keeping kids busy with simple games like this, they can actually enjoy their time at the store.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Toy Change

Kids love toys, but they soon become bored with them.

Separate their toys into several large plastic tubs. Leave one of the tubs out where they can play with the contents, and then put the others away in a closet or the garage.

When boredom strikes, pull out one of the tubs that has been set aside for a few months.  Open it up and let the fun begin. It's like having a mini-Christmas. 

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Link It

If you’re on a road trip or are stuck in a waiting room and the kids are getting antsy, try playing Link It.  

Someone starts by saying a word such as, “feather.” The next person must come up with a word that starts with the last letter of that word, like, “rabbit.”

The next person might say, “tree,” and so on. You can make it more challenging by requiring the words to relate to each other. For example, if I say “banana,” the next player would have to say something like “apple,” or, “artichoke,” which are both things that you eat.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

How Does this Thing Work?

Is your vacuum on the fritz? Has your radio given up the ghost? If it can’t be fixed, don’t throw it out. Give your child a screwdriver and let her remove all of the screws and take it apart piece-by-piece (with it unplugged, of course.)

This is a wonderful way to teach your kids about the inner workings of household items. Make sure she knows that she is never to take things apart unless you give her permission.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

"Painting" with Water

Are your kids bored? Send them outside with a cup full of water and a paintbrush and ask them to paint a picture on the sidewalk or driveway.

If it's a hot day, paint in a shady spot so that the pictures won't dry up before they're finished.

Hand them a digital camera and let them photograph their masterpieces. Print the photos, and help them create a portfolio of their artwork in a photo album.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

We Can Work it Out

My son and daughter normally get along very well but, they do have their American Gladiator moments.

On the rare occasions that they argue and snipe at each other, I stay back and just let it run its course. It's important for them to learn how to resolve conflict on their own and if I step in to referee every time they raise their voices, they'll never learn for themselves.

If the arguments become too heated, I use the following trick: I send them both into the same room, tell them that they can't come out until they've worked it out and then I shut the door. This usually helps them to resolve the issue within a few minutes so that they no longer have to sit in the room together.

Too bad we can't use this method with the adults in our lives who don't see eye-to-eye.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Check the Piggies!

One evening, my two-month-old daughter was crying as though the world were coming to an end. She wasn't wet, she had just eaten and had enjoyed a long nap, so I had no idea what was causing her to cry.

I tried everything I could to comfort her, but nothing was working. Her wails grew louder and more frantic and I of course started to cry as well, thinking that something was horribly wrong.

Then I remembered something that I had read weeks before and had dismissed as ridiculous. It had said that if your baby is crying uncontrollably and you are unable to determine the reason, you should check her feet to see if a piece of hair had wound itself around one of her toes. Like I said: ridiculous!

But, it couldn't hurt to check, right? Sure enough, I found a piece of my long, dark hair wound tightly around my daughters tiny toe. It was wrapped so tightly that I had a difficult time removing it. Once it was removed, her tears subsided.

MORAL OF THE STORY: pay attention to all of the silly tips you hear. You never know when they might come in handy.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Welcome to Happy Kid City

Years ago I was at a gathering where a new Mommy was showing off her little bundle of joy. As I peered into the folds of the blanket at the little person nestled inside, I couldn't help but smile. "Oh my gosh... she's so cute!" I said. "How long until her eyes open?"

NOTE TO MY READERS: babies are not kittens. Tuck that little piece of info away and save yourself from being reminded of it for the next 20 years.

Many years later as I was expecting my first child, it suddenly hit me: there is a tiny person inside of me who will soon be mewling in my arms. This person will depend on me for EVERYTHING. This person will look to me for training, guidance and advice. When I realized the gravity of this life-changing event, I did what came naturally. I panicked.

I know nothing about kids! How on earth can I raise a child when I know nothing about them? I started scouring books and magazines and interviewing parents about what works and what doesn't work when it comes to kids. I filled notebooks with the information that I learned and my friends and family thought I was going completely overboard.

Well, it turns out that I wasn't going overboard after all. I'm happy to say that all of that learnin' paid off and I have two happy, well-adjusted kids. 

Here at Happy Kid City, I'd like to share some of the things that I've learned over the years so that it may help you smooth the rough waters of parenthood.