Why I’m Putting On My Rose-Colored Glasses Now

My son wakes up at 5 a.m. like clockwork. Like sleep is for losers. It’s so regular that my husband and I are now on an alternating schedule of getting up with him. Before we made it official it was too easy to feel like you were the one who was always getting up and to resent it. Now it’s simply a matter of mentally preparing yourself for the fact that you’ll be staggering out of bed before the sun to grab a hungry 16 month old and tiptoe downstairs to start the coffee and start the day.

Yesterday, it was my day and as I stood in my dark kitchen with my early-bird baby in one hand and the yogurt drink he was sipping in the other, I started to think about what life will be like twenty years from now when both my little ones are all grown up.

I imagined myself standing in that same kitchen some late morning in my quiet house with my husband reminiscing about the past. And what I suddenly pictured myself saying was “Remember when Bo used to wake up at 5 a.m. like clockwork? It was hard sometimes but I wouldn’t give that time with him up for anything.”

Too often we’re too quick to label many normal parts of parenthood annoying or an inconvenience or work. I do it, too, and so I get it. We’re tired. Overwhelmed. Sometimes balancing all the responsibilities of motherhood and careers. We don’t have support. Our to-do lists are never ending. And honestly, our kids can be ungrateful and incomprehensible to us. There are plenty of times when being a mom feels like the hardest and least celebrated role ever.

And then on top of it, I need to wake up at FIVE?!

But here’s what I realized standing there yawning in the light cast by the clock on the coffee machine:

I can’t change the fact that my son likes to get up before dawn. What I can change is how I think about getting up with him. Do I tell myself that it’s such a pain in the butt to drag myself out of bed just to have to spend the next two hours alone with a sometimes crabby toddler? Or do I wake up, rub the sleep from my eyes, and thank God for another few hours alone with my baby who is less and less babyish with each passing day?

I know what I’m going to choose. I’m going to put on my rose-colored glasses NOW instead of twenty years from now when all I can do is wish I could go back in time for another few minutes with my little man.

Giving Birth: What to Pack in Your Hospital Bag?

A week ago one mama in our forum asked what to pack in a hospital bag. Within minutes a long list was compiled by moms who have been there, done that. I knew I’d have to share it with our pregnant Mom Meet Mom moms who are expecting new babies soon and are unsure what to bring with them to l&d.

what to pack in a hospital bag packing a hospital bag

Here’s just some of what the our awesome moms had to say about what to include when packing a hospital bag:

  1. Bathrobe

  2. Your own Pillow

  3. Makeup

  4. Hair Ties / Headbands

  5. Dry Shampoo (get the grease out fast!)

  6. Tinted Chapstick

  7. Yankee Candle Fragrance Spheres (eliminate hospital smell)

  8. Take-home Outfit for the Baby

  9. Personal Fan

  10. Nursing Tank

  11. Cute Nursing PJs

  12. Yoga Pants

  13. iPod/Speakers

  14. Playing Cards

  15. Slippers

  16. Cell phone & Charger

  17. Camera & Charger/Batteries

  18. Toiletries

  19. Hubby Clothes

  20. Shower Flip Flops

  21. Cucumber Facial Towelettes

  22. Healing Balm for Itchy Feet (from epidural)

  23. Nursing Nightie

  24. Cash for Vending Machine

  25. Nice Smelling Soaps and Lotions

  26. Hard Candy

  27. Heating Pad for Back

  28. Computer/Ipad with Downloaded Movies

  29. Granny Panties

  30. Boppy Pillow

  31. Trader Joe’s Unsweetened Cranberry Juice – “Helps reduce fluid quickly!”

  32. Exercise Ball (call first to see if they have them)

  33. Pads with Wings

  34. Socks with Treading

  35. Books/Magazines

  36. Sweater or Hoodie (you can get chilly after childbirth)

  37. Binsi Skirt and Top for Labor

  38. Crocs for Hubby

  39. Small Bottle of Champagne to Toast the New Arrival

  40. Coconut Water

  41. Candy for Nurses – one mom said, “I was treated like royalty”

I’m not suggesting you pack all of these things in your hospital bag (that would be absurd), but there are definitely a few items I wish I had packed for my first delivery and made sure to bring along when our baby girl arrived last year. Think of it like a list of ideas, and pick and choose what works for you. One word of caution: don’t bring too much! You’ll probably be pretty busy/distracted with visitors, infant care classes and breastfeeding classes, and gazing into your new baby’s eyes.

Don’t see an item here that you think makes the hospital bag must-haves list for any mama-to-be? Please share in the comments section below!

Understanding Christian Homeschooling: A Day in the Life of One Homeschooling Mom

The following guest post comes from one of Mom Meet Mom’s favorite moms, Natasha. With so many of our members curious about the homeschooling lifestyle and how homeschooling works, we asked Natasha to give us a look at what a day is like in the life of a Christian homeschooling mom and child. 

Hello! First, I want to thank the founders of Mom Meet Mom for this opportunity. This experience has been another unforeseen gift and blessing from God.

To me, every child is extraordinary. The minds and hearts of young children are incredibly fresh and new — radiating a certain curiosity and wonder that is extremely beautiful. As parents, I think all of us want the best for our children, and we hope that we’re able to see them reach their full intellectual and spiritual potential. Much like each one of us who visit Mommeetmom.com, I have many aspirations for my child (a daughter). I would love for her to grow up a well-educated Christian with great leadership traits.

A young child’s heart and mind is indeed astonishing, but it is also very fragile. Consider this simile:  A child’s mind is like a sponge that possesses an undefined capacity to absorb moisture.

Due to this state of both potential and fragility, I believe it is important to consider this: The life experiences of a toddler help to define the foundation for outstanding intellectual and spiritual qualities later in life.

It is paramount to choose the appropriate environmental factors for our children at an early age. That is why my family has implemented daily educational, social, and spiritual activities for our daughter since she was four months old.

Please note that I do not have an educational background; however, I do have the confidence and work ethic it requires to organize and implement such an undertaking. I believe that any dedicated parent can easily implement a similar “life experiences” curriculum for their toddler.

The “life experiences” curriculum that I have developed for my daughter didn’t necessarily fall into place. It has taken a great deal of research, trial, and error. As parents, we have differential goals for our children. In my case, I have had a desire for my daughter’s early education to be well balanced, organized, faith-based, and results orientated.

At four months old, I had an initial rudimentary schedule for my daughter that included a relatively limited amount of structured activities. With her increasing attention span, the growing need for a better schedule became glaringly obvious. I began to research the various ways that preschools, daycares, and homeschool families operated. I knew that I had to be open-minded and efficient. I looked at the activities that a typical preschool or daycare would conduct in a given day, and I have added new ideas for a more complete schedule. The resultant curriculum is generalized with time-allotted segments for specific activities.

This schedule might occasionally change or be conducted in different order due to varying circumstances, but I make sure we do these items each day:

7:30       Breakfast and Free Play (and see daddy off to work)

9:00      Arts and Crafts / Morning Walk (weather permitting)

10:00   Coursework: Several minute Starfall.com Lesson, Several minute Brill-kids Lesson, Discussion Topics: the Weather, the Letter of the Week, the Color of the Week, and the Number of the Week.

10:15    Snack, Bible Lesson, Music, and Dance Time

11:30    TV time and Mommy gets ready

11:55   Lunch

12:45   Rest/Quiet Time

2:00    Crafts and Science Projects

3:00    Snack, Story Time and, Sing-a-Longs

3:30   Coursework: Several minute Brill-kids Lesson (Repeat Session), Abcmouse.com, Phonics Awareness Activities

4:30   Free Play / Assorted Activities with Daddy after he returns from work.

Every day, we fill our hours with learning, fun, faith, and laughs. By having this schedule, I know our daily action items.

Notes Regarding the above schedule:

  • Between 4- 16 months old, my daughter completed two 3-minute coursework sessions (one in the morning and one in the afternoon) from her Brillkids Little Reader Program. At 17 months old, we started to focus on particular letters, numbers, and colors for each week.

  • Starfall.com has interactive short videos for the Letters, Colors, and Numbers. You can also use the other activities on the site such as explaining concepts, stories, phonics activities, etc.

  • I generally conduct all Starfall.com lessons activities prior to any Brillkids Little Reader Program activities.

  • I use Abcmouse.com for their printable sheets, books, and songs. I match these activities with our Letter, Color, and Number of the week.

  • I reinforce what she’s learning through educational activities with traditional activities throughout the day such as puzzles, books, arts and crafts.

  • Our faith and values flourish throughout the day too. When I adapted her schedule at 17 months, I also increased my efforts to teach my daughter about God and his love for us.

Nothing parallels the responsibility of raising our children. They look to us for guidance, and we can help give them the best outcomes with appropriate environmental factors. Whether it’s following my “life experiences” curriculum, or reinventing it as your own, it is possible that a detailed approach to teaching our children at an early age can make a great difference in the future.

Are you a homeschooling mom? We are looking to hear from other homeschooling moms who would like to share why they decided to homeschool. And if you have additional ideas for homeschool-related blog posts that you are interested in contributing, please send us your idea! To submit, please email christa@mommeetmom.com 

Letting Go of the Need to Keep Perfectly Clean Kids

Today’s guest blogger is a freelance writer, a blogger, and of course, a mom! She writes for WEtv.com and recently launched her own blog, http://anewmomintown.com, to help other moms navigate through motherhood without taking it too seriously. We asked her to share her tips for letting go of Type A tendencies. Here’s what she had to say:

Now that I have kids, my mom constantly reminds me about my first week at preschool.  The story always starts with…

“Your teacher thought there was something wrong because

you didn’t like to touch sand…”

Before I was a mom, I had no interest in debating that statement because it described me perfectly.  Sand.  Yuck!  For over 30 years, I managed to take mental notes of anything I touched that I defined as grimy, dirty or contaminated and looked for the nearest sink to wash the germs away (too bad I didn’t invent anti-bacterial soap when I had the chance).

Fast forward to 2009, my beautiful baby girl arrived.  It was hard for me to look at her and not promise to keep her safe and sanitized.  Her newborn months were filled with a morning wipe down, numerous clothing and diaper changes, and an evening bath.  I always felt so rewarded when other moms complimented how immaculate I kept her and joked they would have no problem letting their kid share a bottle with mine.  But when my little clean machine went to nursery, the new reality kicked in.

I would drop her off stain and germ-free and expected her to stay that way all morning.  However, when I returned to pick her up she would greet me with mulch jammed in her fingernails, left over snack stuck to her clothes, a giant hug, and sometimes a wet sneeze in my face.  What was happening?  My tidy tot was taken over by gross, slimy residue and snot, BUT more importantly FUN.

The laughter from this tiny hot mess opened my eyes and mind.  Kids are like sponges, I could either teach her to absorb my bad habits or my good ones.  I knew I had to make a mommy adjustment ASAP.  My obsessions may stick with me, but my days as a paranoid parent were about to come to a close.  Here are five things I learned from that day.

Let Go

Just because you’re a mom doesn’t mean you don’t make mistakes.  Recognizing your shortcomings and making strides to improve yourself is a good indication that you are ready to make a change.

Pop The Bubble

Face it.  Your kids are going to get sick and so are you.  It’s always good to practice healthy habits, but protecting your kids from every virus or cold is impossible.

Lead By Example

And I don’t mean you mom.  Take a cue from your child.  If she is having the best time rolling in the mud or jumping in the puddles maybe you should give it a try.

Challenge Yourself

We all want to keep our little angels fresh, but what about not bathing them for a night or putting them to bed without brushing their teeth?  The worst thing that can happen…they may make themselves sick from their stinky breath ☺.

Happiness is Contagious

Nothing makes a parent happier than seeing their child enjoy themselves.  It means you’re doing your job correctly.

Check out more of Hope’s writing at her website! And if you’re interested in guest blogging (real moms only please) drop us a line!

Courtney of Courtney Price Photography on Displaying Family Photos

Today we’re excited once again to feature a guest post by mama and photographer Courtney Price. She and her husband (lovingly nicknamed “the Milk Man”) raise 5 kids in North-West Washington. Courtney began photographing her own children when she realized that she could do a better job than the mall! The requests started coming and after a lot of practice and study, Courtney Price Photography was born. Courtney loves music and also teaches voice and piano lessons. She runs a lot, bikes as much as weather will allow, and is currently taking her first ballet class!

Because I am a photographer, of course you are going to expect me to say that you need custom photography in your home.

Well, as a person… I still believe that! However, I realize that in reality, sometimes there are things that need to happen first. Bills need to be paid. I still think it’s a worthy goal to save for: seeing beautiful images of your loved ones is proven to boost your mood (it can dull pain as well as give you a burst of adrenaline). But in the meantime, you can still get that natural high without forking out the big bucks.

First, trust your gut. Put your great snapshots up anywhere! Anything that makes you feel happy counts as a great shot. Be creative. It’s all about having fun. One of the lessons I have learned this year is to print pictures. Just print them, the rest will follow.

Second, don’t rely too heavily on pinterest for ideas. I know… I love that place too, but some of the ideas are downright silly. A 3 foot by 5 foot print from an office store glued onto a thin piece of wood is going to look terrible. Trust me. There are so many ways it can go wrong.

Also, this is a professionally printed canvas (the background, tape, and Polaroid look are all created in Photoshop):

If I tried to glue a regular photo onto canvas (this idea is all over pinterest), it will just not look the same. The image starts curling off the canvas, the canvas warps… it’s just a hot mess.

If the idea is too good to be true or tries to say that it is “just as good” as a professional product, it’s not. But there are still a trillion good ideas. One thing I get complimented on all the time at my house are these frames:

$1 each at Ikea. At times I have had pro canvas right next to them and the little white frames still draw the compliments!

It just goes to show that simple can be very elegant.

The third thing to remember is to use things in a different way than they were intended. You might be surprised at what you can find. This is just an old frame that I didn’t have anything to fill at the time, so my daughter just taped things to the front:

This is very changeable. Whenever you get a few new prints you can mix it up without feeling like you spent a million dollars.

This window was found at the ReStore for a couple bucks:

I distressed it with black and blue paint and I swap out the pictures or artwork whenever I feel like a fresh look. I use windows in many rooms in my house because they are so easy, cheap and changeable. You can hang them on the wall or lean them on a shelf.

Now that I have knocked pinterest, I do have to say that there are many great ideas there! I’ve seen ideas as simple as sticking pictures on a wall in the shape of a heart. I have always found that the ideas that are simple look the best. Some of the best tools are washi tape, sticky-tacky and clothes pins!

The bottom line? Don’t be afraid to print what makes you happy and get it up where you can see it! The results are good for the soul.

If you’re a North-West Washington mama, definitely consider booking a session with Courtney! You can find out more here:

  • www.courtneypricephotography.com
  • https://www.facebook.com/CourtneyPricePhotography
  • http://www.pinterest.com/pricecourtneyann/

When We Talk About Choice, Let’s Not Forget Dads

I’m a working mom. I am lucky enough to be able to work from home with my 15-month-old and for my daughter to be home with us for a good portion of the day. I was lucky enough to be able to work from home with her for her first two years before finances forced me back into the work force for her second two years. Working from home was a choice. Having to work at all is not, but I think I’ve made the best of things.

So much of politicized motherhood is framed, as you may have noticed, within the context of choice. Particularly the choice, if one can call it that in most situations, to go back to work or not. Choice CAN play a role in whether a mom decides to be a SAHM or a WAHM or a working mother, and I love to see moms doing what they feel is best for their families and for themselves. But I also know too many people for whom the choice was no choice at all. People like me who looked at a dwindling bank account and said, “I guess it’s time to put on my big girl panties.” And people like friends of mine who wanted jobs but simply could not find work. Or moms who wish they could work at home but can’t find a way.

It can end up getting very political – and nasty, too. There is plenty of debate as to whether women should stay home with children, and whether that’s a better choice or just one choice. Talking heads ask whether daycare bad for our babies – with it naturally being  big mean mama’s fault/feminism’s fault/etc. that baby is in daycare in the first place – or whether not being in a structured learning environment might actually be bad for our babies. What working mom hasn’t heard “Oh, if you were more frugal, you wouldn’t have to work” and “If you hadn’t been negatively influenced by X, Y, and Z you’d find some way to stay home with your children.” What SAHM hasn’t been asked “What DO you do all day?”

But this post isn’t about moms. It’s about dads. Way back when I had to drop my daughter off at daycare for the first time and I was simply sick with sadness, I thought a lot about how for some moms the choice to work or not IS a choice along the same lines as the choice to breast feed or not or to practice attachment parenting or not. But in all the choice rhetoric, you know whose voice is missing? That of fathers. When I went back to work I found myself miles away from my still so-very-little child wondering what she was doing that day. Did she miss me? Had she fallen and scraped her knee and thought longingly of me as she cried? Was she laughing, dancing, spinning and falling, and having a gorgeous time without me. It was heartbreaking.

And it was exactly what my husband has experienced five days a week, every week, since we became parents. There was no choice for him. He makes more money than I do. I have the breasts for nursing. It wasn’t even an option. And yet in his ideal world he would be home with the children instead of missing out on all the ages and stages that go back too darn fast.

He has been missing that good stuff that SAHM moms don’t want to miss or working moms are conflicted about missing or that we all can’t imagine missing for the entirety of our children’s existence. In all the talk of choice in parenting, he had almost none.

I’d love to see more options for fathers, frankly. Let them make some choices, too, and reap some more of the benefits of parenthood at the same time. Flex time arrangements. Better paternity leave options, or some split parental leave that families can use however works best for them. I don’t, however, know how to make any of that a reality.

Like I said, I’m a working mom and some days that gets me down. When it does, I think about my husband walking to the train every morning after waving to our daughter through window after window until he can’t see her any more. And I ask myself why those talking heads never talk about working dads versus SAHDs. And why we’re not thanking the fathers of our children more often for making that sacrifice, which is absolutely a sacrifice, without even being able to frame it as a real or imagined choice. And why hardly anyone ever acknowledges that spending 8 hours a day away from their kids can be just as heartbreaking for dads.

Because when mothers have to make the tough choices, I think many of us tend to forget that there’s a father there (or another sort of partner!) who in many or maybe most cases wasn’t even offered a choice at all when his child was born. And so after a day or a week – maybe a little more or maybe even no time at all – he was already missing those magical moments that we moms make the most of for as long as we can.

So let’s hear it for the dads who wish they could be SAHDs! No matter how many hours you spend out of the house every day, you’ll always be full-time dads as far as I’m concerned.

The Mom Travel Series: 5 Incredible Family Resorts in the Caribbean

When you think of vacations in the Caribbean, you may be like me and immediately imagine cocktails on the sand with calm turquoise waters and pure relaxation. There is a good chance children don’t have a place in this daydream. But what many of us moms (and dads) don’t realize is how many truly family-friendly resorts can be found throughout the Caribbean region.  For the first entry in our series of mom travel destinations, we’re going to take a look at five family-friendly Caribbean resorts:

PHOTO: Atlantis Resort

Jumby Bay, A Rosewood Resort, Antigua

Just two miles off of Antiqua, Rosewood Resorts got it right with Jumby Bay – a private island resort that brings luxury escape and family fun into one experience. It’s simply a perfect family getaway. Enjoy a cold beverage in the sand while your children get lost in adventure at Rose Buds for Children.

Divi Aruba

Have children under 11? This is the place for you! Right when you think the idea of all inclusive couldn’t get any better, it does. At Divi Aruba, your children can stay, eat and play (at the kids camp) for free!

Club Med Punta Cana

Club Med is a true diamond among all-inclusive family resorts. With raving reviews, it’s your chance to experience family vacation at its finest from one of the highest ranked family resorts in the world. Whether you’re escaping with your baby or toddler for the first time, or showing your teenager what fun in the sun is all about, this is the resort for you.

Beaches Turks & Caicos

You simply can’t search for “the best family resorts” without stumbling across a Beaches resort. Kids will have more than their fair share of fun with activities, regardless of their age. Like a DJ academy, Xbox Game Garage, kids clubs for infants and young children, and a massive aquatic playground featuring a lazy river, surfing simulators and splash zones.

The Atlantis, Bahamas

Escape to Paradise Island with your family for the vacation of a lifetime! The Atlantis Resort has everything you could possibly ask for in a family vacation, regardless of how old your children are – from gorgeous pools and an insane water park, to buried treasures on the beaches and a separate tweens and teens resort that will give your older children the freedom they desire, while building friendships with other fun vacationers their age.   As explained clearly on the Atlantis site, “There may be no resort in the world better suited to children’s love of discovery than Atlantis, with its incomparable ruins of an ancient lost world populated by schools of sharks and manta rays; with waterslides and water rides, beaches and swimming pools, its remarkably diverse play activities.”

Have you been to a Caribbean family fun hot spot worth the time it took to get there? Share it with us below!

I Didn’t Love My Son Right Away and I’m Not Ashamed to Admit It

When I gave birth to my son, I didn’t love him. I felt protective. Happy. Proud of having had such a fine, attractive baby boy. And proud of myself for having another fast, natural birth. I felt tired, too, since he decided to that four in the morning was the best possible time to be born. There were a lot of thoughts and feelings going through my head that day but love? Like the deep, intense, and crazy love I felt for my daughter? Was not among them.

It wasn’t there during pregnancy, either. I had a rough and lonely pregnancy that was marked by a previous miscarriage and made heavy by the possibility of Down syndrome. Having lots of ultrasounds is fun until you find yourself having to drive commuter distances to the big city hospital to get them because suddenly you’ve become their patient. Suffice it to say it was a dark time, and when Bo started making himself known in my belly it wasn’t joy that I felt.

I didn’t hate him… I just didn’t feel much of anything. He and I had to overcome some bumps in the road for sure. And we did.

Why am I not ashamed to admit that – or afraid that someday Bo will find this post and know that I didn’t love him the moment I first saw his sweet face? Because I am not alone. Even without the nefarious influence of PPD or birth trauma, many moms don’t fall madly, deeply in love with their babies at birth. Plenty take months to experience that mama bear feeling that for a lot of us is the first really motherly thing we feel.

Bonding, my own mom once said to me, is a process, not something that happens in a single moment in time. She was right. Looking back now it seems almost silly to assume that I might have felt for Bo on the day he was born what I felt for P. after nearly four years of caring for her day in and day out. She and I had a lot of time to get to know one another.

My son, on the other hand, was a stranger – and one, through no fault of his own, of course, who was associated with the grief and stress and pains of my pregnancy. We needed time to connect and figure out who we were in relation to one another. I can say now without hesitation that I love him plenty despite our early beginnings.

And that’s nothing to be ashamed of.

A Quick and Easy Valentine’s Day Craft for Kids

On no, tomorrow is Valentine’s Day and you need to figure out a craft you can do with stuff you already have because shopping is not happening!

Lucky for you I’ve got you covered with the easiest Valentine’s Day craft for kids there is: toilet paper roll heart stamps!

Here’s how it’s done:

valentine's day crafts for kids
To make the heart stamp, take a toilet paper tube and flatten it, then push on of the edges in. Bam, you’ve got yourself a heart. Bigger kids can use the heart stamp as-is – squeezing it for skinny hearts or letting it open a bit for wider ones. We, however, taped our rolls so they kept the exact shape we wanted.

valentine's day crafts for kids
I mixed up different shades of pink paint in addition to the red we already had and P. started stamping.

valentine's day crafts for kids
Knowing what I know now, I would have sat the rolls in the paint for a
bit first because they definitely work better once the paint has
moistened up the cardboard so it has a little squish to it.

valentine's day crafts for kids
P. liked to make patterns and to keep her stamped Valentine hearts from touching, but I overlapped mine in all sorts of ways.

I ended up liking the way it looked so much I grabbed a canvas out of the art closet and made something to display on the piano for Valentine’s Day!

valentine's day crafts for kids
Now that our hearts are dry all that remains to do is fold the paper into cards, write a sweet message in each, and deliver them to the lucky people on our list. :)

What kinds of Valentine’s Day crafts have you done with your kids this year? Anything super easy?

Valentine’s Day Crafts for Kids of All Ages

Another month brings another holiday, and Valentine’s day can be particularly tricky with kids. If your kids are in school, they might be expected to bring in valentines for their classmates; older kids might be venturing into their first real experience of Valentine’s Day romance; and, let’s face it, anything that can keep a toddler busy for a few minutes is worthwhile. If it happens to be thematically appropriate, so much the better!

Here are some ideas for crafts for kids of all ages to help get everyone into the Valentine’s Day spirit!

  • Babies and toddlers – painted hearts: keeping it simple for the littles, all you need for this craft is paper and nontoxic paint. Let your little one paint to his or her heart’s content, or until the mess exceeds your pain threshold. Once the painting has dried, cut out heart shapes (or have your bigger kids help with cutting), and address them to your child’s favorite grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, etc. Your child’s personal touch makes this an extra sweet project.

  • Preschoolers – love necklaces/bracelets: For the 3- and 4-year-old crowd, strengthen hands and improve manual dexterity (which will help when we get to the elementary school craft!) while teaching a lesson about love. You’ll need pipe cleaners or shoelaces, alphabet beads (make sure you get the kind with big holes), a piece of paper, and a pen. Ask your child, “who is someone you love, and what do you love about them?” Write the person’s name on the paper, and let your child use that as a guide to put the correct letters onto the shoelace or pipe cleaner. Then write the reason your child gave for picking that person, and give both the bracelet (if using pipe cleaners) or necklace (if using shoelaces) and the paper to the object of your child’s affection.

  • Kindergarten – fishbowl valentines: I love these homemade valentines for the kindergarten set; not only can kids do 90% of this craft on their own, but its also more friendly and less romance-y; some of the pre-made ones are just a little too adult for my tastes. You’ll need card stock or oaktag, blue paint, sandwich bags, tape, fish-shaped crackers, kid scissors, and a marker. Draw the shape of a fishbowl on the card stock, and ask your child to paint it blue for the water – watercolor paints work great for this. Then have your child cut out the fishbowl shape. It doesn’t have to be perfect! Put some fish crackers in a bag, and have your kid tape the bag to the bowl shape. Then, write your preferred pun-filled message (I like, “I’m glad you’re in my school”).

  • Elementary school – name poems: Okay, this might not exactly constitute a “craft,” but it’s a great way to encourage kids to practice writing! You’ll need lined paper and your child’s preferred writing implement. Ask your child who their best friend is, and have them write that friend’s name vertically down the side of the page. Then, explain that they can come up with a word or phrase that describes their friend starting with each letter at the beginning of the line. Want to craft it up? Have your child draw a portrait of their friend to go along with their poem!

  • Middle school – friendship bracelets: I’m revealing myself as a child of the 80′s here, but I really loved making friendship bracelets when I was a kid. All you need is embroidery thread or twine, and once your child knows the basic knots, there is no end to the number of variations that can be made. Plus you have an excuse to make one yourself! If bracelets aren’t your kid’s thing, you can slap a key ring or a clip onto it to make a keychain or lanyard instead.

  • High school – bring back the mix tape: I know, I know – first you thought, “come on, high school kids don’t craft,” then you thought, “seriously? No one even owns a cassette player.” Then you thought, “anyway, a mix tape isn’t a craft!” So modernize it. Get your kid a thumb drive (something small so they really have to think about what they include) and a blank card. Or, if you’re feeling extra fancy, check out http://www.milktape.com/ Your kid picks the MP3s, writes the playlist, and creates the art, then gives their creation to the lucky recipient of their choice. If you play your cards right, it might even be you!

Do you have an idea for a crafty Valentine? How about a craft gone dreadfully wrong? Any better ideas for crafty teens? Share your story in the comments!