Blog Posts by Charlene Prince Birkeland, Senior Editor

  • 5 Ways to Get Involved at Your Kid's School

    Do you help out in your kid's classroom?Do you help out in your kid's classroom?The school year is half over (yikes!). While some parents are mapping out summer camp schedules, many others are still trying to figure out how to make time to volunteer at their child's school. (And some of you may still be wondering how you're going to complete mandatory volunteer hours...)

    Whether you're a working parent or the chief household officer (or both!), finding time to participate in school activities can stretch your scheduling skills. You have an additional challenge if you have more than one child in school and want to volunteer in both classrooms. (Kindergarten through third grade usually has the most classroom volunteer options. As kids enter older grades, parent involvement in classroom activities is reduced and usually related to class parties, field trips or larger school events.)

    The good news? You still have plenty of options to get involved at your child's school. Your first step is to think about what's important to you in terms of your volunteer efforts: Do

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  • What Do You Do with the Valentine's Day Cards Your Kids Bring Home from School?

    What do you do with all of those Valentine's Day cards your kid brings home?What do you do with all of those Valentine's Day cards your kid brings home?A quick peek around Shine or on Pinterest and you'll see that kids and their parents are busy creating adorable Valentine's Day cards to hand out at school next week.

    The Valentine's Day card process -- from deciding what to give out through purchasing, making, addressing and signing cards -- is time consuming and causes angst for many a parent and kid. (Understatement, right?) But when school Valentine's Day parties are over and classmates have brought their treats home, where will all of those personalized, handcrafted or cute store-bought Valentine cards end up?

    If you've followed me here at Shine or on my personal blog, you already know I'm a memory keeper. I like holding on to school momentos because they are such telling snapshots of my kids' lives at places in time. While I don't save everything my kids bring home from school, I definitely save Valentine's Day cards.

    As for the cards handed out by classmates, you and your kids can use or save them in a variety of ways:


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  • The "Get Better Box": 5 Ways to Make a Sick Day More Tolerable

    Sick days.Sick days.My son woke up in the middle of the night with a terrible stomachache. After several hours, he finally fell back asleep only to wake up again with a severe sore throat and fever. As I wondered what bug he'd picked up, I recalled a notice sent home from his school last week; the form letter said he'd been exposed to strep throat. Boo.

    My kid is miserable today. But when we hit that unavoidable in-between time -- when he's feeling better but not well enough to return to school -- I'll need to be ready to make his time home a little more comfortable.

    Movies and video games get old. A few years ago I started to keep and old-school "Get Better Box" for sick days (hat tip to Mbutterfuge). Beyond little toys, I've added a few items to that box. The key is to make sure the kids only see these things during sick days. And once they are healthy and back at school, don't forget to clean everything in the Get Better Box!

    Here are a few of my favorite (and parent-tested) Get Better Box items to

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  • 10 Ways to Turn Your Kids into Bakers

    Turn your child into a baker!Turn your child into a baker!Both of my boys love to cook...just like their mama. Whether it's helping with dinner, baking cookies or frosting a cake, they are front and center. It's wonderful to see them in the kitchen, of course, but I've also used our baking activities as a way to work with them on math skills (fractions), reading and the basics of following instructions. And when I sense they're having an off day, I've learned that it's easy to get to the root of their funk by starting a baking project together. While we're gathering ingredients and mixing things up, we talk.

    If you love baking and are eager to have your kids join you in the kitchen, these 10 tips are for you:

    -Invite your kids to be in the kitchen with you so they can watch you bake. Start with a simple, tasty recipe or activity. Need some starter ideas? Try healthy breakfast cookies. Draw on cookies. Make mini cupcakes. Whip up no-knead bread or basic pizza dough.

    -Ask them to help you with simple tasks (e.g., "Can you mix this batter?

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  • 4 Ways to Make Nighttime Reading Even More Fun

    Grab a flashlight and read under the covers!Grab a flashlight and read under the covers!When I ask my kids to list some of their favorite moments in the day, "reading stories at bedtime" is always on the list. It's been part of our routine since they were babies, and even as they grow older and can read on their own, they still love that quiet time together where we all get lost in a story.

    Whether it's a bedtime story or you're cuddled up on the couch with your kids on a rainy afternoon, reading with your children is one of the most important activities you can share. In fact, literacy expert Pam Allyn recommends setting aside time during the day to read with your kids. Why? At bedtime, parents can find themselves rushing to finish a story because their minds are racing with thoughts of what they've left to, laundry, prepping for the next day, etc. I know I've been guilty of speed reading bedtime stories.

    If bedtime stories are what you have to work with, you need to make the most if it. Two important aspects of bedtime stories are that you keep it calm and

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  • 5 Easy DIY Valentines from Index Cards

    Most kids start celebrating Valentine's Day in preschool. You'll likely be asked to have your child bring in a pack of cards to distribute to the entire class. (Don't address the cards! Just identify who sent them.)

    And despite how you may feel about Valentine's Day, your kid will be super excited. Why? Because the class has probably been crafting up a Valentine's Day storm.

    If you're looking for an inexpensive and easy way to make Valentine's Day cards with your kid(s), look no further. All you need is a pack of blank index cards (you can get a pack of 300 for two bucks!), markers or washable acrylic paint, scissors, and if you want to get fancy, a glue stick, a washable ink pad, and colored construction paper. (All stuff you probably already have, right?)

    Fancier still? Pick up some Valentine's Day stamps, felt heart stickers, decorative pencils or lollipops.

    Check out the slide show for details!

    Share your family photos and any other fun, embarrassing or incredible moments that

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  • 5 Simple Resolutions for a Happier Family

    Resolve to smile more in 2012.Resolve to smile more in 2012.New Year's resolutions abound. Even if you don't make resolutions at the start of a new year, it's virtually impossible to not think about what you want to improve over the next 366 days. (Remember, it's a leap year!) If you're a parent, you might even be asking yourself what you'll do differently in the months ahead.

    Do you resolve to be a better parent? I know I do. A few years ago I wrote about the "4 Ls" to being a better parent: Lighten up, Let it go, Listen, and Laugh. These tips still apply to my life as a person and a parent. But my kids are older now and as we've all grown a few years, I've learned a few more lessons along the way.

    Here are five resolutions I've come up with to foster a happier family life summed up in one nice word: SMILE.

    Let's break it down, shall we?

    Smiles are beautiful. They feel good. And like laughter, smiles are contagious. Smiles may even make you healthier. (Watch this TED video on the Science of Smiling.) I'm not saying you should

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  • New Year's Eve Treats the Kids Will Love (and Want to Help Make!)

    My New Year's Eve celebrations took on a very different spin once I became a mom, especially when my boys' became old enough to ring in the New Year with us (read: they can stay up past 10pm for a special night). And now that the majority of our friends have children, any New Year's Eve gathering has a kid-friendly angle. Whether it's the games we play, the activities we create for the kids to play, or the food we're serving, we have our kids in mind. It's their celebration, too, after all.

    Where can you have the most fun to your New Year's Eve menu? Kid-friendly desserts.

    Check out these adorable and yummy sweet treats we're sure your kids will love to make AND eat.

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  • How to Turn Holiday Cleanup from a Chore to Fun

    Can't wait to clean up!Can't wait to clean up!The house is beautifully decorated and you're full of holiday cheer. It's also okay to admit that you're also thinking about what follows your upcoming celebrations: Holiday Cleanup. The oodles of wrapping paper you have to pick up, the plethora of boxes you need to get rid of, the ornaments and decorations to be boxed up and put know the drill. My kids always love to help in the decorating process, but the taking down part? Not so interested. So we've come up with a few ways to turn post-holiday chores into a fun family activity:

    -It's not a box! We love the book, Not a Box, by Antoinette Portis because it reminds us that our kids' imaginations are boundless with something as simple as a cardboard box. So save a few of the cardboard boxes you've received from holiday shipments and packaging and see what those boxes become in the eyes of your kids. Robots? Forts? Spaceships? Tugboats? Cars? (And when they're done, don't forget to recycle!)

    -Play wrapping-paper hoops!

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  • Perfect DIY Teacher Gifts for Less Than $10

    According to Yahoo! Shine's holiday confessions survey, moms and dads are the toughest people to shop for over the holidays. But for me, I have the most difficult time finding the right gift for my sons' school teachers. We contribute to a class gift, but my kids enjoy giving their teachers a present as well, and it's usually something the boys make at home. We try to keep it useful and inexpensive, keeping to the lesson that it's how much heart you put into the gift, not how much money you spend.

    We pulled together some of our favorite DIY teacher's gifts from some of our favorite craft/DIY blogs and all of them can be made for less than ten bucks!

    How do you decide what to give your child's teacher(s) for the holidays?

    Share your holiday photos and any other fun, embarrassing or incredible moments that you have captured on the Moments of Motherhood Flickr Group. While you are here take part in discussions with other moms.

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