Thursday, December 31, 2015

Making New Year's Resolutions for the Entire Family

Some people think that New Year's resolutions are doomed to failure.  But statistics show that making resolutions can be effective in moving you closer to your goals.  Why not make setting New Year's resolutions a time for reflection and a family tradition

"Resolving to Write More - a Worthy Thought" by Carol VanHook

Every family member can put forth a few ideas for both personal and family improvement.  To keep it positive, reflect on things achieved along with what needs improvement.  Keep resolutions few and simple for younger kids, and make sure resolutions are realistically achievable.   Anticipate hurdles and strategize in advance about how to deal with them.  Write out goals (for the littlest ones, use pictures) where the whole family can see them, and create a chart measuring progress toward practicing a new habit. 

There are unlimited resolutions that one can undertake, but below are five that families can do together, and the ways to go about them.


Take a simple stroll to school or around the neighborhood together.  Incorporate a family stroll into your dog walking routine. Plan a family hike.

"Walking/Strolling in the Cold" by Jim Larrison

Look for opportunities to be active together Make a list of national parks to visit, or in Massachusetts, Trustees of the Reservation lands.  Don't forget that Parent Talk offers retail discounts to gyms, dance classes, and other activities.  The Charles River YMCA provides kids with a supervised space to tumble and play while parents use the gym equipment in a room viewable through a window.  And if you attended PT's Preschool and Kindergarten Fair, you might have picked up a coupon to Energy Fitness which lets parents have a cardio workout for free while they watch their child's gym class through a glass wall.

Other creative, fun ideas I have come across include: (a) joining in a family game of hop scotch; (b) family play at the playground (as long as it is safe, climb up that climbing structure and slide down that slide!); (c) ice skating; (d) family swims; and (e) going on a treasure (scavenger) hunt.


"Give Thanks to Family" by OakleyOriginals

Eat together.  Nowadays, it is not uncommon for family members to eat at separate times because everyone has an individual schedule.  However, research shows that children of families that regularly eat together are less likely to get involved in substance use and physical violence when they become teenagers.  Make a commitment to dine in (or out!) together one or more days a week.

Be entertained together.  Put on some music, bring out a few board games, and have a weekly/monthly family game night. Pop the popcorn, and cozy up on the couch for a regularly scheduled family movie night.  Take a field trip together to a museum, park, or historic site.  Start a family hobby that is suitable for all ages.

"Chicken Cobb Salad" by Nan Palermo


Cook together.  Little ones love to mix and measure ingredients.  With lower fat and sodium content than restaurant food, home cooked meals can be healthier.   If, like me, you have not been in the practice of cooking, do a search for quick, easy five-star recipes and try them out one or more times a week.  Your cooking will get more efficient over time and you will soon have a few quick go-to recipes to choose from!

Include a vegetable and/or fruit with every meal. Frozen and canned options that are low in fat and sodium can help create a balanced meal given a time crunch.

Prepare healthier snacks (like cut fruits and vegetables) in advance and keep the refrigerator stocked with them.


Once a week, have your family select a person to give special attention.  Bake cookies, send a handwritten card, help with shoveling snow or other chore, and take some time to provide a listening ear.

"who stole the cookie. . ." by Kiran Foster

Volunteer together.  Visit a senior with a meal and bring some cheer to shut-ins.  The whole family can help at Spread the Bread or a homeless shelter or soup kitchen (but check for minimum age requirements).  If going onsite to the location is not an option, find a church or other community organization that sponsors such efforts to which you can contribute.  There may be a coat or clothing drive for the homeless at which your family can drop off donations.

Discuss with your kids the idea of donations, and find something to donate. It is not for everyone, but is an interesting option that asks kids to have guests donate money instead of giving a traditional birthday gift.  The donations are then split between the birthday boy or birthday girl and the charity of his or her choice.


Have everyone take a break from screen time and cell phones a couple of hours a day or week, or one or more days a month (whichever you can handle!).  Reducing kids' screen time can help avoid associated risks of sleeplessness, problems of attention, anxiety and depression, and obesity.

I hope you counted many successes and celebrations in 2015.  Here's to finding many more of them (with a little resolve) in 2016!

About the Author
Darlene W. Cancell is an attorney turned stay-at-home mom, and most recently, blog coordinator for Parent Talk.





Monday, December 14, 2015

New Years Eve Balloon Drop at Jammin' New Year's 2016!!

New Year's Eve is coming soon!  Are you having a hard time figuring out how to usher in the New Year with your wee ones? 

Kids huddle around a magical campfire to "roast" marshmallows at last year's Jammin' New Year's Eve bash.

Your present situation doesn't lend itself to a couple's night on the town (good luck finding a babysitter!).  And staying up until the stroke of midnight with a baby and/or toddler is simply not going to happen.

Not to worry.  Parent Talk has got you covered with a terrific option that lets your whole family celebrate the new year together -- Jammin' New Years 2016!!

On the last day of 2015, head over to the Wellesley Jammin' With You Performance Center for music with Josh and the Jamtones, Jimmy Jamz, puppet shows, karaoke, crafts, and even a balloon drop!

Balloon drop!

Where else on New Year's Eve can your child draw on the wall, do crafts, hang with friends and family, listen to good kid music, dance, and eat yummy food (pizza and drinks are available for purchase) all in one place, and possibly all at once?  At Jammin' New Years 2016, that's where! 

The cost of such fun is only $30 per family.  There are even two options to make it easier to attend -- one party beginning at 10:30 a.m. and another party beginning at 1:30 p.m.  Lastly, parents who register and volunteer will earn a free slice of pizza and a drink for their kids who attend!  Volunteers can sign up at

These kids are happy doing crafts, but if they tire of that, they can simply turn around and draw on the wall!

My family is already signed up.  Still need to register?  Just click here . . .  and see you there!

About the Author
Darlene W. Cancell is an attorney turned stay-at-home mom, and most recently, the blog coordinator for Parent Talk.

Friday, December 11, 2015

DIY Kid-Crafts for Heartfelt Holiday Gifts

My 3 year old receives a lot of gifts throughout the year, and the holidays are no exception. But he does not have as much experience with giving gifts.  I purchase the gifts"from" him, wrap them, add his name on the cards, and encourage him to pass the items along to another person. Does my child really understand the concept of giving when I pretty much orchestrate the whole thing?

This year, I want to give my little guy a chance to be generous on his own.  What could my son give as a gift that does not look like it came from his dad or me?  My mind was blank until I realized that I was concentrating too much on things that could be bought.  Then the obvious hit me.  One of the best gifts an adult can receive from a child is a gift that is made from the heart!

Painted, personalized plate that has has been placed back in its original packaging.
I took a trip to the local craft store to give my child the materials and opportunity to make some gifts for his family. While the results are not perfect looking, I think that the family will love these gifts for what they represent.  He was truly thinking of each family member as he completed each project.  Here are the results, along with a few more ideas for your own crafty kid, below!


The picture frame was my favorite of the three crafts.  All of the crafts were very easy, but I thought this one had the prettiest result.  Along with a plain wooden picture frame, my son used non-toxic craft/acrylic paint, mosaic glass tiles and stones, craft or school glue, plastic dish with Q-tip for glue application, and a sponge paint brush.

Items used for this craft are spread out on my son's play kitchen table, which doubles as a craft table.  
My son used the sponge brush to paint a plain 5" x 7" wooden picture frame the color of his choice, while I held the frame so he could get most nooks and crannies.  There were still some blank spots, but I resisted the urge to fill them in myself.  I was not going to make any adjustments because I wanted it to be truly his own creative project.  After the paint dried, he applied glue to the frame with a Q-tip and then stuck on pieces of colored glass.  The pieces were applied somewhat crookedly, but I held myself back from making any "corrections."

Painted wooden frame with glass mosaic stones and tiles.

We will add a nice photograph of him, and then send it to the grandparents as a present over the holidays.  Total time:  10 minutes to paint; 4 hours to dry; 20 minutes to glue on decorations; additional drying time for glue.


Almost everything we needed for this project, from plate, paint, and brushes was included in Creatology's Personalize It Plate Kit.  The only added component is an oven for setting the paint onto the plate.

Personalized, painted plate which has been baked and set, and is safe and ready to be eaten from.

The manufacturer recommends this as a project for 8 years and older, and an older child might have created a cleaner outcome, but my 3 year old did just fine with it (I took care of the step of baking it in the oven, though).  Total time:  15 to 20 minutes of painting followed by 30 minutes to bake, plus time to cool off.

At our local craft store, I let my son pick out a number of items to bring home for decorating a plain, green wreath.  At home, he placed the items in whatever arrangement he wanted.  I attached the decorations for him, doing my best to keep them exactly as he had placed them, including the big red bow.  Total time:  after shopping time, about 25 minutes.

Wreath hanging from a doorknob, against wall and cabinet.
In the past, we have also visited Make Meaning at Dedham's Legacy Place, and made pretty soap arrangements.  Walking through a craft store like Michaels has also been the source of some ideas, and it even has kid crafting classes

Hopefully, this post may give you some ideas for embarking on your own crafty holiday, if that's what you want to do, too!  On behalf of Parent Talk, cheers and best wishes to you and yours for a happy and heartfelt holiday season.  See you in the New Year!

About the Author
Darlene W. Cancell is an attorney turned stay-at-home mom, and most recently, blog coordinator for Parent Talk.

Printer Friendly