Effing Four Year Olds, Kids' Activities, momlife, parenting, The Salties, Tips & Hacks

10 School Readiness Skills (That Have NOTHING to Do with Academics!)

 

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The school year is rapidly approaching, and for the very first time, I am preparing my own little girl for going “Back to School.” As a former teacher, there are soooo many things I want to teach her before school starts- and believe it or not, letters and numbers are the least of my concerns! Here’s ten things that you can teach your kids that your Kindergarten/TK/Pre-K teacher will LOVE you for.

1. How to Write Their Name
This is a really, really hard thing to teach whole group. Spend a little time having them trace their name before having them move on to writing it solo. And feel free to leave the paper and pencil approach until later- check out Practical Name Writing in 12 Fun Ways by Hands On As We Grow.

2. Cutting on a Line/Curve
Similar to the skill above, scissor skills are really tricky to teach when you’re no longer one-on-one. Show your kiddo how to hold the scissors, to use them safely, and to move the paper (not the scissors) as they cut. You can draw lines on paper for them to practice with, or buy this colorful activity book that gets progressively harder with each page.

3. Coloring Skills
Now listen, we LOVE a kid who colors outside of the lines. BUT, there are times when coloring inside is important, too. Help your child to learn the difference between coloring for fun and coloring on schoolwork. Help them to decide when to use “realistic colors” versus when they can go rogue. Any coloring book can be used for this, but this fun book really narrows in on these skills.

4. Glue Skills
Let’s save the poor teacher some mess, yeah? Can you imagine cleaning up after thirty kids with glue bottles? Let’s don’t do that to him or her. Work on squeezing the glue bottle just a little (we use the phrase “Dot, dot. Not a lot!”). This exclusive, Salty Mama printable can help your kiddo to practice this skill, along with a few others on the list. Also work on using gluesticks. Need more help with gluesticks? This cute little craft kit  will give your child plenty of practice- and they won’t even know they’re working on school readiness skills!

School Readiness Printable
You can work on several school skills at once with this fun printable craft! Get yours here!

5. Pencil Grip
I don’t want your child’s teacher to have to run around to each student and show them how to hold a pencil. Think of all the time wasted! Have your child practice using a functional grip (on or two fingers on top of the pencil, with the thumb underneath). Is your child struggling? Use shorter pencils or crayons, which eliminates some of the other, less useful grips. Need more tips on how to help with this? Head on over to Living for the Sunshine to read more about ways to practice.

6. Folding a Paper in Half
Okay, this is a weird one, but there are a LOT of school crafts that involve folding a paper in half. Practice folding length-wise and width-wise (like a “hot dog” or a “hamburger,” if you remember from your school days). You can have them practice their scissor skills on their folded paper by tracing a half-heart and letting them cut it out.

7. Workbook Skills
I am no fan of workbooks personally, but there are going to be plenty of them at school. Grab one from the dollar store or the Target Dollar spot, or order a fun one here. Kids can practice valuable school-skills like circling an object, drawing lines from one item to another, and finding the line where they should write their name (or writing on the top right-hand corner if there isn’t one).

8. Putting Things in and Out of Their Backpack
Can you imagine the first-day-chaos if none of the kids could do this? Practice opening and closing backpacks with your kids, and make sure they are able to open any containers/packages that you plan to send to lunch with them. There’s not a ton of time to eat, and you probably don’t want your kid waiting the whole lunch period for it to be their turn for the lunch aide to open their Pirate’s Booty or juice box.

9. Taking Off/Putting On Their Own Sweater (Shoes, Etc.)
Big kid school is not like little-kid-preschool or daycare- there just aren’t enough grown-up hands to assist with these tasks! Help your child to become independent with their own zips/ties/snaps. And avoid sending them to school in shoes with ties until they can retie them on their own!

10. Wiping Their Own Booty (TK and Up, at the Least)
I mean, I’m just saying.  I can almost guarantee that wiping booties was not a part of your child’s teacher’s credential program, and someone’s gotta get it done. It’s gonna have to be your kid, so get to work on this one- stat.

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Kids' Activities, Mama Mojo, MicroLuxuries, momlife

It’s Fun to (LIVE) at the YMCA!

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Now, let me preface all this by saying I don’t know what the YMCA is like where YOU live.  It might be just a gym. It might be a shady place where you wouldn’t dip your pinky toe into that grimy pool. It might be more of an afterschool place, where the kiddos in your neighborhood can hang out and play until their parents get off work.

But in my neighborhood? In my neighborhood it is HEAVEN and I LIVE THERE.

I mean, first and foremost, it’s a “gym” and I “work out there.” They have “treadmills” and “barre classes” and “boot camps.” I mean, that’s what I hear anyways. But the gym is like one tiny part of the experience.

The outdoor pool is sparkling, smells like chlorine instead of pee, and is always a toasty 86 degrees. They have puddlejumpers my kids can use so they can just kind of bob around in there like a couple of rubber ducks while I supervise and perfect my doggy paddle.  They have a hot tub that, while filled with other people most of the time, still feels a little bit like a massage, and if I close my eyes I can kind of pretend I’m at Glen Ivy. Sort of.  And there’s even a sauna, where I can sweat in peace because no one else is crazy enough to want to sweat on purpose, I guess except someone who is trying to hide from everyone in absolute silence for ten minutes (I’m telling you. It’s the DREAM.)

They’ve got Karate and Ballet on the cheap, and each session is something like eight weeks long. So when my daughter dreams of becoming a ballerina forever, and then on week three of class decides she hates ballet and the tutu is itchy and the bun is too tight and SHE DOESN’T WANT TO PLIE EVER AGAIN? Well, I don’t let her quit, because Torrezes don’t quit (obviously). But I only have to carry her crying into ballet class five more times. So that’s something like a win in my book.

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But the real kicker, the absolute number one reason I love the YMCA- the Kids’ Room.  For one beautiful hour, my children can enter a kids’ playland, filled with toys and books and an outdoor playspace, and experience high quality childcare while I do anything else but watch my kids. Maybe I leisurely stroll on the treadmill while I talk to Christine.  Maybe I sit in the lobby and work on my bullet journal without someone trying to steal my colored pencils.  I might swim by myself, or relax in the hot tub. I might sit on their gosh-darned patio and read a book with a warm latte in my hand. Because, as I tell myself, this place is supposed to be a wellness center, and that stuff? That stuff is what makes me WELL.

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So find yourself a little slice of heaven. Maybe it’s at the YMCA, maybe it’s one of those kids’ places where the kids play and the parents can sit and passively watch them. Maybe it’s in your own backyard. It doesn’t matter, really. Just find your place, pack your bags, and move in. You live there now.  At least for one glorious hour a day.

Chick-Fil-A, Kids' Activities, momlife, The Salties

Our Love Affair with Chick Fil A

Collage 2017-08-05 09_42_04.jpgLoving Chick Fil A? Yeah, that’s one of our deeply held, core beliefs. There has been MANY a day where the only thing that gets us through is the promise of a trip to Chick Fil A…and I’m talking about the Mamas, not the Little Salties. So what is it about Chick Fil A that we love so much? We’ll do our best to put it into words.

Jaymi: Diet Coke. Limitless, endless Diet Coke.

Christine: Cherry Coke. ALL the Cherry Coke. And one for the road.

Jaymi: Abe is finally old enough to go into the play area. Lila takes him into it and helps him through the structure and tells off any kids that mess with him and it makes my heart BURST.

Christine: The play area is SOUNDPROOF. Like, I can only hear the most extreme of screams, when it’s probably getting real enough in there that I should pop my head in anyway. But the regular playful squeals that are the soundtrack of my life? Gone for a blissful few minutes.

Jaymi: My grown-up-size Chicken Nugget meal is big enough to split with Abe, so Lila doesn’t have to LOSE HER MIND when I suggest she share the french fries she was never gonna eat anyways with her brother, and I still only have to buy two lunches.

Christine: LEGIT fruit cups. Yeah, this sounds like a sort of dud reason, but I have to buy my Gremlins 2 kids meals and with one I get a REALLY nice fruit cup. And I look like SUCH a good Mom y’all.

Jaymi: There is a stool for my daughter to stand on while she washes her hands, so I don’t have to hold her awkwardly while holding Abe and hearing her yell about how she’s never ever ever gonna wash her hands.

Christine: Two words: Mobile ordering. Step one: Download the app. Step two: order from your seat while the kids play in the play area. Because let me tell you, wrangling three kids in line for food is a nightmare. Plus, I earn free food using the app, so cheapskating for the win!

Jaymi: Those disposable placemats for the kids. I’m not opposed to putting his food straight on the table, but I get to avoid the comments from other people who ARE opposed when I use these bad boys.

Christine: Seasonal milkshakes. Specifically peach milkshakes during the summer. I’m a sucker for a limited time offer like all things pumpkin in the fall, and their milkshakes are BEYOND.

Jaymi: They let you trade the kids’ meal toy for ice cream, so A.) The kids get ice cream! We get to prolong our stay! and B.) I don’t end up with junk toys scattered all over the house.

Christine: Everyone else loves Chick-fil-A so when I’m desperate and alone and need another grown up to witness my day, it’s pretty easy to get a partner in crime.

Jaymi: My best friend Mark works there. He is only my best friend because he works at Chick Fil A, but STILL.

Basically, Chick-fil-A is our everything. Our watering hole. Our recharging station. Our happy place. So go ahead, take all our money. It’ll be worth.every.penny.

How to Handle
Effing Four Year Olds, Kids' Activities, koefoe party of 5, momlife, parenting, Terrible Twos

When Dance Parties Go Bad

The morning started out in our usual way. Mommy makes coffee for herself, breakfast for all the kids, makes Cole’s lunch while the kids eat, and then once the kids are done/too restless to eat without making a bigger mess than I’m prepared to handle we move to the living room for a dance party led by DJ Alexa.

IMG_20170718_074937287[281]Alexa Dance Party is usually a complete and total highlight of the day. It’s fun Mom shit. My kids think I’m cool and not all rigid and full of rules. I lipsync to Trolls and Moana and put on a performance reminiscent of Britney in her heyday. I’m a pretty big deal for a few minutes each morning. The kids giggle and clap and dance and sing along and we all just have FUN.

Sometimes, when the party is really rockin’ and rollin’ I sneak out to go to the bathroom in peace. Inevitably this is when the party gets REAL real fast.  Usually it’s something I know how to handle: “Evie ate my banana.” “Cole knocked me over because he was dancing too much.” “Evie won’t dance with me.” “Cole is singing too loud.”

Here’s another banana, say you’re sorry, try dancing with Izzie, sing louder too.

I can field those all day long. I was not prepared for this mornings fight. I ran out of the bathroom to INCONSOLABLE SCREAMS from 2/3 of the children. I breathed a sigh of relief upon realizing at least the baby was happy. One point for Mommy. The other two were simultaneously screaming something about Trolls.

Mommy: Kids, kids, kids, what’s the problem?

Evie: Cole wants to listen to Trolls!

Cole: But EVIE wants to listen to Trolls!

Mommy: Okay, I don’t understand, you both want to listen to Trolls?

Evie: YES! But it’s MY TURN to pick!

Mommy: Okay, so pick Trolls.

Evie: But COLE wants to listen to Trolls.

Mommy: Okay, Alexa, play music from Trolls soundrack.

Cole: NOOOOO I want to listen to Trolls!

Evie: NO! It’s MY turn, I want to listen to Trolls!

Mommy: I’m so lost. You both want to listen to Trolls, but you won’t listen to Trolls because the other one ALSO wants to listen to Trolls?

Both kids (wailing): YEEEEEESSSSSSSSSS

What. The. Fuck?

I, of course, sent my Salty Mama Jaymi a play by play of this insanity that was my 20182465_10214046646946561_1450931712_o (2)morning to which she calmly and rationally responded: “Kids literally just want to make us crazy.”

And somehow, that made it better. My stubborn side came out, I dug in my heels, and played freaking Trolls. They screamed louder because they HATED that the other one was happy, even when it was really what they wanted. They threw themselves on the ground and then they decided to – yes, I’m going to go there – get back up again.

IMG_20170717_074305750[278]They just couldn’t help themselves. As quickly as it all went to hell, it went back again. In a few minutes, we were back to normal: I was painting my sons nails while breastfeeding Izzie…but that, my friends, is a post for another day.

Probably a day where the kids fight over who gets to tell Alexa they want to listen to Shiny from Moana. Because Lord knows they’ll both want to.

 

Kids' Activities, momlife, parenting, vacation

Road Tripping

This post includes affiliate links, which means we’ll earn a small commission off of purchases made by clicking through. Thanks for supporting The Salty Mamas!

 

So I’m not trying to brag or anything, but…well I totally am. I’m shamelessly going to proclaim myself the queen of road trips, because everyone has gifts, and this may well be mine. My family ROCKS at road trips.

No, I’m totally just kidding. I’m currently writing this while draped over my crying one year old, making shushing sounds in his ear. So for sure I don’t have it all figured out.

But I will say that my kids have been road tripping since infancy. We drive two hour stretches very often, like monthly. And we’ve taken many, many 9+ hour trips, from when we had one tiny baby to today. Like, TODAY today.

Anyways, so I’m not an expert, but I am very experienced. Here’s a few tips, so you can gain from my wisdom learn from my mistakes.

Phase One: prep within an inch of your life (your sanity may depend upon it). Bring so many more snacks than you ever dreamed (fruit and cheese for early on, then goldfish and pretzels, and chips and fruit snacks. You’ll want options). Bring drinks. They shouldn’t be alcoholic, though you’ll wish they were. Raid the dollar store, or more than one if you have time. Buy self-contained projects, toys, candy. Buy stickers, crayons, dry erase markers, magnets and a cookie sheet, window clings. Buy everything, because on hour nine you would pay ANYTHING to keep the kids from crying and/or screaming. $1 is the bargain of a lifetime. Also pack quarters and dollar bills, in case you need to bribe them reward their good behavior.

Phase Two: Do nothing. For as long as possible. Look out the windows. Try not to entertain your kids in any way. You might (hopefully) be surprised. Our last road trip, this phase lasted an hour and a half. Valuable time when I wasn’t using up all my pre-prepped stuff.

Phase Three: move on to classic road trip games. 20 questions for the older kids, I Spy for the littles. Take turns counting (you say 1, they say 2, and so on) or saying the alphabet. Play Peekaboo. Sing all the songs.

Phase Four: bust out the most boring activity you brought. Probably a book or coloring. Draw it out.

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Phase Five: time for a more exciting activity, like sticker mosaics, magnetic games, or a sticker book. Or maybe a new toy. Whatever you think will give your kids some hope on a dark, dark day.

Phase Six: start doling out the snacks. Puffs, Little Crunchies, and pouches for your solid-food-eating babies. Pretzels, raisins, and granola bars for the older kids.

Phase Seven: try to cycle back through the other steps. Pray it works. Cry a little when they aren’t looking. Regroup.

Phase Eight: electronics. Time to bring out the apps, the DVD players, and the downloaded shows. Now is not the time for high horses. It’s the time for survival.

Phase Nine: try and cycle through the tips. Again. You’re almost out of tricks, and you’re not. even.close.

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Tip Ten:  I hope you brought alllll the candy. And did not tell the children about it, or let them see it. This candy was to be secretly reserved for an emergency. Now it’s an emergency. Draw it out. Make them guess what the surprise is before you show them. Make them pick a hand. Spend ten minutes where they keep not guessing the right hand and they giggle (hopefully). When you finally produce the goods,  dole out one piece at a time in exchange for answering trivia questions. Or as prizes for who can keep their eyes closed longest. Or whatever you can think of. This is your last hope, and you’ve got to make it last.

Or rather, I’VE got to make it last. For the next hour  or so. We’re on hour ten of an eleven hour trip, and I’m fresh out of candy… And patience. Wish me luck.

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Cheapskating, Kids' Activities, momlife, parenting

Those “Cheap” Summer Movies

Let’s talk about those cheap summer movies for a minute.
On the one hand, you’ve got the glory of being the cool mom for a second. You took your kids to the movies! It’s air conditioned! The kids are happy, they’re enthralled, they’re living the dream. This experience was MADE for little kids, so you don’t have to worry if they’re wiggly, or chatty, or if they shout/sing along with the chorus to the movie’s theme song. Because there is a concert of 50 other lispy little voices telling Poppy to get back up again, too. Kids are dancing, kids are laughing boisterously, moms are sneak-opening cans of cherry coke (I’m looking at you, Christine) and relaxing back into their soft, squishy chairs for what almost passes as a break.
But. BUT.
Those concessions, y’all. You pay $1 for the movie, and $16.50 for one ounce of popcorn. This has got to be the whole point of the $1 movie experience from the theater’s perspective, cause you know they have to be making a profit somewhere, and it ain’t from my pocket change.
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Now, if you have somehow managed to make it into the movies without your kids knowing the concession stand exists, or they are content with your smuggled in snacks, or your kids are just so lovely they take no for an answer, we salute you. We applaud you. We envy you.

If someone (I’m looking at you, Daddy) has ruined the movies forever with a kids’ snack pack that has been upgraded to include an Icee AND a full size candy? We are so sorry. We feel you. We are here for you.

So when you get to the front of the concession line, because you’re gonna get them SOMETHING , because AVOIDING TANTRUMS, don’t try to ask for a large Icee split into three cups, because I’m here to tell you, they won’t do it.

Order a large Icee and three water cups, hold the water. Then get to work, mama. You’ve got a movie to see and that Icee ain’t gonna split itself.