Fairs, Festivals & Fun – Oh my!

Summer is winding down, and that means families will try to squeeze as much fun as we can into these precious few weeks before the school year starts again. Heading out to a fair or festival should be a fun way to get in some family time. But parents who’ve experienced more tantrums than tilt-a-whirls know it’s important to be prepared.

I present to you the Minivan Commuter’s list of Festival Dos and Don’ts:

DO Map It Out

So, you’re standing in line for the ferris wheel, and suddenly one of the kids is doing the potty dance. This is not the time to be looking around for a map. They’re not only handy during bathroom emergencies, taking a look at a map can save you and your kids precious steps throughout the day. You’ll spend less time wandering and have more time for food, rides and shows!

DON’T Get Burned

Sunscreen is a must for any outdoor summer event. What you may not know is that you should apply it a half-hour before you’re exposed to the sun to allow the ingredients to fully bind to the skin. You should reapply every two hours or more often if you get wet or sweat a lot.

DO Seek Out Free Fun

So many fairs and festivals have free areas to play and explore. If the fair has a website, check it out before your trip. You can also ask the ticket taker when you arrive. If all else fails, look for other moms and dads and ask them if they know where there’s some free fun.

DO Eat At Home

I know I don’t have to remind you to feed your kids, but you may be tempted to go to a fair or festival hungry. You can save some cash (and some calories) by eating before you leave. If and when you do get a snack, get something the whole family can share. That way, you can sample several things rather than committing to one food.

DON’T Forget To Hydrate

Water, water, water! Most places will let you bring in water bottles for the whole family. Don’t forget to use them! A lot of kids won’t take the initiative on their own, so make sure you remind them throughout the day.

DO Establish Ground Rules

If the rides take tickets, buy a set number of tickets and let the kids know you will not be buying any more. You should also set rules for what snacks you will buy and what time you want to leave. By setting expectations up front, you’ll cut down on the whining, begging and pleading that can come with a trip to the fair.

DON’T Give In

Just don’t do it!!

DO Have Fun!

Let’s face it – if it’s hot outside, if the kids have to walk instead of being carried, if the lines are long, there will be whining. Just do your best to relax and take it all in stride. You won’t remember the frustration; you’ll remember the joy of spending time together as a family.

I may never be royal, but I have this in common with the Duchess of Cambridge…

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Prince George is turning two, and that’s cause for a royal celebration! Duchess or not, Kate Middleton took up a motherly duty many of us moms are familiar with: she organized the party.

According to British media reports, Prince George’s party was a small family affair at his parents’ country retreat, Anmer Hall, in Norfolk. The latest McGregor birthday party was a Frozen affair in the kingdom of Arendelle (or, at least, our basement transformed into a winter wonderland.)

Birthdays only come around once a year, and they’re a magical time for kids. I will never regret rolling up my sleeves and going all in to make it special. Along the way, I have picked up a few tricks that can make for a happier planner and happier party-goers.

Do it Yourself vs. Book a Party?

The first decision you will have to make is where the party will be. At your home, a park, or a children’s party place? You’ll save money by having the party at your home, but it’ll take a lot more work. Kids’ party places will handle everything from the invitations to the cleanup; some will even write down all the presents your kid gets! It comes down to cost versus convenience and what works best for you and your family.

Invite Siblings

This is especially for younger kids who still like their siblings! If your child’s friend has a brother or sister roughly the same age, make a point of inviting him or her as well. Parents will appreciate knowing up front that they can bring the other child, and it gives the friend an automatic playmate. The more the merrier, right?

Element of Surprise

Victoria had no idea Anna of Arendelle would be at the party, and the look on her face made the surprise so worth it! A surprise can add another layer of magic for the birthday boy or girl. It doesn’t have to be a big surprise; you could have a special picture on the cake, or invite a friend from far away. It may seem like a little thing to you, but, trust me, it won’t to your little one!

Send Them Home Happy

When it comes to the goodie bag, believe it or not, you can find items both parents and kids will like. The kids have just loaded up on sugar, so cut the candy. Instead, try an applesauce pouch and a bag of pretzels. Stickers are an inexpensive crowd-pleaser, so are bubbles and silly putty or playdough. You can often find a coloring book or activity book in the dollar section or at the dollar store. My advice: kids like little trinkets for about a minute, and they end up cluttering the house. Instead of a bunch of little things, fill the bag with 5 or 6 bigger items for the same price.

Happy party planning!

Raising Low-Gadget Kids

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Do your kids turn into couch potatoes over the summer? If your home is like many, they’re spending hour after hour with their eyes glued to a TV, phone or tablet. Alise talked with KARE11 about 5 ways to cut down the screen time without cutting out the fun! Click here to watch the interview.

  1. Learn to Share
  2. Set a Schedule

Click here for a chart to set up with your family

  1. Watch the Apps
  2. Create Choices
  3. Go Gadget-Less

Who said summer is a vacation? 5 Reasons I’m a stickler for schedules

Girls ready for summer!

In June and July, the sun doesn’t set in Minnesota until around 9:00 at night, and there’s light in the sky long afterward. My kids have no idea. Whether the sun or the moon is shining out their window, they’re both in bed at 7:00 pm.

I can hear the neighborhood kids playing outside hours after my girls go to sleep. But I’m not budging. I’m a stickler for schedules, and with good reason.

  1. Happy Kids = Happy Parents

The key to a later bedtime is sleeping in the next morning. No school means there’s no set time the kids have to be awake, but no one told their bodies that. Come 6:00 am, it’s rise and shine in the McGregor house. That internal alarm clock kicks in 7 days a week, 52 weeks a year. We tried putting them to bed an hour later, thinking they would adjust and wake up an hour later. Like a lot of parents with a great idea, our master plan backfired on us. They still woke up at the same time, and then we had two tired kids on our hands. Experiment over.

  1. Nothing Good Happens after 7:00 pm

One of the keys to bedtime is a smooth transition time. Kids shouldn’t be exercising or doing a lot of activity for at least an hour before bed. While there are great wind-down activities, like art projects and reading books, I would venture to guess the majority of families are spending this time in front of a screen. Sleep has greater benefits than TV time, so if this is what’s happening in your house, why not shift to an earlier bedtime?

  1. Traveling is Tiring

When families with small kids come home from vacation, they look like they need another vacation to recover. Traveling is tiring enough, but many parents make it worse by letting the kids stay up late. Now, they’re not only tired from traveling, but they’re doubly exhausted because their sleep schedule is off. Whether my girls are tucked in at home or in a hotel bed, the key is that they’re tucked in at 7pm.

  1. Me Time

When I’m with the girls, I try to really be present. That means putting away my phone, ignoring emails and spending quality time together. After bedtime, it’s Mommy time. I can catch up on work, take care of household duties or maybe even put my feet up for a few minutes. With an earlier bedtime, I’m able to get stuff done and move up my bedtime, so I’m ready to go at 6:00 am.

  1. Summer is NOT Eternal

As much as we wish summer would last forever, it won’t. Come September, we all will have to wake up in time to get to school again. While the kids will be adjusting to a new classroom, they won’t have to worry about adjusting to a new routine. It’ll be business as usual in our house.

To parents who play loose with bedtime in the summer, I say “Whatever works for you.” But don’t ask me to join in.  It’s ‘lights out’ in our house, even if it’s not ‘lights out’ outside.