Top 10 card games for family night

Top 10 Card Games to Play on Family Game Night

Family game night is a wonderful way to spend quality time with your spouse and kids.  Most people probably think about board games on family game night, but playing card games can be equally fun.  Maybe you are asking, “Which are the best card games for families?” Or, “Are there any easy card games kids can play?”  Keep reading cause here you will find a list of card games for families and kids to play. And more importantly, the top 10 card games for family game night.

The Benefits of Playing Card Games

There are many benefits to playing card games or games in general.  Card games can keep a person mentally keen. I realize bridge may seem like an old lady game, and I don’t recommend it for young kids.  But it will keep you thinking. Many other games such as Villainous or even Exploding Kittens can keep your mind thinking strategically.

Another benefit to card games is their portability and size.  Some card games on my list of card games kids will love even if they are playing by themselves or just with other kids as well as several on my top 10 card games for family night us just standard decks of cards.  These decks take up very little space which makes it handy to take on the road. You could pull the cards out at a hotel or even an airport without having used up much of your valuable luggage space.

Finally playing card games is just plain fun.  They offer a different spin on family time than just the classic board games.  Not that I don’t like family board games cause I do. But it’s nice for a change and they are no less fun.

Why Teaching Kids Card Games to Play is Important

Teaching kids card games.  Grandma playing card games with her granddaughter

Teaching kids card games is important for several reasons.  Card games give them a chance to learn games of their past. Many of their grandparents and great grandparents likely played cards, maybe still do, as a past time.  That was their form of entertainment and “hanging out” with their friends. Some of those are easy card games to play and just as fun as board games. My kids and even my husband don’t care for going to nursing homes.  I understand and yet I don’t mind going. You read that right. I don’t mind going to a nursing home. Why is that you may wonder? Well, when I was little we went to a nursing home quite frequently to visit my great grandma. But when we went we played cards so it was always fun to go visit her.

Besides just learning games of our heritage, there are many other reasons to teach kids card games.  Card games that use traditional decks of playing cards are inexpensive to purchase. A good board game may cost you upwards of $40 or $50 while a deck of cards can cost just a few dollars.

There are many easy card games to play and cards games can also be a way of entertaining your kids without a screen even when you are busy.  Yes, I’m all about spending time with your family, but sometimes you may have to get things done. Some of the easy card games are great ways for kids to entertain themselves.  

Finally, card games can be educational.  Different kids card games can develop their memory skills, counting, and more.  Take Skip-bo for instance. It’s all about placing cards from 1 to 12 over and over again.  For young kids learning to count, they may need help but it’s a great way to work on those skills.  And this is just one example.

So let me give you a list of card games kids will love before I move onto the top 10 card games for family game night.

List of Card Games Kids Will Love

There are several kids card games they will love and they are easy card games to learn.  Here is a list of card games kids can enjoy by themselves or with other kids, and maybe even with you if you decide to play.

  1. Klondike Solitaire
  2. Osmosis Solitaire
  3. Old Maid
  4. Go Fish
  5. Memory
  6. War
  7. Speed
  8. Gas Out
  9. UNO
  10. Exploding Kittens

So now that you have read why card games for families are important and have seen a list of card games kids can play on there own or with you, let’s move onto the main event. The top 10 card games to play on family game night.

Top 10 Card Games for Families to Play on Family Game Night

Top 10 card games for families to play on family game night. Family playing cards around a table.

Now to get onto what you have probably come here to read and are wondering about most.  What are the top 10 card games to play on family game night? Well, here they are as well as a little bit about each one.

Villainous  

Villainous is a great game.  It’s based upon the Disney Villains and is actually a bit of a card game and board game combination.  Each player has their own board which they must use to play the game but all actions and how you win is based upon your decks of cards.  

Villainous takes a bit of strategy to win.  You will select a Disney villain to play as.  The original game comes with 6. You can pick from Maleficent, Queen of Hearts, Prince John, Jafar, Captain Hook, and Ursula.  Each character wins in a different way so they are countless combinations this game can play out which is what makes it so fun.  

I got this game about a week ago for my birthday.  As a family, we have played it several times and I love it.  I wish I could tell you my favorite character to play as but I can’t.  I have liked each one and for different reasons. The one thing about Villainous though is its best for kids who can read if you are playing as a family.  Unless you don’t mind reading and helping your kids out. We have to help read the cards to our 7-year-old. He understands the gameplay but still needs help because of the reading aspect.  The box says ages 10 and up for this one. However, if your child can read kids ages 7 or 8 and up could learn and enjoy Villainous.

If you like Disney or strategy games, this is a must-have for your family card games collection.

Recommended Ages: 7 or 8 and up, when your kids can read and begin to strategize.

Exploding Kittens

Exploding Kittens is next on my list of the top 10 card games for families.  It’s all about not drawing the exploding kitten, as the name suggests. You take turns going around and playing cards (if you want to) then drawing.  If you draw an exploding kitten you’re out. The last man standing wins. This is a very simple description of the gameplay but it really is one of the easy card games to learn and play.

We received this game as a family gift at Christmas.  I had seen it in stores but just didn’t know what I thought because of the name.  You know, first impressions. But since it was a gift and came recommended we had to try it.  And it was worth it. Now it’s a family favorite. The only hard part can be reading the cards.  Young kids can figure this one out pretty easily as long as they can read. If they can’t read they will need a little help.

Recommended Ages: 7 or 8 and up.  Only because reading is important to fully be able to play this one.

Sequence

Sequence is another of the best card games.  This is also a card game meets a board game. But it doesn’t make it any less fun.  The game comes with a board that has it’s own deck of playing cards. Yes, it’s similar to a standard deck of cards but the jacks in it are different.  They are wild cards so some have one eye and other’s two. I only mention this as you have to have the sequence deck for the game to play correctly. If you have 4 or more players you can play as teams.  This is the way we like to play. But it can also be played with 2 or 3 players.

The game works in that you play a card and put your colored chip on the corresponding space on the board.  You are trying to get 5 of your chips in a row. In a four-player game, it takes two sequences (5 in a row) to win.

My grandma was a card player.  When she discovered Sequence she had to have it.  We played many card games with her, including this one.  Now I’m passing it down to my kids. And they love it too.  A little piece of my grandma is going to my kids in this one and some of the others on my top 10 card games.

Recommended Ages:  6 and up. The gameplay is fairly simple but does take a little more time than preschoolers may be able to stay engaged.

Pit

If you want to start a tradition of playing card games as a family you need to check out Pit.  This one is fast paced and a blast. You are out to corner the market on a crop in this one to rack up points for the win.  The deck comes with several crops. You pick out the number of crops to match the number of players. Deal all the cards and open the market.  Once the market is open you decide which crop you want to go after. Then quickly start saying how many cards you want to trade. Trade the same number of cards with another player.  Keep trading until you have just one type of crop in your hand. Then ring the bell.

Pit is such a fun game.  We have had it for a while and when I was cleaning out our toy room not long ago I stumbled across it.  So we pulled it out and played it on family game night. The kids loved it. It was one of the easy card games to learn that we have so they took to it quick.  This one is more fun with more people though. That is about the only downfall I see.

Recommended Ages: 5 and up.  The gameplay is fast and kids need to be able to make matches and think quickly.  

Pitch

Pitch is one of the best card games.  This one may seem a bit old fashioned and frankly, it probably is.  But that doesn’t mean it’s any less fun. Pitch is played by collecting points through taking tricks.  You can play with 2 to 6 players. The rules vary slightly depending on the number of players there are.  For a 4 player game, you play as 2 teams of 2.

Partners sit across from each other. Cards are dealt out to everyone and then you go around and bid to see who gets to name the suit.  Once a suit is determined hands are refilled and the play begins. You go around playing tricks until all cards in the named suit are played. If you took enough points to make your bid you get to count them.  If you went set then you have to subtract the points from your total.

This is a very basic description but hopefully gives you an idea of how the game works.  The hardest part is learning how to bid. It can be tricky figuring out what is safe to bid on and what’s not.  And even then, each person may be different in how they bid. My grandmother used to always say you could be 10 on an Ace-Duece.  I’m not quite that daring but it’s something we always joke about. We always play 10 point pitch.

Even though this is another of the great card games for families, it can be a little tougher to learn the bidding.  For this reason, I wouldn’t recommend it for young kids.

Recommended Ages: 8 and up.  Kids need to be able to comprehend and begin figuring out the bidding process.

Canasta

Canasta is next on my list of card games.  It is one of the top 10 card games because it is one of the easy card games to learn and very fun.  Canasta is played with 2 decks of cards combined. Then cards are dealt (the number depends on how many players there is).  Play then begins with the player to the left of the dealer. Players either draw a card or take the pile. The object is to make canastas which are at least 7 of one kind of card.  For instance, 7 kings would make a canasta or 4 kings and 3 wild cards. Once you have a canasta the goal is to either gain more points or get rid of all your cards and try to catch your opponents.  The first to 5000 points wins.

Canasta is another family favorite.  This along with pitch, bridge (yes I learned how to play bridge), Hand and Foot, and sequence were family card games my grandma taught me.  I remember every summer spending a week with her and we always played cards. We might invite my aunt over who lived next door or a friend of my grandma’s who lived in the same town.  However we did it, it was always a good time. Now my kids are learning and playing canasta with their grandparents and us.

Recommended Ages:  7 and up. This is because of the time factor.  Canasta takes a bit longer so you need a little more attention span with this one.  Otherwise its one of the easy card games to learn.

Hand and Foot

Hand and Foot is not the disease.  Ok, not funny, I know. It is similar to Canasta but has some differences.  You still try and make Canastas which are still 7 of a kind, but in this version, you have to have 4 of them: Two with wilds and two without.  Another big difference is you start with 2 hands. One you look at and play from right away. When it runs out you pick up the other, called your foot, and play it.  There are a few other rule differences but those are a couple.

This was a favorite of mine growing up.  I loved Hand and Foot. As I mentioned above this was one I played and learned with my grandma.  We didn’t play it often, but I wish we had. Now it’s time for me to pass it to my own kids.

Recommended Ages: 7 and up.  For the same reasons as Canasta

Gas Out  

Gas Out..well, what to say about this one.  It made the list of the top 10 card games because, despite the crudity of the game, it really is a fun one to play.  This is one of the those “play a card and push the thing in the middle game” until it goes off. Last man standing wins.  However, as you listen to the mounting pressure and try to guess when he might “pass gas” the game becomes quite amusing.  You can figure out when might be your best option for playing high numbers vs. low numbers but overall there is mostly chance involved in this one.  The gameplay also moves quickly so you can play a game or two in little time. These things make it an ideal family game.

Recommended Ages: Kids of all ages will like this one and should be able to play Gas Out.

Skip-Bo

Skip Bo is a great one of the card games for families.  It doesn’t use a standard deck, but a deck that contains the numbers 1-12 and skip bo cards.  The skip bo cards are wild. This is a great game cause it can be used to practice number skills.  The point is to get rid of your pile. Each person starts with a pile of cards. On their first turn, they draw their “hand”.  If they draw a 1 or skip bo they can start a pile in the middle of the table. The point is to play cards to get rid of the top card on your pile.  When you play the last card on your pile, you win.

My family enjoys skip-bo.  I loved that my youngest could practice number order as he played.  It’s a competitive game as you block your opponents and try to play your own cards.  It’s one of the great card games for families.

Recommended Ages:  Preschool and up. This may seem young and preschoolers will likely need help.  You may also have to shorten the game so they don’t lose interest, but it’s a great way to work on numbers with them.  

UNO

Uno, who doesn’t love a good game of Uno.  You probably don’t need a description of how this one works but just in case, here it is.  Uno is played by dealing hands to everyone. A card is turned up. Play begins with the person to the left of the dealer.  That person has to either play a card of the same color or same number that was turned up. The only other option would be to play a wild card.  The object is to get rid of all your cards first. But watch out, if you don’t yell Uno when you get down to one card left before your opponents do, you have to draw cards.  

This is my husbands favorite from the list of card games to play.  From the time we were dating he talked about loving Uno. So, of course, we got it.  Now my kids have come to love it too. When we want to mix things up we will pull it out and play a round.  And if you want to mix it up you can try any of the other versions of Uno: Uno Dare, Uno Attack, DOS, etc. No matter which deck you choose or whether you try one of the variations, you will love this classic.

Recommended Ages:  Preschool and up. Once again be ready to help your kids if you are playing with preschoolers, but even young kids should be able to begin learning and enjoying UNO.

Please note the recommended ages on this list may not match the manufacturers recommended ages. It’s my recommendations after playing these games with my own kids.

Other Family Games to Play At Home

Family game night ideas

I wanted to touch upon a couple of other family games to play at home.  Even though this is all about the best card games to play, playing other family games at home can be just as fun.  Board games are a great way to spend time together, especially when it’s cold outside. If you are needing some board game ideas, check out the post on the best board games.

But if you are looking for other family games to play at home that are a bit different than the classic board games and card games look no further.  Read the post on Family Game Night Ideas. It contains ideas for the top 3 board games, video games, sports games, outdoor games, and card games for families to play on family game night.  

Whatever you decide to play, the quality time with your family will be time well spent.

~Melissa

*This post contains affiliate links.  If you buy something through the link I will receive a small compensation at no additional charge to you which will help keep this site running. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Playing piano: The importance of music and playing piano

Playing Piano: The Importance of Music and Piano Lessons for Kids

Have you ever thought about learning an instrument?  Or maybe getting piano lessons for kids so they can begin playing piano.  If you have, awesome! If not, you should. There are so many benefits of playing piano that the importance of music can’t be denied.

The Importance of Music

The importance of music in everyone’s life is undeniable, whether you just like listening to your favorite artist or performing it yourself.  Music is a way to build bonds within your family and to reap many benefits for those performing it and listening to it. It’s a way to relax when your stressed.  You can expand your creativity and create an environment that isn’t available any other way.

Music is also vital in other creative works.  It is used in TV, movies, and drama productions.  Whether just for the credits and transitions or because the show is a musical, it’s an important part of the show.  Music is used in elevators and at sporting events. What would the national anthem be without music? A poem. Still meaningful but not the same.  So music is vital for our everyday lives just listening to it, but what about performing it? What are the benefits of playing piano?

Here are several benefits of playing piano…

Benefits of Playing Piano

Benefits of playing piano

It’s a Mood Lifter

One of the the benefits of playing piano is that it is a mood lifter.  If you are down in a slump you can sit down at the piano and it can change everything.  Envision taking on a dragon in a great adventure or being part of an animal carnival. Both are possible when you are playing piano or performing a piece of music. There is an experience you can have when playing music on any instrument.  It’s the ultimate mood lifter.

It Instills Responsibility

Playing piano or any instrument gives kids responsibility.  They will have to be good listeners to learn the notes and keys.  At home kids (or adults) will need to practice what they have learned if they want to get good at it and enjoy it.  There are books to keep track of as well. It’s not a lot but it will teach them to be responsible for a few things.

Learning Band Instruments is Easier

When kids learn how to play piano it makes learning to play an instrument later on easier.   This one was one of the biggest benefits of playing piano for me. I like playing piano but love playing the flute.  When I was old enough to start learning the flute I had already been playing piano for about 3 years. So I didn’t have to learn the music part, just how to play the instrument.  It helped me advance so much quicker than others who had to learn everything all at once.

So if your kids think they might want to play an instrument in band they should learn to play the piano first.  And besides, if your school district is anything like ours around here, 2 years of piano is required if kids want to learn to play the drums.

Studies Show Kids Involved in Music Perform Better Academically

There are studies out there that show kids perform better academically when they are involved in music. According to the National Association for Music Education (NAME), “After assigning 144 children to keyboard lessons, voice lessons, drama lessons, or no lessons, researchers found that children in the music groups exhibited greater increases on an IQ test than students in the drama lessons or those without lessons.”

Other studies show links between math improvement because of the numbers used in music. When you read music there is continuous counting and reasoning that has to happen. So music is not only a creative art but also a practical one too.

Improves Muscle Tone and Hand-Eye Coordination

Playing piano uses muscles that most people don’t use.  Yes, you use your fingers to type, write and more. But most people don’t press multiple fingers down at the same time or in different combinations.  It take strength to use your pinky and other fingers you don’t realize until you do it.

The other part of this is the hand-eye coordination.  Just like catching a ball, you have to be able to respond with your hands from what you see on the page.  It take a lot of hand-eye coordination to look at a page and get your fingers working in the right patterns.  So, learning to play the piano through piano lessons is a great way to improve even physically.

It builds a great family bond

One of the best benefits of playing the piano is the family connection it can build.  Music can bring you closer together in many ways. When I was a teen and learning the flute my dad played the piano to accompany me on duets.  It made playing an instrument that much more fun. It wasn’t tedious practice time, but quality time spent with my dad.

Now maybe you aren’t a piano player but you could learn.  Or you can connect by supporting your kids at music concerts, piano recitals, or just taking an interest in what they are doing. I’ve even seen entire families performing together.  Or maybe it will conjure up feelings of your youth. When you took piano lessons or played an instrument your kids wants to play in the school band. Whatever the case may be, it will build the family bond.

And if you want more ways to grow as a family I encourage you to implement family night one or more nights a week.  Here are some great ideas for family movie night or family game nights.

Disadvantages of Playing Piano

There are always disadvantages to things in life. How many times do we find ourselves pondering the good and the bad of a situation? As with anything, there are disadvantages of playing piano. But, if I’m going to be honest, this is a little more difficult task.  As there aren’t very many disadvantages of playing piano. But if I were to name a few, here they are and why they aren’t really all that big of a deal.

The Price of Lessons

The first of the disadvantages of playing piano is it does cost money to learn to play piano.  Playing piano, or any instrument for that matter, isn’t free. You will have to pay for lessons (and yes, I recommend you find a teacher, especially for kids).  You will also need to have an instrument to practice on. Now you can find good used pianos but you will still need to be ready to tune it if its an acoustic one.  Or invest in a decent electric keyboard. But is it worth the cost? Well, read the benefits and you decide if it is worth the price for piano lessons for kids.

Time Commitment

The only other of the disadvantages of playing piano is time.  Getting piano lessons for kids or adults alike takes a time commitment.  How much time depends on how much you want to get out of the lessons. You will have to be committed to your kids lesson time, being prompt and consistent.  But in between lessons you also have to practice or if it’s your kids taking piano lessons, encourage them to practice. You can’t learn to do anything without practicing, especially learn a new instrument.  You might be asking if you have time for one more thing? I would ask, do you have time to teach your kids something that will help them learn to relax in the future? Are you wanting them to improve academically?

So if the the benefits of playing piano outweigh the disadvantages of playing piano, keep reading…

The Best Way to Learn Piano

piano lessons

There are multiple options for piano lessons for kids and adults.  You can watch videos online of how to play the piano, teach your kids piano lessons from home yourself, or hire a piano teacher.  I would highly recommend hiring a piano teacher. This would be the best way to learn piano.

Now if you are a piano teacher or have a great deal of knowledge about playing piano and music you could give your kids piano lessons from home.  It wouldn’t be unreasonable, but it does come with challenges too. I give my kids piano lessons from home and love it but yet find it difficult in other ways too.  

If you aren’t versed in music and piano or even if you are and don’t want to give your kids piano lessons at home, find a good teacher.  There are many teachers out there. Some do online lessons (I have to admit I’m not as familiar with this method). Others do direct teaching.    There are teachers who have a studio where you can take your kids for their lessons. Some also are traveling teachers where they will come and give your kids piano lessons at home.  There’s advantages and disadvantages to both. You just need to do what is right for your family.

The Cost of Piano Lessons

You might be wondering what the cost of piano lessons really is.  This is another tough question but I wanted to address it as best as I could.  The reason it’s difficult is because prices vary depending on the area you live in and the qualifications of the teacher you hire.  Prices can range from $13 per 30 minute lesson in the midwest up to $30 per 30 minute lesson in more metropolitan areas. However, can vary within each city and region so be sure to check with your local teachers if you want a better idea of what piano lessons will cost.

Finding a Piano Teacher Near Me

There are a few ways of finding a piano teacher near me.  The first is google. Just go to the homepage and type in “finding a piano teacher near me”.  A list of local teachers and music stores may come up based on your zip code. You can then contact those that come up for more information.  

For instance, our local music store that sells instruments, books and such have a list of piano teachers in our town.  The list has their addresses and phone numbers so people looking for piano teachers can contact those near them or whomever they want to in town.

The Adventure Awaits

Whether you are a musician or not, the importance of music can’t be denied.  There are so many benefits of playing piano like a lifted mood and better academic performance.  

One of the things I value most is my ability to play instruments.  It’s a way of escaping and entering a whole new world. Letting the imagination grow.  

So let your kids go on the adventure by learning the piano and eventually another instrument if they want to.  The value is beyond one that I can put a number too. You won’t regret getting piano lessons for kids in your house and encouraging others to do so too.

Blessings

~Melissa

St. Patty's Day: Celebrate as a family

St. Patty’s Day: 10 Ways to Celebrate As a Family This Year

Have you been asking yourself when is St. Patrick’s Day? Or how should I celebrate St. Patty’s Day?  Or maybe you want to find a way to tie this traditional Irish Celebration into your next family night.  Because St. Patty’s Day is coming up, on March 17th. So here are 10 ways to make St. Patty’s Day a family day.

When is St. Patrick’s Day and why is it celebrated?

when is St. Patty's day. March 17 circled on calendar

The answer to when is St. Patrick’s Day is simple.  March 17th. It is celebrated around the world every year on that day.  But why do we celebrate it?

St. Patrick’s Day (also known as St. Patty’s Day) is a celebration of the life of Saint Patrick and his bringing Christianity to Ireland.  The Shamrock became a symbol of St. Patty’s day because St. Patrick was thought to have used it to illustrate the holy trinity to unbelievers in his time. (St. Patrick’s Day, Wikipedia)

Many people worldwide celebrate St. Patty’s day one way or another.  In the United States, it’s a common tradition for people to wear green that day or get pinched.  Although it’s not a national holiday, it might be on the list of school holidays for your family, or at the very least, something you may choose to celebrate personally.  And whether you are a Christian or not, it can be a lot of fun to do.

So now that you know the answer to when is St. Patrick’s Day and why it’s celebrated, let’s look at 10 ways to celebrate it with your family this year.

10 ways to celebrate St. Patty’s Day with your family

Make Key Lime Pie

homemade key lime pie
Homemade Key Lime Pie

I realize Key Lime Pies aren’t exactly Irish, they are more of a Southern dish.  But they sport the green color traditional of St. Patty’s Day and they are delicious.  This would make a wonderful dessert to add to your holiday traditions, and it gives the feel of a refreshing summertime dish which would be a treat as spring is approaching.  It’s also a great way to get kids in the kitchen learning how to cook and bake. This is one of my son’s favorite desserts. He loves eating them and making them right alongside me.  And if it’s not green enough for you just add a few drops of green food coloring. If you want to try a Key Lime Pie this St. Patty’s Day we use this recipe from Favorite Family Recipes.

Make green slime

Slime is all the rage right now.  Kids love it. And you can’t go anywhere without seeing slime making kits, videos on how to make slime, or even just kids talking about slime.  So why not take the plunge and make some slime with your kids? And add a few drops of green food coloring to turn it the right color for St. Patty’s Day.  Your kids will love it and love you for it. Just be careful they put it away when they are done playing with it.

Make and wear t-shirts

Another really fun thing to do this St. Patty’s Day is to make T-shirts with your family to wear.  You could do tie-dyed or even the sharpie tie-dyed shirts. Regular tie-dyed shirts can be a bit messy but they are a blast to make.  Doing the sharpie version is a bit less messy but just as fun. To make sharpie tie-dyed shirts you draw whatever pattern or design you want on the shirt with a sharpie or another permanent marker, you then spray the shirt with isopropyl alcohol.  I will make the color fan out and bleed, leaving you with a cool effect. Might I suggest a green clover?

Make a treat to take to school

This is one to get the kids involved and giving back a little bit.  Even though this isn’t one of the typical school holidays, there isn’t anything that says you can’t let your child celebrate with his/her class.  Make sure you know the rules for your child’s class, but if they can take treats of some kind, let them. And come up with it as a family. I like these rainbow leprechaun treats from Seeing Dandy.  But look through pinterest or come up with ideas yourself if you want. Just do it together and have fun with it.

Make a shamrock craft

shamrocks

St. Patty’s Day is all about shamrocks.  So make a shamrock craft together. It’s a great way to teach your kids about the origins of St. Patty’s Day or just get in the mood.  You could make a plant pressing if you live in an area where shamrocks are growing right now. You could print a picture of one and have your child glue green tissue paper inside it.  Remeber when you use to use the end of a wood pencil and wrap a small piece of tissue paper on it only to dip it into white glue and stick it to a piece of paper? That would be a fun and cute craft with your kids.  But the sky is the limit on this one.

Make a four leaf clover drawing

Similar to the shamrock is the four leaf clover.  So you could also make a four leaf clover drawing. The fourth leaf represents luck which is why they are considered lucky.  Learning to draw can be fun and a great way to bond with your family. Learn together how to make a four leaf clover drawing. And if your school is celebrating St. Patty’s Day as one of its school holidays maybe you could go and help teach the whole class learn to draw them.  Here is a great and simple site that shows how to make a four leaf clover drawing.

Make potato soup

The Irish are known for potatoes.  This one may not be a traditional Irish dish, but you could make a pot of potato soup.  Potato soup is a wonderful comfort food with the potatoes and creamy broth that they rest in.  There are many different recipes for potato soup. Some have bacon, others are simple with just potatoes, milk, butter and some seasonings.  However you like it will be sure to be a winner and will be a great way to celebrate St. Patty’s Day.

Make a coded bracelet or necklace

Another really cool and educational way you could celebrate St. Patty’s Day with your family is by making coded bracelets or necklaces.  This article by Cyntia L. tells how to make a binary code necklace. These are super cute and would be a really neat way to teach your kids some stem concepts.  Whether you do these for school holidays celebrations or for a family celebration, they will be a winner. For St. Patty’s day just use green for one of the 2 main colors.

Play Croquet or another family game

Person playing croquet

Croquet was a game I loved as a kid.  So introduce your kids to this one. According to Wikipedia, the origins of croquet may have been in Ireland.  So you could start a family tradition and play this every year to honor the Irish. Croquet is easy to learn and play.  You will need a croquet set and an outdoor area. To play, set the 2 stakes up and then put the hoops out, then you try and hit your balls through the course and back first.  This is obviously a simplified version of the rules, but it really doesn’t take much to learn. If the thought of playing outside doesn’t sound appealing or it’s too cold you can always play a board game.  For a list of my top 15 board games for family night check out this post.

Have an Irish Themed Family movie night

Whether you are from Ireland or not you can have fun with this one.  Round up your green pajamas and make foods related St. Patty’s Day like Ruben Sandwiches or Potato Skins.  But don’t forget the popcorn (or the Whirley Pop to cook it in). However you decide to decorate, or what foods you decide on, deck your place out in St. Patty’s Day decor and round up the snacks.  Then you just have to pick out a family movie. Find a traditional Irish movie, pick a favorite family movie out, or watch one of these family movies on Netflix.

Celebrate St. Patty’s Day Your Way

However you decide to celebrate St. Patty’s Day, make it fun for the whole family.  It’s about more than just drinking, it can be about making memories. So whether you are helping celebrate it with your kid’s school holidays or just as a family, there are lots of things you can do to make it memorable.  Life is short so spend it with those you love and who love you.

Your kids may not remember the day to day things, but they will remember the little celebrations you put on for them.  Whether that’s St. Patty’s Day parties, a family Valentine’s Day, or just weekly family nights, they will remember those times.

I remember the little family traditions at holidays that my family had like going to some friends every year when I was young for New Year’s Eve.  That year we had fondue and I thought it was the greatest thing ever. It was probably insignificant to the adults. Something they had grown up with. But for me it was magical. A night I’ve never forgotten. So the little things that may seem insignificant to you might mean the world to your kids.

Go get out the glue, paper, movies, games or whatever you enjoy doing with them and make a new memory with them.

What new memory will you make with your family this St. Patty’s Day?

~Melissa


*This post contains affiliate links.  If you buy something through the link I will receive a small compensation at no additional charge to you which will help keep this site running. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Family movies on Netflix

Family Movies on Netflix

Are you looking for another family night idea?  Do you want something that everyone will enjoy but doesn’t cost a lot of money?  Well, a family movie night is just the thing. Here is a list of some of the best family movies on Netflix and animated movies kids and adults will enjoy.

Make a Date: Family Movie Night

If you have spent any time on my site you will realize I’m all about family.  I love spending time with my husband and kids having family game nights or family movie nights.  It is a way to spend quality time together and show each other how we love one another. Value is found in time spent together.

If you want some ideas about family game nights feel free to visit my posts The 15 Best Board Games For Family Night and Family Game Night Ideas.  But if you would rather watch a movie, keep reading.

There are dozens of family movies on Netflix.  It’s a great place to start for family movie night.  So find a day that works and gather up everyone. You could have a designated day of the week or maybe just circle a day on the calendar.  Or if you’re like us take an entire weekend and watch the whole list. It’s gonna be too cold outside to do anything that way so movies it is.

So here is my list of family movies on Netflix followed by animated movies kids and adults will enjoy…

Family Movies on Netflix: Non-Animated

Currently, there are several good Family Movies on Netflix.  Many of those are animated movies kids will love. Others are more action-packed for mom and dad.  But either way you kind find great family movies on Netflix that both kids and adults will love!

So let’s start off with a list of the best non-animated family movies on Netflix.  Here are a few of my favorites. And the ages I think they are appropriate for.

  1. National Treasure, Ages 9 and up
  2. The Indian in the Cupboard, Ages 5 and up
  3. Secretariat, Ages 7 and up
  4. Apollo 13, Ages 10 and up
  5. The Masked Saint, Ages 10 and up
  6. Beauty and the Beast, Ages 7 and up (Update: This one has now left Netflix so unfortunately, you can’t see it there anymore. But if you want to check it out on blu-ray/DVD you can get it here.)
  7. 101 Dalmatians, Ages 7 and up
  8. Peter Rabbit, Ages 5 and up
  9. Woody Woodpecker, Ages 7 and up
  10. Scooby Doo 2, Ages 7 and up

Of all the non-animated movies on this list, my top recommendation for families with kids of all ages is Peter Rabbit.  Peter Rabbit is great and a favorite of ours. It is witty and entertaining. This is one we have watched several times as a family.

If you have older kids, I’d highly recommend National Treasure.  It is one of my all time favorite movies. I’m not a History buff but I love the Historical references and the gripping nature of the movie.  It isn’t violent by any means but has plenty of action. I wouldn’t let really young kids watch it though as there is plenty of action packed, intense scenes.  That being said, it’s well worth watching for family movie night if your kids are a bit older. And if they aren’t I’d prescreen it on adult date night before putting it on your family movie night list.

So there you have it.  My top 10 picks for family movies on Netflix right now.

Kids Choice: Animated Movies Kids Love

Hotel Transylvania 3 Movie Trailer

So now let’s look at the list of animated movies kids and the whole family will love that are on Netflix right now.

  1. Incredibles 2
  2. Despicable Me 3
  3. Coco
  4. Smurf’s: The Lost Village
  5. Cars 3
  6. Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie
  7. Emoji Movie
  8. Hotel Transylvania 3
  9. Boss Baby
  10. Bolt
  11. The Star
  12. A Bee Movie
  13. Cloudy with A Chance of Meatballs
  14. Lilo and Stitch
  15. An American Tail

There you have it.  There are plenty of animated movies kids will like or non-animated family movies on Netflix right now.    The hard part will be agreeing on which one to watch.

And it will be tough to pick sometimes.  But all these are very good movies. Recently when I was doing research for this post we watched Hotel Transylvania 3 as a family.  I didn’t know what to expect because we hadn’t seen any of the other Hotel Transylvania movies, but this one was great! It was funny and had a great plot so it entertained both my husband, my kids and myself.  

Now that you have the list of movies to pick from, you better get the snacks ready.  Let’s take a look at the best snacks for movie night.

Best Snacks for Movie Night

Best snacks for movie night

Who doesn’t like snacks on family movie night?  So while one person is picking and getting the family movies on Netflix ready, the others can be getting the snacks.  

We like to do a couple of different things when it comes to food and snacks for family movie night.  We will either do a meal or we will just do snacks. And sometimes both.

If you want to do a meal for family movie night, pizza works really well.  I will make homemade pizza or sometimes will just go out for pizza or make frozen ones.  Then we set them out, set up TV trays and start the family movies on Netflix. We’ve also done this with taco boxes.  You can do the meal with whatever you want, I just recommend you do something easy and towards finger foods.

Now, if you don’t want to do a full-on meal, or if you still want a snack while you watch family movies on Netflix, make popcorn.  This is one of the best snacks for movie night. Another one of the best snacks for movie night is Chex mix. You can either make homemade or buy it from the store.  And who doesn’t like candy and pop? But we don’t always do the latter. We do, however, generally make popcorn.

Popcorn Two Ways: Air Popped and Whirley Popped

We have two different ways we like doing popcorn.  One is with a Whirley pop and the other with the air popper.  

We love using a Whirley Pop because of the flavor it gives the popcorn and it delivers almost a theater-like quality.  You can use a butter oil, shortening or another high heat tolerant oil. We have fallen in love with using Grapeseed oil because it’s a healthier alternative to some of the others.  So even if you are trying to eat clean you can still enjoy this theater quality popcorn. It really is one of the best snacks for movie night. So if you don’t have a Whirley Pop, I’d highly recommend getting one and trying it out.

The second way we like to make popcorn is with an air popper.  These work really slick and uses no oil at all. The popcorn is popped entirely by hot air.  You do lose just a little of that theater feel with the popcorn but it still is delicious. And kids love watching the popcorn pop.

Regardless of which way you choose to make it, after its popped just put it in a bowl and pour some melted butter on top with a little salt.  So it just pop it, add a little butter and salt, and voila! One of the best snacks for movie night while watching all the family movies on Netflix.

Make Family Movie Night an Event

Make family movie night an event

One thing I really like to do is have fun with family night.  I don’t do this every time, but occasionally it is nice to change things up.  One way to do that is turn family movie night into an event like making a drive-in theater for your kids like Jadi did here on Homemaking Fun.

But if you don’t want to go for the full drive in effect you can just do the concession stand.  We have done that a few times and the kids really enjoy it. To make a family movie night concession stand just make or find some play money.  Give your kids a set amount of money to “buy” concessions with. Then set up a small table with your items.

Once they have their money and the “concession stand” is set up, all they have to do is visit and buy their goodies. Have a price for each item you are selling and make them give you money for the items.   Just like when you go to the movies.

We did this not too long ago when we had a family Valentine’s Day party.  I did chocolate covered strawberries, little chip bags, dill pickles, theater candy boxes, and some drinks to pick from.  They were given Mario bucks to buy their treats. Each item had a price and they had to spend their bucks to buy the goodies.  We did Mario bucks because we were having a family game night. But you could use anything really. Have fun with it and make it themed for a family movie night or family movies on Netflix.  

Make Tonight a Family Movie Night

So if you are contemplating having a family night go for it.  There are plenty of great family movies on Netflix. Whether you want animated movies kids of all ages can watch or something a little more mature, it’s out there.  

Give your kids and spouse the time they need and show them you care about them by devoting special time to just them.  And make sure you put your phones down during the movie. Nothing takes away from family movie night more than a nose in the phone.  Unfortunately, I’m speaking from experience on this one.

Let me know what your favorite family movies on Netflix are or what animated movies kids at your house recommend.  And what’s your family’s favorite snacks for movie night?

~Melissa

*This post contains affiliate links.  If you buy something through the link I will receive a small compensation at no additional charge to you which will help keep this site running. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Soccer: Lessons in the game and in life from a mother's perspective

Signing Up For Soccer: Lessons From A Mother’s Experiences

Soccer, also known as Football around the world, is growing in popularity. In the United States kids everyday are signing up with either AYSO soccer organizations or US Youth soccer clubs.  It’s a crazy life running kids from one soccer practice to another, traveling to games on the weekend, working kids soccer drills at home in the backyard, signing up for soccer lessons and summer camps.  The list goes on. But the many benefits outweigh the crazy life being a soccer mom can bring. So get ready to load up that “soccer mom car” and come along for the ride.

The Many Benefits of Soccer  

I didn’t know a lot about soccer until my oldest decided to play.  I never watched or followed it. Also, playing it wasn’t something I did as a kid nor was it popular at the time.  But now I love the sport and see that it has many benefits for youth and others who try it.

One of the benefits of playing soccer, taking soccer lessons, attending soccer camps, learning kids soccer drills, or whatever you decide to do is physical activity.  In today’s world, you commonly find youth planted behind some electronic device. So playing and running around is on the decline. But soccer is a sport that changes that.  It gets kids up and running, which is good for them physically and mentally.

Another benefit is learning the art of teamwork.  Kids inherently are self-absorbed. Yes, there are the exceptions and I’m not saying kids are bad.  But who doesn’t remember their toddlers fighting over toys and having to teach them to share? Soccer is a team sport.  As I’ve watched my kids play the game I’ve seen many talented youth players, but none can win the game by themselves. So kids learn how to play as a team.

Some other soccer lessons my kids have learned through the years (and benefits of the game) are different kids soccer drills to make them better players, how to lose and win graciously, and how to make a commitment to something and go after it. It’s also a great way to spend time as a family which is why it is part of my list of Family Game Night Ideas.

So how did this all start for my family and why do I continue turning my van into a “soccer mom car”, encouraging them to learn different kids soccer drills, having them take soccer lessons through camps, and letting them dream about becoming a star player?

The Start to Our Soccer Lives

Soccer: Lessons in the game and in life from a mother's perspective

My oldest who is our one that absolutely loves playing the game of soccer is a 5th grader.  Our crazy soccer lives began, in a sense, when she was going into Kindergarten. She had come to us and asked to sign up to play soccer with a local US Youth Soccer club.  That year we said “no”. She was only 5 and already was playing softball, starting school, in Girl Scouts, and going to church night. It was a lot for that age so we said no more.

Fast forward a year, she asked to try soccer again.  At that point, I began asking some questions. I inquired about why she wanted to play and her answer was, “Because I’m good, mom”.  I was skeptical but we agreed to sign her up for just the fall. Well, she was right. She was good. And the rest is history.

After that 1st fall, she was in love with the sport.  She has played both recreational ball and competitively ever since.  Now we are busy with soccer 12 months of the year with about 2 months off in the winter.  It’s crazy but I wouldn’t want it any other way.

Soccer Gear That is Required by the AYSO Soccer and US Youth Soccer Organizations

Once we decided to sign up our kids up for soccer the fun began, as well as the craziness of buying soccer gear, going to practices, loading up my soccer mom car to head to games here and afar.  But let’s start with the required gear.

Whether your child chooses to play soccer with AYSO Soccer or US Youth Soccer there are a couple pieces of equipment that are necessary: A soccer ball and shin guards.

Soccer Balls

This might be the obvious one of the day.  In order to play, they must have a soccer ball.  To get better at soccer they need to have the ball at their feet on and off the field.  They can’t do this if they only have access to them at team practice and games. Also, speaking as a soccer coach (yes, my husband and I coached one year of soccer), it is necessary to run the many kids soccer drills out there. And if your kid decides to take soccer lessons of some sort they will need their own ball.  Soccer balls come in 3 main sizes depending on your child’s age. Microsoccer-U6 use size 3 balls, U8-U12 use size 4 balls, and U13 and up use size 5 balls.

Shin Guards

Shin Guards are a mandated piece of equipment by AYSO soccer, US Youth Soccer, and the International Soccer organizations.  Kids must have proper shin guards or they are not allowed to practice or play the game. Sizes will depend on your child’s size.  

Don’t take this one lightly.  As coaches, we had an issue with this one and I had to turn a kid away from a game.  I hated doing it and he was one of our better players, but he had shown up without shin guards so I couldn’t let him on the field.  So don’t forget the shin guards.

And if you are wondering why AYSO soccer and US Youth Soccer require kids to wear shin guards during practice, soccer lessons, kids soccer drills, games and anytime they are playing to prevent life-threatening injuries.  If a person gets kicked in the shins by a cleat it can cause a blood clot. And blood clots in the legs can be very dangerous.

Mom Recommended Soccer Gear

The two things I listed above, shin guards and balls, are a must in soccer.  However, there are several things I’d recommend you invest in if your child plans to play soccer.  So I wanted to share those with you from the soccer lessons I have learned over the past several years. Get ready to load that new soccer mom car with the gear to make games and outings enjoyable.

Soccer Socks

This one almost could have been listed above, but depending on your club rules and what shin guards you buy, you may be able to get by without these.  But they really are a necessity, even if you are not required to buy them. Soccer socks help keep shin guards in place. And if you have the shin guards that just slip into a sleeve or sock they are even more important.

Soccer Cleats

Another highly recommended item is soccer cleats. Cleats give your kids traction in the grass when they are running. Soccer requires a lot of quick changes and movement so having good footing is vital. Whether your kids are playing in a game, doing one of any number of kids soccer drills, taking soccer lessons, or practicing they will appreciate having a pair of cleats. One word of caution, don’t try and use softball, baseball or football cleats for soccer. They are not allowed unless you cut the toe cleat off.

Foldable Utility Wagon

You may be saying “my kid is only going to play rec ball, so why do I need a wagon?”  But, believe me, they are worth every penny. The first year my daughter played we didn’t have anything like this and every game we were lugging chairs, balls, water, blankets and more by hand.  Then we noticed others pulling wagons and we jumped and got one. It was one of the best pieces of equipment we bought.

Lawn Chairs/Bag Chairs

Most people already have some sort of lawn or bag chair, but if you don’t I’d recommend picking one out.  Most soccer complexes don’t have bleachers so this will give you a place to sit and watch your kid play.

Water Bottle or Jug

Another common sense item but my recommendation here is a little bit larger “water holder” than you are used to.  We would give our daughter the typical water bottles and it would only last her half a game. So we invested in a jug which has worked much better.  Just keep in mind they might be running hard for 30 or 40 minutes.

Cooler

If you decide to do a competitive team and your child makes the team, I would recommend you invest in a nice cooler.  You may find yourself out of town for games and tournaments and probably won’t want to eat out all meals. Plus some games fall right at lunch or dinner time so you will want to pack some healthy snacks.

Summer Gear

Soccer is played in almost every season.  You will want to be ready for hot, sunny days.  Pack the sunscreen, umbrellas for shade, bug spray, and sunglasses.

Winter Gear

On the flip side, you may find yourself watching a soccer game in the freezing cold.  The coldest games I’ve sat through was a tournament my daughter played in. It was like a whopping 10 degrees outside.  Now I’m not trying to scare anyone off. Soccer is a great sport, but round up some blanket, hot hands, hats, and gloves if you live in areas that get cold.

First Aid Kit

Not to sound negative, but I’d recommend having a basic first aid kit with you.  Every now and then I’ve seen kids fall and scrape knees or even roll an ankle when playing.  So having an ACE wrap, bandaids, and even an ice pack along just in case is a good idea. Soccer, like any sport, is not exempt from injuries.

So now that you know what gear to get to load up that soccer mom car, let’s talk a bit about the difference between recreational and competitive soccer.

Recreational or Competitive Soccer?  What’s The Right Choice of Teams

kids soccer drills and soccer lessons: Headers

When we first signed our daughter up to play soccer we signed up with a local club that only played recreational ball.  She played rec soccer only for the first 2 years, after that she also began playing competitive soccer. Both types of teams are all about developing the soccer player, which is key.  They both offer games, practices, practical soccer lessons, kids soccer drills, and team experiences. However, there are several differences between recreational soccer and competitive soccer.

Recreational Soccer

Whether you choose an AYSO soccer club or US Youth soccer club, rec soccer is meant strictly for fun.  Kids on recreational soccer teams should be allowed equal playing time, or as close to it as possible.  One thing to keep in mind, from a coaches perspective, is that it is extremely difficult to have it be 100% even in this sport.  Soccer is so fast paced with continual gameplay and substitutions that even the best coaches may have trouble keeping everyone on the field evenly.  Also, kids tire at different rates which may affect playing time.

If your child chooses to play Rec ball, they will still learn all the soccer lessons, kids soccer drills, and fundamentals taught in competitive ball. And they will be playing in games to keep it fun and interesting.

Rec soccer also stays more local usually.  Our club formed teams for each age division and we just played those teams.  We just had to load up the soccer mom car and travel to fields in our city, not a distant location.  This made it very handy.

Another aspect of Recreational soccer is the price point.  It generally costs less than competitive teams do, just in sign-up fees.

Competitive Soccer

Competitive soccer clubs are your traveling teams.  They still focus a huge amount of time developing youth into soccer players through kids soccer drills, soccer lessons, winter training, games, and tournaments.  

However, competitive teams are meant to be just that, competitive.  Kids are not necessarily guaranteed equal playing time. The best players may be on the field the whole game while those not quite as good may sit the bench most of the time.

Another difference is competitive soccer teams travel.  These teams usually travel to neighboring cities and even states to play games and tournaments.  You may find yourself loading up the “soccer mom car” every week to travel to a game. While it’s well worth it, expect to have more of your weekends and possibly weekdays taken up with the crazy mom soccer life.

Finally, finances are different between the two.  It generally costs substantially more to be on a competitive team.  Depending on the club you could pay hundreds or even thousands of dollars for your kid to be on one of these teams.  So it doesn’t come cheap, but being on a more elite team with better players may challenge your son or daughter into becoming a better player themselves.

So whether you sign your kids up for recreational soccer or competitive soccer comes down a little to personal preference, finances, and your child’s skills.  Frankly, we’ve had great experiences on both.

The Battle of Positions

Soccer positions

When my daughter started playing soccer it was like a crash course of learning the sport myself.  Then after watching and learning for a couple years my husband and I coached a year of recreational ball.  So we gained the first-hand experience of teaching girls different postions through various soccer lessons and kids soccer drills, while seeing the disappointment when they didn’t get to play exactly where they wanted.  This included our own daughter too.

Now, mind you, they played hard no matter where we put them but you could tell what positions they liked to play most.  

On a soccer field, you will find forwards, midfielders, defenders, and a goalie.  Then there are different positions of each of those depending on the “area” of the field they should be covering.  

So what happens when your child doesn’t get to play the positions they really want to?  Do you go to the coach demanding they let your child play the position they want? Should you find a different club that will develop your child in the position they love?  No! You should find a club when they are young that will encourage them to try all the different positions on the field. The only one I’ve never asked someone to play without their willingness is goalie.  

Players are better and more rounded if they are good at all positions on the field.  What if your child wants to play in high school or college? They are a star forward but can’t play anything else.  Their school may already have enough forwards so your child wouldn’t have a team to play on without moving schools.

So don’t let your kids battle you on not getting to play where they want to.  Encourage them to embrace playing all the positions on the field. You never know what it could result in.

The Art of Winning and Losing

soccer team celebration

This is probably the most difficult of all soccer lessons, or any sport for that matter.  Teaching a person to win and lose graciously is difficult and takes time.

My own kids and I aren’t exempt from this.  For a competitive person losing isn’t easy. But at some point in life, everyone does.  It’s how you deal with the loss that matters. Will you get bitter, angry, and defeated?  Or will you rise up, learn from your mistakes, and keep trying? One way you will remain a loser and the other you may become a winner.

So for my own daughter losing is difficult.  She is very competitive like me. So when the game isn’t going in her team’s favor you can see it in her attitude.  That is something she is working on. I’m encouraging her to stay in the fight and not give up. To find the positives in her performance and learn from the negatives.

On the flip side, when she comes away with a win I want her to celebrate.  But it needs to be done in a respectful way. Smiles, pictures, hugs, those are all ok.  What I don’t want to see is her gloating or talking down about how good she is and that the other team or teammates just aren’t that good.  Because you never know what can happen in the next game. So teaching her to win and enjoy it, but not gloat is a big goal of my own.

The Lessons of Soccer      

By playing soccer, lessons in life are learned.  As I have talked about all through this article, kids gain valuable physical activity in our ever-increasing digital age, they learn to be a teammate, and they learn how to win and lose graciously.

According to Kimberlee Leonard, Founder of Single Mommy Tribe,
“Sports give kids a way to learn to compete, deal with success and disappointment. It also provides great role models through coaches and team leaders.”

It isn’t just about kicking a ball around the field.  Soccer’s about developing an athlete, and more importantly, a person.

So get out there and sign your kids up for an AYSO soccer club or US Youth Soccer club. Even if they don’t play professionally they will still reap many benefits from their time on the field.

~Melissa

*This post contains affiliate links.  If you buy something through the link I will receive a small compensation at no additional charge to you which will help keep this site running. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Selling girl scout cookies. Junior girl scout pulling wagon with cookies

Selling Girl Scout Cookies: A Leader’s and Girl’s Perspective

Girl Scout cookies are one thing Girl Scouts are known for.  It never ceases to amaze me when people see my daughter or her other troop mates in uniform, they ask if they have cookies.  Little do they know cookies are only available a few weeks out of the year unless a troop orders extras. So let me ask, what do you really know about Girl Scout cookies?  Samoas or Caramel Delites, Tagalongs or Peanut Butter Patties, Lemonades or Savannah Smiles, who doesn’t like a Girl Scout cookie. But did you know that selling Girl Scout cookies is teaching young girls how to set goals, run a business, and develop Girl Scout leadership skills?

Girl Scout Cookies: Samoas Season

Every year girls sell Girl Scout cookies.  Samoas, Lemonades, Thin Mints and others are sold by the thousands.  Girl Scouts sell cookies door to door, online, and at cookie booths. It’s not an easy task for girls or leaders alike.  Selling Girl Scout cookies, Samoas included, raises money for troop trips, meetings, badges and community service projects.

The Troop Leader’s Role in Cookie Sales

The troop leader’s role is varied during cookie sales.  It all depends on if they decide to fill dual roles during this season.  Because of selling Girl Scout cookies, Samoas and all the other varieties are sold by the dozens, and someone has to track all that for the troop.  That role falls on the troop cookie manager. Some troop leaders fill this role (I’m one of those) while others enlist a parent to do this.

Being a troop cookie manager takes time and effort.  They track all the cookies taken by the troop, submit weekly orders for girls, set up cookie booths, and manage money from cookie sales.  If it seems like a lot, it is. But it is completely worth it.

The other role of a troop leader in cookie season is what they always do.  Running the troop, planning meetings, organizing outings, and everything else required in the job description.  It really is a fun thing. Just keeps you hopping.

So if you want to be a jack of all trades and develop Girl Scout leadership while selling Girl Scout cookies Samoas, join the bandwagon of troop leaders.  It is one of the most worthwhile things I do. If you want more info on becoming a troop leader check out my post “Starting a Girl Scout Troop: The Benefits to Moms and Daughters“.

The Truth About Selling Girl Scout Cookies From a Troop Leader

So why is it every year girls go door to door or stand outside pedaling cookies?  It’s not for the joy of freezing their hiney’s off (if you live in a northern climate).  It’s to learn to run a business and fund troop activities.

Each year girls all over take part in cookie sales.  They are worth it but not easy. Think of your local businesses, how many competitors do they have in the local vicinity.  Maybe a ½ dozen. Now think about all the girl scouts in your town. Depending on the size of town you live in there may be a few dozen to a few thousand.  All with the same goal, selling a box of cookies and they only have about 5 weeks to do it.

So the odds are not in their favor.  People may come knocking at the door wanting cookies but more often than not they are working countless hours to sell a few boxes.  But it’s all worth it.

And here’s why…

Why Selling Girl Scout Cookies is Important

The best way for me to show you why it’s worth the effort girls put forth is if I tell you about what part of our cookie money funded last year.  As a troop every year I let the girls decide what fun thing they would like to do with some of the money they earn. My girls picked a trip to Great Wolf Lodge.

Now for anyone that has been to a Great Wolf Lodge knows they aren’t cheap but they are very fun.  So imagine taking a group of 10 girls plus 4 adults and the funds to cover the rooms, food, travel, and extras.  That’s exactly what we were doing. Many thought it couldn’t be done but I didn’t want to discourage the girls and tell them there was no way it would happen.  But it wasn’t an easy undertaking.

The girls worked hard through cookie season.  As a troop, we sold over 3000 boxes of cookies.  That funded about half of our trip. So we then worked hard to do a few extra fundraisers and last July I took 13 people for 2 nights, 3 days to Great Wolf Lodge.  It was a blast! But without the support of people buying cookies and spending on our other fundraisers, it wouldn’t have happened.

Why Not Just Have Girls Pay For the Trips Instead of Selling Cookies?

Great question.  But what many don’t realize is how many girls join girl scouts on financial aid.  These girls are no less important to a troop. But those families more than likely can’t afford hundreds of dollars for their daughter to go on a trip.  And as a troop leader, I won’t leave girls behind or make them feel awkward due to money. So if we are going as a troop then the troop pays or we agree on an affordable amount everyone pays and the troop pays the rest.

Money From Girl Scout Cookie Sales Provide More Than Just Fun Trips

Cookies provide more than just trips and fun things for girls.  Troops also pay for badges, meeting supplies, community service projects and more.  Selling Girl Scout cookies is how troops fund these things.

You may think this isn’t that big of a deal but let me put a little perspective on it.  In our area for me to buy one badge for one girl, it would take a girl selling 6 boxes of Girl Scout Cookies.  Now, I have a troop of 9 girls so take that times 9 plus we generally earn up to 10 badges a year. So if we earn 10 badge times 9 girls that’s 90 badges.  Which means we would have to sell at least 540 boxes of cookies to buy badges.

Now that doesn’t include trips, camping, meeting supplies, and the other things necessary to run a troop.  So hopefully you get the idea that it’s about more than just a box of cookies, but about providing experiences for girls that they may not be able to get any other way.

Selling Girl Scout Cookies Also Develops Girl Scout Leadership

Selling Girl Scout cookies is about more than the money.  Yes, the funds are a huge part of cookie sales, but the other thing girls are getting is the experience of running a business. They also learn how to set goals, interact with customers, count money, and be confident.  All these are part of the Girl Scout leadership experience.

As a Girl Scout, leadership is key.  Troops are supposed to be girl-led. Meaning they make the decisions, not the leaders.  Now this is age dependent. As girls age they take on more roles in Girl Scouts. Leadership develops and they begin running the troop more and more.  Cookies is one of those teaching tools.

These things generally don’t happen overnight, but in the four years I have been a troop leader, I have watched girls grow and gain confidence.  They have learned to be vocal at cookie booths and ask customers for gifts of sharing donations. The girls are becoming more independent and able to count change and track sales without much adult help.  As they have grown in Girl Scouts, leadership abilities within them has grown as well.

The one thing I see cookie sales doing is allowing girls to dream and providing them with a way to make those dreams happen.  

Selling Girl Scout Cookies: A Junior Girl Scout’s Perspective

So that you don’t just have to take my word about why cookie sales are important, I interviewed a junior Girl Scout who has been in Girl Scouts and selling cookies for the past 6 years now.  This is what she had to say about cookie sales.

“I have been selling Girl Scout cookies for the past 6 years.  I have learned a lot of things along the way. I’ve learned that it’s harder than it looks.  You have to get out there and try really hard if you want to reach your goals. But it’s completely worth the work.  I like to earn money for my troop so we can go on big, fun camping trips and also go places like Great Wolf Lodge. This year I’m hoping to sell 700 boxes of cookies and get 400 boxes donated to our local Humane Society and the military.  I’m selling Thin Mints, Caramel Delites, Shortbreads, Peanut Butter Patties, Peanut Butter Sandwiches, S’mores, Lemonades, and Thanks-A-Lots. If you’d like to support me or donate boxes of cookies feel free to visit my cookie shop. Thanks to all who support me and my troop!”

Junior Scout

I have led this young lady in Scouts for the past 4 cookie seasons.  Each year I have watched her grow and become more confident in how she approaches customers.  She had gained so much Girl Scout leadership experience it amazes me. She has learned how to set goals and go after them. In addition, she has learned to handle money and count it back to customers, track sales, and adjust as necessary.  And this isn’t exclusive to her, but what I see happen with all girls as they sell cookies year after year.

So, if you are ready for info on the cookie lineups and how to place a Girl Scout cookies order, read on…

The Girl Scout cookie flavors available

This all depends on the area you live in.  In the United States, there are two bakeries, LBB and ABC bakeries, who provides the nation with Girl Scout cookies. Samoas, for instance, are made by LBB bakeries while Caramel Delites are made by ABC Bakeries. In our area, we have ABC cookies. And yes, there are differences in names and flavors.

Below are the cookie flavors for ABC and LBB bakeries:

Thanks-A-Lots

girl scout cookie flavor thanks-a-lots
ABC Thanks-A-Lots

Thanks-A-Lots are sold exclusively by girls selling ABC bakeries girl scout cookie flavors.  It is a shortbread cookie with a thin layer of chocolate on the bottom. These make amazing dunking cookies if you like milk and cookies.  The cookie will soften within the milk while the chocolate keeps it’s crunch. Each cookie also has a thank you message written in various languages.  And if you are looking to make a campfire smores, stick a roasted marshmallow between two of these. They are hugely underestimated but a very good cookie.  

A Junior Scouts thoughts: “Used to be my favorite until S’mores came along.  Has a nice blend of chocolate and cookies.”

S’mores

The next cookie is the S’mores. The S’mores cookies were released just a couple of years ago.  This is one with a definite difference between bakeries. The LBB smores cookie has a cookie layer on the outside with a thin strip of chocolate and a thin strip of marshmallow on the inside.  This is the only LBB cookie I have tried to date and they weren’t bad, but I have to admit I prefer the ABC S’mores.

The ABC S’mores cookie has a graham cookie inside with a very thin layer of marshmallow around the cookie.  Then, the whole thing is dipped in chocolate. When we have been selling Girl Scout cookies we have found that people either love or hate the S’mores. Not a lot of gray area with this one.

A Junior Scouts thoughts:  “This is my favorite. It has that chocolatey graham cracker all in one with a hint of marshmallow.”

Lemonades and Savannah Smiles

Both bakeries have their own version of a lemon flavored cookie.  I have not had a chance to try the Savannah Smiles, but what I have read and heard others say is they are a tart crisp lemony cookie.  I can’t speak for how well-liked they are as my daughter and troop sells the other lemon cookie: Lemonades. ABC bakeries make Lemonades.  They are basically a shortbread cookie with a thin layer of sweet lemon flavor on the bottom. These are more sweet than sour with that little zip lemon brings.  My husband hates lemon desserts but likes Lemonades if that tells you anything.

A Junior Scouts thoughts: ” If you like sour Lemonades are very sweetish, sourish.”

Thin Mints

This is a classic cookie trademarked by Girl Scouts.  They have been around for a long time. Both bakeries make Thin Mints.  However, I have heard there is a slightly different flavor between the 2 bakeries. But regardless, it’s a true minty, melt in your mouth, classic.  And try them in the freezer!

A Junior Scouts thoughts:  “Really good.  Nice minty flavor in them.”

Caramel Delites/Samoas

Other varieties of Girl Scout cookies, Samoas and Caramel Delites, are very closely related.  They are cousins made by the 2 different bakeries with just subtle differences. The Caramel Delites are a crisp cookie made with caramel and coconut.  They have a chocolate drizzle on top and a layer of chocolate on the bottom. It’s counterpart, the Samoas, are made by LBB bakeries and they are very similar with just subtle differences in flavor.  Both are winners if you like coconut. Think Mounds Bar with this one. It’s my 7-year-olds favorite!

A Junior Scouts thoughts:  “You can taste the coconut and it has a nice bit of chocolate in it.”

Shortbreads/Trefoils

The Shortbreads and Trefoils are another classic cookie.  They are the traditional butter cookie that the very first girls selling Girl Scout cookies sold.  They are very simple yet delicious.

A Junior Scouts thoughts:  “A little bland. But still tastes like a cookie.”

Peanut Butter Patties/Tagalongs

The Peanut Butter Patties and Tagalongs are a cookie with peanut butter on it all dipped in chocolate.  So, if you like chocolate and peanut butter together you will probably like these. They give you the feel of a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup with a cookie crunch.  They are one of my favorites.

A Junior Scouts thoughts:  “Tastes a lot like Reese’s with a cookie in it.”

Peanut Butter Sandwiches/Dosidos

Peanut Butter Sandwiches and Dosidos are the last of the comparable cookies flavors between LBB and ABC bakeries.  These are a crunchy peanut butter cookie with a peanut butter filling. These are a great coffee pairing and a nice crunchy cookie.  As long as you like peanut butter.

A Junior Scouts thoughts:  “Another one of my favorites. Has a nice blend of peanut butter, salt, and cookie.”

And last is the gluten-free varieties…

Toffee-tastic

LBB TOFFEE-TASTIC

Toffee-tastic cookies are the gluten-free variety made by LBB bakeries.  They have been around for a few years. They are a butter cookie with little toffee bits inside of them.  

Caramel Chocolate Chip

ABC CARAMEL CHOCOLATE CHIP

This is a new gluten-free variety made by ABC bakeries.  They were just released this year so I can’t attest as to how popular they are.  They are a decent cookie but I have to admit I preferred the Trios cookies they replaced.  But if this is your only option due to gluten intolerance they aren’t a bad little cookie. They resemble a small crunchy chocolate chip cookie.

Girl Scout Cookie Season

So, are you hungry for a cookie yet?  If you are great! Well maybe. I say that because Girl Scout cookie season runs different all over the U.S.  For me to tell you the exact dates in your area would be impossible.

However, if you want to place Girl Scout cookie orders from a local scout you can visit the GSUSA website here.  Then enter your zip code. They will send you to your local council depending on your location. Your local council can then connect you with a scout in your area. You will then be able to get your Girl Scout cookies, Samoas, Caramel Delites, or whatever kind you like depending on the area you live in.  You can also place your Girl Scout Cookies order online.

Or, if you would like to try any of the ABC girl scout cookie flavors mentioned above feel free to visit the link in the interview above to support the Junior selling Girl Scout cookies. You won’t be able to get some of the Girl Scout cookies, Samoas included, but can get it’s close cousin the Caramel Delites (which really is basically a Samoa) or some new ones you may not have access to like the Lemonades and Thanks-A-Lots.

Ready, Set, Action!

Now you know why you see girls selling Girl Scout cookies.  They aren’t there to annoy you or break your diet. Get out there and support a Girl Scout, whether online or locally.  Place a Girl Scout cookies order today.

They all are learning the ins and outs of business while chasing a dream of some troop activity they have planned.  So go support the Girl Scout leadership program.

And if you don’t want cookies yourself, all you have to do is donate the price of a box and those “gifts of sharing” will go to an organization the girls have decided to support.  What are your favorite Girl Scout cookies? Samoas? Lemonades? Thin Mints? Share in the comments below!

~Melissa

Family Valentine's Day: Ideas for Starting a New Tradition

Family Valentine’s Day: Ideas for Starting New Traditions

Valentine’s Day is all about love.  Most people either don’t celebrate it or wait in long lines to buy flowers or go out to dinner.  But it can be more. It can be a teaching tool for our kids. Valentine’s Day can be used to show our family love, not just our spouses or boyfriends.  And if you are alone and don’t have a significant other, a family Valentine’s Day can keep meaning in the holiday. So how do you celebrate a family Valentine’s Day? Stay tuned and read on for a list of family Valentine’s Day ideas…

Valentine’s Day is more than just chocolate and roses

Box of Chocolates

How many of you get sucked into the materialism of Valentine’s Day?  Expensive flowers and chocolates. Jewelry. Romantic dinners at high-class restaurants.  

I have to admit these things are all nice but I have two questions if you are in a relationship whether married or dating.  Why do you wait only for Feb 14th every year? And what about those littles all that love created?

Now, I’m a huge proponent of date nights with your spouse or boyfriend.  Without that quality time together it’s hard to grow your relationship. But I will leave that for another post another day…

When I was little my parents would always get us a little gift for Valentine’s Day.  They never forgot they loved us and showed us that on a holiday designed for adults. Or is it?  Is Valentine’s Day just about adults? Or is it about love and showing those around us how much we love them?  

So what about starting some new Valentine’s day traditions.  Have a family Valentine’s Day. Here is how to plan a family Valentine’s Day and some Valentine’s Day ideas to get you going.

How to plan a family Valentine’s Day

How to plan a family Valentine's Day: Notebook and pen

If you want Valentine’s Day to be a different this year, by not being the status quo and celebrating the love you have for the whole family, start with these simple steps.

  1. Plan it out:  This can be done as a surprise or with the whole family.  Do what you think they would like best. If you are uncertain if they would rather play games or watch movies go ahead and ask.  But a surprise may be more romantic even if you are planning a family Valentine’s Day rather than just a night out with your spouse.
  2. Make it unique:  As you are putting your plans in motion you can still make it unique.  Set it apart from your other family nights some way.
  3. Prep your plan:  Once you have a plan get ready to implement it.  If you are having a special meal or restaurant night go buy groceries a day or two before your family Valentine’s Day.  If you are watching movies have them rounded up. Whatever the plan is, get it prepped.
  4. Go Time:  Now that you have a plan and you are prepped for it, it’s go time.  Put your plan in motion.
  5. Be flexible and Enjoy it:  Family Valentine’s Day is underway, so sit back and enjoy it.  Be flexible enough to tweak the plan. I mean, you’re a parent so you should know by now that flexibility is key to sanity.  If your kid really doesn’t want the dinner you made take a deep breath and make them a PB&J. Save this battle for another day. Move on with your plan.

Not sure what to plan for a romantically fun family Valentine’s Day? Keep reading for Valentine’s Day ideas…

Valentine’s Day Ideas for that special Family Valentine’s Day

Teddy bear with heart. Family Valentine's Day ideas
  1. Turn your home into a restaurant. Design menus you pass out to each member of the family and then cook what they “order”.  On your menu have drinks, appetizers, entrees, sides, and desserts. You could even design a kid’s menu for the little ones.  For instance, maybe you have steak as an entree option for your spouse so you could put steak bites down for the little ones.  This makes it so you don’t have to do too many different things, just cut the steaks into bites. Get creative.
  2. Get a romantic pizza dinner or take-out.  OK. Maybe not romantic, Lol, but there isn’t anything wrong with planning for the whole family.  If you want to be part of a special dinner and not have to cook it get pizza or Chinese. Whatever your family likes.  I am all about eating healthy but if you choose this option, feel free to splurge a bit. You can eat healthy tomorrow.
  3. Plan a family game night.  I love family game night and if you have spent much time on my blog you may already realize that.  So if game night is a weekly activity at your house maybe get creative with it to make it a little different and more special for family Valentine’s Day.  Have a tournament game night on the Wii. Play a new family game that you have never tried before. Maybe you could buy a new game as a family Valentine’s Day gift.  Or if you usually play board games try a video game or card game. Just have fun with it. And if you need ideas for board games, visit my page, “The Best Board Games for Family Night”.  Or if you want a variety of game ideas, visit my post, “Family Game Night Ideas”.
  4. Go out.  No, I don’t mean to go out for a big fancy dinner.  But you could go do something fun that you don’t normally do.  Go bowling or mini golfing. Pick a movie everyone would like to see and go to the movie theaters.  If your kids are old enough, go try out an escape room. You could take them to the beach, a concert, or go-karting.  Just get out and spend some quality time for family Valentine’s Day.
  5. Family Movie Night.  My next Valentine’s Day idea is to pick a movie to watch.  This might be another thing you find yourself doing regularly with your family.  If it is, change things up a bit. Turn your home into a movie theater. Buy drinks, candy, and make popcorn.  Set up a concession stand your kids can “buy” concessions from. Before dinner give them a Valentine’s Day card with play money in it.  Tell them they can use that later. Then after dinner set up the concession stand. Let them buy their snacks. You could even set your living room or family room up with blankets and pillows so they can get comfy for the movie.  And if you want to go all out you can get them cute Valentine’s pj’s to change into prior to the movie. One of my favorite movies, The Greatest Showman, is good for the whole family.
  6. Get each other gifts.  This may seem a bit cliche and the opposite of what this post is about.  But this is a creative way to have fun with your family for your family Valentine’s Day.  Draw names from a hat and have everyone make or buy a gift. Set a spending limit. Say $5 to buy the perfect gift for that person.  Or have everyone make something. This way the kids can feel independent. They could make a card or a special picture for mom.  A candy bouquet for dad. Coupons for special favors for their siblings like cleaning their bedroom. This doesn’t have to be the traditional box of chocolates but it could be.  Get creative and include your kids in on the gift giving.
  7. Go for a walk or bike ride.  Not the most romantic of Valentine’s Day ideas but would make a great way to spend a family Valentine’s Day.  You could even include fido on this one. This is one where you would be doing your family a favor with a healthy activity.  If it seems too mundane for a family Valentine’s Day celebration jazz it up a bit. Go to a trail you don’t necessarily walk, bike, or hike and try it out.  Print off an outdoor scavenger hunt, grab a paper bag and have your kids find the items. If there are leaves or things that won’t hurt the environment put it in the bag for a craft later. Bringing me to my next Valentine’s Day idea…
  8. Have a craft night.  One thing kids love are crafts.  Get down and dirty and make slime with them, a papercraft, or do some artwork.  Slime is all the rage right now so most kids will love this activity, even tweens.  If you have never made slime it’s simple. Pour out a small bottle of glue into a bowl, add food coloring if desired, then add about a ½ tsp of baking soda.  After all that you add 1 tsp of contact solution or borax (I’ve always used contact solution containing boric acid). If the glue hasn’t turned to slime slowly add a little more but be careful.  If you add too much your slime will turn hard and won’t be fun to play with. And if you don’t want to buy everything separate just get a slime-making kit. Whatever the craft, have fun and let the mess happen.
  9. Stage a Photo Shoot.  Capture the memories of your family’s Valentine’s Day by taking family and candid pictures.  I love taking pics of my family. And my kids like taking pictures and videos. So break out the cameras and update your photo library or shoot a family video.  You will have the memories to last a lifetime and can have a hoot doing it too. Look nice for portraits but grab hats and costumes for the candids. It doesn’t have to be a serious endeavor.  Make it fun.
  10. Have a low key night…without electronics.  My last Valentine’s day idea for a family Valentine’s Day is to just have a low key night.  But make it a quality one. Don’t sit on the couch with your nose buried in your phone. Engage in meaningful conversation with your kids and spouse.  Unwind together. Cuddle and hold your kids. They need your touch and your presence. And guess what…so does your spouse.

But what about my spouse or boyfriend?

Valentine's Day couple

If you have stuck with me thus far you might be thinking, “but what about my spouse/boyfriend?  I thought Valentine’s Day was all about us.” And you’re correct to an extent. Valentine’s day is about the romance between two lovers.  And you need to keep that. It’s a vital aspect to a healthy family as I mentioned earlier.

That being said, who wants to battle the crowds at a restaurant on February 14th just to say you went on a date for Valentine’s Day?  I sure don’t. You should be going on dates much more often than every Valentine’s Day. I have to admit, my husband and I generally wait for a date a few days after the 14th or go before if we are going to celebrate it.

So I am not saying you can’t celebrate Valentine’s day and you are a horrible person if you do.  I have made candy bouquet’s and given my husband other gifts to show my affection. We have gone out to dinner, but we don’t do it just cause we have to.  We do it because we want to and we make more days through the year Valentine’s day by dating each other year round.

By all means, set aside some time for the two of you.  Get away, go on a date (but I’d recommend waiting for a few days or even a week to pass).  It is important.

But, you can also show your kids along with your husband that they matter by starting a new Valentine’s day tradition.  

The beginning of new Valentine’s Day traditions

Beginning new family Valentine's day traditions

A family Valentine’s Day would be the start of some new Valentine’s Day traditions.  Family time is very important to raising happy, healthy kids. Kids need to know they are valued by their parents and are worth our time.  One way to do that is showing them they are loved.

You can do some traditional dating (and I do recommend it) but you can also be unique this year.  I recommend you celebrate a family Valentine’s Day and romance your kids a bit too. You will be teaching them what a loving relationship is all about when they grow into adulthood.

What is your family Valentine’s Day plans or what Valentine’s Day traditions are you going to start this year? Please share them below and/or any Valentine’s Day ideas you have.

~Melissa


*This post contains affiliate links.  If you buy something through the link I will receive a small compensation at no additional charge to you which will help keep this site running. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Family Game Night Ideas: The Top 3 Board Games, Card Games, Video Games, Sports Games, and Outdoor Games

Family Game Night Ideas

Games have been around for a long time.  They are something most everyone enjoys in one way or another and a great way to bond with family and friends.  So if you are needing family game night ideas you have come to the right place.

The Importance of Family Game Night

Family game night ideas

Quality time is one of the most important things you can offer your kids and your family.  Not saying that other things aren’t important as we all have a different love language, but spending time with your kids will show you care about them more than your phone or anything else you may be doing.  And what better way than family game night.

In today’s world people spend hours on electronic devices.  Huddled behind a screen in their own world. How many of you sit with the TV on while playing on your phone, with your spouse and/or kids sitting 2 feet away?  And you never look at them, little lone make conversation. How do you feel connected to a person you don’t interact with?

Family game night is one way to find that connection.  Electronics are off (unless you are playing video games together) and the fun is on. So get out your list of family game night ideas and get started.

And if you find yourself in a slump, not knowing what game to play, or wanting a new game to try, take a look at the rest of this post.  I will be giving your family game night ideas by sharing my top 3 board games, card games, video games, sports games, and outdoor games.

The Top 3 Board Games on My List of Family Game Night Ideas

Splendor

Splendor is my 1st pick for my list of family game night ideas, at least if we are talking board games.  If you read my post about Splendor or my list of 15 of the best board games for family night you may already know that.  But my whole family likes this one. Splendor is just the right mix of strategy and chance. The post I mentioned a second ago describes the gameplay and my thoughts a little more in depth if you want to know more about it.

Another great part about Splendor is it has an expansion pack as well that you can purchase separately.  It is called Splendor: Cities of Splendor Expansion Pack. You must have the original Splendor game which is why I mention it here rather than on its own.  The expansion will give you an additional 4 variations to play.

I received the Expansion Pack for Christmas and we tried all four of them.  My favorite was either The Orient or Trading Posts.

Parent’s Tip:  

Start with the original Splendor and get good at it.  Then you can move to the Expansion pack. Kids as young as 4 or 5 can begin learning how to play but be prepared to offer them suggestions.  My son likes to just take cards and doesn’t necessarily know how to strategize yet. Yours may need help but they will catch on quick.

Winner’s Tip:  

Go for nobles. Be flexible.  Pick out a couple nobles with similar color schemes and go for those if the cards show up. But if your first plan begins to fail, look for an alternative.  The best strategy is the flexible one in Splendor.

Monopoly Gamer

The second on my list of the best family game night ideas is Monopoly Gamer.  Monopoly Gamer is a new family favorite at our house. We have played this one probably 2 dozen times in the last month if not more.  But I tell you what, if you can’t stand to lose, avoid this game. One time we played I won big and the next I finished with maybe 50 points.  One of the most fun and yet most frustrating parts of Monopoly Gamer.

When we ask the kids what they want to play 90% of the time they pipe up and say, “Monopoly Gamer”.  It is way less complicated than regular Monopoly so younger kids can play but even adults can enjoy it.  

Parent’s Tip:

If your kids are like mine they will figure out which characters are better than the others.  And they will latch onto them, weighing the tables in their favor every game and potentially causing fights.  Find creative ways to pick characters if everyone wants the same one. I sometimes put the character cards under the table and have each kid pick a number.  The number they pick is the character they are. This has worked well to avert fights.

Winner’s Tip:  

Be Mario, be Mario, be Mario.  Oh, did I mention, be Mario.

Yahtzee

For my family game night ideas list, Yahtzee rounds out my top 3 board games.  It’s a classic that many adults probably played as kids, but it won’t feel like a dinosaur to this new generation.  My own kids love Yahtzee. Once again you can strategize but there is mainly chance at play here. You can’t control the roll of the dice.  

This may go without saying but Yahtzee is played by rolling 5 dice at a time.  After your first roll you can select which dice you want to reroll and which to keep.  You get 3 rolls total per turn. After your third roll you must put a number somewhere on the sheet you have.  Play passes to the next person. Once everyone has filled the entire column on the sheet you total everything up.  Highest score wins.

Yahtzee is one of my husband’s favorites and quickly became a favorite of mine as well.  It’s easy to play and understand.

Parent’s Tip:  

Any age kid can start learning how to play Yahtzee, but for young kids be prepared to help them out a bit.  Be willing to offer advice but let them make the decisions and learn from it.

Winner’s Tip:

Go for the upper section bonus.  It has done me well and can help make up for some zeros in the bottom.

Board game runner-ups: King of Tokyo, Ticket to Ride

The Top 3 Card Games on My List of Family Game Night Ideas

Exploding Kittens

To start my list of the top 3 card games for family game night ideas is Exploding Kittens.  I have to admit, I had seen this one on the shelves and the title turned me off. I thought, “that sounds like a morbid game, why would I want to play something with the theme of exploding cats.”  Then for Christmas my aunt got it for my family. So of course we tried it. I was pleasantly surprised as it was really fun.

The gameplay revolves around laying cards down if you choose and doing what they say, then drawing from the draw pile.  You don’t want to draw the exploding kitten cards. If you do you are out. So you can strategize the best moves from your hand but there is a big element of chance because you don’t know when you will draw the exploding kitten cards.  Now there is a twist. You start with one diffuse card and that will keep you alive if you draw an exploding kitten and you can place the exploding kitten card back in the deck wherever you want. Strategy comes into play here but it can backfire quickly, and I’ve seen that happen, to my husband.

He didn’t put the exploding kitten back on top but stacked it down to get my son out.  I honestly thought he was attempting to get me out so I skipped my turn to draw. This pushed the exploding kitten back so he ended up drawing it and it put him out of the game.  Backfire!

This is a highly recommended game as kids can play it because, despite trying to play strategies, there is such an element of chance that they still can win.

Parent’s Tip:

Young kids may need a little help as they learn the game. If they can’t read they would need even more help because you do have to read what’s on the cards at least until you can recognize them.  But anyone can play this game.

Winner’s Tip:

Do as the instructions say and save up your cards at the beginning.  Play to draw from others when their cards dwindle if you know they still may be holding a diffuse card.  The more diffuse cards you can get the better your odds of winning are. And be careful when you try and stack the deck with an exploding kitten.

Canasta

Raise your hand if you have ever played Canasta or heard of it.  I don’t see it as a widely popular, well known game, especially nowadays.  But it is one of my favorites and one that should be on the list of family game night ideas.  

I was taught how to play Canasta by my grandma as a child.  She loved card games and every time we went to visit we would play cards.  Whether we played Canasta, Pitch, Bridge, or something else it was always fun.  But Canasta was one of the best and we still play it today.

My dad lives about 8 hours from us and every time we get together we start a game of Canasta.  We play 4 player with my daughter and I and my husband. We just recently started teaching my son.  I wouldn’t recommend this one for 4 or 5-year-olds but older kids can enjoy this along with adults.

Canasta is a 2 to 4 player game that uses 2 decks of cards.  The point is to lay down on the table cards that match, like 3 Kings.  Then you keep adding to that pile of Kings. When you have 7 of them you have a Canasta which is required to go out.  Points are then counted and the first to 5000 points wins. This is a very basic overview of the gameplay but gives you an idea.

Parent’s Tip:

Don’t let your kids partner up unless they are quite a bit older.  This may make it easier to help your kids and prevent unfairness in the teams.  It also may prevent fights. Also, think about getting a tray like the one pictured below.  Mine just recently broke but it makes gameplay so much nicer, especially for kids trying to reach the deck.

Winner’s Tip:

As the discard pile builds, you want it.  It will hopefully build your piles on the table and will make it more difficult for your opponents to discard without playing into your hand.  However, be careful if the other team is close to going out or you could get caught with a lot of points. And if you seem stuck and can only seem to feed the other team, freeze the pile.

Pitch

The third card game on the list of my family game night ideas is Pitch.  This was another game I learned as a child from my grandma. When I was young my great grandma was in a nursing home.  We would go to visit her but we didn’t just sit on her bedside and talk. She would be wheeled down to the commons area where there were tables.  It was there we would sit and play Pitch for a few hours. While talking and having fun. I didn’t mind nursing homes because they held fond memories of our card games with her.  

I haven’t forgotten all the fun we had playing Pitch with her and at other family gatherings.  Now I have begun teaching my kids how to play Pitch. This game is one that isn’t for young kids though.  My now 7-year-old is still trying to learn and understand the gameplay. And it really isn’t so much the play as the bidding. But that doesn’t make Pitch any less fun.

For those that have never played Pitch, it can be played with up to 6 players.  We always play 10 point Pitch as there are a few other versions out there. My favorite version of 10 point Pitch is 5 player Pitch.

Pitch is played by players bidding on their hand and then trying to take tricks. Once all tricks have been taken, points for that hand are counted up. If a player has taken enough points to match their bid then they get to count those points. If not, the team is set. The first team to reach the required number of points wins.

Parent’s Tip:

Once again, because of the bidding process, this game is a little complicated for young kids.  I would say around 7-8-year-olds could begin learning how to play with adult help.

Winner’s Tip:

Bid 10 on an Ace-Duece.  At least that’s what grandma always told me.  I’m not always brave enough for that but I’ve seen it done.  That being said, bid on long suits because it will be difficult to lose the 3.  But you should still have a big one or two (face cards). If you have what you think is a good hand, don’t be afraid to try it.  You will learn quickly what works and what doesn’t.

Card game runner-ups: Gas Out, Pinochle

The Top 3 Video Games on My List of Family Game Night Ideas

Minecraft

The top of my list for video game family game night ideas is Minecraft.  This is a widely popular game that has been made in many variations. We have an Xbox One and that is what we have Minecraft for.  I never thought I would like it as much as I do. But this was another of those games that pleasantly surprised me. As a family, we have spent many hours creating different worlds.  

Minecraft is a game based on surviving and building with blocks.  Everything from stone to wool is a cube. There are enemies in the form of zombies, spiders, Endermen, and more.  My kids like to play in survival mode a lot where the play is just as it sounds. You try and stay alive. My husband and I like creative mode better.

This isn’t a super fast paced game.  It affords a lot of creativity. We like to build different buildings, make giant waterfall or lava falls, build tree houses or underground houses.  The sky is the limit in creative mode. It can be addictive. My kids love playing it a lot. It is a fun game to play for any age.  And awesome to see the worlds you can build as a family.

If you would like to get it for your family check out the picture above for the Xbox One version. Here are the links for other gaming systems if you don’t have an Xbox One: PS4, Xbox 360, Nintendo 3DS, Nintendo WiiU.

Parent’s Tip:

Kids of any age can play this game.  When my youngest was 4 he asked to play Minecraft while my oldest was at school. So I would get on and he and I would just create worlds for hours.  Now I don’t condone just sitting all day with a preschooler playing video games, but there were times we had a lot of fun doing so. And we still love playing and creating.

Winner’s Tip:

Taken from my oldest, if you decide to play in survival mode build a house in a tree.  This will help keep you away from enemies and you will survive the first night. Then you can keep gathering and building after that.

MarioKart

One of the best Wii family game nights, or any video game night for that matter, is the classic game of MarioKart.  I love MarioKart. I have since I was a kid. My brother had almost all the Nintendo systems so I grew up on the original ones.  I loved them. The battle modes and races, you can’t beat it. So it should come as no surprise that it’s on my list of famiy game night ideas.

Once we got a Nintendo Wii and began having Wii family game nights, I was able to introduce my kids to the game I grew up playing all those years ago.  We spent hours playing it and having a blast.

Then a few years ago my kids got Nintendo DS systems equipped with MarioKart 7 like the ones pictured below.  The fun continued and the now can play it on the go. The other cool part about their DS’s is that they can link together and race each other.

We like to have tournaments or just spend time racing and battling each other.  The newer versions of MarioKart are just as fun as the originals. They add new elements while keeping the true feel of the game.  So this is a must have on your family game night ideas list when you want to have a great Wii family game night (or game night on any Nintendo system you may have).

If you would like to purchase MarioKart visit the following links depending on the gaming system you have, WiiU, 3DS, DS, Switch.  The 2DS will run both the 3DS (MarioKart 7) and the DS (MarioKart DS) versions. And if you need the latest system check out the Nintendo Switch.

Parent’s Tip:

Young children may be able to grasp and play battle mode with a little help.  Also, race together with your kids. If you pass the track and they don’t you can still move to the next.

Winner’s Tip:

The power-ups are better when you are in the back of the pack.  This doesn’t mean you should aim to be back there but just watch yourself if you are leading.  And sometimes you can avert a red shell by hopping but not always.

Wii Sports Resort

Last but not least on my list of family game night ideas for video games is Wii Sports Resort. If you want to have a Wii family game night, it should include this one.  It is another really fun game and also will have your kids active. This one is also great for the littles.

Wii Sports Resort is comprised of 12 mini-games with multiple variations of each.  Take a look at the video below if you would like to hear a great review on Wii Sports Resort and get a better idea of some of the mini-games.

Our favorite is the swordplay jousting.  It can be a rigorous activity trying to knock off your opponent.  When we play this one you can find us frantically wielding our Wii remotes trying to stay on the platform.  It’s hilarious. However, pretty much all the games within Wii Sports Resort are good.

The one thing to be aware of if you are purchasing Wii Sports Resort is the need for the Wii motion plus sensor.  If you have one of the original consoles and controllers you will need to buy the motion plus adapters with the game.  However, newer Wii remotes were made with the sensors in them, in which case you would only need the game. So please make sure you know what you have for Wii remotes.

If you have an old controller you can purchase the motion plus sensors here.  Or just upgrade to new controllers like this.

Parent’s Tip:

Even young kids, I’d say as young as 2 or 3, could play Wii Sports Resort.  Mind you they may not win, but can still have a lot of fun with it. Swordplay that I mentioned above is one they could do pretty easily as it requires little more than waving the Wii remote.  But this isn’t a game for just little kids as it has many built-in challenges for older kids and adults alike.

Winner’s Tip:

This is a tough one due to all the games.  But I will give you a tip on our favorite, Swordplay Jousting.  Be calculated. It’s tempting to just wave the remote around frantically.  This works sometimes, but not always. If your opponent does this, try and make precise movements to swipe high or low on them.  And guard yourself.

Video game runner-ups: Wii Family Game Night, Wii Sports

The Top 3 Sports Games on My List of Family Game Night Ideas

Bowling

Family game night ideas - bowling

Bowling may seem like an oddity for family game night ideas but it truly should make your list.  Now this one does require a little more money and planning as you can’t just play it at home, but let’s be honest. It’s worth the extra effort.  

I have to admit, I had forgotten how much I enjoyed bowling until this past fall.  When my husband and I met as teenagers we used to go bowling quite often. It’s something we both loved.  Then adulthood set in. We had jobs and then our kids came. And the responsibilities list. So we quit going and doing things like this as much.  Until this past fall. My youngest joined a bowling league for kids. So after not bowling in about 10 years, we went as a family so he could practice.  

Now it’s something both my kids ask to go do on occasion and I like to oblige them as much as I can because deep down I enjoy it as much as they do.  I may not be very good. But it’s fun just the same. It’s a great way to get out of the house, away from all the reminders of what we “should” be doing and go do something fun as a family.  So if you haven’t bowled lately find the nearest bowling alley and go give it a shot.

This one is good for all ages.  Young kids can use the ramps that alley’s have to roll the ball down and there are bumpers to keep the balls out of the gutters.  So other than an adult needing to help lift the ball up, kids of all ages can enjoy this one as well. It’s a great one for the list of family game night ideas.

bowling ball knocking down pins

Parent’s Tip:  

Teach your kids only if they want to be taught.  If you are a bowler yourself don’t expect your kids to want to just sit and listen to everything you say.  Some want to learn by doing it themselves and figuring it out. Offer to teach them if they want to learn. Otherwise just go to have fun and encourage them to enjoy the time even if the gutter seems to be their friend.

Winner’s Tip:

Wish I could tell you how to get a strike every time. If I could I’d be in leagues bowling all the time myself.  The best tip I can give here is if you throw a straight ball aim for the second arrow from the middle with your thumb.  To the right if your right handed and left if your left handed.

Knockout (basketball)

Second on my list of the top 3 family game night ideas for sports games is knockout.  This is a great way to get out and get active. Just the other day we had a rare warm winter day and what did they do?  Broke out the basketballs and played some knockout. It goes fast enough that you can play when time is limited but is very competitive and fun.  Now today my son is home because of running a fever and what did he ask to do. Go play Knockout. But it’s 20 degrees and windy so that’s a big no for me today.  But on nice days its a great way to spend time as a family.

If you have never played knockout before and want to know how it works check out the video below.

How to Play Knockout

Parent’s tip:

Having a portable basketball hoop that is adjustable is nice so kids of all ages can have a chance to play.  For young kids up to about age 7 or 8 (depending on their size) I would recommend this hoop. Once your kids are a little older (above 7 or 8) I would get this hoop. The difference between these are the height adjustments.

And play to your kids’ ages.  The older they are the more competitive you can be. And don’t forget the basketballs!

Winner’s tip:

Always try and start 2nd if you can.  And if you are feeling competitive try throwing the ball hard, as your opponent shoots, trying to hit their ball.  If it connects you will probably get them running 10 feet or more in the opposite direction. Play dirty, as the video above describes.

Soccer

The third game on my list of family game night ideas for sports games is Soccer.  My oldest absolutely loves to play soccer. So since that love began, we as a family have begun playing more of it.  

We like to go into the backyard and set up a pop-up goal we have like this one.  But don’t worry if you don’t have your own net. Just pick a couple fence posts, cones, water bottles, or other objects to be your goal posts.  Then you can use your backyard or go to the park and play a quick game.

This is a great way to burn off extra energy and, if you have a child into soccer, get touches on the ball.  It’s a fun activity for everyone. Just split the family into two teams and play away. We are talking street soccer here, not professional though.

Be sure and get a soccer ball if you don’t have one already (check out the link above).  Even if you don’t make soccer part of your family game night ideas list your kids will still love messing around with the ball.

Family game night ideas. Soccer

Parent’s Tip

Split the teams up as fairly as possible.  The most athletic parent with the least athletic child and vice versa.  This makes the game more fun and competitive. And if your children are small you can just have fun shooting the ball rather than worrying about playing a full-on game.  Either way, you will have a great time.

Winner’s Tip

Play defense, you will tire less and probably can make a shot across the small playing field you will be using.  No really, do your best and get around your opponents but the main purpose to this one is to have fun.

Sports Games Runner-ups: Horse (Basketball), Around the World

The Top 3 Outdoor Games on My List of Family Game Night Ideas

Bocce Ball

The 2nd pick on my family game night ideas list of outdoor games is Bocce Ball.  We were introduced to this game years ago when we were at a family gathering on my husband’s side at the lake (this was before we had kids even) and really liked the game.  Fast forward several years. We were given a Bocce Ball set for Christmas like the one pictured above. Now we enjoy playing it as a family!  

If you have never heard of Bocce Ball or don’t know how to play check out the video below to see how to play Bocce Ball.

How to Play Bocce Ball

If you want a traditional set of Bocce Balls, take a look at these.  My family has a non-traditional set like this (the set pictured above) and I really like them because we can split up into 4 teams if we want.  But there isn’t a wrong way to go (unless you want to play professionally). Either set would provide tons of family fun.

Parent’s tip:  

Any age can play this but be careful with the balls if your kids are young.  They are slightly heavy and you don’t want them dropped on toes or anything. Also don’t be afraid to play as teams if your kids are young.

Winner’s tip:  

Play defensively or offensively.  Do your best to get closest to the jack (little white ball) but if your opponents are closest, by all means, knock them out of the way.

Ladder Ball

Finally, Ladder ball is last on my list for family game night ideas.  At least for outdoor games. This rounds out my top 3 because of its simplicity, ability to elicit competition, and just plain fun.  Not too long ago we visited my dad and the weather there was gorgeous, especially since it was heading into winter. He had a ladder ball set so we spent countless hours just having fun in the backyard.  

Ladder ball consists of two structures that resemble the rungs on a ladder.  They are placed apart and facing each other. You split into two teams and each team has a set of 3 bolas.  Bolas are 2 golf balls attached by rope. You then take turns throwing at the ladder structure across from you trying to wrap your bolas around the rungs.  Each rung is worth points. The first team to reach a certain number of points wins.

The game play is simple enough that even young kids could learn how to play, especially with a little help from adults.  But “kids” of all ages will enjoy this one.

Click on the picture above if you would like to check out a Ladder Ball set for your family.

Parent’s tip:  

Make sure if you have really young kids that this is only played when you are around to make sure they don’t wrap the balls around their neck.   And feel free to set some of your own rules. This game can bring some flexibility to make it more friendly for young kids or more challenging if you have older kids and teens.

Winner’s tip:  

Play offensively and defensively.  If your opponent is barely hanging on to a rung try and knock it off.  But also go for the points yourself.

Horseshoes

The third outdoor game on my list of family game night ideas is Horseshoes.  Horseshoes is a game all ages can enjoy. Whether you make little family tournaments or just partner up, it’s a great family game.

This is also one of those time-honored classics most people are probably familiar with.  But if you aren’t the gameplay is simple. There are 2 stakes and 4 horseshoes. The stakes are placed in the ground 40 ft apart.  If you can’t do a full 40 feet go the distance you can. Players then stand by one stake and take turns throwing their horseshoes at the opposite stake.  Hoping to get the horseshoe around the stake. Points are scored by getting the stake within the center area of the horseshoe.

You can purchase a set of your own or if you are lucky enough to have access to horseshoe pits somewhere locally use those. We are members of a local organization that has pits and go there camping, target shooting, and fishing. When we are there we also enjoy getting the horseshoes out and playing a couple rounds.

Parent’s Tip

This game is fun for all ages.  Just be careful if using the set above or a similar set with very young kids as the horseshoes are cast iron and will hurt more if dropped on a foot or worse thrown at someone.  If you are concerned about safety with a standard set, check out the set below that is made of rubber. And have fun!

Winner’s Tip

Lot’s of luck and pray hard!  Ok, all kidding aside, find your rhythm and the throw that feels best for you.  There isn’t a sure fire way to win other than practice and getting used to your perfect throw.

Outdoor games runner-ups: Croquet, Lawn Darts

My Favorite Family Game

Splendor layout
Splendor

This one is honestly a difficult choice cause I love all the games I’ve mentioned above, or I wouldn’t have recommended them.  On that note though, my all-time favorite at this point is Splendor and the Splendor:Cities of Splendor Expansion pack. It is such a fun game and keeps you on your toes.  Each game is different because the cards don’t fall the same way twice. This keeps the strategies fresh each time.

But that being said, depending on what I want to do or my family wants to play on a given day will determine what we choose.  We enjoy all the different types of games there are. So don’t get stuck on one game and burnout. Explore all the different family game night ideas and share below what your favorite game is.

~Melissa

*This post contains affiliate links.  If you buy something through the link I will receive a small compensation at no additional charge to you which will help keep this site running. All thoughts and opinions are my own.


get kids eating vegetables - basket of vegetables

15 Tricks to Get Kids Eating Vegetables (And Other Good Food)

Vegetables and other good foods are one of the most important things we can do for our kids.  Without teaching them to lead a healthy lifestyle, they are at an increased risk of childhood obesity, diabetes, self esteem issues and more.  But if we can get kids eating vegetables we can help future generations lead long, fruitful lives.

As a mom, one of my goals is to raise healthy, productive kids.  I hope that is your goal too. But handing my kids pop, candy, cookies, white bread, etc, etc day in and day out will not achieve that goal.  So I have set out to change my lifestyle through clean eating like the Daniel plan and others have shown. And by changing my own life I hope to change my children’s lives.  For the better.

Why It’s Important to Get Kids Eating Vegetables

Do you want your legacy you leave to be here for many years?  Is it OK for the next generation to be sick and unhealthy? Do we want better for our kids?  I know I want better. I want our future to be led by a healthy generation. I want my kids to be able to teach my grandkids how to be healthy as well.

So why is it important to get kids eating vegetables?  Nutrients. Our bodies are basically an elaborately built collection of molecules.  These molecules are built of various chemicals our bodies rely on. If you could see the vast intricate chemical reactions going on everyday you would be amazed at the machines our bodies are.  But without the proper chemicals, aka nutrients, our bodies can’t run at peak efficiency. The machine breaks down.

Vegetable contain a variety of nutrients ranging from a multitude of vitamins, beta-carotene (good for your eyes), antioxidants, and more.  All of these things help our bodies, down to its cellular reactions, run efficiently. And don’t you want your kids’ body to run the best it can?

Risks of Unhealthy Eating Range From Childhood Obesity to Kids Diabetes

The harsh reality of the world we live in is more and more kids are facing lifelong illnesses like diabetes (type 2) and childhood obesity.  According to the CDC1, “In the United States, the percentage of children and adolescents affected by obesity has more than tripled since the 1970s.”  This number is staggering to me. And childhood obesity can have serious consequences.

Childhood obesity can have a range of effects on a kid.  Kids who are obese are more likely to suffer from psychological problems such as depression as well as medical issues ranging from type 2 diabetes to cardiovascular problems.2  So the effects of an unhealthy diet can be catastrophic.  I sure don’t want my young kids facing issues such as an early death due to heart attack.  Do you?

Joys of Healthy Eating

Boy eating ear of corn

If you get your kids eating vegetables and other good foods it has many benefits.  First off, there is something that happens in a person when you know that the meal you ate is life sustaining.  I can’t quite explain this one in a scientific fashion but the times I have made a really good wholesome meal containing numerous healthy vegetables and other foods, I feel different.  I am more positive and feel better about myself. This is just one benefit of eating healthy. Boosting your self esteem.

Another joy of healthy eating and being able to get kids eating vegetables is all the different flavors and colors you get to experience.  Real food is pretty and it comes from the ground, not a factory. I have experienced flavors that I didn’t know existed. And they weren’t man made.

Finally, the biggest joy of healthy eating is just what it sounds like.  Getting healthy. Knowing that what I’m putting into my body is life sustaining.  We can either choose foods that in essense kill us or those that help us. Vegetables and other healthy foods are just that, helpers.  The benefits are numerous.

So if you are like me you may have a desire to get kids eating vegetables.  To help the next generation lead a long healthy life. Here are 15 tips to get kids eating vegetables and asking for more.

15 Tips to Get Kids Eating Vegetables (and Other Good Food)

Make what they like

I put this as my number one tip because it really is one of the most important ones.  Make what your kids like. Bottom line. Now that isn’t saying you have to do that every single day if you want a little variety.  By all means, trying new things is also important, which I will discuss next. But if your kids absolutely love canned green beans, fix them for them.  Don’t just put broccoli in front of them everyday hoping they will magically fall in love with it and forget about their beloved beans.

I made this mistake which is why I’m telling you it’s important to keep what they love and just try new variations or other vegetables over time.  When we began a clean eating lifestyle about a year ago again I read where canned vegetables weren’t that great and you should just do fresh or frozen.  I agree that fresh and frozen may have more health benefits, but my kids weren’t used to them and therefore would leave them on their plate. It would be a battle to get them to eat the thing I knew they always liked.  Just because I didn’t think they should eat canned.

Looking back that was a huge error on my part.  I have eased up some now and we do have the occasional canned green beans or other canned vegetables (as long as there isn’t added sugar).  And when my kids find a can of green beans in the cupboards they jump for joy. Literally. So don’t get rid of vegetables they love completely. So get kids eating vegetables by letting them eat the kinds they like.

Make them try new things…more than once

Once you have established what they like, broaden their horizons by trying new things.  This may come with the inevitable battle but it will be worth it in the end. If they never try anything they will always like just the same old things.  Make a new dish or a twist on an old one and have them try some. Don’t be afraid to put a small amount on their plate and require them to eat a little. This part do what works for you and your family.  You could require them to eat everything on your plate or negotiate how many bites of it they must take.

After taking the number of bites they were told they still may not like what they were required to try and that’s OK.  Allow them to say they don’t like it. But if you liked it and if it was a healthy option don’t hesitate to make it again.  I do this often. My kids like broccoli made in boiling water with butter on it but they don’t like roasted or grilled that well.  That doesn’t stop me from making it that way though. And yes, they still have to eat some of it.

Hide the vegetables

Maybe this seems a little dishonest but if it works and gets the good stuff in them I say go for it! And, yes, I’ve done this.  There are a few things I have made that had vegetable or things in it my kids generally don’t like but they ate it, oblivious to the vegetables they contain.

For instance, I have made a spaghetti sauce that had shredded carrots in it.  I really enjoyed this homemade sauce and my kids ate it. Another dish I make is a Lebanese dish I grew up on called Mjadra.  It’s a dish containing lentils and rice, spices, and onions. My kids hate onions! But very rarely do they pick the onions out of Mjadra.  They usually eat them along with everything else and don’t even notice them. It’s a win-win.

So, if you have dish you can slip some chopped vegetables in give it a try.  What’s the worst thing that can happen? They find the veggies and pull them out or refuse to eat it.  I’m guessing it wouldn’t be the first time that has happened.

Don’t get stuck on one version

Another way to get kids eating vegetables is by not getting stuck on one version or way of cooking them.  Said another way, keep variety in your meals. If you always roast broccoli in the oven and your kids hate it, try cooking it another way.  Put it in a pot on the stove and steam or boil it, adding a little butter at the end. If you always have canned green beans give fresh a shot sometime.  

Also mix it up.  One night have green beans, the next some boiled broccoli, and then maybe have some roasted mixed vegetables before returning to the tried and true canned green beans.  By not having the same vegetable meal after meal, night after night, you will keep it fresh and hopefully not tire of them. I mean unless it’s ice cream or cookies who wants to eat the same thing day in and day out.

Go 80%

Raise your hand if you think trying to be perfect, eating healthy, clean foods 100% of the time will get kids eating vegetables.  My hand is down. Striving for perfection in today’s world will only lead to frustration and more than likely you will give up your endeavors.  Instead try to be healthy 80% of the time and let go the other 20%.

If your kids have eaten really well and had their veggies all week long, let them have a cookie on the weekend or better yet, bake cookies with them.  It’s better for them than the store bought cookies. But take the extras to work the next day so you and the kids aren’t indulging the entire next week.

Nonetheless, if you want to get kids eating vegetables make sure you allow them to still be kids and don’t expect perfection every meal and snack they have.  Do your best and don’t fret the rest.

A vegetable is a vegetable

Various vegetables

A vegetable is a vegetable.  I have come to accept this. We have been following the Daniel Plan as much as we can and in that they recommend limiting starchy vegetables.  I wholeheartedly agree with this. However if you’re wanting to get kids eating vegetables I would look at all vegetables equally. If they want corn and carrots, let them have both.  If they want broccoli and beets that’s even better.

As an adult I try and be mindful of trying to have a starch along with non-starchy vegetables.  I would always offer and ask my kids to eat both as well. But I also keep in mind that right now they are healthy and I would rather allow them 2 starchy veggies instead of them begging for seconds of meat, cheese, or worse yet sugar laden things.

Make a gradual change

This might be one left to common sense but it’s still worth mentioning.  My husband and I made this mistake so I’m hoping to caution others before they do as well.  When we began the Daniel Plan about a year ago he and I were both so excited we jumped right in a cleared out our pantry of all the processed foods we had been eating.  We had almost nothing left in the house it seemed. I’m not sure whether to laugh, cry or hide in embarrassment of how unhealthy we had been eating. But we got rid of it all quickly.

What we didn’t think of in our zeal was our kids, especially our youngest.  They were used to and liked all that junk food. Now it was gone. And they weren’t happy.  They wanted the foods back that they were used too. They hadn’t chosen to make changes but were along for the ride, and we were on the drop of the rollercoaster.  

Looking back if I could have a do over I would have eased into it more.  Now we are a little more laid back as far as things like “canned goods aren’t the devil”. So if you want to get your kids eating vegetables give it time and transition slow.  You may be excited but your kids may not be. Start by introducing new things slowly. Finding what everyone likes and dislikes as you go and adjust accordingly.

Be flexible

Don’t be a stick in the mud.  Be flexible. If you really want broccoli roasted on a sheet pan but your kid will eat it boiled in a pan.  By all means boil it! Make compromises that you can both agree on. Now there are some things that as the parent you shouldn’t compromise on such as cookies for dessert every night because they don’t want fruit.  But if you want them to eat apples everyday but they would rather have a pear, give them the pear. So keep a certain amount of flexibility in what you are making in order to get kids eating vegetables.

Let Grandma be Grandma

Let grandma be grandma is just that.  Allow grandma to spoil the kids a little (yes, you can set a few parameters).  But don’t make her only feed the kids what you allow at home. If grandma is a healthy eater then great! But if she isn’t, let her give them a cookie or piece of candy.  Now I’m not saying that sky’s the limit with this one. You can put your foot down and ask that she doesn’t send them home on a complete sugar high. Or load them up on only artificial dyes.  But give her room to enjoy her grandkids and give your kids room to make memories with grandma.

Get them in the kitchen

This is another big one.  Don’t be afraid to get your kids in the kitchen cooking good foods with you.  If they help in the process they will be more likely to eat the end product. You will also be spending quality time with them which they need.  Kids need more than just your guidance and nagging. They need your time. What little you may have of it. So break out the kitchen utensils and apron and teach them how to cook.

Be open minded yourself

Have you ever caught yourself turning your nose up at something.  We all do it but it isn’t a good way to get kids eating vegetables or other good things.  Lead by example. Show them that it is OK to try new things. In all honesty do you like someone telling you to do something but they aren’t willing to do it themselves.  If you don’t like that then why do you think your kids are going to want to eat something new.

These also means you need to try things you normally don’t eat.  And try it more than once usually. I have to admit, as a kid and even up to a few years ago I didn’t like broccoli.  At least not without the cheese sauce my mom always made. Broccoli has grown on me. Put it that way, but it’s not my first choice of vegetables.  But I would always take a helping because I required my kids to take and eat some. Now I like broccoli (well the florets, still don’t like the stems) and it’s one of my kids favorite vegetables.

So don’t rule out giving your kids something that may even be new to you.  You might surprise yourself and love it or even if it still isn’t your favorite your kids might love it.  Which leads me to my next tip…

Encourage them to try things you may not like

Even if you really don’t like something encourage your kids to still take a taste.  Everyone has a little different taste buds so something you might not like may taste really good to them.  But you won’t know unless they try it.

This actually happened to us just this past weekend.  My husband and I decided to try Kombucha. I knew kimchi and other fermented things were good for your stomach flora.  But had never found the courage to try anything like that. But I saw Kombucha on sale at our local store and decided I wanted to try it.  My husband was on board so we bought a couple. Needless to say it wasn’t our favorite. I couldn’t get past the sour, fermented taste. But we allowed our kids to try a little bit of it and they loved it.  

Since that day they have asked me to buy more.  They liked it that much. I did buy a little bit more and tried another brand and flavor different from the first ones.  I liked the new a bit better and they liked it even more.

Another example goes back to Mjadra (the Lebanese dish I mentioned earlier).  My kids love and will devour it. But, my husband hates it. (Yes, insert sad face).  But that doesn’t stop me from making it for them and myself when he happens to be gone for a meal.

Butter…Everything’s better with butter

Pats of Butter

Right!  Butter is the magic ingredient.  Now really, I would watch that you don’t completely overdo on this but don’t be afraid to use a little butter in your cooking.  That being said, use the real thing. Don’t fall for the margarine trap. I mean, have you ever looked at the ingredients in margarine?  If not you should, then go look at what’s in butter. Nuff said. Case closed.

We do use butter to help season and flavor our foods.  I use it when we boil broccoli, make foil pack veggies on the grill and for other things.  Do I go overboard? Probably sometimes. But I do try and do it in moderation as much as I can.  But, again, don’t be afraid to use a little.

As I was putting together this list of how to get kids eating vegetables I asked my own daughter what make vegetable good to her.  Hence this tip was born. The first and only word out of her mouth was “butter!” So there you go. It’s even a kid approved tip!

Don’t make a big deal out of it

If you want to get kids eating vegetables keep it small potatoes. Just as you shouldn’t make a huge deal about weight in front of your kids, don’t make a big deal about all the food changes you are making.  The more attention you draw to a new dish the more likely they are to start thinking about it and possibly making their mind up about it before it even hits their plate.  Keep things normal. Now, if they ask questions, be honest with them. I’m not saying to start lying to your kids for the sake of trying to hide something. But if they don’t ask what it is let them try it before saying what’s in it.  Give them a chance to decide by how it tastes rather than just by looks or because they don’t like such and such ingredient that is in it.

Ask them what they want

Straight out ask your kids what they want.  Don’t feel like you are the dictator and they are the minions.  They are just little humans that don’t have as much experience in life and you have to teach them.  So ask them what are their favorite vegetables. Find out what they might want for supper tonight or this week and plan meals with their input.  Make sure they have a chance to tell you what they want for fruit and other healthy snacks. Then buy them!

Every week I ask my family what sounds good for meals.  And if it’s doable I will make what they ask for. For instance, a few times when I’ve asked what they want my son has piped up “Pizza!”  I bet the first thought you had is “that’s not healthy.” And ya, there are healthier meals, but I still make it from time to time. The difference is I try to do homemade, not the processed frozen pizzas or fast food.  I make 100% whole wheat crust and top it with toppings that we like. So I still can give him what he wants, but a little healthier.

So give your kids some say in what your family eats but encourage them to pick from healthier options like carrots rather than crackers or fruit rather than cookies.

Building Good Habits Early

Get kids eating vegetables by starting early. Baby eating yellow pepper

So you can see, there are things you can do and try to get kids eating vegetables.  It’s not futile, but also not always easy so don’t give up. And the younger you start the better.  Introduce your infants to veggies when you start feeding them solid foods. I even made homemade veggies so I wasn’t having to give them the stuff from a jar.  I felt it was better for them.

If they learn to like beans and carrots as an infant then those flavors may stay with them as they get older.  Now by all means, make sure you don’t feed a baby raw carrots. Use common sense and give them the cooked pureed ones.  But start early.

And if your kids are older already it’s just fine.  Start now. Start today trying to introduce your kids new healthy options.  Even if it’s switching to wheat pasta instead of white pasta. They may not even notice the difference.  And if they do, go half and half the next time. But don’t give up.

Give your kids the gift of a long, healthy life.  Get kids eating vegetables and other good foods.  It’ll be worth it.

~Melissa

Disclaimer:  I am not a medical professional.  This is not meant for medical advice. If you have any health concerns please visit your doctor.

Refrences

  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  “Childhood Obesity Facts”. https://www.cdc.gov/healthyschools/obesity/facts.htm. Accessed January 24, 2019.
  2. Krushnapriya Sahoo,1 Bishnupriya Sahoo,2 Ashok Kumar Choudhury,3 Nighat Yasin Sofi,4 Raman Kumar,5 andAjeet Singh Bhadoria6. “Childhood Obesity: Causes and Consequences”. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4408699/. 2015 Apr-Jun
Starting a Girl Scout Troop: Mother and daughter showing a strong mother daughter relationship with a hug.

Starting a Girl Scout Troop: The Benefits to Moms and Daughters

For the past  3 ½ years I have been a troop leader for my daughter’s Girl Scout Troop.  Besides being a mom and wife, it’s one of the most fulfilling jobs I’ve ever done.  Yes, I spend countless hours planning, organizing activities, fundraising, and working with kids that aren’t my own.  But seeing the faces of the girls, especially my own daughter, light up when we get to go to Great Wolf Lodge or do some other fun activity makes it all worthwhile.  The benefits to moms and daughters are immeasurable. As a leader you will not only be raising strong girls but also strengthening your own mother daughter relationship.   That is why I want to tell you a little bit about starting a girl scout troop.

Why Starting a Girl Scout Troop is Beneficial to the Mother Daughter Relationship

Starting a girl scout troop gives you valuable time with your daughter in many ways. You will be able to show her what being a strong woman is all about.  The qualities of leadership will shine through the woman she probably looks up to most. You. Rather than sending her off to another activity taking up precious family time you will be giving her your time.  Showing her how you value her and want to be part of her life. By starting a girl scout troop you will be showing your daughter what raising strong girls and being one looks like. Here are some other benefits I have found as a troop leader:

Quality Time

 Leading my daughter’s troop has allowed me to spend time I would normally be just dropping her off with someone else.  We have connected through meetings and trips, some with the whole troop and some as mother daughter events.

Leadership

 I am setting what I believe is a great example for my daughter.  I’m showing her how to lead. She can see what it takes to be a leader, the time, the commitment, and hopefully become a great leader herself.

Fun

This one is huge.  My daughter and the other girls in her troop work hard for the money they earn through girl scout cookie sales.  Those sales not only allow me to buy badges and supplies for the girls from troop funds but also to go do fun things.  Last summer I took the girls in my troop on a trip to Great Wolf Lodge for 2 nights and we went camping at one of our state parks for 2 nights.  These were awesome things to do with her. Memories we will both cherish that would not have happened if I wasn’t her leader.

How to Start a Girl Scout Troop

Two girls on steps

First and foremost, you need to make the commitment to start.  Once you have made that decision the rest gets easier. To start a troop you can do the following steps:

  1. Go online and register as a volunteer.  You will need to sign up for Girl Scouts. Yes, adults can be scouts and must register so a background check can be completed to ensure safety for the girls.  You can either go to your local councils website or go here if you don’t know who your council is. If you follow the link click on the volunteer tab. If you go to your council’s website go to the volunteer tab.  Then click volunteer now fill out the form and pay for the registration fee.
  2. Once you have registered, your local council should reach out to you and help give you guidelines specific to your area.
  3. Figure out a meeting time and location.  If your council doesn’t help with this you will need to seek out a place to hold meetings.  I recommend you don’t do them at your home. Find a church, community center, school or other public place that will let you meet there, hopefully for free.  Most troops start with zero funds so if you are charged for the location you will have to pay for it.
  4. Find a Co-Leader.  As you get to know parents of the girls you could ask one of them or find a friend willing to step up and help.  This is important and a rule set forth by GSUSA so be thinking about another adult you would want to share this adventure with.  And to be honest, if you can recruit a few other adults as helpers that is even better.
  5. Once you have found a meeting location and time, registered, and have a co-leader, all that is left to do is plan and lead your first meeting.

Potential Obstacles When Starting a Girl Scout Troop

Standing on wooden bridge

As with anything, when starting a girl scout troop there are potential obstacles.  Here are some of the obstacles I have come across and how I solved them.

Time 

With the chaos of busy schedules time is not always on a person’s side, including mine.  It is a commodity we can’t afford to waste. So how do I solve the problem of time? I make time work for me.  As much as I can anyway. When I scheduled our troop meetings I found a time that worked in both my schedule and my co-leaders.  End of story. I didn’t worry about whether every girl could make every meeting. Ya, I wish I could, but since I can’t I do what is best for my family.

Also, give the time you can and don’t beat yourself up for what you can’t do.  Starting a girl scout troop may seem easy and really it is. But it does take time to plan meetings, lead meetings, etc.  So don’t burn yourself out or get overwhelmed. Ask for advice from other leaders on how they do it. Make pinterest your friend, I did.  And remember, it doesn’t have to be perfect. They will remember the good times and experiences, not the small flubs along the way.

 Co-Leaders  

This may or may not be a challenge for you.  If it isn’t that is awesome. You’re set. On the other hand, if you are like me finding a good co-leader is like finding a diamond in the rough.  The first year I started I struggled to find a co-leader I could trust. Most parents had so many other commitments they just didn’t have the time or desire to step up as a co-leader.  

After the 1st year, I found an amazing co-leader. She does an excellent job. We began co-leading for each other as I was in need of someone and so was she. She was starting a new troop and I had my existing troop.  Now we have grown enough that she has added another co-leader and I’m looking at adding another one as well. Yes, we are still sister troops but between the two troops have grown to having 4 co-leaders and four different levels.  

So, finding a good co-leader is vital, not only to follow the rules, but to take some of the burden off of you.  Some suggestions to find a good co-leader when starting a girl scout troop are ask parents to volunteer. This one is a gamble as you may get someone great and yet you may not. You could also ask a friend.  I see this alot. Even if the friend doesn’t have a daughter in the troop. It seems to work well and is what I did heading into my second year of leading. Finally, you could talk to parents you trust after you have gotten to know them a little bit.  This has also been successful but the downside is it takes time to get to know them and decide if they would be a good fit for you.

 Money

In my council, troops start out with a bank account.  But that balance is generally $0. Unless you are fortunate enough to inherit money from a troop that is discontinuing.  Now I can’t speak for all councils on this one. But if you don’t get money to start you will have to pay for everything out of your pocket.  This does stink but there are ways to compensate for it.

  • Plan meetings requiring very little in supplies.  Yes, you can find meetings such as the brownie games badge among others that don’t require a lot of extra supplies and just require different activities.
  • Charge troop dues.  For new troops this may be a good option.  I would recommend charging a monthly or yearly amount rather than weekly.
  • Ask parents to buy supplies for different meetings.  This one will depend on whether families within your troop can afford the items, but you could always ask.  And if you go on an outing make parents pay for it rather than the troop.
  • Do Fundraisers.  Check with your council before starting these though. Each council has different rules but if you do something extra.  And be ready to sell girl scout cookies.

Location

This can be another tough one.  You can always ask your local council person what they recommend if you don’t have a place in mind.  As I mentioned above, I would be cautious if you are thinking of doing it out of your home unless it’s only temporary.  Too many things could go wrong. Some places you might consider asking if your troop could meet is:

  • Your church or another church that works with the community.
  • A community center.
  • Your local library.
  • The school your daughter attends

Parents

You read that right.  One obstacle can be parents themselves.  Some like to take advantage of the system and will see you as a free babysitter.  Others may not want to register as an adult helper but will want to stay and “hang out” at every meeting, which is not OK.  But don’t let these things scare you away. On the whole, parents are very supportive, and I have found the difficult ones daughters tend to leave the troop after a short while.  Then you are left with the parents who are supportive of your efforts and those you should be grateful for.

Planning Meetings

This isn’t a huge obstacle but for a novice or someone just considering starting a girl scout troop can seem daunting.  But don’t let it scare you away. There are many resources out there to help you plan. Here are a few of them.

  • Other leaders.  If you connect with others in your area or online you can always ask for meeting ideas.  
  • Volunteer Toolkit.  This is something Girl Scouts recently released in the past couple years.  They have meetings all planned out that you can drop into your meeting day and just follow their plan down to the words to say.
  • Girl Scout Guides.  These are the hard copy books that tell you the requirements for each badge the girls can earn.  I like these cause I can see the goal and they give choices to pick from so I’m not set with one thing.  It allows me to do what I think will work best for my troop.
  • Pinterest.  This one is awesome.  If you search a badge you can find how others have completed the steps and follow what they did.  

Looking at the list of obstacles may make you run for your life.  But please don’t let it. All these things have solutions and when you find them as you start up everything falls into place.  Then the benefits for yourself and your mother daughter relationship will outweigh any and all of these.

Raising Strong Girls

Raising Strong Girls: Girl backpacking on trail in forest

When starting a girl scout troop and continuing one you are raising strong girls of tomorrow.  Girl scouts has a motto right now and that is the acronym G.I.R.L. This stands for Goal getter, Innovator, Risk taker, and Leader.  By being a troop leader you have the opportunity to influence girls in all these ways by setting goals to earn badges, go on trips, or achieve what they want in the troop. You can help them learn to create and be an innovator.  They can take safe risks through cookie sales, camping, and other outdoor activities. And they are able to be a leader by selecting the things they want to do within the troop. You see, girl scout is girl led. Meaning they are supposed to be the ones selecting what they want to do.  And I do that as much as I can within my troop.

So I encourage you to strengthen your own mother daughter relationship by starting a girl scout troop.  You will be influencing the girls of today to be the leaders of tomorrow. And isn’t that our goal as moms anyway?

~ Melissa

If you are looking for more great ways to spend time with your kids and family be sure to check out my post “The 15 Best Board Games for Family Night