Rainbow Loom organizer: “I just found an elastic in my cereal bowl!”

Ever since my daughter got her Rainbow Loom, I have been finding colourful little elastics everywhere!  In fairness, she is keeping them all in a bag and then dumping them out each time, so that she can pick out the colours she wants.  This process is bound to lead to some ‘strays’.  And, since she makes most of her Rainbow Loom creations on our kitchen table, I am always asking her to clean up the elastics, forcing her to start this process over again the next time.  Although she can keep the Loom itself in the box that it came in (I’m not saying that she does, only that she can), this box doesn’t fit her elastics and other accessories, so her stuff tends to get “spread” around.

My sister-in-law had the same issues with her kids and told me about a Rainbow Loom organizer that she bought to hold the Loom, as well as all of the accessories.  My daughter and I talked about this and determined that we would get one for her, if she promised to keep her Rainbow Loom ‘paraphernalia’ organized and contained (she was so thrilled with the prospect of separating her elastics into colours and not having to dig through a bag to find the colour she was looking for, that she even agreed to use a gift card that she received for Christmas to buy it).  I seized on this as another opportunity to teach her the importance of keeping her belongings organized (and to help me reach my goal of actually seeing the uncluttered surface of my kitchen table within my lifetime!).

The one we bought included 20 dividers so that she can customize the storage compartments as per her requirements.   It also came with a sheet of stickers to decorate the case (she thought that was pretty cool!).   We bought it at Chapters in Canada for $12.95, but I have also seen similar storage cases in stores like Michaels and WalMart.

No need to buy an official Rainbow Loom organizer though, as there are other, potentially less expensive, options.  I have heard of people using tackle boxes, as well as any other container that has dividers (ideally it would have a number of smaller sections to separate the bands by colour, as well as a larger section to hold the loom and hooks).  You can even check out your local dollar store for suitable storage containers at rock-bottom prices!

All that being said, the organizer is money wasted if she doesn’t get into the habit of cleaning up after herself and neatly storing everything away when she’s not using it (after all, a storage container is only as good as the person using it).  She’s just in the process of getting everything set up, so we’ll cross our fingers that this solves our problems!

Teaching responsibility at home: Implementing an after-school routine

There are many ways that we, as parents, can be teaching responsibility at home.  A good place to start is with the various activities and routines that we are faced with on a daily basis.  Having children take responsibility for themselves on a day-to-day basis, gives them an opportunity to consistently practice this valuable life skill.  In addition, it lightens our load and makes for a more harmonious and efficient household.  One example of this is having children take responsibility for themselves after school.  

When my daughter first started school, she would come home with a full backpack and randomly start taking out the things that were of interest to her (e.g. work she had done at school and was proud of or permission slips for class trips).  Typically,  things that I needed to see or attend to (e.g. her lunch bag) were left in the backpack and a smattering of papers were left lying haphazardly on the table.

I don’t know about you, but I find that after school is a busy time…my daughter wants my attention to talk about her day, she needs to start her homework, and I am preparing supper, as well as her lunch for the following day.  There has to be a process in place that brings a bit of organization to the chaos.

In addition, I realized that this was an opportunity to teach her about taking responsibility for herself and her belongings.  Although it would probably be easier and faster for me to simply do whatever I needed to be done, if I did everything for her, not only would I end up feeling resentful, but I would also be teaching her that this is what she should expect from life.

So, with this in mind, we worked out this ‘after-school routine’…

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  • Hang up coat and put away footwear (her outdoor clothing is kept on the lower bar of our closet so that she can reach it, however, if this isn’t possible for you, hooks would also do the trick).
  • Unpack lunch bag (this includes putting empty reusable lunch containers into the soapy water I have waiting in the sink and putting things into the garbage and/or the recycling bin, if applicable) .  Currently, I wash and dry the containers, but I imagine that this will change as she gets a little older.
  • Pull out planner (this is the ‘day-planner’ type book that teachers use to communicate important information, such as homework to be completed, upcoming deadlines, etc.) and read any messages to me (I actually need to sign the page to indicate that the messages have been communicated).  Return planner to her backpack so it doesn’t get forgotten at home.
  • Pull out any notes sent home on behalf of her teacher or school.  Place these in a neat pile on the table for me to read at a less hectic time.
  • Pull out homework, if applicable, and begin working (both she and I know what needs to be completed because we have already read the note in her planner).  Once homework is done, put it back in her backpack.
  • Hang up her backpack on its hook by the door (I just used one of those heavy-duty plastic hooks that adheres to the wall and can easily be removed without damaging the paint)…all ready to grab on the way out the door tomorrow!

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She knows the expectations of her, so she does what needs to be done without repeated reminders (this is a bonus, since reminders tend to annoy both of us).  After school is still a very busy time, but having a routine in place helps keep us on track and teaches her important life skills in the process!

 

 

Dealing with nightmares

Have you ever found yourself face-to-face at 3:00 in the morning, with a child who has just had a nightmare?

Some kids are more prone to nightmares.  I must admit, I was one of them (I remember watching a movie about Dracula and The Werewolf at a friend’s house and having nightmares for weeks afterwards – I can still picture parts of the movie, some 35 years later).  I learned pretty quickly that I should keep my distance from anything that was creepy or disturbing or I would pay for my transgression in lost sleep (and so would my poor Mom).

My daughter didn’t “fall far from the tree”, as they say (this time though, I was the Mommy being awakened in the middle of the night).  She is pretty sensitive to sad and/or scary stories and images and, although she rarely chooses to be subjected to them if given an option, the choice is not always hers to make (ironically, the worst offenders are movies or videos she sees at school).

Initially when she had a nightmare, I was very tempted to just have her crawl into bed with us, or to grab my pillow and plop down on the floor beside her bed, but I stopped myself from giving in to this urge (I really didn’t want to encourage a strategy that would more than likely result in a lousy sleep for both her and us).  Plus, although these ‘solutions’ would definitely be easier in the short term, what about the next time she was awakened by a nightmare, and the time after that?  Wouldn’t both she and I be better off in the long term if, instead of making her dependent on me, I taught her how to calm herself down and put herself back to sleep?

This wasn’t going to happen overnight, but I had to start sometime.  Truthfully, I wasn’t really sure what would work (I’m sure it varies by the individual), so my plan was to give her a number of strategies and then, over time, she could identify the ones that worked best for her.

When she came into my room to tell me that she had had a nightmare, I would gently take her back to her bedroom and have her get into bed, so that she was in the right state of mind to go back to sleep.  I would then sit at the edge of her bed, gently rub her back and ‘try out’ any techniques that I could think of.  Here are some tips and techniques for dealing with nightmares that I tried out, with varying degrees of success (I mention even those that didn’t work for my daughter, as what works for your child may be different that what works for mine)…

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  • turned over her pillow so that her nightmare ‘disappeared’ (some kids also like the feel of the cool pillowcase)
  • asked her if there was a favourite stuffie that she would like to cuddle with in bed and keep her company
  • had her ‘replay’ the nightmare but this time have something silly happen (e.g. the ‘bad guys’ are wearing polka-dotted underwear and tutus or they trip and fall into the mud)
  • hung a dreamcatcher close to her bed to ‘catch’ any bad dreams
  • had her think about things that she loves to do (e.g. playing with the neighbour’s dog or making a LEGO creation) – this distracts her mind and gets it thinking about more pleasant things
  • had her think about things that make her laugh (e.g. a funny video that she saw)
  • put the light on in the hall so that it didn’t seem quite so dark and scary

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Once I determined the strategies that worked best for my daughter (her favourites were the dreamcatcher, the stuffie and thinking about things that she loved to do), I got to the point where I only needed to walk her back into her room, get her settled, and put the strategies into her head (e.g. “would it help to sleep with Snuggles tonight” or “think about the last time you played with Cocoa and the fun you had”).  I would then assure her that she was OK and that I was nearby, and go back to bed.  As she practiced the techniques herself, she required less and less ‘coaching’ from me and went back to sleep more readily.

Imagine how thrilled I was the other day, when my daughter told me that she had been awakened by a nightmare and that she had simply grabbed her favourite doll, hugged her close and went back to sleep (and I was none the wiser!).

One small victory for her and I!