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Giving Kids Responsibility

By Patrick Kansa | Children

Giving Kids ResponsibilityLast month, I covered the topic of giving kids choices, and how we need to be responsible for both the options we give, as well as accepting the choice that the child makes.  Today, I want to dive into what is very much the flipside to the choices coin – and that is responsibility.

Tying It Together With Choices

To see how this ties together, let’s go with the picking-out-their-clothes example that I used in the previous article.  Once your child has their clothing picked out for the day, you’ll go about the activities you have planned.  What if they’ve decided to put on something that isn’t appropriate for the weather (say, shorts in the winter) or the activity (a party dress when headed out to the trails)?  Provided we stick with our earlier decision to abide by their choice (well, perhaps we’ll put a warmer coat and snow pants on in that first example), they’ll start to learn that their decisions have ramifications – and they’re responsible for those choices and their results.

This Is Important!

But why is this important?  As your child begins to pick up on the concept of responsibility, you can begin to instill the lessons that they are more than just an isolated person.  You’ll start off by teaching them to be a contributing (and responsible) member of your immediate family.  This will then be able to be extended to the larger family, perhaps your local congregation.  Ultimately, this will lead to them learning how to be a responsible member of society.

Of course, that’s the end goal.  Before we get there, we’ve got a lot of smaller steps to cover.  This is a journey we ourselves are fairly early on with, as our oldest is just about four.  That isn’t to say we don’t have her being responsible for things, though.  These can be fairly little things, but they’ll be lessons that add up.

Giving Kids ResponsibilityCleaning Up…

For example, we’ve started having her clear her plate from the dinner table once she’s been excused.  When this started out, we had to remind her each night of what was expected of her.  Now, it’s become routine – she knows it’s something she needs to do.   We had a wonderful reminder of her progress over the Thanksgiving weekend.  At both my parents’ and my sister’s house, after being excused (at every meal) she would take her dishes over to the sink without being asking.  She may not realize it yet, but she’s learning the lesson of contributing to the smooth running of our family, aka being a responsible family member.

… and Loading Up

Another lesson she’s been learning has been with what she brings along in her backpack.  We’ll try to give some guidelines for what she packs in there (coloring books, a favorite stuffed toy, etc), but she’s more or less given free reign once she’s got the specific things we want her to have packed in.  Sometimes, she’ll be ready to head out the door, and we’ll put the backpack on her shoulders, only to hear her say “it’s too heavy!”  It’s at this point that I’ll remind her that the weight is from her own activities – she packed in everything she wanted to bring.  While I’ll occasionally help her carry the bag, I’d be more inclined to help her clear things out to lighten the load.  It’s a small lesson, but she’s learning to be responsible for her own belongings, as well as some self sufficiency (in other words, pack what you can carry, not to depend on others to help).

Giving Kids Responsibility

Drawing The Line

Don’t get me wrong – we help our kids as much as we can with many things, especially in areas they’re still learning.  Here and there, though, we’ll take that small step back just to see what happens – what they’re learning, where we need to focus – that sort of thing.  I’ve said it before in these articles, and I’m sure I’ll say it again:  this is yet another one of those areas that we’re working through, and it’s definitely a trial-by-error.  Even for those of you reading this – you might try my examples, and they may or may not work for your kids or your parenting style.  Every child is different, and of course that changes the dynamics of this thing called parenting.

Enjoying the Journey

That all said, I’m curious what other situations our readers have come across with giving their kids more responsibility.  I’m sure there are plenty of stories (good, funny, or otherwise) that we could ultimately all learn from.  In our house, we’re learning as we go, and seeing how our kids react to what we’re opening up to them.  The ultimate goal is to have a productive and responsible member of our family and society.  We’re just enjoying the fun and rolling with the bumps and bruises as we travel the path to getting them there.


Advent Activities for the Whole Family!

By Amy Latta | Children

Hi there, friends!  The holidays are just around the corner, which means it’s time to start thinking about fun ways your family can prepare and celebrate Advent together.

If you’re scratching your head and wondering, “What in the world is Advent?” it’s the four week period leading up to Christmas.  Some churches and denominations put a heavy emphasis on it, while others don’t mention it at all.  The idea, though, is taking four weeks to prepare our hearts and minds to celebrate Jesus’ birth.  It’s a time to get excited, to count down, and to spend time doing the things that matter most.  There are lots of different and fun ways you can incorporate Advent into your home; here are some of the things we like to do in the Artsy Family!

Create and Light an Advent Wreath/Box

Advent Wreath

Advent wreaths can be pretty much any shape or size you want; the important part is to have four candles, one for each of the four weeks preceding Christmas, and a center candle for Christmas Eve or day.  Each week, you light a new candle, in addition to the ones you’ve already lit as a way of counting down.  Sometimes the outer candles are colored {usually three purple and one pink} and in different traditions, they represent things like peace, love, joy, hope, etc.


Sometimes they can be huge, like this one our church used last year…how cool is that?!  But it’s also fun to have one in your home that you can light with your family on a weekly or even nightly basis to help get everyone excited about and focused on the season.


We’ve had several different types of Advent wreaths in the Artsy House over the years.  For several years, we used this simple one where I wrapped berries around a gold candle wreath.  But last year, we attended an event where we made the super cool stenciled wooden box with mason jars and fresh greens pictured above.  For more information on that one and a full tutorial, check out my Advent Box post.  {That one also uses battery operated tea lights…yay for fire safety with kiddos around!}

Make a Countdown Chain


This tradition is really special to me because it’s something I grew up doing every year with my parents!  We make a simple paper chain to help us count down to Christmas.  Each day, we tear off a link of the chain after dinner and it tells us how many days are left!  You can also write activities on the links, or anything else you want!

Make/Use an Advent Calendar

I think my favorite of all the holiday traditions we do is our Advent calendar.  It starts December 1 and what we like to do is come up with a fun family centered activity for each day.  Sometimes it’s as simple as “kiss under the mistletoe” or to read a particular Christmas book.  Other times, it might be making a gingerbread house or gumdrop wreath, baking cookies, doing some holiday shopping, decorating our tree, or driving around to look at Christmas lights.  Each day, we all look forward to finding out what we’re going to do together.  For the past several years, we’ve used a storebought calendar that looks like a bunch of little presents stacked on top of each other.  You open up the doors to find the activities written on slips of paper inside.

But this year, I decided I wanted to make our calendar instead!  Silhouette is my jam, so when I saw this limited edition Silhouette Advent Calendar Kit, I begged for it.

It contains:
– a solid wood frame, painted white
– a 20-shape download card
– 35 hanging clips

I was really looking forward to showing you all how I made it and how crazy-cute it is, but sadly, it still hasn’t come yet!  I stalk the mailman every day to no avail.  But, at least I can show you some photos of what other people have done with it!  Take a look:

Silhouette Advent Calendar

Aaah!  Isn’t it fabulous?!  See why I wanted it!   While I’m waiting for mine to arrive, over at Silhouette, you can get this kit for yourself at 40% off!   To claim your special deal, be sure to use the code ARTSY at checkout!  Of course, there are lots of other options for making or buying your advent calendar; the key is to make it something the whole family will enjoy!  Some people put candies in each day as well as the fun activities…there’s a win-win for you!  What are your favorite traditions leading up to Christmas?

I hope this gives you some fun ideas for ways to celebrate Advent at home with your family this holiday season!

Hugs & Glitter,


Giving Kids Choices

By Patrick Kansa | Children

Giving-Kids-Choices-SignToday, I’d like to cover a topic that one that can be rewarding for the child – and sometimes frustrating for the parent.  That, of course, is giving your children choices.  When they start off in life, we’re obviously making all the decisions for them – what they’ll eat, what they’ll wear, etc.  As they grow and mature, though, we starting letting them make their own choices.

Starting Out

Certainly, at first, those choices are relatively inconsequential – do they want the blue bowl or the red bowl, or what do they want to dip their chicken tenders into – that sort of thing.  Depending on your child’s particular maturity level, you may expand these choices more quickly then other parents.  It’s just one of those things that you have to trust your judgement, as you know your child best.

In our house, that’s something we’ve learned by trial and error.  We started with those easier choices, the things that I gave as examples.  As our oldest has grown, she’s demonstrated in different ways that she’s hit a maturity that’s exceeded her age in many ways (of course, there are other times where we are quickly reminded she’s still rather young).  This led us to opening up her choices in different ways.

Giving-Kids-Choices (1)

Accepting the Choice

When it comes to things like clothes, many times we’ll let her pick out her own clothing – or even just tell her to go into her room and change out of her pajamas, and then we’ll see what she’s gone with.  On one hand, this teaches her some independence – but it’s also a lesson for us as parents.  In short, we’ve got to be willing to accept what we’re allowing her to choose.  Sure, the combination of colors and patterns may not be what we’d go with, but it’s what she chose – so we let it ride.

On the other hand, we will other times give specific guidelines (say, we’re going to be out in the cooler weather all day) – then she has to work within those guidelines.  Or, if it comes to picking out her clothes for church, we narrow down the focus.  We’ll pick out two or three things, and then she can choose from those.  That way, we know what’s selected is going to be appropriate, and she still gets to make some decisions.

The biggest lesson we’ve had to learn from this is that, if something is being presented as a choice, you have to be willing to stand by her choice.  If you give a few options out, and one of them isn’t something you really want (say, a particular book you don’t enjoy reading), they will invariably settle on that option – and you must stand by it.  Otherwise, you’re presenting your child with a confusing situation, and that won’t lead to happy times.

Decision-making is an exciting time for your child, as they start gaining some independence as they learn to think about things for themselves.  At the same time, you have to be careful to not open things up too quickly.  If you do, your child is likely to be overwhelmed because they’re decision processes aren’t built up yet.  As they strengthen those muscles, though, it can be very rewarding for both parent and child to open up those choices.

Giving-Kids-Choices (3)

Know Your Child!

We as parents have to know our children, and when it makes sense to allow our child to make decisions.  Sometimes, it may not be a critical situation, and we can allow them to choose from a wide array of options (for example, what pajamas to wear).  In other situations, we may want to constrain the choices, so that they still have some freedom, but the choice ultimately conforms with what we know to be best for them (for example, what mid-day snack to have).

As with just about everything parent-related, this is a topic where we can get as much advice as possible for a variety of sources, but we won’t really know the correct path to go down until we try it out with our own children.  While it can be frustrating at times, it’s ultimately for the good of our children, so it’s important to figure it out!

Be Careful of What You Say

By Patrick Kansa | Children , Communication

Be Careful of What You SayBe Careful of What You SayRemember that old phrase “little pitchers have big ears” ? That’s a phrase that my wife and I have really gained a better appreciation for in our house. And, no, it’s not that we’re worried about them picking up bad language (since we simply don’t use it). But we’ve really be quite surprised by what our oldest will pick up, even when we think she’s not really paying attention.

Of course, it’s a bit of fine line to walk, with what she listens to or not. For example, many times I’ll be talking directly to her, and think that’s she’s listening, only to have her response be “What did you say?” Now, depending on what else is going on, I might repeat myself. Or, as I’ve been doing more frequently, I’ll ask her what she thought I said. Nine times out of ten, she picked up most (if not all) of what I was saying. I use this not so much as an example of daily life communicating with a child (as most parents likely go through this repeatedly), but as an illustration of what she’s picking up on, even when she doesn’t think she was listening.

What Are You Guys Talking About?

The next example pops up from when my wife and I are talking about something that we just need to cover (upcoming plans, what needs to get done, that sort of thing), while our daughter is occupied playing with some toys or doing some coloring. She’s pretty good about diving into some of those sorts of things, so it can be easier for us to forget that she’s nearby as our conversation continues. That is, until we hear a little voice pipe up asking for some clarification on something that was just said.

On one hand, this is a good thing. She’s there, somewhat listening, as mom and dad talk about things relevant and important to the functioning of our family. This lets her know that things are moving along as they should be, in harmony. In some measure, this should also stick with her as a point of reference that we work together as a family to accomplish things, rather than everyone doing what they think needs to be done, then recapping after all is said and done to see what was missed (I think that’s just the nature of our household, though – my wife and I are both planners, and like to know things in advance going into them).

Be Careful of What You SayThe flip side of that coin is that perhaps it isn’t a conversation those little ears need to be picking up on, or it’s just plain something she’s not quite ready (developmentally) to understand. And, on a basic level, we already self-censor some things. There are topics that are ok to talk about in front of the kids, and then there’s the other category of stuff (good, bad, or otherwise) that you simply wait until the kids are asleep to dive into. Then there’s a third category, that gives you some (generally funny) unintended consequences.

Sometimes, It’s Funny!

That third category recently came to light on a recent trip to a toy store. Now, as some background to this, we’ve been talking about (and making steps towards) simplifying things in our house and lives. This mostly entails going over what things we truly need to have in a particular room (or in the house, to begin with), or what things we can get rid of (sell, donate, etc). In short, we think it’s the right path for our family to take – get rid of unnecessary clutter, and focus on quality and enjoyment of the things we do hold on to.clutt

Now, back to the toy store. My daughter loves going in to toy stores, primarily to go and play with their train table (for a long time, she would bring along her own Thomas and Percy). At some point while my wife, father-in-law, and kids were in the store, my oldest told her grandfather that it was ok to look around, but he couldn’t buy her anything, as she had too many things. Needless to say, this sounds pretty funny coming from a little kid! But it also demonstrates that she’s listening and processing in everything that goes on around her at home.

Be Careful of What You SayYes, the clutter and chaos in some parts of the house comes from the kids’ stuff, but it’s not like my wife and I were living some spartan existence prior to their arrival. And while I appreciate that she’s picking up on the concept of what we’re trying to do, things like this can be tricky for her to put into the proper words (though, with her, vocabulary is certainly not an issue!) And while this is a fairly benign sort of thing going on in our house, it’s underscoring the fact that she’s picking up (intentionally or not) the conversations and activities going on around her, no matter how involved it may seem she is in something else.

Something To Nuture

While this hasn’t forced any drastic changes in when (or what) we talk about at the dinner table, it does give us another thing to be aware of – this little child of ours is growing up, and very aware of what’s going on around her. Rather than see this as something working against us, I choose to see it as a strength, albeit one we have to carefully nurture. For you parents out there, I’m curious to hear what your experiences are around this subject, be it a funny story, or some practical tips you’d like to share.


Festive Fall Cupcakes

By Amy Latta | Children

Fall is officially here, and what better way to celebrate than with some festive cupcakes the whole family can help create?  Since Halloween is just around the corner, Jack-o-Lanterns and monsters are everywhere, so you might as well have some on your plate too {or in your tummy}!


You’ll need:
– 12-24 cupcakes
– assorted candies {we used jelly beans, gumdrops, and shoestring licorice, but you could substitute all kinds of other things}
– canned frosting
– food coloring

We made our Jack-o-Lanterns first, so we started by mixing red and yellow food coloring into our canned white frosting until we had a nice shade of orange.  This is a great job for little helpers, who will enjoy dropping the coloring in as well as mixing it all up!


The next step was frosting a dozen of our cupcakes…this part was a Mommy-job, but luckily I had a good supervisor to oversee my work and make sure I was doing everything just right.


Then, it was time to add the faces!  My Little Crafter loved giving each pumpkin eyes, nose, a mouth, and a stem using various pieces of candy.


To make the gumdrops into the shapes we wanted, I laid down some parchment paper, put the gumdrop on top, then rolled it flat with a rolling pin.  Then, I took a knife and cut it into a triangle or whatever shape we wanted it to be.  Little Crafter had fun choosing the colors he wanted for each part and making the pumpkins have different expressions, like happy, silly, and serious.


But of course, we couldn’t make the whole batch into Jack-o-Lanterns because how do you make cupcakes without having some chocolate?!  Since the only brown pumpkins I’ve ever seen are rotten ones, we decided to get creative and make some monsters out of these instead.


We used our same candy supplies here, but I think LC actually enjoyed making these even more because of the creative freedom he had…I mean, monsters can have one eye or four, or anything in between!  They can have antennae, ears, or whatever you like.  Noses and mouths are optional.  LC’s favorite thing was looping the licorice to make it look like a few of them were sticking out their tongues.


Seriously, now.  How fun are these?!  And they couldn’t be easier to make, even for your smallest helpers.


If you’re looking for a relatively easy fall activity, this is a great one, especially because when you’re done, you get to EAT them!  I’d love for you to stop by One Artsy Mama for more Fall Fun inspiration like our Candy Corn Treat Jars, BOO Bottles, Fall Coasters, and more!

Hugs & Glitter,


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