15 Questions to discuss around Digital Media with our children

Having conversations around media with our children is a really important part of growing up. We help to control, protect and teach in our homes but online, computers and mobile phones are three very different places.

I’ve talked about how we’ve tried to maintain a media diet and the revision of it. But just like the birds and the bees talk isn’t just a one time event- talking about digital media is something we want to be open regular, age appropriate and clear.

Good questions to start the conversations about digital media for elementary and middle schoolers. | Play-Activities.com [Read more…]

Why the chores in your family are not working and some solutions

We all like change but something about childhood and children mean we can get stuck in too many fixed routines. Don’t get me wrong, routines are good but there are somethings that would be better if we switched who was doing it.

Contributions are one of these things. If you call them chores see why we changed them to contributions in the first part of why your chores don’t work and how to change it. You can read the first part here.

Here are three more reasons why the chores or contributions are not working in your home and some ideas about how you can flip that.

Less frustration around chores for everyone if you don't fall into this problems. | play-activities.com

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Why your chores don’t work and how to change it

Most families like the idea of chores and have tried chores at sometime in their homes.  At some point chores breakdown and they just don’t work. Slowly they slip down the list of things to do and gradually get done again by the parents.

Chores are an opportunity for the family to work together without everyone doing the same thing. We are all parts of a bigger whole. As we work together our home, our attitudes, our relationships are better.

Here are 3 reasons why your chores don’t work and how to change it

We've tried lots of different chore systems and chore ideas until finally coming up with a way to handle chores in the family ( and it starts with changing the name of that word!) | Play-Activities.com

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Connecting with our children through conversation

Easy Conversation Cards to help with connecting with our children through conversation. Cards that won't make them groan!

It’s really easy for meal time conversations to get stalled. We ask the same questions, “How was school?” and get the same one word answer. Now we’re kind of stuck. I’ve written before about Creating a Family Meal Ritual  and how during meal time it’s a great way to have chance to have good conversations with different aged children and adults with differing points of view. But if you don’t have good resources on hand ( I wrote a post about some here) then meal times can just become really stressful or at the other end,  just blah- take it or leave it.

As my children got older we wanted some space for some deeper conversations without the children witholding! You know the time when they know the answer but don’t want to say.

Children are onto us.

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Christmas Jam

Enjoy family time with this sweet and tart Christmas tradition of making Christmas Jam. Simple Christmas Jam with Strawberries, Cranberries and Pomegranate ( Keeping the 3 theme of the 3 wise men!) Enjoy it with crumpets or your favorite bread Christmas morning. Quick to make for handmade gifts

It all started with crumpets.
Crumpets are a familiar breakfast/ quick snack in the UK served with lashings of butter. Something I took for granted now I can’t get them locally. Not to worry. Why not make them? Well if I go to the trouble of making them then why not include the kids and make it a family affair. Let’s make the butter and make the Jam too.

What better way to celebrate Christmas breakfast than to make crumpets, butter and Christmas Jam?

Since the whole process of making jam may mean the finished product isn’t good I had to practice. If the butter doesn’t make it I can use the one in the fridge. This maybe over ambitious so I figured let’s go with making some Christmas Jam, early.

I’m so excited I did. It’s so lovely. A blend of sweet and tart all in a spreadable jam. The tartness cuts the sweet so it’s not too much. Perfect!

If you’ve never made Jam before you have to try this recipe and save it for Christmas next time. I especially wanted to include fresh cranberries because they are everywhere at Christmas time. I also love POM and usually have it in a punch with the kids as a special treat so knew I’d have some of it about. The problem is combining all these quite tart flavors together and the jam being delish.

I found this wonderful recipe on Youtube How to make Strawberry Pomegranate Jam and followed it. I adapted the recipe to suit the Christmas theme.

Christmas Jam

1 package of strawberries blitzed or 16 oz
12oz fresh Cranberries blitzed
1 small bottle of POM pomegranate juice
2 cups brown sugar
3 tablespoons Lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon of sea salt
Small package of Sure Jell Pectin (1.75oz)
1/4 orange pared ( not very much)

fresh cranberries ready for blitzing in the Christmas Jam fresh strawberries ready for blitzing in the Christmas Jam

1. Blitz the strawberries and the Cranberries so they are pureed. I’d recommend doing small parts at a time. Somehow our blender needed that maybe yours won’t.
2. Pour blitzed strawberries and Cranberries into a large pot. Turn on low heat.
3. Add all the Pomegranate juice from the small bottle, about a cups worth, into the pot. Stir to incorporate.
4. I got the Six 4oz wide mouth Bell jars hot and soapy, rinsed off and dried. I placed the jars in a roasting tin in the oven at 240F while I made the Jam. The last time I made jam it was a very long time ago so I just followed these instructions from the Food Programme’s website. I would have loved to make that Fig and Pomegranate Jam there. Maybe next time. I added the lids to a saucepan covered in water and kept at a low boil until I needed them.
5. Add in the lemon juice, salt, pectin, sugar and the orange parings. The heat is coming up slowly as you’re adding. Stir with each new addition.
6. Using a jam thermometer you need to get the liquid to temperature up to 220F. This takes a little time. I took time slowly increasing the temperature because I was nervous. Stir. Check temp. Wait. Stir, Check temp wait.
7. You’re aiming for a rolling boil. (In the video Trish mentioned taking the foam off. I didn’t have any and mine came to a rolling boil and to temperature.)

 Slowly bringing the Christmas Jam to a boil, stirring | Play-Activities.com

Prepare the Jars

Get your funnel. Take out the jars from the oven. Place the funnel in the first mason jar.
7. Once you reach the magic 220F ladle or pour the jam into the jar with a good gap left at the top.

We had some left over and that’s the big sample jar we’re loving right now in the picture.

Enjoying the Christmas Jam: Blend of Strawberries, Cranberries and Pomegranate. Sweet and Tart . Find the recipe | play-activities.com

8. Wipe the jar tops and sides of the sticky jam. Wipe everywhere too where the jam splatted. I was surprised where I found that pink blob later the night. While it’s warm and wet it is easier to wipe right off.

9. Take out the lid middle with tongs. Seat them well.

10. Add the rim on carefully. Tighten. The jars will be warm/hot so you may choose to use a towel to hold while you tighten the rims. Repeat the lid and rims for all 4 jars.

I used a deep pot with a tea towel at the bottom. Filled it with water so when the jars go in they are completely underwater.

11. Add in your jars with no space. Add other jars so that the jars stay upright.

12. Bring the water back to the boil for 10minutes. Check your jar size for the right timings.

13. After the right time, take out the jars with the tongs and leave to cool on the side.

14. Once cool label and enjoy year round Christmas Jam !

We had the Christmas Jam and the crumpets on Christmas day and enjoyed a whole year or Christmas Jam. It’s been lovely! You can just see the crumpets before they were gobbled up on Christmas morning.

Homemade crumpets for Christmas Jam| play-activities.com Making crumpets for Christmas Jam | play-activities.com

These make great homemade gifts for friends, family and neighbours. Tie with a lovely ribbon or raffia.Smells so good. Christmas Jam with three fruits. Great family tradition for everyone to do together and eat on Christmas day! | play-activities.com

What traditions do you have for Christmas day?

101 Ways To Have A Calmer More Peaceful Family Life


There are times when you find that family life has spun out of sync with what you had planned. 101 ways to have a calmer more peaceful family life | Play-Activities.com

There are times when you find that family life has spun out of sync with what you had planned. It’s really easy to throw in the towel as that’s a big mountain to climb to get on top of things. I’m all about the simple things. This is actually a good time to really decide what matters and start doing more of that.

Dip in and find a few ways to have a calmer more peaceful family life ………start.

Calmer More Peaceful Family Life

  1. Have a regular bedtime routine that signals it’s time to go to bed
  2. Have a regular kids bedtime routine signals it’s time to transition from Kate and Jerry’s Mummy to YOU….just YOU.
  3.  Our kids are dirty at different rates- bath every night or not find your family baseline and don’t worry about anyone else.
  4. Bedtime is the traditional time for book reading and snuggles. It’s not the only time. ( You don’t have to do this at bedtime!)
  5. Regular bedtime slot. They need the sleep. We need the rest.
  6. Prepare for the next day the night before.
  7. We have to be further up the list in priorities. Stop deferring YOU as a priority.
  8. Get up before the kids. Stretch. Smile and read something good to set your mood.
  9. Be friends with silence…stillness
  10. Find a morning routine that works- test out different ideas over time.
  11. Experiment with aromas and scents in the morning to bring calm and peacefulness to your home
  12. Experiment with different music tastes- mellow, classical, instrumental, jazz, radio…. to how it changes the interaction and mood of the family
  13. Know the type of meal planner you are…… 2 hours once a month? 30 minutes each week? Plan your meals weekly or monthly. Find your routine and repeat, repeat, repeat.
  14. Have theme nights. Monday night= soup or stew in our house- think Pasta night, pizza night, veggie night, leftover night, take out night, slow cooker night, curry night etc
  15. Mess will always be there. Cleaning is necessary. So is play time and the kids. Adjust your expectations to match your situation.
  16. Share with your partner the games and activities the little guys loved that went well. Build up their bank of good play activities with mutual play activities you know work.
  17. Listen to your partner when they share their play activities they love to do….give them space to develop and try.
  18. Plan for your family- write a family quest scroll
  19. Have a cartoon series in a book, video series or a book series that you all refer to as a family-  quote lines all the time. We love Calvin and Hoobs. For years to come you’ll remember places and have strong memories.
  20. Be intentional about specific things that matter.
  21. Learn to let go…… not everything will be. What really matters focus there and make sure you’re both together on the what really matters.
  22. Have long periods of nothing schedules regularly- a whole day is great! A time where members of the family can wander around and join in with what’s going on and find their thing to do.
  23. Have regular conversations about chores.
  24. While we’re here- stop calling them chores and call them contributions.
  25. Everyone contributes to the house.  Start early, encourage and show. Persist…..restart
  26. If perfectly aligned towels matter to you or clothes hung or folded one way then teach, show, teach, show… or accept there’s this other way right now.
  27. Be happy to occupy the same space but not having to do the same things.
  28. Age appropriate contributions bond and keep a family together. They begin to appreciate the communal space. It’s our job to share, develop and show this in our home.
  29. Rotate the contributions. No one likes to empty the stinky trash..knowing someone else is going to do it maybe the only thing that keeps you when you’re wrapping up on a cold December morning to go out and empty the kitchen bin.
  30. If you like to …bake  super! If you don’t skip it. Focus your energy on what you want in your family not what you think’s expected of you.
  31. Running a household takes time, action, coordination and conversation. We have to do all four with the people in the household….especially that last one.
  32. Know that routine doesn’t mean set in stone. It can’t be. But there are things that happen regularly.
  33. Do what’s best for your family.
  34.  Try things…. You never know until you try. Give it your best shot for a reasonable amount of time. Ditch, defer or keep.
  35. Whatever your current season of motherhood…it won’t always be like this. Do what you can now.Plan for now and later.
  36. Introduce changes slowly. No one will appreciate cold turkey or radical changes! Transition and suggest substitutions.
  37. Set goals for life, parenting and play– otherwise they won’t get done.
  38. Have family roundtable sessions to celebrate, explain and discuss life in your family
  39. Do less things in your schedule for the week. Find some more margin.
  40. Get accountability from your mates who get you….if you love lists find your friends that are list makers. If you’re a cluster taker, relaxed, simplifier etc.
  41. No one around you that will relate? ( or that you want to share these types of details?) Find accountability online with challenges, groups and blogs
  42. Learn new habits and ideas- read, listen and ask people what they do.
  43. Be motivated to change or accept your situation. Be happy in the direction you’re going or make plans to change. Then do it.
  44. Spend time with people who have children in the next stage and beyond . Drink in their wisdom- adjust your mindset- adapt to your family. See #34
  45. Each parent- spend time getting to know each child- alone. Your second and subsequent children will love that individual attention they never had that alone time because of birth order.  Don’t forget your firstborn too.
  46. Take out each individual child regularly- have conversations, hang out, listen and play games. Love them for just being them- no strings just time.
  47. A cleaner  will be the best present ever- short term/long term. It makes a huge difference to everyone’s bottom line.
  48. No cleaner available? pair up with a local friend so you have an hour of cleaning time to do those 3 things on your list. No distractions- No Internet- No anything else. Blitz. You’ll both feel better for it.
  49. Less is more.       quiet
  50. Choose to spend your time in the okay areas of your family life and not all your time in the struggling areas. Walking in treacle all the time is tiring and depletes you.
  51. Relax. Anything worthwhile takes time.
  52. Talk about your dreams for life, the kids, your home, your travel, your work regularly. Not just around the New Year.
  53. Talk about how you’ll get to do these things with your time, money and presence. When you’re working on a family plan life takes on a better perspective.
  54. A kind word goes far. Be an encourager.
  55. Cook food that you’ll all eat. Encourage new food ideas.
  56. Read Simplicity Parenting
  57. Encourage dinner table conversation from everyone there with listening, input and discussion.
  58. Spend good times together with your partner. Family life isn’t all about the kids.
  59. Make them and they you a priority. Find out your love languages. Nurture your relationship.
  60. Listen to positive things everyday– find podcasts and audio books that seed your mind with good thoughts ( funny thoughts too) on the way to work, in the car, while you’re walking, weeding, washing, working out.
  61. Children busy creating and mess are two very different things to them but not always us. We need to adjust.
  62. Let toys flow in and OUT of your home. Have regular purges.
  63. Develop a fall back list- when you’re tired and overwhelmed- what things can the kids do? When you’re pushed for time? – What’s the minimum that has to be done? When there’s no food cooked but everyone’s hungry- what’s the healthy snacks or go to quick healthy meals. When you’re nursing or the little one is napping? What happens with the other kids?
  64. Read 7 habits of highly effective families
  65. Be you not a poor version of someone or something online
  66. Time for reflection, adjustment and reconnection. Give yourself a break. We all make mistakes, try and fail. Get back up and get going again.filteringthings
  67. Collaborate with the family. Everyone must feel like they are heard. Find situations where both adults make progress on moving the family forward. We can’t pull our partners along. That resistance is them digging their heels in. Collaborate.
  68. Seek out new scripts to try with the kids for explosive situations- sibling interactions, conflicts, answering back, sharing, biting, tantrums.
  69. Lay out your own path.
  70. Spend time outdoors away from the house in nature.
  71. Have deeper conversations about discipline, inlaws, where we see ourselves in 5 years? Work on joint family plans keeps you going through the hard trudging times.
  72. Have a budget. Stick to it. Plan and do the things you’ve decided to do.
  73. Spend time away from the kids.
  74. Start building a bank of books that talk about character, values, emotions and actions that are difficult to explain but story brings them to life.
  75. Enjoy using your kindly even quiet voice when talking to the kids. Lighten up. Smile and try to flip the conversation around to get the result you want without raising your voice or going into one…
  76. Your environment matters. Reduce toys. Reduce books.
  77. Be present.collect moments not things
  78. Learn to smile on the inside when you hear parenting advice that jars with your current stance. People usually mean well. What they say tells you a lot about them and less about you. Be deft at sidestepping not stumbling.
  79. Adjust your parenting to your child and their situation. Some need more, some need less. Don’t fix a plan and forget it. Adjust and accept that you’ll need to adjust. We all know those one sized onesies never fit well.
  80. Be kind to yourself.
  81. Teach and train essential skills to empower our boys and girls to handle a mop, broom, washing machine, their temper, spills and a how to tackle a huge mess.
  82. Tell stories about good childhood experiences of yours and retell stories from the picture books to novels you’re reading.
  83. Travel- take trips and journeys to new places physically if possible or through movies, documentaries and books. Quickly you’ll see there’s not one way to do this lovely life of ours.
  84. Like a good soup flavors need to develop so does family life.. have time and space for your calmer peaceful family to develop.
  85. Take pictures of the good times- have them on phone backgrounds, screensavers etc to remind you of these good times when the tantrum monster comes to town.
  86. Compare yourself to yourself. Which direction are you going in and are you happy about it?
  87. Anger, rage and frustration come to stay in many homes read and learn how to model how to deal with these common emotions for you and for the kiddos.
  88. If yelling is a problem in your home. Try the The Stop Yelling Challenge
  89. Read ahead. It’s always harder dealing with problems in the moment.
  90. Not everyone in your family will approve of your lifestyle and parenting choices. Be at peace with that.How you react and respond to them sets the foundation for future conversations.
  91. Set some realistic boundaries, for your family around screens. Many of the struggles we have are because we don’t have boundaries AND a way to talk about what’s not working.
  92. Be on the same page with Discipline and Praise.
  93. Keep things simpledo things fully
  94. Drop all the extra things. Do you really need to do it?
  95. Work together on activities- cleaning the house, church, road trips, sledging, gardening. Have something that you do together that has happy memories/fun and laughter associated with it.
  96. Mothers of boys- we have a lot to learn about our sons. They are different, special and lovely. We must educate ourselves on how parenting a boy maybe a different experience than anything we’ve experienced before.
  97. Learn to draw or print Picture charts so even the youngest fellas know what’s happening next in routines.
  98. Learn some new ways to discipline because …my goodness you’ll need an arsenal of ideas for those days when your back is against the wall. We all have that special child.
  99. Embrace Positive Parenting and Gentle Parenting concepts- always checking that this sits well with your family values and children’s personalities.
  100. Develop your own family style- it’s not your family style or your inlaws family style it’s a unique style. Allow time for this to develop.
  101. Not to try and do everything on this list…

Which number appeals to you?

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There are times when you find that family life has spun out of sync with what you had planned. 101 ways to have a calmer more peaceful family life | Play-Activities.com

Simplify Christmas your way

Find a home for that daydream scene you have about Christmas with a simplify Christmas your way printable | Play-Activities.com

Rooting around in that first Christmas box we found the Christmas ornaments.

Gradually unfolding each ornament, the boys tried to guess who made what and wished they had been more diligent about putting their names on things. Like most families we are blessed with one son who keeps the facts like this all straight and was happy to share who did what in nursery, primary school,  or we did at home, which teacher and which place.

This year was a mainly hands off Christmas tree decorating for me. I sat there to referee and be the keeper of the atmosphere. But they didn’t need me.

It’s wonderful when things unfold gently and unexpectedly. It’s a welcome break in full on time of family. Naturally we want to encourage more together moments, downtime that’s whine free and less of the I wants that creep in at this time of year. To do so we have to be intentional. Intentional at a busy time. It’s why I wrote: gift yourself a simple holiday season to help us easily plan then implement in your families. The mantra in our head should be: Simplify Christmas. Simplify Christmas.

The family atmosphere has the potential to change during Advent and this Christmas time. It’s up to us how that happens. Here’s a few ways we can make a difference with the family atmosphere to have what we want. I’ve used the questions from the book to guide how we will have our family holiday season and simplify Christmas.

Honor your time

Putting the down times on the calendar makes slowing down and maintaining that boundary much easier. It’s easy to add too many things into our schedule. It’s a little easier holding the space for slow.We’re starting our audiobook that’s Christmas themed so I  must find the time to do it each day.

Get the advent calendars out and be prepared to update a few activities to suit the growing family.

Honor your hands

Often it is our feet that get us moving around doing too much; rushing to this place and that. If we focus on activities for the hands we can find we just slow down too. I’m excited to get back to some felting, I think the boys will tackle this star as a decoration.  The star lantern tutorial looks beautiful. It has enough challenge for us to take our time doing it. With the imminent release of the next Star Wars Movie we just have to make these amazing Star Wars Tin lanterns.

Honor your curiosity and imagination

As the children are older this year is there a tradition or new ritual you’d like to try or adapt. We don’t need to be rooted to what we’ve always done, although it is lovely. Adding something different and new brings the season alive and with a new focus.

Honor your past

Knowing that family might be coming it’s time to start thinking of the family conversations and questions. Apart from this printable, what other conversation would bring the season alive? Remembering to serve others older like trips to the sick and shut in and homes. Phone calls to family. Digging out photographs of Christmas past of the children, the family, your Christmas.

What’s your Christmas and Advent time going to be like?

Spend 10 minutes filling out this printable for you and ask your family the answers to the middle questions. Why simplify Christmas? to enjoy the season, live and breath the memories without being exhausted or sick or pulled on someone else’s agenda.

Download your printable and check out the holiday prep book.

Simplify Christmas with a few questions to get the Christmas and advent your family craves.

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Find a home for that daydream scene you have about Christmas with a simplify Christmas your way printable | Play-Activities.com

Family History Questions to get the conversation going

With your loved ones around let's find time to ask the family history questions that lead to the stories and experiences of our families.

Thanksgiving, Easter, Christmas, the summer holidays are all times when we have the opportunity to see extended family for longer periods of time. When you’re in the company of family how much time do we spend sharing stories from our family history? How many stories can the children recite because they’ve become family favorites?

I came across this quote and decided it was time to change.


family history


With your loved ones around let’s find time to ask the family history questions that lead to the stories and experiences of our families.

  1. Set the scene
  2. Choose a few questions and check in.
  3. Find ways to record

Set the scene

Turn off the TV and have some background music playing. It’s much easier to have conversations without the distraction of the TV. Sitting around a fire or having a quiet time in the afternoon help because you’re already slowing down. Activities that involve us looking at each other and around an area than all staring in one direction help us to have more conversations. But what do we talk about?

Choose a few questions and check in

Use photos, current events, topics from school and choose a few open ended family history questions to start the conversation. Before you ask though it’s best to check in with someone else to make sure you’re not opening up a can of worms.

There are so many topics that are good to talk about from everyone’s life and likely a few that we’d all do best to avoid. Since we’re spending a good bit of time together it’s probably wise to make sure we pick the 75% good areas than stumble into the wrong area without realising.

It’s not a test of quick fire or multiple choice but a chance for family members to wax lyrical and share an experience. We indulge their exaggerations and rosy glow memories as well as laugh at the terrible twists they got into.

Ask early on in the visit to give everyone a chance to recall and retell their stories and experiences.

Find ways to record

Listening without checking devices is perfect. Listening without looking at a screen. Recording the voice using a smartphone or computer is a choice if you’re looking to keep a special retelling. Younger children may want to draw a story while it’s been told. Journaling and note taking help each families too to remember conversations. It’s all about being attentive and that’s different for each of our families.

As in times past a good story always gets retold. in the days and weeks that follow, when all the relations have long since gone home have regular story telling times.  Storytellers always thrive in life. Retelling stories gives a family a sense of unity, purpose and grounding.

Download this free printable of 9 questions to get you started on your family history questions.



With your loved ones around let's find time to ask the family history questions that lead to the stories and experiences of our families | Play-Activities.com



Best audio books for a Simple and Slower Family Christmas Season

Best audio books for a Simple and Slower Family Christmas Season

Audio books are not just for long car journeys.

Since you can download the apps to your phone and other portable devices it’s even easier for the family to take their stories with them.

I grew up listening to stories on the radio and love the theatre and drama of it all. There’s something about stories that bring them to life when you hear a good story told to you.

The challenge around the Christmas season is to keep things simple and continue to have a slower family life. One of the ways we’re going to try this year is having audio time together.

Unlike watching the same productions on the TV or going to the movies while you are listening you can be coloring, making, baking and doing or playing. This makes it perfect for the family to experience some downtime together doing what we wish and enjoying a shared experience of story.

Here’s a list of the best audio books for Christmas wish list, including affiliate links, that suit the family who wish to have more time together listening to great story and building memories.

[Read more…]

5 simple tips for smoother time management in families

Reduce the stress levels at home by working with the children on how to manage their time so they don't get overwhelmed. Learn more at Play-Activities.comManaging our own time is hard enough and making sure things get done. But what about time management for our children. When you have a few you start to notice that we all have different views of getting out the door on time. One child is always dragging or lost their shoe, favourite toy or put down snack.

Like many families we have our ups and downs with time management. We definately have a dreamer who takes life easy. There’s no hurry and no time. In our family we also have perfect time keepers who are ready before the time. We also have variations in between.

What we have learnt about time management is that it’s not caught. You have to teach it and slowly over time they get it ( Usually when they are somewhere else they do it!) If we don’t teach them these skills they don’t have anything to fall back on when all else is failing or choose to do and be proactive.

Learning time management skills is a life skill we all wrestle with and within the family is an important time to teach and share different ways to tackle time issues. It can only help them as they move through school and the pressures of schedules increase and on into higher education and work.

Try out these 5 simple tips for smoother time management in your family where we teach them and share how and not just give them new things to do and overwhelm them. [Read more…]

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