We need all the voices in the family meeting

Everyone has a voice at the family meeting.+ free printable frame. Hesitant when the kids have the floor at the family meeting? Download the family meeting frame that supports everyone having a voice at the family meeting ( so it keeps on point)Family meetings help children and families learn how to negotiate and resolve issues, this was the first post in the series. Last time we looked at how family roundtables or gatherings reduce tension by releasing that pressure valve that builds.Today we’re looking at the importance that everyone has a voice at a session.

Just because you’re the oldest or the adult doesn’t mean you talk the most. By following a framework we can all be heard and now we discuss why this is necessary in all families for family harmony.

Everyone has a voice

If you want to have quality and continued conversations with your children when they are teens you need to give their voice value. They need to be heard when they are little. They need to be heard as they enter the school years and as a tween; not just specific times but all the way through.

Their idea might not be good but let’s walk through with it to its logical conclusion.  Giving the words and supporting the situation helps each child to figure out empathy and seeing things from other points of view. This is usually what stops us from letting them have this voice. We are way ahead of them. We can see the problems and have vetoed it already. Children need to learn how to do this by talking through their ideas to logical ends.

Their idea might in fact be good. Let us hear that during the family meeting. Family is a good place to express opinions and support our children through to logical conclusions.

Say your grievances

Grievances go both ways:

Many of the squabbles we have in our homes are petty things that don’t get a chance to be aired and everyone listened to. How you fill the trash can and what you do when the bag slips down really wasn’t a big deal to me. But it was to those in the family who had to empty the bin. There were a few people who didn’t check when they pitched into the trash.

As a result when you took out the bag you had to take out the complete bin and wash it down. Effectively doubling the contribution and making him unhappy.

Very unhappy.

Seems petty and annoying but from his point of view he’d told the culprits and it made him get all crazy about a trash bag and how we fill a bin.

Fill a bin! One day recently he placed it on our Family Roundtable worksheet as a point to raise in the gathering…

Source: Meet at the Family Roundtable

It is these petty things that don’t get aired because there’s no place and time for them that creep out in different ways at the wrong times. The trash can annoyance mentioned above isn’t such a big deal now because the frustration is shared. We all understood. It was an easy fix.

To encourage everyone to have a voice have a format or agenda. Something that you do each time and everyone has a turn doing it.

Tips for better family meetings

Keep it fun and short. As you go along you’ll find you’ll need to talk about interrupting, flaming, shouting each other down, pouting and what you’ll do about it. Each family is different and it’s usually excitement to get their point across so most of us are happy to change things so we are all heard and listened to.

During the family meeting or gathering don’t just limit these gatherings to just being around a table, like meetings we find at work. Find your family way. It might be before, during or after dinner or on the floor or the local ice cream shop. Experiment.

After all the conversation and everyone having their voice let their be a time for wrapping up. We need to reflect on what’s happened because a lot has been said. We need to have a direction to go. Is there any actions? and we need to look forward to better so ending the gathering well.

Download this frame to support your family meeting.

Hesitant when the kids have the floor at the family meeting? Download the family meeting frame that supports everyone having a voice at the family meeting ( so it keeps on point)

Series recap

Part 1  Introducing family meetings to young families

Part 2 Why family meetings are great for reducing tension in families

Part 3  We need all the voices in the family meeting

For more systems and family flows check out this Pinterest board

Why family meetings are great for reducing tension in families

There are lots of benefits to starting family meetings while a young family. In the first of this family meeting series we talked about the earlier they learn to negotiate and resolve issues the better it is for everyone. Today we’re talking about reducing tension by releasing that pressure value that builds.

Siblings want what they want. They don’t come preprogrammed with the how to do this. They get what they want however they feel at the time. For some children they fight with words and others physically.Not all of our children are naturally emotionally intelligent. The good news is they can learn.

Why family meetings are great for reducing tension in families | Play-Activities.com

Why family meetings are great for reducing tension in families

Family meetings are a good opportunity to work through [Read more…]

Introducing family meetings to young families

Get started with family meetings even when you have a young family. Here's how | Play-Activities.comMany young families love the idea of a family meeting or what we call a family roundtable. But just can’t see how it will work with young children. Often parents say that family meeting will be a good future event when the children are older. This certainly misses a fantastic opportunity to get started on the intercommunication skills.  The early we build these skills the easier our child will find things.

Teach negotiation and resolution skills

If you’ve spent a few hours with a group of children it is inevitable that conflict happens. Some of your children are naturally good at handling conflict ( Maybe it was ‘caught’ in your household or maybe it’s part of their personality.)

Many children naturally are self centered.

  • It is a big leap to feel empathy and consider the other person for many children.
  • It is  difficult to weigh up the fairness of the situation AND make the right choice.

When you’re triggered and away from home what happens next matters.  Often these little guys are also angry and knowing what to do and say next means the difference between going home, staying and playing or a long conversation intervention between parties.

During the family meeting there’s a point for teaching and sharing how to do things. Re-enact the scene with plushes or other siblings and the family join in with what they would do in this situation. It’s a really powerful exercise as they get the practice of moving through the motions, they use the words and they get to do it over and over until they feel it is right.

starting family meetings when you have a young family | Play-Activities.com

It doesn’t have to be always after the event either. As families introduce situations to get them plan and try before they are in that situation. We love the character conversation cards for this as it’s easier to have a third party having all the troubles than only relying on what our children have trouble with.

It’s like a worn path in the grass. There’s an imprint and memory of being here before so when they come to a situation like this they have some choices about what they might choose to do than the usual choice, to think in the moment only.

Thinking in the moment doesn’t always work so well.

Negotiation and resolution skills take time to learn and they grow with you. Get in early and often. Start with regular conversations to practice your family way of handling things.

Part 1  Introducing family meetings to young families

Part 2 Why family meetings are great for reducing tension in families

 In the next in this series read how your family meetings will give a welcome release-the-pressure-valve in your home.

40+ Ways to Connect with Your Child Today

Lots of easy positive parenting ways to connect with your child today  I’m excited to share a special guest post by Rebecca Eanes celebrating her newly released book: Positive Parenting: an essential guide

Building and maintaining a strong connection with our children takes focus and work, but the benefits are worth the effort. When children are securely connected with us, they have higher self-esteem, behave better, are more cooperative, and are happier overall. I know we live in a busy world and sometimes it’s difficult to carve out an hour for playtime when dinner needs to be made, dishes are piled high, the inbox is full of messages that need responses, work calls are coming in, and the laundry is everywhere! Connecting doesn’t have to take a lot of time. There are many small things we can do throughout the day and night to strengthen the bonds we have with our children.

  • Give a cheerful morning greeting. Rather than start with a “Hey, hurry up!” try a special morning greeting for each child, like “rise and shine my sunshine” or “good morning doodle bear, I’m happy to see you this morning!” This slight change in greeting can shift the tone for the whole morning.
  • Make it a point to show affection before breakfast. A hug, a rub on the head, a kiss on the cheek – take just a couple of seconds to be affectionate with your child because little moments add up to lots of love.
  • Do something a little special at breakfast, like a note beside their cereal bowl or fruit shaped in a smiley face on top of their oatmeal.
  • Notice something good about them before breakfast and say it out loud. “Your outfit looks nice today” or “Thanks for making your bed this morning. That was helpful.”
  • Make up a secret handshake or hand symbol that’s just for the two of you.
  • Say a blessing over them before they head out the door.
  • Never let them leave without a hug.
  • Put a note in their lunchbox that says “I’m so glad you’re mine!”
  • If your child has a cell phone, send a text to say “I’m thinking of you and smiling!”
  • Do one of their chores for them.
  • Bring them a snack or drink without them asking.
  • Make a comment on what they’re working on when you pass by. “Oh, are you about to beat that level?” or “How’s the homework coming? You’re being so diligent!”
  • Always greet them with a smile, not a question first. “Hi sweetie, I’m happy you’re home!”
  • Make their bed for them and leave a note on it. “Made lovingly by mom.”
  • Block out 10 minutes of time and say “I’m stopping what I’m doing and giving you 10 minutes of my full attention because I love you! What do you want to do for 10 minutes?”
  • Blow up balloons and cover their floor with it “just because.”
  • Offer to rub their back, feet, or shoulders for a few minutes.
  • Choose a topic of conversation at dinner, such as new movies, vacation plans, or best books to avoid awkward silence and shrugs after “how was your day?”
  • Turn some music up loud and dance in the kitchen for 10 minutes while the food is cooking.
  • Begin an afternoon or after-school tea time. Get darling little teacups with saucers and sit down together for a few moments of civilized engagement. Don’t like tea? Put water in the teacup. They’ll probably still think it’s fun!
  • It’s affirmation time again! Notice something good about your child and speak it out before dinner is over.
  • Do a chore alongside your child. Remember how the dwarves did the dishes in The Hobbit? They were singing and laughing and just having a good time doing it. Try that, but don’t toss the dishes around like they did unless you’re very, very good!
  • Do a quick, fun science experiment together. Mentos and Coca Cola or vinegar with baking soda are cheap, easy, and fun.
  • Re-work the homework hour with soft classical music and fresh cookies from the oven. They’ll appreciate the effort and change in atmosphere.
  • Read a chapter aloud from a classic novel.
  • Invite them into your world to learn something new about you. Tell them about a book you’re reading or invite them to do yoga with you.
  • Take a walk together after dinner.
  • Play a round of Uno or a card game of your choice. One round doesn’t usually take too long, but it gives everyone time to gather and unwind.
  • Leave love notes everywhere. Bathroom mirror, bedroom dresser, pillow top, under their shoes.
  • If you have little kids, play on the floor with them for 10-15 minutes uninterrupted. If your kids are older, build a Lego creation or join them in their interest for few minutes.
  • Ask questions that are more specific than “how was your day?” Try “What’s one thing you learned today?” or “Tell me something nice that happened to you today.”
  • Grab a flashlight and go under covers together to tell stories.
  • Make bath time with little ones a special time by adding bath crayons, lots of bubbles, or new bath toys, and play with them for a short while instead of hurrying through the routine.
  • Spend 5 minutes daring each other not to laugh as you each make silly faces, tell jokes, and make silly noises.
  • Say yes to an invitation to play that you’d usually turn down.
  • Play the favorites game by asking “What’s your favorite ___” back and forth quickly until you run out of ideas. You’ll probably learn something new about each other.
  • Tell them stories from your childhood.
  • Talk to them about their family heritage. If you don’t know much about your ancestry, explore it together.
  • Hold them in your lap and rock them like their still babies, even if their limbs are sprawled out all over the place!
  • Arm wrestle each other.
  • Give a piggy back ride to bed or a horsey back ride to the tub.
  • Spend “special time” with each child at bedtime. Sit on the end of their bed or lie down beside them and just listen to what they have to say. If they say nothing, just hold them.
  • Tuck them in with a special prayer or blessing every night.
  • Always kiss them goodnight.

Rebecca Eanes is the creator of www.positive-parents.org and author of The Newbie’s Guide to Positive Parenting. In her new book, Positive Parenting: An Essential Guide, Rebecca shares her hard-won insights on giving up the conventional parenting paradigm to reconnect heart to heart with her children. Because parenting is about so much more than discipline, Rebecca hits on important topics less spoken about, making this more than a parenting book.

It’s a book about building lasting family bonds and reclaiming joy in parenting. Positive Parenting: An Essential Guide is out now. This post contains an affiliate link.

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40+ Ways to Connect with Your Child Today.. Guest post: Rebecca Eanes of Positive-Parents.org

4 words that will change your contributions and chores forever

Take out the trash may only be four little words but when you unpack what you’re asking your child to do it involves many steps. It is a process like the morning routine or cleaning your teeth, emptying your backpack or getting ready for a trip.

Here’s the tip that’s often missed with contributions and chores and that’s teaching and showing them more than once. We know it but do we do it.

Teaching and showing is a major part of learning the skill. We don’t hope that they pick up how to clean their teeth we take the time to show them. The dentist shows them and each night we show up with them for a long time to make sure it is done.

Contributions and chores need to be shown not once in a hurry but possibly in parts and regularly as the skill is learned. It’s then that children learn how to do it and can do it for themselves.

Why is showing a big deal?

  • We learn a lot from seeing others do. They see how you hold the full bin or the trick to lifting and pulling the drawstrings in one motion.
  • They see where you get the cleaning supplies and don’t grab the wrong ones.
  • We get to share life together and learn to care for a community item to be part of the family.
  • Opportunity to answer the battery of questions about why all the steps and what’s the big deal about cleaning. We get to talk about safety, sanitation, germs, cleanliness in context.
  • It’s a time for connection, gentle words and maybe some fun when things fall apart.
  • Whether they are 4 or 14 share how to and let them be part of the family team, in the know and not saying, “I can’t do it because I don’t do it right.”
  • It shows them that there are important systems and procedures to life. Life mostly doesn’t happened by magic we need to happen to it how we would like.
  • For us to discover that there are many ways to do something we feel we have down.

Ever listen to a seven year old tell you how you are emptying the bin all wrong and then watch them marvel at the hooks on the side of the bin that help keep the bin line inside? You can’t help but smile. Don’t miss this step.

Big List

This is why we can’t just say, take out the trash. When you look at the list to teach there’s a lot to, taking out the trash, properly. Imagine if your child followed these steps, taking out the trash would run a lot smoother in your home for everyone.

It’s not fair to expect children to guess your standard and ways. It’s better that we teach and show directly and not hope they pick it up or notice. They often don’t. Everyone needs to take out the trash well. It’s a simple thing once you can do it but go to any college flat share and there are some suspect bins.

How to get through that list

That’s a lot to take in so instead of teaching the whole system and all X steps, we’ve had much more success splitting contributions with multiple steps like this into three manageable parts. Why three parts? We have three boys. This gives us two options

a) Each boy learns a different part and together they can all complete the contribution.

b) Each part is mastered before progressing to the next part. It doesn’t have to be in order.

Each option has their pros and cons and by trial and error since this is a learning opportunity each family finds their level for each contribution.

So if you’re finding yourself constantly going behind your child ‘fixing their mess’ because they’ve missed a step or three maybe you should back up and have some show and tell time.

Those four words your children should not be afraid to ask before a task: Show me how-again.

Reconnect in a fun and meaningful way so that these contributions have the high expectation of success without the regular nagging and everyone has the chance to deliver because we all know what to do and are competent. Training.

For more systems and rhythms for the home

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4 words that will change your contributions and chores forever

Part one: Take out the Trash- step by step for new learners

Part two: 4 words that will change your contributions and chores forever

Video as conversation starters for families

family dinner conversation starters with a difference | Play-Activities.comIf you are looking to have more interaction at the mealtable with your children you might have tried asking a few questions about their day and the answers probably varied from one word to perhaps three?

We’ve developed a whole series of conversation cards to get past this problem which you can find here. Doing the same thing gets old pretty quickly so we have an audio version to mix things up so don’t forget to check those out too.

I love to see interesting Facebook videos and I like to keep the link in an Evernote folder and we watch them at a meal time. This is especially a fun thing as we don’t have electronics at the table during meal times and now the iPad or smartphone is out and we’re all watching. It’s a great treat and gives us something to talk about.

Video are fun conversation starters for families.If you’ve not seen these I’d encourage you to watch it first yourself. They’re all short. Have a think of a question or two to ask afterwards. These are a few our favourite questions to ask.

  • what does the video mean to you?
  • If you were there what would you have done?
  • What happened just before or just after the video? ( beware this one can go longgggg! 🙂

We tend to ask just one question as there are five of us so by the time we’ve gone around the table we’re done with questions. It keeps it light and fun. The conversation comes back to videos during the meal and at other times but we’ve found less is more.


Video conversation starters for families

Piano stairs

Type: Fun
background music:
Possible things to mention: architecture and layout of another city, what would you play? would you take the stairs or escalator?

stuck on an escalator

Type: motivational
background music: midway through
talking: from the beginning
Ads: yes at the beginning
Possible things to mention: what they can do to take action? Why were they waiting? What does the video mean to you?


MARCEL THE SHELL WITH SHOES ON, TWO from Dean Fleischer-Camp on Vimeo.

Type: thinking
background music:
talking: yes
Possible things to mention: different things in the background of the house. What’s on the computer screen? Injokes?

So now you have three videos as conversation starters for families. The great thing is you don’t have to agree or like what you see so everyone gets to have an opinion. As children get older they love this type of freedom of thought and they often love to tell you exactly why it was rubbish, silly, funny or sad in their opinion. It’s not forced and there’s no big message but there is opportunity to touch on issues that don’t usually just spring up at the meal table.

If you’re looking for some conversation for the other 4 days and more check out the April Character conversation cards which talk about on perseverance,responsibility and citizenship.

What videos would you recommend?

Things to Buy Instead of Curriculum for the summer

So many things you can get for the summer don't let it be JUST a text book- Things to Buy Instead of Curriculum. List of lots of creative ideasAll school year long many children have written on sheets and used textbooks as their main source of learning. Depending on where you live in the world the summer break from school can be a slim 5 weeks to a crushing- what-are-we-going-to-do-with-them-for-10-weeks? The go to answer often is text book but what if there are many things to buy instead of curriculum?

Whatever your preference for summer work and summer fun here’s a list of things to buy instead of curriculum for the summer. These are things we’ve enjoyed, like the look of or want to do. Each of these things is a playful way of summer work without always going to the pencil and paper method.  I have a middle schooler and two elementary boys.

Things to Buy Instead of Curriculum

Bananagrams is a great grab and go game. We play it like scrabble and like to leave it on a table so we can add to it as the days goes. During the school year we often use it for a break from learning spelling by writing instead they need to find all the letters to make the word.

Quiddler  another game similar to scrabble. There are 8 rounds which means there is an end! There are cards and it’s really easy to use on trips in the car or waiting at a restaurant.

Things to Buy Instead of Curriculum | 10 days in Europe, Ticket to Ride Europe, Suburbia and Catan ( Seafarers shown)Ticket to ride Europe is a board game that’s a lot of fun getting to know places around Europe. The aim is to build routes from one city to another. Nice one for Geography. ( see it in action)

10 days in Europe  are you seeing a theme with Europe…? Few more rules but a lot geographical fun as you try and again travel around Europe by sea, air or car trying to link to each place in your hand. It’s a fun game with risk taking and strategy. There are others in this series.

Things to Buy Instead of Curriculum : Historical Conquest Card game Suburbia Plan and build your own city. I haven’t been keen on this one myself but the boys love it and said I needed to include it. Often they are quite cooperative and helpful with each other and other times ruthless.  A game where the youngest or oldest can shine! ( Never a bad thing when you have a group of children)

Any of the Catans: we were shown this by friends and it’s been a family favorite ever since. We have too many expansion packs and add ons to mention here ( We have many of them) They are all great in different ways. Although we love Seafearers and Settlers of America the most. Each game takes 2+ hours so this is played for a while.

Snap circuits junior There’s a book of ideas and very quickly they will try creating their own circuits. Who knew there could be so many combinations? It’s been a great calming activity especially after a busy day.

Agricola  New game that we’ve played a handful of times. The boys love it. I like that there aren’t lots of rules to remember and the game doesn’t last forever. We’ve used the two player version.

Things to Buy Instead of Curriculum for the summer | Hue Knew or Quoridor(Mindware) Hue Knew even though this is a junior game it is portable and it is easy to play with adults of children. It’s hard to say a color name when it in a different color. e.g. RED 

Quoridor is a fun strategy game for two players

Chinese checkers and Chess- share a small fold up dinner table. Perfect for playing over time.

Forbidden Island : We like this game on family night . You have to work together to get off the Forbidden island without sinking and coming a cropper!

Historical Conquest  I picked this up at a homeschool conference and we all love them! I just like looking at the history and the boys play them like all the other cards games like Magic. But there’s no magic it’s historical characters.

Maccano can’t beat the manipulatives of trying to make something stand or lift. There are so many different set that when you have a group you can mix and match.

Potato clock we’re fans of building one thing items like the potato clock because there’s a goal and something to end with. We’ve had the tin can robot too. Working within instructions is a good skill and while there was a lot of frustration the happiness at the end was worth it.

Lego  we just add and add to this year on year. They used to have a giant tub to share but now they are into different things we’re slowing building their own collections. During the summer they often combine forces for something epic.

Audiobooks from the Library use them for downtime and calm down activities as well as filling out a much loved book. At the moment the boys like to read half the series and listen to half the series on audio. It keeps them engaged.

Things to Buy Instead of Curriculum for the summer | Agricola + Forbidden island Watercolor paper There’s not been much opportunity for experimenting with watercolor at school and the boys have tried it a few times before so having the right type of heavy paper makes a difference. We’ve kept the paper to postcard size for experimenting on but there are many different sizes.

Prisma coloring pencils I started bible journaling this year as a New Year project and met and fell in love with these pencils. I’d never spent that much for pencils before and now I have a set I can see they are totally worth it. When we’re coloring, shading or doodling I share my pencils. Since then the boys have inherited a different set of coloring pencils that are better than the basic ones they had.

Large sheets of paper You can’t go wrong with lots of different sizes and types of paper. Their favourite is the huge butcher paper as it’s become part of a new game, a town, backdrop for LEGO, cut for Kites, shredded for paper mache and once some paper trousers!

Sakura Pigma Micron Pens in different sizes- we’ve been big fans of zentangle. Part of the fun of this type of work is using different sized pens to get the patterns you want. They’ve taken quotes, verses and titles and been really creative with pen sizes and not just color.

Space to leave things up like on a table or in a room or corner. Having a nook is a major plus during the summer. Games and activities can develop over time when you can leave them out. Long games eventually end and you’ll find your children standing over games and activities planning their next move.

There are so many other things like outdoor activities and STEM projects to add but we have to stop somewhere. Some of the links in this post are affiliate links.

Leave a comment below with your go to things to buy instead of curriculum.

Super smart strategy every child should master

Have you ever gone to find something like a book or a top and an hour later you’ve just reorganized the books or cleaned your closet? Maybe you found the missing item, maybe you didn’t.  You might not even remember now why you’re here but you do feel better about sorting through this particular mess.

Sorting helps us find things.

Sorting helps us notice things.

There is a purpose for sorting.

Like their parents not all children are good at sorting. But everyone has to know how to do it. Sorting is a lot more involved if we really think about it.

Empowering our children to succeed now and in the future with this super smart strategy that every child should master, even though it's hard for some :)

[Read more…]

3 tested ways to encourage Intrinsic Motivation at home


Bribing and rewards are forms of extrinsic motivation often used in families to get desired outcomes. It’s really easy to do, quick and just happens so many times.  It starts when they are babies and toddlers. Yet we know that children do so much better long term when they are intrinsically motivated.

Intrinsic motivation ideas for the home instead of all the bribes and rewards | play-activities.com

Why is extrinsic motivation our go to motivation as adults for our children ?

[Read more…]

3 Little known sleep facts that elementary and older children families often miss

Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman share the skinny on sleep in NurtureShock: New Thinking about children.

They collect in one place lots of the current science and sleep facts on different subjects. Often we as parents have a common sense notion about things based on us. But children are different they aren’t little adults.

Sleep is one of those things. We think that our sleep problems and the children’s sleep problems are the same. (They are not!)

The earlier we can set down patterns of good sleep habits the better it will be for our family flow and family atmosphere.

Little known sleep facts for our elementary and older children. |Play-Activities

Here are three highlights from the sleep chapter  [Read more…]

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