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 :)

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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!) |

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10 ways to Nurture a Positive Family Atmosphere

Nurturing a positive family atmosphere


This year!

What would you add to the list?


Follow the Family Atmosphere board for more ideas

Follow Mel Avila’s board Family Atmosphere on Pinterest.

How side by side time nurtures our boys

How side by side time nurtures our boys. Here's that time and place for those difficult conversations they want to have and we want to have with themDuring a marriage DVD set with friends sometime ago I remember hearing about side by side time for the first time. I enjoy face to face time the most with my girlfriends and it turns out that most women are like this too. Guys and definitely my husband like side by side time.

During this time for either of us it is where conversations happen- the deeper conversations, difficult conversations come and things come up. It’s when he’s working on something and I’m doing something nearby. It doesn’t have to be completely side by side but definitely nearby.

The main point is we’re not across from each other.

I remember after hearing that section how looking back on what we did together my husband was always inviting me to join him for side by side activities and I craved do nothing but sit face to face activities. He needed to talk and that was his signal. Now he knew mine too.

It was such a light bulb moment for us both to understand how it made us feel when we did the right thing for the other.

Mother of boys applying side by side time to her boys

As the mother of boys I figured that if my husband likes side by side time then perhaps my sons would like this too.

Somehow I needed to figure in ways to have plenty of side by side time. Naturally, I forgot this at the beginning stages of having my family. We did our big conversations face to face for the most part. It’s how I do things so I naturally did what I do. I don’t think I’m alone. As a boy mum I had a lot to learn about finding what works for my boys. Not everything boy related would but I try different things.

While reading Wild things- the art of nurturing boys, I was reminded about how deliberate we need to be with our boys. I only have boys so this is my perspective. That deliberance isn’t always obvious and intuitive for us as mothers. We do what we like and know based on our very different, and sometimes limited experiences.

It’s not easy to just do something different. I love these boys books because we have real examples, situations and I can see how I would deal with it from people who have gone before me.

Side by Side activities work I believe, because there’s a lack of eye contact on both sides. It’s really hard to not react with your whole body when you hear something. Our family knows us too well. Yet there are things we want and need to talk about. For boys, my boys maybe your boys too not facing you while they tell you might mean they tell you more.

Now, how do we get more of this talking and sharing as a habit while they are little so that as they grow this is a part of family life? We want our sons to be able to share and we want to be able to share the important stuff with them.

Examples of side by side activities

Making lunch      making lunch

washing dishes     Drying dishes and putting away / emptying the dishwasher

Wiping down surfaces/Dusting                Sweeping/mopping

board games

Preparing a meal


Gardening          watering/ yard work

Reading              reading

Crafting              music practice/fun time/ model making

walking/ walking the dog/ walk into town

Car journeys      school run/clubs and activities

Folding laundry

Contributions ( Chores) are also a good way of working side by side with boys. As they do their job you do something nearby.

Side by side activities are any activities where we’re not hovering but doing the activity and they are doing an activity close by.

( Can be the same or a different activity) We’re both out of direct eye contact if we look up. Usually we need to turn to see each other’s face.We are near enough that either of us can just start a conversation, say something and we’re both able to hear and respond.

How side by side time worked for us

Side by side conversation worked for us in a big way this week.

“He took it from me.”

This is what my son said to me on Monday, 2 minutes before leaving for the school bus. I was emptying the dishwasher and he was cleaning the table of the breakfast things and stacking them in the sink. My immediate need was to swing around and fire off a lot of questions to clarify what he said. But I heard his quiet voice mumbling behind me, unloaded a few plates and fought back those first thoughts. He had the space now to fill. Totally bad timing but this was too important. He was sharing. I could take him to school.

I don’t know when he would have brought up that situation. We’d had dinner the night before. The incident had happened yesterday. There had been the usual face to face time. He didn’t take it.

It was serious enough for him to have been worried about sharing with me. Because we had the side by side time he didn’t see my big wide eyes or my deep breathing. He had space to share his long story where he gets himself into trouble too. While I unloaded the dishwasher.

Whether I dealt with the situation the youngest mentioned well is another story but I’m glad for these side by side activities. He shared the situation. We could deal with it. I’m convinced because of our side by side time.

Nurture these times and carve them into your everyday activities so they have plenty of opportunities to share what’s on their hearts.

As time goes by and you have an older boy you’ll be happy for the regular snatches of conversations and you’ll have some mighty interesting conversations on both sides without the judgment and your first emotions stealing the show.

Your turn

When your son shared something deep or important to them were you side by side or face to face? I’m curious for just this last time? What were you doing? Share below.



Creating a Mother’s Evening Routine ( after the children are in bed)

It’s very common at the end of the evening when the children are finally tucked up in bed for us to just flop down exhausted.

We reach for whatever is close to hand. ( Junk food, Chocolate, comfy couch, magazines) I know the day has been busy doing all that you wanted to do for the kids and family and also filled with many of those other things.

Depending on your family bedtimes and whether you’re a night owl or a lark preferring to get up early there’s often  many hours in the evening that’s just ours. Just ours..

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Create a Family Playlist for Clean Up

Cleaning up is way more fun when you have clean up music.

Create a family playlist and clean up will be so much easier

Ask your preschooler. Clean up music makes all the difference to get things done.

Some of my clearest memories are of my parents singing and getting down when a favourite tune came over the radio. That sounds so old school now but when you didn’t control the music and your jam came on. Phew! Sometimes you had to stop and just rock out. Seeing my usually very straight laced parents cut loose, in their way you must understand; smile big and sing is a memory I cherish.

We sing a lot in our family. We mimic Lyle from Veggetales and sing instructions. Usually when we’re starting to get tense. It’s our way of trying to calm ourselves down as we’re rapidly moving through 7 and 8 on the way to 10!

Used positively we love to sing, dance and rock out while we wash dishes and clean up the kitchen. After the meal explosion of dishes, plates, cutlery, pots, pans there’s the sweeping up and setting things back straight. With a family of three boys we try and do this together so it doesn’t take as long and frankly I want the boys to not just arrive eat and leave. So it’s a family affair…clean up.

I don’t know about you but I’m tired after a full day of work, kids, cooking and life and the kids can be a little niggly, pick on the slightest thing, not want to be here and yes be tired too. All of us in that tight space can add up to snappy turtles after usually a lovely peaceful pleasant meal. Boo!

Music changes the mood and we all can shuffle, smile, laugh at the new lyrics we all are sure the singer says and GET THE JOB done in a smoother simpler way. Creating a family playlist happened because it’s too hard to keep finding the individual songs. We have ipods and an ipod station so we just load up onto our family playlist and keep on going.

What gets on the Clean up Family Playlist?

Some or all of these in no particular order:

  • upbeat anthem
  • Something from the past ( so mummy and daddy tell a story about it!)
  • Something new ( the kids can choose)
  • Family sensitive lyrics ( or lots of explanation)
  • something you nod your head to, jiggle, do a little dance, hold your hands in the air… know the score.:)

Like all good radio stations we have a fun DJ played by one of us. We have all request live where each one in the family can request from the playlist one song. That’s five songs for us already and after that we shuffle songs or let the songs play on.

So here’s your mix tape.  It’s just a selection from our clean up family playlist. Load up your own family playlist of music and play play play.

You know you need this because….

We’re all about creating memories and smiley times. Turning a potential hotspot of cleaning up after dinner and grumble time into laughing, singing tidy fest. You can’t beat good times like this! Connecting with our kids in a positive way after all the other stuff we have to do as parents.

I hope they have those good memories of mum and dad laughing, singing and smiling to balance out those discipline memories when we need to parent.


  1. We Built This City  by  Starship
  2. Paradise  by Coldplay
  3. Everything Is Awesome!!! from LEGO soundtrack
  4. Amazing Grace (My Chains Are Gone) by Chris Tomlin
  5. You gotta be by Des’ree
  6. Something inside so strong by Labi Siffre
  7. Just Give Me a Reason by P!nk feat. Nate Ruess
  8. Dancing in the Moonlight by Toploader
  9. The Bare Necessities from the Jungle Book
  10. Seasons of love from Rent Soundtrack

What would you have on your clean up playlist?

If you enjoyed this post about family atmosphere,  follow my Pinterest board Family Atmosphere and Simple rhythms and schedules in the home

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2 Simple Steps That Reduces the Stress of Leaving the House

Just on our way out of the door is the time I notice.

We’ve worked on getting everyone out the door without shouting too much. It used to bother us as parents that rounding up the kids and getting into the car to go anywhere would be so hard. Stressful. Why do they want to play now?

By the time we were all in the car, we all needed a lie down and a time out. We were mad at each other and blamed each other. No one really wanted to do whatever it was we were planning to do with such a cloud over us.

2 Simple Steps That Reduces the Stress of Leaving the House


So we developed the pause.

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72 Ways To Have Better Times With Our Kids

Hands up if you’re feeling a bit tired and stretched this week!

Me too.

Is there’s a cloud hanging over the family and you’re looking for that sunshine to bathe in? That warm light of laughter, smiles and connection to return.

We want to have better relationships with our spouse and our kids but things just happen and we get into a rut or a funk. How do we bridge those places and have better times with our kids?

Fun ways to have better times with our kids

Here’s a go to list that you can grab something off here and run with it. I know it’s hard when we want to have better times with our kids.

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Appreciation Boards for Families

Make an Appreciation board

How long is too long to be cross and moody?

How do you come back after a dramatic exit?….and when?

As families we won’t always agree with each other and it’s in these disagreements that everything seems to go pear shaped.

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Three things you should embrace as a new mother

3 things you should embrace as a new mother.jpg

New beginnings!

So exciting………. I remember being a new mother. If I could go back and talk to me. What would I say? There are so many things spinning around in your mind. Let’s quieten that and get a little focus. What three habits will help the big picture?

Get this bit right and everything else seems easier to manage.

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