Three Tips For Getting Kids To Sleep

Tucking your child into bed at night is supposed to be a special and calm moment, but it can often turn into a struggle when kids don’t want to go to sleep. Instead of dreading bedtime, follow these three steps for setting the right moment.

Set a bedtime routine. An early bedtime is important for kids – between 7 and 8 p.m. works best for most, according to the National Sleep Foundation. Since kids thrive on structure, creating a bedtime routine can take away the stress. Start 15 to 30 minutes before their actual bedtime by turning off the television and playing relaxing music. You might even dim the lights and talk softer. The most important part of your bedtime routine is that it’s consistent.

Create the ideal sleeping environment. If your child’s room is filled with too much excitement, it could be physically hard for them to fall asleep. Keep things calm, quiet and soft. A nightlight can provide just enough illumination to make your child feel safe. Soft fabrics for pillows and comforters can also be soothing.

Remove electronics. Limit screen time before bedtime, which can activate your child’s brain. Also keep technology, such as televisions, computers and video games, out of your child’s room. The light these gadgets emit mimics daylight and tricks the brain into thinking it needs to stay awake.

Summer Fun Nighttime Games

Photo credit: Pinterest /
Photo credit: Pinterest /

In the final stretch of summer, bedtimes are usually pushed back and relaxed, giving parents the opportunity to have some nighttime fun with the family. Here are three fun games to play outdoors when the sun goes down:

Glow Stick Ring Toss: Get a package of glow stick necklaces and dig out the ring toss game. Put one lit necklace around the base, and then have fun seeing how many rings you can toss on the post.

 Flashlight Tag: The person who is “it” has a flashlight. The other players hide. To tag someone, the person who is “it” must shine the light on the player and call their name. The tagged player becomes “it.”

 Ghost in the Graveyard: The “ghost” hides while the remaining players stay at the base slowly chanting, “one o’clock, two o’clock, three o’clock,” etc. until they reach “midnight!” when it’s time to search for the ghost. The first player to spot the ghost yells, “ghost in the graveyard,” and all of the players must run back to base before being tagged by the ghost. The player tagged is the next ghost.

Summer Fun Themes

Photo credit: Pinterest /
Photo credit: Pinterest /

What are you going to do with the last month of your child’s summer vacation? A mom’s secret weapon is a plan. We love this great idea from; create a theme for each day of the week!

·       “Make Something Monday” could include crafts or cooking.

·       “Try Something Tuesday” could be a fun science experiment or a new hobby.

·       “Wander Somewhere Wednesday” could be a fieldtrip to the zoo or a hike around the neighborhood.

·       “Thoughtful Thursday” can be a day for reading, chatting or volunteering.

·       And “Fabulous and Fun Friday” could be backyard activities like running through the sprinkler, play dates with friends or trips to the local pool.

Post the plan and get kids excited. It will be a summer to remember!

The Art of Living: Throwing a Fourth of July Party

There’s nothing more American than throwing a Fourth of July backyard barbecue. A summer afternoon gathering with friends and family is a great way to celebrate our country’s independence and the freedom we hold dear. It’s a day to have fun – not stress over details!


Red Adirondack White AdirondackBlue Adirondack


Enjoy your Fourth of July party by keeping it simple. Here are eight tips for making the most of this patriotic day.

1. Focus on fun not fuss. Choose foods that are easy to prepare, cook and serve. Traditional barbecue fare such as burgers (psst … get the premade patties) and hot dogs seem almost effortless when prepared on the grill. Or prepare foods like ribs or chicken the day before and finish them on the grill. Add simple side dishes like pasta or potato salad, fruit and veggie trays, chips, cookies and brownies, and you’re ready for a crowd.

2. Or make it simpler. While you can provide all of the food, consider throwing a potluck and asking guests to bring a dish to pass. You’ll spread the responsibility and cost, and guests can show off their favorite dishes. Or call the caterer or grab your favorite takeout, like fried chicken or subs. While food is an important part of the day, the emphasis should be on fun.

3. Don’t forget drinks. Provide coolers with a variety of beverages so guests can help themselves. Set out pitcher of lemonade, water, and have plenty of cups. Have Sharpie markers on hand so your friends can write their names on their glasses; this will keep everyone’s drinks straight and eliminate unnecessary waste. Another option is to ask guests to BYOB!

4. Get plenty of seating. Encourage your guests to linger outside by putting out plenty of chairs. Stackable chairs are a great option for events like this. Or ask guests to bring their own. You can also set out blankets and tablecloths that will invite people to sit on the lawn.

5. Decorate! Fourth of July parties have a super easy theme: anything red, white and blue or stars and stripes will turn your back yard from a nature retreat into a patriotic hot spot. Use colorful tablecloths. Hang a flag or swag from the deck. Or string red, white and blue lights from the trees.

6. Plan activities. While gathering with friends is fun, think ahead and plan activities and games to keep kids and adults busy. Play American history trivia or charades. Put out bottles of bubbles or get a beanbag toss game. Set up croquet, or rent a karaoke machine.

7. Think about the weather. July is hot, so you’ll want to provide shade or other ways for guests to cool off. Use a big umbrella over dining tables. Plan your event around the best time of day for your yard and the sun. Or include wet ways for your friends to chill, such as sprinklers, squirt guns or misters. When the sun goes down, it can get chilly. If your party is at night, consider getting a firepit that will take the crisp out of the night, or set out blankets and sweaters.

8. Fireworks! The Fourth of July is time to celebrate America with fanfare, and that means fireworks. If it’s legal in your area, consider purchasing small fireworks to shoot off at dusk. This is an adults-only activity, and you’ll want to follow directions as well as your city ordinance. Or visit a nearby park for your city’s professional display. Here’s a website where you can search for fireworks displays in Michigan.


How to Host an Outdoor Movie Night

There is something nostalgic and even magical about watching a movie outdoors. Those who grew up in the ‘50s, ‘60s and ‘70s, will likely remember the old drive-in movie theaters with crackly speakers that hung on car windows and preview reels that featured a dancing concession stand snacks.

It’s easy enough to bring back some of that fun by holding your own drive-in movie night … parked right in your backyard.


outdoor movies

First, the technology: you’ll need a DVD projector. If you don’t own one, you can often borrow one from your school or workplace. If that’s not possible, contact companies that rent AV equipment for conferences. You’ll also need a screen, but you can fashion one yourself. Simply hang a white sheet from second story windows or project the movie onto a light flat surface such as a garage door.

Next, choose the movie. Consider campy classics, such as Creature from the Black Lagoon, Beach Blanket Bingo or anything starring Elvis. Or select a fun summer movie, such as Stand By Me, NationalLampoon’s Vacation, The Parent Trap, I Know What You Did Last Summer or Jaws.

Now it’s time to make the popcorn. You can set up a popcorn, by filling a big tub with plain popcorn and offering your guests a selection of gourmet toppings, such as dry ranch dressing mix, parmesan cheese and Italian spices, truffle salt, lemon zest and pepper, or mini M & Ms and crushed toffee. Round out the snacks with bottles of Faygo and boxes of Good ‘n Plenty, Raisinettes and Dots.outdoor chairsFinally, pull up some comfortable outdoor chairs. Midwest evenings can bring a chill to the air, so be sure to have some blankets for snuggling, too.

Then, it’s time to enjoy. Pass the popcorn, please.