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Celebrating the New Year with Kids

HAPPIFAMLI

Celebrating the New Year with Kids

HappiFamli, Senior Time Correspondent

December 29, 2018

Remember the days when New Year’s meant fun parties, champagne toasts, and sleeping in until noon the next day? Yeah, neither do we.

If you’re like everyone at HappiFamli (except Steve in Accounting) New Year’s is no longer another night out, but rather a fun night in with our kids! I don’t know about you, but those are the very best nights. If you’re looking for some fun, festive New Year’s activities to do with your family this year, here are a few of our suggestions:

Make holiday crackers. If you’re a crafty, DIY type of famli, these are a fun way to ring in the New Year with your kids. This leads us to our second idea…

Netflix Countdown. Did you know that Netflix has an early countdown for kids? Using fun characters, these countdowns help make it so that everyone can count down and celebrate well before midnight, if desired. Make it fun with noisemakers and the crackers we linked above!

See a movie. Seeing a family movie on New Year’s Eve is a fun tradition that my parents and I started when I was young. Follow the movie with a kid-friendly dinner or ice skating to make it even more special.

Create a photo booth. Channel your inner party planner and create a fun photo booth for your kids! Use printable props, fun hats and scarves, and anything else you can think of.

Have a dance party. Crank up your favorite music and just dance with your kids. Add some bubbles to the mix and get crazy. They’ll love it.

Create a Resolutions Time Capsule. This is another fun family tradition. Have everyone sit down and write five resolutions on a piece of paper, then seal them away in a box. Put it on a high shelf and open it next New Year’s Eve, reading them together to see if your resolutions came true.

Play board games. Have a bunch of age appropriate options and grab some take-out for a fun night in.

Have a pajama party and make a fort! Gather some chairs, throw over a sheet, and play board games, watch movies on a tablet, color, or do anything else you can think of once inside.

What are your New Year’s plans, Austin parents? Are any of these activities on your list?

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Photograph by Lorem Ipsum via Unsplash

Beginning Holiday Traditions With Your Kids

HAPPIFAMLI

Beginning Holiday Traditions With Your Kids

HappiFamli, Senior Nostalgia Correspondent

December 22, 2018

Do you have fond memories of holiday traditions that you looked forward to each year? For many of us, the holidays trigger nostalgia for our childhoods as we remember the fun activities we partook in with our families and friends. For others, a lack of tradition also drives us to want to begin them with our own kids. Here is a great list of some of our favorite holiday traditions to partake in with your family and friends this year. 

When we think of holidays during our childhood, many of us have nostalgic memories filled with activities we used to partake in with family and friends. Because of this, we might aspire to create the same types of memories with our own families. If you’re looking for some fun holiday magic with your kids this season, here are some of our favorite traditions:

Baking Cookies. One of the simplest traditions also helps get your kids comfortable in the kitchen to create treats for friends, family, and teachers. Cookies are a fun, easy way to bond and instill the tradition of giving. Pick up some cute mason jars and tie with ribbon for a cost effective present, or divvy up batches to hand out to neighbors. Whatever the end result, baking during the holidays is not only tradition, but it’s a kind gesture.

Decorating Ornaments. Have your children decorate ornaments themselves, either by stuffing and painting glass balls or creating ornaments out of Sculpey or gingerbread. They can also give them as gifts to family and teachers! Put on some holiday music, too, and decorate the Christmas tree together. You’ll have fun reminiscing over ornaments from years past as you unpack them.

Volunteering. No matter which holidays you celebrate, we can all agree that giving back to those in need is a beautiful tradition to start with your children. Here in Austin, we love Generation Serve, an organization whose mission is to engage children of all ages in volunteering around our community. Each month they post calendars with openings for volunteer spots. Consider making it a holiday (and yearround!) tradition to give back with your kids.

Visit Santa Clause. If you celebrate Christmas, consider visiting Santa Clause with your kids! It’s one of those fun traditions that we often remember as children, whether we were terrified or delighted by him. Kids have fun asking Santa for specific wishlist items, and the fun holiday pictures will be treasured for years.

Shop for Kids in Need. Consider adopting a child in need through one of Austin’s many great organizations. Shop with your kids and reiterate the importance of giving back.

Holiday Movie Marathons. If you’re a Christmas lover, there are so many great films out there! Consider doing a 12 days of Christmas countdown with your family, where you watch a Christmas movie together (or part of one!) each evening leading up to the big day. You’ll be surprised how well kids remember their favorites for years to come.

Advent Calendar. You don’t have to go crazy here! Many moms prefer making their own, but Trader Joe’s has adorable ones for just 99 cents. Kids love opening up the door each day leading to Christmas, and it’s a fun way to count down.

Playing Dreidel. Leading up to and during Hanukkah, teach your children the game of Dreidel. Use chocolate gold coins to make it even more fun!

Matching Holiday Pajamas. These might be one of my favorites on the list. Hanna Andersson has soft and adorable options, which are our family’s favorite. Opening gifts together in our pajamas is always a fun treat, and I love the photo ops.

Are any of these traditions on your list? What is your favorite holiday tradition with your kids?

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Photograph by Lorem Ipsum via Unsplash

10 Ways To Give Back With Your Kids This Holiday

HAPPIFAMLI

10 Ways to Give Back with Your Kids This Holiday

HappiFamli, Senior Holiday Correspondent

December 17, 2018

The holidays are a fun time of year when kids everywhere look forward to giving and receiving gifts. They are also a great opportunity to give back to the community and help those in need. Are you looking to volunteer with your family this holiday season? We’ve made it easy by compiling ten ways to help the Austin community: 

Operation Blue Santa from the Austin Police Department. Each year, the Austin Police Department provides each family they serve with a full holiday meal and wrapped Christmas gifts for kids under 14. They take donations year-round, so consider bringing new, unwrapped toys for families in need.  

Central Texas Food Bank. Beginning in December, Capital Metro and Whole Foods Market helps families in need to receive a full holiday meal through the Stuff the Bus campaign. Donate non-perishable foods to Cap Metro busses that are parked in front of Austin Whole Foods locations, or make a cash donation when checking out in the store.

Orange Santa. Orange Santa was originally created to help University of Texas families in need during the holidays. You can donate new and unwrapped gifts and wrapping supplies to various drop-off boxes that are stationed around the campus. Orange Santa then creates a pop-up store from the gifts they’ve received and allows families to shop (for free!) for their family members.

Salvation Army’s Angel Tree Program. Throughout the month of December, malls all across Austin are decorated with paper angels. Each one contains a child’s wish list, and you are able to choose an angel and purchase the items. You then drop them off at the Christmas Cheer Center on South Congress Avenue. 

Meals on Wheels. This meal delivery service drops off holiday dishes to seniors and other adults with disabilities. Consider volunteering to be a driver or making a financial contribution.

SafePlace Austin. SafePlace is a haven for families who have experienced sexual or domestic abuse. They are accepting donations for toys and gift cards, as well as other items that are in need from the Austin Children’s Center. Check their website for drop-off locations and other information.

Volunteer with Generation Serve. Formerly Little Helping Hands, Generation Serve has a mission to engage children in volunteerism and empower them to make a difference in their communities. Consider volunteering as a family this holiday season to help those in need.

Partnerships for Children Holiday Wishes. There are several ways you can help this holiday season with Partnerships for Children. You can sponsor a child and purchase gifts from his or her wish list. You can also become an ambassador, donate general gifts, or volunteer your time!

Donate Winter Gear. The Junior League of Austin’s Coats for Kids drive helps give coats and winter gear to kids in need around Austin. Even though our summers are hot, the winters can get chilly – especially without the proper gear!

Blessing Bags for the Homeless. Though this isn’t an official organization, consider creating Ziploc bags with your kids to pass out to the homeless when you happen to drive by one. Go to Target or Dollar General and and fill them with mini toothpastes, toothbrushes, soap, protein bars, and other portable items that can help those in need.

Demystifying the DFPS Child Care Inspection Reports

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Demystifying the DFPS Child Care Inspection Reports

Rebecca Cole, Cofounder, Mom

December 11, 2018

The Austin American-Statesman is in the midst of publishing a yearlong investigation called Unwatched. It’s a compelling and chilling look at day care facilities in Texas. For parents who are considering a day care facility or for parents who currently have children in one, the American-Statesman’s series is an important piece of information that should be considered. It got me to thinking about all the things parents can and should use to make a decision about where to park their precious cargo every day.  I’m talking about your kids of course.

DUE DILIGENCE

Whether you’re buying a car or pajamas on Amazon, consumer reviews play a part of the decision making for many. The same goes for child care. There are unofficial sources (like parent reviews) and official sources. The Texas DFPS produces licensing reports every year when they inspect a center (they may do more often than once per year, but that is the minimum requirement).

The reports can read like a government report (hard to access and confusing to understand… shocker), so we wanted to demystify those inspection reports and talk to you about what you should be looking for in the report.   

STEP 2: Type in the child care center or preschools name you are wanting to look up where it says ‘Operation Name’.  You can leave everything else blank.

STEP 3:  When the Child Care Search Results come back, click on the correct center that shows under  the table heading ‘Operation/Caregiver Name’.

STEP 4: Scroll to the bottom of the text that comes up.  Go down past ‘Operation Details’ to where it says ‘Two Year Inspection Summary’. Now we’re finally where we need to be.  Now that wasn’t hard was it?! 

What you want to look at in this section is how many inspections were done,
how many standards were examined, and how many deficiencies were found.  

STEP 5:  DFPS gives a nice summary table of the deficiencies that were found too, so you can see how serious they were. 

STEP 6: If you click on each individual category (High, Medium-High, etc.) you can see more specifics on each item. In this example if I clicked on ‘High’ it would bring up another table that shows what those two high deficiencies were.

STEP 7:  If you then click within the ‘Narrative’ column a pop-up box will come up that shows you more details.  

STEP 8:  Note patterns or severe incidents that concern you.  With all of the things that licensing examines during their inspections, it is extremely rare that you will have a school with zero deficiencies.  So it is not the number of deficiencies that concern me so much as the type.

When I see a center that has a pattern of paperwork not being on file or background checks not being completed on time, it makes me wonder how well-managed that center is. 

I also look for extreme incidences where I child is left unattended or an accident report wasn’t filed and a parent reported something.    

When these types of things happen, it is best to talk to the director and ask about these things. Tell them your concerns and see if they have good answers for you.  A good director will be able to address your questions without getting defensive and state exactly what they have put in place to ensure they don’t have repeat deficiencies in these areas.

I hope that helps give you a bit of direction on what to look for in a report.  Please let me know what questions you have, as I would be happy to discuss things further. Leave a comment below.

Cheers, Rebecca

Giving the gift of experience this Holiday season is awesome

HAPPIFAMLI

Giving the gift of experience this Holiday season

HappiFamli, Senior Holidays Correspondent

December 6, 2018

There’s a lot of pressure each holiday to find the perfect gift for everyone on your wish list. What if you took a different approach this season and sought experiences over tangible items? We think experience gifts are valuable for the entire family, providing kids with enrichment and memories that last for many years to come. Here are the reasons why we think you should consider them. 

We’re all guilty of it. Our kids create wish lists, and despite our best efforts to make the season about so much more than gifts, somehow gifts become a central part of the holidays. After all, giving and receiving gifts is fun! In fact, giving someone a gift I know they’ll love is one of my favorite parts of the holidays. One central parenting theme we’ve all experienced, though, is the feeling of too much stuff. It’s why minimalism is so appealing for many, as well as why people are shifting away from present overload. Experiences are priceless, and the memories from them last a lifetime. In six months, you won’t remember that Hatchimal sitting in the corner collecting dust, but you’re sure to remember the movie you saw together, the indoor skydiving session, or the trip to the zoo. This holiday season, here are some reasons why you should consider experience gifts for your kids:

We are drowning in “stuff.” According to the LA Times, the average American home has over 300,000 items in it, and at least one in ten Americans uses a storage unit. Our culture is stuck in the perpetual cycle of “more equals better” – more clothes, more toys, and more household goods. Still not convinced? Consider this statistic: the US has 3% of the world’s children, yet 40% of the world’s toys. We’ll let that sink in for a moment. A lot of us are reporting rising rates of anxiety, and clutter might be a contributing factor. Here’s yet another great reason to cut it!

It’s Healthy for Your Family. Experience gifts are more than just experiences — they’re an opportunity for family bonding. Did you know that family bonding and the strengthening of relationships results in fewer behavioral problems in children, as well as higher rates of academic and life success? It seems like regular experiences really do result in so much more than tangible items. 

They’re Fun for All. Great examples of experience gifts here in Austin include memberships to kid-friendly places such as The Thinkery, The Austin Zoo, and more. These experiences are great for both adults and kids of all ages, making it possibly more expensive up front, but less expensive in the long run – not to mention enjoyable for the entire family.

They Enrich Your Kids’ Lives. Fun activities such as pottery making, ice skating, or bowling will help your kids develop new skills and participate in activities that can truly add such value to their lives. Imagine the feeling of your child discovering a new lifelong passion from an experience you gave them.

Don’t get me wrong – We love gifts! We are adapting the following in our home this season to keep a balance:

  • Something you want
  • Something you need
  • Something to wear
  • Something to read

In the past, we have been guilty of present overload. In the end, it simply results in a cluttered playroom and the accumulation of more stuff. It’s true — the holidays just aren’t the same without the amazing feeling you get of giving someone the perfect gift and watching their face light up. I do think, though, that our culture values material possessions more than we probably should, and incorporating experience gifts in your holiday budget is a great way to promote family bonding and enrich the lives of your kids.

Are you opting for experience gifts this year? Tell us below!