Posts Tagged ‘ Holiday ’

Celebrate Presidents Day as a Bonus Day with Your Kids

Tuesday, February 11th, 2014

Silhouette of family on a beachEditor’s Note: In an ongoing series, Dr. Harley A. Rotbart, a Parents advisor, will be guest blogging once a month with advice, tips, and personal stories on how parents can “savor the moment” and maximize the time they spend with kids. Read more posts by Harley Rotbart on Goodyblog and on Parents Perspective.

On February 17, 2014, the country celebrates Presidents Day, which coincides with George Washington’s birthday. Known as the “father of our country,” Washington is said to have been a devoted stepfather to the two children of his wife, Martha. I cannot tell a lie: I really don’t know if it was the Washington family routine to take a day off (from the day-to-day demands of the Revolution and of the Presidency) for his birthday to spend quality family time. But for many parents and kids, Presidents Day means a three-day weekend, so if you’re able to take the day off with your family, I encourage you to do so.

Three-day weekends are unique parenting opportunities. Unlike the usual overbooked experience of a two-day weekend, filled with soccer games, playdates, and to-do lists of chores, a three-day weekend is bonus time for the family, especially if your kids are home from school and less programmed than usual. If you’re lucky enough to have Monday off, think twice about scheduling golf or tennis with your adult buddies and shipping your kids off to friends’ houses. If there are chores around the house, do them with your kids. If you can’t resist the Presidents Day Sale at the furniture store or car dealership, take your kids along with you and go for ice cream afterwards. If your plan is to sleep in for an extra two hours while the kids are watching TV, change your plan – sleep in an extra hour (you’ve earned it!), but spend the second hour with the kids not watching TV.

There are 940 weekends between your little girl’s birth and the day she leaves for college. Sounds like a lot, right? But if she’s 5 years old, you’ve already used up 260 of those weekends. And only about 100 of them are three-day weekends so, by the time she turns 5, you’ve already used up 25 of those! If you’re like most parents who think their kids are growing up too fast, you probably already wish you could have some of those weekends back. Even though you can’t, now is the time to make sure you don’t have any regrets about how you spend the remaining weekends of your kids’ childhoods. And three-day weekends are the perfect place to start.

Get out your calendars and mark down these official federal holidays (which include a few three-day weekends) for the rest of 2014: Memorial Day (Monday, May 26); July 4 (a Friday this year); Labor Day (Monday, September 1); Columbus Day (Monday, October 13); Veteran’s Day (Tuesday, November 11); Thanksgiving (Thursday, November 27); and Christmas (Tuesday, December 25). If your job doesn’t let you take off for all these special days, you can still spend the time you have wisely.

This February 17, take a little time to talk with your kids about George Washington and other great presidents in U.S. history. Give your kids a shiny quarter or a crisp dollar bill and point out George’s image. Or try throwing a rock or a penny all the way across a river (who can afford to throw away a sliver dollar today?).

On Presidents Day, honor the father of our country, and your kids, by doing something really fun that the whole family will remember until Memorial Day—the next three-day weekend!

Dr. Harley A. Rotbart

Dr. Harley A. Rotbart is Professor and Vice Chairman Emeritus of Pediatrics at the University of Colorado School of Medicine and Children’s Hospital Colorado. He is the author of three books for parents and families, including the recent No Regrets Parenting, a Parents advisor, and a contributor to The New York Times Motherlode blog. Visit his blog at and follow him on Facebook and Twitter (@NoRegretsParent).

Sign up to get parenting tips and tricks sent right to you inbox!

Parenting Style: Positive Parenting
Parenting Style: Positive Parenting
Parenting Style: Positive Parenting

Image: Silhouette of family on a beach at dusk via Shutterstock

Add a Comment

Raising Your Child in the Year of the Horse

Tuesday, February 4th, 2014

Chinese New Year began on Friday, January 31, which means a new animal in the Chinese zodiac. 2014 is the Year of the Horse, specifically the Wooden Horse. Even though there are 12 animals in the zodiac, each animal is connected to one of the five elements (earth, water, wood, fire, metal), which corresponds to a different year.

For babies born in Wooden Horse years, parents can expect strong-willed, hardworking, and charming personalities, coupled with stubborn, willful, and impulsive dispositions. Generally, though, people born in Horse years share the same positive and negative characteristics. Read on for a brief list of these qualities, plus tips on how to raise your fillies and foals.

Positive Qualities

Cheerful - Children born in Horse years are naturally animated and bright, so cultivate your child’s happiness. As your child grows up, don’t criticize her for bad behavior; instead, calmly explain the good behavior you hope to see.

Clever – Even though your child will be intelligent and a quick learner, you can still nurture his education at a young age and improve his teach lessons outside of the classroom during school years.

Communicative – Your child may be predisposed to be a chatterbox, but you can still boost her language development. Help her use her words by expressing emotions in a healthy way (and not through hitting or biting), in order to be an effective communicator.

Negative Qualities

Impatient - As the adage goes, “patience is a virtue,” so start teaching patience at a young age. Try simple activities to make waiting time fly by and, as your child ages, start teaching him how to improve his attention span.

Difficult to Control – There will be moments when you need to tame your bucking bronco, so brush up on the types of tantrums and learn how to give effective time-outs. If all else fails, try these mom-tested discipline tricks.

Too Talkative – Your communicative child may need to be reined in before she says something embarrassing. Follow these simple tips to avoid TMI moments and learn how to respond when she talks back in her tween years.

According to the Huffington Post, famous Wooden Horse year trailblazers include Ron Howard, Condoleeza Rice, and Jackie Chan while other Horse Year celebs include Aretha Franklin, Oprah, Paul McCartney, and Kobe Bryant. So your child will be in good company!

Now is a great time to introduce your child to Mandarin Chinese with the help of our printable flash cards.

What is the Ancient Chinese Gender Predictor?
What is the Ancient Chinese Gender Predictor?
What is the Ancient Chinese Gender Predictor?

Image: Traditional Chinese paper cutting of a horse via Shutterstock

Add a Comment

8 Ways to Celebrate Chinese New Year (Even If You’re Not Chinese)

Tuesday, January 28th, 2014

Chinese New Year red envelopes and orangesChinese New Year is one of my favorite Chinese holidays (in addition to the Mid-Autumn Festival) because it symbolizes good luck and fortune, a fresh new start, and the promise that spring (and warm weather!) is around the corner.

Chinese New Year lasts for 15 days, and this year it starts on Friday, January 31 and ends on Friday, February 14. And in the Chinese zodiac, it’s the Year of the Horse. Even if you’re not Chinese, you can still ring in the New Year at home with your kids. Here are eight (a lucky number in Chinese culture) simple and fun ways you can celebrate during the two weeks.

Clean and de-clutter your home – It’s important to clean your house a few days before the New Year begins to sweep out bad luck and make way for good luck. So get an early start on spring cleaning — wipe dirt off the floors and windows, remove dust from tables, throw out old and broken things (including dishes and bowls), and organize everything from top to bottom.

Decorate the house in red and gold - Red and gold are lucky colors because they convey happiness and prosperity. Traditionally, paper cuttings and firecrackers, poetry scrolls, and signs with the Chinese character for good fortune are displayed on doors and walls. If there’s a Chinese grocery store in your neighborhood, you can look for decorations. Otherwise, purchase red and gold streamers and garlands to hang around the house, or print out images of horses and the good fortune character and glue them onto red/gold papers.Visit Pinterest for DIY Chinese New Year decoration ideas, including these pretty paper rosettes.

Set out some sweets - It’s tradition to eat candies and candied fruit to sweeten the New Year. Buy bags of your favorite candy (or dried fruit and chocolates) at the local supermarket and set them out in small, pretty dishes. Or find a traditional Chinese candy box or bags of red-and-gold wrapped “lucky candy” at local Chinese stores (even has them). Better yet, indulge in a limited edition box of Godiva’s Lunar New Year chocolates. The beautiful red-and-gold box includes six pieces of horse-stamped truffles in three flavors (white chocolate pineapple macadamia, milk chocolate cherry almond, dark chocolate caramel pear). The folks at Godiva were kind enough to send our office a sample box, and we gobbled them up — everyone loved the creaminess and subtle sweetness of the truffles. Plus, other Lunar New Year chocolates from Godiva are available.

Give out lucky red envelopesRed envelopes filled with money are always given as gifts during the New Year, usually by older, married couples to kids and single adults. If you also can’t find red envelopes at a specialty store, pick up some regular red envelopes or make your own from red paper and then decorate them with gold pens and images. (Side note: The Godiva chocolate box also comes with red envelopes.) Don’t break the bank by stuffing envelopes with a ton of money; for kids, a few dollars or coins (including gold-wrapped chocolate ones) would do. Just avoid giving money in fours (4, 14) or odd numbers (5, 7), which is bad luck.

Prepare some meaningful dishes – You don’t have to master any complicated Chinese recipes to eat foods usually found during New Year feasts. Instead, cook simple foods that have special meaning. Fill your table with long, uncut noodles (symbolizing long life), chicken (family unity), fish (abundance), and dumplings (prosperity, because they look like gold ingots). Don’t have time to cook? It’s fine to order these dishes from a local take-out or to dine at a local buffet.

Have oranges for dessert - Oranges are a must-have during the New Year because they symbolize good luck, good fortune, and abundance. So pick up some mandarin oranges, tangerines, or clementines at the local market and snack on them during the day or after meals. You can also set them out on plates or in bowls as decoration or give them as gifts (in addition to red envelopes).

Watch dragon and lion dances - Head to a Chinatown near you to watch the annual dragon dance and lion dance, where performers dance to the sounds of drums and cymbals. These animals symbolize strength, ferocity, and dignity and are said to drive away bad spirits. Firecrackers and fireworks may also be seen and heard during performances at nigh. If you can’t make it to a Chinatown, make a dragon marionette and put on a mini dragon dance of your own, or make these mom-approved fireworks at home.

Craft your own paper lanterns – A Lantern Festival, where lanterns are lit, hung, or paraded through the streets, marks the last day of celebrations (when there is also a full moon). Instead of buying lanterns, follow our craft expert’s how-to instructions for making crepe paper lanterns and baby food jar lanterns. Just make sure to use red/gold crepe paper or paint as your colors. Or follow these guidelines or find a lantern project on Pinterest. Insert and secure electric candles or tea lights into the lanterns, hang them up in the yard or the house, and then watch them glow.

Xin Nian Kuai Le! (Translation: Happy New Year!)


Now is a great time to introduce your child to Mandarin Chinese with the help of our printable flash cards.

Sesame Street Lessons: Learning Tips and Tricks
Sesame Street Lessons: Learning Tips and Tricks
Sesame Street Lessons: Learning Tips and Tricks

Image: Two mandarin oranges put on red packets via Shutterstock

Add a Comment

Gift Ideas for Busy Moms

Thursday, December 5th, 2013

My Christmas lists as a kid were legendarily long and detailed (if sloppily handwritten)—kind of like this girl’s wish list, which went viral. (I wish I had thought to ask for “a little thing that can turn into anything at any time,” because that would have been incredibly helpful about 20 different times this morning alone.)

But these days, my wish lists are extraordinarily small. That’s a product of being among those lucky enough to be able to afford the necessities and plenty of extras, and being a working mom of two very busy girls, which means my hobbies are things like sleep and laundry. And that also means that my husband and daughters have a tough time coming up with gifts for me (fancy dryer sheets?). I find myself asking for the same exact things my mom asked for 30 years ago, which led to much eye-rolling and sighing from my siblings and me. And now leads to much eye-rolling and sighing from my husband as well.

So here’s what I’m hoping to be gifted with this Christmas:

1. Child-produced awesomeness. As far as I’m concerned, there’s nothing more wonderful than my daughters’ handprints in clay, stick-figure family paintings and photo-adorned ornaments, or whatever other crafty ideas my daughters’ teachers dream up. They’re even better when paired with the hilarious messages the girls often write in the cards they make. (At Thanksgiving, my oldest was thankful that we have jobs so we can pay taxes. I am thankful for half of that statement.)

2. Child-chosen gifts. A close second in my estimation are the goofy gifts the girls buy with our money at the school Santa shop. I like seeing where their imaginations and tastes take them. The “diamonds” may fall out of the ring two hours later, and the bouncy ball may not be the most utilitarian gift, but they’re cherished just the same.

3. The banishment of certain phrases from the family vocabulary. I would like to call a moratorium on the following: “It’s not fair,” “Why does she get to…,” “I don’t want to go to school,” and “She’s touching me.” That’s just for starters.

4. An honest-to-goodness sleep-in day.  At last count, I’m about 324,000 hours into sleep deficit. There’s no hope of making that up, but it would be nice if on any given Sunday (usually our only day to sleep in), my daughters could read quietly and fix a bowl of cereal instead jumping on me demanding pancakes.

5. A (reusable) guilt-free pass. Kind of like that Monopoly Get-Out-of-Jail free card. I probably would need to use that on a daily basis. Like when I forget about being mystery reader for my daughter’s class, or show up last at pickup. When I’m short-tempered and always in a rush. When I completely suck at sending out proper thank-you notes to my daughters’ friends for their birthday party gifts. (If you’re reading this, sorry, and she totally loved the craft kit/gift card/board game.)

6. A rocking bass guitar. Because sometimes, a mom just has to do something besides track down lost leotards and harangue her children into eating clementines instead of cookies. I choose to rock out with my band.

7. The services of a professional organizer, and carte blanche to spend at Container Store. I was voted Most Disorganized in my high school class (along with Most Likely to Succeed)—and unfortunately, I haven’t improved in the intervening years. And even more unfortunately, I married a packrat myself. Still, I aspire to have my house someday look more like the Pottery Barn catalog and less like a sea of papers atop a Pottery Barn coffee table.

8. A few extra hours in the day. If I can’t have the aforementioned “little thing that turns into anything at any time,” I really want Hermione’s time turner from Harry Potter, or Doctor Who’s TARDIS, or some other item that would allot me extra hours to get things done. Then when my friends all say, “How did you manage to bake 10 dozen cookies, get your daughter to Nutcracker rehearsals, order Christmas cards, clean your house for out-of-town guests, host a fabulous party, finish a work project for a client AND still find time to take your dog to the groomer’s?” I’ll just smile and wink. (By the way, all that and more needs to be accomplished in the next 48 hours at my house. A time turner would be awesome right about now.)

9. Nothing more than what I have right now. When it comes down to it, I have everything I could possibly want right here, right now. The best husband, two amazing kids, three cats and one big goofy dog. My parents, sister and brother, who I love dearly—even if I don’t get to see them very often. A roof over my head, and food on my table. A large and crazy web of aunts, uncles and cousins—and my amazing grandma, still going strong at 80+. Great friends who are like family, the kind where you kind of just walk into each other’s homes and wouldn’t feel too bad about calling during a 3 a.m. emergency. (And thankfully, we haven’t had to take each other up on that.) And really, what more could you want than all of that?

So tell me: What do you want this Christmas?

If your Santa needs a little help, check out our favorite toys for kids, or find fun activities to jazz up your holidays.


Image: Gifts at Christmas by Ariwasabi/

Christmas Crafts: Polar Bear Ornaments
Christmas Crafts: Polar Bear Ornaments
Christmas Crafts: Polar Bear Ornaments

Find Lisa on

Add a Comment

Invent Your Own Holiday Charades

Tuesday, December 3rd, 2013

Frosted window with Christmas decorationEditor’s Note: In an ongoing series, Dr. Harley A. Rotbart, a Parents advisor, will be guest blogging once a month with advice, tips, and personal stories on how parents can “savor the moment” and maximize the time they spend with kids. Read more posts by Harley Rotbart on Goodyblog and on Parents Perspective.

“Guess Who I Am!” (charades to the rest of the world) was a favorite holiday family treat for our kids. Kids may never be more creative than when trying to silently convey a concept to the rest of the family. But that wasn’t the case in our house.

Our daughter began loving “Guess Who I Am!” during family gatherings just before she turned 2 years old, and throughout the holidays that’s all she wanted to play. We’d all assemble in the living room on the navy blue canvas sofa, the one with all the fossilized spit-up stains from when the kids were babies, and play our version. The rules were simple: Each player had to act out a person or thing that we all knew, without revealing who or what, while the rest of us tried to guess.

Our 4-year-old son was usually a fireman, policeman, cowboy, Superman, baseball player, basketball player, football player, Power Ranger, Ninja Turtle, fisherman, swimmer, astronaut, dinosaur hunter, lion hunter, or bear hunter. It was tough for us to distinguish one hunter from another, but we got a clue with the dinosaur hunter since my son usually looked all the way up to the ceiling before shooting. Eventually, he caught on to his “tell,” and threw in giraffe hunter once in a while to trick us. For our turns, my wife and I tried to be creative, but mostly we picked similar “Guess Who” roles as our son, sticking to the rule about choosing a clue that we all knew. Sometimes, for variety, one of us would mimic a grandparent or neighbor. Our 6-month-old was amused by the game, giggling frequently, waving his arms, and kicking his legs in apparent simpatico with whoever was performing. Most of the time, though, he just added spit-up stains to the sofa.

Because our daughter did (and still does!) everything with flair and a flourish, it wasn’t surprising that she developed the most unusual approach to the game. On her turn, she would always take center stage (the middle of the faux-Oriental square rug in the living room), raise her right hand in the air, put her left hand on her hip, and turn around in circles. If she was wearing a dress, her left hand held the dress out to her side as she twirled. She did this every time. Every time!! The routine never varied, nor did the secret character she was portraying—she was always, always, always either a ballerina or a teacher. While we understood the ballerina’s movements, we really never got why a teacher would hold one hand in the air, the other on her hip, and twirl about. She hadn’t gone to preschool yet, so she couldn’t be imitating something a teacher did in class. Maybe a pirouetting princess is what she hoped her teachers would be like when she started school (and starting school was high on her list of best possible things to ever happen to a kid). When she accompanied me or my wife to drop off her older brother at preschool every day, she was so, so jealous. (Maybe one of her brother’s teachers twirled while we weren’t looking?)

However the ballerina-teacher thing developed, here’s how our December evenings would usually play out: Our budding thespian would stand center stage, assume the position, and twirl. Her big brother would roll his eyes. We would give him “the stare,” which meant he had to pretend he didn’t already know the answer, to which he would usually respond by slamming his hand onto the sofa in frustration. Then we would all make random guesses, to which our little girl would happily shake her head “no,” until one of us would finally ask, “Ballerina?” It was 50-50 whether we were right on any given performance. But if we didn’t choose correctly, we let big brother get the final victory. “Teacher?” he would guess, feigning ignorance. “Yes!” our little actress would joyfully nod.

May your own cold December nights be warmed by ballerinas and teachers, firemen, policemen, cowboys, Superman, baseball players, basketball players, football players, Power Rangers, Ninja Turtles, fishermen, swimmers, astronauts, and hunters.

Dr. Harley A. Rotbart

Dr. Harley A. Rotbart is Professor and Vice Chairman Emeritus of Pediatrics at the University of Colorado School of Medicine and Children’s Hospital Colorado. He is the author of three books for parents and families, including the recent No Regrets Parenting, a Parents advisor, and a contributor to The New York Times Motherlode blog. Visit his blog at and follow him on Facebook and Twitter (@NoRegretsParent).


Image: Frosted window with Christmas decoration via Shutterstock

Add a Comment