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Best of the Forums: Gifts When Host Requests None?

Posted By Communications Manager, Tuesday, November 22, 2016
Updated: Tuesday, November 22, 2016
Do you bring birthday gifts for children's birthday parties when the host has noted "please no gifts" in the invitation? 

We have always requested no gifts and ALWAYS some people bring gifts. But lately I've noticed at a few birthday parties we've attended where the host also requested "no gifts" almost EVERY guest came with a gift. 

We try to honor the request when I see it in an invitation. Instead I have my kids take time to make a nice handmade card and write a note for their classmate/friend and sometimes we will also make a bookmark or add stickers inside the card. But I'm often then questioning not bringing a gift when I see most guests coming with them. I believe that parents are sincere in their request because when we've made that request for our parties we truly don't want more gifts for our kids, we just want a time for our kids to celebrate with friends.

Curious - what do you do? If you bring gifts when a person writes "no gifts," why do you bring them?

  • I have occasionally brought a gift to a "no gifts" party, and it's been a book. I just think you can never have too many books. My kids always make homemade birthday cards as well. 

    On a related note, we have been to 4 birthday parties in the past 6 weeks (all invitations from my son's new kindergarten class friends) and I have noticed that they are all receiving goodie bags with books in them. That seems to be the trend. I've personally never been a fan of the goodie bag but now is it expected?
  • I have brought gifts in the past -- we try to respect the wishes of the family but I have three kids and sometimes forget which invitations are which. Plus, like the previous poster, we usually give books, and think there is no such thing as too many books. Although if there is you can always donate them to your school/classroom library -- our school librarian will put a nice sticker in saying who donated the book and my kids love seeing "their" books circulating.
  • One suggestion: if you have a no gift policy, make the few stray gifts quickly disappear from sight. If people in your social group go to no-gift parties and see a table with presents while they came empty handed, they might get confused and start overcompensating at the following parties.
  • We have also been to many parties with goodie bags. Lately in lieu of goodie bags, my younger has received a book, a hula hoop (from a luau birthday party) and lots of candy from a pinata - from the birthday parties recently. Not exactly goodie bags but I'm actually happier without any parting gift. I do not think they are necessary but it does seem that they are expected -- by kids, not parents!
  • I've been to parties where the no-gift request was replaced with "please bring an item to donate to a charity of the birthday child's choice." I like this because, for the most part, it reminds kids there are those less fortunate than themselves (and some parents too). When it's a party where the whole class is invited and I know my child isn't "best friends," I stick with the hand made card and stickers. If it's someone I know my child plays with and talks to a lot, then I have my child choose the theme of the book or the book to give as a gift.
  • I just went to the "no toys please, but a book is fine" birthday party yesterday where some parents brought giagantic bags with presents. I myself bought a few presents for this party at ToysRUs the night before (because I completely forgot the specific instructions on the invitation that I received a month or so ago). But when I saw this very thread on PAMP, I went back and re-read the invitation; then I scrambled to replace my gift with a good educational book at the last minute because I wanted to honor the family wishes. However, every time I come with no gift or a book and see someone with lots of other presents, I can't help it but feel a little ... hmm... embarrassed, stingy, etc -- even though I am obeying the specific instructions from the parents (I know it's silly - can't help it! And my mind always has a quick detour: should I have also brought something extra??). But I did feel more at ease after reading this thread yesterday.

    For my older daughter's first birthday, I chose to ask for donations to the charity that I support in lieu of gifts (I asked for checks, not toys or books), but some parents still brought gifts (some did both: a donation AND a gift for my child). Of course my daughter LOVED receiving them, even though she was only one and I thought she wouldn't even care. So the next year I decided to let her indulge (it's only twice a year: birthday and Xmas for our family; plus, we actually do not buy birthday or Xmas gifts for them ourselves because they receive so many from others!).  

    Anyway, I was very grateful for this thread! HAPPY HOLIDAY SEASON TO ALL!!! And happy birthday parties - gifts or no gifts, whatever your policy and personal preference may be! Love our community where we can be who we are and respect each other's choices!  

Tags:  best of the forum 

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Save Your Way Out of Debt

Posted By Communications Manager, Tuesday, November 15, 2016
Updated: Friday, November 11, 2016
Saving is the fastest way out of debt. Time and time again I see men and women in debt keeping themselves in deprivation mode saying things like, “I can’t buy new clothes until my debt is paid down,” or “I don’t deserve a vacation because I’m only paying the minimum on my cards.” A poverty mentality can be very depressing and might affect one’s self-esteem, relationships and ability to earn money. Worst of all, it can keep you in the debt cycle because the tension around keeping a lid on it has to be released eventually. It is possible to save money and pay down your debt at the same time. It takes some discipline, but the integrity and peace of mind you will experience through authentic guilt-free spending is priceless. Simultaneously, you will cultivate the skills and awareness you need to prevent future debt. According to my mentor, Karen McCall, here are four approaches to saving your way of debt.

1. Stop debting. The first step towards getting out of debt is to stop digging the hole. You must stabilize the situation before you can make shifts in your mentality and changes in your behavior. Make a decision to take your credit cards out of your wallet, change your primary card for all of your online shopping accounts to your debit card. If you’re a dramatic type, you can freeze your cards in a bowl of water or ceremoniously cut them up. I have a client who mailed one of her credit cards home to her dad with a letter saying, “Thank you for paying for my monthly car payments, gas, tolls, insurance and repairs for the last eight years. I’m taking on all the payments from now on!”

Put money aside every month into a periodic savings account. Periodic expenses are anticipated non-monthly expenses like vacations, holidays, tuition, vet bills and car repairs. These are expenses that can end up on a credit card if you’re not prepared. The periodic savings account is a foundational regular savings account with a revolving door and money that is meant to be spent. When a periodic expense comes up, simply transfer the money you proactively set aside into your checking account and pay with your debit card. It’s okay to deplete your periodic savings, and you should expect to from time to time. By making monthly transfers to your periodic savings account a consistent part of your budget, you can always build it up again. Map out your periodic expenses and divide the total on the bottom right by 12 months -- that is how much money you should be saving every month in this savings account.

2. Manage your debt. The next step is to live free from debt, mentally and emotionally, even if you are not debt-free. Once you organize every credit card balance, APR (annual percentage rate or interest rate), credit limit and current minimum in one place, then you can create a strategic debt repayment plan. The priority is to get each of your balances at least 33% away from the available credit. You may have to pay only minimums on all of your cards while you build up your periodic savings, get a handle on your monthly in and outflow and reduce your balances by a third.

The next level of savings is the safety net. The goal for this account is to have six months of living expenses set aside in cash. The intention behind the safety net is to prepare for a potential interruption of income -- critical for those of you with fluctuating incomes. Note that a separate tax-only savings account is equally important for self-employed folks. And, a safety net savings account is important for everyone regardless of your employment status. This is an emergency fund. Once some of your safety net is built up, you’ll have the funds to pay yourself the difference during a lower or zero earning month. Remember, being laid off or set back on disability is considered an emergency while quarterly tax payments are not.

3. Eliminate debt. This is the final stage of debt -- being free from debt financially and spiritually. Once all of your debts are cleared, it can take some time for your heart to catch up and integrate this new reality. The key to preventing a back-slide into debt is to take excellent care of yourself by respecting your money with personal money practices, routines, rigorous honesty, willingness and accountability.

The highest level of savings is for investments -- real estate, stocks, bonds, money market accounts and retirement accounts. This is truly do-not-touch money, and these accounts are designed to take care of your future, older self. In an ideal world, you would have multiple savings accounts to cover periodics -- your safety net, taxes and the long-term. I am a big believer in “build it and they will come”. Something very powerful starts to happen when you take action and open savings accounts on every level even if your initial deposits or monthly transfers are minimal.

4. Watch for signs of deprivation including making do, doing without or overdoing. If you notice one of these limiting beliefs in your life, it’s an opportunity to uncover an unmet need. It’s not always obvious. Unmet needs have amazing ways of hiding themselves. I have a client who is a chronic over-spender. Her weaknesses are clothes, bags, shoes and jewelry. She has very expensive taste and virtually can’t say no to sales people who know her by name. I gave her a tool she could carry with her at all times -- a shopping journal! It helped her connect to her underlying thoughts and feelings before, during and after a spontaneous purchase. Through this process, she realized she was feeling lonely and bored on the way home from work and frequently stopped at Barney’s to pass time and have social interaction. The unmet need was in her social life and relationships. She compensated for that void by overspending on her wardrobe. Anyone who has been in debt knows about the snowball effect and how quickly things can get out of control. Be mindful of slippery slopes, hot spot areas of spending and money fog. Protect yourself today by proactively building and sustaining multiple levels of savings.

Carrie Friedberg, SF Money Coach is a certified financial coach and financial behavior specialist. She guides individuals, families and small business owners through a holistic process of aligning your spending, saving and earning with your values. Carrie works in downtown Palo Alto and with clients around the world via Skype.

Tags:  finances 

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Mentally Preparing for Motherhood

Posted By Communications Manager, Tuesday, November 15, 2016
Updated: Friday, November 11, 2016
There’s so much attention given to the physical changes of a woman’s body during pregnancy, and yet the common emotional changes that many women experience often do not get discussed. The arrival of a new baby can be both exciting and challenging, and it’s normal to have a mix of emotions coupled with exhaustion. For about 80% of mothers, childbirth brings the “baby blues,” and another 15% experience postpartum depression. How can expectant mothers mentally prepare for their new role?

Expectation Setting
Postpartum depression can be linked to trying to meet or exceed societal expectations about what new motherhood is supposed to look like. There are unrealistic expectations often placed on new mothers such as being happy and functional at all times, immediately knowing how to soothe their babies and never feeling alone or isolated. In reality, new motherhood is full of highs and lows, new experiences, tears and sheer joy. There is no one correct way to feel, and each mother will adjust on her own time period.

Although it's common for this transitional period to cause raised emotions, it’s important to pay attention to extreme and unusual feelings of sadness, anger and anxiety. Crying often, feeling angry, withdrawing from loved ones or feeling numb or disconnected from your baby are all unique signs for postpartum depression.

Paying attention to and acknowledging your thoughts and feelings can help you be a better partner and parent. Develop a mindfulness practice and internalize your breath to be in the moment. Be aware of your own thoughts and be prepared to step back when necessary and applaud yourself for the work you’re doing. Repeating phrases such as “This is temporary” and “I am a great mom doing my best” can be helpful for some mothers when they are experiencing a difficult period.

Consider learning to practice meditation during your pregnancy. For some, it may be as simple as quieting your mind through focused breathing. Other women may find it helpful to take a class or retreat to your own created space in your home with a yoga mat and complete silence. Benefits of meditation include improved sleep, revitalized energy, anxiety and stress relief and an opportunity to connect to your changing body and new baby.

Prenatal Yoga
If you are looking to increase your flexibility, concentrate on your breath and connect with your new baby and evolving body during pregnancy, prenatal yoga may be right for you. In a typical prenatal yoga class, you can expect stretching, mental centering and focused breathing. Yoga can be adaptable for all levels of experience. Check with your physician before beginning a new exercise regimen.

Poor sleep has been shown to significantly worsen the symptoms of many mental health conditions. Since newborns rarely sleep more than two to three hours at a time, a mother’s sleep is constantly interrupted. This continuous sleep deprivation can lead to physical discomfort and exhaustion, which can then contribute to the symptoms of postpartum depression. Try to nap when the baby naps, as this will help prevent you from reaching exhaustion. Don’t hesitate to ask a friend or family member to watch your newborn for a short period so you can rest.

Seek out a therapist ahead of time
Locating a therapist in your area that is familiar with counseling mothers can be especially helpful for any new mom. It’s important to develop a relationship ahead of your delivery so the therapist can get to know you prior to this life-changing event, even if it’s just for one introductory visit. Finding a therapist that’s right for you can also take time, so identifying one ahead of your delivery will only ease the stress if you’re in need of one after having your baby. This is especially important if you have experienced depression in the past, since you are at a higher risk of developing postpartum depression. Talk to your primary care physician for a referral.

Shelley H.K. Howell, Ph.D., J.D. is the Outpatient Manager at El Camino Hospital Mental Health and Addiction Services. El Camino Hospital offers a full spectrum of mother-baby care and services, including a specialized support program for women experiencing prenatal or postpartum depression and anxiety. The Maternal Outreach Mood Services (MOMS) program provides education, counseling and evaluation for mothers in a supportive, nurturing environment.

Tags:  expecting  health 

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3 Tips for Moderation around Technology

Posted By Communications Manager, Tuesday, November 8, 2016
Updated: Tuesday, November 8, 2016

I love what I love - but too much of a good thing can be a bad thing. I like sports, beer, Springsteen. But I hope these loves are in balance with the rest of my life (although 68 Springsteen shows may test moderation to my wife). So, as I watch my kids absorb technology, I struggle with its place in our lives. Just how much is enough? What is moderation?

It is hard to watch my kids entranced by any screen. My childhood was filled with bikes, kick the can, tag, sandlot anything and board games. But the average American kid is now in front of a screen for more than 8 hours a day. It is not just a TV show or a movie that my kids find. It's an avalanche of new media in apps, games, TV and movies. All of which can be viewed on multiple screens, from a variety of sources which are completely mobile. 

Technology and media are interwoven into every facet of kids' lives 

Kids use screens:

  • At school and doing their homework

  • Traveling by maps

  • Shopping

  • Talking, texting and emojis

  • Finding Friday night movies

  • Answering the everyday questions by asking Siri to look it up

  • Watching, tracking and even playing sports   

Initially, my wife and I tried the tactic of just limiting our kids screen time. But this leads to the inevitable and endless battle of,  “Just a few more minutes!" "After this round?" "Can I finish this game?” It may be better to find some media that is both high quality and interesting. In the onslaught of new media there are a wealth of gems buried underneath the most popular apps and movies.  

Here are some ideas to help you feel more comfortable with kids on screens: 

1. Find apps and movies enjoyable for them and interesting to you. At first, keep them simple and make sure that there is a fun aspect. Yes, It takes a little effort to find them, but I happen to love problem solving and puzzles. 

Some examples of apps I love:

  • Baby's Musical Hands - The simplest possible interface allows babies and toddlers to play with piano, guitar and percussion sounds. An incredibly rewarding experience and a great choice for a child's first app. (1+)

  • Where’s my Water? - Solving a puzzle for an alligator. What phase is the water -- liquid, steam or ice? Good for ages 4-12 as the puzzles get harder. 

  • Amazing AlexYou get new tools and the puzzles can be solved in many ways.  Learn to test an idea and try something else. As a parent, this is a great game to offer ideas and let kids try to solve the puzzle. Good for ages 6-12.

  • The RoomAn amazing display of puzzles and clues about unlocking a room. The visuals are so fantastic that it alone drew our son into the game, but the clues and secrets kept him working at the puzzle. Great for 9+ and certainly for parent engagement. 


2. Pick a movie or TV show that allows them to relate to one issue or question in their own life. Yes, the show still has to be interesting but it can tell a great story and have subjects that are interesting for kids. A few that have generated conversations in our household:

  • Sesame Beginnings: Make Music Together - The Sesame Street Muppets appear as babies in this video which demonstrates tapping into young children's natural love of music in everyday activities. (2+)

  • SpellboundA great movie about a spelling Bee. Asking our oldest son if he was comfortable with getting up in front of people in a spelling Bee actually became a reality. The situations in the story are worthy of some great “What would you do?” questions.

  • Searching for Bobby Fischer Introduced  Chess and had all three kids asking questions about Bobby Fischer. One of our kids now takes Chess classes.  (7+)

  • HoosiersYes it is a classic but the story is a great one (8+). It will inspire some great questions about winning and losing well as both the underdog and the champion. The same is true of Mcfarland, a more modern day version of the hard-work-meets-success. 

3. Don’t forget about books. We prefer paper as it travels without the screen (Does that sound old school?). A book inspires the discussion and also allows them to use their own imagination. 

  • Ben's Trumpet - Ben is a young boy growing up in the 1920's who falls in love with jazz music and playing the trumpet. (4+)

  • The Clay PotI do love many of the Eastern stories, but this is one of my favorites. Honesty rewarded. Doing the right thing has its merits. Simple and so direct. (5+)

  • Me, JaneYes, it has won almost every award but that isn’t the point. In a world of money and technology, this is an easy story to talk to kids about doing what they love. And it starts from Jane Goodall's childhood stuffed animal. (6+)

  • Encyclopedia Brown - The stories are always positive, have a puzzle to solve and teach some great attributes about the boy detective. (9+)

I find it easier to accept moderation -- which includes some Angry Birds, Surfing, racing and, yes, even some shooting -- if I also know that we spend equal time on media that helps develop the kids. 

Yes, we still have to hold to time limits ... otherwise when would they run out into the yard and play Kick the Can?


Chris has spent 20 years building high tech products for kids in the sports market (Nike and Oakley). Currently on sabbatical, he supports his wife in the passionate pursuit of her start-up, SmartFeed, a new tool to help parents navigate the complex and fast paced world of kids’ movies, TV, Apps and books.


Tags:  technology 

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Thanks for a Great Preschool Fair!

Posted By Communications Manager, Tuesday, November 8, 2016
Updated: Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Thanks to everyone for coming out to PAMP's annual Preschool Fair this past weekend. As usual, the event was a huge success thanks to all of you -- our members, sponsors, volunteers and staff.

"It was great to see so many people getting so much information on preschools!" said Jaimi. "I'm so glad we live in an area that's vibrant with preschool options. The PAMP Preschool Fair helps to highlight those amazing options."

If you weren't able to attend and are still looking for more information on preschools for your child, check out our Preschool Fair School Directory.

Be sure to tell your friends about the fair -- and then join us again next year!

Tags:  education 

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Election Season and Kids

Posted By Communications Manager, Tuesday, November 1, 2016
Updated: Tuesday, November 1, 2016

It’s another presidential election season. This time, the whole process seems a bit louder and more difficult to digest than normal. The dialogue among the candidates is angry and hostile.

What do we tell a developing child? The overwhelming amount of media, plus a constant public dialogue, can guarantee that most school-age children, and even younger, have heard about the election. And they may be very confused by what they hear and see.

How do we guide them through this?
I think it’s best that we ask them what they know. If they have heard nothing, but you feel they are old enough to comprehend, then it’s OK to provide simple information about the process and its importance. You may want to briefly explain the role of an American president, and talk about how they will learn more about this throughout their school years.

But what if your kids have an opinion? What if they have heard some harsh and unfriendly statements about candidates? And, what if they are openly repeating these things?

It’s something I am having to deal with. My 8-year-old and 6-year-old certainly know what’s up, mostly from newscasts heard in the car and plenty of comments out in the public. What is a parent to do, especially since they are both very interested in the election these days?

First, find out what they have heard.
Ask, “Why do you feel that way?” It’s healthy to uncover thoughts on how they arrived at a view -- but not in an effort to dictate their thinking. Instead, you are helping them process and problem solve what they have heard.

Second, discuss your family’s values.
There is a lot of conflict in the way our politicians talk and interact, and these are not model behaviors for raising children. That’s why it’s a good idea to discuss your family’s approach to conflict resolution. In the context of what a child has heard, perhaps you ask, “Is there a different and better way to discuss these differences? How would we solve these differences within our own family?”

Third, create a conversation.
This opens the door to discussing the traits and characteristics that your family wants to display when there are disagreements. Making it about “bad” or “good” people should not be the focus. Instead, create a conversation that is about right and wrong behaviors among people of all ages. And by showing a respect for differing opinions, you can really have an impact on a child’s development and behavior.

In the end, a not-very-nice political season may be the perfect time for a family to model empathetic words and actions in all disagreements. Doing so may guide children not just in political discussions, but also help them gravitate towards politicians and people who most reflect these important values.

Dr. Trenna Sutcliffe loves kids, families, pets, travel and hiking. Discover more about her work here.

Tags:  parenting 

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Preschool Fair!

Posted By Communications Manager, Tuesday, October 25, 2016
Updated: Monday, October 24, 2016

Why come to the Preschool Fair? PAMP’s Preschool Fair is your one-stop resource for all of your preschool questions and concerns. Get all of your questions answered while meeting face-to-face with over 50 local preschools and sponsors, listening to experts talk about how to select the best school for YOUR child and mingling with other parents who are entering the process as well.

"I really like being able to see so many schools side by side," said Sarah. "It helps make some of the differences and similarities between them really clear."

Here's a
 list of the schools you'll see at the fair.

Be sure to join us on Saturday, November 5th at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View. The entire event is FREE!

Doors open at 9am for PAMP Members Only! The Parent Workshop begins at 9am, followed immediately by the Preschool Meet & Greet and Expert Advisor Sessions.

Doors open to the Public at 11am. Expert Advisor Sessions and School Meet & Greets for the public both begin at 11:00am, followed by the Preschool Meet & Greet with 50+ local schools and sponsors.

Doors close at 1pm. 

Want to do more than just attend? Why not volunteer at the fair! "Volunteering is fun because you meet other PAMP members," said Sarah. "You get to know other volunteers and you get to help out an organization that depends on member assistance."

Join the team and help make one of our biggest events successful!


Tags:  education 

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Family Movie Night is This Weekend!

Posted By Communications Manager, Tuesday, October 18, 2016
Updated: Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Family Movie Night is coming up this weekend! You won't want to miss it! It will be held Saturday, Oct 22nd from 5-7 PM at the Mitchell Park Community Center in Palo Alto.

"I especially love Family Movie Night with PAMP," Lori said. "It's so good to not have to worry and just know that this will be a family-friendly movie we can all enjoy."

The family-friendly movies we will be viewing are "It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown" and "Curious George: A Halloween Boo Fest." Come out with your family, meet other families and have a blast! 
We'll have Pizza My Heart pizza, treats from Sweetgreen and drinks (BYOB for the adults)! There will even be outdoor toys for the kids to play on throughout the evening.

Be sure to register today!

Tags:  activities 

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In Sync Rather than Sinking: How to Deal with Change

Posted By Communications Manager, Tuesday, October 18, 2016
Updated: Monday, November 14, 2016

If you are like most Bay Area parents, you have researched your options when it comes to preschools and schools. You have chosen a program that fits your lifestyle values, the family schedule and seems like a great fit for your child’s personality. Friends and family have reassured your choices and you are optimistic about your child’s ability to adapt to inherent changes.

If you are caught by surprise with your child’s behavior when going back to or starting school, join the club of parents around the world are baffled by the cute and not-so-cute things that children do when they are facing unexpected change. While the change is inevitable, here are some tips for dealing with the disruptions and eruptions that may help you stay in sync with your child, your parenting values and the flow of change.

1. While setting the bar high, keep the big picture in mind.

We all want our children to have opportunities and hopefully enjoy their daily activities. Sometimes we can get carried away in having our kids “measure up “ to other kids at a young age.  Sometimes we get carried away when there are so many great activities, groups and lessons for our kids. Keep in mind that kids develop at their own rates. All kids need down time to explore, process and assimilate information and express emotions. Does your child have enough unstructured play time everyday? Try to build in some unstructured family time if you don’t already have that.

2. Let your child share their experience when they are ready -- don’t grill them.

As parents and caregivers, we are curious about what happens when we are away from our child. A habit can form of picking up the child and immediately request they tell us about the day. When I ask a child, “What happened today?” or “What did you learn?”, I mostly get “I don’t know…nothing”. Instead of asking about your child’s day in a way that an adult might be able to respond to, greet them let them know with your actions that nothing has changed since they last saw you. Perhaps even share a bit about your day. Maybe talk about ideas for the after school plan and then give them some free air space, leaving time for your child to open up at their own rate.

3. Expect some chaos to ensue: tears, tantrums, sleep schedule delays -- prepare for the worst.

When kids are thrown into a new routine with new people, new toys and a new environment,  they might feel challenged. We all communicate through our behavior, and this is even more true for kids under five. If your child unexpectedly thrashes, screams and throws their shoes when you answer your phone or pick up another child, remember they are going through a lot of changes. Whatever your disciplinary style is, take into account that it takes time for children to adjust. They are likely tired and overwhelmed even if Mary Poppins turns out to be their teacher.

4. Commiserate with your child and the difficulty of being around new people, new activities, strange places and constant stimulation.

If your child is having a hard time and is expressing it behaviorally or verbally, acknowledge that what they are going through is tough. Help them work through the changes by validating difficult feelings and fear they may be experiencing. Stay away from reassuring them. Contrary to popular belief, it often backfires and does not help your child to feel safer or understood. It rather complicates those feelings.

5. Inform your child of some of the changes, and prepare them as much as possible.

As changes occur, continue to remind your child of what to expect. Acknowledge it is difficult and remind them of the people they can go to for help. Tell them who is going to drop them off or pick them up and answer their questions as they emerge.

Adjusting to preschool or school is one of those times when our imagination can get ahead of us and set both parents and kids up for disappointment. While it may certainly take some time for parents and kids to adjust, it is possible to go with the flow by expecting difficulty, keeping the big picture in mind and building in down-time.

Remember this whole playgroup and school thing is about raising healthy children. Part of creating health is coping with challenge and change from an honest, realistic and supportive place.

I hope these tips will help you ease the pressure as parents. Always remember that parents set the pace. This is a great opportunity to be more in sync with your child and support their growth in a way that will support them far beyond their younger years.

Find out more about 
Esther Krohner here.

Tags:  education  parenting 

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5 Secrets to Make Kid's Screen Time Work for You

Posted By Communications Manager, Tuesday, October 11, 2016
Updated: Tuesday, October 11, 2016

"Just one more minute."

"Let me finish this one thing!"

"Can we watch this, Mom, puhleezze?"

"Why can't I play that app/game? Everybody else does!"

As parenting pioneers in the "digital age," we've heard all this and more.

  • Screen time = stress.

  • Screen time = a battlefield.

  • Screen time = crossing your fingers and hoping it doesn't go too far off the rails.

But why does it have to be that way? For our parents, books didn't feel like landmines. They weren't suspicious of paper and crayons. Catching a glimpse of "Kids" shows didn't give our parents a coronary attack.  

But today, the combination of wildly varying children's programs and the jarring things our kids can stumble upon in commercials, in-app ads or site links create an ever-increasing sense of screen time angst for parents.

Still, as screen proliferation hits an estimated 6+ connected devices in each home (forecasted to more than 60% over the next 5 years - source: The NPD Group), we realize screens are here to stay. Our opportunity lies in converting screen time angst into screen time power.

5 Tips to Make Screen Time Work

1. Set up a family contract around screen time "Rules of Engagement".
Screen time tension can spread beyond parents and kids and creep in between parents. Like everything from diet to bed time, the sooner parents synch up on screen time guidelines, the better the family dynamic becomes. Wherever you are in your child's life cycle, envision 1, 3, 5 years ahead and work through how you can shape your family parameters around screens. As you hone in one your priorities, consider a "Contract" with your kids. Check out numerous resources for boilerplate ones in the resources below.

Some core contract elements are:

1) People matter more than screens. Look up and speak to anyone who walks in the room when you have a screen in play.

2) Don't do anything on a screen you wouldn't want the whole wide world to see - because - they can and often will.

3) The content on the device must meet our family priorities. Which leads us to...

2. Surface - and stock up on - content they'll love and you'll approve.
Seems so obvious: It's not the screens we battle - it's the content coming through them. What if we could customize loads of inspiring content - movies, shows, apps and books - our kids would love and we would approve?

Parents know what their kids like. Parents look to support schoolwork. And parents have values and character traits they hope to impart to their kids. Why can't parents - and anyone hoping to shape kids' perspectives - curate media that meets their priorities?

Whatever kids' media resource you use to customize content (e.g. Common Sense Media,, Balefire Labs, Greater Good in Action), get in front of the question "Can I...?" by storing an inspiring list of movies, shows, apps and books that meet your family priorities and appeal to your kids.

3. Pick Key Titles to Play and Watch with Your Kids.
I wrote this piece alongside our eldest child - a 10-year old. When I asked him what his top tips would be, he read my draft and said, "Remember -  parents should play and watch stuff with their kids". Of course.

Often kids' screen time is on so we can be off - doing something else. But, take time to invest and discover movies and shows you approve of. Sometimes we like to sit alongside the kids a la family movie night or to watch a quick show before bedtime. At least half the apps we load, my husband plays alongside our kids and encourages them to play "with each other" screen to screen. Although our son loves "candy time," playing Madden 15 or Racing apps, he remembers playing The Room or Where's My Water with his dad.

4. Agree to time windows - and a timer - your kids can set and manage.
No matter how inspiring the content, time limits support media balance. What parent wants to negotiate every 90 seconds until shut down? Some of our favorite time management platforms that sit over your kids' screens include KoalaSafe and  But, you can also do what we do: our kids set their device timers (with loud alarms) and agree to shut down when they hear the bell. It only takes a few "I forgot = no screen time tomorrow" to keep the timer strategy strong.

5. Share what works with your community and parenting partners.
Weigh in on public forums and with your spending. Our best parenting resources are each other. We trade more tips, solutions and watch-outs in carpool lines, school hallways and sports sidelines than any amount of "expert" reading can deliver.

Find what works for your family and share solutions - share titles and great playlists with friends, kids' friends' parents, sitters, kids' teachers and family.

The more we all "vote" with our media spending for good stuff, the more great content creators will make. Who would have guessed - even 5 years ago -  McDonalds and Safeway would re-engineer their menus and shelves to stock nutritionally better family food? Lo and behold McDonalds launched an organic burger and Safeway developed a private label brand for organic food.

Your parent vote matters. You can make it count every time you spend on more inspiring media.

Mom of three, Linsly Donnelly is the CEO and founder of SmartFeed. SmartFeed makes it easy to find inspiring media your kids will love and you’ll approve. She and the SmartFeed team thrive on using the power of media as a positive force for our kids. Linsly is a start up veteran (,,, YogaLoftMB), a
published author (Happy Go Local: Smart Mom’s Guide to Living the Good and Sustainable Life), a family advocate and wanna be writer. She and her family split time in Mill Valley, Ca and Park City, Utah.

Tags:  technology 

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