Operation Happy Sock – Teaching kids gratitude

We have been busy giving back each month…in fact, too busy to write about it.  In March it was my daughter’s turn to lead her monthly Girl Scout Meeting and one of our activities was to make cat toys for the local animal shelter.  My daughter loves cats (all animals for that matter) and so when I was searching a for a service project I came across Happy Sock.

Happy Sock, is an easy activity for all ages (my 5 year old did it).  Here’s what we did:

  1. Collected socks from the troop that had been sitting in their dressers and missing a mate.
  2. I purchased the following items:
    1. Fiber Fill from my local JoAnn Fabrics – don’t forget your coupon for 40% off
    2. Cat Nip

Happy Socks Supplies








I brought the supplies to the meeting and the kids put in about a spoonful of cat nip, some fiber fill and then left enough room to tie the end.

It was a super easy and fun project and the local Humane Society was SOOO excited to get them!


Ted Talks for Kids (and the whole family) to Enjoy

If I have to watch another video of someone playing Minecraft I may need to be committed to the Looney Bin!  In general, our kid’s TV watching has gotten out of control.  We, like many other families, struggle with too much electronic time.


We have been working hard to come up with an electronics policy that will work for our family.  Here are some of the things we are doing to limit screen time:

  1. Just say no:  this has been met with whining, crying and the dreaded “I’m so bored.”  But each day gets better and they start finding other things to do.
  2. Chores for time:  If you do these 3 chores, then you will get X amount of electronics time.
  3. Setting an actual timer:  wow, it’s hard to believe how quickly you can get swept up in a project and not realize that it’s has been an hour and they are still playing a game or watching a show.
  4. Changing what they watch when they do watch tv:  That brings us to this post.

Instead of another mindless video, we have told our kids that they can watch fun (also read as inspiring and educational) videos from YouTube.  I have started compiling a list on my account and I’ll share some of the videos they liked the most and have watched multiple times.  You can  subscribe to my kid-friendly YouTube videos,  and as I add more videos, you can enjoy them too.

YouTube Videos for Kids to Watch

My Journey to Yo-Yo Mastery – Japanese yo-yo world champion BLACK tells the inspiring story of finding his life’s passion and gives a performance that will have your kids asking for your yo-yo.

A Cyber Magic Card Trick –  This video combines two things kids love–magic and computers.

Why People Believe They Can’t Draw – This had by 5 year drawing characters all night

Dive into an ocean photographer’s world – Amazing ocean images that will make the whole family yearn for the ocean.

Close-up Card Magic with a Twist – Magic tricks that will have you rewinding the video and watching again while laughing the entire time.

How to control someone else’s arm with your brain – What kid doesn’t love watching someone control someone else’s body part with electronics?

Breakdancing to the violin: Dr. Draw & Gadfly at TEDxToronto – Who knew the violin was such a rockin’ instrument.

How to Magically Connect with Anyone – A good combination of magic tricks and lessons about listening instead of “waiting to talk”.

Magic Performance – Can you tell my kids love magic?

Bluegrass virtuosity from … New Jersey – A group of brothers, all under the age of 16, rocking some Bluegrass tunes.

Reggie Watts disorients you in the most entertaining way – Proving your mouth is your most valuable instrument.

Do you have any favorites?  I’d love to hear about them.  Also, if you have any tips on limiting screen time, I’d love to know those too!


50 Ways Kids Can Volunteer – Toddler to Teen


As you may have read, our family is doing 12 months of giving back.  In an effort to teach my kids gratitude and caring for others, we are picking an activity each month that focuses solely on giving to others.

We are in our 4th month and now that the holidays are over, I have compiled a list of activities to choose from.  This month we will be donating to Mittens For Detroit.  Winters here in the Motor City are tough and my kids want to make sure other kids have a pair of gloves just like them.

In the meantime, I hope this list helps your family give to others.  Some items listed are quick and easy for your child to do and others may take a longer time commitment.

Acts of Kindness- Toddler Volunteer Ideas

When looking for places to volunteer, I ran into some obstacles with the age of my son.  He is only 5 and many places wanted children 8 and over.  Here are some things to do no matter their age.

  • Bake for neighbor
  • Draw pictures for your neighbors
  • Notes for the elderly
  • Chores for neighbors
  • Donate a toy
  • Visit a nursing home
  • Donate extra vegetables you grow to a food pantry
  • Pick up litter in your neighborhood
  • Let someone go ahead of you in line
  • Ask for donations to your favorite charity instead of birthday presents
  • Send a postcard to a friend or family member that lives outside your state
  • Bring flowers to your teacher or daycare provider
  • Weed a neighbor’s garden
  • Hold the door open for someone
  • Wave at a stranger
  • Set the table
  • Sing a song to an elderly person
  • Say something nice about your friend
  • Plant a tree
  • Pay for someone’s toll or food in the drive-thru line
  • Let a friend borrow your toy
  • See a person or group of people trying to take a selfie, offer to take the picture for them

Some organizations you may want to check out

Earn a President’s Volunteer Service Award for your volunteer work. People of all ages can sign up, track their hours, and search for volunteer opportunities through United We Serve.

Additional book resources

The Kid’s Guide to Service Projects: Over 500 Service Ideas for Young People Who Want to Make a Difference

How Full Is Your Bucket? For Kids

Can We Help?: Kids Volunteering to Help Their Communities

Kids’ Random Acts of Kindness (Random Acts of Kindness Series)

Kids Giving Back Month 3 – Christmas Giving Tree and Food Drive

December is traditionally the season to give to others and there are many charities that need our help.  But as my friend Lea said so nicely, “this month I am going to choose people I know and are in my own backyard.”   She is giving to an old friend from high school that has fallen on hard times and we are focusing our giving this month to children from my daughter’s school.  Each year her school does a gift giving tree that lists items that families in the school district need for the holiday season.  In addition, they run an annual food drive for local families.

We selected an ornament from the tree and are excited to be buying a 15-year-old the present he wished for, a set of legos.


Each day of the 7-day food drive, my kids also bring a can of food to school.  It feels good to know that we are helping families in our own backyard.

Any charities that you give to every December?

Kids Giving Back Month 2 – Christmas Boxes

In lieu of the crazy election year we had, we decided to make Election Day our “Be Kind Day.”  It seemed like a good way to counteract all of the negativity in the media and it worked great.  We started the day by donating the $6.36 that my daughter collected for the local animal shelter.  We dropped off the money and said hello to the many animals waiting for a good home.  It was hard not to take each one with us, but our work and travel schedule just doesn’t lend itself well to having a pet.



After lunch, we started decorating our shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child.  I found this organization when I was researching what ways we could volunteer our time and give back to the community (there will be a post later of different kids volunteer ideas).  I have to credit the website, simplyshoeboxes.com, for the idea and inspiration of the shoeboxes.  Operation Christmas Child donates shoeboxes filled with toys, schools supplies and toiletries to children all around the world who would otherwise not receive anything for Christmas.  The kids loved the idea and were excited to work on this project.



We made a special trip to Target so the kids could pick out the items they wanted to include in the shoeboxes.  My son packed a box for a boy age 5 – 9 and my daughter selected a girl with the age range of 8 -11.  Here is what they selected for their boxes:

Girl Box

  • Giraffe Stuffed Animal
  • Littlest Pet Shop
  • School supplies (notebook, pencils, erasers, pencil sharpener and crayons)
  • Pair of socks
  • Headband

Boy Box

  • Dinosaur
  • Goofy Stuffed Animal
  • Hot Wheel car
  • Hat
  • School supplies (notebook, pencils, erasers, pencil sharpener and crayons)



The kids had a blast.  It was a great time and a great cause.  We also opted to donate $7.00 per box and we will get notified where our boxes end up.  The kids are excited to see where it goes.  You can either mail your box directly to Samaritan Purse or you can hold onto your boxes for drop off week (mid November).

What you need to know:

  • Details about Operation Christmas Child can be found directly on the Samaritan Purse website
  • Check out this site for more information on things that can go into your box and how you can make this a project for the entire year.
  • Boxes can be mailed directly or dropped off at locations across the country during their drop off week (exact dates may change each year).
  • You can follow your box through an online donation that is tax deductible.


12 Months of Kids Giving Back – Month 1

In an effort to make my little human beings nice, big human beings, I have decided to institute a monthly giveback program in our house.  We are not church goers or belong to any organized group, but I am firm believer in giving to the community and charities.  It is very easy to get caught up in our own lives and on the latest gadget or gift we need that we forget how great we got it.  So, I’m consciously trying to fix this.

So, for our first month, October, the kids are donating some of their Halloween candy to our troops.  This idea was presented prior to Halloween and of course the kids met this idea with mixed emotions.  They want to help our troops, but they don’t want to give away “the good stuff” as they say.  So our first month is already met with a few challenges.  But, hey, what’s life without challenges?

Fast forward to Halloween night….my little goblins gained plastic pumpkins full of treats. Once we made it back home they went on to do the all important ritual — sorting of the candy.



After the candy was correctly categorized in piles:  chocolate, chips, money and “sucky things, ”  I asked the question, what are you going to give to the troops?


With surprisingly little hesitation, my daughter began creating a pile of chocolate and hard candy.  Wow, I am feeling pretty proud right now.  That was a lot easier than I thought.  My five year old was a little less quick to offer it up, but he too, added to the pile.

When it was all said and done, we ended up with this mound on the carpet.

Candy donation pile

That night, as I put my 8 year old daughter to bed, she was excited at the thought of the troops receiving her candy.  She even asked if they would write to tell us what they liked most.  I tried to explain they are a little busy right now and we probably won’t be hear back, but know that they are lovin’ their treats!

Over the course of the next few days, we (really me), added a few more pieces to the pile and dropped it off at a local drop off.  All in all, I would say this was   OPERATION:  SUCCESSFUL MONTH 1

If you are interested in donating items to the troops, you can find out more information at the Operation Gratitude Blog.  Donating candy not your thing?  No problem, there are lots of ways to give back.