Family nights are one night a week that is specifically for fun family time together. So much of our time is spent on things that we have to get done each day, and many times the evenings are not much different as they are a time for things like dinner, swim lessons, bath time and getting ready for the next day. Below are a few ideas to get you started on creating your own family night. Once you start the family night routine, it can be something that the whole family looks forward to each week. Make family night a “no distractions zone.” Turn off cellphones, computers and iPads to focus on having fun together. These nights help bond the family together and build happy, lasting memories.

Some families have each family night be a pizza and movie night or a popcorn and movie night. If you would like to extend the activity a bit have each person make their own mini pizza for dinner and then watch a movie together.

Family art night can really bring out everyone’s creativity. No need to plan a detailed craft to do each time, simply gather up a lot of art supplies, play some music, gather around the kitchen table and create. By keeping this more open-ended everyone is able to create art in whatever way they wish, using whatever art supplies they feel most comfortable.

How about a reading night? Pop some popcorn, grab a couple of cozy blankets and read out loud to your children. Even older children can enjoy this time together. Choose a chapter book and return to it week after week to see what happens in the story, or read through a whole stack of picture books, depending on the ages of your children. In addition to family time, keep in mind that reading aloud to children of all ages improves their language, critical thinking and literacy skills.

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Have a living room dance party. Push the furniture aside and start the music. Take turns being the deejay and requesting music, even some of mom and dad’s music too. The great thing about this family night idea is that it also uses up a lot of energy. As the night goes on and bedtime approaches, change to some slower music to help ease the little ones into nighttime.

Pull out the baby pictures and home videos. Gather the family around and have fun looking at old photos. The whole family will giggle and reminisce about how they have changed since they were babies and toddlers.

Family game night can be a great way to spend time together. Get out some current favorites or some games that haven’t been played in a really long time and let the fun begin.

Have a building night. If your kids are really into Legos, work together to build a Lego city or Lego zoo. Not into Legos? Stop by a grocery store earlier in the week and ask for some empty cardboard boxes to build with. Kids can even decorate the boxes if they want to. Another building option would be to get some sheets or light blankets and some clothespins to build a fort right in the middle of the living room.

Family nights are a time to relax, have fun and just enjoy spending time together. Keep it simple and let the good times roll.

Involving Parents is one of the Most Effective Ways to Improve your Child Care Program

Do you want to create a community atmosphere in your center or family child care program? Have you wondered about how to get parents more involved in their child’s learning? The following information will provide you with many ideas on how to do just that.

Invite families to participate in decision making and goal setting for their child. Invite families to actively take part in making decisions concerning their children’s education. Have the teachers and families jointly set goals for children’s education and learning both at home and at school.

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Involve families in two-way communication. Allow for both center and family initiated communication that is timely and continuous. Your communication should take multiple forms and reflects each family’s language preference. Examples include, but aren’t limited to:

  • Sending a weekly or biweekly newsletter to parents
  • Greeting parents personally as they drop off or pick up (if possible)
  • Contacting parents by phone – a positive phone call means a lot
  • Creating a family bulletin board
  • Sending artwork home with children
  • Sending notes home with children or emailing parents
  • Take pictures and have an electronic photo album accessible to parents – be sure to ask for their permission first!

Engage families in ways that are truly reciprocal. Centers and families both benefit from shared resources and information. How can you do that?

  • Create a family-friendly environment! Simple additions like extra coat hooks and chairs, a message board, or a special area for family members to settle in and play with or read to a child offer obvious signs of welcome. Let parents know that their presence is expected and appreciated by showing them where books, craft items and toys are stored so they can participate spontaneously.
  • Invite family members directly into the classroom to share hobbies, cultural traditions, special recipes, family pets, etc. This is not only a wonderful opportunity for the young child to see and take pride in her own family, and a terrific learning experience for the other children in your care, but it also shows families that their unique stories are appreciated and valued in the classroom.
  • Create volunteer and social opportunities for families who have inflexible work hours: after-work pot-lucks, craft preparation (which might include cutting or assembling), gardening, painting, fundraising, etc. Be creative and flexible. Don’t assume that a parent who is always in a hurry or barely makes it in on time for pickup is not interested in your program. Offer him a chance to help or socialize outside of business hours.
  • Make a collage using the traced and cut-out hands of family members. Help the children label the hands and then join them together, creating a beautiful visual tribute to the families in your care/classroom.

 Provide learning activities for the home. Teachers create learning activities for the children to do at home to encourage and support families’ efforts to create a learning environment beyond the program.

  • Create “Buddy Bags” or “Literacy Bags” for the children to take home and work on with their parents. Find some great ideas for these at
  • Pinterest has many pages full of ideas that you could use to create literacy bags as well.

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Plan trainings on topics that parents may be interested in:

  • Home and or paper organization
  • Yoga with kids
  • Healthy eating
  • Positive discipline – 1,2,3 Magic, Love and Logic, etc.
  • Train parents to use the Ages & Stages Questionnaire, a developmental and social-emotional screening tool.

Invite families to participate in program-level decisions. Ask for parent volunteers to head up activities and provide ongoing and meaningful input about programming.

Plan events for families:

  • Plan a picnic
  • Organize “Olympic Games” night – Obstacle courses, bean bag tosses, etc.
  • Hold an ice cream social

Use some of these suggestions to give children the opportunity to see that the adults in their life want to work together.

At the end of the day, the most overwhelming key to a child’s success is the positive involvement of parents. ~Jane D. Hull

As summer winds down and the start of the new school year approaches, it is important to consider new rhythms and routines that promote predictable, smooth, and healthy transitions for the whole family.

Children crave boundaries and routines that are predictable and easy; this is especially important as schedules fill up with back-to-school activities. When children know what to expect each day, they feel safe and cared for.


Getting out the door in time to catch a bus or get to work on time can be challenging after summer days that may have been less regimented. If mornings feel hectic, consider visual cues for your children so they can work to keep themselves on task while you keep the ship afloat. A check list posted on the front door can be used to remind your kiddo about what they should have before walking out the door each day. Find some great suggestions for the morning transition, including printable morning checklists, here:

Meal Planning

Taking some time each week to plan meals can be a great way to save time during busy school and work days. Being intentional about planning meals can often lend to both healthier eating and financial habits. A simple notebook can do the job, but if you want something specific to lay out your meal plans each week, there are tons of great and inexpensive methods available, in paper or digital form. Check out this link for some suggestions for meal planning apps:


A good solid bedtime routine can certainly help to reduce struggles related to the return to the school year schedule. Bedtime rituals like reading together, snuggling and quiet talks about the day can be a wonderful time to slow down and connect with your child after busy school days. Additionally, ensuring that young children receive adequate amounts of sleep is important when considering rapidly developing brains and better prepared bodies for learning each day. Young children often need more sleep than we might think.

Preparing for the Transitions

Conversations about the upcoming changes to routines and schedules can be really helpful for children. Making time to talk about what each day might look like as your kiddos head back to school can be a comfort and offer some foresight. You might have a period of adjustment that feels difficult, but thankfully nothing is permanent.

Book center Blog

First off:

No books related to movies, shows or toys: this means no Sesame Street, no Disney, no Barbie, no Bob the Builder, no Sponge Bob etc. If you are really ready for an amazing book center, get rid of all the teachy preachy ones too. These get removed immediately for trash or recycling.

Often we have questions about books that were books before they were movies: Clifford, Curious George, Madeline. This can be tricky. How old are the kids? Did they know it as a book first? Or has it always been product related for them? Is there a way for us to know?

When in doubt – run the book in question through the criteria here and see if it passes muster. Especially point #6.


No electronic books. These also get removed immediately for trash or recycling. Studies have shown that adults become overly focused on the buttons and sounds; the story and interactive banter of reading a book-book is lost.


After you have cleaned out and removed the above, you must remove all the books you have never read and put them in another pile. We will come back to them in a minute.

So at this point you should have 3 piles: 1) trash/recycle, 2) books you need to read and 3) books you are familiar with and have read.


You will be dealing with the third pile: books you have read and that you are familiar with. You need to go through each one looking for rips and tears.

Right out the gate, all books that are missing covers, missing pages, falling apart or are torn up beyond repair get added to the trash/recycle pile. No exceptions! I don’t care how much it cost, how much they love it, it’s MISSING PAGES! If they love it that much – go get another copy!!!!

Books needing minimal repairs get placed in the book hospital (we’ll come to this in a sec.). But they only leave the hospital with mends and repairs if they pass muster at point #6 and all other criteria listed here.

Start another pile for books that you are familiar with that are not ripped and torn. Jump to #6 to see if they make it back on the book shelf.


Time permitting, sit in a cozy chair and READ all of the books you had on the shelf that you have not yet read and are not familiar with. If you don’t have time, you need to make time until you put these back on the shelf. You have a responsibility to be familiar with all the books you are making available for the children. In the interim, locate books on site, or at the library that you are FAMILIAR with and add them to your book area BUT ONLY IF THEY MEET ALL THE CRITERIA LISTED HERE!!

Just because we found a book in the children’s section of the library, or because someone donated it, doesn’t mean it deserves place in your book area.

No books are permitted in the book area unless they pass the book audit!


At this point you are going to focus on the pile of books that are NOT related to any commercialized images, are NOT ripped, have ALL their pages and that you have read and are familiar with!

The final question is this… WOULD YOU READ IT TO ME?

Go through and look at the books, skim through them – is it relevant? Is it meaningful? Would you read it to your boyfriend? Your mom? Would you call me on the phone and read it to me? Does it make you say OMG! Lisa, you have to listen to this book??!?!?! And If not – I want you to consider why you’d consider reading it to the kids.

So, if you would NOT read it to me. If it’s not a “good book” – it goes in the trash/recycle pile and YOU need to take a trip to the library.


You now have a quality book center!!!! Good Work!

A few of comments about donating books:

  1. This usually gets people fired up but it’s my opinion and belief all the same. If I won’t provide it to the kids in the center – why should it be donated to other kids? The bottom line is crap is crap. If we have determined that it’s not fit for the kids here – how is it somehow ok for the kids there?
  2. And if I’m trying to spread the word the commercialized books are just that – commercials for shows and products – why would I give them to parents to read to the kids at home? We are sending seriously mixed messages when we do this.
  3. Do NOT be afraid to throw trash away! You are making room for books and stories that ALL children are entitled to!!

Source:  Murphy, Lisa. “How to Do a BOOK CENTER Audit.” Ooey Gooey, Inc., 2012,>


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