DIY Geocache Kit

Make a geocache kit

Have you ever tried geocaching? If not, you definitely should! Think of it like a modern day treasure hunt. People hide “caches” in different locations. In order to find these caches, you get the coordinates of the cache’s location and use a GPS to locate it. Once you find it, there’s usually a logbook to sign. You leave the cache exactly as you found it, so that the next geocacher can do the same.

Geocaching is a perfect family activity. If you’re already an outdoor-loving family, it just one more fun thing to do outdoors. And if you struggle with getting yourself or the kids outdoors, geocaching is a great way to spend time outdoors while focused on an entirely different activity. Many geocaches contain a collection of small trinkets or goodies. Once you’ve found the cache, you can leave something of greater or equal value and take something fun home with you. My kids, who aren’t big on walks or hikes, will walk for miles just to find a geocache and some possible treasures!

The best thing about geocaching is that it’s not limited to one area or environment. You can find caches all over the world, in both urban and suburban environments. It adds an extra element of fun to traveling – what geocaches can we find while we’re away?

You don’t need much to get started geocaching, but you do need a few things. You need some sort of GPS system. Serious geocachers have special GPS devices. We just use my smartphone. You’ll need a basic membership from Geocaching.com so that you can log in and find GPS coordinates for caches. The app, while not required, is very helpful while you’re out and about. Others before me have written wonderful articles on how to get started geocaching. Here are a few of my favorite resources:

Today I’m going to share with you how to make your very own geocache kit. Not only is it a great way to get started yourself, these kits make great gifts for other kids or families. They’re super easy to put together, and before you know it you’ll be on your way! The bonus is that once you’ve tried geocaching a few times, you’ll probably be inspired to make and hide your own cache. The kit provides a few things you’ll need if you want to do that as well.

DIY Geocache Kit

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Small plastic container
  • iTunes gift card to purchase the geocaching app (only if you’ll be giving it as a gift)
  • Compass (not necessary for finding the cache, as you’ll use your GPS, but fun for kids to track which direction you’re headed)
  • Small trinkets to leave behind
  • Pencil
  • Notebook
  • Small plastic baggie (to protect the notebook from water)

Just gather all the items in the plastic container. If it’s a gift, wrap it in something fun or nature-themed. If not, you have a handy storage container for all your supplies that stores easily in the car or a backpack. Now get out there and have fun hunting!

 

Share

Family Game Night: On the Road!

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links.

Games are a big part of our family life, so naturally as we’re preparing for our riskiest adventure yet, I knew we’d want to bring along some games. Of course, the name of the traveling game is packing light, so we couldn’t very well bring along the Catan board or deluxe Scrabble.

The good news is there are tons of fun, family-friendly games that are small enough to fit in carry-on bags or backpacks. We plan on bringing several – some old favorites and some new additions – to pass the time in airports, trains and hotels. Besides being great boredom busters, games can be a great ice-breaker when meeting new people at home or abroad. Here’s are the games that are hitching a ride with us to Europe:

Best Travel Games for Families

A deck of cards: You can’t go wrong with the classics. We don’t typically play card games as a family, but we can always spend a layover teaching the kids the fine art of solitaire. Mike loves card games, so if the opportunity arises to learn a new game from a local, we’ll be prepared.

Uno and Rat-A-Tat-CatBoth of these card games are big hits with our family, and games we can all play together.

KanoodleThis is a new game for us, but it came highly recommended by a few other travel bloggers. It will be a surprise, and I’ll be ready to pull it out when boredom strikes.

BackgammonI found a small, magnetic travel version and snapped it up. We’ve been talking about learning how to play for months.

Rubik’s CubeAnother classic. Whether it’s an older kid or an adult trying to solve it, or a preschooler just creating patterns, it’s endlessly entertaining and takes up very little space.

BananagramsThis one would be tricky on a plane, but perfect for airport floors or by the pool at the hotel. I really want to watch my Spanish relatives play it in their own language, too!

Mad Libs: I scooped one of these up at Five Below for $1.50. They come in lots of fun themes, and are always good for a laugh. I’ll pull this out when anyone has a case of the grumps!

What are your favorite games that travel well?

Share

Risky Reads: The Bonfire Edition

Boys watching bonfire

Mike built us a new fire pit last month, so of course we had to break it in right away and make sure it worked. We had a bench the previous owners left behind that was falling apart, so into the fire pit it went! Another neighbor brought over a dilapidated chair. Needless to say, the kids were fascinated! Here’s to many more evenings spent in the company of good friends sitting by a summer fire.

When I’m not burning things, I’m reading some really cool stuff on the web. Here are a few things I found that you may enjoy:

” If you can’t afford to risk anything less than perfection at the age of 15, then for heaven’s sake, when is going to be the right time?” What our quest for steering kids to be the best from an early age is doing to their desire to takes risks in the fabulous article “Go Ahead, Let Your Kids Fail.”

I’m terribly guilty of doing the exact opposite. But we must remember there is undeniable power in doing nothing.

I am SO excited to be able to see this exhibit in person!

These photos of the magical world of snails are crazy cool! The kids will love them.

Just in case you’re not the master of building fires like I am (much to the chagrin of my husband!), here’s a handy guide for how to get those fires burning.

Over at Bedtime Math they have a fun new road trip printable. This past month our wacky math adventures included counting tree rings, flipping coins, and making a hummingbird feeder.

For more risky inspiration, follow us on Pinterest and like us on Facebook.  And if you ever see anything you think we’d like, please share it with us!

Share

Free-Range Parenting From the Helicopter

Please join me in welcoming my friend Liz, of Eternal Lizdom, to The Risky Kids today! Liz is a mom of 2 and a fellow blogger. Earlier this year I posed the question: what do you do when you and your spouse disagree on kids’ activities? It’s a question I get asked a lot, and while Mike and I have the same basic philosophy when it comes to our parenting style and tolerance for independent play, I know many of you struggle with this. Liz has some experience on the topic, and I think you’ll find her perspective helpful and enlightening! 

I’m not usually one to adhere to labels when it comes to parenting. But in our household, we do have 2 different styles when it comes to the independent play and living of our kids.

I’m something of a “free-range parent.” I encourage my kids to be independent and not constantly under my rules and supervision. My husband is more of a “helicopter parent.” He prefers to always know where the kids are, be able to see them, and have direct influence over their decisions. In some ways, this could cause a lot of conflict in a family. These can be very different styles.

When we go to the park, I’m more likely to bring a book and sit on a bench and enjoy the sunshine while the kids run off and play. My husband is more likely to stand on the playground and patrol the borders, keeping an eye on the kids as they play.

At the grocery store, I will send my 9-year-old to pick up something I forgot a few aisles or sections back. My husband will circle back and take everyone along to pick up the forgotten item – wanting to keep an eye on everyone and also wanting to make sure that the correct item is chosen.

When playing outside, I let the kids have the run of the street with their friends. My husband prefers that they play in one set location so that he can check on them at any time.

The interesting thing is … we don’t really fight about it. I can easily see where we would. These can be very different styles, especially when we are all out together. But I think we both see the value in our differences. So I bite my tongue sometimes when he insists on doing things that I see as controlling small behaviors. And he sometimes has to bite his tongue when he thinks I’m letting them have too much freedom.

When it comes to “biting my tongue,” the thing I do to help with that is to stop and think about my kids in the future. I think about how they will describe their childhood and their memories. And my hope is that they will see our different styles in a positive way – and when I try to project to the future and look back, I can see how dad’s style has a lot of benefits for them in the long run (even if I find it frustrating right now).

He’s driven by wanting them to learn how to make the best choice now. He wants them to benefit from his life experience, to accept his knowledge and adult perspective. He wants to protect them from making mistakes and getting hurt. I want them to learn by making mistakes and getting hurt. Not that I want my children to hurt – it’s horrible to watch your child suffer in any way. But I also know that my kids learn when they are in a more difficult situation and have to think it through. My husband wants to be the main source of knowledge and wisdom and answer for our kids. I want to be a place they can safely come and talk to, someone who can offer guidance and other perspectives but the decision is still left to them.

The bottom line is that our kids benefit from both of our styles. They learn from dad that sometimes there is a need for caution, there is a reason to be careful with how we proceed. From mom, they learn about responsibility and to use their instincts and sense of caution to make their choices.

And in the end, all of our choices are made because we love our children. As long as that is the message that comes through to them, I think we’re doing just fine.

(Ironically, as I finish writing this, my husband is taking a big step by allowing our 9-year-old to stay home alone while he runs to the grocery store. I’m proud of him!)

Also – a book that really has helped me develop into this more-allowing-of-freedom parent is “Protecting the Gift” by Gavin DeBecker. I know a lot about what there is to fear in the world and this book helped me to realize that my instincts are very trustworthy. I highly recommend it to all parents.

Thank you so much for sharing with us, Liz! It sounds like your kids have the best of both worlds! Have any of you ever experienced the same thing – one of you is more “free-range” than the other parent? What’s your best advice for parenting with respect for your partner’s differences and concerns?

Share

We’re Off to Spain!

#SixesInSpain

As you read this, we’ll be somewhere over the Atlantic, headed to Madrid! We’re so excited for this trip of a lifetime. We’ll be away for a month, so you’ll notice a change in posting frequency while we’re gone. While I won’t be posting three times a week as usual, I do have some great content lined up for you while we’re away, including a couple of guest posts you’re going to love. I’ll also be reposting a couple of oldies but goodies, for those of you new to The Risky Kids who might have missed them the first go around.

We plan to truly vacation while we’re on vacation, so any help you can give me on sharing the posts you enjoy while we’re gone would be a huge help, and I’ll be forever grateful!

I do hope to update my personal blog, Just Like The Number, from time to time with photos and thoughts from the the things we’ve seen. If you’re not already subscribed, I encourage you to do so if you’d like to follow along on our adventures. I’ll also be sharing photos via Instagram. Be sure to follow me there (I’m AngieSix) if you’d like to keep up with us!

Whether you’re staying close to home or venturing out, we hope you are having a wonderful summer!

 

Share

Every Family Needs a Ned

Meet Ned:

Ned the Phone Monster

He’s a phone monster. If you have a smart phone and a family, you need a Ned.

Ned is the brilliant creation of Jenny and Josh Solar. I first came across the Solar family through their blog, The Happy Family Movement. In the early days of The Risky Kids, they were a huge inspiration. Their passion for living a life full of experiences over things and for making family memories was a natural tie-in to The Risky Kid’s motto to play more and worry less.

Like many of us, Jenny found herself struggling with technology’s impact on family life. It’s easy to nag the kids about their screen time, but it can be painful to turn the focus on ourselves and our dependence on technology … especially our smart phones. Like Jenny, I find my iPhone to be both a blessing and a curse. I’m able to capture our playful lives and memorable family moments in ways I never could before through videos and photos. It allows me to work on the go, to stay connected with friends and family, to broaden my horizons and keep me from making a wrong turn.

But.

It certainly comes with a price if we’re not mindful. As much as it connects me, it also disconnects me from my family. The text that goes off during dinner. The overwhelming desire to see who is doing what on Instagram. The need to check it one more time before bed. I know I’m not alone, and so do the Solars.

Ned the Phone Monster is a brilliant and fun solution to an ever-growing problem. He’s adorable, and kids will naturally be drawn to him. He sits on your countertop, just begging you to feed him your phone, keeping it out of sight so that you can get on with your life. I know for us, out of sight equals out of mind with any kind of technology … both for kids and adults. And we know from our experiences during Screen-Free Week that even an hour a day with no screens does wonders for reconnecting with your family.

how-ned-works 2

The Solars are launching a Kickstarter campaign to get Ned into homes across the country. I think it’s a fabulous idea, and one that many of you would be happy to support. Please take a few minutes to visit their website and learn more about Ned as well as The Happy Family Movement. If you’re ready to put down your phone and pick up your life, Ned is the guy monster for you!

Ned Kickstarter

Disclosure: I am not affiliate with Ned or the Solars in any way. I have not been compensated for this post. I’m a fan of The Happy Family Movement and am happy to support and spread the word about Ned because I love the idea!

Share

Good Question: What’s Your “Sick Leave” Policy for Kids?

Sick kids

This month’s Good Question comes from a friend who wondered what’s the appropriate way to handle sick kids and social and/or school situations. I realize this is probably odd timing for this particular topic. But the true spirit of a Good Question, it had me wondering, “What does everyone else do?” So even though I realize cold and flu season is (mostly) behind us, and school is winding down for the year, kids still get sick and we still have to deal with the dilemmas that surround illness all year long.

Her question specifically delves into the grey area surrounding illness. We’re not talking about the obvious: fever, vomiting, raging pink eye. I think we can all agree that when our kids are obviously ill and contagious, it’s in everyone’s best interest to hunker down. She referenced a family situation in which one set of parents were very concerned about illness of any kind, while another family was more lax. If there was an upcoming family gathering at Grandma’s, and any of the cousins had been sick recently or had runny noses, the one family wanted to err on the side of caution. Either Grandma had to call it off, or they weren’t coming if the recovering kids were going to be there. It was beginning to cause strife in the family. Was one party over-reacting to potential germs? Or was the other party under-reacting, and selfishly putting other kids at risk for a nasty bug? And whose side was poor Grandma supposed to be on?!

I haven’t dealt with this myself personally, but I can understand the dilemma it poses for families. Beyond social situations, I can see how parents who work full-time must wrestle with where the line is. Are the kids sick enough that they shouldn’t be in school, causing a parent to miss work? Or is it okay for kids to go to school, say, at 75% of their functioning level, or with a runny nose from a cold that just won’t go away?

This might not seem like a normal topic of conversation for The Risky Kids, but I think it touches on a subject that has everything to do with The Risky Kids. Are we living in a society that believes we have (near) complete control over the health and safety of our kids? That if we just do everything right, if we are vigilant enough, not only are we superior parents, but we can protect our children from just about any harm or discomfort?

As you can imagine, I lean to the side of being under-cautious. If my kids are obviously sick, we’re not going to school or to Grandma’s house. But if they’re fever-free, not puking, and not oozing suspect bodily fluids … and they’re up to going to school or being around other kids, I’m okay with it. And by saying I’m okay with it (and I think this is key here if you’re going to make this judgement call), that means I’m okay with you doing the same thing with your kids. Of course we take the polite and responsible precautions: we wash hands a lot, blow our noses, and keep our food and drinks to ourselves. And if for some reason we’re going to be around kids who are in a special situation, such as being immuno-compromised, then we absolutely stay away.

What do you say? Have you ever been on either end of this situation? I’d love to hear from both camps. As with most Good Questions, I’m sure there are some view points and situations I’m just not aware of. And if you have a Good Question you’d like to ask, let me know in the comments or on our Facebook page!

Share

Life Skills Every Kid Should Know: How to Manage Personal Finances (Part 2)

This post is part of a Risky Kids series: Life Skills Every Kid Should Know. You can find all the posts in the series on the Life Skills Every Kids Should Know page. This is Part 2 of How to Manage Personal Finances. You can read Part 1 here

Personal Finance Skills For Kids

In our last post, I gave you the background on our journey to learning about personal finance, and explained why we’re so adamant that our kids will master this essential life skill. In this post I’ll share how we’re passing the knowledge on to the kids, as well as give tips and resources to help you along. Just like we struggled with finding our own footing on the path to financial competency, we also struggled with how best to get the kids started on the path with us. There are so many opinions and ideas on the subject, that it’s easy to get overwhelmed and just throw your hands (and their money!) up in the air. Your options basically boil down to three philosophies on kids and money:

  • Pay for everything, throw a few lessons in along the way, and let them figure it out.
  • Give them an allowance that is unrelated to chores and personal responsibilities.
  • Give them an allowance that is tied to completing chores and personal responsibilities.

As parents who have tried all three methods at different times along this journey, we feel pretty confident that we can speak to all of them. They each have their pros and cons (yes, even the first one!). I’m happy to talk about what the advantages and disadvantages are with anyone who has questions, but I won’t do that here. Why? Because after dabbling in them all, I truly feel that there is no right answer. It all depends on the age of your children, your core beliefs about money and work, and (most importantly), which philosophy feels right to you. Because if you struggle with it and feel like it’s out of sync with the way you parent? You won’t stick with it. In the end, I don’t think it matters so much what you choose to do. I think what matters is that you pick a system that works for you and stick with it. As long as you are consistently teaching kids financial literacy and giving them opportunities to learn and practice finance skills along the way, your kids will be way ahead of the game when it comes time for them to live independently of you.

Here’s what we’ve done with our kids at various ages and stages:

Preschoolers

At this age, we didn’t do much. We basically paid for everything. We did introduce basic chores and responsibilities at this age, but they weren’t tied to money. I find in this stage, kids are eager to help around the house and don’t need any financial incentive to do so. See the chore list in the Resources section for a great listing of chores by age group.

Elementary

We began this stage using Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace Junior with Elena. Along with financial lessons geared toward younger kids, Financial Peace Junior introduces the concept  of working for “commission.” You do your chores, you get paid. No chores? No money. This system works great  if 1.) You are committed and consistent with keeping up with some kind of chore chart and 2.) Your child is motivated by money. We were neither of those things. We could never quite find a system that we could keep up with, and Elena was never motivated by money at this age. She’d rather go without money if it meant never lifting a finger around the house!

So what do you do if you find yourself the same situation? Well, you could just give up, pay for everything, and never require your child to help around the house. But I’m guessing that if you’ve read this far, that’s not the plan you were looking for. Instead, we opted to still give an allowance, but not tie it to chores. You’re still giving your child the opportunity to learn about money, but taking the chore aspect out of the equation. Here’s the thing: every kid has their own “currency.” Elena’s wasn’t  money, so taking away her allowance did nothing for her work ethic. However if we took away screen time or friend time, she took notice. Please don’t do what we did and feel that this is somehow selling out, because you don’t have a chore chart and you’re not doling out money every time your kid dusts or empties the dishwasher. There are plenty of other ways to teach your kids personal responsibility!

One part of Financial Peace Junior we did hold on to was the Give, Save, Spend system. When the kids receive their allowance, they must put 10% into a fund for Giving, at least 10% in Savings (they can opt to do more if they’re saving up for something in particular), and the other 80% is for Spending.

Tweens

This year we took the system we’d been using for Elena and put it in overdrive. Once she hit 6th grade and was more independent, we found that she was requiring more money. Trips to Taco Bell with friends, ice skating on Friday nights, clothing she wanted (but didn’t need) … it felt like every day we were handing her money for something else. It was time to put her in more control of the money.

Through our bank, we set up a separate account for her with her own debit card. We decided to up her allowance quite a bit, and instead put the responsibility of how to spend her money on her own shoulders. Where previously her allowance was for discretionary spending, now she has to budget her money for some expenses. Things we previously paid for that are now her responsibility include: cell phone bill, school lunches, clothing (beyond basic necessities), and entertainment. We still don’t directly tie allowance to chores, but if she’s slacking we retain the right to cut her budget (which affects her social life, which is a HUGE motivator for her).

This has been a huge success for us. She’s already made some really mature decisions, such as deciding to pack her lunch more often in lieu of expensive school lunches, researching her cell phone plan to cut out unnecessary charges, and budgeting. These are the kinds of financial thinking skills that are so important as an adult. She’s made mistakes as well, making purchases she’s regretted as well as overspending early and not having money to do some things she wanted to do at the end of the month. These lessons are no fun, but much easier to learn at 11, when running out of money means no Baja Blasts with your friends, as opposed to not being able to pay the rent and getting evicted.

How much should you pay?

Ask and you’ll receive a hundred different answers. We give Eli (age 6) $10 a month. Elena (age 11) gets $125. You want to find the sweet spot between giving them too little (where they are discouraged and can never buy or save up for anything of value), and giving them too much (where they have no incentive to budget or save).

When should you pay?

Whenever you find is the time that you’ll consistently pay. We could never remember to pay on a weekly basis. Now we pay on the first of the month, when we do our personal budget.

Resources

What are some good resources for teaching kids how to manage their personal finances? Here are some of our favorites we’ve relied on through the years:

The Plan:

A fabulously comprehensive outline of what chores and responsibilities can be expected of kids at developmentally appropriate ages, via Merrilee Boyack’s “Training Children To Be Independent.” It includes some non-applicable (for us) religious aspects, but when modified for your own family it is extremely helpful.

Books:

Websites:

  • The Queen of Free: Written by my good friend, Cherie Lowe, she offers practical advice on saving money, getting out of debt, and teaching kids important money lessons.
  • The Simple Dollar: Covers all kinds of personal finance issues, including younger kids and money.
  • Life Your Way: I rely on this site for all things home related, but Mandi has some great ideas on kids and money, as well as some useful printables if you’re looking to utilize chore charts.

Are we doing it perfectly? Of course not, and you will most likely find a different, better way that works for your family. But hopefully you’ve found something helpful here, or have been inspired to finally get moving down this path with your kids. The only wrong way to teach your kids personal finance skills is to never teach them anything at all.

How are you helping your kids learn this essential life skill? Where have you struggled, and what’s worked especially well for you?  

Looking for more resources? Check out our board Life Skills Every Kid Should Know on Pinterest!

Share

Life Skills Every Kid Should Know: How to Manage Personal Finances (Part 1)

In March I announced that we’d be starting a new series on The Risky Kids: Life Skills Every Kid Should Know. The response was wonderful – it turns out you agree that there are many things kids need to know beyond what they’re taught in school. You agreed with our suggestions for the series, and came up with many more life skills you’d like to see added to the list. You can find posts from the entire series on the Life Skills Every Kid Should Know page.

My vision for the series is not so much a tutorial or a set of instructions, but more of a personal reflection on how we’re trying to teach these skills to our kids, with tips and resources. I’d love for it to turn into a discussion and sharing of ideas between us of what we can do to help each other help our kids. We’re all in this together, after all, and what we teach (or don’t teach) our kids to do for themselves will ultimately affect an entire generation. So I encourage you to read, comment, and share with your friends. I also have a board on Pinterest dedicated to these life skills, with ideas and inspiration to further help us all out as we empower our kids to be responsible, competent adults.

Plasectomy

I’m kicking off the series with a hefty topic: personal finance. Because it’s such a weighty issue, and a skill that many adults haven’t mastered, I’m splitting it into two posts. Today I’ll give a little background on our journey to learning about personal finance, and why we’re so adamant that our kids will master this essential life skill. In the next post I’ll share how we’re passing the knowledge on to the kids, as well as give tips and resources to help you along.

Personal finance is a topic near and dear to our hearts. Like most couples, Mike and I were raised quite differently when it came to how finances were handled in our homes. In Mike’s home, you just didn’t talk about it. In my home, it was talked about, but I was never really included in the conversations. What we had in common was that we didn’t  know what we were doing! We were both raised with a strong work ethic, and had part-time jobs throughout high school and college. But what we were supposed to do with that money once we earned it was somewhat of a mystery.

One of my first and strongest memories of handling my own finances was a traumatic one. My parents sent me off to college with my first debit card. Until then, if I needed cash I simply went to the local credit and withdrew money from the real, live teller behind the counter. I had no idea how to use a debit card! A few days into school, I found myself getting low on cash. I think I circled the ATM machine a few times, uncertain how to proceed. I finally worked up the courage to make a transaction, and quickly realized that I should’ve memorized my PIN. I thought I knew it, so I kept plugging in numbers. After the third try, the machine ate my card as a security measure. I went straight back to my dorm room and cried, both panicked (how would I get money?) and humiliated.

I eventually figured out not only how to use an ATM, but also how to use a credit card. I saw my parents use them, but I never knew that they only charged a few things and paid the bill in full every month. Mike and I graduated from college, got married, and immediately started doing what we thought all adults did. We bought cars and furniture for our new apartment. We didn’t budget, we just assumed that we’d make enough in our grown-up jobs to cover it all. We didn’t save, because we’d never really learned how much we should be saving, or why it was important. And just like kids who are thrown in the water without being taught how to swim, we soon found ourselves drowning. Just a year into our marriage, we were over $100,000 in debt. Credit cards, car payments, rent, school loans … you name it, we’d signed up for it.

Some people spend their entire lives living that way, but we were lucky enough to wake up and realize that there was a different way. That we could pay off our debt, live on less than we make, and save for the the things we wanted. You can read the rest of our personal finance turnaround here. We learned a lot from that experience, but the biggest take home for us was that we would equip our kids to handle money wisely.

Like so many essential life skills, we can easily assume as parents that our kids just inherently know what to do. We’ve been doing these things for so long, they are second nature to us. We also wrongly assume that just because they’ve seen us doing these things, whether it’s the dishes, how to make a doctor’s appointment, or making financial decisions, they are silently absorbing the lessons. It’s simply not true.

I was reminded of this myself as an adult not long ago. We’ve visited Mike’s hometown in Ohio several times a year from the time we first began dating in the 90s. Every single time, when we reached the last leg of the trip there, or drove around during our visit, he would drive. For whatever reason, a few years ago I found myself in the driver’s seat and Mike sleeping as we drove into his hometown. I had to wake him up because I had no idea where to get off the highway, and no clue as to how to find his childhood home. He couldn’t believe that after all these years, I didn’t know the directions.

On those countless trips, much like our kids today, I had simply been a passenger along for the ride. I didn’t pay attention, because I didn’t have to. Somebody else would get me where I needed to be. It wasn’t until I did it myself, first with directions, and then with practice, that I could get myself there. And that’s exactly what kids need to master important life skills that we, as adults, take for granted: personal, hands-on instruction and plenty of practice.

It takes time, it takes your active presence, and it takes lots of patience. But like the things that are most worth doing in life, it’s 100% worth the effort on your part. They might roll their eyes, or complain, or insist they have better things to do. Heck, I feel that way about it, too, at times! But I always think back to my younger self, crying hot, embarrassed tears in my dorm room, and know that it’s my job to empower my kids with skills and knowledge.

Stay tuned for the next post, where we’ll get into the nitty gritty of how we’re helping our kids learn to manage their own personal finances. In the meantime, I’d love to hear from you. Did you start your adult life knowing how to manage your finances? What do you wish you had known when you were just starting out?

 

Share

50 Dangerous Things (You Should Let Your Children Do): Boil Water in a Paper Cup

boil water paper cup

Task: Boil water in paper and watch two seemingly incompatible elements – fire and water – coexist!

 

Requires:

  • Gas or electric stove (sadly and inductive cooktop won’t work)
  • Paper cup (must be unwaxed)
  • Water

Possible Hazards: 

  • Burns
  • Fire
  • Setting off the smoke alarm

How It All Went Down:

Boil water in a paper cup? Impossible, you say! I didn’t believe it either, but we had to try.

This was the first task we’ve encountered where I was legitimately worried that someone or something would get hurt! I had visions of flaming paper and torrents of boiling water spewing out at us. If you’re a little concerned as well, it’s a good idea to have a plan in place before starting. Make sure your cup is stable on your stove. If it’s tippy or doesn’t want to stand upright, wait to try until you’ve found a better cup. Have some tongs and a pan nearby in case you need to move the cup off the burner quickly.  Now on to the fun …

Fill the cup 3/4 full with water. Place it on the hottest part of the burner (over the flame or on the heating coil). Turn the burner on high and wait for the water to boil.

It takes longer than you think, and we were sure that our cup was going to burn or disintegrate before the water boiled. The bottom of the cup got very black … but it never caught on fire before the water boiled! How is this possible?

Water boils at 212°F … but paper doesn’t actually burn until close to 500°F. And while the water is (technically) very hot, compared to a flame it is much cooler.  Notice the spots on the cup that actually begin to burn – the very bottom edge and the top 1/4 of the cup – are the parts of the cup not directly touching the water.

50 dangerous things boil water
Once the water boils, you can either turn the heat off and VERY carefully lift the cup into a pan with tongs, or you can boil away the water until you’re just left with a charred, wet piece of paper. We quit while we were ahead (i.e. no flaming pyre or boiling water geysers) and turned off the flame. It was all over in a matter of minutes, but it’s something we won’t forget about for a long time!

You can read about the rest of our experiences with 50 Dangerous Things. Inspired by Gever Tulley’s book 50 Dangerous Things (You Should Let Your Children Do).

Share