Tuesday, January 24, 2023

The Rule of 5 Mini-Tasks for Easy Housekeeping

Lately, I've been struggling to keep my house tidy due to a number of factors ranging from just everyday life to anxiety and mild depression to trying to work from home and beyond. As a result, I've reverted back to a lot of simple, but effective, little tricks to make housekeeping easier and faster. Each one centers around the number FIVE, and you can read them (and other housekeeping posts) HERE.

Today, I decided my rule of five would center on five mini-tasks. These are the small tasks we all know we should do, but we ignore them in favor of either things that are bigger projects, bigger eyesores, or things that we perceive as being more important.
As a result, we end up with a build up of small annoyances scattered about our physical space and creating both physical and mental clutter. 

I get tired of walking past the same jacket over a chair back, the items on my steps waiting to go upstairs, dishtowels that need to go to the laundry, and so on. 

It takes next to no time to do these things, so why does it seem to take so many of us foreeeever to actually do them?

Enter the Rule of 5 Mini-Tasks for Easy Housekeeping. I want you to set a timer and see how long it takes you to do five tiny tasks. I'm betting it takes less than ten minutes.
The five mini-tasks I completed right before writing this were:
  1. Put away my coat (fully hanging it up in the closet)
  2. Emptied and put away my backpack (in the same closet as my coat!)
  3. Took two items upstairs (sweater shaver -- put in dresser drawer; book -- put on bedside table)
  4. Put away small stack of folded laundry (mostly belonged in three drawers total)
  5. Put away small amount of clean dishes (the longest task, but still easy!)
These five tasks took me just about eight minutes total!
To some, these tasks may seem like no brainers and so easy to complete, and maybe at times they are, but if you are suffering for depression, anxiety, burn out, and other overwhelming feelings, these small tasks can feel like huge burdens. 
By doing five mini-tasks rather than larger cleaning or organizing chores, you are still getting something done. If you feel motivated, continue and find five more mini tasks! Do this and one (or more) of my other easy housekeeping rules every day, and over time, you should start to see some shifts in your living space.
Have you seen my other easy housekeeping posts? Check them out HERE.
I mentioned putting away my sweater shaver -- do you use one? Should I write a blog post or film a video about using mine?

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Sunday, January 15, 2023

The 5 Minute Rule for Easy Housekeeping

The 5 Minute Rule for Easy Housekeeping
I am a fan of the idea that nearly anyone and everyone can do something for five minutes -- even if there are times when you feel like you can't for whatever reason. Maybe you are seriously depressed or anxious or over-excited or sick or exhausted. 
You can probably carve out five minutes to do something, even if it's a tiny task.
On its own, five minutes isn't going to revolutionize your life or your housekeeping, but five minutes multiple times per day or multiple times over a week and built into a habit can have a significant impact.
If you are struggling with housekeeping, de-cluttering, getting things in order, or anything else, set a timer for five minutes and tackle one thing. 

In five minutes, you can probably:
  • Unload one rack of your dishwasher, if not the whole thing
  • Hand wash a few dishes
  • Hang up several pieces of clothing or coats
  • Gather shoes and put them away where they belong
  • Clear a small counter space 
  • Go through a small pile of mail
  • Match food storage container lids and bottoms
  • Sweep through a room with a trash bag and pick up trash
  • Take your recycling or trash out
  • Tidy a section of your workspace
  • Wipe down a counter
Some days, I choose one area of my house to focus on in five minute increments. Other days, I kind of go slipshod through my house and clean lots of small areas in five minute increments. Some days, I manage to do both. 

On days that I choose an area of focus, I make it a point to clean or de-clutter that area for five minutes either every time I go in that space or every few hours throughout the day -- I work from home, so this may be easier for me than it is for you, but you can still follow this method on a day off or over the course of an evening. 

Most recently, after a dinner gathering, my kitchen was an absolute wreck. My kiddo and I attacked the kitchen in five minute increments over and over throughout the day to make it more manageable. For us, it looked something like this:
  1. Gather any visible trash or recycling and put it in the appropriate bins. If full, empty the bins into the appropriate places.
  2. Put away clean dishes and items and move as many dirty dishes as possible to one defined space. Try to open up a clear space for air drying dishes later. Remove dirty dishtowels and linens.
  3. Put away any ingredients that have been left out -- usually spices, herbs, pantry items like pasta or rice, and so on -- or unused cooking tools.
  4. Wash dishes using my Five Items rule -- read about it HERE. Repeat until five minutes are up or repeat for another five items/five minutes.
  5. Choose a small counter space -- maybe 1ft by 1ft in size -- and focus on cleaning and clearing that space. Repeat several times over the course of the day. If our stove is particularly messy or cluttered, this might mean focusing on one fourth of the stove at a time.
  6. Spend five minutes tidying items in the fridge or freezer door or on a fridge or freezer shelf.
By repeating these tasks over and over throughout the day (or over several days, if necessary), eventually the mess gets taken care of and you begin to see progress. 
Of course, there is a risk that the mess will reoccur -- it does -- but, these five minute tasks have made subsequent messes much easier for us to handle and much easier for us to get back on track when we get derailed.
I've even used this rule when sick -- with the flu, with Covid, with food poisoning. When sick, I might take my time getting to the kitchen, bathroom, laundry room, living room, and so on, but once I am there, I sit down for a few minutes and focus on catching my breath or gathering some energy, and then I choose a small task that I can focus on for five minutes, even if those five minutes are with me sitting down or with me expending as little energy as possible. I might fold socks and underwear (yes, I fold my undies) while sitting in bed or put away silverware while sitting on a stool or wipe down the dining table while sitting in a chair, but I get at least a few small tasks done. Of course, do NOT do this while sick if it will impair you further or put others in your home at risk! Follow your doctor's recommendations, please!

When it comes to doing these tasks, I also find it helpful to use tools that feel good in my hands or that make the jobs easier. A few of my favorites are from Grove Collaborative -- this post is not sponsored by Grove, but I do have an affiliate link following this small list -- and include: 
  • Grove Collaborative Free & Clear dish and hand soaps
  • Grove Collaborative glass spray bottles with silicone sleeves
  • Grove Collaborative Replaceable Head dish brush (the head can go in the dishwasher!) 
You can sign up for Grove Collaborative using my affiliate link -- I will receive a small commission if you sign up and order and YOU will receive a free gift set and $10 after your first purchase. Sign up HERE and login to take a look around! Please note that per Grove's terms, this offer is only open to new customers and they currently only ship to the contiguous United States.
I love that Grove Collaborative is committed to the environment and has worked hard to greatly reduce plastic and other non-sustainable products and waste. They are a certified B-corporation and I've had great customer service experiences on the rare occasions I've had to contact them about an order.

Have you tried any of my "Rule of 5" housekeeping tips? Have they helped you out in any way? What are some of the ways you make housekeeping more manageable in your home?

Check out all of my Rule of 5 and other housekeeping posts HERE.
And, please consider visiting our Etsy shop where we've got printable lunchbox notes, thank you notes, Valentine's and more! Just click on the image below:

Sunday, January 8, 2023

The Rule of 5 Items for Easy Housekeeping

The Rule of 5 Items for Easy Housekeeping

If you saw my post, The 5 Up, 5 Down Rule for Housekeeping, you'll know that I love simple, easy, and fast housekeeping rules to help keep my home under control. I love easy and fast wins that add up over time, but I hate housekeeping. By creating a series of rules for myself that revolve around five minutes or five items and repeating these rules over and over throughout the day, housekeeping has become much more manageable for me.

Today's housekeeping rule is The Rule of 5 Items. This rule can be applied in many areas of your home and housekeeping routine, even if you are super busy.

In essence, the goal is to take care of five items at a time. 

If you have a sink full of dishes and can't fathom washing them all at once, focus on washing just five -- five plates, five cups, five cooking tools, five random dishes. For this particular situation, I classify five utensils (forks, knives, and spoons) as one item -- so, I might wash four plates and then five forks. I classify cooking utensils (spatulas, wooden spoons, carving knives, and so on) such that three of these make up one item -- so, I might was a bowl, two cups, a plate, and then two spatulas and a wooden spoon.

If I have piles of laundry to fold and put away, I focus on folding only five pieces at a time. I will fold five pairs of pants or five shirts. I'll put five dresses on hangers. I classify socks and underwear in groups of ten, however. After I've fold five items (or ten pieces of undies and/or socks), I put them away before folding the next five. 

If I am de-cluttering, I will look for five items to purge all at once. Or, I will go through my home and find five items that aren't where they belong and I will put them away before moving on to anything else.

The key here is to repeat these rules several times throughout the day.

For example, right now our dishwasher is broken and we don't particularly enjoy washing dishes, so they tend to pile up in the sink. If I wash five dishes first thing in the morning -- while I wait for my coffee to be ready -- then another five when I take a work break (I work from home) at mid-morning, five more at lunch, and so on, by the end of the day, most of our dishes are washed. If my kiddo does the same, then by the end of the day all of the dishes are washed. 

If I am feeling really motivated, I'll take care of five items and immediately take care of another five. For me, this is particularly easy when I'm folding laundry. If I fold and put away five items immediately, it is much easier to fold and put away the next five as I see the pile shrinking as I go. I find it hard to fold the entire mountain of laundry first and then put it all away all at once -- the pile never shrinks, it just gets tidier. Shrinking the pile is key to my motivation!

Stay tuned for our next Rules of 5 post!

Wednesday, January 4, 2023

DITL: The last Wednesday of 2023 -- single, middle aged, urbanite mom edition

December Day in The Life
Confession: I love to peek behind the curtains at other people's lives by way of blogs and YouTube. Day In The Life (DITL) videos and blog posts are among my favorites! After watching several last night, I thought it might be fun (or interesting?) to do a DITL blog post of my own!

If you are new here, I'm Malea, a single, middle aged mom to a 24 year old. I live in a major US city in the Pacific Northwest and also have two elderly dogs. My kiddo lives at home, and we've decided it financially makes senses for them to continue living at home -- it's the only way either of us will ever realistically meet our financial goals. 

Some of the motivation for this DITL isn't my own voyeuristic interest in the lives of others, but also:

  • I'm looking for accountability in my day-to-day life since I'm self-employed and work from home, making my own schedule. 

  • I want to get back into the swing of blogging and regular content creation.

  • I have plans around what I want to create as Mom2MomEd and other ventures move forward. Getting back into blogging will help immensely. 

For this Day In The Life post, I'll do my best to also share products I use and methods for various things -- this may include affiliate links. If you use these links, I may receive credits, commissions, and other compensation. Thank you in advance!

I kept track of my DITL activities and timeline using the app Notion. I'm very new to Notion and am still learning how to use it, but it was so simple to keep track of my day using a Journal setup!

Let's hop into the DITL for the last Wednesday of 2023! This post is long! I apologize for the lack of photos! I decided to do this spur of the minute!

830am -- I woke up, groggy and cozy, to the alarm on my phone. I definitely wanted to stay in bed longer! The mouth guard I purchased two days ago seemed like a failure of a product the night before, but last night it stayed in place and my jaw and teeth felt pretty good -- I clench my jaw and grind my teeth in my sleep. Most days, my jaw and teeth are fairly painful upon waking and I lost my dentist made mouth guard a while back. My previous one was expensive so I tried an over the counter option: DenTek Professional-Fit Dental Guard

I stayed in bed a few minutes more and checked email and social media. 

845am -- Time to get up! I went and used the bathroom, washed my hands, and then folded a few towels and bathmats that my kiddo had left on the counter next to the laundry area and put them by their door. 

Then...I climbed back into bed!

850am -- The veterinarian called to follow up on a message I left last night about my elderly (17 years +) dog and we formulated a plan for dealing with some bloody diarrhea that Sandy (my Cairn terrier) has had recently. Then, I got up, cleaned the dog potty (both of my dogs are elderly and we have a dog potty on our patio), washed my hands again, fed the dogs, and made myself a cup of coffee.

While waiting for my coffee, I started on two of my housekeeping rules of 5: washed 5 dishes and tidied downstairs for 5 minutes. I took my coffee out of the microwave and finished both little tasks.

I launched a series on my Rules of 5 Housekeeping. Check out all of my housekeeping posts HERE.

915am -- I replied to an email and scheduled an informational interview about a job I'm considering, texted with a couple of friends, and updated the future log in my planner.

  • Texts with M: about the vet's plan for my dog, a cat litter auto-ship I ordered for her, job search stuff for both of us
  • Texts with R: plans for getting together today

945am -- Worked on my January journal set up and a new Etsy product: a January print-at-home planner set. Check it out HERE. The planner set is undated, so you can use it from year to year.

1020am -- Took a mental break, checked Instagram, shared a food allergy public service announcement to my personal Instagram stories

1030am -- Went back to working on my planner set up, including taking photos and video for Etsy listings of the new printable set ups, as well as:

  • Texted with A: his power is out!
  • Texted more with M: about printers and making photocopies of homeschool materials for her son
  • Peeked at Instagram even though I'd just done that!
  • Checked a Mercari notification
11am -- Breakfast time: breakfast sandwich with a real egg, vegan cheese, vegan sausage patty, vegan butter, cooking spray. I aspire to be vegan for a variety of reasons (don't come for me if you hate veganism. Eat whatever you want! I'm 100% dairy free due to an allergy.)
  • Washed 5 dishes (one of my housekeeping rules of 5!) while ingredients cooked
  • DRANK WATER!!! -- I'm terrible at this!
  • Checked email and social accounts while eating

1116am -- Helped Sandy with her respiratory issues (she's old and coughs a lot), then went back to my breakfast after washing my hands

1130am -- Cleaned up breakfast, took 5 minutes to clean the ash from my fireplace from our recent storm and wind gusts that came down the chimney and blew some ash out and around the screen

1140am -- Prepared to head to R's house: refilled my water bottle, filled travel coffee mug; made a loose meal plan and a chore list for my kiddo while waiting on the microwave (chili for dinner tonight!)

1150am -- Texted R that I'm running 45 minutes behind schedule. And, I nearly forgot that I had to stop at the vet's office for medication and special food for Sandy!

  • Brushed hair PRE-shower
  • Pulled together clothes and found my preferred thumb brace -- I've been dealing with a thumb injury on my dominant hand for seven months at this point. I'm worried I may need surgery.
  • Showered, washed my hair, did a scalp detox scrub
  • Got dressed, brushed teeth, brushed hair, put toothbrush on its charger, did skincare routine
  • Texted with J about a variety of topics

1220pm -- FINALLY IN THE CAR! The building garage door is stuck open! I always wait to make sure it's closed as people sometimes try to sneak into the garage or building. I called and left a message for management. This seems to happen more and more frequently. I'm annoyed since I pay $150 on top of my rent for secured garage parking!

  • Picked up dog food and medication from the vet -- OMG! The dog food cost $50!
  • Listened to Think Out Loud on OPB/NPR in the car until it started to cut out -- literary festival book chat about "Girlhood" -- will go back and listen later (you can listen the full episode HERE); switched to (independent alt-rock radio station; listen HERE)

1pm -- Stopped to get gas at Costco on the way to R's -- I'm more than an hour behind schedule now!

  • Had two major brainstorms while driving -- was able to write them down while waiting in line for gas at Costco (Gas was $3.35/gal for regular unleaded -- what is it where you live? Do you use any apps like GasBuddy to keep track? Here, Costco is consistently the lowest price for gas, followed closely by a couple of Fred Meyer and Arco locations.)

115pm -- Finally arrived at R's house

  • Traded some stuff -- she looked through my sorted out stickers and washi tape; I looked through her donations pile
  • Put together her KALLAX bookcase, played with her dogs
  • Drank a mini can of Coke which later will prove to be a mistake as it always makes me want ANOTHER Coke!
  • Chatted about our January fitness bingo plans and other plans for January
  • Proofread a scrapbook for R
  • Showed R my in-progress London travel journal
3pm-ish -- Back in the car and heading to Target -- so hard to drive past Old Navy without going in! I want another pair of jeans, but I have several already! I'm going to try to buy NO new clothing between now and January 1, 2024 unless it's strictly necessary work wear!Picked up the things I NEEDED at Target (trash bags), couldn't find trash cans in the sizes and styles I need/want. Of course, bought extra stuff (including another Coke!, 50% off Christmas stuff that M and I will both use for crafting or craft kits, a bath mat that will be perfect for the kitchen floor, frozen ginger -- why does nowhere have frozen basil cubes???, a package of Applegate peppered salami for a snack, Yum Earth Valentine's Day fruit snacks for M's kids, cinnamon gummy hearts for myself)
  • Found frozen ginger (YAY!), but it seems like NOWHERE sells frozen basil anymore!
  • Texted with M while at Target

415ish -- Stopped at Starbucks for a grande soy, peppermint latte -- cashier seemed annoyed that I asked, "You got that it's a latte, not a mocha, right?" At least 50% of the time, I receive a mocha instead, so I always double check -- the chocolate sauce used at Starbucks gives me a migraine and makes me feel woozy and weird. I actually used a "whoops, our bad" gift card from the last time when I was given a mocha instead of a latte!

450ish -- Back home and my building's exit garage door is still stuck open! If it's still stuck at this time tomorrow, I'm going to ask for a $10/day credit until it's fixed as this is happening more and more frequently! If anything happens to my car, I'll be asking for reimbursement on that too! [The garage door was fixed the next morning.]

5pm -- Used my wagon (it was already in my car and is the best thing I've ever bought at Costco!) to unload the car and head up to my apartment. Once inside and settled, put away frozen stuff and then fed both dogs, cleaned up the dog potty and texted more with M and R (a lot of R asking if I wanted things that I don't want and me asking M if she wants them, which she does!). 

  • Working on this blog post
  • Tiny bit of tidying
  • Used the bathroom and washed hands
  • Started drinking the dumb Coke (why does it taste soooooo good???)
  • Watched a couple of 2023 planning videos on YouTube
  • Worked a little on my January planner spread
  • Checked email and social notifications
  • Played a little EverMerge via Mistplay (those commercials about getting gift cards for game play are true, though you don't accrue as fast as the commercials make it seem -- get 50 units (points) by signing up HERE. I've already earned a $10 PayPal gift card and am halfway to another one!

630 to 640pm -- Finished unloading the wagon; messaged M to see if she wanted a few things; put things AWAY instead of just leaving them out for later; pulled out several ingredients for dinner (chili)

  • ALMOST bought pasta sauce at Target, but am glad I didn't. In pulling out ingredients for dinner, I found that I have two full jars in the cupboard and a half full jar in the fridge. 
  • Decanted brown rice into our larger rice container -- we seem to be all out of white rice, but have three bags of brown! We definitely prefer white rice, but I'm working on using up what we have before buying more of any particular category of groceries. 

Funnily, I actually have a loose grocery inventory in Google Sheets (I plan to transfer this to a Notion Template and will share it with you when I've done that!). It's fairly new though, so I'm not in the habit of checking it regularly -- I will update it this weekend! If I had just looked at it while in the store, I would have known I didn't need pasta sauce.

650pm -- Taking a little game play break and relaxing before starting dinner 

7pm-820pm -- Beef for chili is still too frozen; chatted and goofed off with kiddo; searched online for mini cashbooks by Daigo (I bought some a few years ago at Kinokuniya, but haven't seen them since), trash cans, and fireplace ash bucket

  • Found trash can for patio, fireplace ash bucket, and extra long bottle brush on Wayfair 
  • Watched some de-cluttering and minimalism videos on YouTube

820pm -- A little de-cluttering and organizing in office/craft/fitness area 

  • Removed vintage and stuff to sell and shifted binders from the floor onto empty shelves
  • Updated Notion shopping list
  • Sorted an old pile of mail -- tried to email my old gym about a gift card they offered as part of Chapter 11 bankruptcy but kept getting error messages!

845pm -- Can't stop yawning! I decided to call it quits for the day and went to bed. Usually, I'm up for several more hours, but I was sick a few weeks ago and haven't felt back to normal yet.

To be honest, while I enjoyed documenting a day in my life, I probably won't be doing this more than once per month. Noting everything down took up considerable time. As a result, I feel like there's a lot I would normally do in a given day that I didn't get to on this day. This also wasn't really a typical day for me either with being out of the house for so long. I work from home and I'm a shy, introverted, INFJ who loves to stay at home. Being out of the house so much feels strange to me. Maybe next time I'll document a day spent exclusively at home. What do you think?

Monday, January 2, 2023

The 5 Up, 5 Down Rule for Housekeeping

The 5 Up, 5 Down Rule for Housekeeping

Upstairs, downstairs. Room to room. 

Do you find yourself moving about your house and cleaning and organizing, yet it never really feels like you have a handle on things? There's always a mess and it never seems to get any better?

That was definitely me until I began implementing my Rules of 5. Today, I'm going to talk about my 5 Up, 5 Down rule.

My home is a two story townhouse, so the 5 Up and 5 Down refer to when I go from downstairs to upstairs and vice versa. 

This rule is so simple, but over time it has big impact! 

In essence, anytime you go from downstairs to upstairs, you have to spend five minutes cleaning or doing a tidying task before you can go back downstairs. If you are upstairs and head downstairs, you have to spend five minutes tidying or cleaning something before you can go back upstairs.

That's it! Super simple, right? It might seem so simple as to be ineffective, but I've noticed that these micro cleaning and tidying tasks add up over time and help keep things in check.

If you live in a single story home, you could change the rule so that it's five minutes in family spaces and five minutes in private spaces. For example, if you're in the kitchen, living room, or dining areas and go to a bedroom or bathroom, you have to spend five minutes tidying in the bedroom or bathroom before going back out to the public spaces of the house. If you are your bedroom or bathroom and go to a more public/family space of the home, you have to do five minutes of cleaning or tidying in the public/family spaces before returning to the more private spaces. 

I don't have a garage or shed, but I do have two patios. I also apply this rule to those spaces and make it a 5 In, 5 Out rule -- if I'm inside and go outside, I have to do five minutes of cleaning or tidying on the patios before I come back in. If I'm outside and go inside, I have to do five minutes of indoor cleaning and tidying before going back to the patios.

My five minute tasks over the past few months have included:
  • folding towels
  • folding shirts or pants or undergarments
  • wiping down the bathroom counter and sink
  • wiping down the kitchen counters
  • cleaning the stove top
  • wiping down cabinet doors
  • sweeping
  • going through the area for trash or recycling
  • de-cluttering a drawer
  • and a lot more!
Do you think this rule could help you in your housekeeping goals? What are some of the tasks you can do in five minutes? 

Monday, January 10, 2022

The Simple Joys of a Plastic Bowl

The Simple Joys of a Plastic Bowl
A lot has changed in my household over the last few months. First, I became guardian to my 10 year old tutoring student (JJ), then foster mom to his one year old brother (IK). Then, we moved to a larger apartment to accommodate us all. And, my own child shed their birth name -- an association with an abusive father that they no longer wished to have -- and chose a new name (EB). Meanwhile, the pandemic is still raging globally and most of us are still spending huge amounts of time at home. 

The one year old has been with us for almost four months now, and it's been a delight to see him grow and change. 

As anyone who has raised children can attest, sometimes the best toys are the simplest, and that's certainly true with IK! A few months ago, most toys and objects bewildered him, but as time has gone on, he's progressed and gained skills and improved motor function. And, he's definitely developed favorites among his toys -- one of which is a simple, plastic bowl. 

We live in a world that saturates children's lives with technology practically from birth, not just in the gadgets and gear new parents are told they need, but in the toys promoted to parents and children: toys that beep and chirp and talk. Toys that ask kids to push buttons and make associations before their young brains are developmentally ready. Toys that whir and buzz and honk. Toys that drive parents mad with sound in an already noisy world.

So, when IK decided that a simple, yellow, plastic bowl from IKEA was his favorite toy, I was delighted! 

A plastic bowl is a great way for a child to learn about the world around them. They can:

  • Put things in and take them out
  • Hide things under an upside down bowl and then discover them again  
  • Wear the bowl as a hat
  • Put their feet or hands (or both) in and take them out
  • Turn the bowl over and stack things on top (or try to stack things inside the bowl)
  • Bang on the bowl like it's a drum or use the bowl to bang on other things
  • Pick it up and drop it 
  • Chew on it
  • If they are walking, put things in the bowl and use it to carry objects.

And, there are probably many, many more ways a baby or toddler can use a bowl that I'm not even thinking of -- leave a comment and let me know how your kids have used bowls for play and exploration! 

This simple toy is also a great reminder for me to slow down my life, rely less on technology, and to find simpler ways of experiencing the world. Instead of spending an hour scrolling on social media or zoned out in front of TV, I could stretch and do some yoga, take a walk with EB, work on my container garden (our new apartment -- really, a townhouse -- has a HUGE patio), or simply get down on all fours and play with IK or get outside and kick a soccer ball with JJ. 

Wednesday, January 27, 2021

7 Ways to Use "The Kissing Hand" by Audrey Penn

7 Ways to Use "The Kissing Hand" by Audrey Penn
This year, in addition reading some children's books as part of my work on Mom2MomEd, I'm also participating in a children's literature reading challenge hosted by Mrs. Sarah Collier of Belle's Library and the Victorian Letter Writers Guild

My inaugural book for the Children's Literature Challenge is The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn. My child (now an adult) and I first received this book as a gift from my mother several years ago when my kiddo was still quite young. 
The Kissing Hand holds a special place in my heart because it was instrumental in helping us in adjusting to the emotional turmoil that comes with going back and forth between divorced parents (read about my suggested books for divorce HERE). Although the book is the story of a child going to school for the first time, it easily is applied to any form of temporary separation between parent and child.
Here are 7 ways to use The Kissing Hand beyond simply reading it with your child (or on your own):
1. Start a Kissing Hand tradition with your child
When my child was struggling with the emotional ups and downs of going back and forth between mom's house and dad's house, we started every exchange by kissing each other's palms and holding them to our cheeks. My child then could put palm to cheek during their time with their dad and thus would be reminded of my love. My kiddo told me several times that it helped them to feel better. 
2. Encourage your child to have a Kissing Hand tradition with family members that live far away, that they don't get to see often, or that are towards the end of life
Keeping in mind safety measures around viruses (Covid-19 as just the most worrisome as I write this), your child can start a Kissing Hand tradition with a loved one outside of the immediate family. If the loved one is too far away or it isn't safe to exchange palm kisses, you can kiss your child's palm and tell them, "Grandma gave me this kiss for you. You can put your palm to your cheek anytime you miss grandma or are thinking about her. Grandma loves you so much and would be so happy to know that you have her kiss in your palm."
3. Use The Kissing Hand anytime your child is nervous about trying something new or going somewhere new without you
In the book, the little racoon is nervous about starting school which prompts Mama to teach him about The Kissing Hand. Your child could use the same concept for any new situation or place -- a lesson or class, taking a flight without you (started flying alone at age 8!), starting up with a new babysitter, and so on. 
4. Teach your child to self-soothe anxiety, stress, or fear 

If your child tends towards anxiety or excessive stress or feels fearful at times, but maybe The Kissing Hand and holding a palm to a cheek isn't ideal, you could kiss your child's palm and have them kiss their other palm. 
Teach them to hold their palms together, interlacing their fingers, and pressing their palms into one another. They can then visualize their kiss and your kiss and the love between you. The side benefit is that the whole exercise of putting the palms together, interlacing the fingers, and then pressing against their own palms can help to reduce stress and anxiety. There are many other ways to do this that are similar -- tapping, pressure points, and so on -- but this is one that a child can do without anyone noticing. They can put their hands under their desk or simply in their lap and anyone that notices will just see a child sitting with their hands together. Your child will know that they have a little secret centered on your love for one another.
5. Introduce or practice early math literacy skills
If you flip through The Kissing Hand, you'll notice that it's filled with gorgeous illustrations, most of which have a multitude of different animals within the scenes. You can have your children count the animals on any given page or count all of the animals in the entire book or count a specific type of animal (how many frogs are there? bunnies? owls?). For kids that are already counting, you can begin to incorporate some basic addition: "If we have two frogs on this page and one frog on that page, how many frogs do we have?"
6. Play "I Spy"
You can turn many pages into the book into scavenger hunts: "Where is the frog? Can you find the red book? Where is the snail?"
7. Talk about similarities and differences
One of the subtle things I love about The Kissing Hand is that so many different animals are included in the illustrations. You could easily turn this into a discussion about how people have all kinds of differences. Some of the animals are little, or even tiny, while others are bigger. Some have feathers while others have fur or smooth skin. You could translate this into a discussion about diversity and inclusiveness or about bullying (after all, a lot of bullying happens due to someone being perceived as different in some way). 
The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn and illustrated by Ruth E. Harper and Nancy M. Leak, is such a lovely and sweet book. I hope you'll pick up a copy for a child in your life.  

Grab a copy on Bookshop HERE.
Grab a copy from Amazon HERE.
Or, hit up your local library.

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