Author Archives: Shannon McRae

Shannon McRae

About Shannon McRae

Shannon McRae is a work-at-home mom of three young children whose days are spent wiping mouths, playing Candyland, planning dinners and stealing time in between at the computer for her freelance writing. She's a stickler for healthy eating, with a slight exception for Oreos. She lives in Alabama with her precious children, loving husband and 13-year-old Australian Shepherd named Ricky Martin.


FamilyFun Magazine Fights Summer Boredom by Inspiring Creativity in Parents, Children

familyfun_june-july2010.jpgKeri Smith is probably the world’s coolest mom. After reading about her wonderfully creative ideas in the June/July 2010 issue of FamilyFun magazine, I’m inspired to become more creative myself. The article on Smith is one of those that I’m tearing out and saving until a few years from now. It contains some of the most creative and interesting ideas of things to do with your kids. My two are too young now, but in a few years I’ll be all over ideas like these.

An illustrator, author and artist by trade, Smith has a creative philosophy for children and adults that is about experimenting. “There’s no separation for me between my daily life and what art is,” she says in the article. “Everything becomes fodder for opening your mind up to things.”

For Smith, art can be acts like throwing a wildflower “bomb” into a vacant lot or leaving a miniature origami for a stranger to find. I liked her approach of coupling creativity with kindness. All of her ideas are not only good for the children who are participating, but many have a way of reaching strangers too. Isn’t that something we’d all like to teach our children?

This piece is one in a series that FamilyFun magazine is running on creative trailblazers and their great ideas. Here are a few of my favorite activities from the article:

  • Hidden Fortunes: Write fortunes on small pieces of paper and drop them in random places as you go–post office, library, plant store. Some examples: “Someone is thinking about you right now.” “You are a star.”

  • Wish Tree: Pick a tree in your yard or a public spot (after getting permission of course). Provide blank paper tags with attached strings and written instructions that invite passersby to write their wishes on the paper and hang them on the tree. Make a sign explaining that it’s a “Wish Tree” and watch to see who else participates. Wishes can range from “a Wii” to “an end to the BP oil spill.”

  • Coupon Poster: Create a tear-off poster like the ones you might see on public bulletin boards offering free kittens or affordable housekeeping services. Write “Please take one” and then have fun coming up with different “coupons,” like “Do anything you want today” or “Unlimited deep breaths.”

What kid wouldn’t have a great time coming up with ideas for these projects? It’s a perfect (and free) way to stifle any “I’m bored” comments this summer.


National Geographic Kids Magazine Helps Families Have Fun

nationalgeographickids_august2010.jpgAs I tossed the June/July 2010 issue of National Geographic Kids magazine onto the kitchen counter, I noticed there were two covers–one on the front, and one on the back (but it was upside down). Looking at it more closely, I realized it was a special, two-sided family edition with nine pages devoted to ways for families to have fun this summer.

The Family Getaways section explored four fabulous water parks across the country. The Family Project offered ideas for personalizing your mailbox. And the “10 Fun Things To Do With Your Family” list included simple activities like designing a dinner menu or making a family movie.

Have “Jeopardy!” junkies in your family? They’ll enjoy the article that takes readers behind the scenes of “Jeopardy!” Kids Week. Did you know that if contestants need a bathroom break during the show they’re escorted by a crew member to ensure there’s no cheating. Just one of the many interesting facts I learned about the quiz show.

Elsewhere in the regular portion of the magazine, my toddler and I had fun with the “Bet You Didn’t Know” section, which focuses on facts of amazing proportion. Did you know that the heaviest lizard can weigh more than two grown women? Eeek!

I’m a dog lover, so I liked “The Truth Behind the New Movie ‘Marmaduke.’ ” You might think you have an annoying co-worker, but apparently the wardrobe crew for “Marmaduke” had to dry off human actors between takes with the dog star because the Great Dane slung so much drool when he shook his head. Tying into the canine theme, the “Mind Games” article explored what animal lovers like me have always known–that our four-legged friends are smarter than we ever realize.

For the record, my toddler’s favorite section was “What in the World?”–super close-up photographs of African animals like elephants, leopards and zebras.


Conquer Your Child’s Fears With Help from Parents Magazine

parents_july2010.jpgWe were geared up for the night of our lives (sort of). Our local fall fair was in town, and we were taking my toddler for the first time to experience the cotton candy, bright lights and kiddie rides.

We’d talked about it all day, and he was ecstatic as we walked down the midway at dusk. But all of the sudden he stopped cold in his tracks and started screaming. A person dressed like a cow from a certain fast-food restaurant was standing on the side waving to the crowd. “I don’t like the cow!!” my little guy exclaimed. My husband and I sort of wanted to laugh, but you could tell his uneasiness was genuine. We made it past the friendly cow that evening, but to this day it’s one of the things he remembers most about the fair.

That’s why I was interested to read the article in the July 2010 Parents magazine that promised to help end the tears from common childhood fears. Whether your child flips over new babysitters, dark rooms or costumed characters, every parent has struggled to explain “there’s no reason to be afraid” to a little one who isn’t quite convinced.

“Fears are actually natural and helpful developmental milestones,” says Betsy Brown, the expert quoted in the article and author of “Just Tell Me What to Say: Sensible Tips and Scripts for Perplexed Parents.” “They help kids work out issues that are part of growing up.”

That’s great, but what’s a mom or dad to do when a youngster screams uncontrollably during a trip to the dentist? The easy-to-read article breaks out common fears and the ages when they’re typically experienced. It explains why kids are scared, and offers advice on how you can help them overcome their anxieties. It also lists great “get-a-grip” books to read with your child.

Here are a few insights into common fears and what you can do as a parent to alleviate them:

  • Monsters: Children are learning to distinguish between fantasy and reality, and it’s also a time when they move from their crib to a bed, which can also cause tension. Experts caution against using fake remedies like “monster dust,” and say you shouldn’t belittle your child by telling them it’s silly to be scared of the dark.

  • The doctor or dentist: Even adults can get nervous about being poked and prodded. Try letting your child play with a doctor’s kit at home and take a special stuffed animal to the appointment. After it’s over, visit a playground or do something else fun to end it on a high note.
  • The dark: When you can’t see things, you don’t feel like you have control over your environment. No big shock here: Experts recommend using a night light, hall light or overhead dimmer.

  • Thunderstorms: Younger children are afraid of the loud noise.Older ones might understand the possible destruction that a tornado or hurricane can cause, which makes them even more nervous. Admit to your child that loud thunder often startles you too, and make the event fun by snuggling in bed together.
  • A new sitter: Younger children experience stranger anxiety when they realize whoever is holding them isn’t Mom or Dad. Older kids might be nervous about a new sitter because they fear their parents won’t return. Don’t rush out the door, the article says. Stay in the room with the sitter until your child is comfortable and then move to another room nearby. When it’s time to go, don’t sneak away. Explain that you’re leaving, you love them and you’ll be back.
  • Dogs: Fear of dogs is a survival instinct, and many youngsters also don’t appreciate that some dogs bark, jump and nibble. Start by introducing your tot to a dog you know is friendly. Never ask your child to pet a dog if he’s terrified, the article suggests. Teach your child the correct way to approach a dog she doesn’t know, and remember to always ask the owner for permission first.
  • Costumed characters: After the cow incident, I read this one closely. Children constantly search for clues about the safety of the world around them, says the expert in the article. When a costumed character or entertainer is disguised children can’t predict whether the person is friendly. Ask your child what concerns him the most and then suggest giving it another shot. Give your child the power to leave whenever she’s ready, which will make her feel more control over the situation.

KIWI Magazine Focuses on Going Green Practically

kiwi.jpgMy husband and I lived on the West Coast when our first child was born, so cloth diapers, glass bottles and organic onesies were the norm among our friends long before the “green” movement swept the rest of the country. When we relocated back to the South where we both were raised, we noticed that while there were lots of green options available, you had to look for them a little harder. I wish I would have known then about the wonderful resources in KIWI magazine.

This magazine isn’t just for the Birkenstock-wearing set. With a mission of “growing families the natural and organic way,” the publication brings the benefits of organic living to the masses and provides parents with information and resources to make the best choices for their families. I appreciated the practicality found on almost every page.

Most people agree that being more environmentally responsible is important. But actually acting on that belief is sometimes challenging. KIWI doesn’t judge parents whose busy schedules make disposable diapers more practical. Instead, the editors help you make more natural decisions that work for you.

Here are a few of my favorite sections in a recent issue:

  • Healthy: In this section, I found information about how to manage the potentially dangerous effects of chlorine without staying out of the pool all summer; how to keep your kids engaged in learning while school’s out; and the best natural sunscreen options on the market.

  • Happy: We’ve all heard the saying that the family that plays together stays together. This section offered ideas like how to pass the time on car trips without a DVD player; how to convince skeptical grandparents about the importance of a greener lifestyle; and how to make a summer camping trip the ultimate eco-vacation.
  • Caring: Every choice we make affects our planet, and here I found some helpful hints on how I can make better decisions every day. Just a few good ideas included growing a greener lawn the chemical-free way, deciphering what all the eco-friendly packaging terms really mean, and hosting a charitable birthday party.
  • Yummy: I love to eat, so it was no surprise that I loved this section, where I found tips like how to create a yummy dessert from farmers’ market finds, smart snacking strategies for hungry kiddos, and healthy foods to boost a tired parent’s energy level.

One other interesting note about the magazine–and I’m sure its publishers would love to hear this: I really liked the ads. I’m usually pretty good at tuning out ads in magazines because it seems like they’re all the same. But lots of the products advertised in KIWI were things I hadn’t seen before. I liked looking at information about an eco-friendly stationery line, a compact high chair made from Forest Stewardship Council-certified wood, and several cute new lines of cloth diapers.


Pamper Yourself With Parenting Magazines

parents_july2010.jpgI know June was Dad’s month, so I’m not trying to steal the spotlight. But let’s face it: It’s now July, a mom’s work is tough and we deserve a mini-break every now and then too. Fashion magazines (though very fun to flip through) aren’t the only place to get good beauty tips. Parenting magazines know moms need pampering, and they often have good ideas on how to squeeze in some me-time without breaking the bank. Here are some of my favorites from the July 2010 magazines:
  • Pretty Toes: Give yourself an eco-friendly pedicure with tips from KIWI magazine‘s roundup of the best at-home pedi options. Some of the fun products include eco-easy nail polish remover and biodegradable toe separators. I’m also going to try their advice and add a few drops of almond oil to my cuticles next time I’m prettying up my feet.

  • The Smell of Summer: Before I had kids I always wore perfume. But somewhere after babies, I let my last bottle run out and I never replenished. Now that I’m a mom, I need to cover up smells more than ever before, so I’m going to check out some of the beachy scent options featured in this month’s Parents magazine.
  • Turquoise Treats: American Baby magazine gave a nod to the color turquoise this month in its beauty roundup. All the pretty products are not only a lovely shade of blue, but they’re perfect for hot and sticky summer months. The waterproof eyeliner in teal (could I really pull it off?) and the coconut lime sugar scrub were some of my favorites.

FamilyFun Magazine’s “Declaration of Fun” Offers Fourth of July Crafts for Kids and Adults

familyfun_june-july2010.jpgIf family time is on your agenda for this Fourth of July holiday, chances are you’ll be with kids who are looking for something to do. The June/July 2010 issue of FamilyFun magazine features a “Declaration of Fun,” with six patriotic crafts that will add sparkle to any backyard get-together.

  • Kids can’t wait until dark for fireworks? A confetti launcher lets them pop color any time of the day. An added bonus: To relaunch the confetti, they must first collect all the pieces and put them back into the roll. Sounds like a nice, calm, quiet activity to me!

  • If you’re feeling extra crafty, pull out the paint and let the kids decorate T-shirts with bald eagles shaped from their own handprints.
  • Boys and girls will get a kick out of the red, white and blue tulle project that doubles as a hat or tutu–depending on your preference.
  • I’ve always wanted to be in a bike parade, and the spirited bike spinner that is detailed in the issue would be the perfect decoration for any set of wheels. It looked a little involved to me, so moms and dads (or really fun grandparents) may need to be available to help if kids aren’t able to do it alone.
  • The last two crafts in the feature are for parents looking for easy decorations. The “Patri-botic Centerpiece” is a perfect contraption to store cookies while serving as a utensil holder too. The star-spangled paper wreath will make any door more festive. Bring on the barbecue and flags–I’m ready for the Fourth!