Lunchbox Love Notes: Quotes from Beloved Children’s Books

I found this image on Facebook. This was just recently shared by the lead singer of one of my favorite bands – Plumb.


If you have a son, you know exactly what this picture means. I always tell my husband that our not-so-little boy will pretty soon be fending off our hugs and kisses. And so we shower him with love and affection every day. Yup, even his Dad gets in on the action.

Aside from the usual hugs, kisses, snuggles and countless “I-love-yous”, one of the things I do is send him lunchbox love notes. It’s a simple reminder of the love that hopefully encourages him to do well in a school and at the same time, the love that waits for him at home.


I used to do it on Post-It notes and stick these on the lids of his cookie boxes or plastic containers. But since it’s Valentine’s Day, I thought of making special lunchbox love notes. They’re not in pink and splattered with hearts and so it’s suitable for everyday use, not just during the “Love Day”.

For this blog post’s lunchbox love notes, I took inspiration from children’s books. If you noticed, the recurring theme of this post’s printables is “Night” – moon, stars, owls, etc. That’s because stories at our home and in many other households are usually read at bedtime.

The one below is the first one I made, not because it’s a personal favorite but because it seems to be the most popular one. I’ve seen a lot of Facebook friends quote this whenever they have a special message for a loved one.


Now for my own favorites.



Ready to download, print and cut for your little kiddo? Here’s Lunchbox Love Notes from Children’s Books  especially just for you.

I’m planning on making more lunchbox love notes in the future – this year to be exact. After all, my son might be asking me to stop with the mushy love notes by the time he’s eight or nine. So I might as well strike while the iron is hot, now that he still loves these little surprises during recess and lunch time in school.

I hope you enjoy this free Printables by Jan.


Looking Back and Looking Forward

I just love Pinterest! I wish Pinterest was already around when I was teaching pre-schoolers and Kindergarten kids more than a decade ago.  Pinterest started in 2009 and I was already well into my tenth year in the education industry by then.

I don’t teach anymore and I now use Pinterest to search for parenting articles, DIY projects for birthday parties, and even a few home decorating ideas. One of the best discoveries I found there was the New Year Interview activity for kids. It’s meant to be done with your kids every December or January as way of reflecting on what has been and getting ready for what is yet to come.

I actually started this interview with my son last 2013. He was five years old then and had no interest whatsoever in staying put for a long time for an interview. Having him look back at the year and tell me about his favourite memories was relatively easy. The trickier part was asking him to look forward and plan for the new year. For instance, when I asked him what he wanted to get better at, he said, “Anything.” When I asked him what new thing he wanted to learn, he again said, “Anything.”

Right there, I learned that planning ahead – hey, even just looking ahead – wasn’t something that came naturally to kids. It’s a learned skill.

This made the New Year Interview even more appealing. I initially wanted it to be the jumping point for a digital scrapbook project that would preserve memories of special events and current favourites. But now it has taken on a more important dimension. The New Year Interview is now one of a few activities that will hopefully teach my son how to look back at the past and at the same time, look to the future.

You may download the New Year Interview for Kids here. I hope you find this Printables by Jan freebie a worthwhile activity for your kids once the festivities and fireworks have died down.

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Why is it important for kids to learn these skills? I came across the following quote from one unknown source:

“We learn not from doing, but by thinking about what we do.”

And it’s true. It’s a lot like that other popular belief – the one that tells us it’s alright to make mistakes as long as we learn from those mistakes. And we only learn when we reflect on which ones went right and which ones went wrong. Once we realise these, planning takes over as we decide to make changes and do things a little bit better. Reflection is important to learning, because it helps us build self-awareness, strengthens personal growth, and for the end result, improves our plan of action for the next time.

What I just said won’t of course make sense for kids. But when we teach something to our children we don’t usually spell it out for them, do we? What we do instead is engage them in regular activities that develop the skill and attitude. Doing the New Year Interview is just one way. There are some myriad other ways you can help your kids develop reflection and planning skills – when you make a summer plan of chores and activities, when you agree on and eventually review a reading log, etc.

So what are you waiting for? Download and print out the New Year Interview for Kids and have some reflection and planning time with your kids this New Year.


Expressing Gratitude This Holiday Season

Aside from October, December is my son’s favorite month of the year. I think you know why. Their birth months and December are the most exciting times for children. They may be the most expensive times for parents but if you’re like me, they’re also the only times when children are allowed to ask for bigger items. December can even be much costlier. If you have young children, you’ll know that they still expect a gift from Santa. That’s one from the jolly old man in the red suit and one from the parents. I’m giving my son three more years before I break the news about Santa.

Experience tells us that children don’t just get two gifts. If you come from a large extended family or if your children have a bunch of close friends in school, chances are your children will also get presents from grandparents, uncles or aunts, and friends. That’s a whole lot of gifts!

But then the days after the holidays – once all these gifts have been opened and played with, all the treats eaten – can feel like a big letdown. I compare it to a sugar rush – which experts say is actually a myth but you know what I mean. You get the ultimate high one minute but crash the next hour or so.  That’s how holidays can feel especially when they’re over and it’s back to the daily grind of school or work.

But is it possible to flip that script? Can we encourage our children to stop thinking “what have we got to look forward to now?”, start concentrating on everything they’ve just enjoyed and be grateful?

There’s a YouTube channel called the SoulPancake and they create entertaining, joyful, and inspiring videos related to the human experience. One of these is The Science of Happiness – An Experiment in Gratitude. The video talks about how happiness can be achieved with the simple act of expressing one’s gratitude.

I tried to give this a try the minute I saw this video last 2013 to my Dad no less, who at that time was recuperating from a heart attack and was a bit depressed. I told him about the video and thought I’d thank him since he was the most influential person in my life. I won’t go into the specifics but I told him everything I’ve always wanted to. His response was to put on his shades – typical of a Baby Boomer Gen father but I knew he was touched. Two weeks after that, my Dad died.

This taught me that expressing gratitude is extremely important. We feel thankful to a lot of people but how often do we let them know about how we feel? Not as much as we want to probably. And this leads me to the main goal of this article. Expressing gratitude is both a skill and an attitude that I want to instill in my son. And when better to start than this coming holiday season?

Saying thank you when someone gives you a present is one of the simplest and most basic ways to help develop a spirit of thankfulness in children. And now that my son’s in first grade, it’s time for him to express gratitude in a written form. Yes, I am still a believer in the power of a good old-fashioned thank you note!

I can imagine that staring at a blank notecard can be fairly intimidating though, especially for the reluctant writer. So I’ve come up with a few printables that will help younger children say thank you without the battle of writing a long thank you note.

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These fill-in-the-blank thank you notes give kids a starting point. They simply add the recipient’s name(s), what they’re saying thank you for, why they like the gift, and their own name. Hopefully this makes saying thank you a fun task!

I’m a proud Ilonggo and so I’ve included a design with the Hiligaynon phrase for thank you. There’s also another design that has “Salamat!” which friends and relatives who speak Filipino and Hiligaynon can use. Unfortunately, the templates still have the usual fill-in-the-blanks English sentences. But if you’re really bent on letting your child learn the home language, you can use the blank ones.

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I hope you have fun with these Printables by Jan freebie!

Download the Holiday Thank You Notes here.


Free Christmas Gift Tags for 2015

Christmas Day is fast approaching and so is my kid’s Christmas party in school. I make it a point to let him give his gifts to his teachers and favorite classmates a week before the school party. This way, his gifts don’t get lost among the countless other presents his teachers and classmates receive.

I’ve created a set of gift tags which I want him to write on. People say I have excellent handwriting skills and unfortunately, my kid didn’t inherit that. So I made kid-friendly gift tags – read big and with lines – to help him out. This way, he gets to have that much-needed writing practice . More important though is that he also gets into the spirit of giving this holiday season. With this extremely simple act of writing on the gift tags, he learns that Christmas isn’t just a time for receiving gifts from family and friends. Christmas is also a time for sharing.

I hope you enjoy this Printables by Jan freebie. You may download the Christmas Gift Tags here.

Santi’s 7th Birthday Party


My son turned seven last October.

Here in the Philippines, it’s tradition to have a celebration when the child turns one, three, and seven. I’m not exactly sure why but I have my theories. I believe we celebrate the child’s first birthday because well – it’s the first 🙂 We then celebrate the third birthday because it’s a way of saying goodbye to babyhood. And finally, we celebrate the seventh birthday because – before the Philippines adopted the K-12 educational system – children were seven years old when they went to Grade 1. So it’s a way of saying goodbye to the carefree, laidback days of the early childhood years.

And we did just that when Santi was one, three, and now seven. We were on our own for his seventh birthday financially. Unlike the first and the third birthdays, there were no more grandfathers who gave us extra cash for the celebration and  grandmothers who volunteered to help out in the kitchen.

So we decided to have his celebration at a place with a birthday party package. Hotels with party packages were definitely out of the question. Their party packages were equivalent to three months’ worth of salary!!

There were fast food chains that offered party packages but my son didn’t really gravitate towards the themes. The only theme he warmed up to was the Hot Wheels theme which only a specific pizza place offered.

A month before the party, we visited the place and got the Hot Wheels party package. The party package included the venue, decorations, invites, party hosting, loot bags, and of course food. I wasn’t satisfied with the invitations that came with the party package. So I created this Hot Wheels invitation.


I also created Thank You cards that I tied with a gold string to the loot bags. This is how the card looked like.

Thank You Card

If you’re interested in having these personalized for your son’s party, please send me a message at my Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest accounts.

Communicating with Our Kids – How to Speak Effectively

The other side of the coin in good communication is effective speaking. It is important to look at what behaviours to avoid, especially in communicating with our children who are vulnerable. The top five parent miscommunication behaviours, together with their effect on the child, are:

  1. Accusing or blaming lowers the child’s self-esteem.
  2. Nagging, yelling or lecturing causes the child to become “parent-deaf”.
  3.  Threatening not only scares the child, but if you do not follow through with your threat, the child will not believe you. This renders the threat ineffective.
  4.  Bribing centers more on extrinsic rewards rather than intrinsic motivation. Rewards may work sometimes but won’t be of much help in the long-term. Remember that one of the important things we can do for our children is to help them develop self-control and learn to motivate themselves.
  5. Labelling affects the self-image of the child. If he accepts the label, “I’m useless and lazy,” then it influences his beliefs, actions and behaviour. Labelling shows a lack of confidence in your child.

There are other behaviours to avoid:

  • name calling (Pat Fatso, Josie Grossie, etc.)
  • sidetracking (“What score did your friend get on the exam?”)
  • martyrdom (“You are so ungrateful, and I have sacrificed so much to get you into a good school and these are the grades you give me?”)
  • comparison (“Why can’t you be neat and tidy like your sister?”)
  • sarcasm (“It’s a miracle you got accepted into that school!”)
  • prophecy (“You’ve got my genes; you’ll never be good in Math.”)


These are all destructive to good relationships.

Using I-Messages for a More Effective Communication

In their parents’ guide Systematic Training for Effective Parenting: Kids and Teens, esteemed psychologists Don Dinkmeyer and Gary McKay suggest that parents use I-messages rather than You-messages. The table below differentiates between the two kinds of messages.

Describes how your child’s behaviour makes you feel. Lays blame and conveys criticism of your child.
Focuses on the parent, not the child or teen. Suggests that the child is at fault.
Does not assign blame. Verbally attacks.
Example: “When you come home late, we worry.” Example: “You are so inconsiderate. Why didn’t you even just call?”
Example: “When you do not pick up your things, they are an added load for me. I get tired doing everything by myself.” Example: “You are such a messy and lazy person.”

So how can we construct an I-message? Here are three steps in order:

Step 1: Describe the pertinent behaviour. Just describe, don’t blame.

“When you stand on the chair…”

“When you come home late….”

“When you do not study….”

Step 2: State your feeling about the consequence the behaviour produces for you.

“I worry that you might fall…”

“I get really worried…”

“I am concerned…”

 Step 3: State the possible consequence.

“…. and hurt yourself.”

“…. because I don’t know where to look for you.”

“…. because you may have difficulty in the exams and your grades can go down.”

This takes time especially when we’re used to speaking You-Messages. I know I found myself adjusting a lot to accommodate more I-Messages in my language. One thing I found helpful was writing things down. When I feel that I’m about to blow up over a certain behaviour, I give a pre-discussed signal to my child. This signal tells him that I’m feeling a bit intense and need time to gather my thoughts.  I get our “Communication Notebook” and there I write an I-Message. I give it to him and he replies with a written message. This goes on until one of us says “I’m sorry” or “I love you”.

I find that writing things down helps prevent a lot of painful and negative statements from being said out loud. When we write, we pause to gather our thoughts and read what was written. There’s a time for a review and a time to change what could potentially be a defeating statement to our children.

I’ve included a fee printable of notes for such situations. The first page contains notes with templates that you can just fill out. The second page contains blank notes when you feel more confident about making your own I-Messages. You may download I-Messages-Note-Cards here. I hope you find this free Printables by Jan helpful.



Communicating with Our Kids – How to Listen Effectively

Frequent conversations with our sons and daughters, particularly about what happens in school is invaluable. “How was school?” is an overly-used question that elicits the automated response “It was good,” or “Fine.” Try to go beyond this question for more meaningful conversations that let your children really reflect on their day at school. I’ve created a set of conversation starters that you can print on cardstock, cut, laminate and finally put in a box. During dinner, you can let your children pick a card or two. The conversation can then revolve around these questions.Pics for Site.jpg

You can download these Conversation Starters here.

Renowned therapist John Powell singled out communication as the secret to staying in love, whether in a friendship, marital or familial relationship. Communication with young children is easy, right? Our kids are at the stage where they tell us everything – they even seem to burst at their seams when we tell them to wait until we are done with a chore or a phone conversation. If they’re very excited to tell us everything, then what should be our response? To listen, of course. It couldn’t get any easier, right?

Unfortunately, as adults, we sometimes get preoccupied with chores and even our own problems. When this happens – when we don’t give our children our full attention when they’re talking – listening and consequently communication with them becomes ineffective.

In their parents’ guide Systematic Training for Effective Parenting: Kids and Teens, esteemed psychologists Don Dinkmeyer and Gary McKay gave some helpful guidelines for listening well to children:

1. Treat your children the way you treat your best friends. We give our friends our full attention when we get together. After all, we always have something interesting to talk about. It’s time we start changing our mindset and think of what our children have to say as interesting and more important, essential to our relationship with them. Once we see it from this point of view, listening will become more effective.

2. Effective listening involves body language. Specific actions — like making eye contact, kneeling down to your child’s level and even tilting your head – show your child you are listening. These actions also help YOU stop and really listen. If you can’t talk at that moment, you might say, “Let’s talk in a few minutes; I’m in the middle of something. I remember when my son was talking with me. He asked, “Mama, are you listening to me? What are you doing with your phone?” He was right. How can I really listen if I am thinking of other things?

3. As the listener, try to paraphrase important statements made by your child. This just means stating what he or said in your own words. Along with our body language, this tells him that you are truly listening. Paraphrasing also prevents you from jumping to conclusions which can sometimes lead to criticizing, nagging, lecturing or belittling what the child has said. For example, when my son one day said that he did not like to go to school anymore, I was shocked and wanted to go on a lengthy lecture on why school was important. Instead, I stopped and took a moment and then said, “You don’t want to go to school anymore? How come?” This clarifies to both you and your child what has just been said. When paraphrasing, it is also often effective to end your statement with “Is that right?” or “Did I get it right?” Allow your child to correct you if you did not get it right.

Listening takes effort, especially when we’ve spent years not really taking time out to listen and understand the meaning behind our children’s words. But it’s about time we do. Listening to our children – especially in their early years and primary grades – builds a foundation of good communication that will be very valuable when they reach their adolescence years.