15: How to Foster Job Skills in Kids and Have Fun as a Family with Valerie Deneen

Moms, you are sure to enjoy part one of this podcast interview with the very inspiring Valerie Deneen, a fun mom of two and blogger at innerchildfun.com! She is so intentional with her parenting, creating a flexible routine that allows for creativity and fun, fostering job skills and empowering her children to make their days great!

Episode Recap

Valerie is both an accomplished entrepreneur and an intentional and inspiring mother. Before having children, she was a computer programmer but a kid at heart! She and her husband would play games and even create claymation videos after work for fun! They carried that fun over into their family life and into her blog, Inner Child Fun. I learned so many good tips from her in this interview! Things like:

  • How to create a family routine and schedule that still allows for flexibility and creativity
  • How to foster job skills from a young age
  • How to empower children to take charge of making each day great

Links in This Episode

Listen Here

Listen to The Merry Messy Moms Show on iTunes

Valerie's Bio

Valerie Deneen is the author/creator of Inner Child Fun, a family-friendly, DIY-centric blog with a diverse, international readership. Over the past few years, Valerie has been featured in major media markets around the country, where she shares her creative and unique insights on behalf of Inner Child Fun. Valerie has made numerous appearances on television, print and online media for PBS Digital Studios, Highlights High Five magazine, FamilyFun, NBC Philadelphia's The 10! Show, WFMZ's News at Sunrise, and the nationally syndicated The Daily Buzz.

How I Met Valerie

I met Valerie at a MOPS group meeting. She was leading us through a craft and she started to talk about her blog, and how she was paying her mortgage with her blog money! I had no idea back then you could actually start a real business with a blog. She inspired me so much, so I connected with her and started to learn the business from her.

I later on was able to actually pay my mortgage with my blog income!

The Start of Valerie's Blog

She started her career before kids as a computer programmer, then left to become a stay at home mom. Her blog started completely by accident! She didn't intend to start a business, but she start writing because her kids were 2 and 6 and she was struggling to have fun activities for them, so she figured other moms must also have this same issue.

She wanted to create a virtual playground of things to do with your kids. And it started off with projects to do with your young kids and as they've grown into teenagers, the activities have turned into things you can do with teens and ways to connect with your older children.

Her girls, one is in high school and one in middle school, now actually help her with the blog content, photography and even social media!

Fostering Job Skills for Kids

Valerie's parents were big on teaching her job skills growing up and she sees that she's also instilled that in her own kids.

Her dad would have her and her brother go around the house with clipboards and write down anything that needed cleaning, doing or fixing. Then they would go to their dad and negotiate a rate for the services! (Isn't this brilliant?!)

She's now doing it with her girls. She's noticed it helps with taking initiative and being involved in the home. It's also helped them to learn the value of money and to negotiate, all important adult discussions they'll need in interviews later on!

The problem with putting an emphasis on what kids want to do when they grow up is that it ties their identity to their occupation and also implies that they aren't, or are incapable of, contributing right now. - Valerie Deneen on The Merry Messy Moms Show Podcast

Let's Make Today Awesome!

Her girls wake up every morning and say, “Who's ready to make today awesome?!” And the other one says, “Yeah! Let's do it!” And if they don't start their day like that, she knows something's wrong, like one of them is sick. But they start almost everyday like this!

And she's learned from them and how they CHOOSE to make the day awesome, and how empowering that mindset is!

What Do You Want to Do When You Grow Up?

This is a question Valerie's never really liked. To her, it implies that your identity is tied to your profession. What happens when you choose to be a stay at home mom? Or you get laid off, or fired? And also, what is that telling the child right now? Are you not somebody right now? You can contribute now, while you're young. So she doesn't make this a big deal with her girls.

So she started asking them, “what do you want to do to make a difference?” She found this helped to create a big mindset shift in her family.

When her oldest turned 10, she decided to do 10 random acts of kindness for her birthday. And she's continued that each year!

Blogging Didn't Exist When We Were Kids

So it seems somewhat futile to try and decide what you want to do when you grow up because the job landscape is always changing!

Career Day at School

She went to one of her daughter's career days at school and felt funny going after a heart surgeon – “and there's me, a blogger!” Going after someone who saves lives for a career, and one mistake has detrimental affects. He also has very long hours and not much time flexibility.

Which is a benefit of blogging, that we our work gets done whenever we want it to during the day and mistakes don't have terrible consequences in our field!

And the reality is that a blog is open 24/7 and it makes money in your sleep. So she likes to have these discussions with her kids – the internet has opened up time freedom and productivity for all of us. So blogging has been an amazing career choice to allow Valerie to be able to stay at home with her kids and to include them in what she does.

Instead of asking kids, "what do you want to be when you grow up?" Ask instead, "what do you want to do to make a difference?" - Valerie Deneen on The Merry Messy Moms Show Podcast

How She Strikes that Work/Life Balance

Had to Have a Routine

At first, she struggled with this a lot. She quickly found that she needed a routine to be successful and that her kids thrived when she stuck to a routine. However, for her personality, a routine killed her creativity, which is a big part of her brand! So she had to learn how to be creative and spontaneous in a routine.

(23:00) She turned their routine into a PDF that you can download from her blog called the “Agenda of Awesomeness.” In their family routine, they have several hours a day blocked off for pure creativity – crafting, artwork, fun. Isn't that amazing!

Stay Organized

She also had to work to keep her craft room organized and accessible for her children so they they could spontaneously create and be able to use the supplies there.

They had a dining room that they never used as a dining room – it had nice carpet and she was constantly working to keep the paints and glue, glitter and other craft supplies from ruining the carpet and trying to keep the room looking nice.

Her husband, Marc, came to the rescue and surprised her one weekend when she was away for a conference by turning it into an amazing craft room for their anniversary!

She says he won “husband of the year” award for that! It was something she'd been dreaming of and he went all out by putting in a ton of Ikea storage, a peg board, table – he thought of everything!


Basic cleaning wasn't getting done so that was the very first thing that she outsourced. She's found it's a much better use of her time because she hates it and isn't good at it either!

It doesn't take much time or money to connect with your kids. - Valerie Deneen on The Merry Messy Moms Show Podcast

Crafts – Keep it Simple

Valerie firmly believes that it doesn't have to take much effort or money to connect with your kids. That children love and enjoy simple pleasures. So her activities on the blog center on using supplies you probably already have on-hand. They even have missionaries in Ghana who've used her craft tutorials because she keeps the supply list so easy!

A Kid at Heart

Valerie is a total kid at heart and that comes across in her blog! She and her husband had games all over their house and she says they would go to work and then come home and play! They even created stop-motion videos with clay!

She says that many of her readers have kids, but some do not because her motto is “crafts with your kids or the the kid in you!”

Her passion as a blogger and a mother is to help parents extend their children's childhood as much as possible. It's no wonder her favorite movie growing up was Peter Pan.

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