Simpler Is Sometimes Better

Posted 07-24-2015 at 04:02 PM by Agla

I spent three days making one batch of rolls this week. Each day there was another step in the process to complete. Once the rolls were baked and everyone had a chance to taste them I asked, “Were these rolls better than the rolls that take me only a few minutes to prepare?” My husband admitted that he liked the taste of the simpler rolls. Like other areas of our life I realized that I get better results when I stick to a simple routine. Here are some ideas on how to simply things in any household:

Simplifying Your Wash Routine
In a family, the laundry beast can get overwhelming. There were years that I refused to buy any white clothing, because during that time I felt like I was constantly swimming in laundry and separating whites and darks was just too much to deal with. As well as buying no white clothing, I also simplified the laundry by reducing the number of items in my family’s wardrobe.

For my diaper laundry I realized that after trying several cloth diaper specific detergents and different laundry additives I found that the one that worked the best for me and my machine was basic Tide detergent with a couple of extra rinses,

Simplifying Your Menu
I love to cook and try new recipes but I know that there are people that struggle with menu planning and meal preparation. I see the same people attempt to elaborate recipes with several ingredients in an attempt to improve their cooking. Once while watching a TV cooking show I watched three different chefs gasp with delight. What caused their reaction? One of the contestants had placed a fried sunny side egg on top of the meal he was being judged on. Good simple basic ingredients can go a long way to making a meal taste good. Good basic cooking technique are also important and can elevate most ingredients from ordinary to delicious.

Keeping Your Home Tidy Simply
Simply put, “The less you have the less you have to clean.” This seems obvious but many people spend a great deal of time dealing with the clutter that has accumulated in their home. Get rid of things that are not being utilized. Have proper places to store things so that anyone can pick up something that is out of place and know where to put it. These are small steps that can help keep a home neater and less cluttered.

I would love to hear from DS blog readers about the ways they have learned to simplify. Please share your tips and tricks in the comment section below.

Diaper Swapers

Shopping for Car Seats Again

Posted 07-24-2015 at 12:27 PM by Agla

Once again, I find myself in the market for another car seat.  Although the choices can be overwhelming, changes in the industry have not only made car seats safer but also made it easier for a parent to make a well-informed purchase.

 

Seat Size and Weight Limits

There is no such thing as a “one size fits all car seat.”  Since kids come in all types of sizes the car seat that works for one child may not sit another child comfortably.  Manufacturers provide weight limits and height limits but sometimes it takes actually having your child in the seat to evaluate if the seat is going to work for your child.

 

Extended Rear Facing

Car seat manufacturers have responded to the parental demand to ERF older children and the AAP recommendations to rear face at least until age 2.  I was able to sit my child rear facing comfortably up to age 5 by purchasing a seat with a higher ERF weight limit.

 

Expiration / Manufacturer Dates

Car seats have expiration dates.  I’ve heard people scoff at this as a money making ploy by the car seat industry.  Actually, expiration dates protect children from seats that have possibly warped or become brittle. Largely made of plastic, car seats are exposed to the fluctuations in temperature day in and day out for years.  Weight is placed on it daily and tension directly on the plastic is required for a proper installation.  Personally, I think that the addition of manufacturer and expiration days will go a long way in keeping unsafe and outdated seats out of the hands of unsuspecting users.

 

LATCH

Car manufacturers have made the Latch (Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children Restraint System) car seat system even more convenient to access in newer model cars.  The LATCH system has makes proper car installation and removal easier for parents. The development of the system has for the most part reduced the sweat inducing struggles with a seat belt and a locking clip for a safe car seat installation.

 

Research, Research, Research

The information that can be found about cars seats online can be overwhelming but there are several well established sites that give thoughtful reviews and recommendations.  There are also forums where parents can ask specific questions about car seats and their installation.

 

Good Return or Exchange Policies

Most retailers have very good return policies that allow parents to return a car seat if the fit is not good for the child. When looking for a car seat make sure you ask what the exact return policies are before purchasing.

 

Shopping for a car seat can be daunting, but newer developments and continued research has now made it easier to buy and install car seats.

 

Road Travel With Toddlers

Posted 07-23-2015 at 12:51 PM by admin

road travel with toddlers

Car Travel With Toddlers

Are you hitting the road this summer with a little one in tow? If so, there will definitely be some planning involved. Over the years, I have learned how to pack and travel efficiently with babies, toddlers, school aged kids, and now teens. And each age requires something different. Today I’m focusing on traveling with toddlers.

Pack heavy:  I know this seems like overkill, but I promise you, you will thank me. If you have the room in your vehicle, pack heavy for the toddlers on your trip. Games, snacks, change of clothes, their favorite pillow, animal, sippy cups, wipes, napkins, toys, snacks….yes I mentioned snacks twice! They are important to having a happy toddler. I highly suggest checking out a local dollar store for new toys that will keep your toddler engaged, without breaking the bank.

Independence: Toddlers love their independence. Consider packing their own separate backpack full of their own things.

Break it up: Back in my college years, my goal was always to get to my destination as fast as possible. Which meant, little to no stops. This is very hard with a toddler. They need to get their energy out. Plan stops at parks, restaurants that have play areas, or just open fields so they can stretch their legs (you too!) and get some exercise.

Avoid rush hour: No one likes to be stuck in traffic, including toddlers!

Sleepy Time Travel: Leaving at night so your toddler sleeps through most of the drive is a great idea. As long as the drivers are not drowsy too. Make sure if the driver is drowsy, you pull over immediately. If it’s a short trip, driving through naptime is a plus as well.

Electronics: While we try to discourage too much time on electronics, long car trips is the exception in our home. Investing in a TV/DVD Player combo is definitely worth it. You can stop at Redbox machines along the way for cheap movie options. If the TV/DVD Player is not in the budget, there are options. Pick up a fun CD full of singalongs or stories for your toddler to enjoy on the trip.

Clean up: Do not forget all the clean up supplies. Pack plenty of napkins, wet ones, disinfectant, plastic bags, and more in case of spills.

 

 

HAPPY TRAVELS!

Like the Brady Bunch but Not Really

Posted 06-19-2015 at 11:33 AM by Agla

As a child I watched the Brady Bunch and dreamed of being part of a big family.  I didn’t realize that I would eventually become part of large family but, unlike my childhood fantasies, I ended up playing the part of the mom instead of one of the fun-loving kids.

Having a larger family isn’t exactly how it is pictured on television. I’ll go over some of the major differences between my family and the Brady Bunch:

I don’t have a maid.  Alice on the Brady Bunch was an awesome maid that cared for the children as if they were her own.  The house was immaculately clean and there was never a stray toy in site.   I get to clean everything on my own until the kids are old enough to pitch in.  But unlike Mr. Brady who was always too busy working in the office for housework, I have a husband that does help clean.

I don’t have the equally gender balanced family.  The Brady’s had exactly 3 boys and 3 girls.  My household is boy heavy.  I’ve been living toy cars, wooden trains, and Lego for over a decade and there doesn’t seem to be an end in sight.  Luckily, I had one daughter so that I at least had a small window of shopping in the girl’s section.

My kids weren’t already potty trained when I got them.  The Brady’s became a family by blending two families with older children.  I had to diaper and then potty train all of these kids.

Our problems don’t come in increments of one that are easily resolved in a half hour period.  In the short time I’ve been sitting down to write this piece I’ve had to deal with a broken lightbulb, lost sneakers, fighting over snacks, helping put on socks, and a toilet that won’t stop running.

Even though my life doesn’t match that of the Brady Bunch I will always appreciate the show for leaving me with the impression that a large family could be loving and supportive of each other.   Even when we have our worst days I have never wished for a smaller family.  I’m grateful that I was able to get positive messages about larger families as a child. Thank you, Mrs. Brady!

 

Help! I Want to Cloth Diaper but I Have No Money!

Posted 06-19-2015 at 10:35 AM by Agla

One of the most asked questions that we get on our forum is how to cloth diaper on a very limited budget.  While many people choose to cloth diaper to save on diapering costs there are many who struggle with the initial investment needed to create a stash.

Here is a sampling of some of the most popular inexpensive diapering options available:

Flats

Flat diapers are an inexpensive but useful diapering option that can be used for a large range of sizes.  There are now “elite” flats that come in gorgeous fabrics but the budget minded cloth “diaperer” can make their own flats by using fabric that might already be in the home.

T-Shirt Flats-  Old t-shirts can be cut and made into flats.  T-shirt material will roll at the edge when cut but will usually not fray, which makes the t-shirt flat one of the best inexpensive options for those that do not feel comfortable sewing.  If absorbency is a concern an inexpensive doubler can be added for extra wetness protection.

Receiving blanket flats-  Thin receiving blankets are also an inexpensive solution.  They can be purchased new for as little as $2 a blanket and usually they can be found at tag sales or thrift stores for even less.

Flour Sack Towels- These are an option that have gained some popularity as people realize how versatile they can be and how easily they can be found.  Once you are done using them as a flat diaper then you can use them pad folded in a cover, as an insert or even as a doubler.

Covers

There are now cover options available to fit every type of budget.  But if those options are still out of reach there are some basic and functional cover options that require minimal investment.

Upcycled Wool- Wool sweaters can be used to make soakers and longies (wool pants.) With my fourth child I got busy recycling old wool sweaters to make longies to wear over CDs.  It was surprisingly easy and I ended preferring some of my upcycled wool to wool that I purchased new or had made.  Several soakers can be made from a large sweater and absorbency can be increased by sewing an additional layer of wool into the soaker area.

Fleece-  Fleece soakers and longies can be made inexpensively by upcycling old sweatshirts or buying yards of fleece while on sale.  Fleece can also be used as a stay dry liner.

Training Pant Covers-  Otherwise known as Gerber pull on (although I’m sure there are other brands) are a basic no frills pull on cover.  They cost about $2 a cover and are now being sold in prints as well.

The cloth diaper industry has gone through a transformation in recent times, but the changes and innovations have come with increased prices, or, in some cases reduced prices but questionable business ethics.  Fortunately, there are still ways that a parent can choose to cloth diaper while keeping out of pocket expenses to an absolute minimum.

 

Cding: The Quest for the Perfect Solutions

Posted 06-19-2015 at 10:22 AM by Agla

I came across the word “skincaretainment”  used to describe the enjoyment that skin care enthusiasts take in finding, testing and sharing information about skin care products.  I found the term amusing not only because the word fit exactly the concept of what draws people to skin care forums but because I felt that the concept had so much in common with our cloth diapering world.  We already have created the word “Cding,”  which is not only an abbreviation for cloth diapering, but is also a term that covers the experience, enjoyment and sometimes frustration of finding products that fulfill our specific cloth diapering needs.  While skin care enthusiasts look for the perfect facial wash or nighttime cream, cders look for the following perfect solutions:

The Night Time Solution-  This would be the perfect combination of diaper, soaker/insert and cover that allows baby to wake up in dry clothes and bedding.

The True AIO-  This would be the all-in-one diaper that would ideally take your child from the newborn stage all the way to potty training.

The Perfect Wash Routine- The perfect ratio of water: detergent accompanied by the most efficient number of rinses.

The Best Fitted- The fitted diaper with the most absorbency and the best fit.  This diaper would contain most blowouts but would not so bulky that it would be distracting.

The Best Cover- The cover that would be the most pleasing to the eye that lasts through repeated washings without losing efficacy.  It would also have the most effective closure system and the best fit so that they are comfortable to wear while still keeping everything in.

A parent may find the perfect solution only to have to start the quest again when the solution doesn’t work for the next child.  Still we continue our research and eager trips to the mailbox because for many of us cloth diapers are more than functional, they are also an entertaining hobby.

Winter ABC Game

Posted 05-7-2015 at 06:09 PM by Ellen

Learning the letters of the alphabet is an important skill for young children. Rather than drilling them with flash cards or having them learn their ABCs by rote, make learning the alphabet fun while teaching social skills like learning how to take turns. This ABC game incorporates learning about forest animals and a craft with letter recognition, so it will help keep your child interested. If you keep the activities fun, your child will continue to learn ABCs and other skills with greater enthusiasm.

This ABC game refers to a bear that lives in a cave. To introduce the activity to your children, you may want to start by reading a book about bears and their natural habitat. One example is, “We’re Going on a Bear Hunt,” by Michael Rosen. Your local public library will have other titles available. Read the book a few times so that you and your children are familiar with the story and that bears like to eat fish. (This will be important later on in the ABC game.)

Make a cave craft

Materials Needed:
• Small boxes (about the size of tea boxes)
• Brown construction paper
• Glue
• Plastic bear figure (Gummy bears are an option)

Instead of having the kids cut strips of brown construction paper to cover the boxes to make a bear cave, give them some practice for their fine motor skills by having them tear strips of the paper instead. Once they have enough paper to cover their boxes, they can glue them on.

It’s not necessary for the cave to look wrapped up neatly like a Christmas gift. It’s a cave, after all, and there are no perfect corners in nature. If you have a child who is a perfectionist, reassure him or her that the idea is to cover the box with the strips, but not to make it look “too” neat.

Once the bear cave has been completed, you can use it for the Winter ABC Game.

Winter ABC Game

Materials Needed:
• Blue construction paper
• ABC fish (magnetic letters) – you can also draw letters on paper or cut them out of magazines for the game

This game is for two players. Each child takes a turn being the bear. At everyone’s turn, the bear growls as loud as he or she can and says, “I’m hungry for a J (or any letter that is displayed on the table) fish”. The other player finds it and gives it to the bear, which is then placed in his or her cave.

• Next, the second player has a turn and gets to be the bear. He or she has the chance to growl and ask for a letter that is in the “water”. Players may need encouragement to wait patiently while the other person looks for the letter that has been requested and not to “help” or interrupt.

• This activity can be varied by using numbers instead of letters. Small figures of animals or people could be used to teach vocabulary about wild animals, farm animals or different professions. You can also use colored stones, pompoms or other small items to mix up the game and make it more challenging for your children. Write some simple words on cards to practice sight recognition once your children are old enough to learn to read.

• This ABC game is simple, yet can be used in a number of ways, using most any animal. Young children will likely have a lot of fun being the bear and being able to “roar” when it’s their turn – something normally not encouraged to do at home.

You can even expand the game to talk about what types of animals the bear would and wouldn’t be likely to see when he emerges from his cave in the spring. This simple game can be the foundation for a lot of learning for your children, starting with their ABCs.

Snow Salt Tray Sensory Play

Posted 05-7-2015 at 06:06 PM by Ellen

Are you looking for a way that your children can play in snow without the hassle of getting them dressed in snowsuits, boots, hats and mittens? It’s easy – just make your own snow salt tray for sensory play. This activity can be used in a number of ways to keep it interesting and it’s something that your children will find soothing.

Why sensory play is important to children
Sensory play is not simply about touching items. Through these types of activities, children learn how to examine objects, categorize them and ultimately make sense of the world around them. This is where they learn about different textures, scents and tastes.

Your child will no doubt spend some of his or her time developing gross motor skills by walking, running and jumping, but developing fine motor skills is also important. These skills allow us to perform activities like writing, doing up buttons and laces, using a keyboard and other skills.

Sensory play helps children develop these skills by allowing them to practice their fine motor skills. Through their play, they are opening and closing their hand to pick up objects, pinching things between a thumb and forefinger, pouring, manipulating sand or “snow” in this case by allowing it to run through their fingers. All of these motions are controlled, which takes practice if a child wants to be able to move an object or the snow where he or she wants it to go.

Kids are completely focused on what they want to do during the activity, rather than the actual skills involved in making their hands perform it. If they need more time or they have to repeat something to get the results they want, there is no particular pressure on them. They just try again. These activities allow them to keep on practicing these important skills without realizing they may need to work on them. Learning while having fun is one of the best ways to develop any skill.

Making a snow salt tray
Materials Needed:
• Epsom or table salt
• Small animal and bird figures, cars and trucks, buildings, people, shapes, trees, etc.
• Colored blue glass gems or marbles/construction paper (to make water)
• Scissors or markers/pencil crayons
• Container at least two inches deep

You’ll need a container so that the “snow” doesn’t make a mess in your home. Anything that you have on hand can be used – a mixing bowls, flat cereal bowls, a deep platter or baking dish, a divided serving tray, etc. Simply pour about an inch of salt into the bottom of the container – indoor snow!

If you want to add a water feature with your snow, use colored blue glass gems or marbles and place them in a separate container or section of your container. You could also have your children color or cut up a piece of blue construction paper to represent water.

Playing with a snow salt tray
There are many ways children can play with the snow salt tray, so let your little one get busy!

• They can tell a story or create an adventure by making hills and valleys out of the salt. The animals and birds might enjoy walking or jumping in the snow or taking a dip in the “water”.

• During play, your child is touching the Epsom salt, feeling what it’s like to have it run through his or her fingers. These textures are important and many children enjoy this type of activity.

• You can also use the snow salt in a different way by hiding some small objects in a large bowl of salt and inviting your child to find them using their hands in a type of snowy treasure hunt. Can they identify a shape or a small toy only by touch? Try it and have some fun with it.

• With the variety of figures and objects that can be incorporated into the “snow”, this activity can be changed in a number of ways. If you are reading books about snow or life in the Arctic or Antarctic, you may want to incorporate similar figures to the snow salt tray to bring the book characters to life. Your child will find it easier to relate to the idea of animals and people who live closer to the North and South Poles by connecting such stories to creative play.

My First Pet: Choosing the Right First Pet for your Child

Posted 05-7-2015 at 06:04 PM by Ellen

At some point, most children ask to have a pet of their own. Before you make a decision, you’ll have to decide whether the pet is going to be a family pet (where everyone will be involved in caring for it), or if caring for the animal will be mainly your child’s responsibility.

If the idea is for your child to have a pet of his or her own, keep in mind that young children are probably not mature enough to take on the responsibility of caring for a dog or a cat independently. You are probably better off starting with a smaller animal first.

What to consider in choosing a pet
Your child may say that he or she wants to adopt a certain type of animal without thinking about either the responsibilities involved or whether it’s a good fit for your household. The best approach to take when looking at bringing a pet into your home is to look at your lifestyle and figure out what type of pet would most easily fit into it.

Since you know your child best, you’ll also want to take his or her personality into consideration. Some pets require more care and attention than others and you’ll want to make sure that you choose one that your child will be able to get along with.

Here are some questions to ask yourself to help you get an idea of what type of pet would be best for your child:

• How much time per day/per week does your child realistically have to spend taking care of a pet?
• Will your child be able to follow a feeding/watering schedule for a pet? Would you need to remind him or her about it or step in to look after it?
• Will your child be able to clean out a cage, a fish bowl or an aquarium (with some assistance) regularly?
• Where will the pet be housed in your home?
• Will your child expect to handle his or her pet? How will your child get instruction about proper handling of his or her pet, if appropriate? Will you be available to supervise interaction between your child and the new pet?
• How much are you prepared to spend on a new pet per month or per year on food, accommodation, toys, veterinary expenses, etc.?
• Does your child have any allergies or sensitivities that need to be accommodated when choosing a pet?

First pet options
Small animals are considered good first pets for children and there are several options available. Here are some examples:

Guinea Pigs
Guinea pigs are rather timid and easy to handle. These animals are happiest living in pairs. They very rarely bite, which makes them a good choice for young children. Because Guinea pigs are quite active, they do need a reasonable amount of space and they require fresh fruits and vegetables, with a Vitamin C supplement to be part of their diet.

Hamsters
Hamsters come in a variety of sizes and actually prefer living the single life. You can place them in a smaller cage than a Guinea pig and they will be quite content. Keep in mind that hamsters are nocturnal and – unfortunately – have very short life spans compared to other pets (about 3 years). If you decide on a hamster, prepare yourself for an inevitable discussion about life and death with your child in the not-too-distant future.

Leopard Geckos
These colorful geckos make excellent first pets for older children, as they’re very docile and easy to care for. Choose an older gecko, if possible – they’re far more tolerant of being handled than a younger one. If you haven’t had the life and death discussion with your child, do it before choosing a gecko, as they eat live crickets and worms. Also, If your child is looking for a pet he or she can cuddle or roughhouse with, this is not the way to go.

Birds
Smaller birds – such as parakeets – make good pets. They’re intelligent, attractive and social enough to learn how to vocalize when in regular contact with your child. They do require daily care and attention and cannot tolerate rough handling, so you’ll have to decide whether your child would suit this type of delicate pet.

Fish
Fish are also good choices for first pets. They can be relatively inexpensive and small tanks don’t require a lot of space. While the relationship between owner and pet is decidedly one-sided, a fish or two will give your child an idea of what caring for another living creature is like.

Managing Dog/Child Interactions for Success

Posted 05-7-2015 at 06:03 PM by Ellen

People often think young children and pets — especially dogs — don’t mix. This is not necessarily true, but for the pairing to be harmonious, parents have to teach their children how to handle and treat the family dog with respect.

For the most part, how a child treats an animal is similar to the “do unto others” rule our mothers taught us as children. The fact that the “others” happens to have four legs and a tail shouldn’t matter in the least – they still deserve our respect. Below are some tips as to how you can establish and maintain harmony between your kids and your pets.

Choosing your dog
Finding a kid-friendly dog breed is the first step in establishing harmonious pet ownership, as some dogs are more patient and enjoy roughhousing more than others. If you plan to have kids and dogs in the same home, it is best to choose a dog that is more apt to handle inadvertent ear and tail tugs, as well as being treated occasionally as a fashion model.

Breeds such as Golden Retrievers, Newfoundlands, Greyhounds and larger terriers are historically patient and good-natured, especially with children. If you get a younger dog, teach your child that a puppy is a baby dog and that the puppy needs to be treated gently.

For older dogs, it is a good idea to learn as much about their history as possible before bringing the dog home. Plan a play date at the shelter or foster home so your child and the dog can get to know each other in a neutral environment.

Training your human
Once you bring your new family member home, it’s time to lay down the law on behavior.

• Never allow your child to mistreat or purposely antagonize the dog. Even the most laid-back dog will only deal with constant tail tugs and ear pulls for so long. Children should learn at a young age that these things are not nice and are painful for the dog. This prevents kids from developing bad habits that could cause serious consequences. While Fido might not seem to care about his tail being pulled, someone else’s dog might not like it and could show his displeasure in a very negative manner.

• Teach your kids about a dog’s body language. Most people know when a dog is happy and when he’s angry, but many don’t recognize other emotions such as fear. Fear is what leads a dog to bite or attack, so knowing what a scared dog looks like can help prevent an unfortunate encounter. Also, knowing what might cause fear in a dog can help improve kid and dog relations. You and your children should learn why a dogs pins his ears back, tucks her tail between her legs or whines. All of these types of body language are clues as to how the dog is feeling.

• Don’t encourage bad behavior in your younger kids. Yes, it is cute when your toddler wants to ride the doggie, but it is still a bad idea. Smiling, laughing and taking pictures for your social media page just reinforces to your child that this kind of behavior is acceptable.

• As hard as it might be, you have to stifle your natural urge to laugh and explain why doggie should not be ridden. Older kids should know better – but if they don’t, admonish them accordingly for participating in such behavior. It will decrease the chance of something bad happening later.

Teaching your kids that dogs are beings that deserve respect and gentle treatment helps keep harmony in your home. Your pet should get some training too. A good obedience class will help your dog learn how to handle stressful situations.

If you have older children, have them accompany you and the dog to obedience classes. The dog learns how to behave, your kid knows what is acceptable and what is not; it’s a win-win situation that helps create a happy kid and pet-friendly home.