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 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.

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 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.

Diaper Swapers

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.

Five Ways to Calm your Child Before Bed

Posted 05-7-2015 at 05:49 PM by Ellen

Do you find it challenging to get your child settled down to get to bed at night? Kids of all ages often find it difficult to “switch off” at the end of the day. Their days are so full that they need time to be able to wind down or they won’t be able to settle down and get the rest that they need.

Parents attempting to put a child to bed who simply is not ready to settle down will usually run up against a brick wall of non-cooperation. Your son or daughter will resist staying in his or her room and bedtime will eventually turn into a battleground.

Setting up a routine of calming activities before bedtime will help your child learn different strategies to settle down for the night. Here are a few ideas to help you end that inevitable and stressful battle of wills.


Children of toddler age and up can work on an age-appropriate puzzle before bed. Sitting down and thinking about where each piece should be placed forces them to slow down their movements and focus their attention on a quiet activity.

In the case of a younger child, a simple wooden puzzle is a good choice. Older kids can work on a more complicated puzzle that they may not be able to finish in an evening, giving them a feeling of anticipation for “puzzle time” every evening until it’s completed.

Audio books

Toddlers and kindergarten-aged children always enjoy listening to stories – it’s another way to help focus their minds in one direction – and this activity they can do with a minimum of help. Your local library will usually stock a variety of age-appropriate CDs that can be borrowed for a few days. This will keep the selection fresh and give your child something to look forward to at bedtime.

Do let your child have some say about choosing the titles you bring home; being part of the decision-making process will pique their interest in the stories before bedtime.

Quiet play with a favorite toy

Your child may just need a little extra time to settle down by playing with a special “bedtime” toy, such as a favorite stuffed animal, doll or car. Make sure the toy is something that can be played with quietly in order to avoid over stimulation.

Younger children love having a “cuddle buddy” in their bed or crib, but should not play with toys that sing or light up at bedtime. Your daughter may want to spend time with a favorite doll you can settle in next to her with her own “bedtime” blanket. If your little boy loves cars and trucks, help him make a special “road” mat out of cardboard that is to be used only before bed.


Reading is a great way to get kids of all ages settled down for the night. Even toddlers can learn to lull themselves to sleep by thumbing through a few of their favorite picture books. The act of focusing on the book helps calm even the busiest little mind.

Older children who are reading independently can have a special shelf where they keep books that are reserved for their quiet time before bed. Help your child choose books that hold an interest for them – whether it’s a popular series or books by a particular author. The important thing is to encourage an interest in reading at a young age and the time before bed is the perfect time to do so.

Keeping a journal

School-aged children can unwind by writing about their day in a journal. Unlike schoolwork, their journal should have no format, no formula and no restrictions. Allow them to “unload” their day into it every night – no matter if it includes drawings, writing or colorful stickers. Whatever is in there makes sense to your child. Be sure to have a number of pens, colored markers and notebooks on hand for your child to jot down whatever comes to mind.

Making the transition from the activities of the day to going to bed isn’t always easy for children. Allowing them some “quiet time” every night before bed will help them relax enough so getting settled down for the night will be a much easier process – especially if the routine is established when they’re very young. You’ll end up with a less stressful bedtime, which will only benefit the entire family.

Looking Back At My Parenting Style Before Children

Posted 05-4-2015 at 09:09 AM by Matrivine


Do you know who can be the most critical of parenting? People who don’t have children. I’m sorry to say that I was no different. I would look at parents struggling with their children in private and public places. I would analyze their parenting style. And then I would wander off to future land where I would deal with my children in a more productive, less damaging and much more selfless way.

Yeah… I miss thinking I was going to revolutionize the art of parenting.  Now I’m a real parent to real children and much to my surprise I remember all those moments of judgement. While ashamed of my judgmental point of view, I’m glad I was paying attention. I needed some of the lessons these parents taught me.

The Good That Comes Of The Mommy Wars

Posted 04-30-2015 at 12:47 PM by Matrivine


I know. What good can come of war? What could all this social chaos and finger pointing lead to that would be beneficial? Well, the mommy wars may be a war of ideas, but it’s a war none the less, and war has a dark secret with a glimmer of hope. War is a catalyst for advancement and social change.

Technological Advancement

Like any war the mommy wars have resulted in technological advancement. Don’t believe me? We have baby monitors that have video as well as sound. We have five point buckling security in our car seats. We have created a safer crib, a safer bouncer, and ways to protect our children around the home.

Would any of this happened without the mommy wars? Perhaps, but the progress would have been slower. The pressure to have such items would not have been as severe. In reality our desire to be better parents have resulted in technological advancements by companies trying to cater to the grow “protect my child child” industry.

Goodbye Good Cop, Bad Cop Parenting

Posted 04-7-2015 at 12:47 PM by Matrivine

Parent Mother Child Discipline

Why Do I Always Have To Be The Bad Guy?

Imagine that you come home from work and have missed your family all day. Then the first thing you have to do when you get home is go up to junior’s room and straighten him out. It’s not fun for you and it teaches your child to lack respect for the babysitter or stay at home parent. It also associates your homecoming with a negative effect for your child. What can you do about it?

Discuss Discipline With Your Partner

The first thing you need to do is discuss what type of rules need to be instated with your spouse or babysitter. Discuss what type of discipline is appropriate in each situation and, in the case of the babysitter, when a parent should be handling discipline.

Bonding With a Difficult Baby

Posted 04-2-2015 at 12:39 PM by Matrivine

postpartum depression blog image

As excited as you are about the new addition to your family, you dread the wailing at night that comes with your bundle of joy. You find yourself wondering why you thought you could be a parent and worrying that you aren’t giving your little one the best mommy they could have. Sometimes you are even worried that you may not like your baby. As soon as you let yourself think that you feel guilty.

To the new mom out there that feels this way, you need to know that you are not alone. Your sleep is being constantly disrupted and your body healing and possibly even chasing after your new baby’s older siblings. Anyone would feel ill equipped to bond positively with a crying baby, but it can be done.

Time Out

Not for your little one. Take a time out for you. Almost every book or blog I have read on being a new parent says it’s okay to put the baby down in a safe place (like a carrier or a crib) and take a moment to breathe. Those five or ten minutes can help you clear your mind of the negative feelings and give your nerves time to un-knot.

The Eternal Prefold

Posted 03-30-2015 at 06:27 PM by Banana Cat


Prefolds have been around for quite some time. Before prefolds, flat diapers—squares of cotton that were folded and pinned onto baby—were the most common way of diapering in Europe and the United States. However, one issue with flats was the time needed to fold them into the proper shape and thickness for baby. Folding one flat is fast. Having to fold six to a dozen flats or more a day, every single day, for every diaper change for a year or more, easily tired out families who were already swamped with cooking every meal from scratch and hand washing the laundry.

In the 1950s, the prefold was invented when someone had the bright idea to pre-fold and sew together a flat diaper. The prefold still had to be pinned into place, but the more time-consuming part of folding all the layers together was no longer an issue. Although cloth diapers have gone through many more innovations in the last sixty-five years, prefolds are still extremely popular. Part of the reason is that they are still fairly cheap compared to other cloth diapers—really, only flat diapers are generally less expensive than cotton prefolds—and the traditional cotton prefold tends to last forever. Ok, not really forever, since cotton is a natural material that breaks down organically, but they tend to last far beyond their uses as diapers.

Slightly Unorthodox Children’s Room Décor Ideas

Posted 03-23-2015 at 04:58 PM by Banana Cat

We never really had a “theme” for either of our kids’ rooms—mostly because neither of them have ever had their own room. However, after my daughter turned 3 I caught her hammering a push pin into the wall with her toy hammer so she could hang up a photo of a tiger we took at the zoo. I realized that she was starting to want to express herself on her walls—who doesn’t?—but none of the mass-produced wall art at our local stores seemed to catch her attention. So we turned to some far less orthodox, but really fun, ways to decorate her side of the room.

Their Own Art


The tiger picture that started it all…and a heart she made in preschool.

Craft Tutorial: Poster Board Animal Wings

Posted 03-20-2015 at 06:37 PM by Banana Cat


Ok, I really forget why my daughter suddenly decided she needed wings. Not just any wings would do, either—they had to be bat wings. I reached under the bed for the plastic bin that serves as our very lame dress-up costume repository, only to discover that we had no wings at all. I’ll pick up a bunch of costumes at Goodwill for cheap after Halloween, I had thought but never actually followed through on. So instead we made some.

Are you in my exact same situation? Never fear! Whip up some animal wings at home really quickly, and you get the bonus of your child helping out, as well.


  • Poster board
  • Scissors
  • Decorative materials
  • String

Step One