Posted in Guest Posts

Guest Post: Tips for Parents Before They Send Their Kids Off to Camp or Daycare

Today, I’m super excited to feature a guest post by Alex Robbins (thank you!).  With registration to summer camps on its way, this is a must read!  I hope you find it as informative and enjoyable as I did.

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Tips for Parents Before They Send Their Kids Off to Camp or Daycare

By Alex Robbins

Sending your kids to a child care program – whether it be a summer camp or a daycare – can be a great idea for both parent and child. Kids can experience new things, make new friends, and learn new skills while parents can have some much-needed relaxation time. It’s a win-win situation – if you make the right decisions. Here are some essential tips for parents on what to do and consider before sending their kids off to camp or daycare.

Talk to you child and figure out the right type of camp

If your child isn’t ready for the full sleepaway camp experience, it’s important to figure that out before you send them on a trip that could end up disastrous. Conversely, if your child is ready for an adventure it would be a shame to bore them with a minimal camping experience. Does your child want to stay local, or venture to a camp that’s further away? Is your child ok with all-day daycare? Or do they need half-day care to work their way up to being apart from you for that long? These questions are vital to knowing the right situation to put your child in over the summer. Don’t exclude your kid from the conversation. In the end it’s all on you as a parent, but your child is the one who’s going. Their input should not be ignored.

Know how to avoid bad programs

There’s nothing worse than spending your money on a summer camp or daycare center and finding out later that the facility isn’t taking good care of your child. Maybe the program is uninspired, the facilities are dirty or under-maintained, or the staff is unqualified and unattentive. It’s worth it to take the time to do your research beforehand, so you can weed out any bad apples.

One thing that should send up major red flags is the program’s child to caretaker ratio. If there are too many children and not enough adults, it’s very unlikely that your child will receive the proper amount of attention. Another thing to look for is accreditation. Some non accredited centers are just fine – even wonderful – but you really need to dig deep to figure it out. Accredited programs have gone through rigorous tests to ensure they are up to snuff.

Talk to the staff at the camp or center. Ask how they are chosen. What are their qualifications? Is there an open-door policy, as in there are no restrictions on when you can show up to check on your child? If not, they may have something to hide.

Talk to your kids about possible dangers

It helps to be prepared – even over-prepared. Before you send your child away to be in the care of others, you must talk with them about some potential dangers that could arise.

One talk you need to have is the one about alcohol abuse. It’s important to set clear boundaries for your child, so if the moment arises they will have your voice in the back of their head. It’s also important to take an understanding approach, however, that doesn’t scare or shame. Your child needs to feel comfortable being honest with you, and that can’t happen if they are constantly in fear of punishment.

Another talk you should have is the physical abuse talk. It’s a tough subject to bring up, but it’s paramount to ensuring your kids have a safe and fun time while away. Let your kids know that there are no such things as secrets when it comes to their interactions with adults and other kids while away. Be frank with your kids, so they will know how to accurately describe any situation that made them uncomfortable, should the unfortunate situation arise.

You wouldn’t take a vacation without doing the proper research and making specific plans. Sending your child on a “vacation” is no different. Take the time to pick the right facility and talk to your kids about any potential dangers – even if they seem far-fetched.

Alex Robbins is a father to three lively boys who believes that home safety is a number one priority when you are around this much energy and curiosity! He is involved with a community of parents at Safety Today that have come together to help promote safety in the home and in the community.

Posted in Parenting

What’s Your Cleaning Routine?

Ask my mom how tidy my room was when I was growing up and she’d probably either give you an eyeroll or break out in some form of maniacal laughter.  (Actually, she’d probably tactfully say that it wasn’t one of my strengths but that I had plenty of other strengths) #gottaloveyourmama.

Ask my mom how tidy my house is now that I’m 31 with two and a half kids and she’d probably tactfully say that I’m a great mom and that it’s a good thing that I’m able to let go of the little things.

The truth is, I suck.  Like seriously suck.

I know how to clean, I know how to tidy up, I know it’s important.  I know the tricks.  But darn, I just can’t get my act together.

Problem #1: I am a serious procrastinator.

Last year, when I was still on maternity leave, I figured out a method that actually worked for me.  I started by decluttering (I used the 31 day decluttering guide I found on the Living Well Spending Less website).  Then, I scoured the Web and found a whole bunch of example cleaning schedules.  I mashed a few together, put them on paper and voilà, I had myself a cleaning schedule that worked for me.

Since I couldn’t just do everything in one day as I used to in my pre-kid life, I found that there were two general methods to go about keeping a house clean and tidy.  The first was to go at it room by room (as in, each day, you would tackle a different room).  The second was to go at it task by task.  I opted for the latter as I found it more logical to take care of all the laundry (or window/mirror cleaning, or mopping/vacuuming, or dusting) on the same day.

And it worked!  I was able to keep a clean and tidy house and not go totally nuts with the seemingly monumental-feeling task.

But then, life caught up to me.  I had to go back to work.

Problem #2: I work full-time and often have to bring work home.

Suddenly, I ended up going back to work full-time, juggling two toddlers and becoming pregnant.  (That’s when the procrastinator in me kicked in and determined that the kids, my sanity, some quality time with my partner and my sleep were more important than the tidiness of my house).

But boy oh boy.  Besides the fact that my house regularly looks like it was hit by a tornado, I find myself with horrors like this when I dare look under the couch in the living room.

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This is the most recent stash that I found hiding under the couch.  Notice the can of baby corn to the right which is indicative of my daughter’s newfound passion for emptying the pantry.

Of course, I also find myself picking up toddler boxers all the time because, you know, why play with toys or the food in the pantry when you can just empty out your brother’s boxers and adorn yourself with them (yet another of my daughter’s passions).

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Problem #3: I have an 18 month old and a 3 year old.

Luckily, I do have help.  My partner and brother and the ones responsible for doing the dishes.  We also pretty much split supper duty and my partner’s pretty good at sweeping the floors.

Honestly, I am able to live amongst clutter.  I am fine with seeing dust accumulate on my bookshelves.  I can relax on my couch and see toys littering the floor.  But I would like to become better at housekeeping.  I want to find a balance between being a good teacher, being a good mom and being a good housekeeper without going nuts or burning myself out because…

Problem #4: I’m a perfectionist.

And so, dear readers, I turn to you.

Do you have any suggestions?  What does your cleaning routine look like?  How do you juggle your different responsibilities?

Posted in Guest Posts

Write for me Wednesday: Preparing Your Young Ones who are Going to School for the First Time

Preparing Your Young Ones who are Going to School for the First Time

First day of school

Your child’s early years are extremely critical in his/her development because it lays the foundation for being ready at life. And this is backed up by science. Recently, researchers have learned that the human brain develops expansively, and is most receptive to learning, between 0-3 years of age. This is why early education plays a big role.

This connection, this link between rapid brain development and peak learning receptivity has spawned many early childhood programs that incorporate books, videos, and activities to maximize this window. What’s great about this is you can now start preparing your children at home to make them successful later on, specifically for school. As a parent, there’s nothing more fulfilling than to see your child able to overcome challenges in his/her life.

Here are some practical ways to prepare yourself and your young ones to attend school for the first time.

Enrol your child to a day care or playgroup.

The closest thing to a structured and formal setting of a school is a day care or a playgroup. In that environment, your child will be able to learn new things and interact with different kinds of people—which he/she will be doing plentifully and more regularly at school.

When choosing a school, tag your child along.

A lot of uneasiness in a child stems from his/her inability to cope up with the sudden change in environment. That’s why it makes sense to let your child see which school he/she might go into before the “first day” starts. This will help your child get familiar with the place and the routine.

Share your own “first day” memories.

If your child already has a concept of “going to school” because you enrolled him or her in a day care, just keep reminding him/her what it was like. But if your child doesn’t have this frame of reference to keep him/her in check, then perhaps the best way to go at it is to share your own “first day” experiences. The very least that this could do is to help your child at setting expectations and that what he/she feels is completely normal. Dr. Diane Levin of Wheelock College said: “Talking about the basic sequence of the day will help your child make a mental movie of what to expect. Kids form pictures in their minds, and reviewing the process in detail will make things more familiar and less scary on the first day of school.”

Talk about “going to school” with your child more often.

Opening up the topic of “going to school” with your child more often can ease up the tension brought about by introducing a big shift in his/her life. Engage in conversation by question-and-answer will help your child imagine what school will be like, and this will also reveal what your child’s innermost thoughts about school are.

Start going to bed earlier.

One or two weeks before school begins, start practicing a stricter bedtime schedule with your child. This will help him/her cope up with the time demands of schooling. Begin by waking your child up 15 minutes earlier every day and going to bed 15 minutes earlier each night.

Learn about the drop-off policy.

Most schools have a drop-off policy. Find out if they allow parents to walk their children into the classroom and how long they can stay. If you think your child will need extra time to adjust, talk to the teacher or administrator before the school starts. But I suggest that you stick to their policy if it won’t cause too much trouble.

Transform their nervousness to excitement.

It’s completely normal to feel the nerves when you’re presented with something entirely new to you. The best thing you can do about this is to divert that energy to a more positive one. For example, let your child pick out what bag or lunchbox he wants. When shopping for school supplies, let your child find the items in the store and check them off on your list.

Prep yourself too.

Most first days can be emotionally charged for both mother and child. If you can’t hold it together, how much more can your child hold up on his own? Plan and play all the possible scenarios that can happen on the first day. Think about what your child needs in a goodbye. What will be most helpful — a quick goodbye, or five minutes of cuddle time with you?

You can also read books about starting school. Some good ones include “The Berenstain Bears Go to School” by Stan and Jan Berenstain, “Annabelle Swift, Kindergartner” by Amy Schwartz, “First Day Jitters” by Julie Dannenberg, “I Am Absolutely Too Small for School” by Lauren Child, and “Get Ready for Second Grade, Amber Brown” by Paula Danzinger.

About the Author

Joanna is an entrepreneur mum blessed with 3 lovely children. She lives in Dubai with her family, and loves to travel and cook healthy meals for her kids. Joanna regularly shares her parenting tips and experiences with Afterschool.ae, an online platform listing all UAE kid’s activities accessible by parents thru web and mobile.

Posted in Write for me Wednesday

Write For Me Wednesday: Pool Safety Tips for Parents of Young Children

Today I have a super interesting and important post to share with you from Patricia Sarmiento who founded publichealthcorps.org.  Patricia is an avid swimmer and runner. She channels her love of fitness and wellness into blogging about health and health-related topics. She played sports in high school and college and continues to make living an active lifestyle a goal for her and her family. She lives with her husband, two children, and their shih tzu in Maryland.

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Via Flickr – by erkillian5

Pool Safety Tips for Parents of Young Children

Sometimes I feel like I grew up in the water. I started swimming at a very young age, and I wanted my children to love the water as much as I do. As a result, I introduced both my children to the pool when they were still babies. But that said, I was well aware of how dangerous the water can be for little ones.

Before I put my son in the pool for the first time, I wanted to be sure I was well-educated in water safety for babies and toddlers. If you’re the parent of a little one and you want to learn about about pool safety, try this all-inclusive guide to recreational swimming safety. Then, take a look at the tips below. These are a few of the essentials for not only keeping babies and toddlers safe around water but helping them develop confidence in the water.

Keep child within arm’s reach. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends using “touch supervision” for children under the age of 5. If little ones are in or around the water, always be within arms reach.

Start lessons early. When I started my son in swim lessons as a toddler, some of my friends and family thought I was nuts. Even my mom told me she thought I was wasting my money. But I insisted and here’s why: As this Brain World article points out, a National Institute of Health study found that swim lessons for kids ages 1 – 4 can reduce their chances of drowning by as much as 88 percent. That was enough to convince me!

Avoid using floaties. My daughter didn’t take to the water as well as my son. She hated toddler swim lessons and after two classes we had to abandon them completely. She was just too miserable. I tell you this to let you know that I, too, am guilty of letting my children use flotation devices. The one way we could get my daughter to enjoy the water was to let her float in her PFD. That said, as Water Safety Magazine explains flotation devices, such as floaties, can lead to bad habits that may make learning to swim later on more difficult.

Learn CPR. A few summers ago all the parents on our street made a pact—we would all become CPR certified. A couple of houses on my street have pools and several of us have young children. We knew our kids would be swimming a lot, and we wanted the peace of mind of knowing CPR-certified adults would always be present. So, we worked together, babysitting for each other while we attended classes until we were all certified. To this day, we all regularly renew our certification. It is something that is relatively easy to do and it can make such a big difference. Check out PoolSafely.gov to learn more about how to find a class in your area.

With the right supervision and knowledge, children of any age can be safe around the water. Keep these tips in mind, slather the kids in sunscreen, and have a great summer!

Posted in Parenting

The Toddler & The Stomach Flu

Step 1: put a diaper on him and tell him that big boys wear diapers when their tummies are sick.

Step 2: put the iPad mini in a medium sized ziploc bag (it juuuuuuust fits) and see if it works (it does!).

Step 3: put a special sick tummy blanket on his favourite spot of the couch.

Step 4: put the toddler on the special spot on the couch with the iPad.

Step 5: cross your fingers and hope that the baby doesn’t get it.

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Posted in Parenting

Did You Know? Winter Car Seat Safety

A quick note on comments before you start reading this post.  Since this seems to be a touchy subject and that parents on either side of the discussion can be quite, um, passionate, about their point of view.  Because of this, I reserve the right to moderate or delete any comment that I consider to be inappropriate in its tone or content.  We are all adults, it is quite possible to defend one’s point of view in a respectful manner.

Thank you.

***

I’ve been debating whether I should actually write this post or not.  You see, writing it has the potential to earn me a fair bit of flak because it is a subject, just as a few others in parenting, that seems to have two well-defined and opposite camps.  Anyways, here I go.

What you need to know is this: I am not perfect.  I know, shocker, right (*fake gasp*).  I am also known to compulsively follow rules and compulsively read about a subject that grasps my attention until my brain is about to explode.

Did I mention that I was a bit compulsive?

A short (read: very short) while ago, as I was compulsively researching the best harness to booster seat for my toddler (’cause, y’know, the baby is getting just a biiiiiit heavy and big for her bucket seat), I came across a post that made the voice inside my head go: “say whaaaaaat?!?!”

Just like that ^^^
Just like that ^^^

You see, after about 2 years, 3 months, 1 week and 6 days (give or take a few hours) of being a mother, I learned that to properly secure my kids in their car seats, I should strap them in sans winter coat.

Go ahead, say it: “Bad mama!”

(For the record, adults should forgo the bulky coats too).

Now, in all seriousness though, the arguments behind the information that I should not strap my children in their car seats with their winter coats on makes perfect sense (you’ll see why later on).  The revelation, however, has left me a few things that I have trouble wrapping my head around.

1.  Why was I never told this?  I mean, I know it’s my job to be informed about the finer and not so finer points of parenting (ie: safety), but I very honestly had no idea about this.  Granted,  I did not read any of my car seat installation manuals (in which this point is covered) cover to cover.  I read what I needed to make sure that my child would fit in the seat and read what I needed to securely secure in a secure fashion (sorry, sorry, I’ll stop) the car seats in our cars.  BUT, it would seem that it would have been pertinent to know this a little earlier in this parenting gig.  I mean, at the hospital, they talk about shaken baby syndrome, they talk about putting your littles down on their backs to sleep, they make sure you are able to feed and bathe your child properly and they don’t allow you to leave the hospital until they have seen your newborn strapped into his/her car seat to make sure you know how to transport them safely.  But never do they say anything about coats and car seats at the hospital (or anywhere else for that matter).

2.  Why have I never seen anyone do this?  It gets cold where I live.  I’m talking -25 Celcius plus windchill.  And the cold lasts for several months.  Despite the fact that parents seem to be split 50/50 on the subject, never in my whole two years of parenting have I ever seen anyone strap their kiddo in their car seat without their coats on unless it was a baby that was in a bucket seat with a winter cover.

3.  How can I manage this with two young kiddos and, more importantly, do I want to manage this?

Now, I’ve read a few (read: a lot of) articles on the subject recently and they all include tips and tricks to do this.  I thought I’d share some of them with you.

  • Park you vehicle in a heated garage.
  • Buy a cozywoggle (advertised as the only winter coat that is car seat safe) for each of your kids.
  • Put the coat on the wrong side (ie: zipper in the back).  Once in the car, sit your kid, unzip, remove arms from sleeves, buckle up your kid and keep the coat on top of him/her to keep warm.
  • Remove coat once in the car and cover kiddo(s) with a blanket kept inside the vehicle.
  • Dress you littles in enough layers to keep them warm for their trek to the vehicle.
An example of layering.  Photo used with permission.
An example of layering. Photo used with permission.
  • Let your car warm up in the driveway before putting the kiddos in (for those of you who live in a place with anti-idling laws, I’ve read that there is a caveat that allows for idling for up to 15 minutes in a 1h period if the temperature is below or above a certain point).
  • Move to a place that doesn’t have winter.  (It would seem that Malta is one of the most temperate spots in the world)

Now, these are all great tips and I could use any one or combination of them, BUT, do I want to?  I’m trying to imagine the logistics of it all.

If I want to warm up my car ahead of time, that means that I have to leave the toddler and 6 month old alone in the house while I run outside to start my car.

If I want to put their coats on and them remove them once in the car, I still have to expose them to (sometimes) umbearibly cold winds as I keep the car door open to strap them in.  (And though the cozywoggle really is a wonderfully innovative product, I still have to unzip and expose my kids’ arms and torso to the chilly temps as I strap them in).

I don’t have access to a heated garage (unless we demolish the wall that’s separating it in two).

Oy!

In all fairness, I could manage pulling this off when I have a long road ahead of me.  For instance, I am considering (“considering” being the key word in the sentence) doing this when I make the 30 minute drive to and from daycare.  Maybe.

Methinks I can at least get baby girl out of the convertible infant car seat and back into her heavy muscle-making bucket seat, throwing a blanket over her until the weather gets warmer (now that I’ve removed her winter sleep sack, she should fit).

But when I have quite a few errands to run and I am alone with my two littles?  No, I won’t do it.

Food For Thought.

I thought I’d share this with you.  I put Amélie in her winter snowsuit in her bucket seat and tightened the straps until they passed the pinch test.  Then, without loosening the straps, I got her out of her snowsuit and put her back in the bucket seat where she failed the pinch test…miserably…

What do you do, coat or no?  Did you know about this?  If so, how/when did you hear about it?

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Posted in Parenting

Write For Me Wednesday:

Today, I have a great guest post on travel with kids.  I was so eager to read this because I haven’t found the courage to bring my son along for a long-distance trip yet and this post doesn’t disappoint!

We’re All Going On A Summer Holiday… With Kids

It’s almost summer and you may be planning on taking a trip. Not everyone has a passport, so if you’ll be needing one, now’s the time to get it. But it’s not always smooth sailing from there on. You want to have the time of your life, and your kids do, too… but they’ve probably got other ideas about it.

Handling Your Money Worries

Saving for that dream trip was hard back before you had kids, now that they’re here? It can seem almost impossible! It’s tricky, but it can be done. Once you’ve got it altogether, you’re going to want to spend it wisely! There are some great deals out there, for example, Kayak is amazing, because it allows you to opt for comparing just hotels, airfare on its own, or a package deal. You can even get car hire!

When you’ve chosen where you’re venturing, you’ll need to order currency. As a rule, most countries are different, so do your research! Take credit/debit as back up, but remember, using ATMS or charging things overseas could be costly. It sucks but, if you get really stuck, you can ask people back home for help. Companies like Azimo allow you to receive money anywhere you find yourselves in the world!

The Resort

The last thing you want to hear when you’ve shelled out so much to take a vacation is ‘mommy… I’m bored’. Before you go, scope a variety of place out online, and read recommendations and check out candid (not just brochure!) pictures. Websites like Trip Advisor should help immensely with this. What are you looking for? If you’re less experienced, you’ll want to pick somewhere kid-friendly from the outset. Perhaps there’s a fun day-care where they can make friends? Or nearby attractions that cater to young people, too? They’re the sorts of places you want. Unless you’re going somewhere wildly obviously, like Disney Land. I can tell you now, without you even checking it out – your kids will LOVE it, and as a bonus, you will too.

Getting Over Plane Fears

If you’re taking an airplane, your kids might be a little afraid. In fact… you might even be a little afraid. Don’t be. Statistically, there’s almost zero chance of anything bad happening. Now of course, kids can’t unfortunately always be reasoned with by using facts! So the key thing you need to do is not to show your own fear. They’re perceptive, and you need to give them credit for that. A lot of fear of flying is enforced by others – it’s called ‘vicarious fear’. So keep positive, pack plenty of books, games, toys and snacks and make sure they’re way too entertained on their little adventure to worry!

Freaking Out About Health & Safety

‘Stranger Danger’ is scary as anything when you’re at home, but when you’re elsewhere? It can be heart-attack inducing! You want your kids to have a great balance, so if they’re interested in making new friends in exotic lands, that’s great – but make sure you’re there to supervise.

In terms of health, you’ll need to be completely organized. Take a trip to the Doctor way in advance of your vacation to pick up medication, epi-pens, asthma inhalers and anything else your kids – or you – are going to need. Check if you need shots, and get them, if need be. Yes, even at risk of tears and tantrums. Remember, foreign healthcare is going to differ to what you’re used to, so try and prepare yourself. Hopefully, you’ll never need know the difference, but if something does come up, just please, please check you have insurance to cover you.

About the writer

Kimberley Watson is an aspiring writer who loves the freedom it provides as an outlet. As a proud mother and wife, family always comes first, but she loves the little things in life, too. She attended the University of Manchester in the UK, and now enjoys nothing more than travel and seeing the world and all it has to offer. Including the food. Allll of the food! You can find her on twitter – @kim_watson25