Road Trippin’: Tips for Traveling With Toddlers

famroadtripA road trip can be one of the most exciting adventures a family will embark on together, and will help create memories that will last a lifetime. Traveling with toddlers, though, can be a challenge. Even if you have the most well-behaved toddler, expecting your child to sit still and occupy himself for the duration of a road trip is unrealistic.

To avoid chaos and a drive filled with whining, crying and full-blown temper tantrums, prepare for a long road trip by planning quiet activities, games and frequent snacks to satisfy and entertain your little one.

Set Clear Expectations

Before venturing out on the road, start small and positive by setting guidelines, says Carrie Krawiec, Michigan-based family therapist at Birmingham Maple Clinic. “Parents can set their children up for success by creating easy-to-remember expectations before leaving home,” she says. Create a list of five car behaviors to follow, such as keeping your hands to yourself and your bottom in the seat, using an inside voice and avoiding putting your feet on chair in front of you, suggests Krawiec.

Encourage positive behavior with travel rewards. “Parents can gauge their child’s level of attention by saying ‘I am going to watch these things and every five minutes if you have done this, you will earn a point for a sticker or silly band,’” says Krawiec. “This will make travel more cooperative.”

Charge Electronics

Even though you may limit your toddler’s time with tablets and electronic games at home, an iPad or Gameboy may be just what your child needs while traveling on long road trips. “With the age of technology, we have a big bonus,” says Christine Gutierrez, New York-based psychotherapist.

Many vehicles come equipped with DVD players and outlets for charging electronics to ease the challenge of traveling with young children. Pop in your child’s favorite movie or host a family sing-along with his favorite CD.

Make the trip educational, too. Download educational games and applications on a tablet to entertain your child or pick up a book or CD before taking off on your road trip. “Compromise is key here,” says Gutierrez. “Make baby happy and the rest of you shall be happy in the car as well.”

Chomp Down on Snacks

Often, hunger cravings can cause a toddler to act out or misbehave. Prepare for a long road trip by packing a cooler of snacks and drinks to satisfy his hunger. Non-messy items, such as grapes, carrots or fruit gummies, will keep your toddler and your vehicle clean during snack time. Juice packs or milk in a Sippy cup can also comfort a sleepy toddler while traveling.

Break Out Goodie Bags

The idea of being locked inside a vehicle for hours on end doesn’t necessarily sound appealing to a young child; however, if the trip includes goodie bags filled with games and activities, she may be more than eager to jump into that car seat.

Keep the bag in the front seat with you and break out games and activities along the way as your toddler gets antsy, such as a coloring book and crayons, an etch-a-sketch or even bubbles to blow out the window. Make the trip educational by purchasing a map and asking your toddler to point out states you drive through or license plates from each state. When your toddler is tired of one game or activity, take out another to keep her occupied.

Parents can include any of the following in a “goodie” bag for a long road trip with toddlers:

  • Dry erase board with markers
  • Stickers
  • Small Cars
  • New Books
  • Paper for Drawing
  • Travel Versions of Favorite Games
  • Dollar Store Finds

You can make activities much simpler by bringing along a lap desk or a cookie sheet your child can place on her lap. As a bonus, using magnets on the cookie sheet creates a game of its own, and the raised edges will prevent crayons or cars from landing on the floor of the car.

“Planning ahead is the key to preventing restless, unhappy children (and parents) during a car trip,” says Richard Peterson, vice president of education at Kiddie Academy. “In fact, you can even sneak in a little education along the way by playing classic car games, adjusted to fit your child’s age.”

Peterson suggests asking toddlers to search for shapes, colors or specific objects along the way. “The games will serve as a distraction, but also help to hone observation skills,” he says.

If all else fails, crank up the tunes or make a pit stop at a park along the way to deter boredom for your little one. “Boredom is probably the biggest difficulty your child will encounter during a long car trip,” says Peterson. “Toddlers live in the here and now and do not have the life experience to understand that the destination will be worth the time in the car seat.”

100 Blogs with Techniques for Crafting with Paper

origamiThe beauty of crafting with paper is the versatility of the medium. It can be cut, punched, folded, glued, stapled and rolled, among many other things. These 100 blogs are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to paper crafting, and cover everything from scrapbooking to origami, decoupage to quilling, card making and flowers, just to name a few. These works of art can be shared with friends and loved ones, used as decorations in the home and on packages, and much more. For more details on the many different ways you can craft with paper, check out these 100 blogs.


As digital photography continues to advance it’s becoming more common for people to forgo traditional scrabooking in favor of a digital approach. However, for those traditionalists who enjoy having a hard copy of their photos complete with handwritten sentiments, there are plenty of ways to create a unique, handmade scrapbook, and you need little more than scrapbooking paper, photos and a little know-how. Take a look at these 10 blogs for different scrapbooking techniques for background papers and layout designs.


The ancient art of paper folding is often thought of as a relaxing hobby. Origami purists maintain that true origami is done without any cutting or gluing, however, there are some origami projects that require both. Smaller projects can be created with a single sheet of paper, and are easy enough for a child to make with some instruction. There is even a myth that says that if you fold 1,000 origami cranes you will be granted a single wish from a live crane. These 10 blogs will teach you different origami projects and give you some background on the art of folding paper.


In the simplest terms, decoupage is an art form that decorates another object by gluing paper to it. This can be tissue paper, a napkin or even a magazine picture. The glue not only holds the image down, but it protects the final product from damage as well. Japanning, which is similar to decoupage, has been around since the 18th century and used varnish instead of glue. You’ll find several different decoupage projects on these 10 blogs.


In quilling, narrow strips of paper are rolled up and then pressed into various shapes. This hobby originated with the monks in the 16th century when they would use the discarded edges that had been trimmed off the paper they used to document historical events. The paper was edged with gold and pricey, so it was used in lacier scroll work instead of the tighter rolls seen in modern quilling. Quilling can be done on a flat surface or can be made into a 3-D object. To learn more about quilling, read these 10 blog entries.

Card Making

Making your own greeting cards is a labor of love. It was once thought that ‘homemade’ cards were cheaper than buying cards from the store, but today’s handmade cards are so intricate that they are often every bit as expensive as store-bought ones. People who make cards do so because they truly enjoy the hobby and those lucky enough to receive a handmade card should cherish it and appreciate all of the time and energy that went into making it. If you appreciate paper crafting, you may enjoy some of these 10 card making blogs.           


Tissue paper flowers are becoming more popular as decorations for parties and holidays. The big colorful poofs of tissue paired with hanging paper lanterns will make quite the statement at your next gathering. Other paper flowers can be used in vases and will add a bit of whimsy to any tablescape. Try making some paper flowers of your own using the instructions on these 10 blogs.

Holiday Decorations

Paper is so versatile that you can make everything you need to decorate your home for the holidays with it. You can top the tree with a 3-D star, create a paper garland to drape around the tree, make unique 3-D ornaments and even make paper Christmas trees to use around your home.  If you are intrigued and would like to try some of these ideas for yourself, follow the directions in these 10 blog posts.

3-D Packages

When you give a gift to someone, do you just hand it to the recipient or do you wrap it up in a nice way? Sometimes the packaging can be just as much fun as the gift. You can make your own boxes and greeting cards from paper, and handmade packaging gives each gift an extra special touch. To learn how to make unique handmade boxes, check out these 10 blogs.                               


Some people like to craft, but find that they really don’t have the time or energy to mess with everything that’s entailed with more intricate projects. ‘Zentangling’ is a relatively new hobby that incorporates doodling inside a shape. Many people find Zentangling to be a very ‘zen’ experience, and often get lost in their project. All you need is a pen and some paper to get started, and you’ll quickly find that zentangling can help reduce your own stress levels too. Projects and pattern examples can be found in these 10 blogs.

  • Zentangle Pumpkins In the mood for fall? Try this zentangle pumpkin to relax and do some doodling.
  • End of Second Project (Lion Zentangle) This lion shape is filled with all sorts of Zentangle patterns.
  • Zentangle Valentines DIY Start with a heart shape, divide it up into segments and fill it with patterns.
  • Zentangle Projects Zentangles don’t need to be limited to regular shapes; why not try your hand at making a fairy?
  • DIY Zentangle Rocks Make some of these Zentangle rocks to use as paper weights or conversation starters on the coffee table.
  • A Window on Zentangle You need only to use what you’ve got when Zentangling. There’s no need to spend a ton of money on supplies, and this project proves it.
  • Make a Zentangle Shrinky Dink Keychain Pick up some shrinkable plastic at your craft store to get started on this keychain project.
  • A New Leaf Zentangle With leaves on the inside and a leaf shape on the outside, this Zentangle gives you many opportunities to fill in patterns.
  • Zentangle Did you know you can Zentangle objects as well as paper? Check out these shoes and throw pillow that have been Zentangled.
  • Zentangle Make a greeting card using Zentangle designs.

Bow Making

When people think of bows they typically think of ribbon, but you can create some impressive bows by using paper. These 10 bloggers share examples of paper bows and give you the steps so that you can try making some for yourself. The next time you wrap a present and find that you are out of bows just refer to these blogs and make your own.

21 Blogs Featuring Photo Albums You Can Make with Paper and Household Items

photoalbumMore photos are taken now than probably any time in history. With the prevalence of handheld cameras and cellphones equipped with photo-taking abilities, photography has become a hobby for anyone and everyone. While the invention of digital photography has made it much simpler to take tons of pictures, few pictures seem to make it to paper. However, looking at and sharing pictures is more convenient when the photos are in a photo album. You can create many different types of photo albums at home; all you really need is decorative paper and some common household supplies. The albums in these 21 blogs vary in size, from an exploding 3-D box to a tiny pocket album, and come complete with instructions so you can easily create your own.


Try your hand at making a 3-D photo album for something different and fun. These exploding box photo albums are unique and make a great conversation piece. If you are looking for a sentimental gift to share with a loved one, these 3-D albums will fit the bill. While these projects may look complicated, the bloggers behind them help simplify the process and break the project down into steps so that you can easily create one of your own.

Book Fold

These book fold photo albums may be traditional, but they are anything but boring. Try using some paper lunch sacks to make a photo album or a single sheet of scrapbooking paper. The cutting and folding techniques give these photo albums interest while providing a vehicle for mounting your favorite photos, and are small enough to dedicate each album to a special event, such as a vacation or a graduation. These seven blogs will give you step-by-step instructions on how to create these small wonders.


With expanding photo albums you can mount as many photos as you want simply by adding more paper, and the albums open up to display pictures on many surfaces. Instead of a regular flip book, there are many unique ways that expanding albums display photos, such as the accordion album that stands up on its own and can be displayed on a table or mantel. If you need to mail an expanding album, simply fold it up. Read more about expanding albums in these seven blogs.

9 of the Worst Excuses Kids Give for Not Wanting to Go to School

noschoolMost kids don’t look forward to school. Even overachieving, straight-A students get burned out by the daily grind after a while, and it’s understandable. Most adults probably don’t look forward to going to work every day, but adults also have vacation days, sick days and the ability to get a new job altogether. Kids are stuck going to school no matter what else they’d rather do. As a result, they try to come up with any excuse imaginable to get out of going. There’s usually an underlying reason, though, and with the proper communication methods, you can get to the heart of the issue. No matter how old your kids are, you’re bound to hear at least one of these sooner or later:

“I hate school!”

This is a common statement for kids to make. When it happens, look for the underlying issue. Are they feeling all right? Are they getting enough sleep? Lack of sleep or health issues can cause crabbiness, difficulty focusing and may affect their ability and desire to learn. If that’s not the problem, talk to the child and find out what’s going on. Maybe your young one is dealing with a bully or a tough class. It’s amazing how much can be learned by paying attention and listening to what kids have to say.

“I hate my teacher!”

This is one of the easiest ways for a child to focus their displeasure at having to go to school. By blaming his happiness on the teacher, your child can act as if he’s got a real problem with an educator, when in fact the teacher might not be the issue at all. Get to know your child’s instructors every year, and maintain communication with them to make sure that they’re getting along with your child and that your child is behaving, learning and growing.

“School is boring.”

Sometimes this is just true: kids get bored at school, and they want to use that as an excuse not to go. It’s weak, as excuses go, but it’s also popular. However, boredom at school could be a sign that your child has advanced educational needs, or at least that he’s ready for something beyond his current lesson level. Talk with the teacher about your child’s grades and performance to find out the root of the boredom.

“I have a headache.”

Unlike other health issues — a sore throat, sprained ankle, runny nose, fever, etc. — a headache can’t be proven or disproven by an external observer. Kids figure this out remarkably fast. It might be best to err on the side of caution if your child trots out this excuse once or twice, but if it becomes a regular thing, you’ll be at a crossroads. There could be an underlying health issue, in which case you’d need to take your child to the doctor, or it could just be an excuse for dodging school. Your best course of action is to tackle both solutions: have your child checked for health issues, and communicate with him about what’s happening at school to make sure he’s not trying to avoid it for some other reason.

“I forgot to do my homework.”

At a very young age, children are told how important their academic success is to their parents, and they get homework as part of their routine. However, some children might use that homework as leverage against attending school, hoping that by ignoring the assignment they can force their parents into allowing them to stay home, skip class or, at the very least, finish the homework later. It’s a power play, and children need to learn to be accountable. Letting them “face the music” with the teacher for incomplete homework may actually help the child.

“I missed the bus.”

Surprisingly, some children actually do miss the bus to get out of going to school. To remedy this, you can physically walk your child to the bus stop and wait for her to get on, or you could levy certain punishments/groundings if she uses this excuse. As always, talk to her to see if there’s an underlying reason she’d want to ditch school (aside from the normal).

“I don’t want to leave you!”

The American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry reports that separation anxiety can be a major reason for some children to want to get out of going to school. This anxiety manifests itself in a number of other ways, including a child’s inability to spend time in a room alone, serious issues with sleep and severe tantrums when it’s time to go to school. It’s important to determine what’s causing your child’s fear and anxiety about leaving home. Speaking with a therapist or professional from the school may also help the situation.

“I don’t have any friends.”

Frustrated parents may tell their children they’re in school to learn, not make friends. However, school is a major, vital part of socialization and maturation, and some kids just have trouble making friends and can find school more of a chore because of it. If your child complains about not having any friends, talk to her about what’s going on. Additional remedies include working with your child on things like social skills, teamwork, communication and other interpersonal areas. You can also reach out to the teacher to learn more.

“I just don’t want to go to school.”

Sometimes this is the only reply a child will give, and it’s more common than you might think. When you hear this, don’t just brush it off (as much as you might want to). Discuss your concerns with the child, identify the problem and help him work through it. Children need to understand that school is a responsibility they must meet. It might not always be fun, but it’s always worth it.

Should Kids Sleep with Stuffed Toys?

stuffedanimalWhen supplying a favorite stuffed toy is the one, surefire way to get a fussy child to come down for a nap or a good night’s sleep, it almost seems like a no-brainer to hand it over as part of the bedtime routine. Still, it can be confusing to figure out whether or not encouraging your little one to rely on an object for comfort is a good idea. Before the age of one year, the American Academy of Pediatrics warns against introducing plush toys to your baby’s crib due to a potential increase in SIDS risk, but what about after she reaches that all-important one-year benchmark?

Understanding the Prevalence of Comfort Objects

A study conducted by researchers from both the University of Bristol in the United Kingdom and Yale University in the United States indicated that up to 70% of kids develop strong attachments to the comfort objects they rely upon to self-soothe. These transitional objects help babies learn to separate from their mothers with minimal trauma, and serve as important aspects of development for most kids. Special stuffed toys or blankies develop a very important role in kids’ lives, who tend to anthropomorphize their beloved stuffed animals in such a way that not even an exact replica of the toy is acceptable.

Are Comfort Objects Inherently Negative?

While some parents fixate on the idea of breaking their child from a dependency that they see as a weakness, there’s no real evidence that sleeping with a comfort object is emotionally damaging. Aside from the slight risk of allergen triggers from dusty or dirty plush toys, there’s very little risk at all when a child is old enough and has the requisite motor skills to move the object away from their face if breathing becomes difficult. A study at the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee, originally intended to determine whether or not kids who have secure bonds with their mothers were more or less likely to rely upon comfort objects for sleep, found that there was no correlation at all between the strength of the parental bond or the lack thereof and use of a comfort object. The study also uncovered evidence that kids who were strongly attached to those objects seemed to more easily adjust to stressful situations when they had that object in their possession.

Making the Right Decision for Your Family

If your child is so attached to a comfort object that she refuses to go anywhere without it, problems can arise at the onset of the school year when school policies forbid such objects. Provided that a child is able to rely upon the object only in times of extreme duress or to self-soothe in order to sleep, there’s no real reason to forbid your child from bringing a favorite lovey to bed each night. Ultimately, the decision should depend upon the needs and lifestyle of your family and your own parenting style. If you feel that your child’s use of a comfort object has gone on for too long or that he’s getting too old to rely on such tactics, taking steps to gradually wean him away from a special stuffed animal may be in order. You should, however, expect for your child to regress in moments of extreme duress or dramatic transition. If he’s dealing with the loss of a loved one, a sudden and abrupt change in his life or another source of extreme anxiety, he may rediscover a need for the beloved animal that provided him with comfort before he was able to let go of that dependence.

When Should You Let Your Daughter Wear Makeup

littlegirlmakeupWhen girls are toddlers, they think makeup is a toy or something to eat. As preschoolers, they might create a “kiss” impression with their lips while trying to apply makeup like mommy. When they hit puberty, they become more aware and self-conscious of their bodies and what others might think of them, and may start showing a genuine interest in wearing makeup. When and where to allow your daughter to wear makeup is a personal choice based on your own beliefs and your individual child.

Children almost always grow up faster than parents are prepared for, so it’s important to decide in advance at what age and in what amount makeup will be allowed. Setting clear and consistent boundaries, and explaining why you’ve set those limits, will help children accept and obey the rules.

It’s not just about what age is appropriate, but why your daughter wants to wear makeup and what she believes about herself that’s important. Encouraging well-rounded interests and activities early in life will help your daughter maintain perspective and a positive self-image. Explaining that advertising will try to manipulate her to feel like she needs their products may help her be less susceptible to their images of perfection as the ideal. Communicating with your daughter and discovering why she wants to wear makeup is important in deciding when to let her wear it. For example, peer pressure is natural, but she should also want to wear makeup for herself. Discuss the pros and cons of using makeup. (For instance, your daughter feeling more adult versus the extra attention it may attract, and how to deal with it.)

Teaching your daughter to use makeup can be a time of bonding, too, as well as a lesson in the proper use and appropriate amounts of makeup. Emphasize that makeup is meant to enhance, not hide. Beginning with a subtle look using light, neutral colors may satisfy both mother and daughter. Carol Tuttle, author of Dressing Your Truth: Discover Your Personal Beauty Profile, suggests beginning lip gloss between ages 10-12, foundation and cover-up at 13-14, and progressing to blush, eyeshadow, eyeliner and mascara between 15-17. Look for products that are hypoallergenic and oil free to cut down on acne.

Mothers may wish to take their daughter to a professional makeup artist who can demonstrate that a little goes a long way. Testing stations in the mall are a great way to experiment with a variety of colors and styles without committing to anything. To encourage an acceptable look, mothers may point out pictures of models or teen idols who utilize the style they find appropriate.

Children learn the most from what they see their parents do. If parents judge others on their personalities and not their looks, children will learn that it’s what’s inside that counts. How parents view and speak about themselves is also vital. If a child constantly hears a parent say, “I’m fat, ugly, or getting old,” they may begin to base their self-worth on their appearance.

It’s important to pick your battles and keep the big picture in mind. If your daughter’s allowed to wear some makeup by middle school, the novelty will likely wear off on its own. After all, if a girl wants to try makeup, she eventually will, and trying to keep her from it altogether will likely incite rebellion. It may be better for parents to allow her to wear some makeup while they can monitor it.

Parents can also benefit from support from friends and family as their little girl begins exploring who she is and making the transition into young womanhood. This can be a very positive time if both parents and daughters seek to listen and communicate with each other in a loving way.

7 Everyday Ways Families Can Invest in Their Communities

familyvolunteeringThe community in which you live can be more than just the area surrounding your home. Ideally, it’s a place where your friends and neighbors come together to make a real and lasting impact on one another’s lives, and where your children learn to contribute to not only their household but also the world around them. In today’s increasingly distant and aloof society, however, it’s not always easy to know where to start. It’s not uncommon for next door neighbors to see each other in passing for months or even years without sharing much beyond a curt nod or brief wave, but that doesn’t have to be the norm. Investing in your community as a family goes far beyond financial investments, and will change the world around you in noticeably positive ways and help your kids learn to do the same as they get older. These are seven of the ways that you can invest, as a family, in your neighborhood.

  • Support Local Businesses – One of the quickest and most effective ways of investing in your community is to shop locally, support small business and contribute to family-owned enterprises by spending your money there, rather than big box retailers. Make a point of buying local, and take the time to explain why it’s important to spend a few dollars more at a local shop than to add to a national corporation’s fat bottom line.
  • Make Charitable Donations – Organize a community garage sale and donate the proceeds to a local charity, make a point of sending your gently used clothing to a community thrift store and encourage your kids to save up for donations of their own to community centers and other outreach programs that benefit the neighborhood as a whole. In addition to making a difference on a local level, you’ll also be teaching your little ones a very valuable lesson about civic responsibility.
  • Volunteer With Local Organizations – No-kill animal shelters, food banks and other local outreach organizations need funding, but they also need the help of dedicated volunteers. Setting aside a bit of time to volunteer as a family will help to strengthen your community while allowing you to all spend a bit of quality time together. Look for age-appropriate programs to get your children involved, and invest your time into making a difference in your neighborhood.
  • Join a Community Supported Agricultural Exchange – Eating locally grown, organic foods is an investment in your family’s health and nutrition. Obtaining that food by working with a community supported agricultural exchange is an investment in sustainable agriculture, your neighborhood and local farms. Either way you look at it, working with or contributing to a CSA program is a worthwhile and valuable way to invest your time, effort and money as a family.
  • Support Elderly and Mobility-Challenged Neighbors – There are ways of helping your community through donations, organized volunteering and working with charitable programs, but you can also invest in your community by getting involved on a personal level. Encourage kids to help an elderly neighbor with gardening or shoveling a snowy sidewalk. As a family, help a mobility-challenged or differently-abled neighbor with household tasks. They’ll benefit from your assistance and your kids will learn about compassion and the importance of helping those who are in need.
  • Build Relationships – Part of what makes a neighborhood into a community of people, rather than just a collection of people who happen to live on the same street, is the sense of togetherness. Greet new neighbors with baked goods. Make conversation over the garden fence. Do what you can to build relationships with the people around you, and encourage your kids to do the same.
  • Organize and Throw a Block Party – A block party is a great way to get to know your neighbors in a relaxed, convivial environment. Get out there, meet your neighbors, organize a potluck and spend time with the people around you. Your community and your family will benefit from the relationships fostered through a group celebration, which can also help to instill a sense of community pride.

Because every community is as unique as the people living within it, you should make a point of looking for new and creative ways of making a difference and investing your time as a family to affect positive change. Tailor your approach to the needs of your environment, making the neighborhood not only a better place for your children to grow and mature, but also a better place for everyone around you.

10 Quick and Healthy After School Snacks to Serve

fruitkabobThe first words out of most kids’ mouths when they return home from school usually have something to do with how hungry they are. Questions about their day, discussion of pertinent issues and even pleasant greetings take a backseat to finding food, which is why it’s so important to have plenty of ingredients on hand to throw together quick, easy to make snacks. As the rates of childhood obesity and attendant health risks rise, however, it’s also important to make sure that those snacks are healthy. These are 10 snacks that are sure to please, and won’t require all afternoon to put together.

  • Sweet Potato Fries – Frozen sweet potato fries are a snap to prepare, and their fun shape helps kids to be more adventurous about trying new foods. Look for organic varieties in your grocer’s freezer, and bake them rather than opting for fried preparation. They’re a healthier alternative to traditional fries, and are just as good with all-natural ketchup or barbecue sauce.
  • Whole Wheat Toast and Cream Cheese – Light cream cheese can be just as tasty as full-fat varieties, especially when it’s blended with fruits or other favorite flavorings. If you’re not wild about the idea of serving artificial flavorings and additives, spring for an all-natural, plain variety and mix in your own favorite organic fruits and veggies for flavor.
  • Frozen Fruit – The heat of summer hasn’t always passed into the cooler temperatures of autumn when school starts in some regions, and a cool snack is always a welcome treat on a hot day. Frozen fruit is a far healthier alternative to processed popsicles or ice cream and requires almost no time investment at all to prepare.
  • Fruit Kabobs – Skewering slices of organic fruit makes for a quick, healthy and fun snack for your little scholars. Choose varieties that are in season, local and pesticide free for maximum health benefits, and be sure to dip apples in lemon juice to prevent unsightly browning if you’re preparing them in advance.
  • Deli Roll-Ups – Rolling cheese, additive-free deli meat, dressings and lettuce up in sandwich wraps and cutting them into pinwheels makes for a fun and guilt-free snack you can serve to your brood when classes end for the day.
  • Peanut Butter Dip – Provided that your children have no peanut allergies or sensitivities, mixing peanut butter with cream cheese and a dollop of milk will create a delicious and healthy dip for fruits and whole wheat crackers. If there is cause for allergy concern, opt for sunbutter or other nut butters for the same tasty, protein-packed result.
  • Veggie Sticks – There’s something about dipping that makes almost any food fun. Cut raw veggies into sticks and serve them with light dressing, salsa or hummus for dipping. Kids will love the fun of dipping into their healthy snack, even if it doesn’t contain a plethora of added salt, chemicals or additives.
  • Dried Fruit – Dried fruit and trail mixes are fun for kids, and a healthier alternative to chips or other fatty snacks. Dried fruit also isn’t sensitive to spoilage in the same way that fresh fruit is, so mixes can be prepared in advance and stored in airtight containers for extra-fast snack potential.
  • Smoothies – There’s just something about a snack that kids can drink through a straw that’s automatically elevated, even if it contains natural, healthy produce and wholesome yogurt instead of high fructose corn syrup and artificial flavors. Choose organic frozen fruits, and combine them with yogurt, a bit of ice and a dash of milk. They’re just as much fun as a milkshake, with none of the unnecessary additives and all of the flavor.
  • Fruit Leathers – Kids love processed fruit rolls, but they’re full of things you’d rather not feed to your children. Instead of springing for the heavily-marketed, cartoon-adorned and additive-laden fruit rolls on the shelves, check the organic section for natural fruit leathers. Parents and caregivers who are handy in the kitchen can even whip them up themselves, giving you complete control over the ingredients.

Tips for Turning Tantrums Into Teachable Moments

tantrumThe idea of “teachable moments” has been popular in education and psychology circles for decades, though it’s blown up in recent years. It’s a simple concept: at certain educational crossroads, teachable moments pop up that make for the perfect opportunity to impart a specific lesson or ideal to a child. As a nanny, you’ll be confronted with many of these each week — sometimes many each day — so it’s important to take advantage of them when they occur. When the child (or children) in your care hit the wall and throw a tantrum, don’t freak out. This is a great chance to turn their meltdown into a learning moment.

Pause the Action

A tantrum can feel like a runaway train, but you don’t have to stand back and let it happen. Gently (but firmly) redirect the child’s attention to you and the situation at hand. For instance, if they start to lose it because they want a toy that another child is using, guide their attention back to you and start talking about things like sharing, common goals, helping others and being fair. It can be tempting to think you’ve only got two options here (let them whine or walk away), but you’ve got a third if you can remember to swiftly step in and shift the child’s focus on something else.

Establish Goals

“I’d like to talk about fairness.” “I’m glad you said that, because it’s something we can talk about.” And so on. Kick off a teachable moment with a brief but clear statement of your goals for the conversation. It’s going to be a lot easier for the child to follow you (and a lot easier for you to get to the point) if you set clear signposts at the beginning for what you want to accomplish. Teachable moments aren’t necessarily disciplinary, either, so don’t feel like you have to make your talk about punishment. Instead, use the tantrum as a springboard into an actual conversation about feelings, desires and how the child can do a better job at expressing themselves.

Listen Carefully

Seriously, listen. You’re not lecturing, and you’re not delivering a standard warning against future tantrums. You’re having a conversation with specific goals that’s designed to teach, not scold (though scolding might be ancillary). Teachable moments are spontaneous things, which means you’ll need to pay close attention to the child to determine what they’re really upset about and what they really need. Start with basics: Why did you do that? How does this make you feel? Why do you feel that way? Do you remember the last time this happened? How did it go? Let the conversation flow toward the goals you established, but don’t rush it or feel like you need to force a particular conclusion before the child’s locked in. A kid is like an adult: They’re going to be a lot more receptive to new ideas once they know that they’re actually being heard.

Set a Good Example

It’s impossible to overstate the importance of this one. Tantrums are explosions that happen when a child perceives something as unfair and doesn’t know what to do about it, so they cry and scream and pout. They sense an injustice (even if they’re blowing events way out of proportion) and they respond. Setting a good example for them, though, can go a long way toward reducing these tantrums and teaching them how to respond to difficult situations. If your first instinct is to shout and scream, don’t be surprised if that’s what they imitate. If you ignore your own teachable moments, you won’t be able to convince a child of their merits. In other words, don’t just save the teachable-moment behavior (firm goals, genuine conversation, receptive listening) for worst-case scenarios when you’re trying to defuse a tantrum situation. Use them all the time, every day, in multiple ways. Strike up conversations while reading or playing and see what happens and if you are able to guide their natural questions or observations into natural teachable moments. That will make the post-tantrum moments feel like a natural part of your childcare approach, not a bandage on a bad situation.

Remember: It’s always possible to turn a tantrum into something better. It might take time, but it’ll work out.

10 Creative Ways to Gain Kids Cooperation

helpingWhen children are very small, it’s pretty easy to get them to adhere to your requests and to help out. In fact, parents sometimes have to try and stop their children from helping in order to have some alone time. Sadly, this time of cooperation is usually short lived, and moms and dads soon find themselves wondering what happened to their once considerate child.

There are ways to bring back the synergy you once had with your child and to foster in them the value of teamwork. You just have to think creatively and get them to want to help you, seemingly of their own volition.

  • Realize that Kids Have a Need to Please – Children are born wanting to please their parents. There is little they want more than your approval, even as they get older. They may not show it as much outwardly, but your words of praise really do mean a lot. So, the first thing you are going to want to do is let him know how much it means to you every time your child does cooperate.
  • Turn it into a Game – Make whatever you want your kids to do into a game, and make cooperation fun. If you need your daughter to clean up her room, have her see how fast she can do it, or play “Freeze Clean,” where your child cleans to music and then freezes when the music shuts off. If you need your son to get off the monkey bars at the park because it’s time to go home, race him to the car.
  • Make Him Feel Important – Make sure you are telling your child that it is very important that he cooperates with you and that he is vital to the running of the household. In the same way adults need to feel valued at the office in order to be productive, kids need to feel like they are indispensable at home.
  • Offer Explanations – Be sure to tell your child why you need him to do what you are asking. Sure, you want your kids to listen to you just because you said so, but they will feel much more motivated to help you out if they know the reasoning behind your request. If you need quiet because you have a terrible headache or you need things cleaned up so that bugs won’t take up residency in your home, share this rationale with your kids.
  • Use a Timer – A timer can be your best friend when it comes to gaining your child’s cooperation. If your child is watching TV and ignoring you, simply state that you will be setting the timer for three minutes. When the timer rings, the TV goes off, and the task at hand will be started.  Let your child know what will happen after the task is finished as well. Perhaps they can go back to watching TV, use their computer for a half hour or have a snack afterwards. Using the timer gives your child some transition time, and it is not you that is going to have to sound the alarm.
  • Bag it Up – Implement a new rule. Anything that is not picked up by the day’s end will disappear. Go through the house and pick up any clutter that was left out by your kids and put it in a special bag. You can get creative and make the container into a witch’s cauldron, an elf’s wheelbarrow or anything else that strikes your fancy. You can say that this witch, elf or other character comes in at night and takes things that have been left out of place. The items will magically reappear when certain chores are done.
  • Consider Offering Rewards – Some parents don’t like to reward children for cooperation because they want their children to cooperate for the right reasons, rather than “to get something.” However, if you do want to reward your child for a job well done, there are many creative ways to do so. You can make a cooperation sticker chart and if they earn a sticker each day for cooperating and being helpful, at the end of the week they can trade the chart in for a prize. This will help your child learn what cooperation really means because throughout the day you can point out how your child can improve on his cooperation in order to ensure himself a sticker. Your child can also earn on a task by task basis. For example, if you need him to be quiet for a bit, tell him he will earn a penny for every minute he is quiet, or have him earn a minute of computer time for each minute of silence.
  • Natural Incentives – You can also have the rewards make practical sense. Examples of this would be, “If we can get the kitchen clean, we’ll have the space we need to make ice cream sundaes,” or, “If we can get all these toys cleaned up, we will have time to play a board game together.”
  • Only Ask Once – Don’t ask for your child’s cooperation over and over again. Repeating yourself is detrimental to teaching cooperation. Kids will get used to ignoring your requests until they come across louder and with more frustration. You want your child to listen the first time, while you are still calm. So, if compliance is not obtained after the initial request, instead of repeating yourself ask your child to repeat back your appeal. Act as if you do not remember what you just said and ask, “I forget, but didn’t I just ask you to do something? What was it?”
  • Be a Cooperation Role Model – Remember to model the behavior you want your children to display. If you see your child, or anyone else, struggling, be sure to step in and offer to lend a hand. If you are selfish with your time and energy, your children will take on that same value system. So, be generous with your time. Ask your child if he needs help. He will absorb this habit and begin asking you what he can do to make your life easier.