1. Fun & Easy Science Experiments for Kids

    Sometimes it takes a little extra spark to ignite a child’s interest in science. Many parents will read or draw with their kids, but much fewer are comfortable exploring scientific concepts. However, there’s no reason you can’t make science a part of everyday play. You don’t need to be a science wiz yourself, and you definitely don’t need to know the answer to every question your child may have. Simply having fun experimenting will introduce your child to the fascinating world of science.

    Here are some fun experiments that are easy, kid-friendly, and relatively mess-free to perform at home:

    Taste Testing: Explore the connection between taste and smell with this simple experiment. Blindfold your child and have them try a small piece of red apple then an equally sized piece of green apple. They should be able to taste the difference. Now try the same thing while they pinch their nose shut. Suddenly tasting the difference is a real challenge! Use this experiment to talk about the five senses and how they interact (learn more here).

    Baking Soda + Vinegar: Mixing baking soda and vinegar to create a fizzy eruption is a classic science experiment for good reason; it illustrates so many scientific concepts! Mixing two ingredients shows your little chemist a basic reaction.  Make things a little more complicated by mixing the ingredients in a lightly corked bottle. Watch the cork fly off and explain the buildup of force behind the impressive pop (learn more here).

    Making a Rainbow: A CD, a glass with some water in it, or a crystal – these are some of the household items you can use to create a homemade rainbow. Shift the light to see how it affects the size and colors of your rainbow. Make sure to use natural sunlight. Reflecting onto a white piece of paper is the easiest way to see the vivid results. Use this experiment to explore the light spectrum, and explain how all light contains these colors (learn more here). 

    Egg Parachute: The goal is simple: use household items to design a parachute that can float an egg to the ground from a given height (a roof or 2nd floor window should be sufficient). This is a great group activity because everyone can try their own design. It also serves as a launching pad for discussing physics – and making omelets.  

     

  2. Putting an End to Picky Eating

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    Do your kids have certain foods they can’t stand? Is it a constant fight to get them to eat these foods? How do you win that fight? 

    The battle over eating habits usually starts when a child is around 2 years old. At this age, children begin developing preferences and realizing they have choices. Often being picky at the dinner table is simply a manifestation of this development.

    For parents trying to provide nutritious meals, however, it can be a nightmare.

    What’s the best thing to do when a child rejects certain kinds of food? Keep in mind this behavior is likely co-motivated by A) disliking the food and B) wanting to out how you’ll react. If your child refuses to eat something during dinner, ask them to please hang out at the table while the rest of the family eats. If they get hungry later, serve them something similar. Let them know they have the “right” to reject food, but doing so will not earn them a tastier option later.

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    Cater to your child’s need to make choices – in small ways. Serve broccoli, but leave it up to your child to decide what plate they get to eat it off of. Furthermore, offer them a choice of toppings like cheese, olive oil, lemon juice, or even ketchup. This allows your child to exercise their newfound autonomy without turning mealtime completely upside-down.

    Slightly older kids, in the 4 – 7 age range, are highly susceptible to peer influence, and you can use this to your advantage. Try putting your child in a situation where other kids his or her age will be eating a healthy variety of foods. Point out, subtly or not, that the people your child admires aren’t so picky. An older sibling, babysitter, or other role model can show the way.

    Don’t expect change overnight. If your child refuses to eat asparagus, it will take more than one meal to change their mind. Ask them to take just one bite of asparagus, even a lick or a nibble will do. It will take time, but eventually your child will grow to like a lot of the stuff you serve them – even healthy fare. And the sooner you can get your little one eating fruits and veggies regularly – even with a dab of ketchup here and there – the more likely they’ll be to adopt healthy habits for life.   

     

  3. Overcoming Jealousy

    Jealousy is something we all experience. In many ways it can be helpful, as it can drive us to achieve on the same level as someone else. However, as with most negative emotions, kids often need help managing their jealous impulses. How can parents be of assistance?

    Jealousy can take many forms, and the first step in dealing with your child’s jealousy is identifying its nature. Many younger children get jealous of others’ possessions and privileges. Siblings will often fight over who gets to use Mom’s iPad or who gets to control what’s on the TV. In many of these cases, it’s your role to step in as the impartial referee. Put a simple system in place and enforce it: time sessions on the iPad to ensure fairness, and alternate control of the remote on the breaks between TV shows.

    If you find yourself refereeing huge numbers of showdowns, you may need to plan some activities that will encourage your kids to work cooperatively. You should also ask your children whether the object of their jealousy is really appealing, or whether it’s just appealing because a sibling or friend owns it. This can open their eyes to the role jealousy plays in distorting their feelings.     

    As kids get older, they often experience jealousy towards their peers. You may hear your child say something like “I wish I was as good at math as Clara” or “why is everyone on the baseball team better than me?” These are great times to illustrate the power of hard work to your kids. If they express dismay at their inability to do something, help them practice it. Let them harness that jealousy and turn it into self-improvement. Plot a practical path to improvement with them – and cheerlead along the way.

    But what if your little baseball player really has no hope of getting as good as the other kids?

    Jealousy regarding things one cannot change, or jealousy regarding inadequacies, real or perceived, can be the hardest to overcome. These jealousies don’t stem from wanting what someone else has as much as low self-esteem. In these situations, parents should try to help their children build self-esteem and confidence. Praise them, but praise them honestly. Remind your kids about the things they are good at, and ask them whether it really matters if they’re not as good at something else.

    Lastly, ask your child to try and accept the things they truly can’t change. This is the last and most important step in overcoming jealousy, and a major milestone in their maturity. 

     

  4. Time-Out Alternative: Time-In

    When it comes to dealing with a child’s bad behavior, the time-out is one of the most tried and true tools in a parent’s kit. The prevailing wisdom is that it gives kids a few minutes to cool off, reflect about what they have done, and realize that their actions have consequences.  However, there are lessons a time-out doesn’t teach, like regulating your emotions, cooperating with your parents, or deescalating. Some parents are doing the exact opposite of the time-out and using a technique known as the time-in.

    A time-in is when you sit your child down calmly to comfort them and talk about the bad behavior. As opposed to a punishment, the time-in lets you find out what pushed your child to a certain behavior and create a cooperative plan to stop it from happening again. Most negative behavior doesn’t come from nowhere, so a time-in can help a parent understand what is going through their child’s mind. It also helps children reconcile and further examine their negative emotions.

    Many kids, when left to their own devices during time-out time, will blame others as opposed to really thinking about what they have done. Kids can have trouble sorting out their actions and their emotions. A time-in lets you, the parent, take control and say “Emotion X is okay, action X is not” and from there move the conversation to “What is a more productive way to deal with emotion X?”

    Another problem with the time-out is that it loses its effectiveness after a certain age. Are you really going to give your teenager a time-out? Probably not. By getting into the habit of talking through problems now, you establish a lifelong habit of talking through your child’s inappropriate behaviors.

    Many parents are skeptical of the time-in because they don’t want to feel they are rewarding a bad behavior. The first thing to remember is that a time-in is not a punishment, but it’s not a reward either. It’s simply a different, more proactive tool for dealing with problem behavior. Try it out – you may be surprised at the results. 

     

     

  5. Let’s Get Gardening!

    Though spring’s full bloom is yet to come, those of us with green thumbs have already started gathering the tools and supplies we will need for our gardens. But did you know that gardening can be a great teaching tool for kids? Gardening lets them see firsthand the connection between the food they eat and the natural world around them. It also helps them develop the skills to care for another living thing.

    If kids become interested the biology and climate science of gardening, it can become a great tool for teaching science. Other kids are more enticed by the colors and flavors of plant life, which gives you a great platform for teaching about cooking and healthy eating. Gardening also teaches more general skills like responsibility and seeing things through. It’s a great way to show that a bit of effort and care every day will produce something worthwhile.  

    Besides the educational benefits, gardening is a fun way to spend some time as a family. Kids take great pride when the whole family sits around the table and eats something that has herbs or veggies they helped grow. Try letting your kids name the plants – that way, it’s easier to see them as living beings with distinct characteristics.

    And don’t think that gardening only applies to suburbanites with backyards; apartment dwellers can beautify their home with plants just as well. Anywhere with some space and sufficient light in your apartment can become a miniature garden. Windowsills, fire escapes, and roofs are all popular spots. Many herbs, such as mint, basil, oregano, and tarragon, and some vegetables, such as tomatoes and cucumbers, don’t require any specialized gardening skills to grow. All you really need is a bit of space, a planter, dirt, and a watering can.

    If gardening is not an option in your home, look into community gardens. These local cooperative food gardens are springing up in communities across the country, and have been endorsed my Michelle Obama and others. They’re a great way to dip your feet into the gardening world, meet some other parents and kids, and teach your kids some valuable lessons.

     

  6. The Diaper Bag Checklist

    Sunshine. Snacks. Smiles. Outings with baby can be a dream. But if you go unprepared, they can quickly turn into a nightmare. 

    Never fear, though. Our no-nonsense guide puts together a checklist of diaper bag essentials, and some tips for carrying it all.

    First, let’s break down everything a successful diaper bag should have:

    Diapers: at least one diaper for each hour you’ll be out of the house. 

    Wipes: not just for diaper changes, but also for dirty hands. Hand sanitizer is also a good idea.  

    Changing Pad: luckily, almost all the diaper bags we sell include one. 

    Plastic Bags: to store dirty diapers and other things you don’t want floating around unsealed in your diaper bag. Rather than buying new plastic bags, collect old grocery bags or get some biodegradable bags.

    Bottles, Sippy Cups, Snack Keepers, Snacks & Drinks: for bottles, go for whichever is baby’s favorite. For sippy cups and snack keepers, look for ones that are designed to prevent spills.

    Blanket: you can use a blanket to bundle baby up, provide a changing area, or create some shade on a sunny to day. The plusher the better!

    Extra Clothes: a light jacket is always a good idea. 

    Sunscreen: a sunhat might also come in handy.

    First-Aid Kit: because you never know.  

    Sounds like a lot, right? So how’s a mom supposed to carry all this stuff?

    First off, choose a diaper bag that’s comfortable for you. An ergonomic choice like this will help with heavy loads.

    But it’s also important to take a load off sometimes. Don’t ever hesitate to enlist dad, big brother, and big sister to help out with toting the diaper bag. Hint: they’ll be a lot more amenable to tackling this task if the diaper bag doesn’t look too embarrassing on their arm. Check out some of our more gender-neutral diaper bags, like this and this.

    Spring is on the horizon, and that means you’ll be able to get out and see the world with your little one – but only if you’re packed up and ready to go!

    Source: http://www.babycenter.com/0_checklist-what-to-put-in-your-diaper-bag_10328766.bc

     

  7. Limiting Sugar Intake

    Parents want their kids to eat a healthy and balanced diet. Eating fruits and vegetables, limiting fat intake, and keeping tabs on portion sizes is an excellent way of doing this, and standard procedure for most parents. One thing that frequently sneaks under parental radar, however, is sugar. According to Forbes magazine, the average American child consumes 32 teaspoons of sugar a day. The American Medical Association suggests no more than 9 – and that’s for adults!

    Should you limit your child’s sugar intake? The answer is an unequivocal yes. Refined sugar has no nutritional value. Sugar has been linked to obesity, nervousness, acne, fatigue, diabetes, and a host of other conditions. The less sugar any person takes in, the better, but for children, sugar is doubly damaging because they’re learning eating habits now that will follow them through life.

    Most parents are aware that sugar is not something they should be feeding their children. So how does so much make it into our kids’ diets? The two biggest culprits are sugary drinks and sweet snacks. Most parents would not knowingly let their kid eat 10 teaspoons of sugar, yet one can of Coke contains precisely that much. Sport drinks, fruit drinks, and flavored waters are equally as saccharine.

    As a parent, it’s a good idea to check the labels. Even seemingly healthy foods like kids’ yogurts and sorbet can contain tons of sugar. It doesn’t mean they can’t be part of your child’s diet at all, but it’s up to you to monitor overall sugar intake, and that means cutting down wherever you can.

    If you decide to limit your child’s sugar intake, it’s a good idea to do it gradually. A slow taper from sugary foods to healthier ones has a better chance of succeeding than a crash diet approach. Try replacing sodas with water, seltzer, or homemade drinks. Ice tea is great because you can choose a flavor your kids will love and limit sugar to one teaspoon per glass. If your child has a sweet tooth, point them to naturally sweet snacks like fresh and dried fruit.

    The earlier you start your children on the path of monitoring and limiting sugar intake, the healthier they will be for the rest of their lives. Having less sugar food in your home will be a boon to everyone’s health, including your own. 

     

  8. Kids & Social Media

    Social media confounds many parents. Parents who don’t have experience with social media are at a loss, and many parents who do are unsure how they should monitor and interact with their kids via these channels. The news is full of stories involving kids misbehaving and getting into trouble on social media, so how can you make sure you’re setting the right rules for your kids?  More importantly, how can you proactively protect your kids on social media?

    The first thing you need to do, if you haven’t done it already, is create social media accounts. Join Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and any other network that your kids are a part of. Connect with your kids. Just the fact they know that you can see what they are doing online will make them think twice before posting a questionable picture or less than thoughtful comment.

    Some parents want to know their kids’ passwords so they can see firsthand everything they’re doing online. That certainly makes it easier to monitor your kids, but for some parents it’s a case of too much information. Password sharing depends strongly on the level of privacy you afford your kids, and ultimately on their level of maturity.

    No matter how much privacy your kids have, there are certain things you should review with them. Make sure they understand that a lot of the same rules that apply to strangers on the street apply to people on social media. They should never give out their personal information and immediately report any harassment – whether from peers or from strangers. When it comes to their personal conduct, just remind them that you are on the same networks they are. Anything they wouldn’t want you to see shouldn’t be online at all.

    It’s important for parents to look past some of the negative characteristics of social media to see its true value. If you use social media as a way to monitor and interact with your kids, it’s an invaluable window into their lives. 

     

  9. Let’s Get a Pet!

    Getting a first pet is a monumental occasion in any child’s life. From the moment you bring that animal through the door, your kids will love it. Most parents eventually find themselves enamored with the family pet as well. All too often, however, families choose pets that they can’t handle, and those pets get sent back to the stores or shelters from which they came. It’s a sad event for both the pet and the family. How can you ensure your family chooses a pet that will be with you for a long time to come?

    The first thing you need to do is research. What kind of pet best fits your family’s lifestyle? Do you have the time and energy to devote to a dog? Are you home enough for a cat? How much responsibility will the parents shoulder? What about the kids? These are all things you need to figure out and discuss before you make any trip to a shelter or pet store.

    Dogs are the most popular American pet. Most dog owners view their pet as part of the family. If choosing a dog, make sure to factor in age, breed, and disposition. Does your family have the time and space necessary for a big, high-energy puppy? Maybe you would be more comfortable with a smaller dog that needs less exercise? Keep in mind you will need to take the time to train any dog so it can adjust to life with your family.

    Cats are the second most popular American pet. Many people assume that if they get a cat and put out a litter box and food bowl, the rest will take care of itself. Unfortunately, this is not the case. Although cats require less effort than dogs, they still need play and attention every day. Also, a family that travels a lot needs to make sure someone can take care of their cat when they are gone.

    If you aren’t ready to jump headlong into pet ownership, consider a starter pet, something that doesn’t require too much attention. Good examples include hamsters, goldfish, mice, and finches. These pets are a good way to make sure your family has the time to clean, feed, and care for an animal. If things work out, you’ll know your family is ready for a long term commitment.

     

  10. Bedtime Means Bedtime

    Many kids will avoid going to sleep no matter how exhausted they are. They’ll argue with you while yawning and rubbing their eyes. If this is the situation in your household, you may wonder about whether your kids are really getting the sleep they need. What methods can you use to make sure your kids are getting to bed and sleeping enough?

    WebMD offers this handy breakdown for how much sleep kids should be getting: 3 – 6 year olds, 10 – 12 hours of sleep; 7 – 12 year olds, 10 – 11 hours of sleep; 12 – 18 year olds, 8 – 9 hours of sleep. These are rough guidelines that you can alter to suit your child’s needs. Trust your instincts; if your kids look tired all the time, they’re not getting enough sleep.

    No matter what age your kids are, it’s important to stick to a regular schedule for bedtime. If you make sure your child gets to bed and wakes up at the same time every day, they’ll begin to develop an internal rhythm. In a matter of weeks you won’t need to remind them about bedtime, because their biological clock will be primed for sleep. Being on a schedule also makes it easier to wake up in the morning.

    Even with a schedule in place, many children will bicker with you when night arrives, claiming they’re not tired. Why do kids do this? Sometimes the mind just doesn’t realize how tired the body is. Certain activities can exacerbate this problem. Screen time of any sort – computer, TV, mobile phone – often disrupts the process of winding down toward sleep. You may want to consider banning or limiting the use of such devices in the hour or two before bed. Replace screen time with activities more conducive to falling asleep, like reading a book or listening to music.

    Many kids, especially energetic ones, simply don’t get enough opportunities during the day to put their energy to good use. This can lead to genuine sleeplessness. Make sure your child is getting enough exercise. An hour or two at the park or playing in the backyard can make all the difference when it comes to bedtime. Limiting sugar and caffeine intake is another way to make sure your children feel sufficiently tired at night.

    If your kids are still not sleeping after taking these kinds of steps, contact your pediatrician to look into other sources of insomnia. But for most kids, these tips will suffice and they’ll be asleep in no time.