Preparing for Back to School

by Major Mom

back-to-schoolCan you believe it’s already time to start thinking about the kids going back to school?  It will be here before we know it.  It’s best to get prepared now to make the transition of going back to school that much easier. Consider implementing one or all of these tips to make this school year the most successful it can be.

  • Establish routines. Summertime tends to be less structured than the school year. Children stay up later, wake later and have less overall responsibility. It’s important to begin setting the school year expectations well in advance to avoid problems with the adjustment. It’s never a good idea to start your new routines on the first day of school. Build up slowly to the new schedule.

  • Create a homework station. It can be helpful to establish a dedicated place in the home where children are expected to complete their homework. Set up the space with the supplies such as pencils, extra paper, dictionary, rulers, crayons, and other items that may be particular to your child’s grade level to help them complete their work efficiently. Having a dedicated space can help train the brain to focus more quickly.

  • Backpack/Out the door station. If there is nowhere to hang a backpack and coat where else is a child supposed to place them but on the floor? Create a small space where children place their items when they return home from school. It can be difficult to get them to use it right away, but if you stick with it and set the expectation far in advance they will eventually do it without thinking about it.

  • Lunch making station. Lunches are much easier to put together when you have everything you need in one place.  Dedicate a drawer or cabinet to everything need for lunches. Include Ziploc bags, plastic utensils, paper sacks, lunch boxes and non-perishable foods to make lunch making a snap.

  • Create a system for all that school paper. Children bring home A LOT of paper!  Be prepared  this year by setting up a sustainable system.

1.      Have an inbox for the paper they bring home daily.

2.      Before paper hits the inbox take 2 minutes to sort through them and decide what must stay and what goes.

3.      Separate action paper (permission slips, etc.) from paper to file (artwork, test grades).

4.      Keep a file folder handy of all action items.

5.      Keep a large tote of paper to file.

6.      Monthly or quarterly spend time with each child going through their tote of paper to file. Decide which items are important to both you and your child. Date the important items (you will forget later!) and toss the rest.

7.      Consider scanning the items you’re keeping to further reduce paper clutter. 

  • Update clothing. Spend time cleaning out clothing drawers and closets. Put away or donate any clothing that is too small or too big. Getting dressed in the morning is much easier for children when their drawers aren’t overflowing with clothes that don’t fit them anymore.

Celebrate Mother’s Day Creatively

mirrorMother’s Day is almost here! It’s dad’s turn to help the kids get creative to make it a special day for mom. Crayola has some fun and easy ideas that kids of any age can participate in:

 

Greet mom in the morning with a special message on the bedroom window or the bathroom mirror Washable Window Markers. [Craft Details]

Jazz up mirrors. Make dazzling picture frames. With colorful Crayola® Washable Window Markers you can change designs whenever you wish.

1.Could you spruce up a mirror in your house with seasonal or fanciful borders? Or could you transform a plain picture with a decorative edge inside the frame? Check with an adult before you start to make Markered Mirrors.

2.Think up ways to brighten mirrors or picture frames. Some suggestions: Surround a mirror with “Happy Birthday” for a morning surprise. Create holiday decorations such as hearts for Valentine’s Day. Draw a string of colored lights for Christmas. Add an “I love you” border around your picture for a gift. Repeat or embellish designs from nearby wallpaper or clothing in a picture.

3.Use Crayola Washable Window Markers to draw a colorful border around the edge of your mirror or on the glass inside your picture frame.

4.When you are ready for a change of scene, just wipe with a damp paper towel and make a new design.

 

Personalize placemats to decorate the table for a surprise Mother’s Day breakfast/lunch/dinner using Ultra-Clean Washable Markers. [Craft Details]

Place others first and you’ll make someone smile! Show you care by creating a placemat to donate to an agency that provides meals to people who are homeless, elderly, or disabled.

1. There are lots of terrific kids who help others, care for the environment, and make their communities better places to live! What can you do to help others in your community? Here’s a great idea to inspire you: Design a placemat to donate to a service organization, such as one that provides meals for people who may be lonely or unable to leave their homes.

2. With Crayola Scissors, cut cotton or 50/50 cotton/polyester fabric into a placemat. Put on your painting shirt, and cover your work surface with clean paper. Crayola® Fabric Markers stain clothing and surfaces, CLOSE ADULT SUPERVISION IS REQUIRED.

3. Use a ruler and Crayola Fabric Markers to separate sections on the fabric. Each section can be a different size and shape.

4. Create a cheerful design with large and small shapes, colors, or patterns. Add stripes or dots to fill each section with color.

5. Designs must be heat set by an adult so the placemat can be laundered. Set the iron to cotton. Iron on the reverse side using a back and forth motion for 4 minutes. Or put the placemat in the dryer for 30 minutes on the hottest setting.

 

Create a portrait for mom on the sidewalk or in a chalkboard frame using 48 ct. Washable Sidewalk Chalk that provides you with the largest variety of colors.

 

Customize mom’s favorite picture of the family by drawing a picture-frame border with Color Wonder markers that only appear on Color Wonder paper. [Craft Details]

Make memories with this easy-to-make, no-mess frame. Kids can display their own art or photos of themselves, pets, and family members.

1. Decide whether your picture frame will be a gift or for yourself. What picture will you put inside the frame? You could draw one, or ask an adult if it’s OK to frame a photograph.

2. To mark the frame’s four borders, firmly crease its inside edges in a piece of Crayola® Color Wonder™ Paper.

3. With Crayola Color Wonder Markers, draw and color a pattern to make your Bright Borders. What decorations go well with the picture you are framing?

4. Fold the creases in both directions. Carefully tear along the folds to remove the blank center of your frame.

5. Attach your art to the back of the frame with a Crayola Glue Stick. For extra support, glue cardboard on the back.

 

Gardening with Kids

By Christy Wilhelmi, www.gardenerd.com

little-gardenerSpring is when nature appears to come back to life. Flowers push up from the soil, and with it comes the curiosity of children. It’s the perfect opportunity to plant a spring garden. Encourage your little ones to dream big; read together about children’s gardening, and spend time plotting out veggies that will become mid-day snacks this summer. Watch the excitement build as you start seeds, whether indoors or outside. Here are a few quick veggies that provide nearly instant gratification and are kid-friendly crops to plant:

Radishes – the ultimate instant-gratification vegetable.  They sprout in days and can be harvested in a very short time.  Perfect for impatient little ones!

Lettuces – not only will you see sprouts emerge quickly (10 days or so) but you’ll be able to harvest the outside leaves in a little over a month from the time they sprout.  You’ll have salads through spring and into summer.

Beets – okay, kids might not like beets, but they are really easy to grow, have virtually no pests or diseases, and bring a lot of color to the garden.  Their red-veined leaves and stems might actually convince kids that beets are tasty, too.

Arugula – this green is a little more sophisticated in flavor, but much like radishes, it sprouts in days.  Your kids may not like it but you will, so tell them that kids can grow grown-up vegetables to share.

Peas – nature’s snack food rarely makes it in from the garden.  Peas take longer to germinate, but given a place to climb, they will thrive.  Kids will enjoy watching peas reach for the sky, flower and form tiny pea pods.  Practice patience by waiting for the peas to plump up and then pick and eat them right in the garden.  These are the things that make lasting memories.

Christy Wilhelmi is founder of Gardenerd.com and author of Gardening for Geeks. She offers classes, consulting and food garden design in the Los Angeles are, and grows 70% of her family’s produce in under 200 square feet. For more information on growing your own food, visit Gardenerd.com.

Make The Potty Training Process Easy and Enjoyable With These Five Tips

When it comes time to say goodbye to diapers, it is important that little ones are developmentally ready for success.  Once parents are certain their children are prepared for this milestone and they, themselves, are willing to devote the necessary time and energy it takes to potty train, it’s time to start the process.  Lilly Cueto, spokesperson for SoapTime®, an action-packed hand soap dispenser and SmartBase™, offers the following tips to help transition children from diapers to the bathroom:

potty chartPotty Charts:  Potty charts are very helpful during the training process.  Before you begin teaching your child, set up a chart and hang it in the bathroom.  Personalize the chart by letting your child color and decorate.  Once completed, explain that every time they successfully use the toilet, they will be given a sticker to put on their chart.  Knowing they will receive a fun sticker after each potty break will encourage them to go more often.

Incentives:  One way to conquer potty training is to offer incentives to your child.  Fill a reward bag with small treats and once your child has finished using the bathroom, let them choose one item out of the bag.  Providing children with small rewards and positive verbal encouragement will stimulate ongoing use.  When praised for their achievement, they will begin to recognize the importance of using the toilet.  As children begin to accomplish each stage of potty training, parents can slowly reduce the amount of praise and incentives they give.

soaptimeSoapTime®:  A great way to coach children to use the potty and also to teach them proper hand washing habits is to provide them with SoapTime for hand clean-up after they are finished.  This electronically enhanced product encourages children to use the bathroom more often because it gives them a fun and engaging experience at the sink.  SoapTime’s hand washing system consists of three uniquely shaped bottles: ABC, Earth and Elephant set in a SmartBase®.  Each bottle is recognized by the SmartBase and has a distinct educational theme narrated by its own Professor Goodhabits.  The themes include unique songs, factoids and LED light shows.  To use, a child simply pushes the dispenser and for 20 seconds they wash their hands while learning and enjoying their time at the sink.

Four-piece kit including a SmartBase, ABC, Earth and Elephant bottle is $16.97 each.  Visit mysoaptime.com.

Water Colors:  Turning potty training into a fun game can further entice little ones to use the toilet.  One way to do this is to dye the toilet water with blue or red food coloring.  This way, once the toddlers use the potty, they turn the water into an orange or green color.  Children will get a kick out of changing the color and will be more eager to join parents in the bathroom for potty training time.

Books:  Giving children books to look at on the potty will help them feel more comfortable sitting for a longer period of time.  After your child is sitting down diaper-free, provide him or her with a potty training book, as many have been written on this topic, along with any other favorite books of their choice.  Potty training books available on amazon.com include A Potty for Me by Karen Katz and Once Upon a Potty by Alona Frankel.  They start at approximately $5.

It is important for parents to remain patient as they go through the potty training process.  Taking the time each child needs to learn this new skill is essential and with these engaging tips, it can be a fun learning time, too!

Establishing A Routine

Establishing a Routine for Your BabyEstablishing A Routine For Your Baby

Some people cringe at the thought of establishing a routine for a newborn, thinking that it is not a reasonable thing for an infant to follow. This may be true for schedules, where you fit your baby to a clock, but not a routine. Babies, live adults, thrive on a routine and it helps parents in many, many ways. The important thing to remember with your routine is that is has to remain FLEXIBLE.  Setting up a rigid schedule that your baby must follow to the minute is not acceptable or fair to your baby (and will make your life more miserable).

The easiest routine we have found to follow is Tracy Hogg’s EASY routine. EASY is an acronym for a predictable sequence of events the pretty much mirrors adult lives. Eat, have some Activity, go to Sleep, then have time for You. This is a routine (not a schedule) that keeps the day structured and predictable, helps parents learn their babies ways of communicating, and prevents the forming of some bad habits (like feeding your baby to sleep). We suggest starting on this routine from the day you bring your baby home from the hospital. The routine is only a daytime routine. During the night, there should be no activity period (not even a diaper change unless you know the diaper has poop in it or the diaper is leaking). At night, if your baby wakes from hunger, feed him them put him right back to sleep.

Newborn to four month old babies should be on a three hour routine (eating every three hours) and at four months babies are ready to move to a four hour routine (this is assuming a baby was not premature, is of average healthy weight and has no health problems). Establishing a routine is easier the younger the baby, so start right away and your baby will naturally and easily move from the three to four hour routine-probably even on her own.

A Routine That Works for Parents AND Baby

Tracy Hogg’s years of experience implementing the EASY routine with families, resulted in babies’ lives that were predictable and calm, which led them to be “good eaters, they learned to play independently for increasingly longer periods and they could get themelves to sleep without sucking on a bottle or breast or being rocked by their parents. As many of these babies grew into toddlers and preschoolers, they were also confident in themselves and trusted that their parents would be there if they needed them. The parents themselves learned early on to tune in to their child’s cues by carefully observing their body language and listening to their cries. Because they could “read” their child, they felt better equipped to deal with any bumps in the road.”

“With EASY, you don’t follow the baby, you take charge. You observe him carefully, tune in to his cues, but you take the lead, gently encouraging him to follow what you know will make him thrive: eating, appropriate levels of activity, and a good sleep afterward. You are your baby’s guide. You set the pace. EASY gives parents, especially first-timers, the confidence to know that they understand their baby, because they more quickly learn to distinguish their baby’s cries.”

Write It Down to Help Stick To The Routine

The most important thing you can do to keep on your routine, especially in the beginning or during periods of change, is to write everything down. Write down what time your baby eats, how long of on activity period you had, what time she went to sleep and when she woke up. This helps you remember what times things occurred (because your lack-of-sleep brain isn’t as good at remembering on its own) and helps you recognize patterns (good and bad). Writing it all down gives you the perspective of an entire day (or week).

Some of the things you might want to write down or log would be:

Eat-Time, How much (if bottle)/how long (if breast), Right or Left breast

Activity-What, How long

Sleep-How long

You-What you did for yourself (taking naps when your baby is napping is the best way to spend your “You” time in the beginning)

The Most Important Thing To Remember

It is so important to remember that this is a flexible, structured routine, NOT a schedule. Your baby will likely vary a little from day to day on when she is hungry or tired (usually only by 15-30 minutes) and that is ok. If your baby is hungry, feed her, even if it is before the “time” on your routine. When your baby starts showing signs of getting tired, put her to bed. Instead of focusing on the clock, focus on your baby. Look for signs of hunger, sleepiness and overstimulation. “The better you get at interpreting your baby’s cries and body language, the better you’ll be at guiding him and at clearing whatever obstacles get in the way.”

A Typical EASY Day for a 4 Week Old (as outlined in Tracy’s book)

E-7:00 am Feed

A-7:45 Diaper change, some playing and talking; watch cues for sleepiness

S-8:15 Swaddle and lay your baby in the crib. It may take him 15-20 minutes to fall asleep for his 1st morning nap.

Y-8:30 You nap when he naps

E-10:00 Feed

A-10:45 See 7:45 above

S-11:15 2nd morning nap

Y-11:30 Nap/relax

E-1:00 Feed

A-1:45 See 7:45 above

S-2:15 Afternoon nap

Y-11:30 Nap/relax

E-4:00 Feed

A-4:45 See 7:45 above

S-5:15 Catnap for 40-50 minutes to give him enough rest to handle his bath.

Y-5:30 Do something nice for yourself.

E-6:00 1st Cluster feed

A-7:00 Bath, into jammies, lullaby or other bedtime ritual

S-7:30 Another catnap

Y-7:30 You eat dinner

E-8:00 2nd cluster feed

A-None

S-Put him straight back to bed

Y-Enjoy your short evening

E-10-11 Dream feed and cross your fingers ’til morning!

“NOTE: Whether a baby is breast or bottle fed, I advise the above routine–allowing for variations in times–until 4 months old. The “A” time will be shorter for younger babies, and get progressively longer for older ones. I also recommend turning the two “cluster feeds” into one (at around 5:30 or ) by 8 weeks. Continue to dream feed until 7 months–unless he’s a great sleeper and makes it through on his own.”

From Our Experience

As activity time gets longer and more involved, it is necessary to have an adequate wind-down ritual to prepare your baby for sleep. It is not easy for her to go right from playing to sleeping. She has to have time to settle down and get in sleep mode. Be sure to do the same things every time before bed (swaddle, read books, sing a lullaby, sit in the chair, etc). If your baby is extra fussy when you try to put her to sleep, you might need to spend a few more minutes in your wind-down. And, enjoy this time! The time to cuddle and snuggle your baby is irreplaceable!

To read all about Tracy Hogg’s Sleep Methods and to hear many case studies, check out her incredible books: Secrets of the Baby Whisperer and The Baby Whisperer Solves All Your Problems.

Recommended Reading

To read more about the EASY Routine, we recommend Tracy Hogg’s books, Secrets of the Baby Whisperer and The Baby Whisperer Solves All Your Problems

Make Your Own Baby Food

Baby eatingMake Your Own (Homemade) Baby Food

Making your own (homemade) baby food is really quite simple, and rewarding! You don’t need any fancy tools or even lots of time. Just spend a few minutes to make a big batch of food that you can store in your freezer and use for weeks.

The Benefits of Making Your Own (Homemade) Baby Food

I think one of the best things about making your own (homemade) baby food is that you know exactly what your baby is eating. Some jars of baby food have ingredients on their labels that won’t have in your fresh batch of food. If you are serving your baby butternut squash, you know the ingredients are butternut squash and water and that’s it! It is also a great way to feed your baby more organic foods (without paying extra for jars of pre-made organic baby food).

Another huge benefit is the taste quality of the foods you are making. My biggest complaint of jarred baby food that you buy at the store is how watered down and bland the food is. If you compare homemade sweet potatoes to store bought sweet potatoes by giving them a taste test, you will be able to quickly recognize the difference in flavor. By making your own baby food, you are keeping foods more concentrated and full of flavor, which will be helpful as your baby grows into those picky-eater toddler stages. Your baby will be used to more flavor (like what mom and dad eat) and like a bigger variety of foods.

Variety is a great benefit to making homemade baby food. Since the baby food you make is frozen in ice cube trays (approximately 1 oz/cube), you can have a four ounce meal with many different combinations of foods. And, if you have a lot of different types of food in your freezer, you can keep meals constantly changing. Additionally, it is easy to experiment with mixing foods for even more variety (try avocado and banana!). Baby won’t get sick of the same old food and will probably look forward to what the next meal will bring! If you do this with jarred baby food, you have to open several jars of food and use them up completely right away so they don’t go bad. (Be sure when experimenting with food combinations and providing variety for meals that you have already introduced the food as the only new food for at least three days to make sure there are no food allergies.)

Price is of course a benefit. You can buy fresh produce, cook and puree it into several dozen ounces for just a few bucks. Jarred baby food at the store is not very costly, but it can add up when you baby is consuming a few jars of it per day. And when you compare it with the quality of food you are getting, making your own food is hands down a better value.

How to Make Your Own Baby Food

Each food that you prepare for your baby has an ideal way to be prepared. Some foods are better to steam, while others are to bake or boil. My favorite web site for knowing the best way to cook baby’s food is www.wholesomebabyfood.com. They also have a great chart that breaks down what foods are appropriate at what ages. Here is a basic rundown of how you make your own baby food:

  • Clean the food
  • Cook the food to soften it
  • Puree the food with a food processor or blender
  • Add water to the puree to make it thinner or add rice cereal to the puree to make it thicker
  • Once desired consistancy is reached, fill ice cube trays (each cube is approximately 1 ounce) with the food
  • Freeze the food
  • Once frozen, put the food in storage bags labeled with the food and date made

Recommended Reading

Get recipes and tips for making your own baby food with these books.

Recommended Resources

We love the Ninja food processor. It’s one of the most affordable food processors available, does a great job and makes it easy to pour into ice cube trays! (And, my baby thinks it is fun to help make food with!)