Category: Tips & Tricks

5 summer must-do adventures for toddlers


Andrea Updyke

posted in Tips & Tricks

This post is sponsored by Mott’s

Parenting a toddler is serious business. My three year old is the most active he has ever been and hardly ever sits still. I am constantly looking for ideas to keep him occupied and learning new skills.

During the summer weeks, where he is too young for most camps and preschool is out, we have to be particularly creative so we both don’t go crazy. I have a few go-to ideas that are fun for toddlers and get us all out of the house. From checking out new parks to enjoying old favorites, there is something for everyone. Read on for some of our favorite summer adventures.

slide 5 summer must do adventures for toddlers

Must-do summer adventures for toddlers

Planes – Head out to the local airport to watch the planes take off and land. Ours even has an observation park with a play area for kids and tables for snack time! We bring along our Mott’s for Tots juice boxes, grapes, cheese crackers and of course lots of sand toys.

Trains – Head to a park with a kid’s train or if you have one, a real train station to watch the train or go for a ride. I don’t know what it is about trains, but my kids love them. If I am honest, I do too. I don’t think I ever grew out of this phase.

Bus rides –  That’s right, forget the automobile this time and ride the bus! In our city, we have a nicely air-conditioned bus downtown that makes a loop all day long. Rides are free and I’ve found my kids enjoy the experience.

Fountains – Really it’s all about the simple pleasures when it comes to keeping toddlers entertained. Any location with a good fountain works for us. We aren’t picky. Just make sure to bring lots of pennies and have fun making wishes.

Splash yards – My youngest is still timid around water, but he loves to splash. This makes the local splash yard high on the list for many summer visits. Bonus points for getting outside.

However you decide to enjoy summer together with your toddler, don’t forget the snacks. Mott’s Natural Applesauce cups are a staple in our house and easy to take on the go. When it’s time to head out, we load up with snacks, water, and a couple Mott’s for Tots juice boxes for the road. My kids love fruit punch, but the idea of a super sweet food colored cocktail isn’t really at the top of my list for healthy options. Mott’s for Tots has 40% less sugar than 100% apple juice and I think that is great for my toddler who can finish off a juice box in about 45 seconds.

For more portable snack ideas, check out some of our favorites below.

Grab and go snack ideas

motts logo e1404329532180 5 summer must do adventures for toddlersThis post is sponsored by Mott’s

***Featured photo via Flickr/Tanya Little

Ten tips for parenting as a team


Whitney Barthel

posted in Tips & Tricks


My husband and I grew up very differently. Although we only lived fifteen miles from one another our family lives were polar opposites. He was homeschooled, I went to public school. His parents are still married, my parents divorced when I was four. He grew up on a farm, I lived in town. Not only are the demographics of our family completely different, our moms and dads had very dissimilar parenting styles.

This difference in upbringing has caused us to have conflicting views on how to parent the “right” way. Luckily we are in agreement on most issues, but we are having a hard time coming together on things like schooling and discipline.

In attempt to smooth these riffs over and work together as a team, I have started researching methods to help us come to an agreement on pesky little issues that keep coming to a head. In my hunt I found one extremely useful article containing ten moderately feasible strategies.

This little bit of parenting guidance, offered by Debbie Pincus, urges parents to relate and come to a consensus on big issues and to avoid heated discussions in front of your children.

“Children can sense when their parents aren’t in sync in their decisions around discipline. Your child will feel the lack of unity between you, which can create a feeling of instability for him. This will also give kids an opening; they will sometimes use it to provoke a fight. This gets your child off the hook and turns parent against parent.”

 Here are ten easy guidelines that will help you and your partner parent as one coherent unit:

1. Provide back-up. Make one parent in charge of discipline. I guess mom was doing it right when she said, “Just wait till your dad gets home!”.
2. Don’t fight in front of the kids. Children are disturbed by seeing their parents fight with one another. This is hard for me — and probably most women. It is all too easy to get emotional and want to deal with things that moment. Make sure you keep your composure and avoid confrontation in front of the kids.
3. Decide who feels more strongly about the issue. This one is easy – pick your battles. Even if you don’t agree with your partner 100% on the issue, it is important to support the decision made either way.
4. Only discuss parenting issues when you are calm. This one is easier said than done. Staying calm will help keep the lines of communication open. Try to be open minded and understanding as to why your partner feels the way they do. These discussions might be best reserved for a date night, over wine…lots of wine.
5. Don’t throw your partner “under the bus”. It is important to empathize with your little ones, but don’t do it at the expense of your spouse. I know it’s hard to bite your tongue if you aren’t completely in agreement with a recent parenting decision, but comments like “I know daddy is mean. We will get ice cream next time” is a big no no. This, I am ashamed to say, is my biggest flaw. Some part of me feels I can guilt Ryan into being the dad and husband I think he should be. I know, it is totally ridiculous.
6. Be familiar with your partner’s family history. This will help you understand why they feel the way they do on certain parenting issues. Most people are resistant to change, so no matter how good your brownies are — your mother-in-law’s will always be better… just saying. Give your partner and relationship time. This will help you and your significant other come to terms with feelings associated with certain issues. Time may be all you need to come together on tough parenting choices.
7. When parents fight, kids think they are off the hook. Kids can be stinky little buggers. If fighting is a “norm” some children will find ways to encourage their parents to bicker at one another to divert attention from their bad behavior.
8. Step away from the issue. When things get heated sometimes it’s best to take some time away and think about why this issue may be so important to your significant other.
9. Just listen. Spend a few minutes listening to your partner’s wishes as a parent. Try not to say a word. Try to work out a negotiation without getting stirred up or anxious. I know what you are thinking — is my husband capabable of this? Men are fantastic at not saying anything, but notoriously bad listeners. It might be best to make sure you have their attention first by saying phrases like “free beer”, “NFL draft”, or maybe “Megan Fox”.
10. Is it time to consider professional help? Don’t be too proud to look for help if you are feeling stuck.


What are some parenting issues you and your significant other disagree on?



Tips for toddlers: healthy snacks & meals


Andrea Updyke

posted in Tips & Tricks

This post is sponsored by Mott’s

I love food. I love trying new flavors and enjoying old favorites. Unfortunately, my kids are not quite there yet. I have one very picky eater and a toddler who is still deciding the direction in which he will go. I hope as they grow they will both see the joy of trying new flavors. But for now I am looking for ways to get them interested in trying new foods.

If that sounds like you, check out some of our tips for encouraging young eaters to try new things.

Strategies for adding new healthy snacks and meals to your toddler’s plate

Dip it – If your child likes condiments, offer dips like hummus, guacamole, ranch dressing, and fruit dip to make trying fruits and veggies more fun! One of our favorite snacks is apple slices dipped in peanut butter with a few chocolate chips sprinkled on!

Mix new flavors with old favorites – When you are introducing a new food, include it with other foods your child is already used to. I’ve found that slapping a completely unfamiliar plate of food in front of my three year old is a sure-fire way to have it ignored.

cal motts 481x650 Tips for toddlers: healthy snacks & meals

Family style – I am not a big fan of wasting food so I tend to portion out my kid’s plates before they ever reach the table. However, sometimes children will be more adventurous if they are allowed to serve themselves. You’ll never know until you try! The next time you sit down for a family meal, set everything out on the table and see what happens.

Drink your vitamins – For kids who need a little (or a lot) of help making healthy choices, I am all about the smoothie. There’s practically no limit to what you can sneak in there! Check out this recipe for a Banana Berry smoothie using Mott’s for Tots. I bet you could even add some spinach in there and no toddler would be the wiser.

For more healthy snack ideas, check out some of our go-to favorites!

At the end of the day, try not to stress about toddler meals. This one is hard for me but so true. At this stage of independence, the important thing is to keep offering healthy options. Once we have done that, the rest will sort itself out.

What are some of your favorite ways to get your toddler to try new foods?

motts logo e1404329532180 Tips for toddlers: healthy snacks & mealsThis post is sponsored by Mott’s

Awesome summer hairstyles for little girls


Stacy-Ann Gooden

posted in Tips & Tricks

Now that summer is officially here, I’m having fun trying out different styles on my daughter’s hair. I’m no professional, but I’ve managed to pull together some pretty awesome dos that have been getting a lot of positive feedback. Here are some tips to keep in mind when creating styles for your kiddos.

1. Keep it short. I try to style in five minutes or less. If it takes any longer, my daughter will lose her mind.
2. Look for inspiration. The Disney movies we’ve been watching lately have inspired us to recreate a few looks like this one from Maleficent.
IMG 8361 433x650 Awesome summer hairstyles for little girls
3. Keep it simple and age appropriate. Some of the styles I see are pretty cool, but may be out of my daughter’s age range. If your child is a bit older, maybe you can go over the top. But let’s face it; small kids are always getting into something. All that hard work of styling may be a total mess by the end of the day anyway.
4. Accessorize. You’d be surprise at how a simple clip can jazz up any hairdo. Bows and hand bands are my daughter’s favorite go to accessories.
5. Have fun! We love experimenting with different looks. Sometimes my daughter would see a look she likes and comes up with her own ideas. She’s at the point of putting in her own requests.

In addition to creating fun summer looks, I’m now realizing how much of a lesson this has also become for my daughter. Like any other arts and crafts project we do, she’s been able to explore and be creative. Check out some of the different summer looks we’ve come up with, along with a few throwbacks.

How do you like to style your kiddos hair?

Photos: Stacy-Ann Gooden

Stacy-Ann Gooden (aka Weather Anchor Mama) can be seen delivering the weather on the news weeknights in New York City. But her most important role is being a wife and mom. She writes about balancing career and motherhood in her blog, Weather Anchor Mama. You can also follow her on twitterPinterest, and Instagram.

2 easy ways to get kids to take medicine


Stacy-Ann Gooden

posted in Tips & Tricks

As a child, my mother would get me to take medicine by crushing pills and mixing it with a little juice. There was something about swallowing tablets that freaked me out. The bitter flavor of diluted crushed medicine wasn’t much better, but it went down more smoothly. Now that I’m a parent, I understand what my mom went through. Convincing my daughter to take her medicine has been one of my most difficult challenges. This is a topic that has been discussed here on BabyCenter. But, I’ve figured out two more easy ways to get kids to take their medicine.

It’s one thing when you have a sick child. But, having two kids feeling under the weather is a whole other story. My 10-month-old has been battling another ear infection, while my preschooler has been fighting off a horrible cough and cold. I usually try to avoid drugs all together. However, I have no choice! We’re going on two weeks here.

The pediatrician prescribed something mild for each child. My daughter has refused to take the medication. “I don’t like it,” she whined.

“It’ll make you feel better,” I assured her.
“But I don’t like it,” she persisted.

You’d think I was forcing her to drink liquor! My frustration got the best of me, and I responded.
“Mommy’s gonna be really upset if you don’t take this,” I replied.
At that moment, guilt washed over me. I would never want her to feel pressured into taking anything. Before I could apologize for what I said, she replied, “ok.”

The other day, my husband ran into the same problem. She wouldn’t take her medicine. Rather than continue trying to convince her, he prepared our son’s medication. Her little brother took the medication like a champ, and then was praised by his Dad for doing a great job. Upon hearing how well her baby brother did, Princess insisted on taking hers as well.

The possibility of upsetting me, and wanting to be praised like her baby brother was all it took. Who knew that getting a child to take medicine could be this easy?

How do you get your kids to take medicine?

Stacy-Ann Gooden (aka Weather Anchor Mama) can be seen delivering the weather on the news weeknights in New York City. But her most important role is being a wife and mom. She writes about balancing career and motherhood in her blog, Weather Anchor Mama. You can also follow her on twitterPinterest, and Instagram.



18 ways to simplify this summer


Sarah Welch

posted in Tips & Tricks

Summer is finally here. Wahoo!

Unfortunately for me, the chaos level has ramped UP, not down. I honestly did not think that was possible, but between day camps, end-of-year events, a wave of summer birthdays, a new job, and getting learning plans in place for both boys next year, my hair is officially on. fire.

I’m eeking by on a few hours of sleep each night and hoping and praying once we get past the end of June, I’ll be able to find a little more balance so I can enjoy the summer.

And yet, I have come to loathe that little word: balance. Balance schmalance.

It implies that if I could just push myself harder, I could “achieve” this mythical nirvana where personal and professional lives peacefully coexist and I have room to breathe. Whenever I hear it, it triggers the feeling that I should be doing a better job of juggling it all.

But in moments of lucidity I can see that is a big, fat logic trap. There’s just no such thing. Life is too busy for our days to be balanced. It’s an organic, ever-evolving changing thing that develops every minute, hour and day. Trying to make it balanced is asking too much.

But simplifying…well that’s another story. The very word does seem to create a peace within.

That’s why this summer, I am on a mission stop telling myself to find “balance” and instead to just “simplify.”

As a way of kicking off this “new outlook,” I came up with 18 ways to do just that:

What could you simplify this summer?

Help your child stick-to-it with these 4 strategies


Sarah Welch

posted in Tips & Tricks

When you try something new, such as riding a bike, Common Core math problems (say wha??), or how to craft a dinosaur dioramas, the really crucial, and incredibly difficult, part comes just after the initial burst of enthusiasm wears off.

That’s when you have to do the hard work of climbing up the learning curve. Boy is it ever tempting to just give up. But we can’t. One of our central jobs as parents is to help our children adopt a stick-to-it mindset from an early age.

Ah, it’s amazing the philosophical insights one has while pulling out hair out over second grade homework in the home stretch of the school year.

1. Understand your child may assume he lacks the ability.
It’s natural for your child to think “I stink and this,” or “I just can’t do x,y,z”. But the real issue is she hasn’t had enough practice. It’s useful to have some phrases like, “Everybody stinks at this when they first try it. But if you practice, magic happens.”

I’ve found that when my 7YO encounters a new learning roadblock and dissolves in frustration it’s really effective to gently remind him of something he now does effortless now but that was once a struggle for him. I typically ask, “Can you remember when you used to think this easy peasy thing was so hard it made you cry? What did you do so that it’s super easy now?” The answer is always: PRACTICE!

2. Anticipate that your child will want to go from zero to hero in one step.
Change is a process, not a snap-your-fingers and it’s done kind of thing. It comes in fits and starts – by taking baby steps. It’s normal to feel frustrated because of what’s not working — but remind your child that it is actually a sign that she is making progress! Every time she thinks she’s failing remind her that she’s learning what’s not working, which, if you reflect on it & learn from it, will bring her one step closer to what will work.

3. Find community mentors
Sometimes the best teachers for your children are…other children. Does your local library have a reading buddies or homework buddies program? Ours does and on some afternoons I have to admit it’s much more productive to pile everyone in the car, head to the library and let peers mentor my son.

4. Break It Down
This last one is so obvious, but it’s hard to remember when the whining is at full volume. A great way to do this is to play the 7-up game. Basically you break down a big task your child is trying to master into smaller bite-sized pieces. Then, once you do that, get him to practice the first step 7 times. When he does the task 7 times well, he “wins” 5 extra minutes of playtime before bed. After he’s done that, have him move on to the next concept in the ladder. The small rewards for successfully completing small steps are totally and completely trans formative.

Now if someone could just teach me how to make a dinosaur diorama!

What works for you when your child is feeling frustrated and wanting to give up?

DIY: 3 Easy tips to making unforgettable Father’s Day cards


Stacy-Ann Gooden

posted in Tips & Tricks

Store bought cards are an easy solution to just about every holiday or special event, including Father’s Day. But, why not make your own? You never know, Dad just may appreciate it more than just the run-of-the-mill stationary card. Plus, it’s a great way to get the kids involved to add their own personal touches.

The three easy tips to making an unforgettable Father’s Day card are simple. All you need are:

1. Creativity. If you’re not much of a crafter, you can check out Pinterest for ideas.
2. Supplies. Craft stores have tons of items to choose from. You can also purchase supplies online.
3. A little time. 15 minutes is all it takes, once you gather everything you need.

My daughter and I took a trip to the dollar store and purchased a few items to make a Father’s Day card. We spent five bucks in total. I know your probably thinking that we could have just bought a card for equal or lesser value. However, I’ve always believed that when you give someone something you’ve made yourself, you give that person a part of yourself. And that, my dear, is priceless. Check out how she did. Maybe your kids will find it helpful.

Here are a few more Father’s Day card ideas. Be sure to click on each photo for complete tutorials.


Would you rather buy or make your own Father’s Day card?

Stacy-Ann Gooden (aka Weather Anchor Mama) can be seen delivering the weather on the news weeknights in New York City. But her most important role is being a wife and mom. She writes about balancing career and motherhood in her blog, Weather Anchor Mama. You can also follow her on twitterPinterest, and Instagram.


How to get rid of stubborn cradle cap


Denise Cortes

posted in Tips & Tricks

When I had my fourth child, he was born with a full head of thick, dark hair. It overwhelmed his tiny little face. How can a baby have so much hair? I often wondered. A couple of months passed when I started to notice his hair smelled weird–specifically, his scalp. Kind of funky, like I hadn’t washed it for several days. Upon further inspection, I discovered a yellow crust on his scalp, very similar to scales–and it smelled bad. I had a mild freak out. Instead of running to the pediatrician, I looked through my natural remedy book and breathed a sigh of relief. Turns out, it was cradle cap.

What is cradle cap?

According to BabyCenter, it’s infantile seborrheic dermatitis. Basically, it’s dandruff for babies.  Some experts believe that the hormones a baby receives from his mother at the end of pregnancy can overstimulate the baby’s oil-producing glands, resulting in cradle cap. Irritation from a yeast that grows in the sebum (the substance produced by the glands) is also thought to be a culprit. Once I figured out exactly what it was (my other three children never had it), I made it my mission for my little one to have a healthy, crust-free scalp.

After he was fed and was content to lay in my arms, I would go to town. The cradle cap is sometimes very stubborn to remove, so I literally had to scrape it off.

How to treat cradle cap

  1. Gently massage baby’s scalp using a soft-bristle brush to loosen the scales.
  2. Rub a generous amount of oil on baby’s scalp and let it sink in for a few minutes. Any kind of light oil will do–almond, grapeseed, olive. My favorite was coconut oil.
  3. Using a fine-tooth comb, gently comb out flakes that will be loosened up by the oil.

It took me several days to remove the yellow, scaly patches on his scalp because of all his hair–it was oddly satisfying. But once it was complete, I was overjoyed to see my son’s healthy, soft, non-stinky scalp, free from any cradle cap.

Did your baby have cradle cap? How did you treat it?

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Image source: Flickr/Sterling Ely

Feeling overwhelmed? Try a new mantra


Sarah Welch

posted in Tips & Tricks

Last summer I admitted to being stuck in a bit of a funk.

An unexpected shift in our child care situation combined with my own ambiguity about “fixing” it with anything other than me, left me feeling totally overwhelmed by chaos and exhausted from trying to run my small business totally by myself.

And until I came clean about it on my blog, I felt powerless and stuck – white knuckling it through each day.

Writing about my struggle was cathartic and transformative.

Thoughtful and helpful comments from readers definitely made me feel better, and – -just as important, taking a step back and dispassionately looking at the swirl of words on the page also made me realize I had a real focus issue.

I did have the power to regain control. And it was all in my mind.

My Overwhelm Mantra

Do you know what a mantra is? Basically it’s a sound, syllable, word, or phrase that one repeats – traditionally in a quest for transformation. As I reflected on my situation, it hit me like a blinding flash that I was unconsciously repeating an energy-depleting, soul-sucking mantra.

You see, I was SO focused on my mile-long to-do list that I literally would walk around with the words, “ohmyGOD I have SO MUCH to get done today!” looping around and around my sleep-deprived brain from the time my eyes opened in the morning until the moment my head hit the pillow.

Just like a mantra.

And clearly, it was transformative. My reality was that I was completely and totally overwhelmed. And unhappy. And stuck.

A Mantra Experiment

Once I realized the power of my subconscious loop, I became determined to swap out my soul-sucking phrase for a positive one.

Over the past year, I’ve run a slew of new mantra experiments. After twelve months of tweaks, I now have a list of 5 questions that I use to jump-start my days. Each week I cycle through a new phrase. I spend the first five to ten minutes after waking up just repeating the phrase of the week. If I feel my mind wandering in a negative direction during the day, I turn to them again. At night, I take the last five minutes before bed and reflect on them one last time. Here are my five:

1. What can I happily contribute at home and at work today?
2. What am I grateful for (at home/at work/in my personal life)? How can I convey my gratitude for those things today?
3. Thank you God for this day (or moment). How can I honor you with it?
4. Who am I going to choose to be today (or right now)?
5. What actions today will truly make our home/buttoned up/my life better?

Holy cow what a difference this new mantra has made.

Especially the second phrase. Rather than focusing on a litany of to-do’s and requirements, my brain started to focus on all of the abundance in my life. As the year progressed, I gradually became unstuck. And even though I got it intellectually, I still am kind of awestruck by the power of a simple thought.

Are you at the mercy of a sub-conscious mantra? Have you ever experimented with this kind of thing? If so, I’d love to hear what worked for you!