Category: Tips & Tricks

10 easy tips for planning an awesome toddler birthday party

by

Stacy-Ann Gooden

posted in Tips & Tricks

I’ve been through a few birthday parties to know that it could get pretty stressful and expensive. Sometimes all you need to do to celebrate is have a few of your close friends and family over with a cake. That’s a great way to skip all the drama. But, even that could get out of hand. I’ve come up with ten easy tips for planning an awesome toddler birthday party.

1. Avoid having the party at your home. For my daughter first birthday we figured having it in our backyard would be easier and cheaper too. Boy, was I wrong! Between food and setting up a tent, it cost us a pretty penny – not to mention all the clean up we needed to do afterwards. Having the bash at a party location the second time around saved us the headache and money.

2. Keep it short. No more than two hours is all you need for tots. They’ll end up wearing themselves out. Any longer may mean dealing with more meltdowns.

3. Make sure activities are age appropriate. We’ve been to a few parties that were a bit too advanced for my daughter’s age group. The kids began to loose focus, while others had tantrums.

4. Stick with simple finger foods. I almost made the mistake of ordering gourmet dishes and salads, which would have taken up too much time. We decided on pizza, water, juice, and cake.

5. You can create less work for yourself by taking advantage of the generic theme included in the price package of the party. If you end up choosing your own, you can still save by hitting up the dollar store or scouring the internet for deals.

6. Don’t be afraid to ask friends and family for help. It takes the burden off of you.

7. Don’t be afraid to experiment with crafts. I’m not crafty, but managed to make easy goody bags for my daughter’s party.

8. Have hand sanitizers and/or wipes on hand for a quick clean up.

9. Stay organized. I stayed on top of everything with Pinterest. Find the things you like, and pin them to your board.

10. Get an early start. I’m a huge procrastinator! For Princess’s first birthday my husband and I threw things together at the last minute. We planned things out weeks ahead for the second birthday party.

Following these simple steps made a huge difference, and took the stress out of party planning. I was able to enjoy the day with our daughter and took lots of photos. Check out some of them below.

What are some of your party planning tips?

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.

 

Tech-free road trip? It IS possible!

by

Sarah Welch

posted in Tips & Tricks

This post is part of a sponsorship with Foresters.

For more in this series, check out Roo’s post about taking a tech time out on Mother’s Day, Molly’s post about connecting with your kids offline, and Andrea’s post about getting your kids unplugged this summer.

TTO MothersDay R2 small Tech free road trip? It IS possible!

Summer is fast approaching, which means more car time, be it going to the beach, going to the park, or taking a big road trip to a fun destination.

In general, road trips are a wonderful way to spend time together as a family. Don’t you have at least a few sepia-toned memories of summer road trip adventures from your own childhood? I know I sure do.

Like that one time my brother got his lips stuck inside a glass Fanta bottle driving home from a beach vacation. Or the time I got so car sick driving through the Blue Ridge mountains in Virginia that we had to stop and take some fresh air. We just happened to stop at a magical spot with such beautiful waterfalls that we ended up staying there for hours.

Unfortunately, road trips can also turn into repeated choruses of ‘Are we there yet?’ and ‘Stop bothering your brother!’ and ‘I’m turning the car around!’ And if your trip seems to be heading south, it’s oh-so-tempting break out a tech pacifier or two to put an instant stop to the whining and complaining.

I speak from experience.

But it’s actually easier than you might think to ditch the tech pacifiers altogether on your next road trip. We tried a little version of “tech-free” last year to great effect.

What’s the trick? Preparation.

Rule #1 of The Road Trip: keep the backseat happy.

A little advanced organization will go a long way in keeping kids (and adults) not just occupied, but genuinely entertained.

The first thing you need to be prepared for is the whine. If your kids are used to getting a tech diversion in the car, they are going to be uncomfortable for a moment or two while they get used to the idea of having to entertain themselves.

Here’s the thing, though – it’s never as torturous as you think it’s going to be. Yes, it’s annoying, but when your kids realize they won’t be getting what they’re asking for no matter how many times they ask…they will stop whining. In our experience, our anticipation of the whine factor was way worse than the reality.

Once they’ve stopped begging for a tech device, try some of the classic games, such as the license plate game, or I Spy. Not only are these more interactive, but they tend to be the ones your kids will remember when they grow up and go on their own road trips.

And if you get bored of those, here are six more low-tech ideas for your next road trip. Just remember to organize these a week or so before you hit the road.

Foresters plum1 300x121 Tech free road trip? It IS possible!The Tech Timeout challenge started by Foresters encourages families to take a daily break from technology. Participating families are encouraged to disconnect from all things electronic with the goal of helping spouses, parents and children build stronger bonds, communicate more personally and get more involved in each other’s lives.

 

Pledge to turn off all the technology in your home (yes, even your cell phone), for at least one hour a day, and get to know your family better.

tto 50 list 502x650 Tech free road trip? It IS possible!

Get yourself organized for easy summer eating

by

Sarah Welch

posted in Tips & Tricks

Summer’s unofficially here (finally)!

After the long, long winter we just had, it felt especially wonderful to bask in the warm rays and get doused by splash-y, squealing babes at the pool yesterday.

But when we got home at 5:30pm, completely exhausted from our excursion, I had exactly 10 minutes to get something healthy on the table to avoid a complete double meltdown.

It was so, so, so tempting to dial for pizza.

I dug deep and managed to whip up something with a modicum of nutritional value. My very hungry caterpillars were too hungry and tired to protest the small amounts of kale I had mixed in with the pasta.

But the dinner sprint reminded me that I need to get myself organized for summer eating. The increase in physical activity coupled with chaotic summer schedules makes dinner prep June – August a whole different ballgame.

The Lynchpin: Have A Weekly Plan

Nature abhors a vacuum. If you walk in the door at 5:30pm (whether you’re coming home from a long day out with the kids or walking in the door after a long day at work) and you don’t have a plan, unhealthy, fast food will rush to fill the void.

That’s why it’s so important to plan ahead for the week. Do yourself a favor and organize two-week’s worth of easy-to-make healthy dinner menus. Then create a weekly shopping list for each of the two weeks and either print them out or, if you have it available in your area, input them as separate lists in an online grocery store, like Pea Pod or Fresh Direct. That way you’ll always have what you need on hand.

Use a menu printable like this to get yourself organized.

Here are four additional tips that will keep you eating well all summer.

Grill. A lot
Not only is grilling really easy and fast, it also is done outdoors, making it easy to join in with kids jumping on a trampoline, playing hide-and-go-seek, or otherwise running around. So do yourself a favor and include at least 3 nights of grilling in your weekly plan.

Make big dinners & enjoy big leftovers
Every Sunday double a recipe and freeze it. It doesn’t take any extra time to do, and it means you have a “get out of jail free” card to use later in the week when you’ve got zero time.

Alternate a grill night with a salad night
When you’re grilling, double the amount of meat you grill and set aside the extras in an airtight container in the fridge. Then the next night, reheat the meat and toss it on a chopped salad. Fast and healthy.

Control your portions
The one downside of grilling is that it’s easy to go overboard on portion sizes. My husband calls this the “Little Taste Syndrome” (as in, I’ll just have a little taste more). Keep yourself, and meat-loving hubbies, in check by using a dessert plate to serve yourself dinner. You’ll eat less and feel full.

What are your favorite tricks for eating healthily in spite of chaotic summer schedules?

Get the kids unplugged this summer with these 4 tips

by

Andrea Updyke

posted in Tips & Tricks

This post is part of a sponsorship with Foresters. For more in this series, check out Taking a tech time out on Mother’s Day and 5 ways to connect with your kids offline.

TTO MothersDay R2 small Get the kids unplugged this summer with these 4 tips

We are all about technology in our house. I work from home, my husband is a computer engineer and our boys love anything that blinks and moves. We are definitely not anti-tech. But even (or maybe especially) because we are very connected, we still see the need to take a step back and regroup once in a while. Or to take a “Tech Timeout“.

Taking a tech timeout doesn’t have to be a huge deal. It can simply be about setting some boundaries and sticking to them. Here are a few ways to get into a routine that everyone can live with. Who knows? You might even enjoy it!

Plan ahead

Most of us probably try to unplug on a regular basis, but rarely go cold turkey. Decide ahead of time what an acceptable daily amount of screen time is for your child and plan around it. Screens aren’t inherently bad, but they are as tempting to little eyes as they are to you and me. Having a game plan with limits ahead of time will keep you both in check.

Use a timer

Many children (including my own) respond well to the ultimate authority of time. Once the boundaries are set, there is no shame in relying on a buzzer to be the buzzkill. I’m not saying it’s always easy, but it didn’t take long for my kids to adjust to this method of reasoning. If you haven’t yet tried the timer, give it a shot. You may be surprised!

Be consistent

The enemy of any boundary is inconsistency. It can be tempting to give into the old, “just five more minutes, mom!” request, especially if you are busy. But consistency is the key to making sure your family doesn’t slip into a pattern where suddenly the whole day is gone to tech.

Talk it out

When you sit down to look at your schedule for the week, ask everyone (who can answer) what they would like to do during the week. Plan an outing or two like swimming or taking an after-dinner walk that everyone can look forward to.

What are your tricks for taking a tech timeout?

The Tech Timeout challenge started by Foresters encourages families to take a daily break from technology. Participating families are encouraged to disconnect from all things electronic with the goal of helping spouses, parents and children build stronger bonds, communicate more personally and get more involved in each other’s lives.

Pledge to turn off all the technology in your home (yes, even your cell phone), for at least one hour a day, and get to know your family better.

Foresters plum 300x1211 Get the kids unplugged this summer with these 4 tipsThis post is part of a sponsorship with Foresters.

The four-letter word you should use in front of your kids

by

Sarah Welch

posted in Tips & Tricks

FAIL: Last week I stumbled upon a wonderful post on Harvard Business Review blog, (yes, I am a giant nerd) titled: Why I Hire People Who Fail.

In the post, the author reminded readers of something that is true and yet very counter intuitive, especially to parents, and that is: failures teach us more than successes.

Failures are excellent teachers because they push us to look back and figure out exactly what happened. When we succeed, we celebrate. But when we fail, we ruminate.

The point of the article was that we should take the time to ruminate more thoughtfully. The author explained how he created a wall for memorializing failures in his office conference room. He painted a wall with chalk paint and every person in his firm was encouraged to write down their failures on the wall along with the most important lessons learned from them, for all to see.

He wrote down his failings first, which made others more willing to share theirs.

Memorializing failures ended up helping in two ways. First, it took the shame out of failure for the people experiencing it. Instead of dwelling on a negative event, employees had to focus their energy on synthesizing meaningful lessons learned. The wall of lessons learned in turn helped the entire company avoid making the same kind of mistakes in the future by making them public. It made the whole company smarter, in effect.

It got me thinking.

As a parent I really want to teach my kids to embrace failure as one of life’s greatest teachers. I personally didn’t really grasp the potential of failure to teach until I was well into adulthood. I grew up sweeping my failures under the carpet with embarrassment and shame.

I don’t want my children to waste precious learning opportunities doing what I did.

Plus I want them to understand the concept of imperfection to their toes – and embrace it wholeheartedly.

So I am thinking of creating a little failure wall of our own at home too. A place where dad, mom, and eventually the boys, can post our failures publicly and share the hard-earned wisdom gained from the experience. It’s a powerful visual reminder that success comes from picking yourself up after you fall and try, try, trying again.

I’m curious what you think about this idea. Let me know if you would ever have the courage to do it at work…or at home.

Tame the tech! 5 ways to connect with your kids offline

by

Molly Balint

posted in Tips & Tricks

This post is part of a sponsorship with Foresters.

attachment Tame the tech! 5 ways to connect with your kids offline
For more in this series, check out Roo’s post about taking a tech time out on Mother’s Day.

Before I even begin this post, I have to say I am writing it for myself as much as I am for the people that will read it. I’ve been accused by my husband and (shamefully) by my children of being attached to my phone all the time. And I admit it. It’s always on me. I’m always checking it. And I don’t turn it off enough.

But lately, I’ve been trying to tame the tech around this house, beginning with the worst offender of all–moi. So I’m sharing these 5 tips that have been working for me as I put down the phone, step away from the work at my desk and become more mindful with the time I’m spending with my kids.

I’m on the road to recovery, people. I can feel it. In fact, just a few days ago we left the house for the a good chunk of the day, and I forgot my phone. And yes, I survived.

If you’re feeling like technology is creeping in to more and more of your day–for you, or maybe just for your children, then hopefully these tips can help you discover how to be with your family in ways that don’t require being plugged in or connected. I’m pretty certain that these offline moments with my kids will be much more memorable than the times we spent eating popcorn in front of the latest issue of The Cosby Show. (yes, we’re all about re-runs)

Here are five ways to connect with your kids offline:

1. Go outside. There is something about the great outdoors that brings all the buzzing and beeping of technology into perspective. Whether it’s for a walk, a trip to the park or a hike up a trail, get in touch with the natural world again. Fill your lungs with fresh air, look up at the sky instead of down at your phone and enjoy everything around you.

2. Do something as a whole family. Now that the weather has started to behave itself after our long winter, my husband and I have been taking the kids to the park several nights a week, to shoot around and play basketball. A few nights ago, I was dragging my feet about going: I should really stay home. I have so much work to catch up on. I could use this time to get some stuff done…My oldest daughter looked at me and said, “It’s not fun unless everybody goes.” My husband and I can be guilty of tag-teaming our way through parenting, like a pair of professional wrestlers. We tap in and tap out and multi-task our way through the days. “You take these two and run get milk, I’ll stay here with the other two and get such-n-such done.” But what my kids really love (and me too!) is when we do something as a whole family. I’m glad my daughter reminded me of that.

3. Do something for the good of the whole family. “Hey kids! After dinner tonight, we’re going to clean out the garage!” Cue the whining and moaning and grumbling. Though they may put up a fight, being involved in projects that benefit our family and our home are important for kids to be part of. Not only are they learning the importance of work and the value of taking care of the things we’ve been given, they’re also getting great family time. Yes, there will be whining. But here’s a tip–blasting good music can make even the worst of jobs a little more bearable.

4. Do something spontaneous. My kids think we’re the coolest parents on the planet when we do something spontaneous. A detour on the way home from church to go to the park, a last-minute plan to go for a hike, an unplanned trip for ice cream–these are ways to score major points and memories with your kids.

photo1 650x487 Tame the tech! 5 ways to connect with your kids offline

5. Do something to help someone else. A few weeks ago a friend of ours was going through some tough health issues and was feeling overwhelmed with their overgrown lawn and weed-infested gardens. So we took the kids over to their house on a Saturday to mow, weed, sweep and tidy things up for them. Yes, it was a lot of work but the connecting and joy they felt in helping someone out (especially when that person had no idea we were going to do it.) was priceless. And I know they learned a lot from helping someone who needed a helping hand.

So maybe we all can work on connecting with our kids in ways that are more meaningful and require no 4G coverage or high-speed internet. I’m pretty sure they’ll be some of the things our kids remember most.

Foresters plum 300x1211 Tame the tech! 5 ways to connect with your kids offlineThis post is part of a sponsorship with Foresters. The Tech Timeout challenge started by Foresters encourages families to take a daily break from technology. Participating families are encouraged to disconnect from all things electronic with the goal of helping spouses, parents and children build stronger bonds, communicate more personally and get more involved in each other’s lives.

 

Pledge to turn off all the technology in your home (yes, even your cell phone), for at least one hour a day, and get to know your family better.

50 Things To Do 502x6501 Tame the tech! 5 ways to connect with your kids offline

 

 

5 musts to make your baby shower cake stand out

by

Melissa Byers

posted in Tips & Tricks

You’ve got two choices when it comes to the cake at your baby shower or the party you’re planning for an expectant mom. It’s either simply a sweet treat for your guests to enjoy or a showpiece that brings the whole theme together. As more reality television shows feature elaborate examples of confectionery art, our ideas get bigger and bigger!

BabyCenter moms shared photos and thoughts about the cakes at their baby showers and I’ve pulled out five tips that will make your cake a hit!

1. Start with your guest list. How many people will the cake need to feed?
A cake is meant to be eaten and unless you have an unlimited budget, getting a huge creation for an intimate gathering doesn’t make sense. Small doesn’t make a cake less special.

2. Go with an experienced baker.
I know Aunt Molly loves baking and is dying to make the cake for your big day, but be realistic about her abilities. If you’ve got dreams of sculpted layers and fine piping work, is she up to the task? If you can’t confidently say yes, then leave it up to the pros.

3. Get creative!
Things to consider when designing a baby shower cake include Mom’s name, Dad’s name, the baby’s name, the family’s last name, nursery colors, theme of the party, the baby’s gender, Mom’s and Dad’s hobbies – the list can go on and on. Almost nothing is out of bounds when it comes to creating a meaningful cake.

4. It has to taste good.
Fondant looks great but tastes like a less chewy piece of gum if it had no flavor. It’s just sweet and doughy. If that sounds good to you, go for it. If not, ask the baker if buttercream or another frosting will work.

5. If you’re not into a huge cake, go with cupcakes, candy, or mini pies.
There’s no law that says every baby shower must have a cake and sometimes they just don’t fit the occasion. Cupcakes, candy, and mini pies just scratch the surface of fun desserts you can serve. How about mini-cheesecakes, fruit salads, or chocolate fondue?

Moms from BabyCenter’s June 2014 birth club shared photos of their baby shower cakes (and other desserts). Check out a few of our favorites below!

Hungry for more? We’ve got another slide show filled with baby shower cakes to help inspire you!

Photo credit: Creatas courtesy of  Thinkstock

Get ahead of summer chaos: 3 ideas for working moms

by

Sarah Welch

posted in Tips & Tricks

Have your children already begun their annual countdown to the last day of school?

Mine have!

And while I am so, so, so excited for the warmer summer months and all the fun they bring, I have to admit that as a working mom, the mere thought of complex summer schedules for the kids (not to mention the increased need for a mom taxi) gets the cortisol coursing through my veins.

Last week I had a panic about the month of June – which is the window when preschool is out but grammar school is not, and day camps haven’t yet started. To assuage my fears, my husband calmly sat with me as we went over our calendars for what seemed like the 10th time in as many weeks.

It was a good thing we did because we realized we had a big transportation gap on two days each week. Gaps we have subsequently addressed.

Here’s the thing I’ve learned in the past few years: a little preparation goes a long way to minimizing scheduling headaches. The most effective thing you can do to keep the stress freakouts at bay is to set aside time to get the entire family in synch for the upcoming changes.

Here are three ideas that might help you make a smooth(er) transition from regimented school schedules to the days of summer.

#1: Call a Summer Summit

When things are a little bit less regimented, the need for communication is heightened. So once you have figured out the foundational elements of summer schedules, call a family summit (at least between the grownups) to discuss summer dreams and put together a realistic plan that everybody can get excited about and…importantly…afford! The summit should cover two key areas: (1) daytime coverage in the form of day camps and activities and (2) ways the two of you can work together more effectively as a team to share everyday chores like pick-ups and drop-offs.

#2: Set Up a Buddy System

Your friends are probably in the same boat you are, so why not band together and set up a buddy system that lets you support each other over the summer? Connect with two other good friends who have children of the same age and pick three ‘swap’ days (one for June, one for July and one for August). On swap days, one ‘buddy’ will take all of the kids to do something fun for the day, giving the other two a much needed break. Also set up an email loop that makes it easy to reach out to each other for help with things like carpooling, babysitting and dinner ideas.

#3: Sync Schedules

Because your kids are likely to be participating in multiple activities, like swim team and soccer, you’ll need to keep activity schedules handy and make sure both parents know where they need to be on what days. Put together a master calendar of all of the different activity schedules and make sure the calendar is synced with your phone and (if applicable) your spouse’s. If you have a calendar in the kitchen transfer key dates there as well. That way, anybody can easily check the list to see where they need to be on a given day/time.

What’s your secret for getting ahead of summer schedule chaos? How many different day camps do you string together? What works for you?

6 essential money lessons to teach your daughter

by

Stacy-Ann Gooden

posted in Tips & Tricks

I remember graduating from high school and asking my mom about my college fund. My mouth hit the floor when she told me there was none. I made a vow back then that not only would I save for my kids’ education, I would also teach them the value of a dollar. Most importantly, I wanted to teach my little girl essential money lessons.

DSC00878 650x487 6 essential money lessons to teach your daughter

I put this financial plan into action before Princess exited the womb. The money her Auntie and Godmother collected at her baby shower raffle was the start of her college fund. To this day, every penny received from family and friends gets put away. Unfortunately, not all parents prepare their daughters for financial planning and investing.

According to forbes.com many women grow up without this type of guidance. As a result, women still lag behind men when it comes to confidence in making investment decisions, being on track for retirement and saving for retirement.

The article also sites a recent study from Wells Fargo on affluent women (with investable assets of $250,000 or more), claiming that 41% said they were not at all confident in their investing ability. Additionally, according to a study by Prudential, only 10% of female breadwinners felt very knowledgeable about financial products and services.

The author, Nancy Anderson, comes up with five financial skills to teach daughters during their formative years. But, I’ve decided to come up with my own version that’s specifically tailored for my daughter.

1. Be grateful for every penny earned.
2. Save and spend wisely. It’s okay to treat yourself to something nice, but you don’t have to break the bank.
3. When you start working, invest in a 401k/retirement fund.
4. It’s important to build your credit. Get a credit card, but use it responsibly.
5. I know you’ll probably move out someday. Remember that you’ll be better off owning than renting.
6. Be financially independent.

Related links:
Top 10 fun ways to teach your child the value of money
Top 7 ways to raise a money-smart kid

What money lesson would you add?

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.

Taking a Tech Timeout for Mother’s Day

by

Roo Ciambriello

posted in Tips & Tricks

This post is part of a sponsorship with Foresters.

final TTO MothersDay R2 small2 Taking a Tech Timeout for Mothers Day

I told my husband, Jack that I thought it would be super fun to get our eldest daughter an iPod so we can text each other.

She’s 5.

I know! I knowwww. But she’s an amazing reader, and she loves sending people notes – hand written and typed out. I’ll hand her my iPhone, and she’ll text a message to her Auntie Sunnie and thrills are had by all.

Obviously, we’re cool with technology in this house. I work full-time from home as a writer, so my computer and I are so close, it’s practically another body part. Same for my phone. And my husband’s phone. And his iPad. And our daughters’ shared Kindle Fire. And the little device that I clip onto my jeans that tells me that I’m not walking nearly enough and I’m eating entirely too much pizza.

At the same time, we like to get back to basics and spend time together without being tethered to a 4G network, know what I mean? Our house is a five minute walk from the beach, we’re big into kite flying, and I’m that mom that waves excitedly and yells “Get it, Soph” when my four year old successfully paddles her way across the shallow end of the pool during swim lessons.

I love all that 2014’s technological advances afford us (points to hospitals; points to science; points to the phone app that tracks my monthly cycle), but there are some definite downsides too. As a millennial, and as a millennial mom, this video made me lolololol.

My husband asked me what I want for Mother’s Day, and I was like, “Oh, honey, nothing at all. I need no accolades for being the mother to three beautiful girls.” Hahaha, yeah right, more like “Here’s my Amazon book list and Pinterest boards, PS I’m sleeping in this weekend.” But on top of all of the things – seriously, honey, I’m not going to say no to dinner out – I’d love a tech timeout. Just some time with all of us hanging out, eating food, not singing the Frozen soundtrack (I love you, Anna + Elsa, but we need a break), and enjoying some sunshine. And maybe mimosas.

(For me. Not the small humans. Of course.)

50 Things To Do 502x650 Taking a Tech Timeout for Mothers Day

 

The Tech Timeout challenge started by Foresters encourages families to take a daily break from technology. Participating families are encouraged to disconnect from all things electronic with the goal of helping spouses, parents and children build stronger bonds, communicate more personally and get more involved in each other’s lives.

Pledge to turn off all the technology in your home (yes, even your cell phone), for at least one hour a day, and get to know your family better.

Foresters plum 300x121 Taking a Tech Timeout for Mothers Day

 

 This post is part of a sponsorship with Foresters.