Archive for December, 2014

How to Protect Against Winter Viruses

Tuesday, December 30th, 2014

The winter is upon us, and what else creates a pit in my stomach besides the thought of sub-freezing temperatures keeping the kiddos stuck inside? The thought of all of the viruses that come with the season. You can’t change the weather, but you can change your child’s chances of avoiding some of the less desirable gifts of the season.

Probiotics are the “healthy” bacteria that exist in your gut. Most people associate with probiotics with gastrointestinal health. Although probiotics do have benefits to a healthy GI tract, what many do not recognize is the importance of probiotics in supporting your immune system. Over half of your body’s immunity is comprised of this healthy bacteria. If your body is lacking, you are lacking the ability to fight off viruses.

Every morning before school, my children receive 1 capsule of a probiotic. They don’t fight me on it, as I remind them every morning that it helps protect them from illnesses, and the repetition eventually sinks in. It has become part of our routine, just as breakfast is. I would never skip breakfast, so I would never skip this important step either. Standard Process makes a few variations of probiotics that I have come to love. I have purchased them through a clinical nutritionist, but they can also be found on Amazon.

A daily multivitamin seems very basic, but it is a good compliment to the probiotics. Even if your children are good eaters, they still are not getting the daily vitamins and minerals necessary to keep their immune system at it’s strongest. Make sure you are buying quality vitamins, and not ones filled with food dye and aspartame that do more harm than good. If you’re taking the time to work vitamins in, you want to make sure they are doing what you set out to intend to do—to improve their overall health. If your kids are picky, go to your local health food store and select ones that will be more appealing to them. There are a variety of textures and tastes for a reason. My personal favorite is Catalyn from the Standard Process line. They make a kid’s chewable which is small and tasty. But If your kids prefer chewy, I like Nordic Berries as well, which can be found in many health food stores.

Thieves Oil is an essential oil blend that is part of my daily preventive regimen. This particular blend is made by Young Living, but you can make your own with clove, lemon, cinnamon, eucalyptus, and rosemary. Its properties help your body’s ability to resist viruses and bacteria. Following morning vitamins, my children get one single drop rubbed on their hands. Even my one year old is protected with it, by rubbing it on the bottoms of her feet, so as to avoid the potential for contact with her eyes. Also after having company in our home, I diffuse the oil to eliminate airborne bacteria.

Sounds like a lot of extra steps for a mom to take on in our already busy schedule, but once it becomes part of your routine, it is quite simple. I am able to complete our morning supplements with three little kids in five minutes or less. I want to instill good habits in them, so when they are older and independent they will make good choices. Being repetitious with the basic principal that these are to help keep them healthy is something they are able to understand, and something they have come to value, even at their young age.

Will taking these steps ensure that your child will never get sick? Of course not. But you can rest assured knowing you are doing all you can to best prepare their little bodies for the season. If your child does come down with sniffles, or another sign of a virus coming on, I swear by introducing Echinacea at the first sign. It comes in a liquid dropper form, and given a few times a day has knocked a virus right down several times in my experience. I always have a bottle of it at home, as you never know when someone will start getting sick.

Michele Ogniewski is a part-time social worker and full-time mom of three who lives and writes in Saratoga Springs. She has a passion for healthy living and works for a wellness company.

Seven Ways to Keep Your Toddler Busy Indoors

Tuesday, December 23rd, 2014

Seven Ways to Keep Your Toddler Busy IndoorsDuring the summer, we go to the park or the lake every day. Every day.  It seems like being indoors or having too much screen time wears my kids out mentally but not physically, and that’s a recipe for evening meltdowns. Being outdoors keeps the bodies and minds both so active that it makes for an easy bedtime.

But during the winter, that’s not always possible. Even if you live somewhere where snow isn’t an issue, sometimes it’s just too cold or windy to enjoy your time outdoors. That’s when I employ some special strategies for entertaining my toddlers. These activities are fun to do with them or if you just need a little time to get something done during the day.

  1. Build a hall fort. I saw this idea on Pinterest (of course) and it was super fancy with sewing and applique and cutouts. Well, who has time for that nonsense? I tried the basic idea of just putting a baby gate up horizontally in the hallway with a sheet thrown over it, and you would have thought I invented electricity. So there.
  2. Make toys out of ordinary stuff. Toddlers will play with anything, and their favorite game is take it out/put it in, so you can basically grab anything around your house and make this game. The noisier, the better.
  3. Give them something forbidden (That’s kid safe). Does your toddler love to unroll the toilet paper? Stick tape to things? Get out all the pots and pans and play in the cabinet? Sure, it’s not sustainable in the long term, but if you need to occupy them for a bit, give them a roll of toilet paper, tape, or whatever it is they are always wanting to get their hands on and just figure that it’s cheaper than a babysitter.
  4. Dye the bathtub water. I have noticed a reoccurring theme with toddlers is that changing something you do all the time can blow their little minds. Like putting dye in the bathtub. Make it blue and throw in plastic fish or sharks and call it the ocean, or whatever you want to do. You can use special tub dye, food coloring, or even make your own bathtub dye or crayons.  
  5. Move a toy somewhere new. Piggybacking on the last idea, taking something ordinary and putting it somewhere new can bring new life to an old toy or activity. Take the dollhouse to your office, move the train table to the kitchen, make your child’s room into their own “house” or move a toy set into a closet or hidden little place. It may be not be your ideal locale, but after a few days they lose interest and you can move it back.
  6. Find free indoor play areas near you. If we need more excitement than I can muster up at home, I always know of a few things we can do locally for free or nearly free. Among them, our library playroom, the mall play area one town over, and a yogurt shop that has an indoor play area. This one isn’t free, but I can usually get everyone yogurt by the ounce for under $5, so it’s good enough for me. In Fort Worth, there were some churches that also had amazing play areas that were opened up to the public during the week. These are great for rainy days or snow days when everyone is home. Mom Maps is supposed to help you find indoor play areas, but when I did a trial run it listed the Department of the Treasury, which I am guessing does not have an indoor playground, so use with caution.  
  7. Make a playdate! The best way to wear any kid out is a play date! Invite a friend over who also has kids and they can wear each other out. With young kids, it doesn’t really matter if the other children are boys, girls, babies or older kids. Kids are kids, and kids are fun! My kids have even included a friend’s baby in a game of school while he sat in the baby bucket. Dogs that are good with children will work, too. All they need is a warm body that will smile at them occasionally, and it’s a play date.

No one made any rules that you have to stay indoors on yucky days–if it’s warm out but just rainy, your toddler will probably love playing in the rain if there’s no chance of lighting. If you have the right gear, snow doesn’t have to stop you either. You can bundle up and babywear while snowshoeing or hiking, or even let your toddler try skiing or ice skating if your little one is up for it. Just be ready to bail if they get cranky or cold. Or, you can always take the utilitarian approach and buy a child-sized shovel perfect for employing some child labor  in clearing your ridiculously long driveway! Your call. 

Erin Burt is a freelance writer and mother of three girls. She lives and writes in Queensbury, New York. 

Tips for Minimizing Gift Overload this Christmas

Monday, December 22nd, 2014

Tips for Minimizing Gift Overload this Christmas‘Tis the season of giving, and when you’re a parent it also becomes a season of overflowing toy chests. Our kids seem to get gifts from all directions and sometimes it’s hard to know how to minimize the influx. Here are a few ideas to keep the deluge to a trickle.

Want, Need, Wear, Read: Basically each child gets four gifts: something they want, something they need, something for them to wear, and something for them to read. I love it because it sets a concrete boundary for gift purchases. Our family chose to use this strategy this year and it really helped me focus my gift planning and stay on budget. It also keeps excessive amounts of toys down because each child is only getting one or two actual toys.

Gift an Event: For older children, a gift of a special family outing might be a great alternative to toys or more stuff accumulating around the house. It could be museum passes, zoo passes, or a concert or show to attend.

Limit the Number of Gifts: For your immediate family, choose a number of gifts to give each child. Choosing two or three things per child instead of five or six could cut the stuff accumulation down dramatically.

You’re in Charge of Your House: My mantra with gifts from extended family is that though I can’t control what they give, I do get to decide what to do with that item once it enters my home. We have had gifts from grandparents in the past that have immediately gone to a thrift store or been returned because they don’t fit our parameters for suitable toys. I offer loose suggestions to grandparents if they ask, but if they choose to buy us junk or things that don’t fit the kind of things we want our kids to play with, I reserve the right to make that toy disappear after it comes home.

Hopefully these ideas help you find some ways to minimize the overflowing toy bins and keep your holidays low stress this year.

Becca Schwartz is a cloth diapering, baby wearing, semi-crunchy mama to a toddler girl and baby boy. She and her husband have a small mini-farm with a flock of chickens, a few goats, and a couple rabbits. 

Adjusting Your Toddler’s Routine During the Holidays

Friday, December 19th, 2014

Adjusting Your Toddler’s Routine During the HolidaysThe holiday season can be stressful for even the most laid back of moms. Even if you don’t have a schedule, most families do have a routine or rhythm that helps the days flow. And during the holidays that flow is interrupted. So the question is, do you go with it or try to maintain some semblance of your normal days?

Personality has a lot to do with how well your child adjusts to things outside of the norm. Are they energized by change, or does it drain them? Do they look forward to new things and experiences, or do they fear them? When you’re dealing with toddlers, it’s always less traumatic for everyone when you follow their lead.

For example, my first child finds change exhilarating and exciting. When we would travel during the holidays, she would bounce off the walls and have trouble sleeping when we tried to stick to our regular nap and bedtime schedule. Staying in hotels was miserable, because she would want to check out every little thing and stay up with us, and instead we laid down in the dark at 8pm and stared at the ceiling for two hours until she fell asleep.

Looking back, instead of making multiple trips to settle her down and put her to bed, I wish I would have just let her stay up past her bedtime and crash on her own. The difference likely wouldn’t have been much, and we would have gotten to enjoy more time with family and friends instead of stressing out over bedtime. Even with all the fussing we did over keeping her routine the same, we still had an adjustment period when we got back home.

However, if you have a child that finds routines calming and reassuring, then protecting your schedule as much as possible would give them a sense of familiarity and help ease the transition from normal activities to visits with family and holiday craziness. You can do this by noting when you do things at home, like story time at the library, or going to the grocery store, and try to do similar things where you are staying. If you can’t do similar things, try to schedule activities for the same time of day that works for you at home.

Toddlers are always in flux—when I think I have mine figured out, they tend to hit a growth spurt or get molars, and everything changes. This is a great time to take the time to really be patient and notice your child’s cues rather than trying to just pick a strategy and stick to it.

Keep the schedule light and remember to be flexible—you may have made an appointment for photos with Santa or shopping with grandma, but remember that your child does not share your expectations for the holidays! Be ready to go with the flow and leave yourself the option of saying no when your toddler has had enough.

Erin Burt is a freelance writer and mother of three girls, 6, 3, and 1. She lives and writes in Queensbury, New York. 

Fun Gifts for Toddlers at Christmas

Wednesday, December 17th, 2014

Fun Holiday Gifts for ToddlersIf your child is like mine, she has plenty of toys. My daughter, Johanna, has a dollhouse, kitchen, play purse, jewelry, etc. Her favorite toys right now are her “Frozen” figurines. Kids are so much fun to shop for at the holidays. Here are some of my favorite fun gifts to give.

1. Toys for Imaginative Play

Toys that toddlers can use their imaginations with are the best.  If you have a play kitchen in your house, why not invest in some more fun items to go with it like play food. Take play food to another level and check out these cute Melissa and Doug play foods that your child can actually cut. Let your child pretend they have their own indoor garden and purchase these play gardening tools.  My daughter loves her baby dolls. For awhile, they went everywhere with us, along with their stroller. Get your little one a baby doll and also a baby carrier for their doll. They can be just like mommy! Toys that toddlers can for imaginative play will provide hours of fun and entertainment for you and your little ones.

2. Gifts You Make

The most heartfelt holiday gifts are the ones we spend time creating for our children. Take the time this year and create some fun gifts. If you are crafty and can sew, make your toddler their very own sleeping bag. If your little one likes to read, create your very own family board book.  Use words like “mom” and “dad” and put your own photos in the book. How fun! Use cardboard boxes to create fun, new toys. Try making a ice cream shop for your toddler out of a box you have and some other craft supplies. It doesn’t get much more creative than that! Your toddler will see the love behind any gift you take the time to make them.

3. Gifts Your Toddler is Into Now

I can’t help it. I am a sucker for the trendy holiday gifts of the season. My daughter is all about the movie “Frozen,” so this year, we had to go find Sno Glo Elsa before she sold out.  Another hot item to have is a cute little table with chairs for your little one. I am planning on finding one of these on sale this Black Friday. My daughter also loves puzzles right now, so I plan on buying her a few more. Whatever your child is really into right now, go ahead and get them something related to that. I’m not saying buy every “Frozen” toy you see, but it’s okay to get a gift or two that will create a priceless response.

The great thing about toddlers is that they are excited by the smallest things. Any holiday gift you give will create awe and wonder that is sure to last longer than the holiday season.

Karyn Meyerhoff is a mom of 2 in Northeast Indiana who is all about “Frozen” gifts this year. She needs to “let it go!”