Product Review: Tot on the Pot Training System

Potty training is one of the most exciting and similarly frustrating phases your kids go through. It offers a glimmer to the future when expensive diapers are a thing of the past and the diaper bag can be left at home in a closet. Here at BabyFriendlyAmerica.com, we have investigated many potty training tips, tricks, and systems. One of our favorite end-to-end potty training systems is by Tot on the Pot. 

With out first we made lots of mistakes in potty training…if only we had the Tot on the Pot system it could have been a lot easier. The Tot on the Pot potty training system involves a flash card reward game, a colorful kids book, a super cute play toilet, stuffed doll (boy or girl), and a handy parents guide. In testing the system, our kids loved the doll, toy potty, and book.

What makes this system stand out is twofold: 1) The quality of the kid-friendly items provided, and 2) The Parents step by step guide that made us think more about what our tot was thinking through the process. Our tot immediately took to the Tot doll and wanted her to use the potty at the same time. He even recanted the lessons learned from the book–like why we use the potty and the importance of washing hands. The Parents guide, though, really is the stand out item. One tip we wish we had earlier was to use an activity reward system instead of a the toy or food reward system we used(which out little one always seem to game). When it comes time for potty training our second, we know we will have a great resource.

For more information about the Tot on the Pot Training System, check them out at: http://www.totonthepot.com/

Baby Sleep Specialists... a parent's best friend

baby Cry

Baby Sleep Specialists… a parent’s best friend– Part 1

By: Haley Callicott, Contributor  

Every parent has experienced the frustration of putting a restless child to bed. After many failed attempts at getting their baby to bed or establishing a successful nighttime routine, some parents have turned to sleep consultants for assistance. In the first of a two part series, we will discuss who are sleep consultants and what they do.

Who are sleep consultants?

Sleep consulting is an increasingly popular industry for sleep deprived parents who need a little extra help with putting their baby or child to bed. Generally, sleep consultants are certified experts who work with infants and young children to identify and resolve behavioral sleeping troubles.

mom and baby
expert nurse

What do sleep consultants do?

“The first six months [of a newborn’s life] goes by in a blur,” said Sweet Dreams Infant Care sleep specialist, Pam Jones. “We want the parents to enjoy that time with their kids and actually remember it.”

Sleep consultants and sleep trainers work with parents to create a personalized plan to facilitate a better nap and bedtime routine or adjust the bedroom environment to guarantee that the child falls asleep faster and stays asleep for longer periods of time.

Many sleep consultants will offer initial consultations. Most consultants offer phone and/or in-home consultations or an overnight stay where they observe the child’s sleeping patterns. The consultants then offer individualized services, or even sleep plans, based on evaluations of the child’s sleep patterns. They will usually provide follow up appointments in order to monitor progress or make adjustments to the original sleep routine plan.

Sleep consultants usually work with families for two to six weeks. Some offer phone call consultations that may last from 30-90 minutes where they discuss techniques or adjustments to the child’s nap and bedtime schedule.

Initial Planning

For in-person consultation and overnight stays, the specialist will require the parents to provide them with a medical or behavior background of the baby via questionnaire or sleep log. Next, they will meet with the family for an initial consultation to talk about their current bedtime routine.


After an overnight observation, the consultant will give the family a plan to make behavioral or environmental changes to help the child’s sleeping problems. For example, they might teach the parents to put the child to bed at a certain time or provide techniques for making sure their child does not get overtired. Some may even suggest environmental changes such as making the room darker or incorporating noise machines into the child’s room.

“My job is to teach people and make sure they understand how sleep works and why it works,” said Jessica Dodson, sleep coach and founder of Starlight Sleep Coaching. “I aim to empower [my clients] with this knowledge.”

 

STAY TUNED FOR PART 2

Sleeping Baby

How to Help Your Child Learn to Read

How to Help Your Child Learn to Read
Contributor, Our Friends at Wooden Toy Shop

Getting your child excited about reading is an important role that each of us must play in our child’s lives. Here are some of our favorite tips for when to start instructing your kids, ways to make reading fun, and how to keep them motivated!

How to Help Your Child Learn to Read

For more information about the Wooden Toy Shop, check them out at www.woodentoyshop.co.uk

What Can I Do to Help My Child Learn Better?

What can I Do to Help My Child Learn Better?
By Serena Morris, Contributor and Founder of Kitty Moms

As parents, one of our biggest aims in life is to raise a child who embraces learning fully. Our goal is to raise children who are motivated enough to enjoy the process of learning new things. A child is naturally inquisitive and the best way to help them continue this way is to ensure that they become eager learners for life who find fun in challenges, understand the value of efforts and are persistent enough to never give up in life. So what can we do to motivate our children?

Make Learning A Fun Activity

I personally feel that every child is always curious and the best way to engage them is to make learning a fun activity. Motivation comes automatically to children n to bakn they consider the activity they are doing is fun. Using humor, letting children explore things and being playful, all help in making a child love learning.

When my child was trying to learn to cycle, I would ensure that every time we took the cycle out, it was an adventure. We would pretend we are going hunting for chocolates in trees or searching for flowers beyond the cycling ground. She would love the pretend play and took up learning to cycle as a challenge and conquered her fear of falling. Any learning becomes easy , when there is a sense of fun attached to it.

Let Children Have a Hobby

The importance of having a hobby as a child is often underestimated by parents. Many parents believe that a child needs to do academically well, but a hobby is a waste of time. However, it has been proved many times, that having a hobby often brings a sense of focus in children. Playing a musical instrument or collecting stamps or learning to dance, all help in the overall development of the child’s brains.

Having a hobby also has long term benefits in the mental health and wellbeing of a person. Hence, let your child enjoy some time picking up something he or she loves. Any task related to the hobby is always a learning and then this sense of motivation can be applied to other tasks too.

Reading Books

Everyone loves stories. The best way to help children becomes learners for life is to surround them with books. Bright colored board books for babies, or picture books for toddlers or chapter books for older children – All of these help children enjoy stories.

Surround your child with books. Read to them. Read with them. Read for them. Any kind of reading always helps and creates a wonderful bond between the parents and children. Not only this, it always motivates children to learn more, wanting to understand more words and enriches their imagination.

Having Open Conversations

In today’s world of smart phones, we often forget the importance of having one on one personal conversations. It is very important to have open ended conversations with children to give them the confidence of voicing their opinions and concerns.

Talk about taking on personal challenges and what can be done to achieve them. Talk about what happens if one cannot complete the challenges but how the time, effort and learning spent on the challenge is equally important. Most important, listen to them without distractions.

Search For Answers Together

My child came up to me and asked me what fossil fuels were. I could have easily answered the question in two lines and told her to get back to her work. But I did not. I decided to take her to the library and we searched through books to find out what exactly fossil fuels were. We went on the internet to get information on them and how they were formed.

We did a small project in a scrap book sticking pictures of things we thought were made from fossil fuels. In short, we enjoyed the process of learning together and ended up knowing a lot more about fossil fuels than what I could have just told her. Not only that, now my child loves to ask me things and she takes it up on her own to find out additional information about it from the library or internet (under supervision).

Explore With Your Child

We underestimate the importance of just simply going out and exploring. Whether it is exploring the leaves of autumn or the new buds of spring, there is so much to learn. And the more children are exposed to outdoors, the more curious they get about things.

We did a short walk around our neighborhood the other day, and my child asked me questions about why leaves turn brown in autumn and how does the tree produce food if all the leaves have fallen. We enjoyed the walk and learnt something new. This kind of outdoor activities creates a life-long opportunity of learning.

Be Enthusiastic About Experimenting

When I was young, I asked my father about Newton’s Laws of Motion. He set up a pendulum tied down from the ceiling fan and explained the laws of motion to me. For me, it was a lifetime of learning. I can never forget the laws of motion. This is what children need.

They need to be taught practical lessons in life. Lessons which motivate them to learn more and which spike their curiosity levels. Take up small practical things and don’t be afraid to experiment with your children.

Know When To Back Off

Often as parents we tend to be over enthusiastic and go on and help our children even if they don’t need it. It is important to know when to back off. Finishing off that jigsaw puzzle for your child or prompting them the last word of the sentence may not be the right way to motivate them.

While the work does get done in time, it always leaves the child with a feeling that I will always get help. That is not a positive way to help a child build on his learning. Give the child a feeling of competence and let them know the importance of taking efforts.

Focus on the Process, Not on the Outcome

We often tend to forget that the process is more important than the outcome. While it is natural to want to prepare your child for the future, it is equally important to teach them the importance of enjoying the process and learning from it. We may end up pushing our children to learning too much too soon.

Take it one and a time and let the child learn and enjoy the process. Take notice of what the child is doing at that moment and how he is learning to learn by himself. While outcomes are important, focusing on the process, teaches the child that learning is important

Let Children Be Children

In today’s high competitive world, we often forget that children need to be children. Pushing them to doing things or making them learn a thousand things is not the right way to inculcate the love for learning in them.

What is important is that children take up learning as a part of their lives and enjoy it. Whether it is just learning to swing as a baby or trying to understand how things work, ensure that the process is an enjoyable one!

About the author and Kitty Moms

Serena Morris is a mother of three children and founder of Kittymoms.com. They have chosen to homeschool their children and focus on living an active, natural lifestyle. Her family loves to travel, but most of the year, you can find us at house gardening and taking care of our small homestead.

Follow Serena Online
Twitter: https://twitter.com/serena_Kittymom
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/serena.Kittymoms/

Saving Money for College- 529 Plans Explained

Saving Money for College- 529 Plans Explained
By: Haley Callicott, Contributor

In a time when college tuition costs nearly as much or more than a home, it is more important than ever for parents to start thinking about an investment plan for your child’s future education. However, there are many misconceptions and financial jargon that surround the understanding of a 529 plan because of the different types and offerings of plans that vary by state. Luckily, we’ve broken down the terminology and types of 529 plans to make it easier for you to start planning for your child’s future.

What is a 529 Plan?

A 529 plan is a higher education savings plan that is exempt from taxes and specifically designed to help finance a child’s college or university expenses. The idea behind the plan is to encourage account holders to set up a plan and start saving money for the beneficiary’s future. 529 are especially ideal in today’s economy because the funds in the account are tax-exempt, which allows the funds to grow over time and withdrawn once the beneficiary reaches college. However, all states enforce a contribution limit that is typically between $300,000-$500,000.

Anyone can open up a 529 plan and they are either operated by a state or educational institute and can be expensed through a savings plan or prepaid tuition program.  Every state sponsors at least one type of 529 plan, but many plans also function through private or public universities and colleges. The tax benefits and terms of of the plan vary from state to state, but we have generalized the following explanation to account for all different variations of a 529 plan.

Any U.S. citizen 18 and over can open up an account through a bank. The beneficiary of these plans tend to be a child, grandchild or someone under the age of 18. However, there are usually no age restrictions on who can benefit from the plan, so adults may open a plan for their own higher education expenses.

All 529 accounts are owned by one person and are allocated to one beneficiary. Multiple people can mutually contribute funds to the account as long as these funds don’t exceed the maximum contribution limit.

What is the difference between a savings and prepaid program?

A savings plan is similar to a 401k or IRA as investments are made within an individual account and can be paid through a variety of ways, depending on the contributor’s preference. Once the account is set up, the account holder choses from a variety of investment plans in order to oversee that their investment will grow over time.

Investment options usually includes stock mutual funds, bond mutual funds, money market funds, and age-based portfolios. Most investments in a savings plan are made through mutual funds. However, investments made through this type of plan are not guaranteed and are not federally insured.

Savings plans tend to be more popular than prepaid tuition programs because there is no age or time restriction for whom and when the funds can be spent. Unlike most prepaid tuition plans, savings plans cover all college costs, including tuition, room, board, and other living expenses. Also, this type of plan can be used at any college or university, regardless if it is an in-state or out-of-state public or private school. The caveat is that most savings plans come with various fees, such as advisor fees, management and program payments and other investment related expenses.

A prepaid tuition program allows the investor to buy tuition directly so that it can be used by the child in the future. These programs are either sponsored by the state or educational institution. Through this method, the account holder directly buys credit or units of tuition from the participating college or university. This usually does not include other expenses, such as room, board, and books, but the account holder may choose to include these specific expenses depending on their plan.

Investments are made at a fixed price, meaning the tuition value when first purchased stays the same when the funds are withdrawn. Unlike a savings plan, the value does not grow and thus may not reflect the increased tuition value when the funds are actually used. Also, most of these plans have a limited enrollment period and age/grade restrictions, meaning the money must be spent within a certain period.

How will this affect my taxes?

Although 529 plans are not federal tax deductible, the funds within the plan are not subject to state or federal taxes, which allows the account to grow over time. Currently over 30 states offer partial to full state tax deductions and some states will even offer matching grants to the investment. Also, once the funds are withdrawn, they can be spent on tuition and other costs without being taxed, as long as they are being used for college related expenses that are outlined in the original plan.

The principle, that is the original amount invested into the plan, will always be exempt from taxes and penalties because the investment was made after taxes were deducted. However, if money from the plan is withdrawn and funded towards a non-authorized expense, then those funds may become subject to federal and state taxes and up to a 10% penalty tax.

How can I open a 529 account?

It is crucial for parents to start saving for the child’s college sooner rather than later. This way, their college savings will begin to grow on a tax-deferred basis. An account may be opened directly through the state college’s program website. Another way is to start a plan with a financial advisor, who can help guide you through the different investment options and payment methods.

What are the advantages?

529 plans offer a variety of tax and financial benefits. These include:

  • Growth. Allowing college investments to grow free of tax deductions.
  • Potential state tax-deductions. Depending on the plan and the state, some states allow for tax-deductions that amount to the full or partial amount that the contributor has allocated to the plan.
  • The primary account holder has the power to manage and withdraw funds. Also, the beneficiary does not have access to these funds until they reach college and then they may use the money to pay for tuition and other college expenses.
  • The primary account holder may change the name of the account holder at any time. Also, funds that go unused by the beneficiary may be transferred to another 529 account without losing any of its tax benefits.
  • Low impact on financial aid- Funds under these plans are viewed by the federal government as parental assets. Meaning, only 5.6 percent of the plan’s assets will be calculated into the federal financial aid formula when the institution or federal government determines the amount of federal aid a student may be qualified for.
  • Financial support. A 529 plan is a smart and efficient way to start planning for your child’s future and making sure that the financial burden of paying for college is lessened when the time comes to make tuition deposits.

What are the disadvantages?

While 529 plans offer many benefits to the account holder and beneficiary who will eventually be receiving the funds for their education, parents should be aware of the disadvantages when determining the costs and benefits of starting a 529 plan.

  • The account holder will encounter administrative and investment fees when opening up an account. These fees are heavily dependent on the size of the fund and on the investment option that you select.
  • Non-qualified withdrawal repercussions. The account holder will face tax expenses and penalties if funds are withdrawn for expenses that are not related to the education expenses outlines in the original plan.
  • Time and residential restrictions. Those who chose prepaid tuition programs may have to use the funds within a certain timeframe or enrollment period. Also, some states mandate that an account holder must be a state resident in order to open up certain in-state account plans.

What are my other options?

There are several other college saving options that all have different contribution limits, federal and state tax effects, level of account control, and payment methods. For example, Coverdell Education Savings Accounts allow parents, grandparents, or other contributors to give up to $2,000 a year per beneficiary until they reach the age of 18. However, these are significantly smaller contributions than what 529 plans allow.

Uniform Gifts to Minors Act or Uniform Transfer to Minors Act allow for contributors of all income levels to create an investment account towards a beneficiary’s college education. The account holder can choose from a variety of investment plans are there are no limits to the amount of contribution. However, these funds are subject to federal and state income taxes every year and these funds may affect other financial aid as they are considered an asset to the child.

Bonds may be purchased to help finance a child’s higher education, but there is an annual maximum purchase of $10,000 for most bonds that are designed to pay for colleges and universities.

More traditional ways to pay for college include taking out a loan or applying for financial or merit-based aid. However, loans accumulate interest and can be a huge financial burden on the parent. Also, financial aid and merit-based aid have become increasingly competitive to receive as more students apply to and attend college each year.

Overall, there are several investment plans you may choose to set your child up for the future. Average college tuition has increased over 260% since 1970, according to Business Insider. This is mostly due to the large increased in college enrollment and the job market’s demand for higher degrees. Therefore, it is now more important than ever to start considering your best financial options for a college savings plan.

529 plans offer a great way for contributors to make larger investments for their beneficiary’s college and allow these funds to grow in a tax-deferred way. The details, benefits and fees vary by plan, but overall the funds in each plan will be protected from market fluctuations and downfalls and will be at the control of the account holder.

For more tips and details, visit https://www.sec.gov/reportspubs/investor-publications/investorpubsintro529htm.html to learn more about your state’s 529 plan offerings and limitations or contact a financial advisor to start saving for your child’s future today.

Sources:

Comparing the Cost of Daycare v. Nanny v. Au Pair

Comparing the Cost of Daycare v. Nanny v. Au Pair
By: Paige Goodwin, Contributor

While your child’s well-being and growth is the most important factor in choosing whether to use a daycare, nanny, or au pair a secondary factor that we all must consider is cost. We took a hard look at the cost for care in major metro areas to help you make the best financial decision for your family and provide a benchmark when comparing options.

Daycare Costs

The following prices are calculated averages based on both national chains and local centers in each city.  While some daycare centers offer discounts for the second child, many offer no more than 10%, or none at all.

City Weekly Price for Infant Care Weekly Price for Toddler (~2.5 years old) Care Combined Weekly Price for Two
Washington DC Area (including Bethesda, MD/Alexandria, VA) $425 – $575/wk $300 – $425/wk $725 – $1000/wk
New York City $425 – $700/wk $325 – $450/wk $750 – $1150/wk
Boston $400 – $625/wk $300 – $425/wk $700 – $1050/wk
Palm Beach, FL $225 – $300/wk $175 – $215/wk $400 – $515/wk
Houston, TX $290 – $305/wk $200 – $280/wk $490 – $585/wk
Chicago, IL $350 – $525/wk $225 – $350/wk $575 – $875/wk

Au Pair Costs

 Au pairs require not only food and room/board, but also car insurance and access to a car )or one of their own). Without factoring in those funds as they can vary greatly depending on the family, au pairs through programs require a $425 match fee, an annual program fee of about $8675 and a minimum stipend of generally $9996 per year, worked out in equal weekly payments.  For the average au pair, the costs are about $390 plus room, board and insurance.

Nanny Costs

When it comes to paying a nanny, there is not a set cost like there is for Au Pairs or local daycare centers. Many nannies accept a certain pay range, which largely depends on not only the standard cost of living in your area, but also your family’s needs as well as the experience of the caregiver.

First and foremost, nannies who hold education degrees or have extensive training courses are going to charge more than young nannies who may still be in school.

If you have a child with special needs or want your nanny to cook meals from scratch for your kids every day, expect to pay more than the baseline price as well.  Duties such as laundry for the children or watching pets will also cause your rates to go up.

Not included in these rates are compensation for gas/mileage if you have your nanny take your child places, which is considered standard.

 City  25 hours per week  35 hours per week 40 hours per week
Washington DC Area (including Bethesda, MD/Alexandria, VA) $312.50 – $400/wk for one child

$350 – $450/wk for 2 children

$437.50 – $560/wk for one child

$490 – $630/wk for 2 children

$500 – $640/wk for one child

$560 – $720/wk for 2 children

New York City 

 

$325 – $425/wk for one child

$362.50 – $462.50 for 2 children

$455 – $595/wk for one child

$507.50 – $647.50 for 2 children

$520 – $680/wk for one child

$580 – $740/wk for 2 children

Boston 

 

$325 – $425/wk for one child

$362.50 – $475 for 2 children

$455 – $595/wk for one child

$507.50 – $665 for 2 children

$520 – $680/wk for one child

$580 – $760/wk for 2 children

Palm Beach, FL

 

$300 – $387.50/wk for one child

$325 – $412.50 for 2 children

$420 – $542.50/wk for one child

$455 – $577.50 for 2 children

$480 – $620/wk for one child

$520 – $660 for 2 children

Houston, TX

 

$287 – $375/wk for one child

$312.50 – $412.50 for 2 children

$402.50 – $525/wk for one child

$437.50 – $577.50 for 2 children

$460 – $600/wk for one child

$500 – $660 for 2 children

Chicago, IL

 

$287 – $375/wk for one child

$312.50 – $412.50 for 2 children

$402.50 – $525/wk for one child

$437.50 – $577.50 for 2 children

$460 – $600/wk for one child

$500 – $660 for 2 children

Daycare v. Nanny v. Au Pair, what’s the right choice for your family- Part 1

Daycare v. Nanny v. Au Pair, what’s the right choice for your family?- Part 1
By: Paige Goodwin, Contributor

You’ve decided to expand your family or, or to return to the working world after some time on parental leave or as a stay-at-home parent. Exciting! But now it is time to figure out child care. Not so exciting.

With differing care options and large price discrepancies, it can be a challenge to find the right child care fit for not only your budget, but your family. Should you hire an au pair, a nanny, or enroll in a local daycare/preschool center?

Let’s cover the basics between each of the three options as well as their draws:

Local Daycare/Preschool Centers

Local daycare centers, or preschools, hire
trained professionals to watch your children. There are trained teachers, assistants on staff, and some centers also provide health or nursing staff for your young children. Kids get to interact with other children in their age group, so if you have an only child, early exposure to peers can help them foster friendships. Many preschools and care centers include daily curriculum, themed activities, and some even have field trips. From speaking with other parents, this socialization and educational element to day cares is the single greatest reasons to attend.

While parents must provide transportation to and from the center for their young children, many provide lunch or at least snacks for the kids.

Key Features

  • Exercise: Outdoor time is every kid’s favorite time of the day and is built into most daycare schedules (weather permitting). In addition to jungle gym time, many daycares offer classes ranging from baby yoga, to dance, and tumbling classes that make sure your kids gets up and moves throughout the day instead of sitting and watching a movie or simply partaking in stationary activities.
  • Education: Some daycare’s offer language, mathematics, spelling, art, music, and other coursework that is tailored to young minds. By offering these types of classes, your kids can get a head start on academics and expand their horizons before they head to school.
  • Socialization: As noted above, the top response we got from talking to parents when writing this article was that daycare or preschool lets kids learn how to interact with other kids. From sharing toys, to making friends, to learning how to nap when it’s not silent (no daycare class is ever silent), daycare can help give your children the tools to learn, have fun, and play outside of the home.
  • Safety: With lots of teachers, parents, and administrators around, parents who were interviewed for this article felt that having their kids at a daycare offered a higher sense of safety then leaving small children with a Nanny or Au Pair where nobody is around to watch how they interact with your children

Wait Time
Signing up for daycare often includes long wait-lists and applying to multiple centers. Keep in mind that many folks are on waitlists while still pregnant to ensure their infant enrollment at the three-month mark. Many daycare centers charge you to be on the waitlist.

Schedule Flexibility
Preschools and Centers operate during certain hours each day, making them them a great choice if you or your partner have a regular work schedule and can adhere to the center’s policies on drop-offs and pick-ups. Be aware: many centers charge for late pickup.

Provider Sick/Vacation Days
If one of the teachers is sick or on vacation that day, you won’t have to find a back-up, which is a huge advantage over a Nanny or Au Pair. That being said, many daycare and preschool centers are closed on holidays, weekends, and even for inclement weather.

Child Sick/Vacation Days
Expect to pay the tuition rate even if your child is out sick, or you go on vacation. Some centers do nott require payment if you are gone, but others charge to keep the spot open for your child upon return.

Many daycare centers have strict regulations on sick children being kept home for at least 24 hours after they initially went home to try and keep illnesses from spreading around. During flu season, this will help your little one (and your family) stay healthy, but remember that if your child has symptoms such as a fever or vomiting, they will not be able to attend that day. You are responsible for finding alternate care or taking time off of work.

Au Pair

Au pairs are child care providers who generally come from other countries to live with you and care for your child. If you currently live in a house that has a guest bedroom, an au pair can be a great addition to the family. Au pairs often can assist in teaching your children a new language and can provide cultural exposure. Au pairs are screened by a program and sign contracts to provide you with consistent child care.

Keep in mind that in addition to providing a room for your au pair, you also must provide all of the au pair’s meals, include them in family outings, and provide transportation and car insurance for them. Many au pair programs require that they take classes in America, so your au pair might be unavailable in the evenings, or even have to take a break during the day to go to class. Additionally, many au pair agreements prohibit the au pair from certain household duties, like general cleaning of your home. They are there to care for your child, not be a housekeeper.

Key Features

  • Time: Parents who use and love Au Pairs rave about that having someone in the home to help get the kids dressed, fed, and taken care of in the morning. This makes it easier for parents to get out the door quickly in the morning. This extra time results in getting to work earlier, which means getting to leave earlier too. It allows for more quality time with your kids in the evening.
  • Transportation: Many Au Pair agreements require you to provide a means of transportation to the Au Pair. While this seems like a large request, giving your Au Pair a car to use allows them to transport your kids to and from activities and even pick them and drop them off from school, which can be a large time savings for you.
  • Cultural Exposure: Many Au Pairs are not native to the U.S. so having your kids exposed to a caregiver with a different cultural (and possible language background) can help provide a more global understanding of the world.

Wait Time
In order to obtain an au pair, you must go through a screening and matching process that may take at minimum a couple months to go through. Au pairs cannot legally watch infants under the age of 3 months, so keep that in mind as you apply.

Schedule Flexibility
Au pairs must have at least one full weekend per month off, and can only work up to 45 hours a week. Many au pair contracts also include that au pairs must have at least 1.5 days off per week. However, daily au pair hours can be negotiated, and if you or your spouse work on-call or sometimes work weekends, you can work within your au pair contract to find coverage. Au pairs are a great choice if your work hours are not the typical 9-5, or if they vary per week.

Provider Sick/Vacation Days
Many au pair contracts require a week of paid vacation, in which you would provide your au pair with their full weekly stipend. In that week, you would have to find alternative child care. However, many au pairs and their host families schedule to take vacation at the same time. Because au pairs’ week-to-week stipend is less than the cost of tuition at a daycare center or nanny salary, it is less expensive for their vacations.

Au pairs, when ill, should not be expected to work that day and therefore you will need to find back-up child care. The weekly stipend must still be issued in full, but, if needed, it is possible to negotiate hours on the au pair’s typical off-day that week so you can work an extra shift if needed.

Child Sick/Vacation Days
Au pair contracts include 51 weeks of stipend, so if your au pair isn’t simultaneously taking a vacation, you might either want to take the au pair along, or keep her/him at home so the house isn’t empty. In all three circumstances, you will still need to provide the stipend.

If your child is sick, many au pairs can bring them to doctor’s appointments or provide care for children with colds or bugs. However, if your au pair’s class schedule conflicts with the sick care you need, unless you offer higher pay and they accept it to miss class and care for your child, you must find alternative child care.

Young children who are very ill or have vomiting bugs may also be very upset to have you leave for work while they are sick.

Remember too, that by exposing your care provider to a contagious kid, there is a chance you will have to grant a sick day in the near future… However, by living in the house already creates exposure to the germs.

Nanny

Nannies come in all varieties in terms of experience and availability. Nanny schedules can often be flexible and they can work varying hours each day so long as you keep the work consistent. Because of the flexibility of nannies, it is always wise to keep a contract with them that outlines pay, expectations, hours, and any sort of on-call care you might need. Additionally, while services like care.com can provide background checks, it is up to you to check driving records as well as legitimacy of certifications.

Nannies can take children to enrichment activities, or nannies with educational training can provide their own learning opportunities for children. They are often responsible for feeding the children all of the meals that will be eaten while the nanny is there. In return, you also provide food for the nanny for those meals.

Since nannies work in your home, there is no need for you to get your child ready in the morning. Additionally, children with weak immune systems may benefit from staying at home with a provider. For infants, many parents have peace of mind knowing that the baby is at home with a trusted provider who can keep to the family routines without interruption.

While nannies can provide differing services, or even weekend babysitting, make sure to outline what is normally expected of her and offer extra compensation for requests that are outside of those duties.

Key Features

  • Time: Much like au pairs, having a nanny helps you get out of the house for work more easily. You do not have to feed and dress your child. Unlike an au pair, a nanny does not live with you so weather and traffic can impact possible time savings.
  • Household Support: Unlike au pairs, many nannies also provide domestic household support in that they will do laundry for your kids and even clean around the house during the day which gives you more precious time to hang out with your kids.
  • Cost: As you will see in Part 2 of this article, nannies are usually the most cost effective option for child care (especially when you have more than one child).

Wait Time
Since it is up to you to provide your own background checks, it may take a while to find a nanny. Depending on how busy your area is, you also may have to wait until the start of summer or the school year to find a nanny, as many families tend to change childcare during those times.

Schedule Flexibility
Nannies can work virtually any time of the day, and so long as you are providing proper compensation, can work overnight or only a few days a week if you are working part-time. Keep in mind that many nannies who accept part-time jobs are also students or have other commitments, so be sure to outline your possible needs for other coverage in your contract.

It is common to take nannies on vacations, or even just to hire one for a summer if you’re transitioning between care providers.

Provider Sick/Vacation Days
Depending on how many hours a week your nanny works for you, you can negotiate whether or not you will pay your nanny for her/his own vacation. Full-time nannies should have fewer breaks in payment than part-time ones do. Like au pairs, many nannies and families coordinate vacations so there are no breaks in child care.

If your nanny is sick, you will have to find back-up child care. It is not realistic to expect a nanny to come in sick, even if it requires you to take leave from your job. Based on what you agree upon in your contract, you might not have to pay sick time.

Child Sick/Vacation Days
If your family takes vacation, anticipate to pay your full-time nanny the normal weekly salary. Do not expect your nanny to house-sit for you, and if she/he does, there should be additional compensation. In the contract, you can decide if your part-time nanny is compensated during your time off, but keep in mind that many families do pay even their part-time nannies, so it might be expected.

If your child is ill and contagious, it might be wise to keep the nanny out of the house until the bug passes over so that you do not have to find care when the nanny is sick. Many nannies do not provide sick care, or provide limited sick care (they will take care of your child if they have a cold or a small bug, but will not provide care if your child has the flue or stomach bugs, etc.).

Teething fevers, reflux that looks like vomiting, and other non-contagious bugs that might keep your child out of daycare will not be a problem for the nanny. However, if she calls and insists that the child is sick with more than that, and sick-care is not in her contract, you’ll have to take leave from work.

If you are sick, you can have your nanny come and take care of the children, but remember that taking care of you is not part of the contract. You will not have to worry about getting the kids ready for daycare, and the nanny can keep them occupied while you recover.

How To Potty Train: Ultimate Guide, FAQs And Common Problems

How To Potty Train: Ultimate Guide, FAQs And Common Problems

By, Nancy Shaw,  Baby Friendly America Contributor & Founder/Main Editor of HifiveBaby

One of the most critical milestones in every child’s life is when they learn to poop and pee on their own. They can’t wear diapers forever.

Aside from the unnecessary expense (they could use up at least
four naps in a day unless you’re using cloth diapers), it’s also more convenient if your little one already knows how to use the toilet.

It may not sound like a big deal when you’re not a parent yet, but as a first-time parent to a toddler, it feels as if I somehow won the lottery. Yes, the sense of accomplishment is that incredible.

The thing is, I’m sure other parents have told you, it’s not easy. There’s never such thing as someone just breezing through the process. If there is, it’s one in a million. Any mother I talk to says the same thing: it’s messy and challenging.

You’re dealing with a child who has just discovered his independence and they will uphold and assert it in every way possible. They’ll pretty much do anything that’s the exact opposite of what you tell them just because they feel like it.

So yes, I’m telling you upfront you’re going to need every bit of patience you can muster. Trying to learn how to potty-train your child is both dreadful and exciting. But for the most part, you just want to get it done.

Nevertheless, rushing your child through any milestone or training is never the best means to go.

Why Potty Train?

It is a skill your child needs to learn. Learning to control their bladder and bowel is a lot like developing fine motor – it’s a process, and they need your help. Soon enough, you’re going to have to ditch the diapers and just let them wear pants.

If potty training is successful, they can now tell you when they need to go and use the bathroom.

When To Potty Train?

The answer here is simple: whenever they’re ready. You see, one important element is timing. Don’t force the child before they’re ready because it will only be frustrating for both of you.

Some doctors agree it’s often somewhere between 18-24 months or 22-30 months but just like in crawling, walking or other milestones, children will learn depending on their pace. You need to check for certain skills before proceeding with the training.

Keep in mind that you should do this when it’s not a stressful time for your family – no significant changes like the arrival of a new baby or moving to a new home.

Readiness Checklist

  • They can already follow simple instructions like “please bring that toy here” or “please pull down your shirt.”
  • They don’t like the feeling of wet or dirty diapers and may even tell you when they’re peeing.
  • They can pull down their pants or diapers.
  • They can stay dry for at least two hours during the day.
  • They can sit on and get up from the toilet or potty chair.
  • They’re interested in using the bathroom or toilet.
  • They pass their bowel at predictable times of the day.
  • They have terms they use for stool and urine like “wee-wee” or “poo.”

Benefits of Potty Training

It goes beyond the mere convenience of having a child who knows how to use the toilet and the economic factor (you can now use the nappy money for other things).

In fact, there are several advantages after reaching this milestone:

  • They learn about personal hygiene. Of course, at this point, you still can’t expect them to clean after themselves, but this is a start.
  • It makes them feel capable which in turn, enhances both their confidence and self-esteem – two important traits in growing up. Do you remember those times when you told your child “Good job” and they beamed at you with so much happiness?They have a certain sense of accomplishment – the kids know they’ve done something major and it makes them feel more confident in anything that they do.Keep in mind, however, to avoid scolding them if they commit mistakes during the process because that’s like going against what we’re trying to achieve here.
  • It asserts their autonomy and independence because it makes them feel like they’re already “grown-up girls or boys.” Especially for toddlers, they now want to try and do everything – from feeding to putting their clothes on.If they’re potty trained, they can add that to the list of things they can do without your help.

Because this is an important life skill, learning it will also improve their social status. Assuming they’re attending daycare, they might experience peer pressure if they’re the only one not toilet-trained.

Potty Training Chart

Because potty training is very challenging for both the parents and kids, it’s always a good idea to add some fun while you’re at it. In my experience, our first day was a total mess –literally and figuratively.

We had to throw one underpants filled with stool and at one time, my son pooped on the floor. I was this close to giving up, throwing in the towel and just putting some diapers on him. But I didn’t. Instead, I pushed on. And you should do the same.

What you can do is take it one step at a time and do what you can to make it a memorable experience, not a traumatic one.

Don’t impose what you want them to do because if you’re training a toddler, they will continue challenging your authority and that’s not going to work so well. Instead, ask for their cooperation.

In the scheme of reward and punishment, I’ve always leant towards the former because I find positive reinforcement to have better results in the long run.

To make my little boy tell me he wants to pee and go independently to the bathroom, I promised him he will get a ‘tattoo’ each time he pees on the urinal. It’s not much really, I simply draw a star or moon on his forearm using a pen. And he enjoyed it.

So you can do the same. This potty training chart will work well with stickers too. You can tell them that each time you mark one, they get a sticker. They will love seeing their progress and accomplishment and that will motivate them.

Also, while it’s nice to give them rewards (some mums even use chocolates or other treats), don’t forget that the most important thing is to praise them – verbally or with hugs and kisses.

How To Potty Train

In 3 Days

It is pretty challenging, mind you. Sure, it’s shorter than most training but what you should know is that for three days, you will need to spend all of your waking hours with your little one.

It’s a lot like a crash course, so you need enough commitment and dedication to accomplish this.

Your whole attention will be on your child. Clear up your schedule and don’t even think of scrolling through your social media newsfeed while in the midst of it all. Also, because of that, cooking, cleaning the house or doing the laundry in between is a big no-no.

You can ask your spouse to do those things. Don’t worry though, aside from potty training, you will get to bond with your little one. And even though it sounds like the training is going to be rigid, it’s the opposite of that.

The author of this method advocates praise instead of punishment.

With this 3-day method, you will include nighttime potty training too.

Reminders

  • Your kid will either go commando or wear cotton underpants. My son went for the former, but he wore an oversized shirt just to cover his private parts. At first, he still didn’t get the concept when he had to wear briefs because he thought it was still like a diaper where he can pee or poop.
  • Accidents can happen during and after the 3-day potty training. It’s important not to get upset or react negatively since it can have an impact on your baby. Just clean up the mess and help them through.

What To Do

  1. After waking up, take off their diapers and tell them you won’t be using it for the rest of the day which is why when they pee or poop, they have to do it in the bathroom.
  2. Join them for breakfast; you can go for high-fiber foods like fruits or those with high water content like watermelon. Then, if they usually drink half a cup of juice or water, add a little extra.
  3. After that, you can now take a trip to the bathroom to use the potty. If it’s successful, praise them but if not, tell them it’s okay. They can still try next time.
  4. While waiting for their next pooping or peeing session, do a variety of activities like learning to play simple musical instruments or reading their favourite books (not the bedtime stories).Just remember not to give them something that’s hard to get away from like a full two–hour movie.
  5. Always have a cup of water within reach. Every fifteen or twenty minutes, you can go back to the bathroom. Afterwards, make them take a sip again.
  6. After finishing their dinner, don’t give them any more milk, snacks or other liquids. In the middle of the night, you need to wake them up to use the potty and pee.
  7. For the next two days, just repeat the whole process.
  8. If accidents happen (and they will), reinforce your teachings by telling them poop and pee should go in the potty, not on the rug or floor.

In One Week

For some parents, this one seems more realistic compared to the three-day method. Besides, most experts claimed that it was most effective for kids younger than 28 months because they’re still not resilient to most things.

However, this one-week option requires readiness from all the parties involved – the child, the parents and the rest of the family.

What To Do

  1. Preparation includes allowing the toddler to practice sitting in the potty for about 5-10 minutes. This is an important step. I remember one hurdle I encountered during our potty training – after a minute, my boy would suddenly tell me he’s done.And when I check the potty, there’s no poop or pee. One method that worked for me was giving him a book to read, or letting him watch videos on my iPad. I don’t typically allow that, given that I have strong opinions against toddlers using gadgets but this is one of the few exceptions.Besides, it’s not going to last forever, just for the time you’re training.
  2. Aside from the one mentioned above, another way to prepare your child is with the help of visuals. You can download potty training videos or read books of their favourite characters pooping or peeing. This will give them an idea of what they need to do.At this stage, avoid setting any expectations because chances are, you won’t see that much progress yet. That’s okay because you’re still prepping them. Also, explain how the toilet works like how to flush and what happens to the poop.
  3. Prepare a potty training chart similar to what I showed earlier. You can purchase stickers to mark them or simply put a smiley face each time they successfully use the potty. As to the rewards, you can give them whatever they like.My son isn’t much of a sweet tooth so giving him chocolates isn’t a good option.
  4. You can put on diapers during naps or bedtime, but if you want to go big, you can put it off. After eating breakfast, take off the nappies and make them wear briefs or panties. It will put them in ‘big boy’ or ‘big girl’ mode.
  5. Every fifteen minutes, let them sit on the potty for about 5-10 minutes. This is the hard part. Again, do what you can to keep them there – read books or watch videos. However, the fifteen-minute interval is flexible.My boy got annoyed when we had to do it that close so I tried 25 minutes, and it worked. Do what works for your child. The important thing is how long they stay on the potty.
  6. Give them more fluids than usual and the moment they start showing signs that they need to go to the bathroom, whisk them to the toilet immediately. Yes, this is why you need to monitor them and pay attention.If they pee or poop, give them a reward or praise them – a little “hurray” goes a long way. But don’t overreact since they might feel deflated if there’s nothing on the potty.
  7. If accidents should happen, explain again where the poop and pee need to go – the toilet. But don’t scold or shame them. You see, even if you finish the training, don’t expect them to be potty trained 100%.They might still have accidents now and then, but most of the time, they will opt for the toilet instead of nappies.

Reminder

If the potty training doesn’t work, you can try again for around 6-8 weeks.

Potty Training Tips From Parents

There are plenty of books and guides for potty training, but I firmly believe that the best tips come from those who experienced it first-hand and there are no better ‘advisers’ than fellow parents.

Let them go commando. When I potty trained my son, he had to play around naked for an entire day. Of course, they’re more prone to accidents this way. There were several instances when the potty was just a few feet away but of course; he had to pee on the living room floor.

You need to look out for signs that he has to pee or poop – like stopping in the middle of playing and straining or looking down on their private part. When they do, take them immediately to the potty.

Let them go commando
Patience is necessary. I can’t even begin to count how many times I considered giving up during the first two days. Take note, frustration won’t take you anywhere, it will only delay the process.

I started out with 15-minute intervals and gradually increased them until we went to the potty every 25 minutes. You cannot afford to lose patience because trust me, it will pay off.

Patience is necessary
Timing is just as essential. It’s all useless if your child is not ready or if there are significant life changes which can affect their training. Keep in mind that this is as challenging to them as it is for you, so the best thing you can do is to make sure there are no additional stressors for them. Make them feel secure.

Timing is just as essential
Give them treats or rewards. Bribery is a good motivation for the kids. You can buy stickers, chocolates, or other tokens. For example, you can give them one sticker for pee and two for poop.

You can even promise them an extra episode of their favourite cartoons. Again, do what works for your child.

Give them treats or rewards
Pack on the positive reinforcement. Sometimes, kids just need words of praises like “Good job!” or “Whoa, you pooped on the toilet!” It may sound simple enough, but toddlers will love it.

Pack on the positive reinforcement
There’s nothing quite like a big smile and hug from mummy and daddy. You see, if they don’t usually get rewards, you can just do whatever parenting style worked for you in the past. Sure, bribery does wonders but so can undivided attention.

  • Talk to them about fears. It’s natural for kids to get scared of things they’re not used to. They still don’t have a full understanding of the concept of pee and poop and sometimes, the potty might look scary too.The best way to handle this is to ask them what makes them feel afraid and try to explain to them in the simplest terms possible.
  • If you’re travelling, always bring a portable potty with you because chances are, kids might feel intimidated by ‘big people’ restrooms. If they do, you can’t force them to pee or poop.
  • Always remind them that they need to go to the potty. Often, they get so busy with playing or doing stuff that they forget it’s time to pee or poop and they might end up doing it on the floor.You can set the alarm every 15 minutes and tell them, or you can walk with them towards the bathroom or wherever the potty is.
  • To make them sit longer on the potty, give them something to keep them occupied – gadgets, toys or books. They can easily sit still for 5-10 minutes.
  • Help with their aim. Another tricky part in potty training for boys is they seem to want to pee everywhere. What you can do here is place some Cheerios into the toilet so they have something they can use as a target.There are products like urinals for kids with spinning wheels in the middle to help improve aim and focus.

Common Problems Encountered

  1. How to travel with a Potty Training Child

You have two options here: a portable potty or soft toilet cover seat. Of course, if it’s long trip, you may want the potty because you can stop anywhere and let them pee or poop there and wipe it clean.

With the cover seat, you need to stop at gas stations or public restroom which isn’t the best option for most parents. You have to prepare yourself to deal with accidents, though. If you’re using bribes and rewards, continue doing so.

It is to avoid any interruption to whatever routine you have created for them.

2. How to Potty Train Multiple Kids with only ONE Bathroom

One parents suggested the use of potty stools since you wouldn’t need to buy another trainer. The kids will go directly to the toilet – the same one mummy and daddy are using.

They can take turns and you can adjust the intervals so they won’t go at the same time. Also, once they see the success of one sibling, it’s more likely they will be motivated and follow suit. Don’t sweat it.

Don’t let them see you getting frustrated because potty training should be a fun experience even though it’s challenging. Also, make it a family ‘activity’ and involve everyone at home. Instead of getting stressed out, take it slowly.

3. How to Potty Train Kids With Autism

First of all, you need the perfect timing – it should be stress-free. Then develop a routine based on the pattern you’ve observed from the kids. You can use clear and simple visuals like photos or videos to explain to them what you’re trying to help them learn.

Make sure everything’s easy to understand and not confusing. A laminated sequence pasted to the bathroom wall is a fantastic idea. When it comes to rewards or praises, it’s up to you which one works better for your child.

Some kids with autism are okay with verbal praises. Others aren’t so comfortable with it. Also, help them communicate especially if they’re encountering difficulties. And as always, reward their accomplishments but don’t make a big deal when accidents happen.

It’s also important to take note of non-verbal cues like suddenly stopping in the middle of doing something and concentrating or looking at the bathroom. These are ways you can tell if they need to pee or poop.

You have to give them your undivided attention so you can easily see when it’s time to go. If all else fails, don’t hesitate to seek professional help.

4. When to Start Potty Training

The first thing to look at is your child’s readiness. While some kids are ready by the time they’re 18 months old, there are those who can begin earlier or later. Just like with every milestone, there’s no such thing as one exact age for every baby.

You need to observe any indication that they’re all set for potty training. The key here is to avoid rushing when they’re not yet developmentally prepared. It’s not going to work if you’ll force them into something they cannot do yet and it will only end in frustration.

You can assess your little one with the help of the checklist above. If they’re not yet ready, you can always start prepping them with the aid of books or videos of their favourite cartoon characters like Elmo or Dora – you can find plenty of these on YouTube.

5. I Am Having Trouble Potty Training my Tot, What Should I do?

your child refuses to use the potty, they’re probably not yet ready for it. That’s pretty much the gist of it. Their readiness is an important factor for the success of potty training. If you’re using soft covered seat, the child could also be afraid of the toilet which isn’t surprising at all.

Especially with toddlers, they might see it as one big, scary monster. If that’s the case, buy a small potty trainer and once they’ve gotten the hang of it, you can start transitioning to the toilet.

The thing is, don’t insist if they adamantly refuse because it doesn’t work that way. Don’t make it a traumatising experience for them. As much as possible, keep it light and fun.

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About Hi Five Baby: HiFiveBaby is a professional blog written by a registered nurse that focuses on health, tips to care for babies, product reviews, child development, toys, and gifts.

Is My Toddler Ready for Potty Training

Is My Toddler Ready for Potty Training
By Elliot Totah, Contributor and co-founder of Tot on the Pot

There are two words that will send a chill down the spine of any parent who has a toddler: Potty Training. Almost immediately, the questions start pouring in: How should I do it? How long does it take? Is there a best method? What should I buy? Do I have to? Really though, do I have to?

All of these questions touch on relevant issues that every parent will have to consider (well, all except for the last two…). But before answering any of them, there’s one basic piece of information that all parents will need: When do I start potty training my child?

I wish I could tell you that there was a simple
answer to this one but the reality is that it differs for each child. Lots of different factors play in to the equation: your child’s gender, how quickly they develop, whether they have older siblings, etc. The good news is that there are several great tools out there to help gauge your child’s readiness. The first place you should turn is BabyCenter’s Potty Training Readiness Checklist. Answering the questions posed in this article will give you a good idea as to whether your child is ready to take the plunge into the wide world of the potty. Another good resource is the questionnaire provided by Parents.com.

Run through the links and if they both point you in the same direction, then start planning accordingly. Simultaneously, make sure you, as a parent, are ready. Potty training works best when parents/caregivers are positive and supportive throughout. Particularly since potty training can take months, make sure you have the patience and the peace of mind to be your toddler’s cheerleader and motivator through their highs and lows. Now, before you proceed any further, it’s very important that you understand the following: Potty Training your child earlier will not increase their chances of getting into Harvard, becoming a Hollywood star or winning the lottery. Too many parents err on the side of trying to potty train their children too early. More and more research suggests that even if kids are successfully potty trained before the age of 2, they face an increased chance of complications later on like UTIs, bedwetting and chronic constipation. The basic reason is that kids who learn how to hold their pee/poop will usually end up over-holding it. I mean, who wants to stop playing, watching TV, building a fort, being a princess or emptying out the kitchen cabinets for the 15th time in 3 hours when the alternative is pooping? When it comes to potty training—like so many other aspects of parenting—don’t be too quick to have your children grow up. Let them be little. Or as we say at Tot on the Pot, cherish every minute with your children…even the crappy ones.

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About Tot on the Pot: Tot on the Pot is a new, Pediatrician-recommended potty training system that utilizes rhymes, activities and fun to inform, incentivize and reward your toddler out of a diaper and onto the toilet. Our system includes the Tot on the Pot Book, a Tot doll which comes in a variety of genders and skin colors, the Tot’s very own potty and the Activity Reward cards. Tot on the Pot is set for release in mid-2017. Sign up to receive product launch updates and early bird specials at www.totonthepot.com today.

10 Easy Indoor Toddler Crafts and Activities

10 Easy Indoor Toddler Crafts and Activities
By Paige Goodwin, Contributor

Maybe you just had a baby or maybe it’s starting to get cold outside, but nothing seems more daunting than having to keep a toddler inside — and entertained — especially if your child seems to move between games and activities quickly. Even as a seasoned nanny, I was constantly trying to figure out how to keep the kids busy when I couldn’t take them outdoors. Here are some of my favorite crafts that you can make at home:

1. Toddler-Safe Play-Dough
Sometimes even the parents and caregivers with lighting reflexes can’t stop a toddler from putting things in their mouth. Making your own play dough out of ingredients in your cupboard ensures that even if your little one gets a bite of this fun dough, all you have to worry about is a salty aftertaste. Kidspot has a great No-Cook Playdough Recipe that is reusable and has 5 ingredients you already have in your pantry.

Supplies:
– 1 cup water
– 3 cups flour
– 1 cup salt
– 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
– food coloring
1. Mix together the salt and flour. Add in oil and mix.
2. Mix together food coloring and water.
3. Add in water slowly, mixing until you get the right consistency.
4. Have your toddler knead the dough while you’re mixing.
5. Store in an airtight bag or container.

2. Shaving Cream Sensory Buckets
There’s something about sensory activities that toddlers love, and shaving cream attracts small kids like magnets. Especially on cold, wintry days, your toddler will love playing with fake “snow”, and all you need is a can of shaving cream sitting around. If your child is unsure of playing with it, include a few waterproof toys in a large plastic mixing bowl or storage tub. The best part? Clean-up requires just a quick rinse with water and both yours and your toddler’s hands will smell great and be silky smooth!

3. Bathtub Painting
Toddlers and paint normally means nightmarish clean-ups, but bathtub painting is a great alternative. If you have bath tub paint laying around, you can put it to good use (and if you don’t, try Kojo Design’s Make Your Own Bath Paint that requires 4 common household ingredients). If you’re worried about getting food coloring out of clothing, you can always do bathtub painting while your child is already in the tub, or get a few more uses out of the bathing suits that won’t fit next season. The paint requires just a spray down with water for clean-up!

Supplies for a baby-food jar of paint:
– 1/4 cup of shampoo/body wash
– 1/4 cup corn starch
– 1-2 tablespoons of water
– 3-4 drops food coloring
1. Mix together the shampoo, corn starch and food coloring (one color only).
2. Add in the water a little at a time until you reach the right consistency. It should be thin enough to easily pick up with a paintbrush, but not too runny.

4. Cloud Dough
I know, I know, I put play-dough at the top of this list, but cloud dough is its own magical experience. PBS Parents has a two-ingredient Cloud Dough Exploration recipe that takes about five minutes to whip up and is easy enough for older toddlers to help make. Cloud dough is super fun to put into molds, and is a great way to put those beach toys to use in the off-season. You may want to double the recipe so you can play alongside your toddler!

Supplies:
– 4 cups flour
– 1/2 cup oil (if your child tends to put things in their mouth, use vegetable oil. If not, using baby oil makes the dough smell wonderful!)
1. Mix together using your hands until it holds together when squeezed. This should take a few minutes.

5. Paint with Pudding
Adding food coloring to pudding was an old trick I learned from a mom with a toddler and a little one in a high chair. By mixing together vanilla pudding and a few drops of food coloring, her toddler was able to paint a plastic place mat while the baby painted the high chair tray. Little ones can snack away while they make their creations!

6. Popsicle Stick Family Dolls
This activity is especially fun for children who enjoy drawing pictures of family members, or it could even help a child get more used to a new little family member, be it a sibling or cousin. For small hands, you can buy wooden craft spoons from Michael’s that allow for more room to draw on faces. Wrap the popsicle stick with fabric or felt and glue it on for outfits, and glue on yarn for hair. This is especially fun around the holidays, when your toddler is thinking about seeing relatives (and, for extra fun moments, you can show grandparents, aunts, uncles and even your neighbor down the street the doll your child made of them!).

7. Snowy “Cosmic” Sun Catchers
I don’t know about you, but I am constantly amassing plastic containers with lids. If your family goes through large containers of yogurt, hummus or even baby food, you can use the leftover lid to make gorgeous art to cheer up your windows. The neat thing about this sun catcher is that it has a milky look to it — perfect for a winter window sill.

Supplies:
– a plastic container lid (think yogurt, hummus, cool whip, etc.)
– Elmer’s glue
– Food coloring
– Toothpicks
– Hole Punch
– String
1. Fill your selected lid with elmer’s glue so that it touches all the surfaces. Make sure to pour enough that the sun catcher will be thick — you’ll be peeling it from the lid when it’s dry so the thicker, the sturdier.
2. Drop a single drop of food coloring into the glue for smaller lids, two of each color for larger ones. Space the drops apart so they’ll have space to bleed into the glue as they dry.
3. Have your little one drag a toothpick to swirl the colors together. Remember, the colors will bleed as they dry, so less is more here.
4. Let the lid dry (it may take a few days depending on how the thick the layer of glue was, but it’ll start to peel from the edges when it’s ready). Peel it from the lid and punch a hole at the top. Tie string and hang it up near a window.

For the original post, check out Babble Dabble Do.

8. Glitter Bottle
A big trend online is the “Calm-Down Jar”, a jar filled with glitter that moms use as a timer for when kids need a moment alone, or even a tool to help small children meditate. The truth is, the bottles are beautiful and mesmerizing — I made one this past summer with the girl I nannied and when it wasn’t in use, she kept it on the kitchen windowsill (and when sunlight would stream through the glitter, it made the countertops sparkle!).

Supplies:
– an empty, clean water bottle, preferably with smooth sides (bumpy sides distort the effect a little)
– a tube of glitter glue, which can be found in the kids’ section of art stores
– fine glitter (you can also add in sequins, thick glitter, pony beads or any other little trinkets that can float)
– hot water
– funnel
– super glue or hot glue
1. Put enough hot water in a bowl to fill the bottle with about a half inch left at the top.
2. Dump the entire bottle of glitter glue into the water and stir until the glue and water are mixed (if the water is cold, the glue will stay clumpy).
3. Let the water mixture cool a bit before having your toddler help you mix the fine glitter and optional sequins, thick glitter, etc., into the bowl. The more you add, the more glittery (and fun!) the bottle will be. Also, the thicker the mixture, the longer the bottle takes to “settle” after you shake it. The girl I made this with enjoyed watching the larger sequins flutter through the thin glitter.
4. Pour the glitter liquid through the funnel into your bottle and super/hot glue the lid on.
5. Let your toddler give the bottle a good shake.

9. Apple and Grape Cars
If you have a toddler, you know that as much as you try to get them to stop playing with their food, there’s only so much you can do. If you indulge them a little and make toy cars out of their lunch, you might get them to sit down long enough at the table for you to eat a little something, too.
Supplies:
– Apple slices
– grapes cut in half
– toothpicks
– fruit leather
1. Use a toothpick as an axle and attach grapes to the flat side of an apple slice to make cars.
2. Let your toddler drive them around on strips of fruit leather ‘roads’. You can also draw a road on a paper plate or even a large sheet of paper and let them drive their snack around!

10. Ocean Bottle
If your toddler enjoyed the glitter bottle, this bottle actually shows colors mixing and is gorgeous to boot! An ocean bottle will bring a little bit of summer to you, even in the cold winter. It takes less than five minutes to make and requires only things in your pantry.

Supplies:
– water
– yellow cooking oil (think light olive oil, vegetable, canola)
– blue food coloring
– a plastic bottle with a lid
– hot glue
1. Fill your bottle with water until it’s about a third of the way full.
2. Add a few drops of blue food coloring. Put the lid on the bottle temporarily and let your toddler shake it to mix the color.
3. Open the bottle back up, and fill the rest of the way with the cooking oil. If you are worried about the seal of the bottle’s lid, go ahead and glue it on now.
4. Have your toddler flip the bottle upside down and watch the oil rise to the top. It’ll mix with the blue food coloring and give a gorgeous greenish hue.

For the original post, check out Happy Hooligans