11 Holiday Travel Hacks

What to ship ahead, what you’d never think to pack, and more genius tips to making anywhere feel (almost) like home. 📷 @ladyandprince

holiday-hacksWhen it comes to keeping your kids comfortable and on schedule at your in-laws’ house or a hotel, the struggle is real. And the smaller the traveler, the bigger the demands. Here’s how to make yourself at home when you’re far from it.

Childproof

You could watch them like a hawk and say “No!” until you’re blue in the face as little digits explore every socket and cabinet door in sight… Or you could come prepared and easily child proof the space.

Nightlight

You could battle whimpers of “it’s too dark” at bedtime… Or you could pack a travel nightlight to illuminate the path to the potty.

Ship Ahead

You could try and explain to your Mom which non-toxic laundry detergent and phthalate-free shampoo your baby needs… Or you could just send a Diapers.com delivery of Dreft and California Baby wash straight there and be assured that you’ll have what you need.

Sound Machine

You could have an all-nighter with kids who are used to a sound machine… Or you could tear into that Sleep Sheep and grab its “music box” to lull them into a slumber. If you forget, there’s always the Sound Sleeper app.

Pack Your Own Sheets

You could listen to your kids whine about the scratchy sheets (they’re really not wrong)… Or you could pack their own pillow case that feels and smells like their bed. For minis sleeping in cribs, we suggest bringing a crib sheet from home.

Hotel With Pool

One way to ensure everyone’s ready for naptime (even with a time change): Book a hotel with a pool. The surefire way to tucker those kiddos out.

Travel First Aid

You could run out to a pharmacy at 2 a.m. when your monkey wakes with a fever… Or you could pack a small medicine bag with Tylenol, Advil, a thermometer, Waxelene, Neosporin, and Elmo Band-Aids. Why the Band-Aids? Duh. They make everything better.

Just Rent It

You could schlep and check their car seats… Or you could rent them with your rental car (We particularly like Avis for this service). If you need one for a car at the destination, see if there’s a local baby rental service that rents them or, ship a cheap-but-safe one (like Cosco Scenera for older babies and toddlers) directly there. Don’t forget to direct your parental units or partner to these Car Seat Lady or NHTSA videos for proper installation.

Cheapie Stroller

You could shlep their big, fancy stroller through the airport and gate check… Or you could wear your baby and sail through security. Too big to Bjorn? Buy a cheapie umbrella stroller, don’t worry about it getting banged up, and call it a day. Oops, you left it in the rental car trunk? Who cares!

Shop The Convenience Store

You could order a $15 bowl of Cheerios from the hotel… Or you could stop at the convenient mart, buy a big box, milk for the mini fridge, and score a few plastic spoons from Starbucks.

Blackout Shades

You could wake up at the crack of dawn (blackout curtains just weren’t a thing when we were growing up)… or you could cover the windows with blackout garbage bags. Remember to also pack a roll of painter’s tape – don’t want to ruin your in-laws’ trim.

đź“· @ladyandprince

7 Holiday Traditions To Start Now

Now is the time to make memories as a family (and they’re fun for you too). 📷 @jillkargman

holiday-traditions-2Nothing says December quite like quality time with your family. To wit: 7 seasonal holiday traditions to start with your people. Because memories.

Christmas Light Drive

Pile the fam in the mini-van (as if) to scope the neighborhood for the best holiday lights, while listening to Christmas music, of course.

Hot Cider + Cookie Decorating

Heat up some apple cider (spiked for the adults) and bake and decorate cookies, while listening to holiday tunes. Make memories from the dance party sure to ensue, thanks to the sugar (and possibly bourbon) high!

Kid-Friendly Menorah + Hanukkah Books + DIY Dreidl

Oh, Hanukkah, oh, Hanukkah come light the kid-friendly menorah. Until your littles are old enough to play with fire, designate this wooden menorah their candle holder of choice. Teach them what it all means with fun books they can understand like Sammy Spider’s First Hanukkah, Hanukkah Bear, and Hoppy Hanukkah. Then get crafty and decorate your own dreidl.

Festive Movie + Snacks

Choose a holiday classic (The Sound of Music, Home Alone, A Christmas Story, Christmas Vacation, Miracle on 34th Street, How The Grinch Stole Christmas, A Charlie Brown Christmas), pop popcorn, make some hot cocoa, and you’ve got yourself a tradition.

A Personalized Video Message from Santa + Reading of Twas The Night Before Christmas

Nothing says, “Ho, ho, ho” like an actual personalized video greeting from the man himself. Bring the message full circle with a reading of The Night Before Christmas.

Adopt A Family In Need + Have A Wrap Party

Tis the season for helping others – an important lesson for littles to learn. The best way to teach them is by doing, so adopt a family in need and spend an evening together wrapping gifts for your adopted family. In NY, we love NY Cares Winter Wishes, but a quick search will find one in your area.

The Fifth Night

Eight nights of gifts is a lot of loot. We love the concept of turning the fifth night into an evening all about giving back. Pick out gifts with your kids and take them to the local charity of your choosing. We like JChoice for finding one.

đź“· @jillkargman

Screentime DO’s & DON’Ts

Ctrl+Alt+Delete your screentime guilt by following these guidelines from an expert.
đź“· @mummagirls

screentime
It seems like a new study is released on kids and screentime daily –
It’s terrible! It’s even more terrible! Oh, just kidding, it’s actually great! – which can leave you feeling like you have to log extra screentime for yourself just to keep up with it all.

Well, you don’t.

Staying up on the news (and processing it in a measured way) is part of Alexandria Abramian’s job: She’s the content director at Forcefield, a software/app that gives parents the ability to monitor and control their kids’ activity on devices. It lets parents set schedules (shut it down at a certain time), filters (makes only certain apps accessible), and supervision (any photo they share sends a copy to you), making sure that your child doesn’t stumble upon porn (9 out of 10 kids do. BLECH!). Think Big Brother in the best way.

Read on for her advice on creating sane and realistic screentime rules for your family – and the unexpected thing you actually should be worrying about.

DON’T Start Out Feeling Like A Failure

The American Academy of Pediatrics says no screentime at all under 2, which often makes parents feel like if they’re not adhering to that, they’ve already blown it. The truth is, we still don’t know how screentime impacts the brain in early infancy, so it’s best to err on the side of less, but a lot of research is suggesting a more nuanced approach. Setting guidelines for what kind and how much screentime is way more helpful than feeling wracked with guilt because you let your baby watch a cat video while you peed.  

DO Plan For Small Blocks Of Time

For the under-2 set, try to limit screentime to 15-minute chunks, maybe two of those sessions a day, while you’re making dinner or getting ready in the morning.

DON’T Let Passive Screentime Lead

As in plopping the kids in front of a show (you know, like we did as kids.) That behavior is more often associated with negative impacts like lower brain function. New research is suggesting that iPad time may be better than TV time if the content is educational and interactive.

DO Choose Those Interactive Apps Carefully

So many apps come to market labeled as educational. Forcefield vets them with kids, parents, and educators to make sure they’re actually following through, and they’re constantly updating their library. Some of Alexandria’s favorite apps and developers: BusyShapes, Nosy Crow, Duck Duck Moose, Little Digits, and Drawnimal.

DON’T Leave The TV On In The Background

It’s associated with lower language acquisition and shorter attention spans. And often causes fewer child-parent interactions. Avoid it!

DO Be Mindful Of The Rabbithole

Kids love YouTube, but it can be easy to accidently discover weird, non-kid-friendly content. And some companies claiming to be YouTube for kids are filled with ads. Alexandria suggests Nat Geo Kids or Ellie’s TV for great videos, no ads, and a more controlled system.

DON’T Get Stuck On Your Device (This One Is A Biggie)

The research coming out about “distracted parenting” is pretty bad. They’re finding a direct link between parents who are consumed by their phones and poor behavior in kids. It makes a lot of sense – if a child is unable to get the parent’s attention, they’ll do it any way they can, including poor behavior. Another study links the number of times people check their email while they’re with their kids with an increasing amount of cortisol (aka the stress hormone) in the body. In other words, check yourself.

DO Let Family Photos & Videos Work For You

Watching family videos on your phone is both meaningful and stimulating for babies and kids. It’s a great way to fill a chunk of time when you need to accomplish something – so create a slideshow of photos and videos of the family for your little one to watch. Littles love it, and the brain stimulation is full tilt.

DO Let Actual People Be Your Virtual Babysitters

Here’s a genius lifehack: Skype and FaceTime do NOT count as screentime, as it’s very close to being the same neurological experience as an in-person interaction. The brain is fully activated and language acquisition is happening as if the person is actually there. This is good news for parents on so many levels because you can schedule it when you really need it – set up a regular hang out with the grandparents, so you can do your thing without feeling guilty.

đź“· @mummagirls

5 Steps To Achieve Your #PlayroomGoals

The playroom of your design dreams is also amazing for your child’s development. 📷 @artpantry

artpantry
It’s crazy-making to consider all the money you’ve spent on toys (more than you’d like to admit, if you’re anything like us) and then how
little some of those toys get played with. But consider how your little feels when she goes in her playroom – toys all shoved in a giant chest, crayons buried in a drawer underneath who knows what, play table covered in crap. It’s the way you feel cooking in a kitchen with sticky counters and a sink full of dirty dishes. No wonder they constantly want new toys. Wouldn’t you want a new kitchen?

It doesn’t have to be that way!! Megan Schiller, founder of The Art Pantry, is a master at transforming uninspired play spaces into magical rooms or nooks kids love and USE. You send her photos of your sad playspace and your budget for new purchases, she uses her eye for design, serious organizing skills, and career in early childhood education to whip you up a custom floor plan, a Pinterest board of new purchases, and detailed instructions. Need proof it works? See before and after photos.

Here are 5 of Megan’s tips that you can do now to get your kids off the iPad and into the playroom.

#1: Design Matters

Design affects mood and productivity: What if every time you made dinner, you had to dig through a huge box of cooking tools to find a spatula? This same idea applies to children’s playrooms. When you create a space that is easily accessible, organized, and aesthetically pleasing, your child will feel at ease and ready to get to work.

#2: Keep It Simple

Kids get overwhelmed by too many choices. If you have a lot of toys, minimize what you have on display by storing away the excess, and rotate them in when your child seems bored – your toddler will likely think he just scored a new toy! And guess what? Less stuff in your play space means less to clean up.

#3: Bins, Bins, Bins

When you add up the cost of storage bins and other organizers, it can be surprisingly expensive. But when you see how much of a difference they make in organizing your space, they are well worth the investment. (And if you follow tip #2, you won’t need to purchase too many.) When shopping for storage bins, find containers that fit your space well and keep your supplies organized (Perch is brilliant for making art supplies accessible and neat). To create a soothing space, look for bins that are similar in color or material, so they don’t add too much visual clutter – toys, art supplies, and your child’s work already bring enough color.

#4: Don’t Forget Art!

Many parents shy away from having art supplies accessible because they’re afraid their child might wreak havoc on the walls or furniture. But children who are allowed to independently explore art materials will gain creative confidence and learn how to use them appropriately much faster than those who are restricted. So start small with toddler-friendly supplies like washable markers, crayons, stamps, stickers, and paper. As they get older, introduce new supplies like washable paints, play-dough, scissors, and tape.

#5: Set Up Invitations To Play

Encourage your child to play in new and intriguing ways by setting up “invitations to play,” otherwise known as prompts or provocations – this helps kids get focused and encourages new ways of exploring familiar materials. This is easier than it sounds! Here are a few examples:

  • Set up a small block tower and place various building materials next to it so your kid can expand the scene.
  • Set up a tea party with stuffed animals in a circle on the rug.
  • Set out a few interesting materials on a table or tray for your little to explore.
  • Set up the scenes while your child is asleep. He may be so excited to find them in the morning, that he’ll actually let you sleep in.

We said maybe.

đź“· @artpantry