Archive for the ‘ Must Read ’ Category

Snapchat Nanny Shows the Truth

Thursday, November 6th, 2014

** By Dana Baardsen

I’m sure when my best friend was hired as a nanny,Social Media Babies, Social Media Children, Funny Baby Stories, Funny Kid Stories
her employers had no clue that their little tykes would be so consistently featured on her Snapchat. But she isn’t shy about revealing what it’s really like to take care of kids. While my other mommy friends on social media tend to glamorize what parenthood is like, my friend, Snapchat Nanny, lets me see the moments that aren’t so picture-perfect. A few of her gems:

Hurricane Hysterics One day my friend was trying to bring the kids out of the back seat of her car, and they didn’t feel quite ready to get out. I received a little clip of the tantrums that followed. Sweeping in and out, like a hurricane, the hysterics got harsh, then a calm would suddenly roll over the kids, and then just as relief seemed to set in, the red faces, tears, and screams started all over again. It’s too bad Snapchat Nanny never even experienced a calm before the storm.

Beach-Bag Syndrome I’ve seen lots of cute baby-at-the-beach photos, but Snapchat Nanny sent me a photo of the trunk of her car packed with a stroller, cooler, and several other bags. The cooler was filled with snacks and lunches, all planned out, and the bags were each stuffed with different types of little-life necessities. This behind-the-scenes glimpse into her routine revealed the battle-like planning that goes into one simple outing.

Land of Loop My friend sends me snaps of a kid watching the same thing repeatedly, as if the show or movie is programmed to a loop setting. It doesn’t matter how many sources of entertainment there are, kids want to hear or watch the same thing over and over again. They really need to just Let It Go.

Snapchat Screenshot, Social Media and Babies, Social Media and Children

Messy-Clean Life This came in a series of three snaps. First was the mess, then was the clean after-photo, and then came the “mess again” picture. Now I know that no matter how many times you clean and organize, a mess inevitably appears when little ones run around, dispensing toys around the room like it’s their job.

End-of-the-Day Selfie I’ll never forget this one from last summertime. My friend had just left the family’s home after a grueling day of chasing tots around a hot park. She was lying down on her bed, with a red face, sweaty pores, and smeared mascara, when she snapped a selfie and captioned the photo #NannyLife.

Of course as scary as these snaps are to me (childless for now!), I know that these little moments are tiny parts of a more meaningful whole. Despite everything, I must admit some of the sweetest snaps to ever hit my inbox are also from my Snapchat Nanny.

Here, Johanna Stein of mothereffed.com shares her own harrowing real-life mothering tale.

Mother Eff'ed
Mother Eff'ed
Mother Eff'ed

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Safe and Warm on Halloween

Thursday, October 30th, 2014

Halloween is shaping up to be a chilly one in much of the country! Here are some tips for keeping your costumed kids warm and safe as they go trick-or-treating.
Layer them up. The year’s most popular costumes, Elsa and Anna of Frozen, lend themselves to this. The girls are from Norway, after all! Put some leggings under a dress and add gloves. If your daughter balks at wearing her regular winter mittens, stores like Party City have Frozen gloves that work perfectly.
   Boys can benefit from long underwear (or, in a pinch, long pajamas) under their costumes. Ninjas are a popular boy outfit this year and have the added bonus of a warm headwrap; you might be able to convince him, too, that real ninjas wear gloves (to avoid leaving fingerprints!).
Insist on sensible footwear. There is a risk of blisters or twisted ankles if kids are crossing lawns, racing down sidewalks, and climbing steps in heels, boots, or other impractical shoes. But no one looks at their feet! It’s the neck up that people notice when they open their door to hand out treats. Be sure kids are in sneakers or other comfy footwear.
Pin things up. Be sure that Elsa’s gown isn’t going to trip her; same with your ninja’s belt. Make sure your child can move around without worrying about headgear, too. If your child is wearing a pirate or witch’s hat, considering pinning it on.

Be the bodyguard. As the parent, it’s your job to wield a flashlight and keep your child visible. Checking to be sure the way is clear, and forbid kids from crossing the street without you (even if they’re handing out fullsize candy bars over there!).

Watch as we detail more Halloween safety tips with Al Roker on The Weather Channel!

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Evangeline Lilly’s New Children’s Book and the Need for Some Darkness in Kid Lit

Monday, October 27th, 2014

You might know her as Tauriel the eflin warrior from The Hobbit trilogy, or as Kate Austen from Lost, but actress Evangeline Lilly may soon be known best for her writing skills. Her new children’s book series The Squickerwonkers hits shelves November 18 and it’s different from any kid’s story we’ve seen. Parents caught up with mom to 3-year-old Kahekili about her creepy new children’s book, upcoming Halloween plans, how she cultivates creativity in her son, and why she thinks we all can use a bit of Squickerwonker spookiness in our lives.

P: You first wrote a version of  The Squickerwonkers when you were a teenager. Tell us about the evolution of this story. 

EL: I read it to my mom when I was a teenager and she was like “Sweetheart, you really should try to publish that.” As a 14-year-old girl not only did I have no idea how to publish a book, I also was used to my mom thinking everything I did was incredible even if it wasn’t because she’s my mom and she loves me. Twenty years later I was working on The Hobbit in New Zealand with Peter Jackson and I went into the Weta Workshop—which is the creative arm of his where they create his armor and all these other things—and there was so much creativity going on in that place. I was like “I want to create something of my own, too.” I want to start this [book]. For about five years, I’d been really seriously intending to start a writing career. That was my dream. I had all these incredible people and artists and resources all around me, so I ended up connecting with Johnny Fraser-Allen at the Workshop and he came on board to work on The Squickerwonkers.

P: His illustrations are so fabulous. They compliment your characters so well.

EL: I can’t say the story is completely independent of him and he can’t say the illustrations are really independent of me. We really collaborated. I knew the Squickerwonkers were what I would call human but not human. Johnny came on board and he had this idea that they should be marionette puppets on this traveling wagon. And I gasped, “Oh my gosh that’s exactly it.”

P: Part of your intention with this book is to purposefully put something out there for children that is a little darker and creepier. 

EL: I do think that there is beauty and value and meaning in having very uplifting, sweet, innocent stories for children. But I’m a great believer in balance and I think that everybody, children and adults alike, needs balance in their life. The good and the evil, the right and the wrong, the truth and the idealism. That’s important to me. I look around me and I see a lot of young people who are very entitled and who are very confused when life isn’t perfect. I think that often comes from some of the messaging we receive as children from our stories, but that’s really not life and especially not on the playground.

The Squickerwonkers is really a playground drama. How many times do mischievous little kids do something mean or unfair to a kid that’s just minding his own business or being perfectly kind? How does a child learn how to deal with those situations? How do they learn to deal with the side of life that maybe isn’t as pretty, but is very real and prevalent? And then very importantly for me: How does a child makes sense of “the devil within themselves?” Or when they do something and they know it’s wrong but for some reason can’t stop, how do they accept and love themselves with the good and the ugly? That’s important to teach children also. That nobody’s perfect. Mom and dad aren’t perfect. You’re not perfect.

P: You’ve said previously that acting is your day job and you said earlier that writing was your dream. Is this a transition period for your career? 

EL: I’ve always been an opportunist. Lost and starting acting…that was really just opportunism. I didn’t want to be an actress, but I saw this opportunity. I think I will always live to a certain degree that way. I will probably always take an acting job if it comes about in a way that feels like it was meant to be or if it’s a great idea, but really my focus is to transition to writing. It’s truly a dream come true for me.

P: How does being a mom affect how you pick your projects? Were you drawn to write a children’s book because you have a child?

EL: I started writing The Squickerwonkers immediately after he was born, so maybe? Nowhere inside of me was I consciously writing for my children. I can say that is one of the reasons why I took the first film job I did after LostReal Steel with Hugh Jackman. I remember distinctly thinking “You know, I’m gonna have kids one day—and hopefully one day soon—and this is a movie I would really love my children to watch.” It’s the kind of entertainment and the kind of film that I believe instills beautiful, incredible values in kids—to stand up against adversity, that if you’re the underdog you can make it in the world. What’s interesting is I’ve sort of continued on in that thread. The Hobbit is great family entertainment. Ant-Man will be great family entertainment.The Squickerwonkers is for the whole family. I think that’s the kid in me coming out. I never really grew up.

P: Your book takes place in this spooky alternate puppet world. The Hobbit is a fantasy. Even Lost was sci-fi. So you seem to be attracted to fantasy and imagination. Do you find that your son is imaginative?

EL: He’s learning it. It’s fascinating to me as a mother to realize that imagination is not innate. You have to teach it. I was a very imaginative little girl. I always assumed that was innate and that every child is born with a massive imagination that takes them to all different wonderful worlds. As a mother I’m learning Oh! You actually have to teach children about what it means to play imaginary worlds and invent imaginary characters. My son is 3-and-a-half and he’s starting to blossom into the little boy who has an imagination. It’s heaven to watch.

P: What do you do to encourage his imagination

EL: I play with him. And it’s funny because I don’t necessarily subscribe to the notion that parents need to play with their kids. In my generation, nobody’s parents played with us. Nobody. There’s a pressure nowadays to play with our children and I think it’s unnecessary, but I can’t help myself. I want him to have the gift and the joy of an imaginary world the way I did. Maybe not to the extent that I did. I had more imaginary friends than real-life friends. He’s a much more grounded little man. He’s a very practical, responsible, grounded little person. Very unlike his mother.

P: Is he more like his dad?

EL: A little more like his dad and, honestly, just his own person. I sort of go Where did this come from? He just sort of came out that way. He’s a little Taurus. He’s a little bull so I wonder if that has anything to do with it.

Horoscope for a Taurus Baby
Horoscope for a Taurus Baby
Horoscope for a Taurus Baby

P: Speaking of all things spooky and creative and playful, Halloween is coming up. Do you do anything special? 

EL: Now that I have a child and my partner’s kind of into it, he makes sure the three of us have costumes. As we speak I’m at a consignment store, we just finished finding his costume this year. He picked it out himself.

P: What will he be?

EL: He’s gonna be a Depression-era child. [Cracking up] We were thinking of maybe a minion or something because he loves the minions from Despicable Me, but he picked out this crazy concoction of old used clothing. He put it all on and he LOVED it. He just looks like a little street kid from the 1930s.

Find your child’s Halloween costume at Shop Parents.

P: What is your favorite part about being a mom to Kahekili?

EL: Discovering the human being that is within him. I feel like parenting is such a wonderful unearthing. It’s like archaeology. It’s all in there already and it’s just a matter of what you uncover and what you dig up. You get to meet this human being and you go “Oh my gosh, that’s who you are. You’re your own person.” It’s so much fun.

Photographs: Evangeline Lilly / Sarah Dunn, courtesy of Warner Bros.

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Shakira on Motherhood: “I’m Nailing at Least Part of the Job.”

Monday, October 27th, 2014

* Interview by Patty Adams Martinez

Today Shakira, superstar singer and mom to 21-month-old Milan (and with a baby on the way!), announced her partnership with Fisher-Price, driving the design of a new line of baby gear and toys sold on Amazon.com. Look for our exclusive interview with her in the December issue of Parents magazine, and in the meantime, here’s a bit of what she shared with us!

Q: You wanted to join forces with Fisher-Price after Milan loved the Kick & Play Piano Gym. Why do you think Milan was so captivated by it? How much of an influence was Milan in the new toys you are helping to launch?
I think the toy stimulated him on various levels—his kicking led to a concrete response from the toy, which really allowed him to understand cause and effect and how he himself could participate, while the toys overhead provided visual stimulation. Watching him play and learn was a huge eye-opener and of course, had a great influence when we were designing the new toys.

Q: Music is obviously a huge part of your life. What are Milan’s favorite songs?
I’ve played him a bit of everything, from nursery rhymes to Green Day to Frank Sinatra. If he’s anything like his mother, he will have very eclectic tastes in music.

Q: Which is Milan picking up faster: Spanish or English?
I think I would have to say, if pressed to choose, that Spanish is his first language since I am the person he most spends time with and it’s my first language. He has an equal understanding of English, Spanish, and Catalan [which Milan’s dad, Gerard Piqué, speaks]. It’s quite astounding, really. But his first words, “mama” and “papa,” could work in any of the languages, so I’m really curious to see how his language skills develop in all three as he begins to form sentences and more complex thoughts.

Q: What do you consider your biggest mommy win?
I’d say the fact that Milan trusts me more than anyone is a win. I always explain everything to him, give him reasons for everything we do or don’t do, and always tell him the truth. I can see how it makes him feel safe with me, which makes me feel that I’m nailing at least part of the job.

Q: And your biggest mommy fail?
Getting my son to eat! He no longer eats pumpkin and certain fruits he used to love as a baby, and I don’t understand why!

Q: You’ve long been a proponent of early childhood education. Why is it so important to you, and how has it become even more important to you now that you have Milan?
It’s so important to me because of its importance in changing a person’s course in life really cannot be understated. Lots of people are born into less than ideal situations on a socioeconomic level. But those who have access to education gain the tools that help them to overcome their circumstances and become the chief of their own destiny. The return on investment for early education is limitless, because children’s potential is limitless. And after becoming a mother, I now realize how important it is to instill that knowledge not only in the children themselves but in their parents, because even before our kids enter school, we are their primary educators, and the more we stimulate them and interact with them, the more prepared they will be when they go off to school, and the more likely their chance of success later on in life.

Here, teachers explain to Parents why music is so important to kids.

The Importance of Music
The Importance of Music
The Importance of Music

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Parents Goody Giveaway: Enter for a Chance to Win a Box of Hasbro Games!

Tuesday, October 14th, 2014

It may be mid-October, but your kids have probably started a list for Santa already. While you may be thinking about a new pair of shoes to add to your list, your little one is thinking about toys, toys and more toys! We’re thinking about toys too, have you seen our Parents 2014 Best Toys list?!


Hasbro has a variety of games that make perfect “family gifts,” ones that everyone can share. And unlike Santa, Hasbro doesn’t have a naughty or nice list. Hasbro is giving ONE (1) lucky winner a chance to receive his or her own box full of Hasbro Toys; including My Monopoly (one of our Best Toys winners!), Scrabble Electronic Scoring, Taboo Buzz’d, Trivial Pursuit Hints, Catchphrase Decades, Simon Swipe, Disney Frozen: Pop Up Magic Game, and a Transformers Battle Masters Grimlock figure–a prize worth $143.

To enter, leave a comment below, up to one a day between today and the end of the day on October 20. Be sure to check back on October 21 and scroll to the bottom of the post to see who won. We reach out to winners via Facebook message (it goes into your “other” message folder on Facebook), so if you win, look for us there as well. We’ve also posted all of the Official Rules. Goody luck!

Watch a behind-the-scenes clip of our toy-testers playing with our 2014 winners!

 

We Pick the Best Toys of 2014
We Pick the Best Toys of 2014
We Pick the Best Toys of 2014

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American Baby’s Baby Booty: Win a Dresser and a Kardashian Kids Outfit from Babies R Us!

Thursday, October 9th, 2014

If you enjoy dressing your little fashionista in the latest trends, you’re probably familiar with the Kardashian Kids line at Babies “R” Us, designed by sisters Kourtney, Kim, and Khloe. Not only are the pieces stylish and kid-appropriate, but their comfortable threads aren’t expensive (every piece is under $50), making them a win in our book.

Since the Kardashian Kids collection continues to grow, and your daughter’s wardrobe may as well, Babies “R” Us is giving away a chic $350 dresser from Delta to hold your child’s clothes, along with a $102 complete Kardashian Kids outfit!

ONE (1) lucky winner will receive a Babies “R” Us Delta Chalet 6-drawer dresser and an outfit from the Kardashian Kids line including a mod print dress, jacket with faux-fur collar, ivory tights, and a black metallic head wrap. Approximate retail value of the entire prize is $452.96. To enter, leave a comment below, up to one a day between today and the end of the day October 15. More Qs about our giveaway? Read our official rules. Be sure to check back on October 16 and scroll to the bottom of the post to see who won. We reach out to winners via Facebook message (it goes into your “other” message folder on Facebook), so if you win, look for us there as well. Goody luck!

Congrats to our winner, Robin Quaintance. Please check your “other” message folder on Facebook to claim your prize!

Want tips on how to organize your kid’s closet? We’ve got a video!

 

Home Organization: Kid's Clothing Storage
Home Organization: Kid's Clothing Storage
Home Organization: Kid's Clothing Storage

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American Baby’s Baby Booty: Win the New Halo Bassinest Plus a Gift Set!

Thursday, October 2nd, 2014

The mission of safe sleep for babies is something that HALO takes very seriously. While they’ve always been a leader in safe baby nightwear, such as their SleepSack Swaddle and SleepSack wearable blanket, they’re now introducing their first piece of gear, the innovative HALO Bassinest Swivel Sleeper.

Use the bassinet to have your baby sleep by your side, but not in your bed (which poses a suffocation hazard; if you don’t believe them, read about safe sleep habits from First Candle). Unlike traditional bassinets, this one can slide right next to you in bed, plus one side lowers down, making it easy to lift your baby out for feedings. Also, the mesh sides provide both good air flow and a clear view of your sleeping infant, for peace of mind. It’s good from the moment you bring your newborn home until he or she is about 5 months old.

The Bassinest just launched for $230 at Giggle and Right Start. But HALO is also generously giving one away here! HALO will send ONE (1) lucky winner a HALO Bassinest Swivel Sleeper and a HALO gift set (including a SleepSack, Swaddle and a SleepSack wearable blanket); a retail value of approximately $294.00.

To enter, leave a comment below, up to one a day between today and the end of the day October 8th. More Qs about our giveaway? Read our official rules. Be sure to check back on October 9th and scroll to the bottom of the post to see who won. We reach out to winners via Facebook message (it goes into your “other” message folder on Facebook), so if you win, look for us there as well. Goody luck!

Congrats to our winner, Casey Hoffman! Please check your “other” message folder on Facebook in order to claim your prize.

Watch the video below for additional tips on dressing your baby for sleep.

 

Dress Baby for Sleep
Dress Baby for Sleep
Dress Baby for Sleep

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Lakeshore Celebrates 60 Years of Learning Anniversary!

Friday, September 26th, 2014

Haven’t finalized your weekend plans? You may want to dig out your party hat! On September 27, Lakeshore Learning Materials–a developer and retailer of children’s educational products– is celebrating its 60th anniversary by hosting a “60 years of Learning” event at stores nationwide. From 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., children and their families and friends are invited to participate in fun games, activities, and special crafts (such as decorating their own party hat!) at their local Lakeshore store. The event is free and kids will receive a goodie bag, too!

During its six decades of service to teachers, parents, and children, kids nationwide have the ability to grow and learn–all while having fun. Lakeshore produces new products every year for infants, toddlers, preschoolers, and elementary-age children–covering all subject areas including math, language, science, music, and art.

“We’re extremely honored to be celebrating such a major milestone in our company’s history,” said Bo Kaplan, president and CEO of Lakeshore. “It is a huge testament to our people, our products and the loyal customers who have wholeheartedly supported us over the years. And, we are beyond excited about the future. We look forward to delivering the highest-quality products and service for many years to come.”

Besides helping children reach developmental and educational milestones in the classroom, Lakeshore Learning Stores have become a valuable part of the community by hosting family-friendly, year-round events with authors, folk singers and more. This October, Lakeshore is hosting a nationwide event in celebration of Jumpstart’s Read for the Record®, a national campaign celebrating early literacy.

For more information on products and events, visit The Lakeshore Story: A Simple Beginning and LakeshoreLearning.com.

Photos courtesy of Lakeshore Learning Materials.

Watch the video for tips and tricks on raising a star student in and out of the classroom.

 

3 Things to Raise a Successful Student
3 Things to Raise a Successful Student
3 Things to Raise a Successful Student

 

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