6 Tips for Ages ‘Zero to Five’ from Parenting Expert Tracy Cutchlow

Parenting expert (formerly the editor at Brain Rules for Baby) and writer Tracy Cutchlow just wrote the coolest–and easiest–book for new parents. I’m just going to let her tell you about it herself in the helpful essay she wrote below:

How many times have you thought, “What am I supposed to do with this kid now? Why is he or she doing that?” You have a stack of parenting books, but they’re too overwhelming, and you never seem to get through them. Who has time with babies in the house? I created a helpful and simple guide with my new book, Zero to Five: 70 Essential Parenting Tips Based on Science (and What I’ve Learned So Far).

I’ve created a different kind of parenting book—one you’ll actually have time to read. I organized the information so there is one tip per page. I used beautiful photographs of real families. You don’t even have to hold the book! It lays flat because it’s spiral bound.

Zero to Five is the book I wish I’d had when I was pregnant. I focus on baby’s first 5 years. Here’s a taste of the tips below. I’ve written one tip for each age group:

Age 0: Envision baby all grown up
I know, you’re busy envisioning baby’s kissable cheeks and chubby thighs. But this is worth stopping to think about: What kind of person do you hope baby will be? A good communicator, loving partner, calm problem-solver? Write these things down. Guiding baby toward that vision is the real task of parenting. And—bummer—it likely requires that we change, too, to better model our values for baby.

Age 1: When tots snatch toys, be direct
“You need to share,” we often implore our 18-month-olds. “Can you share?” Well, no. Not if you put it that way. At 18 months, toddlers haven’t yet developed the ability to guess at another person’s unstated wishes. (It’s called Theory of Mind.) They need very explicit instructions: “Your friend would like a turn. Can you hand her the toy?”

Age 2: Include baby
Find yourself saying, “No, don’t do that,” and, “No, don’t touch that” all day long?” See what happens when you say, “Yes.” For example, try something like this: “Mommy’s using a screwdriver to fix the knob on dresser. Would you like to help? OK, I’m going to hold it with you. We turn to the right…” Our small daily tasks provide plenty of intellectual stimulation and connection with baby. Yep, quality time can mean taking out the garbage together.

Age 3: Call a calm-down, not a time-out
Time-outs seem easy. Until you find yourself lecturing for three minutes while your kid repeatedly escapes from the time-out spot. Learn a better way in this quick slideshow:

Age 4: Preserve preschoolers’ naps
Keep up that nap routine. In one study, preschoolers who got an afternoon nap scored higher than non-nappers on memory tests—even tests taken the next morning. Researchers then swapped which children napped and which didn’t. Same result. Their theory: Kids’ short-term memory is limited, and the sleep allows for more frequent memory consolidation.

Age 5: Hold weekly family meetings
Wasted food after dinner–that was the topic of discussion at the Natkin family’s weekly meeting. Their brainstorming session yielded a funny solution that worked. They suggested, “Let’s weigh the food!” Who came up with the idea? The children. “Going through this process together as a family,” Sarina Natkin says, “does so much more to shift behavior than me saying, ‘This is what’s going to happen.’”

Set aside one time each week for a family meeting, and plan a fun activity afterward. Ask three questions: What went well in our family this week? What could have gone better? What will we work on this week? Make sure everyone gets their say—for problems and solutions.

What's Your Parenting Style?
What's Your Parenting Style?
What's Your Parenting Style?

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‘Life By The Cup’ Author Zhena Muzyka of Gypsy Tea Inspires Moms

Have you tried Zhena’s Gypsy Tea? You can buy the tea bags at select grocery stores, and it is delicious. I love the coconut greet. But even cooler is the founder of the business, Zhena Muzyka. She wanted to start her own business; she needed to earn money to pay her son’s medical bills; and she only wanted to do something with fair trade.

She started selling custom teas from a cart in California. Now she runs and international, multimillion dollar company while helping tea growers in Calcutta (and other places) create more prosperous lives.

Zhena just released her inspirational and advice-filled memoir called Life by the Cup: Ingredients for a Purpose-Filled Life of Bottomless Happiness and Limitless Success. She talks to us below about how she made her dreams come true–and saved her son’s life in the process. This is a major good karma alert–such a sweet story.

KK: How did I get the courage to follow my dreams? ZM: I needed health insurance! Let me explain… My son’s birth and subsequent need for special care gave me the motivation to start the tea company, his final surgery at almost age 4 gave me the courage to keep building the business. It was very motivated by healthcare. I wasn’t able to get him insurance at the time because of his “pre-existing” condition. I never imagined a birth defect could be a pre-existing condition, but insurance companies wouldn’t cover him. I had to grow the business to get big enough for a group health plan that would accept him. It took five employees–so it was a very practical courage, one based on growing a business to cover his needs. But then, when I met the tea workers and their children and realized that most not only didn’t have healthcare but also didn’t have running water, decent housing or a chance to go to school, I realized that my dream to save my son and give him a healthy and happy life extended to the women and children in the tea growing regions who made $1.35 a day and where infant mortality rates were frighteningly high. Through my experience with my son Sage, I was deeply bonded to the workers in the fields and became an advocate for them. Here’s my video about it.

KK: Any advice to moms with small kids who are interested in business
ZM: It’s a great time to start a business when your kids are present. Although we spent a lot of time at the office, Sage now 14, has great entrepreneurial instincts. He got the education of a lifetime being in the company. At one point most of the employees brought their kids to work for a couple of hours after school, and we set up a great area with a pup tent, cartoons and toys for them. Today, with the internet so strong, a mom can have a thriving business via her computer. If I were starting today–which I am again with my 4-year old daughter, 14-year old son and new business Zhena TVI would get super educated on technology and make it work for you. Use resources like Lynda.com to train yourself how to do videos, websites and all other marketing–the power is now at moms’ fingertips with the internet! Find the thing that makes you happy–for me it’s tea, writing, jewelry, fair trade, coaching women in business, holding women’s retreats, interviewing people and traveling as an activist—and turn it into a business that works around your schedule. A good starting point is when you feel the nudge, when the nudge becomes a shove and your quiet inner voice gets so loud that you know in your heart it’s time. There is never a typically perfect time to start, but I always know that when I am feeling the most resistance that it’s time to push through it and get going!

KK: What’s some really great advice that someone else gave you?
The best advice I ever got about life was to meditate. Meditation is the salve to any worry, it creates spaciousness in a busy mind, and it allows for perspective when times get tough. My meditation teacher who happened to be my first business consultant told me that I had one of two choices, meditate or medicate. What he meant was that meditation gives the calm happiness we are all seeking in other things like shopping, wine, TV, all of those guilty pleasures become crutches if we do not take care of our minds. I now teach meditation to the women I coach and often in the beginning they get discouraged because their minds “won’t stop” chattering, but that is exactly when meditation is most effective, it’s about watching the mind and patiently noticing its patterns and means of distracting us from what matters most in our hearts. Meditation is like dating the mind, getting to know it, because we are already married to it, we need to know how to be friends with it if we ever want to be in harmony with it on a long term basis.

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5 Tips to Get Read for Baby from ‘Dude to Dad’

Happy belated Father’s Day guys! Whether you’re a guy or a gal expecting a baby, Chris Pegula has your back. Check out his advice below from his brand new book, From Dude to Dad: The Diaper Dude Guide to Pregnancy:

What is it with us guys freaking out over becoming dads? After all, it’s the women that have to undergo all the emotional and physical transformation during the pregnancy. In all honesty, I think as guys we can do a lot more to ease our partners through their nine month journey of pregnancy while at the same time empowering ourselves to overcome our fears of fatherhood.

Check out these 5 tips on getting prepared for the arrival of your little one.

 #1 Get Involved
Get involved in your partner’s process as much as possible and as soon as possible. Be curious, ask questions about her experience, and attend as many doctor visits and classes with her as you can. This will ease you into your new role and slowly begin to eliminate your fear.

#2 Ask Questions
Accept that you don’t know everything and don’t be afraid to seek council from others. More often than not, experience is the only way to learn, so it is helpful to talk to some experienced parents ahead of time to prepare yourself. You have a whole army of people in your life who have gone through this and are generally happy to dole out advice.

#3 Temper Your Expectations
Once your partner is pregnant, don’t assume she is going to react to things the way she used to. She is going through all sorts of physical and emotional changes, so bear with her and cut her some slack. Always act as if you are doing things for the first time and run it by her first.

#4 It’s All About We, Not Me
Start early on making choices that are in the best interests of you both, so that it will have become second nature once the baby arrives. For instance, maybe it’s not so smart to commit to those NBA tickets when your partner is vomiting incessantly.

#5 Compromise
You will be making many compromises when you become a dad. Depending on how your partner handles her pregnancy, these compromises may begin early on or may not affect you until the baby arrives. Once your newborn arrives, choosing what’s best for all three, will become second nature and it will make you a more responsible dad.

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5 Grocery Story Myths About Organic Food from New Book, ‘Local’

I’m going through a phase. A good, healthy phase! My family and I just adopted seven baby pet chickens, which we will raise for egg laying. We will use the poo for fertilizer for our garden. I got the idea from the awesome book Once Upon a Flock. I really do love this job!

I’m buying everything as local as I can, even ordering milk, meat and produce from a farm. So this new book that just came out, LOCAL: The New Face of Food and Farming in America, by Douglas Gayeton, is right up my alley. He wants us to get healthier, live more sustainably and eat more locally. I love it. Here’s a Q&A with this amazing author that gives you a hint what his book is all about.

KK: Douglas, what made you so interested in rebuilding local food systems?
DG: In February each year, my parents took me to watch the salmon spawn in Devil’s Gulch, a neighborhood creek in Marin County, California. That experience left me with powerful, primal memories that I wanted to share, decades later, with my own child. I had only recently moved back to the area, so as soon as my daughter was old enough to walk my wife and I brought her to Devil’s Gulch. Unfortunately, the salmon were gone. The causes were unclear, though environmentalists contended that building a nearby housing development and a variety of shifting agricultural practices had contributed to their rapid demise. I want those salmon to return to Devil’s Gulch. Not just for me, but for daughter, and her children as well.

Local food systems are fragile things. Wanting to understand how we can safeguard them, or when necessary put them back together again, started to me on the journey that became LOCAL: The New Face of Food and Farming in America.

KK: What are five grocery store myths about organic and local food that we should all be aware of?
DG: Concerned consumers who decide to shop according to their values often discover conflicting information about the food choices they want to make. Here are a few of the most common organic food myths–including the terms you can use to make sense of it all:

Five Grocery Store Myths About Organic Food

Local food producers cater to their communities, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they are “certified organic” by the USDA. Many of these producers follow their own farming regimens, so making purchases from these local food producers requires another form of certification: “face certification.” This means getting to know a food producer, looking them in the eye and asking them about their purchasing practices, and forging relationships based on trust. Who knew buying a tomato could be so much work?

The USDA’s organic certification is primarily concerned with what is used (and not used) to produce the food you eat, but it says nothing about a farm’s “land stewardship practices” or how workers are treated. Many farming associations are currently lobbying the USDA to change the nature of this certification.

Food miles” is a term used to help consumers track the distances food has to travel to reach the supermarket, and ultimately their plates. Generally, it’s a good measure of the practicality of most food purchases. But you can’t get everything locally. Coffee, chocolate and most fish are usually items that come from far away. If you want to shop according to your values, try buying these products that carry “Direct Trade” or “Fair Trade” Certification. Both use approaches that help consumers shop according to their values.

Numerous studies have shown that locally produced organic food is often cheaper than similar products found in a supermarket. To ensure that you’re getting the best deals, try to “eat in season.” Avoid apples in January or oranges in July.

GMOs are genetically-modified foods. They’re in much of what you eat and wear. If consumers are concerned about GMOs, buying certified organic products is the best way to ensure their food is NON-GMO.

KK: What are the easiest ways to support local food producers?
DG: Buying local food not only turns shopping into a civic-minded activity but also strengthens a local economy by providing jobs and recirculating money within a community.

Here are three ways you can shop locally:

Every community has one. What better way to get to know your farmer? Many farmers markets even accept SNAP (Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program). Want to find one in your area? Consult the USDA’s FARMER’S MARKET FINDER or LOCAL HARVEST.

#2 CSAs
CSA stands for “Community Supported Agriculture.” Simply put, consumers purchase a “share” at the beginning of the farming season from a local farmer. In return consumers get a weekly box of produce from local drop off locations in their community. The contents of these boxes varies each week, insuring that consumers get the most varied and freshest possible produce. CSAs are a great way for consumer to forge direct relationships with farmers in their area.

Many local restaurants establish direct relationships with farmers and even advertise these relationships on their menus. These “farm to table” restaurants allow consumers to support local businesses and farmers, essentially doubling the impact their purchases have within a community.

Are you getting with the local trend? Tell us how!


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Kid Lit: Pinkalicious’ New Book Color Revealed!

Want to know the color of the new Pinkalicious book? Well, we have the answer here first! Pinkalicious herself, AKA author/illustrator Victoria Kann, gave Parents.com an exclusive reveal from the cute contest they just wrapped up. And Victoria answered a few of my most pressing questions, too.

The new book title, color included, will be…

Drum roll, please.

Aqualicious! Check out the early cover art at left, too. Keep reading and Victoria will tell you all about it.

KK: Can you give us a hint about what the new book will be about?
VK: Aqualicious has been so much fun to work on! The Pinkertons spend a day at the beach. While they are there Pinkalicious collects seashells. Something wonderful happens when she finds a unique shell that has a little creature sleeping inside. Can you guess who she might meet and get to spend the entire day with? A merminnie! Oh, you say you have never heard of a merminnie? You’ll love finding out! It’s a day that we all wish we could experience. I am so excited about this book. It will be out in a little less than a year. I can’t wait for you to read it! Let me know what you think on my Facebook page.

KK: Why do you think children are so drawn to your books?
VK: Children of all ages–boys and girls, men and women–want delight and magic in their lives. The fantastical world of Pinkalicious fulfills that very human desire in us all. Plus I think children love colorful images that have depth. Many times children and their parents tell me that they enjoy looking at the script hidden in the pigeons in Purplicious, or the musical notes in the grass in Goldilicious, or the numbers hidden in the leaves of the trees. There are many details and layers to the artwork which makes it fun to stop and look. Things aren’t necessarily what they appear to be.

KK: Where do you get the best ideas?
VK: My ideas come from children, either from listening to what they say or from observing them play. In addition, when I go to book signings many of the kids tell me what color they want me to do next. Sometimes it is incredible how I will be writing a story and young reader will come up and make a suggestion for my next book and I will have written something very similar to what they have said. It really makes me laugh how in synch we are sometimes!

When I write a story I ask myself this question: “What would be the greatest thing that could ever happen?” If I think of something that makes me smile, then I know that is what I want to focus on. Writing and illustrating a book can take about two years, so I want to do something that will bring me joy as I work on it. If it brings me joy, other people might feel that way too!

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