- Scout discount stores such as Costco or Price Club for last year's hot toys at deep discounts.
- Plan ahead -- grab a toy or game whenever you spot a good buy, whether you've got a party coming up or not. Stocking up will save you time, money, and energy.
- Think cheap but fab -- creative ideas include painting and craft kits, action figures, and plastic watches. And, of course, for older kids, a good book.
- Surf discount Web sites such as smartbargains.com and kidsurplus.com, or click on the bargain section at Amazon.com.
- Ask mom friends, neighbors, and your pediatrician's office for recommendations.
- Narrow the list to those who have at least three years of childcare experience and CPR training, then check that their references are recent and impeccable.
- Next, set up interviews. Lisa Magaro, owner and operator of Pinch Sitters Agency, in New York City, suggests asking several "what if" questions to test how candidates would handle various childcare situations. "What if you have to entertain my 3-year-old and my 7-year-old on a rainy day?" Or, "What if my 18-month-old throws a fit when I walk out the door?" (A sitter should be able to tell you how she'd calm a fussy infant, provide comfort, keep kids entertained, and handle an emergency.)
- Pay attention to her behavior during the interview. Does she establish eye contact? Listen to the questions and answer them thoughtfully? Does she seem self-assured and in control? If she's resourceful and reliable, and if the chemistry's right, you've found a prime candidate.
Your child has to go-now. The obvious spots are rest stops, service areas, fast-food joints, department stores, and hotels. Gap, Starbucks, and even grocery stores are other good bets. If none of these are available, go into the nearest restaurant. Ask the hostess or a waitress if you can use the restroom -- tell her your child is desperate. Ninety-nine times out of a hundred, she'll point you in the right direction. For car-trip emergencies, keep a "potty kit" -- plastic seat, wipes, bottled water -- in the trunk. Pull over to the side of the road and set up your porto-bathroom.4. How to Cut Your Child's Bangs
Invest in a pair of barber scissors or thinning shears, available at any beauty-supply store.
- Wash, dry, then neatly comb your child's hair. Sit her on a high chair or on top of phone books so her face is eye level to yours.
- Divide her bangs into two equal horizontal sections, one above the other, suggests hair stylist Jennifer Bobal, owner of Pure Energy Hair Studio, in Nutley, New Jersey. Clip back the top section.
- Hold remaining hair between your pointer and middle finger, and cut straight across until you reach the desired length. Unclip the top layer and trim, using the shorter section as your guide.
Instead of relying on the old standard, "Because I said so," try this approach recommended by Parents advisor Sal Severe, PhD, author of How to Behave So Your Children Will, Too! Simply say, "Other families have their rules, and we have ours." You want your kids to know that other people's decisions aren't necessarily bad. You might add, "I'm not saying no to make you feel upset," says Dr. Severe, "I am saying no because I don't think this is good for you. That's my job -- to do what I think is best for you." You don't always have to give your children a thorough explanation when you say no.