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Look Beyond Theme Parks for Fun Family Vacations

Posted on Aug 22, 2014 by No Comments

Theme parks are the most popular family vacation destination for parents with young children, but these types of outings are also the most expensive.

If you’re on a tight budget, you need to get creative with your vacation planning. Mickey and Minnie may be popular with the little ones, but you can still have a memorable vacation experience without a trip to Disney World or Disneyland.

Museums and zoos make for affordable family-friendly vacation destinations. If you already have a membership to a museum or zoo in your area, check to see if your card entitles you to a reciprocal membership with an establishment near your vacation destination. Terms will vary, but reciprocal membership agreements often allow free admissions, free parking, and/or discounted food and souvenirs.

The Association of Children’s Museums website has a searchable directory of museums and information about reciprocal membership benefits. The Association of Zoos and Aquariums website has a downloadable list of zoos and aquariums in the United States, Canada, and Mexico with reciprocal membership agreements.

If your kids are curious about how their favorite sweet treats are made, a factory tour can be both educational and economical. Family Vacation Critic lists 12 of the best tours for kids, including PEZ Candy in Orange, CT and PEEPS in Bethlehem, PA.

Camping is another popular thrifty vacation activity. A weekend at a scenic campground provides plenty of time for little ones to run, jump, and play outdoors. Older kids will enjoy fishing or telling scary stories by the campfire. Visit the America’s State Parks website to check out state parks within driving distance.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

Creative Yet Inexpensive Vacation Souvenirs

Posted on Aug 20, 2014 by No Comments

If your kids are old enough to talk, you’ve probably noticed that buying souvenirs tends to be one of their favorite parts of the vacation experience. Unfortunately, these small purchases can easily take a big chunk out of your travel budget if you’re not careful.

For younger children, it’s best to gently guide them away from the overpriced toys and trinkets towards items that are within your price range.

Ideas for inexpensive souvenirs include:

  • Pressed pennies
  • Postcards
  • Key chains
  • Refrigerator magnets
  • Notebooks
  • Folders
  • Coloring books
  • Stickers
  • Pencils or pens
  • Drinking glasses
  • Hats

If your children are over the age of eight, give them a set dollar amount they can spend and let them choose what to buy accordingly. I’ve found that kids tend to be much more selective with their purchases when they know they will be limited to $20 or $30 for the entire trip. Of course, this only works if you’re strong enough to not give in to requests for more money later in the trip!

I love souvenirs myself, so I never make my son skip the souvenir shop entirely. But, if you have multiple kids, it might be best to forgo purchased souvenirs and let each child create a small vacation scrapbook.

Give your children small photo albums with paper, markers, glue, stickers, and scissors, then have a contest to see who can design the most unique layout describing your family vacation. Encourage the kids to incorporate maps, brochures, ticket stubs, restaurant napkins, pressed flowers, and other forms of free memorabilia into their creations.

When you return home, you can finish the books by adding copies of your favorite vacation photos. If you live near a Walgreens, I’ve found that they often run promotions for free 8×10 prints or photo collages that make fabulous scrapbook additions.

Do you have any ideas for cheap travel souvenirs to share?

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

Home Remedies for Diaper Rash

Posted on Aug 18, 2014 by No Comments

When a baby has diaper rash, the skin may look raw, red, scalded, or burned. It’s not generally considered serious, but diaper rash can be quite painful for your baby.

When it comes to diaper rash, prevention is the best option. Diaper rash is caused by prolonged contact with the chemicals in urine and stool, so it’s important that you change baby’s diaper frequently. Babies should generally be changed at least once every two hours.

If your baby does develop a diaper rash, a sitz soother can be made by adding two tablespoons of baking soda to a basin filled with warm water. Soak baby for 10 to 15 minutes, then gently pat the skin dry. This can be done twice daily, if needed.

There are many commercial creams available to treat diaper rash, but you can also use the gel from an aloe vera plant for an all natural alternative. Once you’ve cleaned your baby’s bottom, spread a thin layer of aloe vera gel across the diaper area before applying a clean diaper.

Calendula is another highly effective natural home remedy for diaper rash. You can make a healing salve for diaper rash by combining one cup calendula oil with ¼ cup melted beeswax. Let the mixture cool completely, then apply a thin coat to baby’s diaper area as needed throughout the day. Store the salve in a cool place when not in use.

Simple home remedies should be sufficient to treat most cases of diaper rash. However, if your baby’s rash has extended beyond the diaper area or there is a discharge from the skin, a trip to the pediatrician is in order.

Photo credit: Sellers Patton via Flickr

Helping Children Get Organized and Stay Focused

Posted on Aug 15, 2014 by 1 Comment

As a kid, I was always the one that other kids came to when they needed to borrow a pencil or copy down notes from history class.

Sadly, however, my son does not share my interest in keeping things neat and tidy. He’s forever losing homework assignments and school supplies because his mind is on other things. The same organizational skills that came naturally to me are ones he really must work at to master.

If your child also struggles with organization and focus, Maryann Campbell, Executive Director of The Glenholme School, suggests focusing on teaching your child what is known as executive functioning skills. These are the skills that teach focus, organization, and prioritizing tasks in a way that kids can use for the rest of their lives.

The first concept is “stash and trash.” Teach your kids how to decide what is important and what they should toss in the recycling bin. I know my son likes to save everything, but I keep telling him it’s impossible to find your spelling words for the week if your folder is full of graded assignments from three months ago.

Helping your child develop a labeling and/or color coding system ensures that everything has a proper place. Your child should also have some sort of calendar or day planner where he or she can record homework and after school activities. It can be digital or a traditional paper version, depending upon what your child prefers.

At night, get in the habit of going over the next day’s activities with your child to make sure he or she has all the needed supplies and materials. Most kids either bring too much stuff or not enough. Too much stuff is better than not enough, but it’s easy to lose things in an overfilled backpack.

Finally, stress to your children that being organized make it easier to find time for the things they love. “It is important to teach children that there is a time for work and a time for play, and that they are both important for a well-balanced life!” Campbell said. “Make time for studying, after school activities, and dinner with the family.”

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

The One World Doll Project Celebrates Diversity

Posted on Aug 13, 2014 by 1 Comment

If you have daughter, you’ve probably noticed that dolls for little girls have long way to go in terms of showing true diversity.

The One World Doll Project, founded by Trent T. Daniel, is promoting diversity among children’s toys by introducing the Prettie Girls! Collection. Two dolls are available now – Lena, who is African-American, and Valencia, who is Latina.

Three more Prettie Girls! – Kimani, who is African; Dahlia, who is South Asian; and Alexie, who is Caucasian – will be available in upcoming months. The dolls are designed by Stacey McBride-Irby, a former product designer for Mattel who has designed dolls such as Pet Vet Barbie, Rock Star Barbie, and Bride Barbie.

“Developing a line of dolls that represents diverse backgrounds is something that hits close to home,” Daniel, an African American father of three young girls, said. “My daughters had trouble finding dolls that looked like they did – just as my sister had a generation earlier.”

Another really wonderful aspect of the Prettie Girls! doll is that each doll comes with a back story describing her unique personality. Lena, for example, is described as a top student, cheerleader, spelling bee champ, aspiring class president, and future entrepreneur.

Valencia is described as an athletic girl who is interested in dancing, working out, and sharing healthy meal ideas with her friends. Girls who identify with a particular doll can order a t-shirt with the doll’s name and picture, if desired.

Visit The One World Doll Project website to learn more about the Prettie Girls! Collection or to purchase dolls. The dolls are regularly priced at $24.95.

Photo credit: The One World Doll Project

Do You Over Praise Your Child?

Posted on Jul 31, 2014 by 1 Comment

Obviously, we all want to raise kids with high self esteem. But, contrary to popular belief, the way to instill high self esteem is not to respond to everything your child does with a “Good job!” or “You’re so awesome!”

Experts caution that automatically praising your child creates serious problems.

  • Too much praise leads to an “I can do no wrong” attitude and a troublesome sense of entitlement.
  • Too much praise creates kids who are motivated by a need for approval instead of a desire to master new challenges.
  • When a child gets addicted to praise, he avoids taking risks out of a fear of losing your approval.

The type of praise you give your child makes a difference as well. Instead of generic compliments or praise for innate attributes like a high IQ or a pretty face, try to praise specific actions and effort. Praise your child when he tries to do something that doesn’t come easily, whether it’s studying for math test or trying out for the baseball team. Offer compliments when your child is kind and helpful.

Scholastic Parent & Child says that the next time you feel the urge to pile on the praise, you should ask your child how he feels about the activity or accomplishment in question. A simple “Did you have fun at your basketball game?” or “How did you feel when you were done with your test?” shows interest without creating your own little praise junkie.

Since my son is an only child, I admit I’ve been guilty of over praising him. Everything he does, from his first step to the first time learned how to spell his name, is impressive to me. However, I can definitely see that he’s getting hooked on my praise. Toning it down is a process, but I’m working on it.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

Donating to Domestic Violence Shelters

Posted on Jul 30, 2014 by 1 Comment

The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence says that one in four women will experience domestic violence in her lifetime. Domestic violence shelters provide a safe refuge for women escaping abusive partners, but they require lots of assistance to keep their doors open.

Every domestic violence shelter has a different policy as far as donations go. Because of space limitations, some smaller shelters have to be really picky about what items they can accept. However, the following general suggestions will give you a good starting point for thinking about what to donate:

  • Clothing for women and children is always needed. In many cases, people arrive at a shelter with only the clothes they were wearing. All sizes and styles of clothing are helpful, although many shelters say nice dresses or blouses for women are especially important since their clients will need to go to court for orders of protection against their abuser or go on job interviews to find employment.
  • Personal hygiene items, such as toothpaste, toothbrushes, deodorant, soap, and shampoo, are useful donations that you can get for pennies on the dollar if you’re an avid couponer.
  • Crayons, colored pencils, markers, and paper are helpful to help keep little ones occupied while staying at the shelter. These items can also be used as school supplies for kids in the younger elementary grades.
  • If you’re a crafter, consider making blankets and stuffed animals to donate. No sew fleece blankets would be a good project for your kids to help with. Fleece comes in lots of fun patterns, so your child could pick out a favorite cartoon character to feature on the donated blanket.
  • Some larger shelters will accept old cell phones that can be given to women so they can call 911 in an emergency.
  • Cash donations or gift cards to major stores like Walmart and Target can be used to help abused women get back on their feet once they’ve left the shelter.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

10 Minutes to a More Organized Home

Posted on Jul 28, 2014 by No Comments

The problem with getting organized it that it seems like a really overwhelming task when your house is currently a disaster zone. But, if you break your goal down into smaller tasks, it becomes much more manageable.

Here are a few suggestions for quick 10 minute cleanups. If you do just one a day, your house will be looking better in no time!

Bathroom

  • Organize your medicine cabinet and get rid of old or expired medications.
  • Toss all of your expired or unflattering makeup.
  • Fill a bucket with disinfectant wipes and other needed cleaning supplies to keep in your bathroom so it’s easier to tidy up each day.

Kitchen

  • Organize the junk drawer in your kitchen.
  • Toss all the expired food from your refrigerator.
  • Straighten up your collection of cookbooks, getting rid of titles you never use.

Bedroom

  • Declutter the top of the dresser in your bedroom. Find a pretty cup or tray to use for temporarily dumping coins and other small items that tend to accumulate in this high-clutter area.
  • Clean out your lingerie drawer, tossing anything that doesn’t fit or has stretched out elastic.
  • Organize your jewelry box.
  • Choose five items from your closet that you know you’ll never wear again and donate them to charity.

Living Room

  • Clean the blades on your ceiling fans.
  • Recycle old magazines that you’re never going to get around to reading.
  • Find a basket to use for temporarily collecting toys that have migrated from your child’s room to the living room. Teach your child to empty the basket at least once per week.
  • Buy a storage ottoman and use it to corral extra blankets and pillows.
  • Go through your bookshelves and set aside any unwanted titles to donate to the local public library or take to a nearby thrift store.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

Help Animals in Need by Donating Your Old Linens

Posted on Jul 25, 2014 by 1 Comment

I’m a big fan of fluffy towels and soft blankets, but I hate to throw anything away. So, when I’m replacing my household linens, figuring out what to do with the old stuff is always a challenge.

I used to pass along old linens to friends who were moving and needed help furnishing their new places, since I was the first one in my social circle to get married and move into my own home. However, I’ve finally run out of people eager for my castoffs.

Since I love Pinterest, I’ve seen all sorts of cool sewing projects made with recycled fabric. But, I’ve finally had to admit that I lack the skill to actually accomplish any of these nifty ideas.

If you’re in the same boat, I think the best option is to take these items to a nearby animal shelter. Animal shelters can use donations of towels, blanks, and other linens to help pad cages and make them more comfortable for animals.

If you don’t know where the animal shelters in your area are located, visit PetFinder.com to search for contact info.

If you’re trying to teach your children about the importance of giving back to the community, consider buying a few bags of pet food to take with you when you drop off the blankets. Even if your kids don’t have pets of their own, most children are sympathetic to the plight of animals in need. You can look for coupons and sales to cut costs, if you’re having your kids pay for the food with their allowance money.

Photo credit: PetFinder.com

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