Monthly Archives: March 2010
Whether it’s Spring break or you just want ideas for creative time with your children, we decided to have two fun activities for this week (stay tuned for our Fun Friday craft!). We know when your children are out of school, it can be difficult to keep them occupied if they Spring fever. We thought what better way to enjoy all that Spring has to offer than to have a crawling creature activity!
Crawling Creature Hunt:
Your backyard, local park or forest preserve is a wonderful bug habitat – all you have to do is look. A few things will be needed for your crawling creature hunt:
- magnifying glass
- insect net
- clear plastic container
What to do:
Tell your child you are going on a hunt to see your neighborhood bugs. You can look for centipedes, worms, grasshoppers, ladybugs, beetles, spiders or bees. Be sure to look all around you – in air, in the grass, on leaves and flowers, under logs or rocks – almost anywhere outside. If you and your child put on your “bug goggles” (feel free to decorate a pair of sunglasses with a “bug theme”) and equip yourself with curiosity, you will find all sorts of crawling creatures!
Once you find a bug, gently catch it with your net or container. You and your child can observe it for a few minutes and then set it free. If you want a closer look, use your magnifying glass. Some things you can point out to your child are the bug’s many legs, hair on its body, wings, etc. You can keep a notepad (a.k.a. bug book) to write down your findings. If your child takes special interest in a particular bug, you can research the bug on the internet when you are done with your crawling creature activity.
Have you ever bug hunted with your child?
Do you have other favorite Spring-break activities?
Spring brings flowers, budding trees, birds singing and… cleaning! Whether you are someone who likes to do major cleaning a little at a time or all at once, it can be a challenge to get children to help out. We decided to dedicate this Tip Tuesday post to spring cleaning and how to make it as fun as possible for you and your children.
Make Spring Cleaning Fun:
- Host a cleaning party complete with music. Let your kids chose a special cleaning outfit (make sure it’s clothes you don’t mind them getting dirty), give them party hats and blast music throughout the house. End the party with a special treat to celebrate your clean house.
- Have a cleaning contest. Divide into teams. Each team takes a room and cleans it. The team that cleans the fastest and the neatest wins. The prize for the winning team can be that they pick the dinner menu for a night during the week.
- Make cleaning a scavenger hunt. Hide prizes in the rooms or within projects that have to be cleaned. For example, if you have a lot of laundry to fold, hide a prize in a sock in the laundry pile. If you have several rooms to clean, hide prizes in the hard to clean places of the room. Prizes shouldn’t be expensive. You can hide a small amount of money, an inexpensive prize you buy from the Dollar Store or a little coupon valid for special time at your child’s favorite park, etc.
- Create a surprise cleaning jar. Put pieces of paper with jobs written on them in jar. Each person picks a job out of jar. When one job is finished, the person gets to pick out another “surprise” job out of the jar.
What ways do involve your children in spring cleaning?
Share your tips with other parents in the comment section!
Today we are throwing a “curve ball” into our Mom Mondays and are interviewing a “Northern Neighbor” – Calgary Daddy. We love Calgary daddy’s sense of humor, take on parenting and wisdom as he travels through fatherhood. We present to you our first dad on Kolcraft’s Mom Mondays!
We love the story of how you met your wife. Was it love at first sight in first grade?
I often joke to everyone that she had the BIGGEST crush on me in 1983. I know that she used to sneak little glances over my way! To be honest, Becky does not even remember me from Grade 1. (or so she says…..lol.)
And now you are parents to a beautiful baby boy. You talk about your wife becoming your hero after she gave birth to Kyron. What was it like being present at your son’s birth?
It was both amazing and surreal at the same time. Everything happened so fast and I was just overwhelmed by the situation. Your adrenaline is going so fast and it is so hard to explain. It was so emotional to finally see Kyron in person. I will never forget the moment or the feeling that came with it.
What have you learned after 2 months of parenting?
That being a Mom is probably one the hardest and most important jobs in the whole world. I am amazed at how natural parenthood has come to my wife. It is really a 24-hour-a-day job being a mom. No matter how “hands-on” I try to be, I will never be able to do what Becky does on a daily basis!
What has been your greatest joy of fatherhood?
The most amazing thing to me is seeing Kyron smile at me when he wakes up in the morning! I am also intrigued when I try to imagine who he is going to be when he grows up.
How about your biggest challenge?
Personally, I think that keeping up with all of the information out there is the biggest challenge in my opinion! Parenting advice seems to differ depending on who you talk to or what you read. Trying to make sure you are doing everything correctly is the biggest challenge for me. That and trying to fit Kyron’s arms into his sleepers!
Now for a quick glance into Shane’s life.
What is your “top dream” for Kyron? That he grows up to be a good man.
What is your “wildest dream” for him? That he becomes Prime Minister of Canada! (You heard it here first folks!)
If you had a free weekend with your wife & could take her anywhere, where would you go & why?
I would take her to either Tahiti or Hawaii! These are her top 2 vacation destinations and we didn’t get to go before Kyron was born.
Favorite thing to do when you have “guy time”? Go to Calgary Flames Hockey Games. (We are Blackhawks fans here, but we certainly respect Canada & their true love of all things hockey.)
Shane, it was great talking with you.
If you haven’t seen Shane’s blog, head on over. You will love our Northern neighbor’s take on life as a dad.
Remember Michelle LaRowe – the mom, nanny and author who we featured last Mom Monday? A few days after our interview, she had her second child. We couldn’t be happier for her and welcome her beautiful baby boy. Luke LaRowe (great Hollywood name) weighed in at 8lbs, 3 ounces and 19 inches long!
We are very excited here in Chicago over the new Francois langur that was born at Lincoln Park Zoo on March 18th. It got us thinking about how fun and educational trips to the zoo can be. This time of year is a special time to visit your local zoo because many zoos have new “members” as baby animals have just been born. We love Zoo Borns as a resource to find out the newest & cutest baby zoo animals.
A trip to the zoo can be a time to learn about animals, an opportunity to get outside and create memories and to see mommy animals taking care of their babies which is a great informal way for children to see mom/baby connections even in the animal world!
Some ways that you can enrich your trip to the zoo:
- Ask your child what animal they REALLY want to see. Go to your library and check out a few books or fun DVD’s to learn more about that animal. This will not only enhance your child’s experience when she/he sees the animal at the zoo, it teaches them that your local library is a great resource.
- Have your child make a photo journal of that zoo trip (see March 19th post on “Seeing the World Through Your Child’s Eyes”). If they do this several times, you will have a keepsake of your child’s favorite zoo animals.
- Adopt an animal at the zoo and let your child name it. Every time you return to the zoo, you can “check in” on your animal. Adopting an animal not only helps defray costs of caring for the animal, but teaches your child that he/she can make a difference for that animal.
And don’t forget to pack your favorite Kolcraft stroller in case someone’s little feet get tired.
Do you have tips on how making a zoo trip memorable?
Please share them with us!
It’s Kolcraft Thursday and today we get to have a behind the scenes chat with Traci Barron, Senior Project Engineer. For the past 14 years Traci has engineered everything from pharmaceutical delivery devices to strollers. We were able to catch up with her & get a glimpse of her world.
You don’t always see women in this role as an engineer. How did you pick this as your career path?
As most kids do, I struggled with choosing a college major and career. I was good at math and science, so many people suggested engineering. At Purdue University, the first year of coursework in engineering exposes you to all the different types of engineering. I ended up choosing Mechanical Engineering as a major because it seemed like the career choices for that degree were very broad—and I still was not sure what exactly I wanted to do! It was not until I took a couple of Product Design and Mechanism Design courses in my junior and senior years that I really felt I had a definitive career direction in Product Design. I like to think of myself as a creative person—and I am interested in design and aesthetics as well as engineering, so it seemed to be a perfect match for me.
What exactly goes into engineering a product? Where do you even start?
Every product starts with an idea—some of those ideas are new to the world, while others are just variations of products that already exist. The average person does not look at a product and think, “That is great engineering.” They might think, “That product has a great design.” I think design and engineering are so closely intertwined that it is difficult to talk about one without the other. In ideal product development, engineers and industrial designers work together to ensure that a product meets all functional requirements and is aesthetically pleasing. Engineers and designers collaborate on how the product functions, how the product will be assembled, and how it is adjusted (i.e. height adjustable products and reclines). Engineers are responsible for making sure a product can withstand weight and forces that will be put on a product through any and all foreseeable use. Engineers also develop tests to provide confidence that products are safe for any foreseeable use. Engineers have to ensure parts are made out of the correct materials and that the components will always assemble even considering typical manufacturing variation.
You just had baby #2. Can you tell us some of the challenges & benefits of being a mom who works outside the home?
The biggest challenge is that there is never enough time in the day. No matter what I do, I have to work through some level of guilt about not having more time to spend with my kids. When I am not at work, the kids get near 100% of my attention while they are awake. As you might imagine, that does not leave much “Mom time” or “Mom and Dad time”—especially when you also factor in upkeep of a house with a 3 yr old, a 6 mo old, and a dog living there! It is a constant struggle to find balance. For me I know it is the right choice—it is something every mom has to evaluate for themselves. I get great fulfillment out of both of my jobs (Mom and engineer), and I cannot imagine my life without one of them. I also like the idea that I am teaching my daughter that a woman can have a career—just like Daddy.
Has working at Kolcraft informed how you look at baby gear for your own family?
Definitely. Part of my job is to stay on top of new product ideas and categories. I have a much higher consideration for the value of baby gear products—every purchase becomes an evaluation of product cost vs. features that are useful to me.
And how has being a mom affected being an engineer?
In a way, I never stop working. Every day life caring for my kids—and watching other people care for their kids—highlights so many challenges. My mind is always taking note of those challenges and thinking of ways to make life easier on caregivers. I also have a lot more personal experience to draw upon when I am considering how babies/toddlers might behave in a product—or how older siblings interact with a baby/toddler in a product. This really helps when I am considering the safety aspects and foreseeable use of the products I help to develop.
Traci at a glance:
Favorite part about being a mom?
The smiles on my kids’ faces when they see me, the hugs and the “I love you Mom’s”. I cannot get enough of that.
Favorite time of day?
Morning. The kids are always so happy in the morning—and any frustration from the day before has subsided over night.
Favorite Kolcraft product?
Best “sanity” break to recharge your mom battery
A glass of wine (or two) after the kids are asleep
Thanks for taking time out of your busy day to talk with us Traci.
If you have a burning question for our “engineering mom,” feel free to leave it in the comment section!
You finally arrive at that stage where baby can actually start on solid food. You head over to the grocery store and stock up on all those yummy baby food flavors only to have sticker shock at check out. The good news is there are options – like making your own baby food. And it’s not as difficult as it seems. Michelle LaRowe has a great, easy guide to making your own baby food. (Remember the mom, nanny & writer that we interviewed this past Monday for Mom Monday?)
Here it is:
How To Make Your Own Baby Food:*
- Steam or bake fresh fruits or vegetables until tender.
- Puree cooked fruits or vegetables in a good processor or blender.
- Fill an ice cube tray with pureed food.
- Cover the filled ice cube tray with plastic wrap and freeze.
- Once the puree cubes are frozen, transfer them to a plastic freezer storage bag and label it with the food type and date. Cubes should be used within one month of freezing.
- Thaw and heat as needed. Breast milk, formula, or water can be added to thin the puree before serving. Each cube equals about 1 ounce of baby food.
Do you make your own baby food? What “tricks & tips” work for you?
Share your thoughts with us by leaving a comment & you will be entered to win a copy of A Mom’s Ultimate Book of Lists by Michelle LaRowe!
No parent ever wants to think about having a medical emergency with their child, but no matter how vigilant you are, your child will get sick and can have an accident. One thing you will always want handy in the car and at home is a child’s first aid kit. You will want the kit to contain medications, “instruments” such as sharp scissors, tweezers and emergency contact numbers of your pediatrician, etc. A great resource for suggestions of what to put in your child’s first aid kit can be found at babycenter.com.
Do you have an emergency plan or first aid kit for your child?
If so, please share with us what you have included in it.
How often do you meet someone who is a mom, nanny, writer, speaker, parenting consultant (we are talking all sorts of practical parenting tips, ideas, methods – you name it!) and fun person all rolled up in one? We found this person in Michelle LaRowe and we had to introduce her to our Kolcraft readers. Grab a cup of tea, coffee, mommy juice or whatever your beverage of choice & enjoy your read.
Michelle, you have had a colorful career as a national speaker, parenting consultant, and author – where did you get your start?
I think my love of working with children has really come from my mom. I remember helping her in the church nursery when I was little and then babysitting when I grew old enough. At 12 or 13, I remember sitting for one church family that had 5 kids under age 6, talk about hands on training! Through my high school years I babysat for all of my teachers and then I worked as a nanny while I was attending college pursuing a degree in chemistry. During my junior year, I realized I didn’t really want to be a chemist. In fact, what I enjoyed doing most was what I was already doing – working with children. I began researching the nanny industry and discovered that there was a whole professional world of in-home child care providers, nanny organizations and nanny placement agencies. The day after I received my Bachelor of Science degree in chemistry, I started working as a nanny with a set of newborn twins. I was there until the family relocated nearly 7 years later.
You’re a nanny. Tell us a little about the “nanny world” – challenges and joys.
Only another nanny truly understands the joys and struggles that come along with our career path. Many professional nannies will tell you we don’t choose to be a nanny. It chooses us. It’s something you do because you love, not because you can’t do anything else. It’s the most rewarding job, but at the same time, it can pose the greatest of emotional challenges. You have to constantly walk the line of being part of the family, but not. It’s the only job that you sign up for where the ultimate promotion is being let go because you’re no longer needed.
Unfortunately, the media has really misused the term nanny over the years so the public often has a misconception about what a true professional nanny is. Today’s nanny is an educated professional with a working knowledge and genuine love of children. We partner with parents in raising emotionally, socially, physically and intellectually healthy children and support the parents on their parenting journey.
What are 3 of the most important things for someone to consider when they are looking at options for childcare?
- You have to know who is watching your kids. Whether a daycare provider or a professional nanny, you have to invest the time and energy in screening your caregiver and developing a relationship with them.
- You have to evaluate your situation. Childcare isn’t one size fits all. You have to take into consideration your need for flexibility, your budget, your parenting philosophies and more when choosing childcare. Many parents believe hiring a nanny is not in their price range, but for dual income parents with young children, hiring a nanny can often be more cost effective then daycare because parents aren’t paying for two slots and they aren’t paying added fees for extended days. They’re also not forced to find backup coverage when the provider is unavailable or for when the children are mildly ill and unable to attend, which is important for some working parents.
- You have to trust your provider. If you don’t feel like you’ve left your child in loving, capable hands, you’re not going to be able to do your job successfully. It’s so important that you trust the person who is caring for your children. You should have confidence in their skills, experience and knowledge and should have confidence that they’ll follow your rules and adhere to your parenting style. Your children will also sense if you feel confident towards your caregiver. If you appear confident during drop off time, your child will sense that he’ll be safe, he’ll feel secure and the transition will be so much sweeter.
You are a mom yourself – how has your role as parent informed your nanny role & your parenting role informed your nanny role?
A good nanny loves the children like they are her own, but knows that they are not. People always say to me “It must be so different having a child of your own.” For me, the truth is so far, it’s really not. When you consider I cared for the same children for 50 hours per week for so many years, I’d think they’d be something wrong with me if I didn’t love them as my own. While obviously they weren’t mine, they were my responsibility for much of their early years and I took that responsibility as seriously as I do the responsibility of raising my own child.
That said, the skills and tools that I’ve gained and developed over the years have certainly prepared me to be a better mom. For example, while as a mom I may have wanted to rock my baby to sleep and then put her in her crib, as a nanny I knew that wasn’t best for her. I knew she needed to learn to self soothe and to develop solid sleep habits and I knew what life would be like if she didn’t develop those skills.
So when I’m struggling with how to handle a situation, whether it be weaning from the bottle or handling a temper tantrum in the store, the nanny in me always wins out.
You are an author of Nanny to the Rescue! Working Mom’s 411 and your latest A Mom’s Ultimate Book of Lists. I have read A Mom’s Ultimate Book of Lists and I LOVE it. I’m a list freak & found this book so hands-on. Where do you come up with all this info? What is the biggest benefit of this book? What’s your favorite section in the book?
I really enjoyed putting together my list book. I am an organizational nut and find I function best when I can find everything I need in one neat and orderly place.
One of the first things I do with any family I work for is to create a family binder. This binder serves as the family information hub and contains everything from emergency contact lists, to clothing sizes to the answers to common parenting questions to sleeping and eating guidelines. It contains really anything I need to know about the family, the family lifestyle and the family home and it quickly becomes a resource to all members of the family.
When I was pregnant with my first child, I began creating my own family binder. I had an “ah ha” moment and thought “wow, this would be a great resource for new parents.” That’s how A Mom’s Ultimate Book of Lists was born.
Having a degree in chemistry, it should be no surprise that I like data and information. I also enjoy doing research. With all the information at our fingertips these days, it takes time and energy to sort through and pick out the best information. I did the work for parents and included the most up to date information from the most respected and reliable parenting sources.
Asking me to pick a favorite section is like asking me to name a favorite child. I think all the lists are beneficial and provide a great starting point for parents to create and customize their own family lists.
With all that you are juggling – mom, wife, writer, speaker, etc. etc.- how do you keep your sanity?
I keep lists! I find having lists allows me to organize and prioritize. I also like the sense of accomplishment I feel when items get checked off of my lists. I also break my days into manageable segments and set aside time for play and work.
Having a wonderfully supportive husband who is an equal parenting partner also doesn’t hurt. He does his share of childrearing and household management so I can continue on with my career.
Finally what is your advice to parents?
Have more confidence in your parenting abilities and skills. Most parents know what they should do, they just have a hard time implementing. They often feel guilty for saying no or don’t want their children to be mad at them so they go against their gut. You are in charge! You are the boss!
Now for a quick glance into Michelle’s life
What is the one thing you look forward to everyday?
Gosh, that is a bad question to ask a lady who is due with a baby any day! Lately it’s been a chocolate croissant. But seriously, what I look forward to most each day is spending time with my family. I love watching my daughter discover her world and I love introducing her to new things. I love when my husband comes home and my daughter asks for kisses. We call it double kisses and we both smother her cheeks with love while she laughs hysterically and asks for more.
If you had a “free day” with no commitments or obligations, what would you do with it?
I don’t know what I’d do with a day all to myself with nothing to do. I’d probably go crazy.
I think I live everyday like it’s a free day. I am fortunate enough to be in a position where I am able to choose my commitments and obligations. I make my own schedule and have the flexibility to spend time with my family. If I want to take my daughter to the beach in the middle of the day, I can. I am living a great life. God has been very good to our family.
Bill Cosby once said “You got to figure out what you love to do then figure out how to get paid for it.” I feel like that’s what I’ve done, so I don’t ever really feel like I am working.
If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be?
I don’t think I’d ever like to live outside Massachusetts. I love it here.
What is your favorite activity with kids?
I enjoy making music with children. I love introducing them to instruments and encouraging them to experience music. Music can change a child from being in a bad mood to a good one instantaneously.
I also enjoy establishing traditions with children. For example, each Christmas we head to the pottery store and create a special Christmas ornament for the family tree. Each fall, we head to the apple orchards and return home to make apple pies. Each summer, we host a big backyard bbq. I think traditions give children a sense of security and help them feel connected to their families and loved ones.
Thanks for your insight and wisdom Michelle. It’s been great getting to know you.
Have you ever wondered how your child sees the world? What their perceptions are of what they see? You can catch a glimpse of their world while creating memories by making memory albums. Memory albums are photo albums that your child can put together of trips or special days out with family.
What you need:
- Journal or notebook (If you want to be a little fancier you can get supplies from a scrap-booking store)
- Crayons or markers
- Non-toxic glue stick or photo corners
- Camera (You can get disposable cameras if your child is younger & prone to dropping things or if your child is older, he/she can use the family camera)
When you go on a vacation, a special trip to the zoo, see Grandparents or even just explore in your own neighborhood, give your child the camera to take pictures of what (or who) catches their eye. After the outing develop the pictures. Don’t wait too long to develop them as your child may forget why she/he took that photo. Once developed, have your child put them in the journal or notebook. They can they write a little caption (if they are too young to write, you can help them out) of what memory they have with that photo.
It’s a fun way to learn what your child finds important or beautiful in “their world.” Make sure you keep these as they will be fun to put out at graduation parties, weddings or other life events when they are older.
What ways do you capture and make memories from your child’s world?