Friday, July 27, 2007

For Your Birthday, We're Going to Give to Charity

The NYTimes today had an interesting article about a children's birthday party trend. It seems that in the New Jersey and New York area that the authors were looking at, parents are setting up collection boxes instead of stacking up the presents by the cake. They are doing this,

"In part to teach philanthropy and altruism, and in part as a defense against swarms of random plastic objects destined to clutter every square foot of their living space"

Both of which are very good reasons. It seems all too quickly that children have more toys than they know what to do with. I have a friend who hid toys after her kids got sick of them, only to bring them out 4 months later as "new toys". Clever idea, that works two-fold keep the stuff they don't play with out of way so there is less clutter, and cycle toys so that they have something fresh and aren't begging for more.

Overall I think donations for a cause over plastic battery powered toys is a smart move, and one I might have to try in the future. Although the key question is what age is it appropriate for? What age can children really understand philanthropy and altruism? When they are 1, they have no idea what birthdays are and mean, but they they are 4 they certainly do. Maturity of the child may also play a role in whether or not it would be a good idea. If they aren't quite old enough to understand, they may think they aren't getting presents because they don't deserve them- similar to the Christmas-Santa deal, bad kids get coal, good kids get presents. The message may be confusing to them if sprung on them to early.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Thursday's Nursery Idea

It seems everywhere I look lately there is more and more pirate stuff for kids. Pirates weren't real big when I was little, but it seems with three Pirates of the Caribbean movies and the lovable Johnny Dep, everyone is clamoring for pirate gear. (It may also be the number of cute boy themes were getting old; we've seen enough cars and dinosaurs.)

Warm Biscutt bedding company has some cute pirate crib bedding, as does Enchanted Kingdoms. Company Kids has an adorable treasure map quilt for toddler beds.

Pirate and nautical fabric is easy to find these days, curtains and throw pills are simple enough for anyone to sew.

Decorate your walls or spruce up furniture (like the side of a dresser or head board of the bed) you can apply pirate wall stickers. Or if you are really into looking for treasure, you can do get a mural of men digging for treasure on wallpaper. On a shelf you can set out wooden boat toys and children's pirate books for an added touch; which are nice as they both can be used to entertain your little scallywag later. Don't worry about swabbing the poop deck, there are even pirate diapers!

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Bathing in a Bucket

I saw this in two different places recently, the Tummy Tub. It's basically a special bucket that you plop infants into to remind them of the womb. They rest naturally in the fetal position up to their shoulders in warm water, soothing colicky babies and relaxes babies in general. Oh, and you might as well wash them off while they are in there too.

The features are listed as the following:
  • Transparent polypropylene allows easy viewing of your baby
  • Anti-skid base and low center of gravity for safety and stability
  • Made from environmentally friendly material and no sharp edges
  • Wide rim to support parents' arms and ergonomic hand grips for carrying
  • 100% recyclable
The water should stay warmer longer as there is less surface area, and being submerged in warm water is comforting. I see it as a baby hot tub, without the bubbles and jets. I love the cartoon step-by-step illustration.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Barbie: Less Imagination, More "Technology"

Sales of regular dolls (dolls that have arms and legs that move and don't require a power source) are down. Sales in electronics are up. What is a toy maker to do? Make a Barbie that isn't a Barbie at all.

NYTimes yesterday covered the new BarbieGirls. They basically look like a iPod shuffle or flash drive in the shape of a cartoon girl, a cartoon girl that doesn't even look like Barbie. She has a USB dock and syncs with your computer to be a MP3 player and a gateway to online games. Ahh, but the online games have a catch. As "Business model: 1) Use the offer of site access to sell the first doll. 2) Add new, restricted-access areas to the site that require kids to buy new dolls. 3) Keep the kids interested by letting use the site to win play money to get additional outfits."

The way I see it, future generations aren't going to be able to escape the computer, just as we adults today are learning. Everything is online: online banking, online bill paying, email, dictionaries, encyclopedias, news, recipes, maps, a plethora of information and alas, very often, work. If our children are going to be sitting at a computer from 9-5 for a big chunk of their adult life, why let them waste their childhood doing the same?

Hot Diggity Dog, Only a Week Left of National Hot Dog Month

That's right. July is national Hot Dog month. The name Hot Dog is often credited to sports cartoonist Tad Dorgan, who called a hot dachshund sausage one at a baseball game in 1901.

So serve the kids some hot dogs and maybe even read a book about hot dogs together.

The Pigeon Finds a Hot Dog! Is by the same author (Mo Williams) as "Don't let the Pigeon Drive the Bus", which is a favorite of mine. Mo Williams has actually won 6 Emmys for writing for Sesame Street. Pigeon Finds a Hot Dog has similar humor as the other Pigeon books.

For kids grades 2-4, there is a series of adventure books starring Hot Dog and Bob. A talking hot dog shows up in Bob's lunchbox. In the first book Hot Dog uses his weapons, ketchup, mustard and other condiments to fight off Evil Pizza who tries to take over the classroom.

If you kids enjoy the rhyming variety, try Mucumber McGee and the Half-Eaten Hot Dog. The excerpt says it all,
"Where the rain falls and the wind howls, little Mucumber's stomach growls.

But what can he do when there's nothing to chew, like apples or crackers or porridge or stew?

But wait—a hot dog!—albeit quite old . . . and wrinkled and lumpy and lonely and cold.

We all know it's true—food is better when new.

But if you were that hungry, what would you do?"

Laugh, eat and enjoy National Hot Dog Month!

Monday, July 23, 2007

Not Your Traditional Bouquet

Two clever ideas of taking the tradition flower bouquet and making it into something that is pretty and useful.

A different spin on the diaper cake idea, Baby Bunches. Each flower "bunch" contains the basic set of a bib, hat, tee, and socks. Larger bouquets have addition items including burp cloths, sleepers and mits.

Or for a tasty treat, try Edible Arrangements, made of fruit and chocolate to look like daisys and other flowers. There is a huge variety of flavors and sizes with fresh strawberries, pineapple, grapes, oranges, cantaloupe and honeydew. Specialty baskets even have apples slices dipped in chocolate, or seasonal fruits like watermelon.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Harry Potter Hysteria

NO SPOILERS. Don't worry! It seems everywhere you look there are articles talking about the spoilers (Reuters, CNN, NYTimes, Washington Post), but most are trying preserve this book endings for the huge amounts of dedicated followers.

The other big question (other than who dies), is what to do with your bouncing-off-the-walls fans under the age of 12. Its still 10 hours till midnight, that's a long time to keep them entertained. Let's brainstorm some ideas:

1. Trivia! If you don't have HP Scene It or other games, there are online resources, the best I've seen is the Scholastic version.

2. Re-reading. Have them refresh on Book 6. A nice quiet activity, plus reading is pretty much always good practice.

3. Send them outside for Quidditch. Use a pool noodle for a broom and playground ball or beach ball for the Quaffle. Nerf or foam balls work well for the Bludgers, as they will be throwing them at each other. And the snitch? A gold painted golf ball or ping pong ball.

4. Use the Public Library! Many of them have events going on, and it's all free.

5. Take them to go see Order of the Pheniox (if they havent already) or pop in a DVD of one of the earlier movies. Another quiet activity... mostly.

If anyone else has ideas I'd love to hear them! Good luck to all you taking kids to bookstores at midnight.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Let Them Wear Wings

I love this picture of Heidi Klum and her son, Henry. I know a lot of parents who don't want their boys to play with dolls, but I don't see what the big deal is. I used to have a neighbor who's son liked to paint his fingernails. His two younger sisters were painting their fingernails, so he wanted to too. No one got hurt. Let kids be kids, sometimes they ask for things we don't really understand but trust them to like it for 5 minutes and move on, as they do with most things.

Thursday's Nursery Idea

Last week, I mentioned a decorating alternative to painting. This week, a way to spruce up a painted room into something rather entertaining. Elephants on the Wall sells paint by number wall murals that are easy and stunning. Paint your background color and let it dry. Tape the transfer paper to the wall where you'd like the design to be (some are designed to go around doors and windows) and then make the imprint on the wall by tracing over the lines. Remove the paper and paint by number within the lines. Tada! Instant castle, circus or underwater adventure.

Found: Two Moms Angry About Food

I stumbled across this website to find two moms fighting for healthier school lunches. Susan Rubin and Amy Kalafa put together a documentary about the nation's school cafeterias, and are trying to help school districts to make changes in menus across the US.

While I am not sure I agree with what Angry Mom Susan Rubin said in a recent New York Times article, “This is a national security issue,” said Ms. Rubin, 47. “Without adequate nutrition, we will not have future leaders.” Generally, I think of National Security as airport security screening and maintaining foreign relations. I do think it is an important issue, but how about calling it a National Health issue? Childhood obesity leaves children ripe for Type II Diabetes, high blood pressure and other problems. This is something definitely worth fighting against, especially since in the last 30 years the childhood obesity rate has more than doubled for children aged 2-5 years and adolescents aged 12-19 years, and it has more than tripled for children aged 6-11 years.

These Angry Moms (and many other moms) will be happy to hear that yesterday 11 of the nation's biggest food and drink companies are adopting new rules for advertisements for children under the age of 12. These 11 companies combined make up 2/3 of the food ads targeted at children and the new rules include not using popular cartoons, which is a big marketing crutch at times.

With these large companies coming together to make an agreement on advertising and grassroots groups going to school boards and making their voices heard, I think we are going to see an improvement in this area over the next few years. An example of the Angry Mom's success in the Times article demonstrates their success well. In the Ketonah-Lewisboro school district in Westchester County, CT a member of the board of education said of working with Amy and Susan, "We went from refrying processed chicken nuggets to grilling fresh chicken breasts and making homemade apple crisp". Sounds like progress to me.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Harry Potter Everywhere, Except Where I Want Him

With the Order of the Phoenix movie out last week and the last of the seven-series books out this Friday, you would think that you'd be seeing Harry Potter paraphernalia everywhere. Wrong. Or at least not in my neck of the woods. I have the privilege of holding a Harry Potter book party on Friday, and yesterday while shopping for cake fixings (oh yes, there will be a cake that looks like Hogwarts) I could not find Harry Potter cups, napkins or plates for the life of me. Meijier, Target, and Party Store USA did not have a single item. I didn't even see many posters advertising the book coming out. However, if you look at the New York Times front page online, there are TWO articles about the excitement of book 7 and possible leaks. It seems everyone is talking about it, but no one is selling anything. How is that possible?

Apparently Urban Babies Love Opera

Sorry for back to back posts about books, but this really caught my attention... introducing Urban Babies Wear Black! There is a growing realm of punk baby gear and hip baby gear, so why not a book about it too? I suppose. While urban babies may wear cute clothes, I highly doubt that they "love nights at the opera, modern architecture, and fine cuisine" like the book suggests. A screaming baby at the Opera? I'm sure that would go over well. Modern architecture is often hard with sharp edges, I can see urban baby hitting her head on a sharp corner or sliding off some metallic curved sculpture giving herself a large boo-boo. Fine cuisine? You mean green beans, bananas and cereal? Entertaining and with funny illustrations for Mom and Pops but not all that realistic.

Monday, July 16, 2007

The Lorax Came Out in 1971?

I knew The Lorax by Dr. Suess was a classic, but I didn't realize that it came out in 1971. Where are all the other books teaching kids to be environmentally friendly? There are the obvious ones like 342 Ways to Save the Earth/Planet/Dolphins/Rainforest! and Why Should I Recycle/Save Energy/Use Less Water. But I think books where the message is a little less in-your-face are nicer, or at least books where it is not in the title. With help from a friend and friendly librarian, I recommend these two:

For ages 4 to 9, try The Wartville Wizard by Don Madden. A funny story of a man who gets help from Mother Nature to reduce the trash piling up around town in a very clever way.

For kids aged 6 & up, check out Wind the World Over by Irene Boland and Vanessa Kellogg. Two friends travel the around the world in different times (medieval Europe, Imperial China...) to learn ways humans have harvested energy from wind and water over time.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Baby Friendly Hotel

If you are traveling with a little one, you might want to check out Candlewood Suites. The bedroom is separate from the sitting/kitchenette space which allows you to put the little guy or gal to sleep and watch TV for a tad without waking him up. You can sterilize bottles in the microwave and if you happen to need whole milk or something, you can dash down the hallway to the "Candlewood Cupboard" and get some. When your baby gets food all over his clothes you can use the free in house laundry mat. Oh, and not only great for babies, but they allow pets too!

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Thursday's Nursery Idea

Instead of painting or wallpapering, try something a little less permanent that can be changed with your growing one's style. Using foam core from a fabric store cut out shapes of animals or letters or any other shape that goes with your current theme and then cover the shapes with fabric. You can get the fabric to stick to the foam core with spray fabric adhesive. Hang on the wall with 3M double sided tape. (This is a great solution for renters as well, no marks, no mess).


Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Who Wants a Wooden Stroller?

To be honest, my first thought was of the Flintstones when I looked at Maclaren's new Whimsical Wooden Buggy. Oh yes, this whole stroller appears to be made out of wood. The description throws me though, "crafted with intricate details that are sculpted to look like fabric, metal, leather and plastic", why would you want something made of wood to look like leather or plastic? Generally it goes the other way around with aluminum siding designed to look like wood clapboard, or plastic with fake wooden grain design. This stroller is on display at the Maclaren SoHo Showroom in New York.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Recent Toy Recalls

U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission released two toy-related reports this week. The first is for Shape Sorting Toy Castles made by Infantion LLC of San Diego, CA. The problem lies in a plastic rod that can come loose, allowing the colored beans to slide off and pose a choking hazard. These castles have been on sale at Wal-Mart, Target, Marshalls and Meijers.

The second recall is for Essentials for Kids Jewelry Sets which were imported from China through Future Industries of Cliffwood Beach, NJ. These items are being recalled because of high levels of lead. Lead is toxic if ingested by young children and can cause a range of adverse health effects. The items include a necklace, bracelet and pair of earrings made of plastic beads, necklaces with painted metallic pendants in the shape of shoes, girls, blackboards with lettering or school buses. Also recalled are other jewelry sets with seven pendants, one for each day of the week.

Monday, July 9, 2007

Dave Mathews is a Green Dad

Not only did Dave Mathews have trees planted to offset the carbon emissions of their tour bus but at Live Earth yesterday he talked up cloth diapers:

"We use cloth diapers for our new baby because I think diapers might be the No. 3 piece of garbage [in terms of environmental damage],"

Yep. Dave was referring the fact that behind paper products and food containers, disposables are the 3rd most common item in our landfills. In one year more than 18 billion disposables are thrown into United States landfills. Yuck. That's a whole lot of untreated waste.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

How Do You Booster Seat?

Getting your child at table level to eat seems like a relatively simple task, but nowadays we have many options.

Take, Kaboost for example. It goes between the floor and the chair instead of the chair and the child. It folds for easy storage and can raise the seat either 4.5 inches or 3.75 inches. Will be available in August.

What about Boost? Made by WorldWideFred, a plastic modeled booster seat designed to look like a phone book, but a little more contoured for comfort.

Or the recently popular Bumbo Seat. Ahh the wonders of molded foam, it supports your little guy or gal even when they can't yet support themselves

Friday, July 6, 2007

Time to Dust Off that Jogger-Stroller

The NYTimes today explores some research published by the Univ. of Pittsburgh this spring. The study tracked exercise habits of 525 men and women over two years. To no one's surprise, exercise decreased more among those who had children compared to those who didn't. What was an interesting find, however, was that new dad's exercise habits were affected more than new mom's. How did that happen?

Dr. Harvey B. Simon, an associate professor at Harvard Medical School suggest that Americans have an all or nothing attitude towards exercise. "If they can’t find a 45-minute window to bike, they don’t substitute by strapping on a BabyBj√∂rn and taking a stroll". Another expert suggests that others use parenting as their excuse not to exercise at all.

So what to do? Take the bugger with you if you can! If not, try this: find another new mom or dad who's also looking for 2 hours of free time and trade off. Leave your little one with her while you go get some cardio in, and watch her little one for an hour while she catches up on whatever she needs to. Free and every one is happy.

Maternity Mod

If you have never checked out the Isabella Oliver website, do it now. Perhaps you have 3 weddings this summer, and 2 on the same side of the family, so you can't recycle that one dress... This site is subtitled 'For Pregnant Women Who Love Clothes' and it covers all the areas you need: adorable, work-friendly, sharp and sexy. They even have a section for the "4th trimester", I thought this meant for the days when you felt ridiculously pregnant, but it is for that transitional time post birth when you don't quite fit into your pre-pregnancy clothes. Clever naming there Isabella. I love it.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Pre-Pre-Natal Vitamins

Reuters report today that at study out of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta show that women are aware of the benefits of folic acid during pregnancy but not aware that it is recommended the months before conception as well.

The article mainly focused on the fact that 85% don't get preconception counseling before getting pregnant, including 72% of those who were planning pregnancy. What they don't mention is why doctors recommend taking folic acid 4 times weekly the month before conception. Why not two months? Why 4 times a week and not daily? How much in those doses, the amount in regular vitamins or in pre-natal vitamins?

The article is interesting, but if they were hoping to help the situation, a little more information on what women should be doing would have been nice!

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Funny Because It's True

This book isn't incredibly new, but it is new to me and I loved it. Duck and Goose actually made me laugh out loud and it is written for preschool-first graders. However, the dialog in the book will sound so familiar to you, I guarantee. Here's an example of dialog between Duck and Goose when they discover a giant polka-dotted sphere, which they take to be a very large egg:

"I saw it first," says Duck

"I touched it first," says Goose

Ok, well that might not convince you, but the illustration of Goose sticking out his webbed foot out ever so carefully so he technically can be touching the sphere got me. The illustrations speak very loudly. I highly recommend.