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The Great Preschool Hunt: Finding the Perfect Fit

Choosing a preschool can be an overwhelming experience for many parents. But, it doesn’t have to be!

Considering a few important things can help you to narrow down your search and find a preschool that will be the perfect fit for both your child and your family.

Start with your budget in mind.

At the beginning of your search one of the most important things to consider is your budget. Finding the perfect school you can’t afford isn’t helpful, it is frustrating.

And because preschool tuition can range from a couple of hundred dollars a month to well over a thousand, taking a close look at your budget may help your family to decide on a range that everyone feels comfortable with.

Keep in mind that most families have to give something up to take on the new cost of preschool tuition. Make sure the trade-off is worth it for both you and your spouse. Being “tuition poor” will taint your feelings on even the most perfect preschool experience.

What is your preschool philosophy?

There are at least a half a dozen mainstream (or quasi mainstream) pre-schooling options out there. Besides the more traditional church preschools and programs, schools that used to be a little bit more rare, like Waldorf and Montessori, are now relatively easy to find.

Knowing what you want out of your child’s first school experience will be key in narrowing down the type of preschool program you want to enroll in. Research different preschool styles and let them sink in for a bit, eventually you will find yourself drawn to one philosophy over another.

An important topic related to the philosophy of each school is their discipline policy. Having your child disciplined in a way that does not align with your parenting values could be traumatic for both you and your child. Make sure that whatever the school’s policy is, you are completely comfortable with it.

How often will your child attend school?

Most preschools offer a handful of different attendance options for their students. The most common choices are the 3 or 5 day programs offering either half or full days. However, I have heard of school that offer as little as one day a week. If a school you are interested in does not advertise the attendance plan you are looking for, ask! They might make an exception.

 

Where is the school located?

Think about how far you are willing to drive to get to your child’s school. Will you be heading to work after morning drop off or back home?

 

Drive the route you would most often take to the school in the morning and do the same thing for afternoon pick-up. Test these routes during the actual time of day you will be driving them. What looks like a 20 minute drive on a map might actually be a 40 minute drive during rush hour.

 

Set Up A Tour

 

Once you have narrowed down your search to a handful of schools it is time to start setting up tours. Schedule the tours during school hours and when the students are there. Viewing an empty classroom is usually not very helpful. You want to see the teachers and students at work and observe how they interact with one another. Your first impressions of the teacher’s relationship with his or her students will probably be very influential when it comes to your final decision.

 

Finally, make sure to ask lots of questions! Here are some to get you started. Add any that come to mind. Don’t be afraid of being a bother. Remember, you are hiring them to take care of your most precious cargo!

 

  1. Are there any other costs for attendance besides tuition?

 

 Many schools charge snack or supply fees as well as enrollment fees.

 

  1. What is your educational philosophy?

 

A weak answer to this question should raise red flags.

 

  1. What is your discipline policy?

 

Is it a school wide policy or does it vary in each classroom?

  1. How many kids are in each class?

 

Also, how many teachers.

  1. Do most of the students attend the half or full day program?

 

  Being the only half or full day student could be tough.

  1. What does drop off and pick up look like?

 

  If you have to wake up a sleeping baby every day at pick up, the answer to this question might

  be very important!

We hope that you find this information helpful in assisting you to find the preschool for your children.

 

Rear Facing Seats Save Lives

In 2011 The American Academy of Pediatrics published new recommendations on car seat safety. The most notable change advised parents that one year olds should no longer be forward facing. In fact, no child under the age of two should be in a forward facing seat. And that is just a minimum.

The AAP states that children should ideally be left rear facing until they outgrow the safety limits for their seat (weight and height limits). For some kids, this could mean rear facing until they are 3 or 4 years old. For those who are used to the idea that kids get flipped around at age one, waiting until the age of 3 has proven to be a tough sell.

But, science backs up these recommendations – and in a big way.

Just consider this.

Most crashes, some 60 percent, are frontal collisions. This means that when an accident happens, everyone in the car jolts forward, towards the point of impact. This isn’t good for anyone in the car, it’s why we use seat belts. But, for babies and toddlers, that thrust forward is especially dangerous.

Why?

To put it simply, big heads. A toddler’s head is huge compared to the rest of their body. In fact, a toddler’s head makes up nearly a quarter of their total body weight. An adult head, just 6 percent.

When a toddler is left rear facing, the car seat helps to distribute the force of the crash along the back of the seat as well as the toddler’s entire body. As a result, their relatively big heads are offered more support, which in turn puts significantly less strain on the neck and spine. This means less fatalities and serious injuries for rear facing children.

Not convinced?

On top of your toddler’s big head size is their immature spinal column. Toddlers vertebrae are connected, at least partially, with cartilage instead of bone like in an adults body. Cartilidge is much more flexible than bone. In fact, if enough force is applied, the cartilage connecting your toddler’s vertebrae can stretch up to 2 inches. This can be a life threatening problem in a car crash because it only takes 1/4 of an inch stretch for the spinal column to rupture.

Again, the support provided by a rear facing seat is key. It helps to distribute the force of the crash in a way that significantly reduces the strain put on their spinal column. This all adds up to a reduced risk of paralysis and death. In short, rear facing longer saves lives.

However, many parents are still following outdated recommendations and allowing their toddlers to switch to a forward facing seat at a year (or sooner).

Anyone who has had to ride in the car with an unhappy toddler knows how unpleasant it can be. Turning their seat forward is an understandably tempting option to help relieve stress and frustrations. It seems like such a simple fix until you consider the risk flipping your toddler’s seat too soon really poses.

Another concern many parents have are their toddler’s legs. Obviously, as babies grow into toddlers, their legs get longer. In a rear facing seat this usually means that at some point feet are either touching the seat back or the toddler is forced to bend their knees and sit “criss-cross”. Parents are concerned that their children’s legs will be broken if a car accident were to happen.

You might be surprised to hear, however, that leg injuries are very uncommon for rear facing kids. In fact, I could not find any documented cases in which a child’s legs or feet were broken from being in a rear facing seat.

But, even if it was very common, a broken leg is still favorable to a broken neck.

It is also important to note that toddlers are very flexible. This is because their joints and bones are less developed than an adults. This is as nature intended, allowing for more “mistakes” as they learn gross motor skills like balance. So in a car seat, what may look like a horribly uncomfortable position to an adult, probably doesn’t bother a toddler in the least.

 

What are the laws regarding toddlers and car seat use?

This is a gray area. Like most things in the United States, car seat laws vary from state to state. And like most laws, car seat laws have not kept pace with current scientific research.

For instance, in North Carolina, where I live, all children under 8 are required to use a booster seat or ride in a car seat. And although they echo the recommendations laid out by the AAP, the current law still states that only children under the age of one (or less than 20 pounds) are required to be rear facing.

In other states, like Oklahoma, only children 5 and under are required to use a booster seat or ride in a car seat.

Although a bill in California was proposed earlier this year, no states currently require toddlers to be rear facing until the age of 2. This is not because states disagree with the AAP’s findings. It is simply because the process of creating and changing laws is often very slow.

In a Nutshell

  • AAP recommends children remain in rear facing car seats for a minimum of two years but ideally until they outgrow their current seats height and weight recommendations.
  • Rear facing car seats help support the neck and spine of toddlers. This is vital because of their relatively large head sizes and immature spinal columns.
  • Switching a toddler forward facing too soon, for any reason, greatly increases their risk of serious injury and death.
  • Car seat laws vary from state to state. No state currently has a law stating that children must be 2 years old before riding in a forward facing car seat.

How To Potty Train Your Toddler In 3 Easy Steps

Whether you’re using disposables or washing every day, diapers are expensive, time-consuming and pretty unpleasant. As soon as your baby is on the move, pinning them down long enough to clean them up can be an almighty challenge. And if your bub has figured out how to get her diaper off, the aftermath can be the stuff of nightmares.

So yes, we all look forward to the day when we can throw the diapers away, and say goodbye forever to those agonizing change-table battles.

But remember that once your child is potty trained, there are other challenges you’ll have to face. Like getting them to a toilet in time when you’re out and about (small children usually give you very little warning when they need to go). And helping them cope with the embarrassment of accidents.

And then there’s the process itself. The thought of potty training strikes fear into the heart of parents everywhere. When should you start? Why is it taking so long when everyone else seems to have it under control? How do you do it without traumatizing your child (or yourself!)?

The awesome news is, potty training really doesn’t need to be difficult at all. Like teething, crawling and learning to walk, it’s a natural development phase that your toddler will move through in his own sweet time. The more relaxed you are, the easier it will be for everyone.

We do realize that that’s easier said than done, so to help you cut out the stress we’ve put together this handy three-step guide to potty training your toddler.

1. Wait until your child is ready

When it comes to potty training your toddler, there is absolutely no advice more important than this.

The tricky part here is peer pressure. It’s possible that other parents you know will start boasting about their bub’s potty training prowess from as young as 18 months. For your own sanity – and the wellbeing of your toddler – it’s really, really important that you don’t take this to heart. Firstly, it’s just possible their claims might not be true. Occasionally parental pride and competitive spirit gets a bit out of hand – and their comments may be based mostly on wishful thinking…

But even if every other toddler you know is now confidently using the toilet, it doesn’t mean YOURS is ready to. Every child hits each milestone at a different time. Some babies get teeth at five months, while others don’t have a single chomper by their first birthday. Some bubs crawl early and stay on their knees for months, while others go straight from rolling to walking in the blink of an eye.

Toileting is no different. The range is vast – some children can master daytime potty use as early as 18 months, while for others, nighttime wetting can continue until as late as eight years old. Trying to potty train a toddler who is not ready will cause pointless and unnecessary stress, both for you and for them. Putting too much pressure on them can actually have the opposite result – making them fearful or angry so that they resist the training for much longer.

So how can I tell if my child is ready to potty train?

There are a number of things to look out for. These include both physical signs that your baby is capable of using a toilet independently, and emotional signs that he ready for this step.

Physical signs include:

• Her diaper stays dry for up to two hours. Until her bladder is strong enough to hold urine for a while, she simply will not have any control over when it empties.
• She can walk and sit down on her own – so she can get to the potty when she needs to.
• She can pull her pants up and down.
• She is able to follow your basic instructions.

Emotional signs that your baby for potty training include:

• She is trying to get her diaper off, or objects to wearing it.
• She is watching other people use the toilet, and trying to copy them.
• She tells you when she has been to the toilet in her diaper, and asks to be changed.
• She pretends to sit on a potty or toilet when playing.

If you’re not quite sure whether your toddler is ready to start, you can always give it a go. If it doesn’t work out, remember that you can always go back to diapers and try again in a few months.

2. Prepare properly for the training

Before you begin toilet training, make sure you have everything you need. Once you start it’s important that you’re consistent – it’ll only confuse your toddler if you keep introducing new equipment, or moving things around. Depending on how you go about it, and whether you have a boy or a girl, you’ll need some or all of the following:

• Potty
• Toilet step
• Child toilet seat
• Training pants
• Clothes they can remove easily
• ‘Wee target’
• Stories about toilet training to read or watch with your child

Prepare yourself

You’ll need to make some decisions about how and when you’re going to approach the training.

For example – will you use a potty, or teach your child to use the toilet straight away? A potty is easy for your toddler to reach, and you can take it with you when you go out – which is great for car travel and when you’re visiting other people. But it might feel less ‘normal’ for him, since it’s not what he see you doing. And what happens when you’re out at the shopping mall and he has to use a toilet instead? If you can, try to involve him in the choice, by watching or asking to see which he prefers.

Before you start, it’s a good idea to make a note of any times when your child regularly has a bowel movement, and of any signs he makes when he needs the toilet. This way you can be ready to set him up for success.

Getting your child ready

The last thing to do before you begin the potty training is get your child used to the idea.

• Let him experiment with the new equipment, and sit on the potty or toilet seat in play.

• Let him see you using the toilet and explain what you are doing. Teach him the words you want him to use when he needs to go to the toilet.

• If you have a boy, set up the wee target (or a ping-pong ball) in the toilet for him to aim at.

• Read books and watch videos with him that show other children using the toilet. Answer any questions he has.

• Put him in training pants for a while, so he can start to identify the feeling of being wet.

• Take him out to choose ‘big kid’ pants to wear once he is no longer using diapers.

If he just doesn’t seem interested in these preparations, ease off for a while and then try again when he shows more eagerness.

3. Start the training

When you’re ready to go, it’s best to set aside a couple of days when you can just stay at home and focus on potty training. It will go a lot more smoothly if you follow your normal routine in your familiar environment.

These are the simple steps to follow:

• Stop using diapers while your child is awake.

• Make sure she is wearing clothes that are quick to take off (potty training in hot weather is ideal, as you can let her run around in just her underwear).

• Show her the potty or toilet and explain that you’d like her to use it from now on.

• Take her to the toilet or potty every hour and encourage her to sit on it. Praise her just for sitting on it, whether or not she uses it, until she gets used to it. Don’t make her sit there for more than a couple of minutes.

• Sit her on the potty at times when she usually has a bowel movement, or when you see signs that she needs to go.

• If she manages to use the potty or toilet, give her lots of praise (or a reward).

• If she makes a mistake, simply clear it up without making a fuss. Remember that accidents can happen for years after she is toilet trained, so if this happens, reassure her gently that everything’s ok.

• As she starts to get the hang of it, gently ask her every hour or so whether she needs the toilet. Take care not to nag or pressure her.

• You’ll need to wipe her bottom for her at first – always front to back. In time you’ll be able to teach her to wipe herself (and if you have a boy, teach him to shake off before pulling up).

• Teach her to always wash her hands after using the toilet.

If you choose the right time, prepare well, and consistently guide your toddler through these steps, he’ll master potty training without stress. He might figure it out in a couple of days, or take months to get to the hang of it. Be patient, let him take his time, and remember that putting pressure on him will only set him back.

Be prepared that he may need to wear diapers at night for years after he is toilet trained. Heavy sleepers find it very hard to wake up to use the toilet at night, and the bladder control needed to hold urine for 10 or more hours can take years to develop, especially in boys.

But rest assured, the day will come when diapers are well and truly in your past.

Good luck!

10 Great Party Ideas For Your Babys First Birthday

Can you believe it’s nearly been a year? This time last year you were still waiting to meet your precious bundle – and now here you are. Proud parents of a gorgeous, smiling, gurgling, ONE YEAR OLD mess-machine (who’s turned your life, your house and your heart upside down)!

Your baby’s first birthday is a huge milestone for the whole family. You’ve just been through a hard, hard year. You’ve survived sleepless nights, diaper explosions, screaming and teething. You’ve beaten all the challenges and you’ve done a great job. Congratulations! This party is as much for you as for your beautiful baby.

Of course you want to mark the special day in style. But there’s so much to think about! Day sleeps. Healthy choices. Food allergies. Exploring toddlers. How on earth do you put together a fun, successful first birthday party that EVERYONE will enjoy, without going crazy from stress?

Simply check out these 10 fantastic first birthday party ideas!

 Box party

This is our absolute favorite first birthday party idea, because it’s safe, affordable and sooooo much fun.

Simply get everyone to bring a cardboard box to the party – the bigger the better. Clear a space, arm a few parents or older siblings with scissors, and get creative! Climb them. Sit in them. Sail or drive them. Bash them and bang on them. Build castles, caves, ships or shops… Boxes can be anything and everything. Babies, kids, pets (and Dads) all love to play in them for hours on end.

And best of all – when the party’s over, any boxes you don’t want to keep n can simply be packed down and recycled.

  1. Camp party

Another great idea is a mini ‘camp’. It’s a long time until your bub will be all grown up and heading off to summer camp – but there’s no reason why you can’t give them a taste of the fun and games right now.

To create your baby ‘camp’, clear a big room or outside area and set up little activity zones. If you set up chairs for the parents all around the outside of the camp area, they can sit, relax and watch the bubs play in comfort.

All of these are great fun for bubs and toddlers:

  • Sand and water play
  • Mini ball pit (blow up a toddler pool and fill it with plastic balls)
  • Balloons
  • Soft toy mountain
  • Box or blanket fort
  • Crawl tunnels
  • Mini tent or teepee
  • Percussion instruments
  • ‘Obstacle course’ of pillows and blankets
  1. Rainbow party

Kids of all ages love bright colors – and rainbow parties make for some gorgeous photos! It’s super easy to theme your party area with all kinds of multicolored decorations – you can buy them ready made, or make them yourself out of crepe paper, balloons and cardboard.

When it comes to the food, there’s lots of ways you can get creative, even if you prefer to avoid artificially colored sweets and snacks. You can use rainbow tablecloths, plates and napkins, and make a fruit and vegetable rainbow for the bubs to snack on.

A beautiful arrangement of rainbow cupcakes (you can use multicolored paper cases or removable decorations if you don’t want to color the icing), or even an ambitious rainbow layered cake can create an awesome centerpiece for your party table.

If you want to go all out you can even ask your party guests to come dressed in rainbow colors!

  1. Animal party

Animals are another huge favorite with kids of all ages. Whether your bub loves dinosaurs, dogs, dolphins or ducks, you’ll be amazed how easy it is to animal-theme a first birthday party.

First up, a quick trawl of the internet will turn up plenty of awesome animal decorations, plus loads of cool ideas if you prefer to make your own. Banners, posters and balloons, soft toys, plates and napkins, and animal themed party favors can all set the mood without costing the earth. If you’re not up to making a fancy shaped cake, any yummy cake or cupcakes with animal cases or decorations work just as well.

These days you can get cute baby suits in the shape of almost any animal going – so why not ask your guests to dress their bubs in costume and really make the party special? And if you’ve got real creative flair, you could even try and master the art of making balloon animals!

  1. Balloon party

Like boxes, balloons are a low-cost, timeless classic for kids of all ages. There’s loads of ways you can get creative with balloons: we love the idea of writing your party invites on them, so the guests get the message when they blow up them up.

Real balloons make great decorations of course, either hanging from streamers or filled with helium. And you can also buy or make posters, plates, party favors and even your baby’s special first birthday cake in the shape of a balloon.

Simply filling the party room with loose floating balloons provides plenty of fun and entertainment for babies, toddler and older children.

And when it comes to clearing them all up afterwards, all you need is a pin!

  1. Hand and feet painting party

If you’re bold and fearless and you don’t mind an almighty mess, this is a super cute idea for your first birthday party. Big sheets of paper and trays of washable poster paint are all you need to create wonderful first birthday keepsakes.

Before you start, make sure you lay down some sort of protective sheeting or you’ll soon have paint all over your house or garden! If any of your baby guests are already walking, simply get them to step in the paint and run around on the paper. Crawlers and pre-crawlers can dip their hands in the paint and then make multicolored handprints on the paper. Make sure you write each bub’s name on their ‘creation’ so their parents can take home their extra special party memento.

Don’t forget to put out plenty of water and towels so you can clean up the bubs after the painting fun is done – and warn your guests to dress themselves and their kids in old clothes!

  1. Play center party

If you don’t fancy the hassle of catering and cleaning up after a big bash, why not hold your baby’s first birthday party somewhere else? Many play centers have separate ‘soft play’ areas for babies and toddlers, where they can play and crawl around in safety. There’s usually plenty for older siblings to do, too, and often somewhere the parents can get a well-earned coffee.

The center may be able to offer you themed decorations, catering and maybe even your own party room. Make sure you check whether they will allow you to bring your own snacks, and if they offer healthy choices suitable for all your guests.

Choosing a play center takes all the stress out of arranging your baby’s first birthday party. Simply send out invites and turn up on your special day with your bub – and of course, that all important cake!

  1. Park party

If your baby’s first birthday falls in the warm season, you could take the party outside instead. A park with a sandpit or toddler play zone, or even just a lovely, grassy field, is a perfect spot for a party picnic.

Picnic food is always a favorite with kids of all ages. You could ask people to bring a plate to share, or pack up a yummy picnic yourself. Paper plates and cups mean there’s no mess to worry about back home.

Simply bring some rugs to sit on, umbrellas for shade and a few balls for the kids to crawl after, and you’re all set.

  1. Intimate family party

Many people prefer to keep that first birthday party small and intimate. You can save yourself a lot of stress if you restrict the guest list to just the people who mean most to you and your baby. If you don’t invite other children you’ll only have to time the party around your own bub’s nap routine, and you won’t have to worry about food preferences and allergies.

You can still make your party super special of course, with a cute theme or color scheme, and a gorgeous cake. But instead of chasing around after your bub while worrying about whether your guests are having fun, you can relax in the company of people who just want to take care of YOU. 

  1. Special outing

Our final favorite idea for marking that all-important first birthday is to take your bub on a family outing to somewhere special. After all, this is YOUR day as much as theirs, and they only need you to make them happy. There will be plenty of time for wild parties over the years to come!

If there’s a petting farm, zoo or aquarium nearby, they can be wonderful experiences for all the family. Watching your gorgeous bub’s reaction to their first rabbit, elephant or dolphin is a heartwarming memory you’ll treasure forever.

Botanical gardens, boat rides, or even feeding the ducks at your favorite park are also lovely activities to do together, while you take time out and reflect on what an amazing year you’ve just had.

Whether you go all out or keep it intimate, however you choose to celebrate your baby’s first birthday, we hope you have a fun, fabulous and unforgettable day!