Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Traveling With Your Baby-Toddler-Child

suitcase ride

Don't be afraid to travel with your little one!  
We took our daughter on 7 roundtrip flights before her 2nd birthday.  We definitely learned a lot in the process, and were so glad we didn't miss those special moments with family and friends.  Here are some tips to help plan your fun low-stress family getaway.

Pick your travel times wisely
- Look for the fewest connections possible.  This will reduce your overall travel time and help avoid those long walks between terminals.
- Travel during awake daytime hours rather than aiming for overnight or nap times.  The likelihood your child will sleep while in a strange moving machine full of strangers is small (unless he's <6 month old).  Don't set yourself up for crankiness and exhaustion when your child fails to sleep .
- Try to avoid early morning or late night travel times which adds stress for whole family's schedule.

Choose the best seats on the plane
- Use to avoid crampy or noisy seats, or ones that don't recline.
- Choose window seat to give you best privacy (appreciated by nursing moms) and quiet when your child needs to relax.  Also great distraction/entertainment just looking out the window.

Save money by sharing a seat (<2 years old)
- This works best from newborn through early walking stage, and is toughest for active toddler or baby who can't rest in your lap.
- It helps to have two parents who can take turns holding child.
- Keep your car seat handy in case there's an open seat nearby for your child to use.  All airlines will accept car seats as gate-checked item, so just bring it to the gate with you and ask before you board if there happens to be an extra open seat.

Choose a kid-friendly hotel
- Look for recommendations on, narrowing down to best "Family" hotels.
- If you can find a hotel with suite (separate bedroom), this goes a long way toward adding comfort for everyone, especially around nap/bedtime.
- Request a quiet room.
- Ask for a crib.  If you have a toddler ask for the dimensions to make sure it is big enough (some hotels only have small infant-sized cribs).
- Plan for extra bed for toddlers who are too big for crib.  See below 'in your hotel' section for advice on making it cozy.
- See if they offer roomservice and whether there are kid-friendly options on the menu (next best option would be restaurants very close by).
- Bathtub is great, but you can also improvise using the sink to clean infants and shower for toddlers.
- Swimming pool is a bonus.

Pack as light as possible
Here's what you will definitely NEED
- Diapers, wipes, bib, change of clothes on you at all times.
- Milk, water, snacks on travel day.  Use tupperware to compartmentalize food options.
- Pacifier if your baby uses one.
- New toys/books for entertainment.  Choose small, lightweight ones (i.e. paperback books).
- Comfort item such as blanket or plush toy for snuggling and (hopefully) napping.
- Nursing-friendly clothing and/or cover up
- Medications (Acetaminophen/Tylenol and Diphenhydramine/Benadryl are always good to carry just in case).
You MAY NEED these items
- Stroller versus baby carrier, especially if there will be lots of long-distance walking on your trip.  Consider borrowing/renting at your destination instead.
- Car seat if you will be driving (including taxi) at destination.  This is one thing that is much cheaper to bring than to rent from rental car company.  Consider buying a lightweight inexpensive seat for travel.  We chose this highly rated one from for $39.

You DONT NEED to pack these with you
- Crib.  Find a hotel that will provide you what  you need, borrow at your destination, or rent one (ex.
- Booster or other dining seat, use what's at the restaurant and improvise when in your room (parent's lap works great, or pillow on a chair with arms)
- Tons of books and toys.  Just a few will do.
- Daily vitamins/fluoride they can go without for several days with little consequence.
- Napkins, straws, tissues, plasticware.  These will be easy to find at any coffee shop, fast food place, mall, etc.

In Transit
- Wear your baby to free up your hands, such as Ergo or travel backpack. 
- Hang up a 'curtain' for privacy when nursing on plane (safety pin a small blanket between the seats)
- Make each distraction last as long as possible:
       1. Point and narrate what's going on around you, especially during take off and landing (window seat works great for this).
        2. Offer just 1 toy/book/activity at a time, saving the next for when that one is no longer entertaining.
        3. Take a walk up and down the aisles, practice saying "hi" to friendly faces and other kids.
        4. Bring out the more exciting options for last, such as fun apps on your phone (see my suggested iPhone Apps for Babies and iPhone Apps for Toddlers).

At your new destination
- Keep up your home routine as much as possible, especially waking, nap, and sleep times.  If you usually do bath and books before bed be prepared to continue this ritual.
- Set aside extra time for meals, keep snacks and water/milk on hand at all times.
- Bring entertainment (small toy or book) for downtimes, especially in restaurants where you usually will wait for your food.
- Ask waiter to bring out your food as soon as its ready, rather than trying to pace you.  This will help speed up the meal (2 hours is a long time to expect a little one to sit in a high chair).

In your hotel
- Set up dark corner/room of your hotel for sleep times, close curtains, hang a towel on side of crib that may be facing light source (be certain there is no risk of falling into crib or loops that could harm baby).
- Make a little sleep 'nest' for toddler in big bed, so it won't seem so huge.  We used extra pillows as a border and put familiar blankets, plush toys in middle.
little bed-within-a-bed for toddler
- Offer extra snuggling time and be prepared to break a few rules while traveling to help your child feel more secure and comfortable.
- Bring along soothing bedtime music (we use iPod with portable mini speaker)

Got Allergies?
- If your child has food allergies you will want to carry a card detailing this.  You will save  yourself energy having to shout out the specifics over noise of a crowded restaurant, and the kitchen staff find it very helpful to have the information passed to them.  We printed a few of our own and had them laminated.  Now we just pull it out and give to person taking our order.

Supplies we like:

Few crayons, a pen, and pad of paper.
 Some thin paperback books.

Bon Voyage!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

iPhone Apps for Toddlers

As an update to my post about iPhone Apps for Babies, I have an expanded list of games our toddler loves to play with on the iPhone.  Comes in very handy for long plane rides or time in a waiting room, she will entertain herself with these for an hour at a time!  I know no other 'toy' that can accomplish that.

But first, some practical advice to prep those of you who are newbies to this.

Protect your phone contents
Assuming this phone belongs to you, not your toddler, you will want to have it back in the same shape.  Follow these simple tips to keep your settings safe before handing it over.
* Airplane mode- so there won't be any accidentally placed calls, texts, or emails.
* Restrict ability to install or delete apps, found in your general settings.

Two ways to let your toddler enjoy playing with your iPhone.
You may weight the pros and cons for either of these methods for introducing the iPhone apps to your child.
1. The One App at a Time method.  This is where you allow access to just one app by using a device to block the home button (see Toddler Proof iPhone post for practical suggestions).  Advantage is less fear about getting into places you don't want them to go (say you are expecting a call and so can't put in airplane mode).  Disadvantage is that your kid will bother you each time he wants to change the screen.

2. The Freestyle method.  In this case, you allow full access to your phone, no blocking of home button.  You start by teaching them to swipe your phone on, swipe to move screens, tap on their personal folder for games, and move through the steps to play them.  By far this is what your child will prefer, and you may be surprised at how quickly they learn to maneuver all the way from start to finish.  This method plays into their short attention spans, allowing freedom to select, start and stop games when they want.  This will also buy you more time from having to step in and help load up each new app for them.
Create a fun folder of apps 

Three ways to listen to the sound
1. Straight from the source.  Turn up the volume and let your little phone's speakers do their job.  This works great in most situations, even on an airplane.  I've never had any passenger complain about softly playing music or cute sound effects that come from the games.  (I'm sure they'd MUCH rather hear that than screaming!)

2. Headphones.  This is a great little set made just for kids, and has option of volume control so the sound can never get dangerously high.  We got this for our daughter but she refuses to keep it on- probably because she's used to using the phone without it.  If you start this way from the beginning your child may be more accepting.

3. Speaker.  We love this speaker and use it lots to play songs, especially when traveling.  The sound quality is really great, especially considering the small size.  Easy to charge by USB cable.  AYL Portable Mini Speaker System.

List of Recommended Toddler Apps (BEST ones listed first)
This is a list of apps not included in my iPhone Apps for Babies post (though she does still play with all of those, I thought I shouldn't repeat them here).  I selected only the ones our daughter selects frequently, and put them in an order of her favorites.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Earn Top Dollar From the Tooth Fairy

Everyone knows the tooth fairy wants to collect perfect teeth.  Kids leaving decayed teeth left under the pillow may find a few coins the next morning, but those leaving glistening white ones can earn as much as $5.  True story!

There are certainly other good reasons to take care of those baby teeth.
* Establish lifelong healthy habits early.
Save money, time, and pain of having to undergo restorative procedures at the dentist (drill and fill, or even worse- pulling teeth, yikes!).
* Bacterial causing tooth decay linger in the mouth long after baby teeth have fallen away, creating the same problems for permanent teeth.
* A mouth full of dental decay left untreated is like letting an infection fester, risking spread to other parts of the body.

first visit to dentist at 12 months

Best ways to prevent cavities (in order of most to least effective):
1. More frequent fluoride.  This is the single most important item on the list as it strengthens teeth and makes them resistant to decay.
2. Less frequent sweets.  Best time for sweets is with meals.  Juice, even diluted ones, are worst for teeth.  If you're going to eat a bag of candy, do it all at one time and with a meal; same goes for glass of juice.
3. Regular check-ups.  Every 6 months to a dentist who will monitor teeth development closely and build a friendly relationship with your child so they don't fear going.
4. Brushing.  Twice a day with fluoride toothpaste.
5. Sealants.  This is done on molars when they start to appear around 6 years of age to seal the deep grooves that toothbrush bristles cannot reach.

You may be surprised to see brushing so far down on the list!

How do we make sure our children's smiles are healthy as can be?
Take good care of PARENT's teeth!  You're assuming I'm referring to modeling good behavior for your children.  Sure, that is helpful.  But what you may not know is that a parent with bad teeth can DIRECTLY be responsible for their young child's cavities.  That's because germs that cause cavities are not inherent in every mouth, they are CONTAGIOUS and are passed down from one generation to the next, or from a child's peers.  This means you can prevent spread of these bacteria by keeping your own in check, especially during those first few years when a child's immune system is more vulnerable to new bacteria.  More in this LA Times article.

Watch WHAT and WHEN your child eats.  It is important to not only avoid sticky sugary foods that are a breeding ground for tooth decay, but also to minimize how frequently these are indulged in.  Having a glass of juice at once is not nearly as bad as taking sips of it throughout the day which gives it more time to linger and cause problems.  Same rule applies to bottle of milk, which is why we recommend never leaving bottle in baby's crib.  It's best to avoid putting juice in bottle as well.

Monday, January 2, 2012

New Baby Shopping List

baby gear helps to get around
Friends often ask me for suggestions of what to buy when expecting a baby.  The options and selection of things out there can be overwhelming.  It feels nice to have a personal recommendation, even with the availability of all those reviews out there.  For that reason I've decided to put together my list of things I was so happy we had for our daughter's first year and beyond.

Shopping Resources.
You may want to consult these detailed descriptions/reviews before making your decision, especially for the more expensive purchase items.  More info about the online shopping experience can be found at my post I Love Shopping From Home.

1.  Baby Bargains book by Denise Fields.  Down to earth advice about what you need, how much to expect to spend, what brands have best reputation.

2.  Consumer Search.  Great online site with compilation of reviews from other sources.
3.  Amazon Baby Store Sign up for Amazon Mom then order baby related items by 'Subscribe and Save' to save tons of money, and have them shipped right to your door.  For example we would get Pampers Swaddlers diapers for less than 16 cents per diaper, includes delivery.

Nursery Basics
Crib- this one is beautiful, durable, safe, and grows with your baby into toddler bed, then becomes full size headboard.  Delta Canton 4-in-1 Convertible Crib.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

New Egg-Free Brownie Recipe, 1st Attempt

(if you want to skip to the recipe, scroll to end of post)

In my quest for an awesomely delicious brownie recipe that contains NO egg, I have hit some hurdles, but also made some great progress.

I started with a recipe from this book, Bakin' Without Eggs by Rosemarie Emro.
This book was given to me as a present, and I am very very happy to have received it since I often have to cook without eggs due to food allergy in my family.  There are several very happy reviewers of this book on Amazon, so it seems like it will be a great resource.

I had high hopes for the "Heavenly Brownie" recipe, promising to make the perfect eggless brownie.  As I stirred together the strange mixture of ingredients (corn syrup? vinegar?  sour cream?), I couldn't help but give it a taste.  Mmm, quite yummy, so it felt like I was on the right track.

Sadly, the final product did NOT pan out.  I blame the short cook time of only 20 minutes, which left my 9x13 inch pan of brownie dough just that- still dough-y!  No good!  Though it has already completely cooled by the time I realized this, I next tried what is never been recommended, and put it back in the oven to salvage it.  Alas, all this did was turn the mixture into brownie bricks, totally glued to the pan, and pretty much inedible.  Sad sad story.

And yet I remain undeterred in my quest.  Maybe that recipe would have worked if I cooked it much longer to begin with (I'm guessing it needs somewhere around 40 minutes) and done a toothpick test before calling it done (something the book recipe makes no mention of doing).  Right now I'm not ready to trust this book again with our family's urgent chocolate cravings.  Instead, I rummaged around for another recipe.

I found a recipe for Brownie inside this vegan cookbook, Vegan Fusion World Cuisine by Mark Reinfeld.

I can only describe the book and its recipes as highly pretentious, which is a funny thing to be when you are a cookbook!  Seriously, take a look at some of these items listed as ingredients for the brownie recipe:  sucanat, spelt flour, arrowroot powder, kava kava, flax seeds... HUH?  What the heck are those and what are they doing in a simple dessert recipe?  Not only that, but items that are actually familiar are twisted around so to make you feel like what you have isn't good enough, they require, "sea salt" instead of salt, "filtered water" instead of water, "vanilla extract, alcohol-free" instead of vanilla extract.  Come on!  Gimme something I can work with here!

Anyway, after some online searches for what the ingredients actually mean, I decided to use the recipe as a rough guide, substituting what I actually have in my pantry and adding things found in a normal brownie recipe.

So now, I will introduce you to my first attempt at my own personal recipe, made up by me, tried and eaten by our family, with happily delicious results!
mmm, brownie

Dora's NO EGG Brownie Recipe - first attempt

Grease 8x8 baking pan.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Mix together:
1/2 stick melted butter
3/4 cup whole milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 cup sugar

Gradually add in dry ingredients which have previously been mixed in separate bowl:
1 cup flour (I use whole wheat)
3/4 teaspoon corn starch
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
pinch of salt

Fold in 3/4 cup chocolate chips.  Pour batter into pan.  Bake about 30-35minutes, until toothpick comes out clean.

I call this first attempt because although they turned out great, I feel there is room for improvement.  My family agrees to serve as test tasters for as many future versions as I'd like to create, so of couse I must oblige.  If I had to criticize this batch I would say that it could be more fudgy, more chocolatey, and less cake-like.  I will be sure to keep you posted on my progress, but even if I don't come up with a better recipe, this one here is a crowd pleasing keeper!