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Tips for Traveling with an Infant

December 18, 2014

By Ana Vela

Tips for Traveling with an Infant | The author and her daughter, in a Baby Bjorn, pose for the camera in front of the TSA line.

With all my family living in a different state, I travel frequently to visit them. And now with a six month old, it is especially important to stay connected with family. Although I consider myself a bit of a travel pro, I admittedly was nervous about traveling with my infant for the first time. With our first plane trip together, I spent a lot of time researching to prepare, including talking to other mothers who travel with their infants. Here are some of my best tips to offer fellow traveling parents:

Planning Your Trip
There’s a lot to consider when planning your trip.

Do you plan to have your infant sit on your lap (free up to two years old) or will you purchase a reduced fare seat for your infant?
Having your infant sit on your lap is a great way to save money. Just be aware that you will need extra time to check in at the airport, as you will need to get a special boarding pass for your infant. Purchasing a seat for your child may be an expense, but it allows you the option to keep your infant in his or her car seat. On a long ride, that comfort can be critical for you and baby.

Will you have access to baby gear, such as a crib, car seat, stroller, etc. when you arrive at your destination?
Traveling as light as possible is a rule you still want to follow. Try to store baby gear basics at places you frequently travel. My family keeps a play yard, activity gym, baby bathtub, and stroller for my baby so I don’t have to travel with those things. These are used items from other babies in my family, so ask relatives for donations to help when you travel. There are also companies such as BabysAway.com that offer baby gear to rent when you are traveling. This too can be a great option to help you carry less.

Does your destination have convenient locations to purchase baby essentials such as formula, diapers, medicine, etc. or will it be easier to pack them in your luggage?
Baby essentials can quickly fill up your luggage and may not be worth it. If it’s quick and easy to stop by a store to purchase these at your destination, then I highly recommend it. For a new destination, a quick Internet search can show you what’s available. If you are visiting friends or family, ask them to purchase these items ahead of time so they are ready when you arrive.

Pack enough of these items to have on hand in case you can’t make it to the store right away. Of course, if your destination does not make it convenient, make sure you pack everything your baby would need, even in an emergency (first aid kit, medicine, etc.).

Tips for Traveling with an Infant | The author sits on the plane with her infant in her lap.

Packing Your Luggage
If you have never packed luggage for a baby (yes, a baby will have his or her OWN luggage!), you will quickly see how much you have to take with you. Make a checklist of items you will need. I created essential categories to help me think through everything: feeding, changing, clothing, bathing, transportation, and playtime.

Consider Routines
Routines are everything for a baby. Think of items that may help maintain some of your baby’s routines and can recreate the environment he or she has grown accustomed to at home. For example, if your baby likes to listen to music to fall asleep, then pack a small sound machine. Take your baby’s favorite toy and book.

Checked Bags + Carry-ons
Whenever possible, check your luggage. The last thing you want to do is haul luggage AND a baby. There may be a fee associated with it, but having your hands available to attend to your infant is so crucial. I also recommend that any luggage have wheels for easy transportation.

You will need to have one carry-on bag, and what you decide to pack in it will be critical for your traveling experience. Pack your carry-on bag in preparation for any unexpected delays, like a five-hour or overnight flight delay. Make sure your carry-on has enough food, diapers, bottles, etc. to last a full day at the airport. Anticipate your child’s needs by packing a small toy to entertain a fussy baby and a backup outfit in case he or she has an accident.

Airlines may differ a bit, but almost all of them allow you two carry-on items. When traveling with an infant, you can additionally check a car seat and stroller at the gate. Place them inside a bag to prevent getting dirty, wet, or scratched during storage.

Tips for Traveling with an Infant | Mariana sleeps in an extra seat on the flight.

Traveling Day
Traveling with an infant will require extra time—both in getting ready to leave your house and to get to your gate at the airport.

Identification
A birth certificate is required when traveling with an infant. Make sure you have it on hand when checking in. A lap-traveling infant requires his or her own boarding pass that must be printed out at the airport, so make time for that.

Security Checkpoints
According to TSA, infants must be taken out of their baby carriers before going through the X-ray machine. Strollers and carriers go through the x-ray machine if you did not check them.

When carrying water for formula and/or breast milk, prepare for additional inspection at security. There are no specific limits on how many ounces of liquid you can carry, but security may check to verify that it is a reasonable amount based on your travel days. Security may also run the liquids through a test to confirm it is safe.

Tips for Traveling with an Infant | Mariana chews on a book on the flight.

On the Plane
One of the best tips I received from another traveling mom was to choose a seat (if that is an option for you) next to a fellow parent. Your baby may get fussy and cry during the flight, and the attitude of the person sitting next to you can make a big difference in getting through those challenges.

The change in air pressure during take off and landing can be unpleasant for a child. It is recommended to have him or her sucking on a pacifier, bottle, or nursing during that time to ease any discomfort. I set aside some milk to bottle feed my baby during these times and it worked just fine.

Keep your baby entertained and feeling secure! I had a handful of small toys that my baby enjoys playing with. I also had a couple of blankets to spread on a seat for her to sit and lay down on (I was lucky that there was an empty seat next to me). Reading to her also helped to keep her calm. I made sure I attended to all her needs and even rocked her in my arms to fall asleep. Patience to any challenges helped to keep everything under control.

Traveling with an infant can be stressful, but with good planning can be quite enjoyable. My first experience with my baby went so well that I’m excited for visiting family again during the holidays. Mariana was the star of the flight because of her good behavior and I can see her becoming a traveling pro herself in no time!

What tips do you have for traveling with an infant? Share them in the comments below.

Tags :  infantbabyphysical
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7 Cultural Winter Festivities to Explore

December 17, 2014

By Amelia Orozco

7 Cultural Winter Festivities to Explore | A dreidel, star piñata, a moon and snowflake, three crowns and a wrapped gift, a red lantern, and a Christmas tree

Stretch the holidays over those long winter days by engaging your son or daughter in activities that honor multicultural traditions. Although your family’s customs are part of his or her identity, teaching your child to recognize different cultures instills a sense of community that he or she will carry on for years to come. It is also an excellent opportunity to touch on some fundamental principles such as being thankful, cherishing family time, and giving to others.

Although it is not possible to honor all traditions, it is possible to learn about the different customs and teach children to respect how others may celebrate certain holidays. Following is a brief list and a short, although not thorough, explanation of the basic ideas and aspects of each holiday.

Hanukkah
Hanukkah, which means “dedication” in Hebrew is also known as the Festival of Lights. The holiday lasts for eight days on the Hebrew calendar. In 2014, Hanukkah will begin on the evening of December 16, ending before the evening of December 24. This Jewish holiday is in remembrance of the rededication of the Temple according to religious tradition. The celebration includes singing carols around the menorah, which is a special candleholder for eight candles. One candle is lit each day of Hanukkah. Children play with a dreidel, a spinning top, and are given gelt, which are chocolate coins covered in shiny gold paper. Traditional Hanukkah menu items are latkes (potato pancakes), sufganiyot (jelly-filled doughnuts), and as a main course, brisket.

Las Posadas
Las Posadas is a traditional Latin American celebration. Many Hispanic communities in the United States celebrate Las Posadas. The festivities last nine days, from December 16 to December 24. The nine days represent the nine months the Virgin Mary carried Jesus in her womb. Each evening, a home hosts a celebration where families get together to sing songs and eat together. Children receive bags of treats such as peanuts, cookies, and candies. The nightly procession is a reenactment of Mary and Joseph looking for shelter in the days leading up to Christ’s birth. On the final night, children break star-shaped piñatas, and everyone enjoys traditional foods such as tamales, warm punch, or hot chocolate.

Christmas
Christmas is the Christian tradition of celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ. Families who celebrate this holiday will usually set up a Nativity scene in their home. This consists of figurines depicting Christ’s birth in a manger, with Mary, Joseph, the angels, and the three kings. A Christmas tree is also part of the celebration, with ornaments and lights. Each family has a different tradition for Christmas breakfast or dinner, but most children will make a list for Santa Claus and open gifts on Christmas morning. Reconnecting with family and giving to others are central themes throughout the Christmas season.

Winter Solstice
Winter Solstice, also known as Yule, is celebrated on the first day of winter, December 21. It is also the shortest day of the year. Winter Solstice has been celebrated all over the world for centuries, from Peru to Poland. And each culture has different practices for their tradition. Overall, the purpose of the festivities is the celebration of light and life. Festivals are held with feasting, dancing, and singing. A bonfire is usually part of the celebration. Today, many of the aspects of this pagan, midwinter festival have been enveloped into Christmas.

Kwanzaa
Kwanzaa is celebrated from December 26 through January 1. It is a holiday that reconnects people with family, community, and their African-American culture. During this time, it’s important to reinforce values and emphasize the spirit of unity, responsibility, and collaborative work. There are three colors associated with the holiday, each with a symbolic meaning: black represents the people; red represents the struggles; and green symbolizes the future and the hope that sustains it. Those who celebrate Kwanzaa know it is important not to mix its customs with other celebrations. Gatherings are celebrated with colorful African art, fresh fruit and vegetables, and exchanging meaningful gifts, which are usually hand-made to encourage creativity.

Three Kings Day
Three Kings Day, or the Epiphany as it is known by the Christian church calendar, is celebrated on January 6. This holiday is the remembrance of the arrival of the three kings who greeted Jesus Christ at his birth. Each wise man or king, Melchor, Gaspar, and Balthazar, came bearing gifts. Likewise, in today’s tradition throughout Latin America, Spain, and in some Latino communities in the United States, children await this day to receive gifts. According to tradition, gifts were left inside children’s shoes. Nowadays, it is more common to find them under the Christmas tree. A traditional food for this holiday is the Rosca de Reyes, which is bread in the shape of a wreath decorated with dried fruits and nuts, made especially for this holiday.

Chinese New Year
Each family celebrates Chinese New Year or Spring Festival differently, but essentially the element of good fortune is fundamental. We celebrate the end of the old and the beginning of the New Year by praying for good fortune and participating in activities that bring good luck.

The next Chinese New Year will begin on February 19, 2015, and will last for about two weeks. It is traditional to have a New Year’s Eve dinner, which is a great time for a family reunion. Families cast away bad luck with fireworks and welcome good luck by cleaning their houses and decorating them with red lanterns. The festival also entails parades with dragon and lion dances. Gifts are exchanged, usually in red packages for good luck.

Remember, making the most of your time with your son or daughter is most paramount, whether you celebrate these traditions or not. The winter months, when children may spend more time indoors, is a great time to learn about these cultural celebrations and just spend time together.



Amelia Orozco is the senior editor and writer at the Chicago Zoological Society/Brookfield Zoo and a community and entertainment reporter for TeleGuía Chicago and Extra Newspaper. A mother of three, Amelia also maintains an active role in her community and church by working with youth and promoting education and diversity through her writing and volunteer efforts.

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5 Ways to Bring Back Your Child’s Sleep Routine

December 16, 2014

By Noralba Martinez

5 Ways to Bring Back Your Child’s Sleep Routine | A boy sleeps while tucked into his bed.

The holidays are an exciting time for adults and kids. Families go out-of-town to visit relatives, host visitors, go on vacation, or simply take time to stay home to relax. With so much going on during the holidays, it’s hard to keep a consistent schedule, let alone a consistent sleep routine. But don’t stress if your child wants to stay up a little late to catch up with family over school break. Here are some tips to help your child get back into his or her sleep routine before school starts up again in January.

Keep the Bedtime Routine.
Stick to a pre-bedtime routine throughout the holidays, like taking a bath, putting on PJ’s, and reading a book. This helps your child predict what's next and know that there will be no negotiation. 

Slowly Return to A Set Bedtime.
As you get closer to returning to school, slowly start moving up bedtime. Try moving it up by 15 to 30 minutes each night the week before school starts, and keep the normal school night bedtime for at least the weekend before school starts again.

Unplug.
Begin turning off all media devices one hour prior to your child’s bedtime routine. It will help him or her wind down and signal that it’s almost bedtime.

Turn Down the Lights.
Dim lights around the home and play classical music or white noise sounds. Use a dim lamp or night-light to promote security.


Bedtime Snacks.
Offer honey or cheese and crackers as a last snack (this combination has been proven to be effective to bring on sleep.) For more food ideas that help bring on sleep, see this article.

Above all, remember that you are the role model for all habits and routines. According to the CDC, your toddler should be sleeping 11-12 hours a day, while your school-aged child should sleep at least 10 hours a day. Model positive behavior for your child by valuing sleep, too. Try these tips with your child and you’ll both feel more rested in no time.

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DIY: Shrinky Dink Repurposed Plastic Ornaments + Jewelry

December 11, 2014

By Judy Razo

DIY: Shrinky Dink Repurposed Plastic Ornaments + Jewelry | 4 shrinky dink ornaments, a snowman, a Christmas tree, a red and green wheel, and a heart with the words "Emma's 1st Christmas."

As the holidays approach, the concept of giving and receiving gifts piques your children’s interests. Creating gifts together is a great way to teach your children the concept of giving—they create something they’re proud of and then give it away for the sake of someone else’s joy. Try this easy DIY activity with your children to make heartfelt, homemade gifts.

Here’s what you need:

  • #6 clear plastics
  • Hole-puncher
  • Scissors (An adult should handle these. Practice scissor safety.)
  • Permanent markers
  • Yarn, string, or ribbon
  • Aluminum foil
  • Tongs

Here’s what you do:

Gather all of your materials. Many plastic to-go boxes, cups, and container lids are made of number 6 plastic. Ask your children to search for usable materials by locating the recycling arrows on a plastic item and checking for the number 6 inside those arrows.

DIY: Shrinky Dink Repurposed Plastic Ornaments + Jewelry | Plastic containers, cups, lids, and tongs, scissors, a hole-punch, markers, ribbon, and foil.

Place the oven rack in the lowest position and preheat your oven to 350°F. Take the foil paper and create a platter by bending the four sides up. Ask your children to help you. This is also an opportunity to ask them what shape the foil is, how many sides it has, and even measure it with a ruler. When you’re done making the platter, set it aside.

DIY: Shrinky Dink Repurposed Plastic Ornaments + Jewelry | A foil platter.

Depending on the age of your children, either cut the plastic into the shape they desire or let them cut it. To start off, keep your shapes basic, such as circles, squares, hearts, stars, ovals, and rectangles. Once you get the hang of it, you can get creative and cut the plastic into more non-traditional shapes. Remember that the shape is going to shrink to about one third of its size, so cut it oversized.

DIY: Shrinky Dink Repurposed Plastic Ornaments + Jewelry | Cut plastic in the shape of a heart.

Next, your children can decorate the plastic shapes with permanent markers. They can draw free-hand or trace their favorite designs or images. Placing a sheet of paper underneath the shape will help your children see their artwork better and will also help prevent that permanent marker from getting on your table.

DIY: Shrinky Dink Repurposed Plastic Ornaments + Jewelry | The colored plastic shapes sit on the table.

Discuss with your children how to string the gift, be it a necklace, bracelet, or ornament. Then take the hole-puncher and punch a hole in the place where your children want the string or yarn to go. Do not add the string yet.

Let your children place the plastic shapes onto the foil platter.

DIY: Shrinky Dink Repurposed Plastic Ornaments + Jewelry | The plastic shapes on the foil platter.

Then place the tray on the lowest rack in the oven. Turn the oven light on so your children can see the magic happening. It only takes about two to four minutes for the plastic shape to shrink and be ready, so keep an eye on it. Ask your children to track the time with you.

DIY: Shrinky Dink Repurposed Plastic Ornaments + Jewelry | The foil platter, with the plastic shapes on it, is on the lowest rack in the oven.

Using the tongs, remove the foil platter from the oven. After allowing the Shrinky Dinks to cool, add the string, yarn, or ribbon to the hole you made earlier. Now it’s time to wrap the gift and give it to the recipient.

DIY: Shrinky Dink Repurposed Plastic Ornaments + Jewelry | The snowman Shrinky dink.

In addition to spending time together and learning about giving, this is also an opportunity to ask questions that can support your children’s learning. They can measure, tell time, count, name shapes and colors, read instructions, and more. This activity shows your children that learning is not only useful but also fun.

Lastly, remember to let your inner child come out and play. Be as creative and silly as your heart desires. The holidays are a time for joy, and there is great joy in making fun and loving memories with your children.

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Quick + Healthy Toddler Dinners – Recipe Included

December 10, 2014

By Jennifer Eckert

Quick + Healthy Toddler Dinners – Recipe Included | Fruits and vegetables on forks.

If you are a working parent like me, the last thing you want to do when you get home from work is cook an elaborate dinner. And if you are a working parent with a child like my son, you need to have dinner ready ASAP to avoid a total meltdown (him, not me). In the limited time between daycare pickup and bed time, it can be tempting to just zip through the drive-thru for some chicken nuggets or pick up a sandwich at the nearest sub shop. While this is fine for an occasional treat, it might not be the best way to introduce healthy food habits to your child (never mind the effect it has on your wallet).

Here are a few tips and tricks for getting a healthy, balanced meal on the table for your demanding toddler in no time:

Proteins
The key to cooking meat is to plan ahead. Buy a rotisserie chicken at the grocery store and carve it into toddler-sized portions. It will keep in the refrigerator for three to four days or two to six months in the freezer. You could also buy some ground sirloin and form it into toddler-sized hamburger patties that you can quickly cook on an indoor grill. Uncooked patties can be kept in the refrigerator for up to two days and in the freezer for up to four months. Cooked patties will keep for three to four days in the refrigerator and up to four months in the freezer. (Check out FoodSafety.gov for additional information on food storage.)

Veggies
Your freezer can also be your best friend when it comes to vegetables. Buy bags of frozen peas, carrots, corn, or beans and heat in the microwave. Many brands offer “steam in the bag” packaging for convenience. Leftovers will keep in the refrigerator for three to four days, so you can use the entire bag over the course of the week. Alternatively, you could buy a simple microwaveable steamer at any kitchenware store and use it to steam individual portions of fresh or frozen veggies in half the time it takes to steam them on the stove.

Grains and starches
The main trick here is, again, to plan ahead. Roast and mash one to two sweet potatoes on Sunday night, and you have three to four servings that you can reheat during the week. Cook an adult-sized serving of whole-wheat pasta or brown rice and toss with some olive oil and Parmesan cheese. This will be enough for three to four toddler-sized servings. For an extra dose of veggies with your starch, try Dr. Praeger’s pancakes (available in the frozen aisle at most large supermarkets)—an absolute favorite of my son’s!

Mom and dad’s leftovers
Finally, if you eat dinner after your toddler goes to bed, simply make extra of whatever you’re having and reheat it for your child the next day. The following recipe is a staple in my household and is enjoyed by grown-ups and kids alike:

Pasta Dish
(serves two adults with leftovers for two to three toddler meals)

8 oz. whole grain penne or rotini pasta

1 Tbsp. olive oil

2 red bell peppers, chopped

1 tsp. Italian seasoning

1 9–12 oz. package sun-dried tomato & basil chicken sausage links, sliced and then cut in half (good brands are Sausages by Amylu or Trader Joe’s)

¼ c. grated Parmesan cheese

Cook pasta according to package directions (eliminating salt and fat). Drain. While pasta cooks, heat olive oil in a large sauté pan. Add peppers and Italian seasoning and sauté for five minutes, until peppers begin to soften. Add chicken sausage and cook until lightly browned. Stir in the drained pasta and Parmesan cheese. Enjoy!



Jennifer Eckert is a supervising editor at National Geographic Learning and a freelance writer. She lives in Chicago with her husband, son, and three cats.

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