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5 Ways to Make Flying with Kids Easier

March 5, 2015

By Amanda Alpert Knight

5 Ways to Make Flying with Kids Easier | 5 tips that help traveling with kids on a plane easier for all involved, from the parents to the kids to the other passengers. | A young girl sits on a plane and sticks her tongue out.

Flying with kids. Many of us get anxious just thinking about it. As parents we start asking the what-ifs, which change depending on the age of our children:

  • What if I run out of formula?
  • What if my baby cries and the other passengers hate me?
  • What if my baby has explosive diarrhea on the flight?
  • What if my toddler won’t stop kicking the seat in front of him?
  • What if my toddler screams for the entire flight?

The list goes on and on.

I’ve flown many times with my sons, now ages 5 and 7, throughout their lives. From short flights to long ones to overseas, I’ve had good experiences and some that I’d rather forget, but overall I would say that flying has been manageable with them at all ages. Having just returned from a flight with them last night, I reflected on these experiences and stories I have heard from other parents to put together five tips that will make flying with kids easier.

  1. Don’t try the Benadryl trick. I’ve never done it and from every story I have heard, it seems to backfire. While some people think Benadryl will calm children down, the odds of it backfiring and making them more hyper is far too great.
  2. Pack healthy snacks for the plane. Too much candy and sugar will also make the kids more hyper. Instead, try pretzels, raisins, nuts (if they aren’t allergic), and dried fruits.
  3. Play a game with toys. One of my favorite tricks on the plane is the 15 Minute Game: every 15 minutes that the child behaves, I pull out a new toy. Before the trip, I go to a dollar store and stock up on inexpensive toys. Sometimes I will even wrap them for added fun. Then every 15 minutes I give them something new. It can keep them occupied for nearly the entire flight.
  4. Remember the electronic devices. Of course, Ipads, video games, and other electronic devices are another way to pass the time and keep the kids out of trouble.
  5. Bring extra clothes. No matter the age of the child, always pack an extra set of clothes. You never know when you might need it. I learned that the hard way.

Safe travels and enjoy! And don’t worry too much about those around you—we were all kids at some point, so they will hopefully understand. Do you have any tips to share for flying with kids? Tell me in the comments below.


How to Transition a Co-sleeper

February 26, 2015

By Noralba Martinez

How to Transition a Co-sleeper | 5 steps that will help you transition from co-sleeping to your child sleeping in their own bed. | Two parents smile and cuddle with their daughter in bed.

There are many developmental milestones and transitioning events your child will experience in his or her childhood. Several are major milestones: crawling, walking, running. Others will seem minor: picking up a raisin, throwing a ball, scribbling. If you are transitioning your baby to a sippy cup or your toddler to underwear, then you know how hard it can be to help your child adjust to the necessary change. Now imagine if you have been co-sleeping and have decided it is time for your child to sleep on his or her own. What do you do? How will you decide when and how? I want to help you make your child’s transitioning easier.

The hardest job is to decide when, which is a question you need to answer on your own. When you have concluded it is time, I want to assist you in the process of transitioning. Here are some things to keep in mind during this major event: 

  • Timing is Important. Begin this event when you can afford some sleepless nights. Sleeping alone and in his or her own bed is new to your child and it’s common for him or her to protest the change by crying. Crying or whining may be the only way your child can express dislike for the difference in sleeping arrangements. You both can get through it, though.

    Give yourself the time to make this happen without it affecting your ability to function. Remember that your child can only handle one major event at a time. Do not decide to stop co-sleeping if your child is currently experiencing another change. This will be stressful for him or her and may make the co-sleeping transition more difficult.
  • Consistency. Remember that consistency is the key to success with everything. When you decide it is time to stop co-sleeping, make that the end. Do not give in and make co-sleeping an activity you do when it is convenient for you, as it will confuse your child. This is new for him or her, so it might get challenging before you see the progress.
  • Lovey. Try to ease the emotional stress on your child related to being apart from you at bedtime. Some children who are transitioning into their own beds respond better when given a special blanket or toy. We call that special item a “lovey.” You don’t need to spend a lot of money on it; I recommend cutting an old t-shirt into a small blanket. The old t-shirt is perfect because it is soft, small, and smells like you. The new lovey will give your child some security and safety as it reminds him or her of you.
  • Heads Up. Like with everything we do as parents, there are things we prepare for without including our children in that planning. Give your child enough notice before the change begins. Talk about the independence and pros that come with sleeping on your own to motivate your child before the change. Help foster the change by using positive words and emotions.
  • Small Steps. If your child has difficulty adjusting to change, make this a gradual event. Begin by moving your child’s bed into your room to provide security. As your child starts sleeping through the night regularly in his or her bed, move it back into his or her bedroom.

Remember, you can do this! It just takes a little bit of planning, patience, and consistency.


7 Indoor Activities for Kids

January 29, 2015

By Jessica Vician

7 Indoor Activities for Kids | Three kids work on a puzzle together.

In most states throughout the country, winter means chilly temperatures and few opportunities for kids to get all of their energy out since they’re stuck inside. Here are seven indoor activities that should challenge your children’s bodies, minds, and imaginations, which will hopefully wipe them out in time for bedtime.

  1. Build an indoor maze or fort.
    Use pillows, blankets, cardboard boxes, sticks or rulers—anything goes when building a maze or a fort. This activity will challenge your child’s imagination and should provide hours of fun, from building it to playing in it. If your child is younger, supervise and help him or her for safety reasons, but most elementary school kids will want to do this activity independently.
  2. Play hot lava.
    This was one of my favorite games when I was young. Place pillows on the floor and try to get from one couch to the next by only hopping from pillow to pillow. If you slip off, you’re in the hot lava! This game gets kids riled up and expends a lot of energy, and the stories they might imagine while pretending the floor is made up of hot lava will amaze you.
  3. Play crab soccer.
    While sitting on the floor, put your hands behind your back and use your arms and legs to lift your bottom up. Then crawl around like a crab. Up the exercise by introducing a ball safe for indoor play. Kick it around and play soccer while crawling like a crab. You’ll use muscles you didn’t know you had and everyone will be laughing at how silly you all look.
  4. Organize a scavenger hunt.
    Start with one clue that leads to another, and scatter those clues throughout the house for a fun scavenger hunt. Once you’ve shown your kids how it’s done, let them organize one for you. Send their brains into overdrive and challenge their minds.
  5. Put on a play.
    Encourage your kids to put on a play with friends. Depending on their imaginations, they might write the script themselves or you can print short scripts here. There are many roles to fill, including director, actor/actress, ushers, and more, so even the shy ones can participate.
  6. Construct a puzzle.
    I would recommend trying a puzzle that is just above the age-level of your children. That will ensure it’s challenging enough to keep them interested for a while. Talk to them about how to strategically start the puzzle. Does it help to put all the edges in one pile? Does it help to build the frame first? Why or why not?
  7. Indoor hopscotch.
    In a hallway or other open space, write the numbers on construction paper and tape the papers to the floor. Start hopping away!

What are your kids’ favorite indoor activities to get through the winter? Tell me in the comments below and share a photo with us on Facebook or Twitter with #YOUParent.


Parenting Around the World

January 14, 2015

By Nikki Cecala

Parenting Around the World | Three children smile for the camera in front of fields in Vietnam.

As a parent, have you ever done something and later thought, I wonder if other parents do this? If so, you are certainly not alone. I am an avid Google user, especially now that I’m a parent (who isn’t, right?). I’m constantly searching for insights, opinions, myths, experiences, etc. regarding parenting. When I struggled with getting my 19-month-old son to sleep in his crib, I searched everything from bedtime routines to letting the baby cry it out. He would hyperventilate so badly—to the point of throwing up—until I picked him up.

After three weeks, I decided to end the torture for the both of us. But it got me thinking, why is co-sleeping frowned upon in America? Can it really be that bad for the child? I searched the affects it had on children into adulthood and found that some countries recommend co-sleeping. For example, Swedish parents believe that children should have access to their parents’ bodies for comfort and should be allowed to sleep in their parents’ beds. It is similar in India, as children sleep with their parents until they are six or seven years old.

I felt a little better knowing I wasn’t the only mother in the world who co-slept, and took my research further to see how other countries around the world parent differently from us in the U.S.

Potty Training
I was impressed by this one. Vietnamese parents have their children potty trained by nine months! In America, three years old is average. Their secret? They use the sound of a whistle. When the parents recognize that their child is urinating, they make a whistling sound so the baby can associate the whistle with peeing. Can you imagine being diaper-free before the age of one? Please hold while I daydream for a moment of a potty-trained baby.

Japanese parents encourage independence by letting their children venture around the neighborhood, and some even take public transportation by themselves. It is common to let children as young as four years old run errands for their parents and take the trains or buses while doing so.

In France, children aren’t given special baby foods. Rather, they eat just as adults do. There is also no snacking, as mealtimes are enforced.

Spanish families let their children stay up late in order to foster their social skills and engage with family throughout the evening. If there’s a family party, the kiddies are staying up with the adults!

Norwegians believe in daycare or barnehage (children’s garden) as early as one year old. Why? Because they strongly believe that fresh air is good for the children and it encourages parents to go back to work.

What do you think about these parenting styles? Are you inspired to bring a few of these into your household? Tell me in the comments below. And next month, I will talk about American parenting styles that impress other countries.


Quick + Healthy Toddler Breakfasts

January 7, 2015

By Jennifer Eckert

Quick + Healthy Toddler Breakfasts | forks hold up an orange slice, cherry, tomato, and strawberry

Last month I wrote about preparing nutritious toddler dinners after a long and busy workday. At the other end of the spectrum, a healthy breakfast is just as important. But again, if you’re a working parent like me, you need to find something quick and easy before you dash out the door. Here are some (toddler-approved) ideas that can be prepared in minutes and combined to form a wholesome breakfast:

Protein. Frozen fully-cooked turkey or veggie sausage patties are both good options. They can be heated in the microwave in about 45 seconds and cut up into toddler-sized bites. (Note: Some of the veggie sausage I’ve tried is truly terrible. However, Morningstar Farms makes a sausage patty that both my son and I find quite delicious.) A sliced, hardboiled egg is another good source of protein. Simply boil a few on Sunday night to grab and go on weekday mornings. (Hardboiled eggs will keep for up to one week in the refrigerator.)

Whole grains. The key here is to look for sources of whole grains that contain at least three grams of fiber and fewer than six grams of sugar per serving. Some quick and easy options include whole wheat frozen waffles (such as Kellogg’s Eggo Nutri-Grain Whole Wheat waffles), whole grain English muffins (such as Thomas’ Light Multi-Grain English muffins), and instant oatmeal. (It might be difficult to find flavored instant oatmeal that meets the sugar requirement. If so, just buy the plain packets and stir in some fruit to add sweetness.)

Dairy. For breakfast, yogurt and milk are good options. Check with your pediatrician to see what type of milk your toddler should be drinking. For example, once my son turned two, our pediatrician recommended that we switch from whole to skim milk. With regards to yogurt, look for low-fat plain Greek yogurt (flavored yogurt usually has way too much added sugar) and sweeten with fruit or a bit of honey.

Fruit. Fruit is great on its own or mixed with hot cereal or yogurt to add sweetness. Berries are always a good option because they provide additional fiber. Go for fresh when they’re in season and frozen when they’re not. Another fresh option for the fruit-barren winter months are clementine/mandarin oranges (marketed in the U.S. as Halos or Cuties).

Choose one option from each of the categories above and you can be sure your toddler starts the day with enough fuel to get him or her through a busy morning.

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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