Tech Tuesday: I *heart* Common sense media

I first learned about Common Sense Media when my creative and cool mom friend, Jeanine, invited our group of mom friends to take our then three-year olds to a questionable matinee. My first instinct was that if Jeanine and Pepper were going, it must be good. But then another mom friend, Jennifer, said she heard that it was too scary and bailed out. Then again, another Jennifer I knew already took her daughter (barely 4). So, which Jennifer is a mom like me supposed to believe?!

That’s when my husband clued me into Common Sense Media for trying to make these kind of decisions. Its perfect when trying to figure out whether Nemo is too scary (yes, it is for us), Desperaux too tragic (yes, it is for us), or Dora too sophisticated (no, but it drives me bonkers so we opt out) for our three-year old.

Here’s a terrific example from my real-world: this Cars vs Cars 2 smackdown gives it to you straight. Yes, I think that Cars 2 was no movie for children, but maybe you want to hear from other parents, educators, and children before deciding for your family. At the very least, you can be armed with which scenes to fast-forward and what topics might come up in conversation. Common sense media does all that for you with these comparison charts and detailed reviews.

Common Sense Media review of Cars movie

VS.

Common Sense Media review of Cars 2 movie

Do a quick search on any TV show or movie that you’re thinking of plopping your kid in front of and find out the quick and dirty details without having to preview everything first. I mean, are you really going to go to all these movies yourself first?!! Go on, test it out and let me know what you think.

What shows does your kid love right now? Anything that you thought was fine but totally just failed the commonsensemedia.org challenge?

Related post: Find out what my little ones were watching at 5:30 on weekdays with my confessional TV round-up of shows for my two boys.

5 tips for dealing with a toddler who won’t stay in bed

Having just hosted my 20-month old nephew on an overnight visit, I am reminded that toddlers can pop out of bed (even leaving the room!) without the skills to go back to sleep. I asked toddler sleep expert, Nicole, to weigh in on the little kid that won’t stay in his bed at night. Nicole Johnson is the Lead Baby Sleep Consultant and owner of The Baby Sleep Site and she shares her ideas on this jack-in-the-box behavior below.

How to keep your toddler in his bed at nightIf you’ve transitioned a toddler from a crib to a big kid bed, then you know that lots of fun stuff comes with that transition. New sheets! New bed! Not to mention the fact that it’s a classic “big boy” or “big girl” milestone.

But here’s what they don’t tell you about that big kid bed: your big kid can climb right out. And that can make for a whole new set of bedtime problems – namely, what we at The Baby Sleep Site call The Jack-in-the-Box Syndrome. For some families, jack-in-the-box behavior is a short-lived phenomenon. Other parents, however, spend months – even years! – dealing with a jack-in-the-box child.

So, why do our little ones spring out of bed like tiny wind-up toys? And most importantly, what can we parents do to keep them firmly tucked in bed?

The Jack-In-The-Box Syndrome (or, Why Your Toddler Won’t Stay In Bed)

If you think about it, the jack-in-the-box “dance” that many parents and toddlers/preschoolers do makes perfect sense, from a child’s perspective. For your toddler, bedtime is relatively dull. She knows that mom and dad are no doubt partying hard in the living room – so why wouldn’t she want to join them?

And parents often unwittingly encourage jack-in-the-box behavior by their responses to the behavior. If your toddler gets another story, or an extra bedtime snuggle, or even a little bit of extra attention, every time he gets up, then he has incentive to keep doing it.

Of course, we have to remember that child development plays into this, too. Many toddlers go through a few bouts of separation anxiety (namely during the 18-month sleep regression and the 2-year sleep regression). Some toddlers also struggle mightily with nightmares and night terrors

5 Tips to help your little one stay in bed

So how can you help your jack-in-the-box toddler actually stay put at bedtime? Try these 5 strategies tonight:

1. Assess the Schedule:
Sometimes, toddlers hop out of bed every 10 seconds simply because they’re not tired. So take a look at your toddler’s schedule – is bedtime too early? If your toddler still takes an afternoon nap, then bedtime shouldn’t be happening before 7 or 8 p.m. And speaking of naps – how close is that nap to bedtime? Your toddler needs at least 5 hours of wake time between the end of the afternoon nap and bedtime.

However, the reverse is also true – sometimes, toddlers are sleepless at night because they’re actually overtired. If your toddler is done napping, or is in the midst of a nap transition, from one nap to none, you’ll need to do an earlier bedtime – aim for 7 p.m. or so.

2. Institute a strong bedtime routine:
Toddlers thrive on routine – particularly sleep routines. A strong, consistent bedtime routine will do wonders for helping your toddler understand that it’s time to settle in and go to sleep. Be sure that your routine isn’t too long (15-30 minutes is perfectly sufficient) and that it’s not too stimulating (no tickle-fights before bed!). Also make sure that your routine is, you know…routine! You need to consistently do the same thing each night in order for it to become routine for your toddler.

3. Try a sticker chart:
It’s incredible what a toddler will do for a sticker! If bedtime drama and jack-in-the-box behavior is an issue in your home, try a sticker chart. Maybe your toddler gets to put a sticker on the chart before bed if she is cooperative during the bedtime routine, and then another sticker on the chart before breakfast if she stays in bed all night long.

4. Consider using the door as an immediate consequence:
Sometimes, your toddler’s jack-in-the-box behavior will be due to real anxiety or perhaps a nightmare; in those cases, you’ll obviously want to comfort your toddler and help him feel safe. However, more often, repeated jack-in-the-box behavior is more of a discipline issue. For this reason, some families find it helpful to respond with consequences. Remember, to be effective, the consequences of your toddler’s behavior need to be immediate – threatening ‘no TV tomorrow’ after your toddler gets out of bed for the fifteenth time isn’t effective, since the consequence is delayed.

Instead, some parents use the bedroom door as a sort of consequence – mom or dad may leave the bedroom door open 90 degrees, on the condition that their toddler stays in bed. When toddler gets up, the bedroom door closes to 45 degrees. If toddler gets up again, the bedroom door is closed all the way for 1 or 2 minutes, at which point the whole process starts all over again. (Note that this tip isn’t for everyone; some parents feel this is too harsh, and not all toddlers respond well. Use your judgment in determining if this would work for your toddler.)

5. Employ the Silent Return to Bed:
Even if you tweak your toddler’s schedule, implement a great bedtime routine, and provide incentives in the form of stickers to encourage your toddler to stay in bed, you will no doubt have some jack-in-the-box moments here and there. This is just to be expected – toddlers love to test boundaries, after all! In this case, we recommend that you try the ‘Silent Return to Bed’ – that is, when your toddler wanders out of his room, silently walk him back, tuck him in, and leave. You want these interactions to be as boring as possible – no threatening, no bargaining, no discussing. This will help discourage your toddler from repeat attempts to engage with you by getting out of bed. We find that if parents are consistent in doing this, it can significantly reduce jack-in-the-box behavior relatively quickly.

Finally, keep in mind that jack-in-the-box behavior can be a sign of a larger sleep problem. If your small person pops out of bed constantly, wakes up multiple times per night, doesn’t nap well, and is up at the crack of dawn, you most likely need to help your toddler learn to fall asleep (and stay asleep) independently.

Parents from all over the world visit The Baby Sleep Site each month to find solutions for their children’s sleep problems. Visit today, and download a copy of our free guide,5 Ways To Help Your Child Sleep Through The Night. You CAN reclaim your sleep…and we can help!

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Nicole Johnson is a married mother of two wonderful boys and owner of The Baby Sleep Site®. When her eldest son was born, he had a lot of sleep problems – he would wake every one or two hours, all night long! She got busy and thoroughly researched literature and scientific reports until she became an expert in sleep methods, scheduling routines, baby developmental needs, and more. She overcame her son’s sleeping issues in a way that matched her own parenting style, and knew it was her mission to help other tired parents “find their child’s sleep”. If you have your own sleep issues, maybe she can help you, too.

Activity #109: Enroll for lessons

Sign up for a fun class | Stefania takes hip hop

If any of your hobbies are languishing, it is time to rev them back up again. You’ll be so glad you did.

I have loved taking pottery classes as a new mom but don’t have any pictures because my hands were too covered in goo! We know another rookie mom who took a painting class while her husband put the baby to bed during cry-it-out sleep training. Now, that’s money well spent!

Stefania (above) is about to take Lee Pazmino’s Hip-Hop class at Uforia Studios in Palo Alto above. Can you find a weekly class (art, wine appreciation, photography, cooking, dance, Italian lessons) to get your creative juices flowing again?  Committing to our own fun and enrichment can easily fall to the bottom of the to-do list; having a class that you’ve paid for can bump it back to the top.

What lessons are you not taking that you’d like to start? 

Inspired by an activity in The Rookie Mom’s Handbook: 250 Activities to Do With (or Without!) Your Baby (on kindle).

[Photo by Stefania Pomponi. All rights reserved]

Activity #30: Stumble into a family-friendly pub

 

Today’s challenge, your thirtieth, is to discover a family-friendly pub in your area and test it out. Yes, we tried this a few times. Sure, baby Julian made a frat boy of himself and booted the first time. Nobody cared!

#rookiemoms maternity leave challenge: stumble into a family-friendly pub with your babyYou don’t have to compromise on ambiance every time you go out for dinner with your baby. You want a beer after work (or after spending the day alone together), and your baby wants to bang spoons on the table. No problem.

Bars that serve food also service babies. Many of them have noise levels that will enable your family to blend right in. So don’t be afraid: Go to a sports bar or an Irish pub. Pull up a high chair and get rowdy with the rest of the crowd.

rookie moms maternity leave challenges

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Excerpted from The Rookie Mom’s Handbook. Photo from Greg Neate via flickr.

Sawyer’s third birthday party: Bubbles on a budget

I recently learned that there are professional bubble-blowing entertainers that you can hire to make bubbles as big as a car and enclose party guests in soapy orbs, but those guys charge $300 for a 45-minute show. Dazzling as that would be, I figured I could save $275 and have nearly as much fun by hosting Sawyer’s third birthday party at our closest playground.

Throw a bubbly bubble party with bubbles

We threw a bubble birthday party, and it was not hard at all. Apparently, I’ve been acquiring bubble tools and solution for years now: when we hauled out all our bubble gear, we didn’t need to buy a thing. If you’re not crazy-insane for bubbles, you may want to purchase a few things or take some time to mix up DIY solution and create your own wicked cool bubble wands (with or without the children depending on your patience).

Activities:

The main attraction is the BUBBLES so kids can play with bubbles, blow bubbles, make funky bubble wands, spill solution, chase bubbles, pop bubbles, try to catch them without popping them.

And when all that gets boring, play at the playground. I love having parties at the park because I just prevented 15 soapy little three- and four-year olds from trampling all over my home looking for the good toys.

Decor:

Bubbles, of course! Set the bubble blower on automatic. Helium balloons also work well for that bubbly feeling – and make great party favors.

My favorite purchased bubble thingies:

  • We love this Gazillion bubble blower and have had it for years. Worth noting: kids and careless adults (ahem, myself included) frequently overfill this little guy so it can be a mess. Put on a picnic table with a paper towel underneath to keep it from vibrating itself to the ground. Use the correct solution or it can get all gunked up. At only $10, I think it might be a fun gift for a bubble-loving child, too. Best automatic bubble blower for the price
  • Wacky wands and tray. For less than $7, this set gets fun-shaped wands in the hands of your guests. You can use the provided bubble solution tray or put out a plastic dishpan for even more suds like we did. Super fun bubble wand assortment
  • Automatic handheld bubble shooters like this Toysmith mini ray gun let little ones just dip and blow lots of bubbles at a time with a motorized fan. I like the reduced frustration for small people. For less than $7, this one looks like an animal head and is well-reviewed.Great little bubble blower for little kids

The thing I wish we had: Beeboo big bubble blower. I swear we had one in the garage but the day I go to build a party around it — poof! — we can’t find it anywhere! For only $13, I woulda got another one if I realized it was missing before the morning of our party.Super cool big bubble blower

Worth mentioning is the bubble stuff I wish poured down the drain rather than use: Whatever you do, do NOT purchase or use Crayola colored bubbles. These things are stainy, messy, and don’t really create colored bubbles.

Food:

At Sawyer’s request, we served bagels (round) and cake for a mid-morning brunch party with a slight Frozen theme. I think you can divert from the theme a bit to serve food the birthday child likes.

Party Favors:

Jumbo bubble wands as party favors (look like light sabers)Why not give out these epic jumbo wands in solution? $18 buys you a dozen. They are cooler than your average bubble kit and look like lightsabers. I nearly provided them to our guests but then I forgot to click “order” on my Amazon cart so, instead, made an accidental anti-materialist statement by not passing out favors.  You can also hand out the balloons if you got the right number.

Sawyer had a blast at his bubble-themed birthday party and I would recommend it to anyone looking for an easy, fun, outdoor party!

Related: 5 tips for a cheaper third birthday party and 10 cheap birthday party tips.

Throw a bubbly bubble party with bubbles

Activity #291: Let your baby ride the family pet

Someday, your baby will be a man.

Or a woman.

When that time comes, your pet will fit into your kid’s lap. But for now, isn’t it super cute and funny to take pictures that really show how teeny weeny your little one is?

Let your baby ride the family pet, within reason of course

Make sure to follow common sense tips for pet safety, but he’s your pet (dog, cat, tarantula, snake, rhino, etc.), so I shouldn’t have to tell you that.

{photo by Maury Boswell, used with permission, all rights reserved}

I bribed my picky eater with toy dinosaurs for 2 weeks

Professionals recommend bribery
Inspired by an NPR/Freakonomics story about bribery in which an economist gives each of his four children the opportunity to earn “a lot of money” for eating fresh fish in Hawaii every day during their vacation, I decided to try to bribe my preschooler with trinkets to try new-to-him foods. After all, the radio story revealed that children were more motivated by prizes than anything else (like knowing that good foods build healthy bodies).

The prize I laid out was a plastic dinosaur for each new-to-him food. For roughly two weeks, I presented him with his dinner along with 1-3 toy dinos for trying eligible foods. He didn’t earn anything for eating applesauce or cheese quesadillas, but he could have for trying a bite of a grape (yes, a GRAPE!!!), which he declined.

I bribed my child to eat healthy food with toy dinosaurs

If I’m totally honest, you should know I wanted to keep this bribery program running long enough to for him to earn 72 dinosaurs, no matter the duration. My friend, the engineer, calculated that he could try seven different foods at ten times each and I was overly optimistic when I purchased them. Instead, I had to cut the experiment off after 14 days because it was such a colossal failure that Whitney was losing her patience with me. Yes, Whitney.

In 14 days, Sawyer earned only four dinosaurs and two of them were total cheats on my part.

Where did we begin?
Sawyer is not your typical picky eater, if there is such a thing. He approaches unfamiliar foods with anxiety and nervousness. If he’s going to try it, he might sit in my lap cowering and retching before he fully tastes the thing and declares that it is not bad.

Got that? He actually likes most foods that he tries, but he is unwilling to try new things. Ugh. So frustrating.

According to family legend, this was never more true than his approach to ice cream. Once we felt like he was old enough for a taste, he refused. He was offered ice cream many times, until he finally — nervously — agreed to open his mouth for it. Of course, he loved it. By the next time we had ice cream, he had already forgotten that it was a positive experience. So he refused it another few times. This usually happens about three times before he remembers that he liked any food in the past.

It is also worth noting that he has two big brothers who willingly eat food like salmon and kale salad with smiles on their faces and we all sit down to family dinner most nights of the week, where everyone eats the same thing.

When Sawyer decided, for the second time, that broccoli was pretty good, we made a video together so I can show him next time he is reluctant. It was his idea.

Did bribing work?
Sawyer was largely unmoved by the dinosaur bribery scheme. He tasted what he was going to try anyway so we did have some slight progress toward trying and liking new foods. He acted like he wanted the toys but never enough to move the needle. The four dinosaurs I gave out were for the following:

  1. a dessert with honey, raisins, and dates — after days of no progress, I wanted to make it easier for him (and me!) to succeed. But c’mon.
  2. homemade cheese pizza — the crust was unusual so I thought he might not eat it, but awarding a bribe for a kid eating cheese pizza is embarrassing.
  3. a cheeseburger — this was HUGE for us, real progress toward a new food. Interestingly, we were not at home when he ate it so I think it is very likely he didn’t have dinosaurs on the brain.
  4. broccoli — and he said he liked it. Notice he’s in my lap because of his anxiety but quickly wanted to make himself a video because broccoli rocks.

Other days, he ate all the foods that were not dino-eligible or Nothing At All. Yes, multiple days in this game, my two-year old went to bed with no dinner.

What did I learn?
Was it a waste of time? Was it fun for me because I am a data geek? Was it nice to get positive feedback from other friends with picky eaters? Yes, yes, and yes.

I enjoyed trying something new on this kid but, all in all, I only passed out four dinosaurs. I don’t think that bribery changed Sawyer’s behavior in a significant way, but Whitney and her family think I need to offer a better prize.

Activity #28: Pack a picnic and roll in the grass

Rookie Moms Challenge 28: Pack a picnic dinner and save time on cleanup

The challenge for the day is to take advantage of a warm afternoon and feed your family outside; it’s time for a real live picnic. It is so much easier to clean up Cheerio crumbs when I can just shake my blanket into the grass and leave the rest to the bugs.

I like to keep it simple by splitting planning duties with friends or just hitting the great outdoors with my lunch and my baby:

  • Pack up the requisite baby gear during a naptime.
  • Pick up your lunch at a favorite deli or take-out joint. In other words, don’t hurt yourself by cooking if you don’t have to. (Another variation is have the pizza come to you)
  • Head to your local park or favorite grassy patch with a blanket.
  • Enjoy the first-rate free entertainment of light dancing through the leaves and cold, prickly grass. Watching other kids and dogs rounds out the fun. Baby Holden could just sit there and watch a caterpillar (like for 30 whole seconds).

rookie moms maternity leave challenges - try all 52

This is your twenty-eighth weekly challenge! Share your successes, attempts and photos with us here or on facebook. Share on instagram with hashtag #rookiemoms for a virtual high-five.

Baby and toddler activities in Myrtle Beach, SC

Activities for babies and toddlers in Myrtle Beach, SC

Stacie from the site formerly known as NewMommyHelp.net offered to share with us a week’s worth of favorite baby and toddler activities in her hometown of Myrtle Beach, SC. Thank you Stacie! As a mom of four little ones, she knows the local hotspots and places to avoid.

She tells us: Myrtle Beach is often referred to as family vacation land. There is way too much to do here.

This guide is designed to give you the best of the tourist attractions, while also pointing you in the direction of some lesser known local favorites. Enjoy the best of the East coast and low country charm of South Carolina!

Monday: Beach Day!
Try going at the beginning of the week, and maybe you’ll like it so much you will come back another day. If you’re looking for a less crowded area, try one of the public beach access points–head North on Ocean Blvd starting at 48th Ave N. Even your littlest one can enjoy the sound of the waves and the constant breeze you’ll find at the beach. Not to mention hours of fun for a toddler digging in the sand and jumping waves as they wash in. We have to drag our children away when it’s time to go home. Have lunch at Ultimate California Pizza (2500 N Kings Hwy).

Tuesday: Library
Baby Storytime at Chapin Memorial Library (10:00 AM). For details call Sue Ellen or Jen at 843 918-1275. They have a large outdoor playground too. Have lunch at Magnolia’s, a much-loved favorite among locals and tourists (2605 N Ocean Blvd.)

[Read more...]

Instagram vs. Real Life for moms

Inspired by a very funny recent post on Bustle, a few of us wanted to share the maternal version of What I instagrammed vs. What was really happening or my entire life is a lie. For better or worse, we could go on all day like this!

What you saw from @mommyprojectSD

Instagram vs real life by @mommyprojectsd
Trend setter. #babystyle #skinnyjeans #sparklyshoes

Beautiful baby girl posing perfectly for a photo showing her cute new bow, sparkly shoes and very trendy skinny jeans. This baby is so stylish and is always dressed in trendy baby gear. What a little model in the making!

What was actually happening
Blake HATES anything on her head or feet so capturing this moment with a huge bow on her head and the sparkly shoes (both) on her feet at the same time was quite the task. During the “shoot” she kept yanking her bow off, kicking her feet and flinging the shoes in every direction. Most of the shots that I was able to capture, her feet were moving so fast that they were just tiny blurs of pink in the photo. I literally took 39 pictures before finally getting this one where she was looking at the camera and you can see her sparkly shoes. Also, during the shoot she had a major blowout and let’s just say, the “skinny jeans” took the brunt of that one. All in all she was in this outfit for about 3 minutes. Isn’t it cute? :)

What Jen ‘grammed
Instagram vs real life by aSplendidMessyLife

Ah, Christmas morning! The Christmas glow and spirit is upon my son. Our Christmas tree is so beautiful that he looks up in wonder as he admires an ornament. Look how well-behaved he is by the tree.

What really happened
Probably about to rip off the one valuable ornament I forgot to put above his little reach. It’s a shot of the back of his head because he was wicked sick the day I took this picture and has snot all over his nose. Nonetheless, I thought I had a nanosecond to try and recreate this picture from Pinterest (as long as I added the right filter). Also, he was in his pyjamas because he wasn’t feeling well, and it wasn’t taken on Christmas morning.

See more Instagram Vs. real life from Jen on My Splendid Messy Life >

What @rookiewhitney showed you

Instagram vs real life by @rookiewhitney
Happiness is making poolside friends on vacation. BYO Chinese Jump Rope.

The whole story
Five minutes earlier: my daughter spies these same age girls at the pool. She wants to play with them. She wants them to want her. There is so much wanting going on here and she hangs on my body whining and whispering and rejecting every suggestion I make for how to start playing with these sisters. I really want her to make poolside friends so I can read my Kindle. That’s what this vacation is for. I nudge her to smile and make eye contact as a start. Why is this so hard? They are not the Kardashians. Now I have to play Chinese jump rope with her, my boobs bouncing out of my bathing suit as I jump on the concrete. I am not seven, which is apparent to everyone who is watching my skin jiggle with each bounce on the pavement. I am sweaty because we are in Mexico and my daughter is plastered to me. Wait, she’s moving away.

They are playing and it is adorable. It is vacation magic. I’m going to read now. After I check my phone.

I want to share a picture but I’m too embarrassed to ask the other parents if I can post their kids on Instagram. I crop off their heads.

What I, @rookieheather, shared

Instagram vs real life on Mother's Day
Happy Mother’s Day from the top of the Bay Area

What I’m thinking
Can you see the coffee and juice that splattered my dress five minutes earlier? Is that guy going to steal my phone? Why’s he taking so many pictures? Does my arm look fat?

After — literally — hiking uphill both ways to and from this special Marin County breakfast spot, I lost count of the frustrations and the Are We There Yets. I laughed when two of the meals blew over onto my clothes. I let most of the sibling bickering roll off my back. But, dammit, we were going to have a picture!

When I look at this photo, I see the rest of my family happy and relaxed; they are beautiful and I love them so. But I see so much irritation on my own face, I wish I weren’t in it. I needn’t have worried so much though: No, he didn’t steal my camera and it is easy to crop out a floppy arm.

We showed you ours, now you show us yours! Share us your favorite instagram vs. real life pictures in the comments.

Another crazy experiment in potty training

Tie-dye toddler undies | how and whyUgh. We are not THERE yet. We are so close. In fact, 12 months ago, I thought we were super duper ticking-time-bomb close because my not-yet-two-year old was so interested in pooping in the potty. Fast forward a year and he’s still quite interested in #2 because he gets to trade $h1# for candy. But peeing is boring and takes him away from playing, so we haven’t advanced to undies from diapers.

When I wanted to do a tie-dye party, I decided to dye his plain gerber training pants and make them more fun and exciting. Because why not?

I prefer these super absorbent undies because they keep more liquid in (and less on my floor) and also help the child feel wet when he’s peed. Win/win. But they’re boring as heck. So, if your child wants character pull-ups, these are lame in comparison.

My ingredients:

Following the instructions on Wendolonia for tie dye, I started off by trying to make brilliant swirly patterns and designs. After my second sangria, I just let my kid spray the squirt-bottles all over and tried to steer clear of getting any colors on my skin and clothes.

Tie-dye toddler undies | how and why

And our results!

Tie-dye toddler undies | how and whyThough I felt silly doing this — hence the sangria — there are two reasons why I think it is a good enough idea to share and replicate:

  1. high-quality training undies are now personalized and fun
  2. tie-dye hides stains (‘nuf said)

It’s too soon to say whether these are the magic missing piece to get my son to pee in the potty, but he was asking about them this morning, and self-motivation is the true key ingredient.

[See also a Control Freak's Guide to Potty Training and 5 Crazy potty training experiments worth trying]

Good luck and for the love of your furniture, don’t do this in the house, I already told you how I feel about food coloring and toddlers!

My very strong opinions about kids’ backpacks

Back to school shopping. Ugh. As I walk through Target and see the many character-themed backpacks trying into leap in my shopping cart, I remember why I must make this journey alone. Back-to-school shopping is no place for kids. Alluring as my sons might find these school bags, they will never come home with us.

I insist on purchasing high quality backpacks only. REI, Lands’ End, Eastpak, L.L. Bean, Jansport, I’m looking at you.

Buying a sturdy back pack means two important things.

  1. It will last longer. Duh.
  2. But if it doesn’t, it will be repaired or replaced for the lifetime of the backpack. As in, never buy another backpack again!!

So the $30 to $50 you spend on a good strong pack will more than make up for the annual purchase of a $20 crappy-zipper, break-before-the-year-is-out school bag. Though my cheap gene shudders at paying nearly $50 for a kid’s backpack, I know it will withstand many years worth of aggressive treatment.

My kids are going into fourth and second grades this year and their backpacks are not being replaced. That’s it. That’s all I wanted to tell you.

Sounds too boring? If your child still wants to personalize, there are many ways to make a plain pack seem more childish childlike: glowing zipper jewelry, mini-me felt patches, labels and stickers, dogtags, printable star wars tags (free from Amy Locurto), or all of the above.

Here are a few picks of high-quality backpacks (that I hope do not fall victim to the blogging curse of breaking because I said nice things about them). [Read more...]