Archive for October, 2012

10 iPhone Apps That Foster Creativity in Kids

October 28th, 2012 by admin

The business innovators, problem solvers and success stories of the future are very likely to be children whose parents encouraged their creativity, doing everything that they could to nurture creative impulses throughout their little one’s childhood. Thankfully, the wildly popular iPhone not only manages a variety of tasks for busy parents, but also has an entire subsection of applications in the App Store that can help kids develop their creativity along the way.

  1. PlayART – Selected by USA TODAY as one of the Five Top Apps for Creative Kids and among the Guardian’s 50 Best Apps for Children, this $3.99 application lets kid create their own mashed-up versions of iconic artistic images. Pairing creativity-boosting play with a hands-on art history lesson, this app is a must-have for the parents of budding art buffs.
  2. Sketch Club While this $2.99 app is powerful enough for advanced artists of the adult variety, it’s also a great tool for youngsters. The variety of tools and options allows kids to customize their works of art fully, experimenting with brushes and tools to learn more about digital art creation on a larger scale. There is also an option to upload created projects for critique by other users, which you might want to disable before letting your little one loose.
  3. Auryn Ink – Watercolors are beautiful, intriguing and incredibly messy when they’re put into little hands. Thankfully, the creators of this $3.99 app have simulated the watercolor painting experience beautifully. You and your children can create entire watercolor paintings right on your iPhone!
  4. Kid Art – Simplified, stripped-down controls make this $0.99 app a great choice for little fingers, as it’s designed solely for their use. Intended to deliver as autonomous an artistic experience on your Apple device as possible for your little art aficionado, the bright colors and kid-favorite themes are sure to be a hit.
  5. Touch Sketch – Experimenting with a variety of effects and tools makes this $0.99 app a big hit with older kids, who may have less patience for the cartoon-influenced offerings of art apps directed at youngsters. Customizable and feature-packed, you may even find yourself using this one when the kids aren’t around.
  6. Kid Paint – Simple and intuitive, this free app is supported by ads but doesn’t allow in-app purchases so little ones won’t accidentally purchase paid apps while they create their masterpieces. Kid Paint also doesn’t allow third party data collection or location tracking, ensuring the safety of your sensitive personal information.
  7. Magic Painter – With a variety of brush and background styles to choose from, this winner of Macworld Asia’s 2012 Top One Prize is available for $2.99 in the app store and supports both English and Chinese languages. You can save your kids’ artwork to Photos for printing and preservation, so their hard work isn’t discarded after completion.
  8. Art App – Let your kids edit photos and create their own digital art with this free app, which allows for removal of the source image after completion to leave only the traced lines in the digital painting. Young children may need assistance with the opacity options, but older ones should be able to navigate Art App with relative ease.
  9. Kids Song Machine Lite – Kids that are actively involved in musical instruction have higher standardized test scores, are more likely to perform well academically, and tend to be more proficient in mathematics than their non-musical peers. This free app will let your budding virtuoso learn the lyrics to classic kids’ songs, perhaps sparking a lifelong love affair with music.
  10. Kids Musician – With a piano keyboard and seven percussion instrument sounds, Kids Musician makes it easy for little fingers to play classic songs right on your iPhone. Kids can begin to learn the basics of music with this $0.99 app, which could reveal previously hidden musical interests.

While these apps are great ways to keep your child engaged in an enriching, worthwhile activity on the go, they’re also effective tools for use at home. Using these apps together will not only help to encourage creative thinking in your child, but also forge stronger emotional bonds between the two of you as you share precious time together.

30 Blogs on Healthy Eating for Moms

October 25th, 2012 by admin

Balancing the demands of a career, juggling a busy family, and maintaining a nutritious diet to ensure your continued good health can pose a very serious challenge, but it’s a task that shouldn’t be taken lightly. Aside from protecting your own physical wellbeing, you’re also responsible for modeling the good dietary habits that your children will emulate. These 30 blog entries offer great recipes, tips and meal ideas for today’s busy mom, making it a bit easier to maintain the healthiest diet possible.

Expecting Moms

Moms-to-be have different dietary requirements and restrictions than their non-expecting peers, which means you’ll have to do a bit of research to ensure that you and your impending bundle of joy get all of the nutrients you need. While these five entries do offer advice and ideas for expecting moms, they’re no substitute for the advice and guidance of your physician.

Moms on the Go

Between commutes, carpools and sports practice, it can be difficult to grab more than a few moments to throw a meal together. These five bloggers understand the demands placed upon the modern mother, and offer great meal solutions to suit your packed schedule.

Vegetarian and Vegan Moms

Whether you’re simply a meat-free vegetarian or eschew animal products of any kind as a vegan, the challenges of providing a well-balanced, nutritious meal while adhering to your dietary restrictions are nothing to sneeze at. These five blog entries approach vegetarianism and veganism cooking, and offer real-world meal solutions for meat-free families.

Gluten-Free Moms

Whether you or someone in your family suffers from gluten sensitivity, or you’re simply making the choice to eliminate gluten from your diet, you probably know that finding meals to suit your lifestyle isn’t always easy. From kid-tested recipes for family meals to more grown-up gluten-free fare, these five bloggers are serving up great recipes.

Dieting Moms

Struggling to shed the last of your baby weight or battling more serious obesity requires not only discipline and self-restraint, but also the ability to assemble quick, healthy meals. These five blogs cover a variety of method diets, and offer advice and weight-loss solutions. While some of them are tested by the bloggers themselves, it’s still important that you consult with your doctor before starting any new diet.

Foodie Moms

Who says healthy has to be boring? These five blogs are serving up meals with serious foodie flare from a more nutritious perspective. There’s no need to sacrifice flavor in the interest of good health with the recipes, meal ideas, hints and tips offered by these health-conscious foodie moms.

How to Decorate a Pumpkin without Carving

October 21st, 2012 by admin

Toothy grins and spooky expressions on pumpkins are the hallmark of Halloween, however, if you have small children you may not want to pull out the carving knives and sharp objects to decorate your pumpkins just yet. To save small fingers from any nicks or cuts, but still take advantage of pumpkin decorating, try some of these ideas that will allow you to create stunning or creepy pumpkins without using a knife.

Glamorous Glitter- Start by covering your work surface with newspaper, as you will be using watered down glue, glitter and a paint brush to decorate your pumpkins which can get a little messy. Decorate one section of the pumpkin at a time so the glue does not dry out.  Put some regular school glue into a bowl and add a little water to thin it out.  This will not be thin like milk, but just thinner than it comes out of the bottle, which makes it spread more easily.  Using an old paint brush, paint the glue onto the pumpkin in a section (like an orange).  Put the glitter into a bowl and then use a spoon to coat the glued part of the pumpkin with glitter.  Tap the pumpkin to knock off any extra glitter.  Move on to the next section of pumpkin and repeat the glittering process.  Continue around the pumpkin until the entire pumpkin is coated in glitter.  Allow the pumpkin to dry completely.  The extra glitter will have gone onto the newspaper so you can pick up the newspaper and dump it back into the bowl to be used for your next pumpkin.  If you find that even after the glue dries you are finding glitter all over you might want to spray the pumpkin with some hair spray to help hold the glitter in place once it dries.

Marker- Using only a marker and your pumpkin you can create a jack-o-lantern look alike without cutting a thing. Draw the face onto the pumpkin with the permanent marker.  This is a good time to be creative and draw a more intricate face that you wouldn’t necessarily be able to cut.  Let the kids use their imagination to make a funny jack-o-lantern, a spooky tree or a haunted house.

Pretty Painted Polka-dots- Select a bunch of different colors of acrylic paint and a paint brush. Paint the entire pumpkin in a light color and allow it to dry.  Dip the eraser of a pencil into different colors of paint and press a dot onto the pumpkin.  Continue to do these adding different colored polka-dots all over the pumpkin.  Use the end of a wooden spoon to make larger dots if you like.  Let everything dry and your polka-dot pumpkin is complete.

Wild for Washi- Japanese washi tape is relatively new on the crafting scene.  It’s kind of like masking tape, but it comes in many patterns and colors.  They sell stripes, plaid, Chevron, hounds-tooth and many more.  Buy the tape that excites you.  You will also need a dry erase marker and safety scissors. Mark out your pattern on the pumpkin with the dry erase marker.  If you make a mistake it will wipe right off and you can start again.  Wrap the tape around the pumpkin either vertically, horizontally or both following your marker lines.  Cut the tape so that the ends are neat.  You can alternate the patterns around the pumpkin if you like.  You can create your own designs with the tape.  There’s no mess and the kids can do this with little supervision.  Try to use long strips of tape because short pieces will be harder to match up.  If you are using a black dry erase marker you may want to wipe off the marker as you apply the tape so that it doesn’t show through.

Terrific Tissue- You will need newspaper, Mod Podge, tissue paper, glitter (optional) and a paint brush. Start by adding some Mod Podge to a bowl. Tear the tissue into pieces.  Paint some Mod Podge onto an area of the pumpkin and lay the tissue paper onto the wet area.  It’s okay to overlap the tissue paper.  Continue around the pumpkin until the whole thing is covered.  Add a final layer of Mod Podge to the whole pumpkin and allow it to dry.  You can add glitter to the pumpkin while the Mod Podge is wet if you’d like, but it’s not necessary.

This year consider decorating your pumpkins without doing any carving.  The kids will enjoy decorating their very own pumpkins and you won’t have to worry about having to make an unexpected trip to the emergency room if someone gets cut.

How to Make Popcorn Balls

October 14th, 2012 by admin

Popcorn balls are treats that are traditionally made around the holidays, but they are so simple to make and tasty that you can easily make them year round.  It’s likely that you already have most of the ingredients on hand, making it easy to whip up a batch of popcorn balls in no time at all.  You can even get the kids involved for some family fun.  Don’t feel too bad about feeding these sweet treats to the kids, as popcorn contains fiber, protein, vitamins and minerals.

Ingredients

  • 5 quarts of plain popped popcorn (20 cups)
  • 2 ½ C. powdered sugar
  • ¾ C. light corn syrup
  • ¼ C. stick margarine
  • 2 t. of cold water
  • 1 C. mini marshmallows

Gather your ingredients- The popcorn can be made in a microwave, air popper or on the stove.  If you use air popped popcorn you will greatly reduce the amount of fat in your popcorn balls.  Once popped, put the popcorn in a large bowl and set it aside, then measure out the remaining ingredients.

Mix ingredients- In a saucepan mix together the margarine, corn syrup, powdered sugar, water and marshmallows and bring the ingredients to a boil.  Remove the pan from the heat and pour the marshmallow mixture over the popcorn.  Stir the mixture with a big spoon, making sure to coat all of the popcorn evenly.  As soon as the mixture is cool enough to handle without burning you, butter your hands and form the popcorn into balls.  Make sure to press firmly to get the popcorn into a ball.  Set the balls aside on some waxed paper until you have formed popcorn balls out of all the popcorn.  This recipe should make about 20 popcorn balls.  Once the popcorn balls are cool, wrap them in plastic wrap or put them into cellophane bags and tie them with a ribbon.

Child friendly option- Pop the popcorn in the microwave and set aside until it has cooled.  Open the bags and put the popcorn into a big bowl.  You will need seven large bags of microwaveable popcorn.  Add the remaining ingredients to a microwave safe bowl and heat it in the microwave until the marshmallows are completely melted.  With an adult’s help, pour the hot marshmallow mixture over the popcorn and stir with a large spoon.  Using food safe gloves, butter your gloved hands.  Form the popcorn into balls.  Wrap the completed popcorn balls in plastic wrap, then store them at room temperature.

Add ins- Plain popcorn balls are pretty tasty, but to make them even better you can stir some candy into the popcorn before coating it with the marshmallow mixture. For instance, candy corn works well if you want to make popcorn balls as a Halloween treat, and chocolate chips or candy coated chocolate pieces make a yummy addition to popcorn balls that you want to have a sweet twist to them.

Craft and treat in one- Set out bowls of little candies that can be used to decorate some popcorn ball snowmen, such as chocolate chips, licorice, fruit roll-ups, candy coated chocolate pieces and gum drops.  Let the kids help form the gooey popcorn into snowmen shapes and allow them to add on candy accessories to dress them up.  Once they are done they can eat their creation.

Popcorn balls are a fun family treat, and they can be assembled in no time.  Add a little food coloring to the marshmallow mixture and you can even color coordinate your popcorn balls with a holiday or event.

10 Tips for Potty Training Without Disposable Training Pants

October 10th, 2012 by admin

The Real Diaper Association estimates that the average family spends up to $1,600 on disposable diapers during the first two years of a child’s life. In addition to being expensive, disposable diapers also trap moisture against your little one’s delicate skin, often resulting in painful diaper rash that can leave her uncomfortable and irritable. When the time to toilet train your child arrives, the idea of using what’s essentially a disposable diaper vaguely shaped like underwear may not be particularly appealing to you, especially if she’s prone to rashes and your budget is tight. While disposable training pants have become a widely accepted tool for potty training toddlers since they were first commercially introduced in 1989, parents have been helping their children reach this milestone for centuries without the assistance of these relatively expensive and decidedly non-eco friendly products. These 10 tips can help you make the switch from diapers to the potty, without resorting to disposable training pants.

  1. Be Prepared and Patient – Learning to use the potty is a major transition for your child, and it isn’t one that’s likely to happen overnight. In the weeks leading up to the big day, take any available opportunities to prepare your little one to discard her diapers. It’s also wise to prepare yourself for a few setbacks. Even the most eager and dedicated parent will struggle with potty training a child that isn’t ready, so remember that this is a big step for her and try to be patient.
  2. Invest in a Moisture-Resistant Mattress Cover – Nighttime accidents are an unfortunate reality for almost all children, especially in the early days of potty training. If you’re determined not to use disposable training pants or diapers at all, it’s a good idea to purchase a barrier to protect your child’s mattress.
  3. Talk About the Potty – Even if your toddler isn’t excessively verbal, she’s still able to understand basic concepts when you explain them to her. Take the time to talk about why she needs to use the potty, both in the days leading up to the transition and during the toilet training process.
  4. Offer Visual Representations – Using dolls or reading one of the many illustrated children’s books on the subject of potty training can help your child grasp the concept a bit more firmly by providing her with visual representations.
  5. Maintain Method Consistency – If you’re determined to go cold turkey, with no diapers and no disposable training pants, it’s important that you consistently maintain these practices. Getting frustrated with the process and slapping a diaper or pair of disposable trainers on your child will only send her mixed messages and make it more difficult for her to make the transition from diapered child to a fully potty trained one.
  6. Frequently Ask Her if She Needs to Potty – When your child is actively engaged in an enjoyable activity, there’s a very good chance that she’s so absorbed in what she’s doing that she doesn’t notice the urge to use the bathroom. Making a habit of reminding your child about the potty and asking her if she needs to use it can reduce the frequency of accidents caused by distraction.
  7. Visit the Bathroom Often – Though you should ask your child if she needs the potty on a regular basis, it’s also wise to insist you visit the restroom together fairly often as well. Until your child learns to recognize the sensation of needing to eliminate and is able to connect it with a trip to the potty, she’ll rely on you to help her avoid accidents.
  8. Reward Successful Restroom Trips – If your parenting philosophy includes rewards for good behavior and successfully reaching milestones, make sure that you provide a reward each time your child uses the potty to reinforce the behavior.
  9. Communicate With Childcare Providers – Your efforts to maintain a consistent method of potty training will be foiled if your nanny or daycare provider puts a diaper or disposable training pants on your child the moment you leave. Make sure that her caregiver is on the same page as you, and is willing to maintain the same training practices that you do when you’re at home.
  10. Consider Elimination Communication – If you’re able to devote the time and energy required into the infant toilet training method of elimination communication, you can almost forgo the entire diapering process. According to Contemporary Pediatrics, almost half of the children in the world never wear diapers and are completely potty trained by the time they’re a year old. This method is largely used in Africa and Asia, but is becoming more popular with North American parents.

Because disposable training pants feel and act so much like the diapers that your child is accustomed to wearing, they can actually impede the toilet training process for some children. By wicking moisture away from your child’s skin initially, disposable trainers can make it difficult for her to realize that she’s wet. While this can make them an ideal choice for overnight use in some cases, using them throughout the day can easily confuse a child who still feels like she’s wearing the same diapers she’s always worn.

10 Risky Teen Behaviors You Should Be Aware Of

October 2nd, 2012 by admin

Many teenagers think they are invincible, and are always looking for the next thrill.  While the stunts that were tried 10 to 20 years ago may have seemed daring and dangerous at the time, teens today are pushing the envelope in even more dangerous new ways.  Parents truly need to be aware of the risky things that some teens are doing.

  1. Planking- Kids have taken what started out being a move done for strengthening the core to a trend that was kind of cute to something downright dangerous.  Planking is where you lay face down on any surface and have your picture taken.  The picture is then uploaded to Facebook or some other social media site.  Teens turned this fun trend into a dangerous stunt when they started planking on things like escalators, moving cars, trains and rooftops.
  2. Car surfing- Instead of surfing in the water standing on a surfboard, teens are standing on moving cars.  Some start by standing on the trunk with the car moving very slowly, and in an effort to continually raise the stakes they have moved to more even more dangerous locations on the car, and now teens have been killed doing this.
  3. Smoking Smarties- According to tutorials online, the candy is crushed to a fine powder and the end of the tube is opened and the powder is puffed and inhaled like smoke.  On the surface the activity is not illegal or all that harmful, but it could lead to infections and chronic coughing.  The bigger concern is that this behavior could lead to more dangerous experimentation with drugs in the future.
  4. Vodka eyeballing- To avoid getting caught with alcohol on their breath, teens have started pouring vodka directly in their eyes.  The alcohol is absorbed through the mucus membrane and goes directly into the blood stream.  This trend has been shown to cause blindness in a worst case scenario, but at a minimum it can burn the cornea and cause scarring.
  5. Chatroulette- Chatroulette.com is a site that connects users through their web cams with people from all over the world for live chat sessions.  They do have filters which allow the user to speak to only English speakers or only females.  While the policy on chatroulette is against nudity and other inappropriate activities, risky behavior still happens.  Sexual predators could use this medium as a way to interact and ultimately harm kids.
  6. Purple drank- Drinking this mix of jolly ranchers, cough syrup with codeine and Sprite can lead to hallucinations and is extremely toxic. Kids love to copy the next celebrity trend, and for some celebrities, this purple drink it is.
  7. Rainbow parties- A group of girls at a party will wear various shades of lipstick and perform oral sex on the same guys.  At the end of the evening the genitals of the guys have many colors of lipstick, thus mimicking a rainbow. 
  8. Choking game- The choking game is where kids choke each other or themselves with various things like belts or scarves, to cut off the flow of blood to their brain in order to get a high.  When the choking stops the blood goes back to the brain quickly and they get a natural high.  Many teens who have tried this have passed out doing it and could, and have, died of asphyxiation. 
  9. Distilling hand sanitizer- By combining salt with liquid hand sanitizer the alcohol can be distilled out of it.  The alcohol is very strong and some teens who have drank it have ended up in the ER with alcohol poisoning. 
  10. Rummy bears- Kids and adults alike are soaking gummy bears in various alcohols, like rum or vodka.  The gummy soaks up the alcohol and kids are said to be eating them at school and getting buzzed. 

Knowledge is power. If adults are aware that these trends are going on in other areas of the country they will be better able to spot them in their own kids or their friends.