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What Information to Leave with a First-Time Babysitter

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Though it’s difficult to part ways with your child, even if it’s just for a brief period of time, there will come a time when you need a babysitter while you run errands, head to work or embark on a date night with your spouse. Many parents face feelings of anxiety, fear and doubt when trusting another individual to care for their child. According to childcare expert Clair Haas of Kiddie Academy, it is often harder for the parents to leave than for the child to adjust to a new babysitter.

The key to a successful and worry-free outing begins with preparing yourself and more importantly, providing information for your first-time babysitter to ensure that your child is in the best care.

Begin With The Basics

While you are away, you want your child’s routine to stay consistent with a first-time babysitter. Help your sitter learn the ins and outs of your household by inviting her over for a visit prior to the first time you leave your children alone with her.

“Doing your review in the few minutes you have before your dinner reservation will be rushed, and you may forget to pass on key information she needs to know,” says Haas.

During the initial visit, walk your sitter through your home and point out where she can find dishes, meals, snacks, bath accessories, towels, pacifiers, diapers and clothes for your children. An overview of basic household procedures, such as how to dim the lights, work the remote or DVD player and operate kitchen appliances can also better prepare your sitter for the assignment.

Outline the Routine

It’s important for your sitter to be familiar with your child’s routine. If your baby needs to be fed every four hours, provide your sitter with information about his last feeding before you leave. If your children have to be in bed by 8 p.m., make sure that your sitter knows how to best help them fall asleep, whether it’s with a goodnight song or favorite book.

“Write down and review bath time and bed time instructions – including how to get bath water to the proper temperature, how to turn on the monitors and what to do if the baby wakes up,” suggests Haas.

Provide your sitter with the big picture, suggests Caitlin Cherry, nanny and preschool director. “Explain your child’s schedule – not just the schedule while the sitter will be there, but the whole schedule,” she says. “Your sitter will know your child has to go to bed at 7 p.m. because he starts school or daycare at 7 a.m. It gives your sitter knowledge about the family and your child.”

With more information, your sitter can easily put two and two together when your child is acting out. “The sitter might realize he is actually tired because it is the busiest day of the week for your family,” says Cherry.

Communicate House Rules

Often times, when children are left with a new babysitter, they test the waters and try to break the rules. Communicate the house rules with your sitter so she is prepared and can keep expectations consistent when you are gone.

Don’t doubt your child’s intelligence, says Cherry. Even as an infant your baby knows how to manipulate. “Your child needs to know that the sitter deserves the respect of the parent,” says Cherry. “Your toddler will try to get away with everything so it’s important to tell your child, no matter how old, what is off limits and that the rules still apply.”

In addition to house rules, communicating discipline strategies you find acceptable, such as time out or loss of privileges, will help your sitter establish respect with your children. The key is communicating in detail how you want your household to run while you are away.

“It’s your house and your rules,” says Cherry. “If you do not want your child watching TV, then state it. Be specific and over explain.”

Allowing the rules to change while you are gone can cause havoc for your daily routine. “You end up unhappy, your child is not used to it and you’re breaking your rules for no reason,” says Cherry.

Be Available

In case of an emergency, your first-time babysitter will need to know how to reach you, a family member or a neighbor. Provide a list of emergency contacts on the refrigerator or somewhere within reach so your sitter is prepared. Review evacuation procedures in case of a fire and shelter areas during inclement weather.

It is crucial you communicate if your child has an allergy or medical condition, as well as the appropriate actions the sitter will need to take in case of an emergency.

More importantly, make yourself available and encourage communication with your sitter. “Ask the sitter to write down times the baby ate and napped for you to review when you get home,” suggests Haas. “Or, if it will ease your anxiety, ask the sitter to send text updates when the baby eats or goes to sleep.”

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24 Blogs Detailing How to Make Polymer Clay Creations

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Despite having ‘clay’ in the name, polymer clay is not really clay at all, but a polymer. Unlike other types of clay, polymer clay can be hardened in the oven, making it the go-to choice for craft projects and commercially made decorations. Before you begin using polymer clay it needs to be warmed up so that it softens and becomes more pliable. Once warmed, the polymer can then be used to make everything from jewelry to ornaments, zipper pulls to pencils tops and even sculptures. These 24 blogs illustrate how to make an array of different projects with polymer clay, such as animals, cartoon characters, jewelry and people.


The animals showcased in these six blogs are made up of simple shapes, and provide a good starting point if you’re just getting comfortable working with polymer clay. Each post is equipped with step-by-step illustrations instructing how to craft each animal, so you need only to follow the steps to have your very own set of polymer clay animals.


Some cartoons are made from a technique called Claymation. The characters in these shows are often made from polymer clay, and can easily be recreated at home. If you’re not ready to start creating on your own yet, check out the tutorials on these six blogs, which show you how to make everything from Oscar the Grouch to Zack the Dragon.


Making your own jewelry using polymer clay allows you to have a practical outlet for your clay creations. Homemade jewelry gives you a unique style and is a fun gift to give to friends and family. It also allows you to create the exact pieces you want in the perfect shades, so you never have to worry about searching for the ideal complementary accessory again.


Creating people out of polymer clay is an advanced skill, but these six blogs break it down so that even a beginner can have some success at sculpting them. Start by practicing making people in the right proportions, then tackle the more intricate pieces, such as the hands, eyes and other body parts. In no time you will be sculpting your whole family.

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How Single Parents Can Save Money on Childcare

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When you’re a single parent, being able to find and afford quality childcare is crucial to being able to provide for your family. Unfortunately, single parents are one of the groups that struggles the most with this expense. Without another parent around to pick up kids when they get sick or provide another source of care when a babysitter or daycare falls through, it can be hard to reliably show up to a job or find a way to pay for care. Fortunately, there are some ways to save on this expense and increase the odds that your childcare provider will be available when you need them to be.

Work away from home during school hours, then work from home during off-school hours. Perfecting this schedule to the point that you never have to pay for daycare will be a masterful feat, but you can start now to get as close to it as possible. If you have a salaried job, start putting together a plan that shows your boss how you can attend meetings and perform other vital office functions during the day, then get other work done at home at night. If you can, get your boss to agree to a trial period of your plan, making sure everything gets done on time. Even if you can only convince your boss to let you have some time working from home, you’ll still save some money on care.

Look for a job that follows the school calendar. If you’re looking for a new job and wondering how you’ll ever get child care, start by looking for employment with companies that work with the school calendar. Public and private schools need administrators, teachers, janitors and even landscapers. Daycares and churches also tend to offer more hours during the school year and less during holidays. This might be a great way to work while your child is at school and still have nights, weekends and summers off to care for him.

Find other parents and develop a shared childcare plan. You’re not the only person to be in this situation. Some people develop elaborate systems in which everyone in the group takes one day off per week (or simply schedules not to come in on that day) so that they can all share childcare duties. For many other people, however, a simple arrangement in which you and a friend share childcare on major holidays and/or when one of you has to work is a lot more practical. Because holiday childcare can be so expensive, many people save a lot of money by getting in a group with a few friends where each person uses one vacation day a year to cover one holiday.

Look for a job with built-in childcare. While it might not be easy to just go out and find one of these jobs that replaces the salary you make now, it might work out to cut back your hours at your current job and make up the lost income with a second job that offers childcare. Large companies rarely offer childcare, however, there are numerous contract positions that you can do from home or in smaller shifts that might help out. It’s important to be careful with your finances, and you can sometimes arrange your schedule so that you avoid the cost of childcare. You may also want to consider working in a pre-school or daycare.

Look into government assistance. Many states have programs that offer vouchers for children in low-income households. These vouchers can be given to any daycare or pre-school that meets certain quality requirements. If you’re attending school while you’re working, you can also look into options for daycare through your college or university. Many large schools have programs that are staffed by students working on their degrees in education or child development. Your kids will get great care, and you’ll save money.

Cut back your hours slightly. Many daycares and preschools charge separate rates for before school, during school and after-school care. In a lot of cases, single parents end up paying for all three sessions and then only using a small fraction of the care before and after school. To make matters worse, the before-school and after-school sessions are often more expensive per hour than the main daytime session. This is because of the limited number of kids who sign up and the extra expenses of providing meals, snacks and extra personnel and overtime. To save money, move or cut your hours so that you only need to pay for one or two of these three sessions. If you have to cut your hours, odds are the money you lose will be less than the amount you spend on the extra session.

Consider a helper. A trusted neighbor or local student can walk your kids home from school (or meet them at the bus stop) and watch them for a few hours. Make sure you give her several different emergency numbers to contact if something goes wrong. In some cases, several parents pool together to get several different babysitters to watch all of their kids. This gives you the benefit of knowing someone will be there in case one of the babysitters gets sick.

If you have an infant, consider a live-in nanny. For many single parents, paying for childcare for a child who isn’t potty-trained can be more expensive than their mortgage. Live-in nannies can often be slightly less expensive than a live-out nanny, and that cost becomes more valuable when you realize you have someone to lean on in your home. If you work a lot of hours or hours when a standard daycare isn’t usually open, this might be a way to spend a little to save a lot.

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Maxed Out American Moms on the Brink by Katrina Alcorn

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Working moms have become the primary breadwinners in 40% of American households, according to the startling findings from the Pew Research Social and Demographic Trends. Paired with the percentage of women who have an equal stake in their families’ finances, that figure rises to two-thirds. 80% of these women are the primary decision-makers when it comes to healthcare for the entire family.

The record-breaking generation of Super Moms is bucking convention and changing the face of the American family. They’re also suffering from stress and attendant health risks in record numbers. The American Psychological Association shows that up to one-third of married women and one in five single women is battling dangerous levels of stress. While these figures may come as a surprise to those without kids or those who aren’t saddled with so much responsibility, it’s no secret to Katrina Alcorn.

The self-employed web consultant made her authorial debut in September with the book Maxed Out: American Moms on the Brink. Spurred by her own struggles with anxiety disorders, insomnia and depression, Katrina Alcorn makes a strong case for average women being stretched beyond their means. Kirkus Reviews calls Maxed Out “a moving account [that] is pertinent for American women and men who are trying to chase their own version of the American dream.”

Keeping Up Appearances

In her debut book, Katrina Alcorn bravely tackles the reason behind the modern American mother’s struggle to maintain a strong facade in the face of anxiety. “There’s a lot of pressure on us to look like we have it together,” she says. “The research shows that after a woman has kids, her performance is scrutinized more at work than that of her coworkers. We’re afraid of losing our jobs; after all, two-thirds of American mothers are breadwinners for their families.” The stress of maintaining composure outwardly while internally struggling only compounds overall anxiety. Women need to have a strong support system in place for the times when they’re simply spread too thin. More importantly, they need to know that it’s okay to ask that support system for help when they need it. The strain of keeping up appearances can be the figurative last straw. Instead of struggling to appear that you have superhuman control, it’s important to learn that it’s acceptable to ask for help.

Bringing it All Together

One of the most pressing problems at hand for the average American mother is that there is still a lack of social infrastructure. Today’s generation of parents is vastly different from those that came before, but there has been little overall change in the way families operate. “Since the 60s we’ve seen a massive influx of women into the workforce, so our family lives have changed dramatically – most children are now raised in homes where all adults work. We need society, and especially, the workplace to catch up to this fact. Most jobs aren’t made for people with family obligations. That needs to change.”

“I want women to know that if they’ve tried everything they can think of and are still ‘maxing out’ in their attempt to work and take care of their families, they are not alone and it’s not their fault. What’s more, it doesn’t have to be this way – I cite many examples in the book of countries and companies that are finding ways to make it possible for employees to balance life and work.” While you may not be able to singlehandedly change society, that doesn’t mean that you can’t make a change in your own corner of the world. Look for ways of establishing new policies in your workplace. Formulate a plan for managing daily tasks at home. Don’t be afraid to delegate items on your to-do lists. You may even find that pulling together a loose, informal network of extended family and friends helps you to make ends meet.

At the end of the day, a stressed-out mom is simply not able to perform the way she would like. You may not parent as effectively, and your household may not be run as efficiently as you would hope. You’re left with a vicious cycle where stress begets more stress, and there is no visible light at the end of the proverbial tunnel. Realizing that it’s not only acceptable, but also necessary to ask for help is the key to success in this brave new world of juggling motherhood with full-time careers.

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How to Make Babysitting a Full-Time Job

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Making the jump from being an occasional babysitter to a career childcare provider may seem like a logical move for those with an interest in caring for children. After all, even a part-time sitter is likely to have a fair bit of experience under her belt, and working as a full-time sitter can be a rewarding and exciting experience. Moving into a full-time role as a sitter will require a bit of creative thinking and plenty of legwork, though. These tips can help you turn your part-time sideline job into a full-time occupation.

Start Networking

In order to generate enough gigs to turn your part-time babysitting job into one with full-time earning potential, you’ll have to find enough clients to fill your days. You’ll need to start working with your existing clients to determine their needs, work with them to find new clients and find other ways of generating new business. The Internet can be a powerful networking tool, so don’t neglect the online networking tools at your disposal. Start a professional Facebook page, look into online job listings and sitter services and find ways of helping your new business to grow.

Understand Tax Laws

As a part-time babysitter, you may not make enough money for tax compliance to be an issue. As a full-time childcare provider, however, you will almost certainly need to understand both federal and local tax requirements in order to stay on the right side of the law. When you start researching methods of expanding your client base and turning your part-time hobby into a full-time passion, you’ll need to make sure that you have a basic understanding of tax laws or that you’re working closely with a tax professional who can provide valuable advice and guidance along the way.

Find Local Classes and Workshops

To stand out from a pack of babysitters and professional nannies, you’ll have to put some serious effort into spicing up your resume. Make a point of ferreting out local classes and workshops in your area with a focus on childcare. Not only will these classes provide you with valuable knowledge and new insights into your chosen profession, they may also serve as a valuable networking source. The same community centers that typically host these programs can also be a hotbed of advertising possibilities, so working to expand your knowledge base may also pay off in the form of new clients and new jobs in more ways than one.

Make Sure Your Certifications Are Current

Two things that you absolutely must have in order to be a competitive force in your local babysitting market are current CPR and first aid certifications. You’ll need to know how to perform CPR on infants, toddlers, older children and teenagers so that you’re prepared to handle any emergencies that could potentially arise. Most parents won’t consider a babysitter who isn’t equipped to care for their kids in an emergency, so you can’t neglect this crucial step in your professional development. Many babysitting and childcare courses include the relevant emergency management certifications, but you’ll need to make sure that you pursue them if that particular area won’t be covered in a training course you’re planning to attend.

Become a Scheduling Expert

Unlike a full-time nanny, who typically works one dedicated position with a single family, you’ll need to become a real whiz when it comes to scheduling. You’ll probably need to maintain a relatively large stable of clients in order to generate a living wage, so one of the most important skills for you to polish is your ability to not only fill your schedule, but also to accurately juggle a day full of several assignments. Invest in a day planner that you can carry with you or a dedicated scheduling app for your smartphone to help you manage the plethora of assignments that will eventually come rolling in.

As with many other occupations, turning your part-time job into a full-time one with the attendant financial benefits will require not only plenty of work, but also a healthy measure of patience. Building up a full roster of clients rarely happens overnight, so don’t give up on your dream of working as a full-time sitter if things don’t pan out immediately.

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8 iPad Apps to Help Your Child Become a Better Reader

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The iPad has been a great tool for education since it debuted in 2010, thanks in large part to an abundance of apps and games that blend information with entertainment. It’s portable enough to use around the house or on the road, and it’s simple enough that kids can use it without getting lost. It’s also been a great tool for teaching children to become better readers. There are many apps available that parents can use to help their kids improve their reading skills significantly, whether they’re just starting out or brushing up on some basics. Here are some of the best:

Sentence Reading Magic

Developed by Preschool University, Sentence Reading Magic helps your child read and build sentences. With this app, you can use two learning modes to improve your child’s ability to handle sentences, which makes it a great tool for driving home key reading lessons. The first mode allows children to place words into the correct position in a sentence. The second mode allows the child to read the sentence and then check the meaning using a hidden picture. The sentences are short, but the lessons are well-crafted.

Phonics Fun 5

You can teach your child letter sounds with this great app from Innovative Net Learning Limited. Phonics Fun 5 offers four learning levels covering 61 words and 12 two-letter sounds (th, ch, wh, et, ad, am, an, ap, ag, ob, og, op). When the child taps on the image of a letter, he’ll hear the corresponding sound. When he taps on a picture, he’ll hear the corresponding word. Phonics can be tricky for many younger readers — for instance, “th” will sound hard or soft depending on the word — so this app is a good place to learn valuable lessons.

ABC PocketPhonics

With this app, your child can learn more than 170 common words. The app plays the sound of a letter, and the child has to find the letter out of a group of eight. If she selects the right letter, the app gives a thumbs up and then moves onto the next letter. Progressively, the child will build a word with the letters. ABC PocketPhonics also teaches children to write characters by tracing letters with their fingers. The app is for pre-school and kindergarten-age beginning readers.

ABC Phonics Animals

This is a fun app that teaches children to read using images of animals. The flashcards display cartoon animals together with the name of that animal, while playing a voice recording of each letter in the name. The child selects the letter as he hears it. In another part of the app, the child can choose from among three words to correctly identify an animal cartoon. The balloon pop section allows the child to touch the letter from an animal name that appears in a balloon. If the response is correct, the app makes a balloon-popping noise.

Word Magic

With this iPad app, kids see a picture of an object and some of the letters for the associated word. The child must then choose the missing letters from the screen. The app allows you to set different difficulty levels for children of different ages. It’s a simple but reliable way to learn word construction.

The Monster at the End of this Book

This classic children’s book is now available via the App Store. Grover from Sesame Street narrates the book, and the words appear highlighted on the page for the child to follow. As Grover reads, barriers appear that your child must tap on to remove. Alternatively, she can tickle Grover to remove the barrier. This is a great app for improving reading and listening skills.

Rock ‘n Learn Phonics Easy Reader

This app features three phonics stories that allow your child to read and sound out words. By clicking on any word, he’ll receive extra help with the pronunciation. As the voice recording of the story plays out, each word is highlighted, so your child can easily read along. The app also lets the child read the story aloud on his own. Rock ‘n Learn Phonics Easy Reader concentrates on difficult sound combinations, short vowel sounds and words ending with ff, ll, ss, s, and the plural s. Your child can select story playback to see how accurate he was in reading the sentences.


True, this isn’t so much a single app as a way to house thousands of individual books, but it’s so valuable that it still merits a spot on this list. Based on their age or skill level, you can use this app to download books from the iBookstore to read to your children or let them try on their own. Some downloads are free, too, though others charge a fee. One of the best uses of the iPad is as a portable, vast library for your children. There’s almost no better way to boost reading skills than by immersing them in all sorts of titles. The more you encourage your kids to read and the easier you make it for them to get their hands on books (even digital ones), the more likely they are to become better at reading and more interested in it.

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30 Blogs Addressing the Social Pressures Teen Girls Face

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Teenage girls suffer a daily barrage of views and opinions on how they should look, dress and behave. With so much external pressure, these girls can often suffer from both physical and psychological health issues. Since the advent of social media, the pressures that teenage girls face have greatly increased. Cyber bullying is only the tip of the iceberg, as there are other less apparent pressures, such as targeted advertising, forcing girls to conform to certain stereotypes. These 30 blogs explore just some of the pressures that teenage girls are facing in the modern age.

Body and Weight Pressures

For teenage girls, body image and weight are important issues. Unfortunately, the focus is often unfairly weighed in the favor of what is perceived as desirable, rather than what’s healthy. Popular celebrities, including actresses, musicians and models, are promoted as having the ideal look that teenage girls should aspire to without disclosing that those bodies are almost unattainable under normal circumstances. These five blogs will help give you some insight into why teenage girls feel the need to achieve that perfect, Hollywood look.

Fashion Pressures

“You are what you wear,” is a saying that teenage girls really take to heart. Society, as a whole, still unfairly labels teenage girls in accordance with their wardrobe choices. She may have the highest test average in class, but if her dress is too revealing, she is instantly dubbed as a promiscuous teenage girl. To learn more about these unfair labels and how they affect the self-esteem of teenage girls, check out these five blogs.

Relationship Pressures

Every teenage girl runs the gauntlet of dating and the expectations that come with the territory. The problem is that boys are not faced with the same pressures. Often times, girls are under so much pressure that they will agree to things that are otherwise completely out of character. These relationship pressures can affect the rest of a girl’s life. Help your teen determine her individual path in life with these five relationship blogs.

Family and Peer Pressure

The one place where you feel like your teen daughter should be safe is at home, with being surrounded by her closest friends running a close second. Unfortunately, these two areas can be the sources of some of the greatest pressure girls face. These five blogs discuss the sort of pressure that parents can place on their teens, and the effects that even friendly peer pressure can have on an adolescent girl.

School and Social Media

School and social media are where your teenage girl has the most interaction with her peers. However, she is also at the most risk of being bullied or pressured in those environments. The rising trend of suicides amongst teenage girls is largely due to bullying experienced in school or on social media sites. In social media especially, anonymity allows bullies to pick on their targets with little chance of consequences. Help teenage girls combat the trend with these five blogs on bullying and cyber harassment.

Psychological Pressures

As an adult, it’s hard to relate to the hormonal and psychological changes that teenagers are going through. If you’ve ever heard the phrase “You just don’t understand me,” you are probably the parent of a teenage girl. If you are a mother, you may have experienced psychological issues when you were younger, but your brain chemistry is no longer able to fully empathize with the mind-set of being a teenage girl. The situation can become frustrating for everyone involved, to the point where once loving relationships completely break down under such enormous stress. You may not be able to walk in her shoes, but you can get an idea of how she is feeling from these five blogs.

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10 Ways to be a Great Parent to Your Toddler

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  • Don’t pressure yourself to be perfect. This is a stage filled with lots of challenging behaviors. Your child will test your patience over and over again, and you’ll react in a less than perfect way because, well, you’re human. When your child is challenging you, it’s easy for you to feel that you’re not the parent you should or could be. But remember, there’s no such thing as a perfect parent, so just keep loving your kids and doing the best you can.
  • Understand what’s developmentally appropriate for this age group. When your child screams “NO” at you and you recognize it’s what he’s supposed to be doing at this age, it’s much easier to stay objective and act calmly. You can see the behavior for what it is, your toddler learning to assert his independence, and not take it personally.
  • Have fun! This is such a fun age. Don’t let the challenges that come with it take away from the sheer enjoyment that comes from watching your child grow, explore, giggle, learn, play, connect and love. Let your child bring out the silly in you and see how much fun you can have together.
  • Give him the freedom to explore his physicality. Your toddler’s desire to explore his surroundings and his body’s capabilities is exciting to him, but can be really scary to you. It’s essential that you make sure your child is safe, but at the same time, don’t let your fear discourage his natural need to explore. While giving him your full attention, let him climb the ladder to the top of the slide, balance on the big kid swing, and jump off the climbing platform. Yes, he will fall and yes, there will be tears from time to time. Your job isn’t to keep him from ever getting hurt. That’s impossible. Your job is to make sure he takes reasonable risks while building confidence in his body and his abilities.
  • Expose him to lots of new things. At this age, everything is interesting to your child. Take him to the usual places like the park, the zoo and the aquarium. They’ll give him tons of things to see and do. But don’t forget about the other things your child might enjoy. Explore the art museum, a kid’s art class, or a local hiking trail. Don’t be surprised if your toddler latches onto a new interest with an amazing commitment. This is the age when a child can get focused on everything from dinosaurs to train to bugs, and just about everything else in between.
  • Don’t push learning. Many parents believe that they have to engage their toddler in formal learning activities in order for their child to learn his letters, numbers and colors. The truth is your toddler is naturally programmed to soak up information. All you have to do is provide him with an engaging environment and the freedom to explore it. His natural curiosity will take care of the rest.
  • Help them manage big emotions. Kids at this stage are feeling some very big emotions and they don’t have the skills yet to successfully understand or manage them. But you can help. Talk with your child about what he’s feeling and help him name his different emotions. Let him know that while certain behaviors are not acceptable, all his feelings are.
  • Limit your screen time. One of the biggest gifts you can give your toddler is your uninterrupted attention. As hard as it is, turn off your phone and be fully present in whatever you’re doing together. Read a book, build a Lego tower, dig into the pretend box and spend hours indulging in imaginative play. What you do isn’t important. Letting your toddler know he has your full attention is.
  • Get him into a play group. This is a great time for your child to start making friends. By finding a steady playgroup, he’ll have the opportunity to develop relationships and practice important social skills. These groups can also be a sanity saver for you during summer and winter when the weather doesn’t allow you to spend a lot of time outside.
  • Enjoy all the hugs and kisses. There’s nothing better for your child’s spirit than hugs and kisses from Mom and Dad. He’s still young enough that he won’t be embarrassed by your public displays of affection. Physical connection does all kinds of wonderful things for his physical, emotional and mental health. And of course, it’s just as good for you!
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7 Tips for Making Your Child’s Senior Year of High School a Success

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The rapid pace of senior year can be an excruciating ordeal for any high school student. There are countless factors to keep track of, and they all seem equally important. As a result, parents should intervene to remove unnecessary hassles from this defining time. Parental assistance can steer a growing child’s focus in the right directions, allowing them to form positive memories without sacrificing long-term academic trajectory. For a truly successful year, there are multiple angles of teenage life that need to be effectively tackled; here are some to keep in mind.

Prepare for Steep Expenses

The Consumerist extensively details how senior year can be the most expensive time of parenthood. There are endless investments to be made, and every single one of them appears to be dire. No amount of preparation can buffer the impact of steep charges, so it is crucial for parents to prepare for those expenses as early as possible. It’s not impossible for senior year to require more than $10,000 of extra expenditures. This spending is distributed across school portraits, yearbook purchases, prom, senior trips, class rings and testing costs. (And that doesn’t even count college application fees.)

Start College Applications Early

Summer is an excellent time to take advantage of universities that allow applications to be tendered early. This prevents in-depth forms from being compounded with the stress of schoolwork during the academic year. Parents should structure a calendar that gives them time to collaborate with their teenager about future plans. Help your college-bound child discern between his interests to make sure they end up going to the right institution of higher learning. To avoid excessive payments, applications should be initially sent to schools at the top of the list. Working together with a teenager bolsters their confidence in transitioning to the next stage of their life. U.S. News and World Report has more strategies for pursuing this process.

Keep Track of Extracurricular Activities

Academic resumes are bolstered by extra school participation, but some extracurricular activities are more valuable than other ones. Core studies should not be sacrificed for the sake of a frivolous after-school group. Parents can monitor their children’s academic commitments to help them fine-tune their approach to education as their schedules become more demanding. Ensure that stable transportation is available for important events, and make sure they have the freedom to experiment with their interests.

Follow Examination Schedules

Sharing a calendar can keep parents mentally attuned to the fast-paced needs of their high school senior. To help your child succeed, avoid planning distractions (nights out, family dinners, etc.) before big tests, and help enforce studying habits during these final days. Parents can keep their teenagers from becoming lost in piles of homework.

Emphasize Social Engagements

Don’t let your kid drown in the work, though. One of the biggest regrets seniors can have is failing to savor the social aspects of being young. This Huffington Post columnist talks about the importance of reveling in childhood friendships as youth comes to a close. After graduation, everyone is going to go down a different path, and this is the last chance for your senior to see many of his friends. Don’t forget that. If he appears to be overworked, then your best option is to encourage increased socialization. Spending time with friends will alleviate the pressures being externally placed on him.

Plan Graduation Parties in Advance

High expectations can incentivize focus during the final months of a high school experience. It also provides a proverbial light at the end of the tunnel for stressed out teenagers. This is the ultimate act of support, but don’t let the promise of a party or reward become a stress in its own right. A balanced strategy of positive reinforcement will help your child gradually achieve goals.

Avoid Excessive Interference

Even if the notion seems counterintuitive, it is actually important to trust a teenager’s instincts sometimes. Your child has made it this far, and he’s about to have to go a lot farther on his own, so it’s time to start letting go of the wheel. Listening is a vital skill for parents to practice at this stage of their child’s development. Often, teenagers just need more compassion. Giving them emotional support is preferable to inundating them with advice, but if your child asks, don’t be afraid to share your wisdom. The most important thing to remember is that he needs to be able to chart his own course. Do all you can do, and then be ready to let go.

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10 iPhone Apps for Tracking Your Child’s Whereabouts

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Every parent frets over their child’s whereabouts, wondering where they are and what they’re doing when they’re away from home. However, with the technology available on the iPhone, you can now rest easy. There are a number of apps that, when combined, will mean you always know your child’s whereabouts. These 10 apps will help you track everything from how fast your child drives to where he’s hanging out on the Internet and for how long.

  • FBI Child ID – This is every fearful parents must-have app. You can keep a store of detailed information about your child, which is instantly accessible at all times. The information that you store can quickly be forwarded to authorities, should your child go missing. With FBI Child ID, if you even lose sight of your child at the mall, you can show security guards a detailed profile that will help track their whereabouts in no time.  The app has a database of hints and tips on child safety, and is free to download, too.
  • Find My Kids — Footprints – With Find My Kids you can virtually track everything that your kids are up to while they’re out of your line of sight. If they are speeding, the app sends you notifications. When they cross a fence, you’ll know about it. The app is completely automatic, so you don’t have to do a thing. Your kids cannot disable the app, giving you full peace of mind. If you wish to, you can also share waypoints with your partner or trusted friends.
  • Family Tracker – If you are concerned about any of your children’s whereabouts, Family Tracker will let them know. The app costs $3.99 and works by sending a repetitive push message every 60 seconds. Once the message is acknowledged, the location of the child is updated on GPS and sent to your device. You can access Family Tracker from either your Apple device or any browser.
  • Life360 Family Locator – Some of the key features of the free Life360 app include the ability to track non-smartphones, safety point and threat alerts and family chat. If your child has arranged to go to a particular location, the app allows you to track their progress and lets you know when they have arrived.
  • Best Baby Monitor – Use two Apple devices with this $3.99 app to create your very own baby monitor. You can hear, watch and speak to your baby from any location that has WiFi. Best Baby Monitor will work with a combination of iPhone and iPad, or iPhone and Mac. If you already own these devices, this is a great way to save on a baby monitoring device.
  • iCam – Webcam Video Streaming – If you’ve ever wanted to install a home surveillance system but found it to be too expensive, iCam – Webcam Video Streaming is the option for you. It only costs $4.99 for the app and can connect to multiple webcam feeds of your choice. iCam will even send you notifications if you are linked to a motion detecting feed whenever there is a potential alert.
  • Alarm.com – Provided you have compatible systems in your home, Alarm.com will allow you to control security cameras, alarms and alerts; switch off lights, set the temperature, and even tell you when the kids get home from school. There are a number of custom features, too, which allow you to set alerts for important reminders, such as leaving the garage door open, or someone changing the temperature on the thermostat. Best of all, the app is free.
  • Mobicip Safe Browser – This is a free browser with parental controls, which allows you to monitor and control what your child accesses on the Internet. Your child’s data is encrypted the moment they log onto an unsecured connection, helping keep them safe from hackers. The app uses a number of filters to restrict access to undesirable content, all of which you can control.
  • SecuraFone – This free app allows you to set boundaries for where your kids go and how fast they drive. As soon as they breach the rules, you receive an automated call letting you know. SecuraFone uses the built-in GPS in your child’s iPhone, and even sends alerts if the phone becomes inactive. Parents can view up to 90 days of data that help you analyze your child’s habits.
  • Game Time Limit – Another great app for keeping track of your child’s virtual whereabouts, Game Time Limit allows you to dictate how long he spends playing games on the phone. Once the time is up, you don’t have to worry finding him because an alarm appears on the phone that only you can switch off with your passcode. The app costs $0.99, however, it is a great way to keep you from having to constantly chastise your child to finish playing games.
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