How to Keep Up Housework With Young Children

To a parent with young kids, it may seem impossible to get any housework done when they are around! Or at all! Ever! In this article, I share my expertise in how I stay on top of chores and housework while having 2 young children in the house.

“Success is determined by your daily choices and habits.”

Oddly enough, it’s the small, daily tasks that add up to the most impact with anything. Budgeting, fitness, clean eating, opening a business, keeping a car or your house clean, etc. all follow this rule.

So how do you be a parent AND still keep your house from being a sty? Here are my proven tips that WORK if you put in the EFFORT:

  1. Clean up after cooking- 25 minutes
    I don’t mean immediately when the stove is still hot, I mean about 1-2 hours after you’re done eating and you’re content. Go put a load of dishes in the dishwasher, wipe the counters and stovetop down, and then put away the dishes when clean.
  2. Make your bed- 10 minutes
    Unless you have some ornate set-up, making a bed isn’t a huge undertaking. It makes a room feel clean, put-together, and invites a sense of relaxation. Plus it gets you in a tidy/clean-up mindset.
  3. Have a designated day for doing laundry and do it all in one swoop- 4 hours inactive, 1 hour active
    My laundry day is Saturday. I strip my bed weekly and my kids beds every 2 weeks. Wash clothes all on Saturday starting at about 8am (the baby is up anyway) and do multiple loads back-to-back: my kids laundry & sheets & towels, whites & our bedding & towels, mediums, darks, kitchen towels & rags & cleaning cloths, daycare linens. Move items along as they are done and have a folding party later in the day. While the laundry is going, save time by doing other household chores!
  4. Grocery shop with a plan in mind- 3 hours (driving & shopping & unloading)
    Having a plan makes all the difference and gives you more time for other projects! I make weekly menus for daycare and also for personal use. From that menu, I make a grocery list for: Costco and General List (I go to Publix, Target, or Save-a-Lot for groceries). Then when the kids are fed and the baby just woke up from morning nap, it’s out the door we go to the store! I have my lists and a plan of where we are driving based on what we’re buying. I stick to the list to stay on budget.
  5. Delegate tasks!
    If you expect to have young children and have 1 person do everything when it comes to housework/yardwork, you’re doomed to fail. Sit down with your significant other and make a chore list with how often each chore needs to be done and who is responsible for it (or do you want to alternate doing it?). Each of you put your name next to the chores you don’t mind doing (ie: dusting, cleaning bathrooms, vacuuming, mopping, cleaning glass, cleaning the kitchen, mowing the yard, weeding, dishes, trash, etc) and then of the ones remaining, divvy them out. If you have pre-teens or teenagers, enlist them as well. Chores are a part of life and everyone needs to learn these self-help skills to be a functioning adult in society.
  6. Do a little every day. And enlist your children to help!
    When my son was 1.5 years old he was cleaning up spills, putting his shoes away on the shelf, busing his dish after meals and scraping food into the trash, and putting his dirty clothes in his laundry basket. Kids love these types of skills, but unless you show them how to do it and expect it of them, they are going to be slobs! Setting and enforcing limits takes a lot of time and can be quite exhausting, but it also reaps major benefits once the system is in place.

    As for parents, be sure to put away things when done, put your dirty clothes in the designated laundry basket, bring in the mail and put it into the appropriate mail slot in the sorter, when going from car to house bring all items and trash inside, finish tasks that are begun, fix that burnt out light bulb the second you notice it, repair that ripped sock if you want to salvage it, and throw away junk mail.

  7. Do seasonal or annual cleaning & get rid of stuff!
    This helps because the less stuff you have, the less there is to clean or clutter your mind or home. Twice a year I go through my: shoes, clothes, pants, books, stuff, file cabinet, toys, etc and get rid of everything that I don’t want or need anymore. Some of it is trashed and a lot of it is donated to Salvation Army. Just a few months ago I got rid of about 1/4 the stuff in our garage and just put it down at the street. All items were free (because my priority was getting rid of it, not selling it) and all of it was gone within 5 days. Felt SO good to lighten our load and add benefit to the community.
  8. Have daily, weekly, monthly, seasonal, and annual projects.
    My tasks-
    Daily
    : put dirty laundry away, make bed, clean counters after cooking, do 2 loads of dishes, wipe down kids tables and high chairs after use
    Weekly: Clean the kitchen sink with bleach and then clean with soap, dust whole house, all laundry, menu planning, grocery shopping, clean bathrooms, mow yard, weed garden beds, bathe dog
    Monthly: change the air filter for the AC unit, deep clean whole house, dust light fixtures, clean glass and mirrors,
    Seasonal: Decorations, decluttering, adding mulch to garden beds

How to Raise Well-Behaved Children

Raising well-behaved children. This is what we all go into parenting hoping to do. Sometimes our desires to do things a certain way or to have a certain outcome get derailed because we’re unsure how to get from point A to point B. Or maybe our past baggage from how we were raised gets in the way. Or maybe we just don’t have the tools to guide us along the way.

  1. Begin with the end in mind.
    This goes for just about any topic out there, but think of the long-term consequences of doing any 1 thing regarding child care and child rearing. In the short-run, you may find a solution that may gain you immediate compliance or be a quick fix, but then down the line you will have to undo that conditioning and the workload will be at least double. I figure do it right the first time and be done with it.
    This could be things like: holding a baby until they fall asleep versus gentle sleep training, letting a child do whatever they want without consequence versus showing and telling and guiding children towards appropriate behaviors.
  2. Think about why your child is behaving the way they are.
    If your child is acting out at the grocery store, instead of yelling at them, spanking them, or being a jerk right back to them, think about what is causing the misbehavior. There’s always a reason, although it may take some digging to find it. Hunger, fatigue/tiredness, feeling isolated/lonely, being too hot or cold, being scared, wanting to be held, wanting attention, etc are common reasons. If you can figure out what the cause is, then you can help remedy it. For a child that can talk, ask them what’s wrong. If they are pre-verbal, try a few different things, if possible, to try and rule out possibilities.

    This also shifts your focus from reactive to responsive, which is a paradigm shift in thinking. It helps you focus on the fact that your child is a person with preferences, opinions, feelings, and needs versus thinking that they are trying to manipulate you or get what they want (though there’s plenty of that later IF you don’t have a solid and consistent foundation/relationship with your child).

  3. Explain things to your child in a simple, matter-of-fact fashion.
    If your child wants to eat a cookie, tell them why they can’t have it versus just saying “no”. In my household, I rarely use the word “no” because I give simple explanations and/or tell the child what the proper way to do things is.

    So if my son asks for a cookie (and he’s had enough sweets today), I’ll say, “Sweetie, you’ve had too many cookies today. We can have another cookie tomorrow.” So he knows that I’m saying no to a cookie right now, not indefinitely. Or if we are about to eat dinner and he asks, I’ll say, “We are going to eat dinner soon. We can have a cookie after dinner.” Then he understands that he needs to eat food first and then dessert. Notice that I didn’t say something like “eat all of your dinner” or “clean your plate”. Children know when they have had enough and forcing them to eat everything can lead to eating disorders later in life. Just serve smaller portions next time and chalk it up to a lesson learned on your end.

  4. Always tell the truth!
    It may be tempting to say “Oh, the store is closed!” when the truth of the matter is that you don’t want to go. Sooner or later, your white lies will catch up to you and your child may have trouble believing what you say. Hold yourself to it to tell the truth to your child, no matter what.

    If they say they want ice cream and you don’t have any money left, say, “That sounds fun! I don’t have enough money for that, but we can maybe go next week.” Or if your child wants to go outside to play and it’s 8pm, say, “It’s dark outside right now. We can play outside tomorrow when the sun is up.” Or if they ask where grandma went, say, “Grandma had to go home. She’ll come back another time.”

  5. Involve your child in daily tasks.
    Anything from household chores to laundry to grocery shopping to picking up after themselves, get them involved and get them involved young. About the time a child is 1.5 years old they should be feeding themselves (maybe using a spoon or fork), drinking out of a sippy cup, maybe taking their dish to the sink after mealtime, doing light picking up, putting their dirty clothes in the laundry basket after they take them off, helping you pick out produce at the grocery store (with help), getting food for the pet bowls (with help), unloading safe and unbreakable things from the dishwasher and handing to you, loading the washer with clothes (with help), and other small tasks.

    Not only does this teach them independence, it gives them confidence. It helps them feel capable of their abilities. It also shows them that things are expected of them in your household. They will go away to college knowing how to do laundry!

  6. Have behavioral expectations of your children and enforce them consistently.
    The biggest flaw parents have is the lack of follow-through. You need to be consistent and use consistent phrases to have credibility that your word means something. This goes hand-in-hand with #4. In our house, we don’t walk around with food, so children have 2 options: “you can sit and eat” or “if you’re done you can bus your dish” (dump any uneaten food and then take it to the sink). This way they understand that they have the choice as to whether they are eating or all done, but that the rules surrounding each setting are determined by me, the parent/provider.

    Or have an expectation that they put their shoes away in a designated spot when they take them off. Here, I say to my son, “Where do shoes go?” and then I showed him where they go when he was around 1.5 and ever since he has put them there when I say this. He runs off all excited to do it too! I also have a few rules for things out in public like: need to sit nice while out to eat or you’ll sit in the baby chair (high chair),

    You also need to put your own shoes away as well as other items if you want your child to do it with theirs. “Monkey see, monkey do”.

  7. Give them real food from a young age. Don’t keep them on baby food or kid food for long.
    Children develop their eating habits within the first 3 years of life. Texture aversions and food aversions/being scared to try new things are usually developed in this time frame as well if they are not exposed to a variety of textures, fruits, veggies, and etc. Give them real food as soon as you can and limit the amounts of purees and “kid food” because they may never outgrow it!
  8. Narrate what you’re doing as you do it.
    This helps your child learn why you do the things you do as well as lets them hear words, your thought process, and understands the processes for things in life.
  9. Be sure to let your child have independence!
    This is the generation of helicopter parents and children who have caregivers that part take in this method of parenting tend to be more clingy, have more separation anxiety, and cannot do tasks/play alone because they are looking for someone to make commentary and watch what they are doing. Children need to learn that they should enjoy doing things for the sake of doing them, not for the recognition they may get for it. If a child sees you engaged in activities like cooking, cleaning, reading, etc they will naturally want to do their own activities and be independent in their interests. A healthy dose of independence and dependence on caregivers helps children to have their needs met when needed and to also learn to separate from their caregivers.
  10. Challenge them in tasks and movement of their body.
    Children learn best when they are in a comfortable and safe place where they can explore boundaries, test limits, and see what their bodies can do. Safe crawling, walking, climbing, jumping, and running are all important to gross motor development and should be encouraged in appropriate settings.

My Personal Cooking Hacks

Whenever you have years of experience with something, you come across some tricks of the trade- either things you’ve developed yourself or things others have taught you (in real life or online). I’m not one to hog good ideas, so here are some of the things I’ve thought up or borrowed from others.

  1. After using an ingredient in a can and you have leftovers, be sure to put them in a different container before refrigerating (like canned tomatoes or corn). The ingredients in the can (if opened and exposed to oxygen) get contaminated inside. Jarred items (in glass or plastic) can go right in the fridge.
  2. If you use tomato paste and there’s some leftover from the recipe, portion out 1 Tablespoon amounts onto a piece of parchment paper and put in the freezer until solid. Then put in a freezer-safe bag or container and the next time you need tomato paste, it’ll be fast and easy to get the right amount since most recipes call for even Tablespoons of tomato paste.
  3. To save money and have fresh produce on-hand, consider buying in bulk and prepping then freezing certain things. I do this at Costco with red bell peppers since I love cooking with them and they end up being around $1 each at Costco versus $2 or so at my local grocery store. I buy the 6 pack of peppers then immediately chop them up when I get home and freeze in a gallon ziplock bag.
  4. Buy meats in bulk and freeze. You can either do this with a big package then portion it at home for how it makes sense or you can buy 1-pound packages of meat. Either option is fine. For things like pork tenderloin, figure out how much a standard portion is for your family and then have that be the size you divvy it up into. For us with 2 young children, 1 pound tends to do nicely.
  5. Buy shredded cheeses in bulk and freeze. The cool thing about shredded cheese is that you can easily break off a piece if you need to cook with some and it defrosts rather quickly in the fridge, on the counter, or in a cooking pot. Since it’s likely to spoil fast if kept in the fridge, we always freeze ours. We can get a huge amount of mozzarella, cheddar, Mexican, or Parmesan cheese and save oodles of money by freezing it. (We love cheese in this family!)
  6. Buy butter in bulk and freeze. I picked this up from a former job’s customer. I was cleaning her fridge and bottom freezer and notices that she had butter in the freezer. A great way to stock up on sale (or if you just don’t use it fast enough) so that you won’t run out. Cooks use a lot of butter.

I’m sure there are more things that I do subconsciously for cooking hacks, but these are the main ones that I do/use and they not only help our family eat better but they also make the process not so tedious or time-consuming since I’ve already done some of the work before the cooking has even begun.

Avoiding Power Struggles with Feeding

Many parents find themselves with a toddler who fights them at mealtime, is picky, or seemingly doesn’t eat “enough” or eats “too much”, according to the parents. Interestingly enough, eating and feeding habits are established and solidified from the first day of life. Every decision and action made affects a child’s ideology and feelings about food and feedings.

In the beginning of a child’s life, their main needs revolve around connection and trust, food, and being kept clean/dry. How a new parent approaches the baby’s needs for connection and food will set up the child’s feelings of relaxation or anxiety regarding food. Babies especially need to be fed on-demand, meaning they need to be given food as often as they need it and as much as they need. For a breastfed baby, this means nursing when baby is giving hunger signals and learning about the individual cues they give for if they are done or just taking a breathing break or have a gas bubble that needs to come out. For a formula-fed baby, it means also feeding them on demand but not limiting their intake to a certain number of ounces or to a certain frequency or time between feedings. It’s best to read and trust your baby, that they will self-regulate and eat only as much as they need and no more. If a parent can internalize this ideology for feeding, power struggles will be eliminated and the child will get the amount they need.

For when a child gets a bit older and is eating baby food/purées, the game changes a little. A child should be offered a wide variety of safe foods to expand the palate. But that doesn’t mean that there should be coercion, bribes, pleading, or asking the child to try some “for mama” or “for daddy”. Eating needs to be a pleasant experience for a child to have a healthy relationship with food when they are older. It’s been discovered that forcing a child to eat when they don’t want to, and the opposite, trying to get a child to stop eating if you think they are eating too much, can both lead to anxiety with food and may cause eating disorders.

Parents need to divide the “responsibility” of eating with their child: the parent provides the food, the time the meal is offered, and the setting. The child determines how much and of what they eat. It’s best if a variety is offered at mealtime and if the child is allowed to self-feed (if at the age when they are able to, even if clumsily). Best results are achieved if the food is set out in front of the child and then the child is left to eat as they see fit. Once they start to slow down and seem disinterested or have finished their food, determine if they want more or if they are truly done.

As a parent, you know your child’s cues best. If they are done, then calmly remove the food from their plate/tray and discard it or save for later. Don’t have them “take one more bite” or “swallow what is in their mouth” if they don’t want to, or “clean their plate”. These are all disrespectful and undermine the child’s ability to self-regulate their intake. They will only eat as much as they need- there’s no reason to force them to eat more or to eat something they don’t like. It’s a good idea to have a napkin on the table that the child can either spit their “bad” food into or if they take it out of their mouth. This gives them an out that is socially acceptable if it’s needed.

If a child has entered the toddler years and is extremely picky with their food, one of the best ways to figure out why is to record the child’s mealtime interaction with you and others in the home and then review it later. Maybe you are pushing the food on your child versus just offering it on the plate: “Here’s some spinach! Eat up!”. Maybe you are bribing them: “Just one more bite then you can have a cookie”. Maybe you are making them finish everything on their plate: “You need to eat all of that”. Maybe you don’t want them to spit out food they don’t like (which is kind of mean, really): “Need to swallow that”. If you’re unsure of what the problem may be, ask a friend or another mom or even your pediatrician or child’s dietician about it.

Just as it would be inconsiderate to expect another adult to “clean their plate” or to “swallow that bite” of food that they find unappealing or distasteful, it is also inconsiderate to do the same to children, except that it’s all too common, especially among Baby Boomers and even older parents who grew up with these ideas. If someone in your life who is a caregiver of your child (even an occasional one), it’s best to speak up about your feelings towards food and eating and be an advocate for your child if needed. If grandma tells your child to “swallow that bite” of food and your child clearly doesn’t want to and is even slightly in distress about it, by all means, let your child spit out the food in an appropriate place (mother’s hands are a typical landing spot, haha!). Hopefully your respectful parenting techniques will rub off and if not, it’s time for a chat about how you would like your children to be treated.

5 Ways Birth is Different from How Media Portrays it

We’ve all seen movies, TV shows, and commercials where a woman in labor is a sweaty, screaming mess who looks to be in so much pain and is always in a hospital setting. She likely gets the epidural, is stressed to the max, and is yelling at someone about something trivial. And it all usually begins with her water breaking and then rushing off to the hospital. The stereotypical birth is this chaotic image and it’s no wonder so many women are terrified of it!

Here are a few ways that birth is drastically different from mainstream ideas on the matter:

  1. A woman’s water doesn’t usually break until right before the baby comes. 95% of women have their water break towards the end of active labor, right before pushing. Only 5% have their water break first then have labor begin. The movies have it all wrong.
  2. The reason women are stressed while in labor is moreso their lack of information on pain coping techniques like deep breathing, relaxation, water therapy, hypnobirthing, acupuncture, chiropractic adjustments, walking around, squatting, back massage, aromatherapy, etc. They go in not having any plan for dealing with the early labor contractions and transition (which is very intense). The thing with contractions is that if a woman is tense and tightens her muscles (anywhere, like clenching facial muscles or making fists), her body tenses up even more and the pain level goes up. If instead she closes her eyes and truly relaxes with deep breaths, imagining a peaceful place, tunes out noises and distractions, etc, the body takes this cue as a sign and pain is lessened. I’ve experienced this difference first-hand with my Braxton Hicks contractions with my first pregnancy.
  3. Women are always delivering babies in hospitals. There are many more options than just this one! Birth Centers with a certified midwife, home birth, and even birthing in nature, like a stream or under a waterfall! Only 10% of pregnancies are considered high risk (high blood pressure, gestational diabetes, history of miscarriage, multiple births (twins, etc), and women that have had premature babies before). A high-risk pregnancy needs to have an Obstetrician and the the baby needs to be delivered in a hospital setting with the equipment and specialists to handle any emergency situations that may happen. The other 90% of pregnancies are low-risk and the medical interventions and high-stress environment of a hospital are totally unnecessary (like the IV drip with Pitocin in it, the epidural, the episiotomy cut of the perineum skin, the outrageously high rate of C-sections in the United States, etc)
  4. Women are always delivering in supine position (reclined, on their back, legs spread in stirrups). Not only is this position the most difficult to push a baby out, but it’s also the most limiting in terms of comfort, mobility, and the mother’s control of her own birth experience. Doctors like to have things be predictable and unfortunately, birth is something that is still institutionalized in the States. Anyone who wants to labor in a different position, on a birth ball, in a shower or tub, etc is told that they cannot or that it’s not safe! (Yes, really). I had a friend whose OB told her that she couldn’t labor in a tub because it can give the baby an infection. I delivered my son in a jacuzzi tub, which, if done correctly with proper monitoring and care, is entirely safe.
  5. Birth isn’t always a scream-fest. My fist son’s birth was quite peaceful and quiet and I’m sure my partner thought I was either a superhuman or just made to make and have babies! My midwife said I was a rockstar and asked if I was sure this was my first birth! Haha! I just wish that there would be better representation of the different ways birth can go- peaceful ways and others as well.

 

Some good videos/movies to watch on methods of more holistic childbirth and information on coping techniques for labor pains:

  • The Business of Being Born
  • Call the Midwife
  • Freedom for Birth
  • Birth as We Know it
  • Welcome to the World
  • National Geographic- In the Womb
  • 9 Magical Months
  • A Baby Story
  • Babies
  • Pregnant in America

The Job I Never Thought I’d Enjoy: Being a Stay-At-Home-Mom

When I was growing up, I knew that I always wanted kids. From age 12 and maybe earlier I’ve loved children, found them entertaining and fun and cute, and knew that I’d be a mom one day. I also thought that I would be the kind of mom that would have some sort of a career and drop the kid(s) off at daycare without much thought, worry, or concern.

Fast-forward to when I was pregnant with my first son, and I began looking into daycare homes and centers and found that even the most expensive options still didn’t meet my standards on what I thought my child deserved. So as I was working a “kid job” as I call it, my mom suggested that I do the necessary training to open my own home daycare. So I dove right in, taking online classes and the exams necessary. A LOT of reading- both required material and other topics that I personally wanted to learn about. I was ready to open up shop when my son was 2 months old but ran into some roadblocks and had to postpone opening.

It ended up being 6-9 months that I stayed home with my son and was a SAHM (stay-at-home-mom) before I got another job, which was a 3rd shift custodian job at a nearby school. I was able to work full-time and still raise my son (until he was about 18 months old) when I went back to daytime work. But the experiences I had with all 3 options (SAHM, working but raising my son, and working plus putting my son in daycare) really helped me compare the pros and cons. I can say without a shadow of doubt that me staying home with my son was the best of all options- financially, health-wise, cooking-wise, getting things done wise, and happiness-wise.

The most unexpected thing for me was how much LOVE I had for my baby after a few months of time together. I loved him more than myself, more than my dog, my family, my boyfriend…. and it scared me. I was very critical of anyone watching him, the environment, the safety, the food and nutrition, and the supervision. Even with family I was this way, the only person I didn’t worry about was my mom cause she’s more safety-conscious than me.

I think the thing I loved most about being a SAHM was the fact that the whole day ahead of my was MINE. I didn’t have somewhere to be at a certain time (ie: work), I didn’t have to pack a lunch for myself or my son, didn’t have to worry about traffic or accidentally leaving my son in his car seat, or if he had enough supplies at daycare (diapers, wipes, bottle, formula, changes of clothes, sippy cups, etc), or if I forgot to brush my teeth that day, or if I remembered my grocery list that I’d shop off of after work…. and the list goes on.

The best part of being a SAHM was that I could sleep in with my son if we both needed it, take the day as lazy or adventurous as we wanted, take a leisurely walk with the dog in the morning and throughout the day and actually enjoy ourselves, go to a splash pad for fun, pick up used kids items and books to establish my daycare supplies, make homemade pastries and yogurt, cook healthy and delicious dinners, grocery shop and get good deals, take my son to the park, bathe and groom my dog, do endless loads of laundry, read business literature, keep up with my business records, read online articles, meet up with other mommies, have playdates, and many other activities.

I’ve never been the kind of person that does well with scheduled things like appointments, personal hygiene appointments, being to a certain place at a certain time, etc. so for me, the biggest advantage of being a SAHM was the lack of an official schedule. We had our own daily routine but it was VERY flexible. Like if my son had a blowout diaper when waking up, we could take time in the morning to get a bath and not have it be chaotic, versus now if that happens it’s a quick hose-down in the tub followed by frantic dressing and hustling out the door. Not that being a SAHM is no stress, there’s not as much “be on time” stress that is very hard to do with children, especially if you have to wake them up- to do it gently and pleasantly or fast and tantruming? Pick your poison if you’re a working mom!

The Scary Reality of Drowning in Young Children

I recently took an online DCF Daycare In-Service training course on drowning and water safety and I learned so much about the realities and myths of drowning in young children that I felt that I needed to write about it to inform other parents of facts, information, and a simulated video of what a drowning person looks like (acting but still very real-looking) to help parents and caregivers alike learn what drowning really looks like so if you see it happening, you know what to look for and what course of action to take.

This is one of the more difficult topics to discuss and learn about because we all feel heart-wrenching pain at the thought or sight of someone dying from drowning. But the only way to help prevent the instance is to know about it, know what it looks like through watching videos, and through taking preventative measures to ensure that safety and supervision are of #1 importance. Because an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure!

Videos to Watch Now

Recognize the Signs of Drowning

Steps to Save Someone From Drowning

What Does an Actual Drowning Look Like?

Drowning Signs Aren’t Like the Movies (Real Footage)

drowning4

I learned that it only takes 15-60 seconds for a young child to FULLY drown. This is way shorter a time than it would take for an adult, but it’s still in the blink of an eye. “Both fatal [death] and non-fatal [survival]  drowning are quiet and quick, with no signs of struggle. With no sound and almost no movement, it’s hard to spot a drowning child.”

drowning3

drown

Prevention of Drowning in Young Children:

drowning9

drowning11

drowning5

drowning16

Subtle Signs of a High-Quality Daycare

Daycare businesses want customers and will use words such as “child-centered”, “individualized”, “creative curriculum”,  “high-quality”, and “accredited” to bait customers. But how can you tell if their service is actually good or not? It’s harder to do than you’d imagine, but here are my insider tips into finding out.

  1. Find out if the provider is good with kids or not.
    This one can be tricky, but it’s fairly easy to tell if you know what to look for. If they easily redirect a child’s behavior, take the child’s safety as more important than the conversation you’re having with them, get down on the child’s level when speaking to them, don’t force a hug or other “touches”, immediately console a child that is hurt or sad, and seem to have a confident and calm way of handling these situations, then they are naturally (or trained) to be good with children and help them form positive habits.
  2. “Accredited” simply means that the business paid a fee ($900-$1200) to have someone come and observe the facility and give a thumbs up. It’s not really an indicator of quality.
    While an accredited business may have more financial investment in their business, it also means that you, as a customer of that business, are now paying for that stamp of approval. A hike in costs can be 20% of the would-be rate you would’ve had. Businesses know that consumers want assurance of standards and that most parents don’t do much research but instead go off of marketing and qualifiers the business can list.
  3. The food served at a daycare is a good indicator of its overall quality.
    If a daycare center is $200/week and makes parents supply food, drinks, wipes, diapers, clean bed linens weekly etc. versus a daycare home that is $180/week that provides homemade (sometimes organic) food, beverages, wipes, and cleans bed linens… which one is a better value? As a parent myself, I’d prefer the easier route on my end that also provides my child with the best opportunities, food, and experience. Most parents don’t have time or resources to pack a well-balanced lunch for their finicky toddler and so a daycare that provides quality meals is an indicator of quality all-around.
  4. Is the daycare area spic and span when you arrive for pick-up? That may not be a good thing!
    You’d think that arriving to a daycare for pick-up that’s clean and tidy means that you’re getting high-quality care, right? Well if you think of it from this perspective, maybe you’ll change your mind: children for the last 45 minutes of daycare are told to sit on a rug and to only look at books until their parents arrive while the daycare provider tidies up the room, cleaning floors, windows, toys, bottles, sippy cups, etc. So instead of letting them have fun until pick-up, the provider puts their needs ahead of the children. Not quality.
  5. Are you told/shown what is expected of you as a parent or left wondering how things work?
    A good daycare business is organized and will show and/or tell its parents how things work, when payment is due, what holidays are observed, what their late policy is, what take-home assignments are to be done, their policy on birthday parties and treats, how drop-off and pick-up are done, how to sign in and out, of any major events coming up, etc. If their communication or language skills aren’t fluent and proactive, then they are likely unorganized and/or low-quality.
  6. Do the children have at least 30 minutes of outdoor play daily?
    Children need to burn off some steam and to get their bodies stronger as they grow. Gross and fine motor skills are developed through outdoor play. Gross motor being things like climbing, running, jumping and fine motor being things like picking up leaves, touching tree bark, and blowing bubbles. Without outdoor play time (or at least a larger, separate area for gross motor play in inclement weather), it’s likely that the kids will go stir-crazy and be wound up all day being indoors.
  7. Art experiences are important but the kind of project needs to be open-ended and not aimed to get a specific finished result.
    The best kinds of art that children can do is where they are given materials, paper, and are left to it. My favorite creations that my son makes are the kind that are totally open-ended: one he put cut-out triangles and pompoms onto a glued piece of paper. Another was one that he stuck pieces of shredded pieces of tissue paper onto a glued piece of paper. They are my favorites because it was entirely his creation, not some contrived thing that all the kids made and had help with. This was just his art. Too bad he ripped them up while playing one day!  😥
  8. A variety of toys for both boys and girls plus a mix of simple, current stage, and challenging toys and play materials.
    There needs to be dolls and house toys for boys and cars and building blocks for girls. Children this young don’t have gender roles engraved into their brains yet which makes it the best time for letting them explore all kinds of toys and make-believe experiences. Young boys go on to become fathers one day and young girls go on to have math and science in school, so there needs to be a focus of well-roundedness for all children attending. In addition, there should be room for growth. Children need to have toys that challenge them and make them think to a new level- this is how they grow and become smarter and solve bigger and bigger “problems” every day.
  9. Safety should always be #1!
    Take a look around and note if the following things that indicate safety: outlet covers, no items that can be pulled down and cause harm in the daycare area, tall bookcases/shelves should be bolted to the wall, glass decor or drinking glasses should not be used, pacifiers need to be stored separately from others to prevent germ-swapping, hands need to be washed often and by everyone (daycare provider and children), doors to the outside need to remain locked and closed, animals should be kept away from the daycare area, yard outside should not have animal waste in it, yard needs to be fenced with no means of escape, gate latch should be out of reach for a child, children should never be left unattended (especially near water or in the bathroom), hazardous chemicals should be stored up high and away from children, cabinet locks and other childproofing of cabinets should be used, diaper changing station should have an impermeable surface that is cleaned and/or sanitized often, dirty diapers should be changed promptly to avoid rashes, cooking knives should be stored safely and out of reach, children should not be in the kitchen when cooking tasks are going on, burner turn-ons should not be accessible by little hands, etc.
  10. Go with your gut!
    If you sense that there’s something amiss or if your child cries every time you drop them off, then that could be a sign that the provider isn’t meeting your child’s needs or that your child doesn’t feel welcome there. It’s normal for the first week or so for a bit of fussing or crying at drop-off, but if your child turns away from a provider and has a scared look on their face, then you may need to look elsewhere for your daycare needs.

Teaching Your Child to Be an Adventurous Eater

Many people think that children have limited tastes and don’t care to have exotic foods or even regular adult food. But as children across the globe show, taste buds need to be stretched and then they can like many things.

Most American parents, it seems, feed their kids things like: crackers, cookies, pretzles, cheese, fruit snacks, mac n cheese, and other “junk”-esque food. They do it partially because they know their kids will like it and partially because it’s easy. Simple to buy, store, prepare, etc, but it doesn’t provide much “broadening of the horizons” that children need in order to try and like a wide variety of foods.

Did you know that it can take up to 14 times of trying a food before a child can like it? Maybe even more. So just because Freddie tried peas one time and made a face doesn’t mean that he won’t ever like them, just that he didn’t like them today. And we all have “food moods”, even as adults. Some days I don’t feel like having potatoes but that doesn’t mean I don’t like them. Just means that my tastes and cravings change from day to day.

Stretching food boundaries is very important. The best way to go about it is to provide 1 new ingredient or element each meal or snack to introduce it gradually. You can add a bit of prepared mustard to a sauce, add some capers in with a lemon white wine sauce, mix in some quinoa with a casserole lunch, or have a painter’s palette of colorful food purées for children to try and play with.

Tactile experiences (playing with food) are just as important as trying new foods. Children learn through play and through “doing” so they learn about textures, food, and science through playing with their food, mouthing it, squishing it, and tasting it.

If your child is displeased with the taste of a food and spits it out, show them where to put it (napkin, back on the plate, etc) and then say, “Thank you for trying the __peas__. Remember that you don’t have to like it, just to try it.” Or a simpler version if you’d like.

My son (who is turning 2) likes: eggs, salmon, brie, feta, beets, yogurt, broccoli, asparagus, carrots, cauliflower, and green veggie juice! Just remember that you’ll need to be persistent with trying new foods, and don’t give up! The best way to let children try new foods is to give them some food off your plate- either while out to eat or at your own dinner table. Make sure that you’re setting a good example, too. If a child sees their parent with no veggies on their plate, better figure they’re not enticed to eat them either!

The Power Of “Hygge”—A.K.A. The Danish Concept Of Cozy Together Time

Written by Katie Hintz-Zambrano  at Mothermag.com

Parenting practices around the world are fascinating to us, which is why we continue to take a deep dive into the methods used in Denmark, a.k.a. the “happiest place in the world.” Here, we carry on our series with the authors of The Danish Way of Parenting, Jessica Alexander and Iben Sandahl. The two have already helped us tackle the “Danish way” principles of the power of play, the importance of teaching empathy, and no-ultimatums parenting. Below, we quizzed them on the Danish concept of “hygge,” a theory that we think all families could use in today’s hyper-“connected” digitally driven world.

What exactly is hygge?
“Hygge (pronounced hooga) is a word that dates back to the 19th century and is derived from the Germanic word hyggja, which means to think or feel satisfied. Many people think of hygge as being ‘cozy’ but that only brushes the surface of a much deeper concept. Hygge is a verb, a noun, an adjective, an identity-related symbol, a mood to be in, a feeling, and it can even have moral implications. But at the heart of it, hygge is about creating intimacy, connectedness, conviviality, and fluid togetherness with friends and family. Danes are raised on hygge, so they do it naturally without even thinking about it. It is such an integral part of their cultural fabric that most Danes don’t even realize there are unspoken rules to hygge. We believe that the Danes’ ability to hygge is one of the main reasons they are so happy. They teach their children this skill and they grow up to pass the tradition onto their familes. Hygge is creating a safe zone of togetherness, which makes it easy for all family members to take part in it at all times during any point in their lives. Through the good and the bad, the ups and the downs, hygge serves as a safe, comfortable, judgment-free zone for connection.”

How does this safe zone of togetherness work?
“Try to picture a room. Inside this room is hygge. As everyone arrives they take off their drama and leave it at the door. Their work issues, their negativity about others, judgments, complaining, bragging, highly controversial topics. All of these things get left outside so that when people enter the hygge space, no one feels like they have to put their guard up, compete, or be defensive. That would absolutely not be hyggeligt. The key is that while you all ‘hygger sig’ (cozy around together), everyone should be able to feel that they can really relax and connect. It’s a space to be free from the outside world and stressors and personal issues and just be present in the moment. There are plenty of other times in our life to stress out and focus on what we don’t like about life or others, but while you are in the hygge space, it is about ‘we’ time, not ‘me’ time. You are not there to compete but to connect. Everyone has to work together to make hygge happen, helping out so that not one person gets stuck doing all the work. Playing games is a great way to hygge, for example, because it involves everyone, it’s fun and it’s a way to avoid drama and be present. These moments make clean, warm memories that our children absorb and thrive on. They are very good for us, too. The payoff is huge.”

Explain the payoff.
“The payoff of hygge is that it can dramatically improve wellbeing. All the scientific research now shows that spending quality time with friends and family brings more happiness than almost anything else in the world, including money. And yet, many of our get-togethers are marred with negativity, complaining, drama, and disappointment. Hygge is a way to make those designated times safe zones; cozy and drama-free places where you can get that much needed connection to the ones you love. And it works by focussing on the group and the moment and acting as a team.”

How can American families incorporate hygge into their lives?
“Hygge is something that needs to be talked about and created together, so we created a ‘hygge oath‘ that you can find on our site to help people understand it. It is something that familes can look at together and print out if they want and talk about. That way everyone knows what it is and how it works. For periods of time anyone can make hygge happen. We know the hygge oath works because families have already tried it with success. Our hope is that the more hygge spreads, the easier it will be to cultivate some of that cozy connectedness outside of Denmark. Maybe one day, it could even become a regular term we use here in the U.S. The main thing to remember is that ‘hygge’ is for a limited time. If it’s tough and you feel like screaming at your mother-in-law or you are getting tired of thinking about ‘we’ instead of ‘me,’ just remember it’s only for another hour or two. Stress, negativity, and ‘my issues’ are all just outside of hygge’s door. The longterm benefits of creating warm, cozy, drama-free memories for your children are immeasurable. And it feels good for us, too. While it may take a little effort for us to implement hygge, it will come naturally for our children when they grow up. And we think these safe, cozy zones of togetherness are a worthwhile legacy of wellbeing worth leaving.”

For more Danish parenting advice, scoop up The Danish Way Of Parenting: A Guide To Raising The Happiest Kids in the World. Plus, for any of you taking the hygge oath, feel free to share your experience on Facebook for a chance to be featured on The Danish Way and win a signed book.