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Easy and Fun Valentine’s Day Crafts for Kids

Growing up, my parents did a great job reminding us what the focus should be for Valentine’s Day. The special people in our lives including grandparents, neighbors, teachers, and others was the reasons for this holiday. It was not a day to focus on material items or spending lots of money. Naturally, it was encouraged that we appreciate and show our loved ones daily how much they mean to us but let’s be honest, everyone enjoys giving and receiving a little extra attention on this unique holiday. Valentine’s Day, in our home, was more of a thoughtful holiday, rather than an “over the top” holiday.

What defines a “thoughtful holiday?” To our family, it means we created homemade and crafty projects and yummy treats to celebrate the people in our lives that were special to us.

Valentine’s Day is around the corner and the traditional Valentine card making can get, well a little old. Here are some of my favorite Valentine’s activities that don’t involve eating candy, are educational and kids of all ages can do alone, as a group or together with an adult.

Our first two activities are a great way to use those leftover candy hearts accumulated in Valentine’s cards from school. Remember to stash away and save a few candy hearts so you can do these activities again anytime of year!

1) Candy Heart Card

Materials: candy hearts with sayings or letters, construction paper, glue, marker, optional: glitter and other stickers

Using construction paper of your choice, make a Valentine’s card for someone you love. Fold the paper in half and glue candy hearts on the front. Use the hearts to create a saying, glue in the shape of a heart, or glue together the letter of the persons first name. Inside have child write of dictate why this person is someone they admire and love. Remember to have child sign and hand deliver if possible for the child to see how the card is appreciated!

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2) Candy Heart Story or Candy Heart “Mad-Libs”

Materials: candy hearts with sayings, glue, construction paper, pen or pencil

Using the candy hearts, have your child pick one heart at a time and try to create a sentence. For example, if the heart says, “Call Me”, child makes a sentence using “Call Me” such as “Please, call me when you want to play.” This sentence can be written and the “Call Me” heart glued in the appropriate spot. Older children can be given four to six hearts at a time and create a story using those hearts. Glue the hearts down on the paper where they fit into the story.

This is great for creativity, fine motor and language skill building.

card

 3) Valentine Word Game

Materials: paper, pen or pencil

Write the word “Valentine’s Day” on a piece of paper. Have the child come up with as many words as they can by selecting two or more letters in “Valentine’s Day.” For example, an, ten, nine, at, etc. are all words made from the letters found in “Valentine’s Day.” Put a timer on for a fun little competition or to make this a classroom activity.

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4) Valentines Tri-Color Play dough

Play dough is always a crowd pleaser. I love it because it’s really a two-step activity, cooking followed by playing with the completed dough. Older children can help cook the play dough, which is a great way to develop motor, language and math skills. Younger children usually always enjoy playing with the finished product. Below is my favorite homemade recipe as it’s completely safe and edible, so those toddlers are free to play too! It’s very salty, so most little ones won’t want to eat more than a taste.

Recipe:

1 cup Flour

1 cup Boiling Water

2 Tbsp. Cream of Tartar

½ cup salt

1 Tbsp. Oil

Red & Blue Food Coloring

Combine and mix all ingredients except for the food coloring. Once the dough is soft and has lost its stickiness, you know it’s done. Divide the play dough into three equal parts and add two or three drops of red food coloring to one ball and two or three drops of blue food coloring to a second ball. Knead the dough until color is swirled throughout. You will now have one red ball, one blue ball and one white ball.

The fun in this activity comes in the excitement when the blue and red play dough is mixed together for a Valentines Day color surprise! Encourage your child to make different shapes and objects with the play dough. This activity helps develop fine motor skills, build creativity and learn about color mixing.

I hope you enjoy trying some of these activities with the children in your life both in the spirit of a little Valentine’s Day project or to share together on any other day of the year.

Happy Valentines Day!

Elissa Sungar is the Co-Creator of If Not You, Who?  a free website that offers easy and fun in-home educational activities that help prepare children for kindergarten and life. Her passion for early childhood education grew out of her experience as a pre-school teacher at Stanford University’s Bing Nursery School. Elissa loves spending time with her family and new baby boy, hiking, running, tennis, yoga, cute workout clothes, good cheese, great baked goods and exploring Denver!   Twitter: @ElissaINYW

 

Activities To Teach “Thankfulness”

It’s the holiday season! What better time is there to teach and encourage thankfulness within your home or classroom. Kids and particularly preschool aged children are notoriously known for being self-centered. Thankfulness, empathy and sharing are all skills that crucial to nixing that preschool aged egocentric behavior, but these are also skills that aren’t inherent, they need to be taught and fostered.

Teaching a child how to be thankful doesn’t only result in a child with good manners, but a child who is thankful tends to be happier, more content and less stressed and depressed. Personally, I can say that is true as I feel much happier when I make a conscience effort to be thankful for all my blessings instead of focusing on all the challenges I’m facing.

So, what can you do at home or within the classroom to foster thankfulness in young kids? Below are five simple and fun activities that you can do with your children. While truly being thankful and understanding thankfulness takes years and repetition, it’s never too early to start!

As I mentioned before, toddlers and preschoolers are egocentric but children as young as 18 months can begin to grasp the concept of thankfulness. Age 2 and older can talk about specific objects or people to be thankful for – my mommy, my football, and so on. Age 4 and older understand being thankful not only for material things like toys or food but for acts of kindness, love, and caring. Take a look below and find an activity or two and book that works for your family. Have fun and Happy Holidays!

5 Activities to Teach Thankfulness

  1. Create a Thankful List- Talking about what your child is grateful each day is a great way to get your child thinking about the good parts of their day. Create a homemade journal (staple paper together to form a book) and have younger child dictate to you what they are thankful for at the end of each day and write it down for them. Older children of course can write it down themselves. If keeping a journal isn’t for your family, try Post-It notes! Have each family member share what they are thankful for and write on Post-It and place on a mirror window etc…Try and make sharing these thankful thoughts a habit and do at consistent times- at breakfast, dinnertime or before bed.
  1. Make Personalized Thank You Notes- Create homemade thank you postcards; this is a great snowy day project! Gather blank 4 x 6 or 5 x 7 index cards and have child “draw” or “scribble” pictures on one side of a to make thank you postcards. An adult can write on the other side a thank you message to the receiver. Just draw a line down the middle of the back of the card using one side for the message and the other side for address and stamp. By having these cards ready to go, it is easy to quickly send a thank you. Sit down with your child along with paper and crayons, to create a picture to give to say “Thank You”. This will lead to an older child naturally knowing to write a thank you note for not only material gifts but for acts of kindness too.
  1. Participate in a Service Project- Participating in an event with your whole family to help someone else makes you thankful for what you have. Perhaps a Canned Food Drive is happening at your church or school. In our city volunteering in food banks and soup kitchens, providing supplies for Homeless shelters, checking in on a Senior citizen, helping at an animal shelter, are just some of the opportunities. Go to volunteer match.org and type in your city to find a way to volunteer. For young children, filling and decorating a shoebox of needed items for a child can help them become aware that not all children have toys, food, or clothes. Shopping and packing the box while chatting about how grateful we are to be able to share with others helps a child to feel like he is contributing. Check out samaritanspurse.org or Military Moms Prayer Group Thank You Package for more information.
  1. Thankfulness Holiday Chain- Remember those red and green paper chains we would made as kids using construction paper about 1 inch wide and 5 inches long that we would glue together in circles and place on the Christmas tree? Make a “Thankfulness Chain” by cutting 1inch by 5inch strips out o construction paper or even old newspaper. Write something you and your child are thankful for on each piece and then see how long you can make your chain by looping circle through previous circle and tape or staple shut. You can also purchase Pre-Cut Christmas Paper Chain strips on Amazon if you don’t want to cut your own.
  1. Donate! Old toys in good shape can be a source of joy to someone else, and out grown clothing can be used by another family. Allowing your child to select a toy or outfit to share with others, is another way for you to share how thankful we are that our family has clothes and toys. Explain in an age-appropriate way that there are people who do not have toys, clothes, or food for numerous reasons – they are sick and can’t work, they live in area of the world that has no water to grow food, etc.

Books: check with your local library

  1. “How Full Is Your Bucket? For Kids by Tom Rath
  2. “The Blessings Jar: A Story About Being Thankful” by Colleen Coble.
  3. “Bear Says Thanks” by Karma Wilson

Elissa Sungar is the Co-Creator of If Not You, Who?  a free website that offers easy and fun in-home educational activities that help prepare children for kindergarten and life and has a 1.5 year old son!  Her passion for early childhood education grew out of her experience as a pre-school teacher at Stanford University’s Bing24 Nursery School. Elissa loves spending time with her family, hiking, running, tennis, yoga, cute workout clothes, good cheese, great baked goods and exploring Denver!   Twitter: @ElissaINYW

Fun Fall Books and Activities for Kids!

School is back in session, there is a chill in the air, pumpkin spice lattes are back and I even had a fire in the fireplace for the first time in over five months… Fall has arrived!

As an educator and mom, I love the combination of reading books followed by an “extension activity”. Extension activities have lots of benefits such as getting children excited to read and teaching them how to connect a book to real life. Activities give a child a chance to use the language from the book in a new way and of course, you have more positive parent-child interaction! Extension activities take reading to a whole new and exciting level and don’t need to be time consuming or cost money.

This summer I fell in love with Usborne books after a friend of mine introduced them to me. There are a unique company that makes books for all ages that include fiction, non-fiction, activity books, pop up books and more! I ordered a bunch of them this summer for birthday gifts as they are typically a bit harder to find so I don’t have to worry about kids already owning the book. The best news about these books is that they can be found right here at any of the Denver Public Libraries. Just enter the titles and place a hold at your closest library.

Since I’m excited that Fall has arrived I wanted to share a few of our favorite Fall books and an extension activity for each as well. Happy Fall!taleoftwobeasts

  1. A Tale of Two Beasts” by Fiona Roberton- When a little girl rescues a strange beast from the woods, she takes him home. But for some reason, the little beast is not happy! There are two sides to every story, and this funny and charming tale is no exception. Fiona Roberton offers both points of view in this discussion-starting tale of the importance of seeing the world in different ways

Extension Activity:

a) Have your child create their own story with two perspectives. Older children could write their story themselves, younger children could verbalize it to the adult.

b) Ask a child to think of a situation in their own life that presented a problematic encounter with a friend or adult. Encourage them to share the situation that made them feel unhappy, mad, embarrassed etc.. Try and have them see both sides of the event from each persons perspective (just like in the book). This is a wonderful way to teach empathy, understanding and problem solving.

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  1. Secrets of the Apple Tree, Shine-A-Light Book” by Kane Millersecretsofappletree

Explore a tree up close and you will find a small world filled with great surprises! From worms wriggling among the roots, to birds nesting high in the branches, the hidden wonders of this amazing habitat are revealed when the page is held up to a light.

Extension Activity:

a) Do your own apple picking at a near by apple orchard! Look and touch the tree- the leaves, bark and fruit. Here are a few favorite around Denver: YaYa Farm & Orchard 6914 Ute Hwy Longmont, CO 80503; Happy Apple Farm 1190 1st Street, Penrose, CO 81240

b) Head to the grocery store and let your child pick out their own apple for a healthy snack. Talk to them about the different colors, textures and flavors. Have a taste test with a few different types of apples. Finally, cut open the apple horizontally across the middle and you will see a star with the seeds. There is a story you can share about the star here.

farmc) “ 1001 Things to Spot on the Farm” Usborne – This charming picture book shows scenes from farms around the world, and on every page, there are dozens of things to spot. The detailed pictures provide hours of looking and talking, and dedicated spotters will be unable to put the book down until they have found all the water buffaloes in the rice fields, the cocoa pods on the tropical farm, or eight lambs on the sheep farm. Counting sheep has never been so much fun!

Extension Activity:

  1. Bring the book with you in the car and have you child find what they “spot in the book” out the window! They will be amazed how many things from the book they find within their own world.
  2. Create your own Things to Spot. Use a sheet of paper and crayons or markers and have your child create their own Things to Spot page or book! Suggest they draw their house, playroom, or favorite place to play like a park or zoo and place special things to spot in their picture.

 

 

Elissa Sungar is the Co-Creator of If Not You, Who?  a free website that offers easy and fun in-home educational activities that help prepare children for kindergarten and life!  Her passion for early childhood education grew out of her experience as a pre-school teacher at Stanford University’s Bing Nursery School. Elissa loves spending time with her family and 1 year old son, hiking, running, tennis, yoga, cute workout clothes, good cheese, great baked goods and exploring Denver!   Twitter: @ElissaINYW

 

 

 

No Sensor: What I Learned My First Year as A Mom

The past 365 days have been a wild ride. My son just turned one year old and I’m in complete shock. I preface this article by stating God has blessed me with the easiest.child.ever. I dread the day God laughs and Declan does a complete 180 and becomes a “terrible two” (or I have baby No. 2), but until then…

This is my incredibly honest and oddly numbered list of what I learned this past year as a first-time mom.

  • It wasn’t as hard as I thought…..and no I didn’t have “help”
  • There are moments and even days you don’t like your child as much as you “think you should.” That doesn’t make you the devil
  • Putting yourself and your marriage above your child makes everything easier and everyone happier
  • Amber beads are the real deal….
  • Try to succeed but expect to fail. You wont be constantly disappointed by the steep learning curve that is the first year of parenting.
  • Push yourself. Mommies are still sexy, funny, smart and sociable. It’s easy to hibernate in the cave of your house, in your sweats with no bathing routine. Shower and at least invest in sexy yoga pants. It goes a long way for your self-esteem and your relationship.
  • Don’t use the “new mom” excuse to yourself or others. Women have been new moms way before nannies, iPhones, mamroos and formula. Suck it up and be empowered by the fact you’re a new mom, not crippled, you can do this!
  • Breathe… showing stress and getting worked up just feeds you and your babies attitude for the worse. Take a breath, find a way to laugh about it and try again.
  • Stay true to yourself. Being a mom can be all-consuming. There is nothing I dread more than a girls night out (or play date) where all the women talk about are their kids. Isn’t this our night away? Continue your hobbies, try new things, read a book, nurture adult relationships. Your kids will grow up and move away. You need to still have you.
  • The hype is real: I love my son so much more than I ever could have imagined. I’m head over heels obsessed. I’m totally the mom who thinks her son is perfect and misses him while he naps.
  • Exude confidence. Even when you have no idea what you are doing, act confident. Make a decision and be confident in that decision at that time. Kids will feel safe and know who is in charge. Be definitive when you put them to sleep or tell them “No.” Question yourself, your partner, scream or cry once the door closes behind you.

Elissa Sungar is the Co-Creator of If Not You, Who?  a free website that offers easy and fun in-home educational activities that help prepare children for kindergarten and life. Her passion for early childhood education grew out of her experience as a pre-school teacher at Stanford University’s Bing Nursery School. Elissa loves spending time with her family, hiking, running, tennis, yoga, cute workout clothes, good cheese, great baked goods, exploring Denver and taking care of her new baby boy!   Twitter: @ElissaINYW

Is Natural Childbirth All It’s Cracked Up To Be?

The short answer is, Yes! The long answer…

I was just 12 weeks pregnant, when our mid-wife asked about our birth plan. I responded, “What is a birth plan”?

Before becoming pregnant, I always had planned on getting an epidural a.s.a.p. Why on earth would I want to experience such pain, if there is miracle drug to take it all away? My husband encouraged me to make my own choice, but challenged me to do a bit of research on natural childbirth before I made my decision.

After researching and talking to other moms about their birthing experience, I decided natural childbirth was my “birth plan.”

For your sanity, your partner’s sanity and your midwife, doula or doctor, I encourage you to create a birth plan. Use your birth plan as an outline or a goal, but be okay with failing. There are birth stories of horror, quick labor, long labor, emergency C-sections and everything in between. Each mother has her own unique story about how her beautiful child came into this world.

I’m not sure if it’s because I’m getting older and more moms surround me, but it seems to me that how a woman gives birth has become a bit of a competitive conversation. A woman who gives birth naturally gets a “Wow, that’s amazing” response. A woman who get an emergency C-section often hears “Bummer, sorry to hear that.” Bummer? She birthed a beautiful baby! What part of that is a bummer?

Each woman gets to make her own choice about how they want to give birth. Sometimes the plan works and sometimes it doesn’t. Own your choice, believe in your choice, fight for your choice, but know when the midwives and doctors tell you otherwise (or you accept that epidural you originally claimed you didn’t want). Be okay with these changes to your birth plan, it’s ultimately what’s best for you and your baby.

There is no failure in childbirth. You created life and delivered a beautiful baby into this world. How you medically did that, doesn’t matter. Be a proud momma no matter if your birth plan was followed perfectly, or thrown away the moment you entered the hospital.

So while I think natural childbirth is “all it’s cracked up to be”…it doesn’t matter. What matters is the huge accomplishment of giving birth to your beautiful baby, no matter how that little peanut made their entry into the world.

Elissa Sungar is the Co-Creator of If Not You, Who?  a free website that offers easy and fun in-home educational activities that help prepare children for kindergarten and life. Her passion for early childhood education grew out of her experience as a pre-school teacher at Stanford University’s Bing Nursery School. Elissa loves spending time with her family, hiking, running, tennis, yoga, cute workout clothes, good cheese, great baked goods, exploring Denver and taking care of her new baby boy!   Twitter: @ElissaINYW

 

 

My 4 Month Old Weaned Himself….But I Wasn’t Ready

 Breastfeeding. This word encompasses feelings of attachment, exhaustion, bonding, frustration, love and imprisonment. For some moms, breastfeeding comes easily, others find it more difficult and many choose not to breastfeed at all.

 After a battle of infertility due to hormone abnormalities, I was relieved that I was able to nurse and become part of the “breastfeeding is easy” group. That is, until our son Declan turned four months old.

 At first I thought, could it be a cold, teething, four-month regression or is he simply hungry?  My sweet baby boy went from happy smiles and sleeping through the night to almost constant crying and waking up 3-4 times a night. After a week my husband and I decided it was time to call the pediatrician and lactation consult. Both said to give it another week, increase my pumping and supplement with two ounces of formula after I nursed. Since I was opposed to formula, my lactation consultant had to remind me that “formula is not gasoline” and that Declan would be fine.  After another week with no improvement, I decided to listen to my mother’s intuition and not the “experts”. Despite adding the two ounces of formula, Declan was hungry and my body was no longer keeping up with his appetite.

 My husband and I decided to take the next month and try everything in our power to increase my milk supply. After a grueling month of excessive pumping, slowing down workouts, taking Fenugreek supplements and all the other wive’s tales, the hardest part was the fighting with our baby who no longer enjoyed breastfeeding.

Declan would bite my nipple, thrash around, scream and fight me. He was easily distracted. Feeds would take 45 minutes and I would still have to supplement with a bottle.

 The month was definitely physically exhausting, and I was not prepared for the emotional exhaustion that came with this milk supply fight I was having with our son.  While I was never the Mom that loved breastfeeding, I didn’t mind it. Since the health benefits of breastfeeding were clear, I thought my personal goal of breastfeeding for one year was doable.

 Because I had one year so stuck in my head (along with social pressures), I wrestled for weeks with the decision to supplement regularly with formula. The pressure I was putting on myself and perceived judgments from others convinced me I was inadequate as a mom. I was mad my body was not doing what it was ”supposed to do.” I resented the questions from others about nursing, felt like I was letting my husband down and I wasn’t emotionally ready to stop nursing Declan.

 I blamed myself for weeks and that only served to extend Dec’s and my battle while ensuring I tried everything possible before quitting breastfeeding. That proved selfish, as Declan was uncomfortable and hungry.  

 It was finally a teary phone call with my lactation consultant and friend that convinced me to give up breastfeeding and move to formula.

 She told me exactly what I needed to hear…as a mom you are making constant sacrifices and reinforcing your love and bonding with your baby hundreds of times a day. The way you play with him, snuggle him, dress him, and talk to him. Feeding your baby is a necessity and how you feed your baby doesn’t define who you are as a mom.

 I had taken this one small part of what our son needs and put so much focus on it that I allowed it to define who I was as a mom.

 I had been correlating being an amazing mom to the ability to breastfeed successfully. With Declan “weaning himself” and my milk supplies rapid decrease, I was down on myself as a Mom.

 After I acknowledged I had been ignoring the hundred of ways I bond with Declan daily, was I able to let go of the feeling of failure and gain the confidence I would be ready for the next new mom challenge.  Bring it on Declan!

 

Elissa Sungar is the Co-Creator of If Not You, Who?  a free website that offers easy and fun in-home educational activities that help prepare children for kindergarten and life and recently became a new mom to her baby boy!  Her passion for early childhood education grew out of her experience as a pre-school teacher at Stanford University’s Bing Nursery School. Elissa loves spending time with her family, hiking, running, tennis, yoga, cute workout clothes, good cheese, great baked goods and exploring Denver!   Twitter: @ElissaINYW

Advanced newborn expert shares 5 must-haves and 5 “nice to haves” for baby’s nursery

I’m a first-time mom. While I’m totally in love with my five-month-old, I can’t stand excessive amounts of baby stuff or the clutter it creates. There seems to be a gadget for everything related to babies. (Hmm-bottle sterilize? Hot water and soap has been working for generations.) You could easily spend a mini fortune and fill every gap of space in your home with baby related items.

When it came to baby gear, I adapted the “less is more” philosophy because of….

1)    My “Type-A” Personality- I like our house neat, clean and organized. Less stuff makes that easier for me.
2)    The Need to Save Money and Space- Enough said.
3)    Our Need for Adult Space & Sanity-At day’s end, I want to drink a glass a wine with my hubby and act like a well-rested sophisticated adult while not stepping on Sophie the Giraffe or tripping over trucks. Keeping the baby stuff to a minimum in our living spaces, especially after he goes to bed, helps us focus on one another and talk about other things than our baby!

While my preference on baby stuff is “less is more,” you might feel differently and want all the gadgets, bells, whistles and newest creations. And of course, that is totally fine! Either way, list below is still applicable as these are “Must-Have” recommendations for all parents!

Kris Bineau of Hush A Bye Baby Newborns is a certified advanced newborn care specialist in Parker, Colorado who has been helping babies for 30 years and has worked with over 100 families including multiples.  Together we compiled a list of the five “Must Haves” for your new baby followed by the five “Nice to Haves”.  Declaimer: These lists do not include the truly obvious things… diapers, crib, car seat etc…

5 Must-Haves

1)    Miracle Blanket – This is a one size fits all up to three-four months. No annoying Velcro and helps prevent facial scratches by securing arms. Babies can’t break out of this swaddle so they are able to get a much better and deeper sleep! If swaddling isn’t for your baby, try The Woombie, which our baby, Dec, just loved! The Woombie allowed more freedom for him to move his hands and I was happy knowing he was still contained!
2)    Homedics Sound Spa – Set on white noise and use all night & for all naps. The consistent soft noise helps calm babies and encourages a better night sleep. Another option is a white noise phone app!
3)    Blackout Curtains– I was very hesitant to purchase these and didn’t do so until Dec was over 3 months old. Once I did, he slept much later in the mornings- extra sleep for Mom (and baby) is priceless. Try Target for affordable options or Pottery Barn if you want to splurge.
4)    MamaRoo by 4moms (or other compact swing/bouncer)- Every mom needs a safe place to put baby down so you can get things done (How about a shower!)  Yes, the Mamaroo is pricey, but it provides different types of swing, speed and incline options so you can find your baby’s perfect motion. It’s also great to use for reflux, stuffy noses or multiple babies. And since it is portable, lightweight and small, I move it throughout the house as needed. Another option is the Rock-N-Play which is less expensive and offers fewer options, yet still a safe and portable resting spot for baby.
5)    Video Monitor– Some adults might think this is overkill. When used for reasons other than just staring at your sleeping baby, parents can actually save themselves time and energy while also encouraging better sleep habits for the baby! Seeing your baby on the monitor helps determine if parent intervention is necessary or not. This encourages your baby to self soothe and keeps Mom and Dad from rushing into the bedroom at every noise. While higher priced than some, I love Motorola Color Video Monitor.  It is small, easy to set up, portable, tilts and scans to find wiggly babies. A nice plus is that it is available in different monitor sizes to fit different budgets.

5 Nice to Haves

1)    Ubbi Diaper Pail– There are no special bags needed for this pail! It is made of stainless steel so it doesn’t absorb smell and comes in 12 colors to match any nursery! A bit more expensive than the others, but incredibly worth it as the cost evens out after just a few months since there is no need to purchase special bags!
2)    Great Stroller– Getting out of the house can be scary with a newborn. Make it easier on yourself to meet friends for a walk or coffee by getting a great stroller! Think about your family’s need before purchasing:  perhaps a jogging stroller, small snap & go, or something more versatile. Personally I love my Baby Jogger Summit X3 for running and walks with friends and the Graco Snap-And-Go for quick trips to the mall, airports, restaurants and farmers markets.
3)    Activity Gym– This offers another place to put the baby down safely and helps them developmentally from day one. By how you place the baby on the mat you have tummy time options and objects hanging help eyes to focus. Attempting to touch the objects can keep a baby busy developing their hand-eye coordination. It’s also so easy to move from room to room. I like Skip & Hop “Alphabet Zoo.”  You can change out the hanging toys and there are different tactile experiences for baby on the mat.
4)    Sweetpea gowns from Sweet Peanut  – Absolutely great for those middle-of-the-night diaper changes with no buttons or zips!
5)    Nosefrida  – Finally, something that works great for little noses. Those hospital bulbs are way too big, not specifically made for noses, and are disgusting (full of bacteria, mold and old boogies when you cut them open!)

**Honorable Mention:
Hospital Grade Pump and Hands Free Bra- This will save you tons of time if you’re breastfeeding. I loved my pump and all accessories by Medela.

What are your must haves?

Special thanks to Kris Bineau, certified newborn care specialist, from Hush A Bye Baby Newborns in Parker, Colorado, for her help and expertise!

Elissa Sungar is the Co-Creator of If Not You, Who?  a free website that offers easy and fun in-home educational activities that help prepare children for kindergarten and life and recently became a new mom to her baby boy!  Her passion for early childhood education grew out of her experience as a pre-school teacher at Stanford University’s Bing Nursery School. Elissa loves spending time with her family, hiking, running, tennis, yoga, cute workout clothes, good cheese, great baked goods and exploring Denver!   Twitter: @ElissaINYW

Loving ways you can help kids overcome their fears

“Mommy!! Monsters are under my bed!!”  Our creative and knowledge hungry preschoolers are constantly exploring, being exposed to new things and developing new skills. All of these exciting and new things are wonderful for development and can encourage a very active imagination.

However, these new things, ideas and images, combined with an active imagination can create fear and anxiety. Fears and anxiety in preschoolers are completely normal and can take anywhere from six- twelve months for them to be overcome.

Typically, your child’s fear will fit into one of these three categories:

1)    Specific Things- spiders, the dark, monsters in the room, the neighbor’s dog etc.

2)    New Situations- new daycare, new people, new events etc..

3)    Being Hurt- covering their “boo-boos,” being embarrassed when they receive even minor scrap or cut.

 Some children will immediately vocalize to you or another adult what they are feeling fearful of, whereas other children might be less vocal. If you notice your child having difficulty sleeping, sleeping too much, backtracking on potty training or a sudden increase of aggressive behavior these can be signs that a child is experiencing a new fear or feeling of anxiety.

Trash to Treasure: Playtime doesn’t have to be expensive with these ideas!

Sometimes as we struggle to keep kids busy and entertained we too easily look towards new toys and technology as the answer. Knowing which gadgets and toys are the best at keeping a child happy and educationally entertained can be both time consuming and eye popping in costs. The good news is you and your child (or classroom) have plenty of educationally fun activities right under your nose; you just need to know where to look!

 Providing children with “open-ended materials” enables them to be creative, use their imagination, allows for longer periods of “playtime” and encourages opportunities to engage with other children. Open-ended materials are just that, open-ended! They are materials that may be used for a variety of purposes don’t include complicated instructions or rules. Paper, blocks, art supplies, play-doh and art supplies are examples of “open-ended” materials.  

 These materials are often inexpensive and can be found within your home. Below are different ideas that use items many would consider trash. However, if you give these “trash” items to kids, you’ll challenge their creativity and see how they turn trash into treasure!

5 Important Ways to Teach Your Kids Empathy

Kids say the darndest things! We have all experienced the pure innocence and honesty of a child. “ Mommy, your teeth look yellow” or  “Daddy, your nose is big.” Maybe you’ve experienced what’s even more humiliating … your child’s sharing their innocent, honest and totally inappropriate thoughts to a stranger. Or, maybe your child isn’t the “verbal” type and these examples don’t sound familiar. Lucky you!

But what about grabbing toys away from other children and not noticing the other child is now crying? How about hitting their baby brother or sister and feeling little to no remorse? You can’t help but wonder what happened to your sweet innocent baby, and why some of their behaviors resemble, well, a little monster.

No, the behaviors described above–or similar ones that might be found in your home–do not make these children monsters. In fact, children ages three to five years old simply are not developmentally capable of understanding empathy.  However, with the help and leadership from parents and teachers, children can  develop a sense of empathy, caring, altruism and appreciation for other people and different situations.

 Empathy might seem quite simple and straightforward to adults. However, empathy is quite complex which makes it difficult for preschoolers to understand. Empathy consists of three skills:

 1. Self- awareness and the ability to distinguish one’s feelings

2. Being able to take another person’s perspective as to “putting yourself in others’ shoes”

3. The ability to regulate one’s emotions