Animal Action Dice

Large motor activities are so important – especially in the winter months when you feel like you’re stuck inside all day. Grab this animal action dice printable and get to moving!

animal action dice with free download

My kiddos love large motor activities and I love easy large motor activities so this one is a win/win for us. They love acting like animals (making their movements and sounds) so I figured this activity would be perfect for us on a “stuck inside” day.

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Toddler Sorting Activity

This toddler sorting activity addresses lots of skills and is super easy to put together. I even adapted it to add my 5 year into it as well.

Toddler sorting activity

It’s cold outside. So we have been focusing on some indoor activities for the kiddos. We’ve done large motor, literacy/math for my older kiddo and now we’ve done a toddler sorting activity for my 2 year old.

This activity is so easy to put together! My 2 year old actually was able to help me put it together (this wasn’t planned. But as we all know, toddlers don’t care at all about what is planned and what isn’t planned.

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Educational Netflix Shows That Won’t Make You Feel Guilty

Netflix. The new babysitter.

I will admit – as a work from home mom, my oldest gets a lot of Netflix time. But when he started spouting off random facts about the Earth, animals, lakes and ponds, I started to feel not so guilty. That is the joy of educational Netflix shows.

I realized that it really isn’t the worst thing (except when he starts fact checking ME) and wanted to put together a list of shows you can let your kids watch on Netflix and not feel guilty about putting them in front of the TV.

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Postpartum Depression vs Baby Blues – How Can I Tell the Difference?

In the mom’s Facebook group I started, moms are often asking about Postpartum Depression vs Baby Blues. I reached out to a fellow mom blogger and social worker and asked if she could clarify for us. Thank you, Sami!

Postpartum Depression vs. Baby Blues

Think about it. Your hormones and emotions are at an all time high. Your excitement to welcome your new little one into the world is immeasurable, but like most mothers to be, there is an aspect of anxiety to all that you are feeling. You then go through the feat of labor and delivery and your new little baby is placed in your arms. Euphoria. Joy. Excitement. Love, pure love.

Family and friends will want to come visit you and the new baby and company may be abundant. The attention that you were receiving when pregnant has now shifted to the new life you brought into the world. Then, just like anything, the novelty of having a new baby will wear off and people will get back to their everyday lives. Then, when you try to get back to your everyday life you realize that nothing is the same. This can be overwhelming.

The pressure to feel extreme happiness and pure bliss after having a baby is oppressive. It is only natural that women feel shame, disappointment or even denial if they feel anything other than joy and contentment. If this is not the case for women, they often feel guilt or shame. However, guilt and shame should not be felt. The levels of the hormones estrogen and progesterone are at an all time high during pregnancy. Post delivery, they hit an all time low triggering the baby blues.

Knowing the difference between the baby blues and postpartum depression is important. First, I would like to note that both are not your fault. Both are a result of hormonal changes within your body that you cannot control. However, it is essential to recognize that the baby blues is normal, somewhat expected, and will pass. Postpartum depression on the other hand is more serious and usually requires professional help.  It is difficult to differentiate between the two because on paper, both conditions appear to be so similar. So many symptoms are shared between the two conditions such as irritability, inability to sleep, crying bouts and mood swings.

The baby blues are short term, usually last less than two weeks, and typically resolve on their own. The symptoms and signs of the baby blues are feeling sad, overwhelmed, angry, frustrated, anxious and like you want to escape your new life. However, with encouragement and assurance these symptoms will decrease.

Postpartum depression affects about every 1 in 7 new mothers (Bennett, 2016). The symptoms and signs of postpartum depression are excessive crying, depressed mood or extreme mood swings, difficultly bonding or growing close with your baby, loss of appetite or eating more than you typically would, withdrawal from family and friends, severe anger, feelings that you are an inadequate mother, shame, guilt or feelings of worthlessness, insomnia or excessive sleep, loss of energy, a drastic decline in interest and pleasure in activities that you used to enjoy, severe anxiety or panic attacks, thoughts of death or suicide and/or thoughts of hurting yourself or your baby. Again, I want to reiterate that if you are experiencing any of these symptoms that it is not your fault. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. You deserve help. It is also important to recognize that you do not need to have all of the symptoms listed to have postpartum depression. The bottom line is if your thoughts are bothersome and intrusive and if your moods are getting in the way of your ability to care for yourself, your baby, your family and things that you would normally do day to day then get help. It is important to note that new mothers may not recognize that they are experiencing these symptoms or may deny it if asked. If you recognize that a loved one is experiencing the symptoms of postpartum depression, do not be afraid to get them help.

Let it be known that if you experience a traumatic birth, are forced to have a birth experience that did not go as planned such as a c-section or induction or if you’re having difficulty breastfeeding, if your baby has colic, of if you have a personal or family history of depression than your odds of postpartum depression increase. Social support is also a large factor in whether or not postpartum depression is likely for you. The more social support you have, the less likely you are to develop postpartum depression. The less social support you have, than the more likely you are to develop postpartum depression.

 Postpartum depression has gotten a strongly negative reputation for several different reasons. Historically, infanticide, which is the killing of an infant at the hands of a parent, has been blamed on postpartum depression in the media. However, it is important to note that postpartum psychosis is the leading cause of infanticide, not postpartum depression. To be clear, postpartum psychosis is a rare psychiatric illness that occurs in approximately 1 to 2 out of every 1,000 deliveries. The symptoms of postpartum psychosis can include delusions (false, typically strange beliefs), hallucinations (seeing or hearing things that aren’t truly there), irritability, hyperactivity, decreased need for or the inability to sleep, paranoia or suspiciousness, rapid mood swings and difficulty in communicating at times (Post Partum Support International, 2017).  Postpartum psychosis is very serious, yet is treatable with professional help. If you are experiencing any of the listed symptoms, please receive immediate help.

The general rule of thumb is that if two weeks pass and you are still feeling the symptoms of anxiety and depression than a woman should proceed in scheduling an appointment with her ob-gyn for an evaluation. The treatment for postpartum depression most commonly includes medication therapy and psychotherapy. There are support groups available for new mothers in most areas. The support groups are typically free and occur weekly. Support groups are most certainly beneficial and something worth looking into. It is so helpful to form connections and a network of support from new mothers experiencing similar symptoms and circumstances. A trained professional who specializes in postpartum support often leads these support groups. If you are not sure if your area has a postpartum support group, contact your OBGYN or local hospital for information.

Postpartum support international is a wonderful resource for those who are struggling with symptoms of postpartum depression or for loved ones of those who are struggling with postpartum depression. On the postpartum support international website (www.postpartum.net), you can find local resources, chat with an expert, join an online support group, call the telephone support line or simply look up information on postpartum depression which may help you decide what your next step should be in terms of treatment and recovery.

There is so much stigma surrounding new moms and the baby blues/postpartum depression. The bottom line is there should be no embarrassment, guilt or shame in talking about your feelings and emotions and asking for help. Actually, the strongest and smartest mothers are those who take the step to get help as soon as possible, to best better themselves and their family. Postpartum depression is like any other potentially serious condition. If the proper help is received, than a complete recovery can be expected.

Article by Sami Rae, Licensed Master of Social Work. Blog can be found at www.raeofsun.blog

Bennett, S. (2016, August 31). Do I Have the Baby Blues or Postpartum Depression? Retrieved November 15, 2017, from http://americanpregnancy.org/first-year-of-life/baby-blues-or-postpartum-depression/

Postpartum Psychosis. (2017). Retrieved November 15, 2017, from http://www.postpartum.net/learn-more/postpartum-psychosis/

 

Holiday Gifts your Kids’ Teachers Actually Want

The holidays are so amazing, aren’t they?

They certainly can be, but I find that the most stressful part of the holidays is finding the best gifts for everyone on your list. But on the top of almost everyone’s list (outside of family) are those teachers. The people who spend so much time with your kids, whether we’re talking daycare, preschool or elementary school. They are such an important part of your lives and your kids’ lives. We want to treat them right, am I right?

First, let me address the “do I need to get my teacher anything?” question. In short, no. You absolutely do not. To be honest, I did not have a list of who was giving gifts and who wasn’t giving gifts. It doesn’t make a teacher treat your kid differently (yes, I’ve heard that question before from parents!). Anything you decide to give is appreciated – whether it be a tiny piece of chocolate or a $50 Target gift card. It means you and your child were thinking of them and that warms their heart!

In my 10 years of teaching and managing, I have received some of the best and some of the most odd gifts you can imagine. In the mom’s groups I’m a part of on Facebook, every year around this time people are asking what we’re doing for our kids’ teachers. Almost always, you have teachers chime in and tell the moms what to get and what not to get.

With the help of my trusty old memory and my teacher mom friends, I have compiled a list for you. Things to get your kids’ teachers and things to take a hard pass on this year. Also, here is a free printable if you want your teachers to fill it out for you so you can get even better stuff.

Do get:

  • Gift cards. I think this one is pretty obvious. Every teacher is so different. I always hate giving gift cards because it feels so impersonal to me. But with teachers, I think it is an exception. I have worked with so many teachers with such different personalities. With a gift card, that teacher can spend it on him/herself – and trust me, they appreciate it! Some gift card ideas:
    • Amazon
    • Movie theatre
    • Liquor store
    • Lettuce Entertain You
    • Dunkin Donuts/Starbucks
    • Target
    • Restaraunts
    • Red Box
    • Visa gift card
  • Beverages. But, always ask first! This goes for alcohol and coffee. When I taught, I had stacks and stacks of Starbucks and DD gift cards and you know what? I hated coffee! I didn’t start drinking coffee until I had kids (go figure). As far as the alcohol goes, please make sure they are of drinking age and it’s okay with the higher ups. A gift card might be better in place of an actual bottle of wine 😉 Not every teacher drinks wine and coffee. I know, hard to believe.
  • A nice, thoughtful letter. Teachers want to be appreciated. Sometimes it can be the most thankless job out there. So just write them a letter and if your child is old enough, have them do the same. This one was mentioned a lot and I remember really enjoying reading some I received as well.
  • Pens. Sounds silly, right? Teachers love different colored pens! Teachers go through pens like water because they get used up or stolen/lost. Buy them one of those huge packs from Costco!
  • Personalized blanket. Last year I made these for my son’s preschool teachers (and towels for end of year) and they were a huge hit. I tossed in some warm socks and some R+F stuff for the winter. You can order some personalized ones here (sorry, shameless plug!) but the deadline is 12/1 to make sure they come in time for Christmas break. You could also order some for anyone else!
  • Essential oils. Yes, out comes the weirdo in me. A roller bottle for winter time! Ask your local distributor! A couple teachers I polled said they received roller bottles to help with fighting winter colds and they loved them.
  • Baking mix. I hate baking because I feel like it takes too long and makes such a mess. One year I had a parent (who is now a good friend and our boys are besties – shout out to Karla!) give me the dry ingredients in a really nice glass canister. It had directions on how to make the cookies (just had to add a few wet ingredients). Bonus – I now have a glass canister I use in my kitchen and I think of Zach each time I make rice! 😉

Do not get:

  • Smelly stuff. Teachers get so much of this. Hand sanitizer, lotions, candles, body washes, etc. A lot of times teachers will get stuff that they do not like. The only exception to this rule is if you know for a fact that they like that scent and want it. I know, I know…”but Melanie, you said get them essential oils!” This is different! Trust me! The oils can help you fight colds.
  • Candy. So much candy. Again, the only exception is if you know they like it and it’s their favorite.
  • Clothes. Yes, this happens. Stick to a gift card to a clothing store if you are really set on clothes.
  • Apple related gifts. Not every teacher likes apples.

So there you have it! A teacher gift guide written by teachers! Have fun 🙂

50 Household Items You Can Use To Paint

Did you know there are tons of household items you can use to paint? They can be found in the kitchen, bathroom, play room, etc. Read on to find out more!

As much as I hate to admit it, it’s going to start getting cold outside. I don’t play outside in the snow. That’s something special we save for when Daddy is home (aka, I hate it and refuse to do it, so Daddy does it).

But when we’re inside, I do “plan” stuff for the kids to do that don’t require a screen. It’s rare, but I do it.

When I taught preschool, I rarely had the kids paint with actual paintbrushes. To me, regular paintbrushes were just no fun and honestly, made the paint gloppy and took forever to dry. So I would always find other things around the classroom that they could use to paint. Since I started this blog I have been meaning to write them all down for you guys, so here you go! At the end of the post you will find the printable version.

50 Different Household Items Your Kids Can Use to Paint


1. Spatula
2. Fork
3. Pastry brush
4. Potato masher
5. Bottom of a peanut butter jar
6. Lid of a peanut butter jar
7. Pieces of pasta (wet or dry)
8. Plastic cups
9. Tin foil crumpled up
10. Straw (blow into it onto wet paint)
11. Q-tips
12. Apple (cut in half or the bottom)
13. Cotton balls (use clothespins if your kiddo doesn’t like getting super messy)
14. Toy cars
15. Golf ball (place your paper in a box and drop the golf ball onto wet paint on the paper and roll around the golf ball)
16. Pencil Eraser
17. Dice
18. Marker cap
19. Pipe cleaners
20. Crumpled up plastic wrap
21. Sponge
22. Wooden skewer
23. Fingers
24. Yarn
25. Leaves
26. Loofa
27. Cosmetic sponge
28. Dental floss
29. Nail brush
30. Wine corks
31. Bubble wrap
32. Toothbrush
33. Toothpick
34. Cut up pool noodle
35. Cupcake liner clipped on a clothespin
36. Ice cubes
37. Icing knife
38. Credit card
39. Crumpled paper towels
40. Dry beans
41. Rice wrapped in panty hose
42. Hair brush
43. Comb
44. Rubber stamps
45. Paper towel/toilet paper roll
46. Dish sponge
47. Alphabet blocks
48. Legos
49. Shaped magnets
50. Dryer sheets (held by a clothespin)

I am willing to bet you have most (if not all) of these things already in your house. Ok, maybe not the panty hose (if you’re anything like me) but you can find something similar for sure!

Enjoy making messes! 😉

 

 

Questions to ask a Group Child Care Center

So, you’re pregnant. After you’re done accepting all the unsolicited advice (just kidding, it never ends), you start to think about who will watch baby when you go back to work, if you need to/want to go back.

By the way, wanting to go back to work is a thing, and that’s okay.

You have a few options. If you’re lucky enough to have family around and willing to help, you probably won’t end up with child care bills the size of your mortgage. You can also hire a nanny, or if you’re looking for child care, you can choose home child care or group child care.

This post will walk you through the process of finding a group child care center that works for you.

Time out for a sec – why should you listen to me? I was an assistant principal for a preschool/child care center for almost 5 years. I did tours of our school daily and was asked ALL THE QUESTIONS. Some people say “there is no such thing as a ridiculous question,” and trust me, sometimes there is. But I’m going to tell you what you should be asking! Also, at the end of this post, I have created a printable for you to take with you if need be. You can print it off and there’s a spot to write down the answers you receive.

  • Do you currently have space or do you have a waiting list? How do I get on that list? Personally, I think this is the most important question to ask! Don’t let the answer scare you away, either. If their answer is yes, time to find out how long. And just because they tell you their next spot isn’t available until 3 weeks after you need to start doesn’t mean it’s not right for you. Someone ahead of you may decide between now and then that they don’t want to go back to work, or they got a new job and the location doesn’t work anymore, or grandma decided she wanted to watch the baby. There are so many things that can change. We have also had people go with another school because they weren’t full, so they thought their baby would get more attention there. Not always the case. Sometimes there is a reason why they aren’t full. Don’t pick a school just because the timing is right.
  • What is your sick policy? This question is important for a few reasons – you want to know what precautions they take to avoid everyone else getting sick. When do they allow the child back in? What do they do if a child shows up sick? Do they wait to see if they get better before calling? Do they not let the parent leave the building without the child? Do they call parents if the child just “seems” sick or if there is an actual fever? If you have a demanding job, it might be difficult for you to leave work so you don’t necessarily want to be called for everything. Or, you have a super flexible job and you do want to be called. Most child care centers require a doctor’s note to return and the child needs to be fever free (anything above 100F is considered a fever in most places) for 24 hours without meds to return.
  • What is your policy on payment if the child is sick for an extended period of time? A lot of schools don’t have this in writing but can be flexible if your child misses 5 or more days consecutively, but this is entirely up to the school, especially if it’s not specified in the contract.
  • How do you handle discipline? You don’t want a school that will disenroll your child for biting as a toddler because this behavior is age appropriate. It’s unpleasant for sure, but it is completely age appropriate. Will they work with you to try to rid your child of inappropriate behaviors? (IE, biting at 3 years and up, hitting, etc.)
  • What is your vacation policy? I worked at one school where you had to pay half of your tuition when you were on vacation, and another where each year you get a free week if you’re gone from Monday – Friday and your weeks did not roll over to the next year. So if you don’t use it, you lose out on it.
  • Do you have yearly price increases? What percentage, typically? Most schools do, and we would have a lot of parents who said they had no idea!
  • Do you provide diapers, wipes, formula? You may also ask if they will do cloth diapers for you and how they handle sending home the dirty ones.
  • As an infant, do you follow the parents’ schedule or your own? Some child care centers will adjust baby’s schedule to accommodate the hustle and bustle of the school and some will follow yours.
  • Do infants get outside time? Some group cares will take the infants out for a stroller ride, allow them to sit and get some fresh air, maybe read a book outside. Outside time is important for babies.
  • When you move children up to the next class, do they all move together or with their birthdays? This is important because if they move children based on their birthdays, then how do they adjust to the current curriculum that is happening in the new room? Children should be moved together to cater to their curriculum and current abilities.
  • How do you handle late pick ups? Most schools have a certain amount they charge, per minute usually, for late pick ups.
  • How do you track infants’ milestones? Infant rooms should have a curriculum they follow. To some, this may sound silly. But trust me, in between all that crying, napping and bottle feeding, learning is so important!
  • When children are older, how do your teachers handle rough drop offs? Starting your child as an infant is a great start to avoid rough drop offs. They’re more common with kids that start after 18 months. However, they can still come when kids are old enough to test their boundaries. Find out how they would handle a kiddo who is having a rough drop off and ask why they do those things to help you understand.
  • Can I call to check in on my baby? When are the best and worst times to call? Running an infant room is tough work. You want to make sure they are okay with you calling, or if it easier for the teacher to call  you when they have a few minutes of downtime. You don’t want to call in the middle of 5 babies all needing a bottle at once!
  • What days are you closed? Child care centers are generally closed for major holidays, but some random ones can sneak in there for teacher improvement days so you’ll want to know if you need to make special arrangements for those days. Don’t let them sneak up on you!

Some tips for you when visiting schools….

  • Ask to see more classrooms, not just the infant room. You want a school where you feel comfortable until Kindergarten. Don’t be afraid to take a peek at what older children are doing!
  • Read the contract. Don’t just sign it and hand it over when filling out your paperwork. It’s a lot of reading, but make sure you are reading it right! Every school has different rules and you want to make sure you understand them.
  • Ask for a daily sheet (if they have them) or an example of how you will know how your child’s day went. A lot of schools now have apps where you can read about their day on your phone. Ask to see an example of that so you know how you will be filled in about their day.
  • Ask for references, specifically people who have been there a long time. They have been through lots of rooms, teachers, and kids.
  • Decide if you want a center near your house or near your work. If it’s near your work, it’s easier to get to if something should happen or your child is sick. If it’s near your house, your child will have less time in the car.

I hope this is helpful, and if you have anything to add, please leave it in the comments section below! Here is your printable I promised 😉